AI image of a brain exploding with pencils and bobbins and bursts of colour

Lose yourself in making

It seems faintly ridiculous at first. Crafting an exhibition out of cardboard and foam, using my daughter’s craft materials, an old tape measure my Mum wrapped around me as a girl to fit me for dresses, and a bag of nails from my and my husband’s jam-packed, middle-aged toolbox.

Is this silly? I asked myself a few times as I looked around at my scrappy art effects, before reminding myself every project starts somewhere. With the right playlist and creative setting, the materials became irrelevant and the vision I had in my head started to shape into a reality.

Studio work © Natalie Smithson 2024

Ideas you can touch

The concept for my exhibition experience exists now, but one of the rooms I’ll create is hard to describe in words. AI art hasn’t helped, since it can’t produce exactly what I have in mind, and a lack of artful hand-eye coordination means I can’t draw it accurately. Then, an open studios art event gave me all the inspiration I needed to birth the idea fully, thanks to Nicola and Maz at Vortex Creates.

They’d mocked up the space for an upcoming exhibition about JOY and as soon as I saw it, my next step was obvious. Why had I not thought of this before? A tiny, miniature model of what you have in mind is all you need to translate what you see in your head to the eyes of another. Making is the next best thing I can do to turn my idea into something tangible to get the help I need to pull it together.

A longstanding vision I had for the exhibition introduction was burning into my brain ― the same part that lit up with inspiration at the studio event. It set fire to my desire to create something physical out of scrawled notes, drawings and brain dumps. I used pen, paper and scissors to tease out the idea while my daughter napped, just for an hour, and the production of that left me with the purest sense of satisfaction I’d made a start on doing, rather than just thinking.

Studio work © Natalie Smithson 2024

Tying your passions together

It took some time to make space for more making ― development of this exhibition has been a slow burn, smouldering around the rest of life and all the many beautiful and not-so-beautiful elements it contains. After a long pause, I set about creating the most challenging room.

Foam board wasn’t as easy to work with as I’d imagined.
I’d bought the foam, but not thought about the glue.
My scissors are blunt (both pairs).
I made do with whatever I could find in cupboards and the garage, and you know what?

It worked out.

The room is complete and, afterwards, I realised I’ve always loved creating spaces. From my photography days setting up a shoot, to making dens with my children, to the endless time I’ve spent on home DIY projects creating cloud rooms and forest scenes, and painting murals and making memories.

Giving yourself freedom to create a space that’s truly yours is important.

Fill it with your unique thoughts.

You don’t know what sounds will echo to others who’ll share in your vision and take something valuable from it.

Studio work © Natalie Smithson 2024

Main image created using Ideogram

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