Author Archives: Doug Shaw

An Apology

Last week I answered a call from a friend who wanted my help. Would I step in to a conference slot and give a short talk on resilience? I agreed unhesitatingly, a friend in need and all that, and since then I’ve been preparing and practicing, preparing and practicing. Focused on the task at hand.

Today’s the day, the big event. I’m off to London soon, nervous as I always am before speaking in front of an audience. Yet something much bigger than the event has stopped me in my tracks. Today is International Women’s Day, and even though as a card carrying member of the Women’s Equality Party, I like to think I keep equality in mind at all times – my awareness is heightened…

I’m staring at the speaker line up for today’s event. It is overwhelmingly male. Of the seventeen people listed, including chairs, panellists etc, two are female. Yes – you read that correctly. Two. Awkward.

Usually when I am asked to speak, I make enquiries about the line up and specifically how I will complement and contrast. This time, win all my haste to get ready, I forgot. Today, of all days, on one level I am simply adding to the white maleness. Sorry. I promise to look harder next time, and do better in my endeavours to develop and sustain greater equality.

 

 

The Art of Resilience : Kintsugi

I’ve agreed to give a short talk on resilience at a conference in London on Wednesday. Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to say yes to something when you don’t think about it first? Gulp! I want to approach the subject using a mixture of art and the experience of myself and others. It is tempting to see resilience as a kind of armour – something off which life’s projectiles can bounce. I prefer to see resilience as something more flexible, adapting to the challenge rather than resisting it.

I hopped onto Facebook and Twitter yesterday to ask ‘I say resilience, you say…?’. I received a load of responses, at one point I felt overwhelmed by everything coming at me. I may, if I can find the time, curate the stream of replies. Time is pressing and I’m currently settling on three things to explore tomorrow.

  • Responses to bereavement
  • The need for creativity
  • The beauty in impermanence, imperfection, incompletion

For this post I’m focussing on the last point, and connecting with that fact that most of my visual backdrop for the talk will be my art..

Wabi sabi is a Japanese concept, beauty that is impermanent, imperfect, and incomplete. Wabi sabi has a connection to a practice known as kintsugi, or kintsukuroi, the art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with gold, silver, or platinum. The idea being that the cracks are now a part of the imperfect work, not something to be hidden away, or covered.

I am finding the preparation for this talk quite stressful. I am recalling bereavement and other tough times, and I can only stand to absorb so much of this stuff. I need a release.

I draw a pot – using pencils and a small watercolour brush. I then draw a crack into the pot which I fill with gold.

I found it hard to know when to stop, not very wabi sabi of me! I’ve settled now – it’s good enough. I can see imperfections, incompletions – so to that extent – the art represents my current work well.I’ve titled the piece, ‘You Broke My Heart. I Tried To Fix It, And You Can Still See The Cracks’, and I will hold onto this piece for the Carshalton Artists Open Studios event this summer, which I am excited to be taking part in. I’ll let you know how the Art of Resilience talk goes soon, too.

This post is adapted from one originally published on the Art Sensorium. Ironically – this version really tested my own resilience today, as it has taken two hours of managing various web site crashes and fallovers behind the scenes, prior to pressing publish!

How Do You Measure Value?

Value is an interesting and sometimes tricky thing to play with, I like to approach my work considering what a fair exchange of value for all parties might look like. I was contacted this week about speaking at an event which people pay several hundred £££ to attend. All was going well until I enquired about budget to fund speakers. ‘We don’t pay our speakers’, came the reply.

Not the first time I’ve heard this, and in the absence of money, I ask about ‘a fair exchange of value’ instead, and what the promoter thinks that might look like. In this case, and in nearly all others, this question brings forth a stumbling reply leading quickly to awkward silence. The event promoter cannot come up with an answer. I appreciate I may be putting them on the spot, but if as the event promoter/owner you do not know/cannot articulate what value you can create/cocreate for any/all stakeholders, then in the absence of £££ you’re asking for unpaid volunteers, aren’t you? As a friend in my network says, ‘value is subjective’, and that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t consider it – trickier though it may be to manifest it.

How do you measure value?

More on this subject here, courtesy of Mr Godin