Critical Reflection/Taking Stock/What The Hell Am I or Was I Doing ?

1  Where am I ?

I’m 62 , living in Yorkshire , UK and call myself an artist . I do have a huge portfolio (see my ceramics , textiles and 2D pages) but have sold very little of anything and currently have no studio or workshop I can use – this may change in the near future . Here are my favourite pieces in each category :







" Prayer times in turquoise " . A3 - collaged drawings in watercolour crayon & gold paint .

” Prayer times in turquoise ” . A3 – collaged drawings in watercolour crayon & gold paint .

Because I sell so little I get fed up with pieces , hence the collage and extra embroidery . Luckily perhaps ceramics doesn’t lend itself to that sort of tinkering !

2 What did I want ?

When I first decided I was an artist and could deny it no longer I had just turned 30 (1983) and everything still seemed possible – not just for me but for the world . My artistic preoccupations were about learning as much as possible and then setting up to make & sell from home the kind of non domestic ware I was best at – although I worried that as a potter I wasn’t making very useful things ! None of that worked out too well and became impossible once my son was born . Externally the world changed too , how much I only realised gradually .

Eventually I went to Art School full-time to learn more – including about exhibiting and selling . I got a great deal out of this place (Harrogate College) , doing first a diploma there (2001) and then an MA(2003) at the university which had acquired it . (Although honestly the work I did for the MA was despite not because of the university part ! ) By now I was working with my ideas of religious art in ceramics and textiles and later even taught a class on Islamic Art briefly at another university . I had hoped to carry on teaching within Islamic Studies , rent a proper studio , be more successful at selling and as I told the director of the studio space I applied to , eventually be able to work alongside other religious artists from the Abrahamic faiths in some kind of joint project space(s) . You can tell it was a long time ago , can’t you ?

What went wrong ? Well the teaching dried up quite quickly and with it most contact with the local Muslim community , I didn’t succeed in getting on to the PhD’s I applied to and despite working hard at (free) social media I never sold anything  or attracted the attention of anyone who might employ me via the various platforms . The most interesting artists I found this way lived thousands of miles away ! I came to the conclusion that I was the wrong person making the wrong sort of art in the wrong place – and maybe at the wrong time ?

3 What do I want ? More to the point what does God want (of me) ?

I want a different world & to earn my own living . Well the world is much nastier than it was , largely because being bothered by what is wrong is pretty uncool these days and there isn’t the atmosphere of hope any more . And yes I am still a feminist but am not a ‘feminist artist’ since ‘feminist art’ has come to be academically defined as a specific genre which is (postmodernist) theory – led and has very little to do with feminism historically . As to earning my own living I can’t now have complex plans involving training for something else , working at it for years and finally doing art once retired with a pension . It is all too late for that ( oh for my 20s back again !- but I would have surely missed out on everything else ?)

Contemplating this depressing scenario I got a much clearer message ‘ you haven’t made enough pots yet’ . Also mulling over recent attempts to learn new stuff rather than buckle down to studio setting up or at least go back to daily drawing (barre exercises for the visual artist !) I realised that I had been very lucky in my arts education so far and that most of the people who taught me were retired , going blind , dead . Their replacements often seemed to know less than I did – whether they had the time to share their knowledge with students or not . Is this why there is an explosion of artists’ workshops being given all over schools & colleges ? There weren’t any when I was at school . So I thought it was already time for me to try to pass on what I know .

4 How to go about it ?

This is far less clear . I have some money left to me from my mother – and it hasn’t run out yet ! So I will be able to have a studio for ceramics in (preferably) a garage when we move + enough indoor space to do textile work . I should try to exhibit more – ‘get your work out there !’

I would particularly welcome comments on this rather long post . Please !



About rukshanaafia

Ceramic & textile artist
This entry was posted in ceramics, Drawings, Textiles. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Critical Reflection/Taking Stock/What The Hell Am I or Was I Doing ?

  1. dapherbs says:

    On the pictures:
    Ah yes! I remember that pot, and remember the flowers in the background – Tormentil, the only British member of the Rose family to have only 4 petals (all the others have five at least). It didn’t survive in our front garden. The more urban Herb Bennet took it’s place – Geum urbanum

  2. dapherbs says:

    And this is a very positive post, despite some of the situation being sad or even depressing. We should all take careful stock like this from time to time.

  3. Lisa says:

    I too think it’s always good to take some time to reassess where we are, and to ask ourselves again, what do we really want? What matters most? Takes courage.

  4. SonniQ says:

    You and I are close to the same age – within a year. My creativity is music. i compose piano music. I have played all my life, and played professionally for quite a long time and have taught for 42 years. I say that because it wasn’t until the last few years that I finally hit my stride with what I wanted to do. I’ve known in my head since a child what I could hear inside, but I didn’t know how to get it out. I was missing something that made my music mine and not sounding like someone else. Once i realized what I needed to do, I now play music i used to only dream of doing. There are a lot off selections on different posts. The exciting thing is that I know I am nowhere near what I could be doing. So it matters little how old I am or how old I’m going to get. There is always something new inside of me waiting to be created. So you keep on creating your art and don’t stop. Create for yourself and no one else. I don’t know if this will help, but when I tell people how I create I tell them – from the inside out. I crawl inside my piano and let my fingers play what they want. They know what they are doing! They find the sounds. I don’t really pay attention and when I play back the recordings sometimes days later ( I always record when I play) I hear them for the first time, and go, did I play that?. good luck.

  5. Kathy Bergen says:

    SonniQ, I love your response!!! Exactly.

    Rukshana…I never got this blog post in my emails…and it is a great one! I understand where you are coming from and the difficulty of not clicking or finding your place in the world around you. I perceive that you have been in a kind of state of Depression for a number of years now…and it has locked you into it’s outlook of hopelessness…a feeling based on a belief that is not necessarily true. You also planned out what you wanted to do and how you wanted it to be….that is good…and you did all the right things to make it happen.

    My advice to you is to re read SonniQ’s reply. And to listen to what I am going to tell you. You would probably NOT have become an Artist if God had wanted you to dig holes…This I believe with all my heart. So the world around you did not open to you and make room for you and your talents and ideas. Screw the world around you. And let it be. You are NOT of the world. I have seen your special talent…and it has inspired me as an artist and a person. If I had the money, I would own several of your ceramics and needlework. (Yeah, If I were successful!) Some of your work shines out of the darkness….and gives me joy. Don’t look at your work through the eyes of the world…the colleges and such that did not receive you as a teacher, etc. I believe that you are a teacher…and a damn good one, too. Not being able to find the opening for you to fit into…does in NO WAY diminish the Artist that you are….nor the Teacher that you are…nor the Person that you are. DO your art. Keep applying to teach. Try to find a group of people who share your interests and want to learn what you can teach them. My God, Girl! You have got a LOT to give!

    I have a friend who is a pianist and has played for many singing groups…and she decided that she was just not good enough because she had not achieved a certain amount of success…and has lost her passion for her music. Don’t let this happen to you. It happened to me…but I am fighting my way out of this dark tunnel…it is a falsehood.

    You are not wrong…God has led you to Art…and to Teaching…don’t let the world lead you astray…keep doing your art…keep applying to teach…keep being YOU and the Artist and Teacher that you are…NO MATTER WHAT. Period….do it for yourself..and in gratitude to God who led you to all of this…and I believe that you will ultimately be doing it for many other people as well.

  6. rukshanaafia says:

    Thank you ! I have already read SonniQ’s reply a few times – now I will read yours as well whenever I need a boost .

  7. Ed says:

    Hi Rukshana, Kathy, and others
    I was praying pretty hard for some help this morning, and this is one of the things I’ve been led to. I am struggling with the same kind of issues, trying to find my way back to my inner path–again and again, it seems. A few days ago I saw my 20-year-old daughter a bit down-hearted and talked with her about how inside of us are all the things we see outside of us–like paths and rocks, rain and drought, sunrises and distant voyages, etc. I felt inspired, and I saw that she actually listened. Probably because I wasn’t talking to her in my usual patronising(?) way, and it seemed to come from my experience.
    So maybe there’s a reason for us all to be here together in this little blog meeting-place, diverse as we are, yet drawn together by a Truth that is bigger than anything we can imagine, and through circumstances at a critical time in the world.

    • Kathy Bergen says:

      Truth is an amazing thing because it is usually always true. Notwithstanding changing relationships and the changes that we must go through in this world..and always. Truth is like a mountain that stands against all odds…and when we can connect to this mountain of truth…we find ourselves…sometimes in bits and pieces…and there are greater knowings as well. And when we speak this truth, people listen…because it touches that truth in them.

  8. rukshanaafia says:

    Terrific , Kathy !

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