Key medals – concept

My initial aim for this project was to create a piece of work, through the medium of the medal, that represents personal growth and development of the self, over the changing stages of life; the repeated fracturing and reforming process as we deal with trauma, loss, triumph, happiness, bonds being formed and others being broken, as we slowly define and refine our sense of identity, and how we define ourselves to others. We select significant events and experiences in our lives, and absorb it into part of our personal narrative, and disregard others, through an ever continuing process of refinement.

This is an important topic to me personally, as now that I come to the end of my university experience, I feel that I have reached the end of an era in my life and come out the end a distinctly different and more developed person than at the beginning. Yet I am both paradoxically, entirely different and completely the same. I have become more, myself, then I have ever been; taking the best parts of myself and exemplifying them, and allowing others to fall by the wayside. However, this is not a finished process, and while I feel I am in a strong and secure place currently I am still in (hopefully) a very early stage of my life which I am sure will feature many more points of turmoil and success in the many years to come. Not only have I changed, and will continue to change, but the events and my perception of these events and relationships do not remain fixed, as we continually revisit the past with the lens of our current self.

It was this realisation, that drove me to use this as a theme for this project, as it is one that is both important to me personally, and that is common to all people and the changing development throughout their lives. The term for this, is known as “Sonder” – defined by The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows as “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.”

While I originally intended for the work to be representative of this notion as a whole, the different stages and features of people’s lives which change, repeat, fault and interchange; I came to realise through the project that just as the adage often used by writers of books, I can only draw from my own experience. In the end, while having this notion of sonder, and understanding that the lives of all people unfold in just as complex and fundamentally important manners as my own, this is perhaps far too infinite for me to be able to capture and express. I cannot truly know the lives of others, and tasking myself with creating a piece of work which is personally identifiable to all people is something that while I still feel strongly about – is possibly a task taken over a life time, rather than approximately half a year in a final year degree show.

It is because of this, that I decided to make the focus of the medals my own personal life’s narrative, but in a manner that given care, consideration and understanding, is still able to be read and understood by others investigating it’s underlying theme.


The medals are a set of five, using the imagery of keys, which each represent a distinct stage or relationship in my life.

I feel very strongly about the use of keys as a motif, in that they are objects which are inherently understandable, and yet also able to carry and convey a weight of meaning. Keys are objects that every person carries with them, every day of their lives. They are fundamentally linked to place, keeping you tied to that place – and by extension the relationships and experiences tied there – even if you may be thousands of miles away. Keys represent options, and opportunities; a person with only one key only has access to one thing, whereas a person with many keys has access to many more places, people, objects, facilities. Keys can be freeing, and the absence of them can be constricting. Not only do they carry these meanings in their function, but they are also able to be read visually. The key can range from the simplistic and mundane, to the ornate, complex and beautiful, with each carrying it own identifiable value and associations. As both my subject, field, and dissertation work explores,  objects act as containers and vehicles for personal meaning, value, and experience, and some of these values can be expressed and understood wordlessly by others through entirely the form, and context of the object. We unconsciously read the meanings and values given to them by their making in in their use.

It is because of this that I believe the keys to be a strong choice in design for the medals. Each key is able to some extent to be read, simply in it’s form and design, and the viewer is therefore able to speculate what that may represent to me personally.

The medals themselves are sequential, moving through different stages of my life, and only when fitted together in the correct sequence is the poem on the edges revealed.

The first key in the set, is a small set of two keys, which comes from a child’s lock box. The keys are small, thin, and flimsy, and functional in the most basic of senses. While they do lock and unlock, they provide no real security, and act as merely a prop to make the child feel more secure.

child's key

This is a style of key that is not only understandable as a child’s key in it’s design, but may in fact be familiar to many as it is widely used in children’s products with locks and keys such as money boxes, and I was in fact able to find an identical set on google when looking for children’s money boxes This medal represents the period of childhood, of innocence, a fresh life with no prior experience. Because of this, the reverse side is smooth, polished and clean.

The surface of the second medal, is missing the children’s key from the surface. Instead, there is now a more recognisable, bona fide set of keys, clearly the type used for doors. They are sturdy, and more complex in design, while still being entirely functional, bearing the logo of the key company RST on the front. These are they keys to the front door of my family home, that I was given at a young age around eight or nine. It was around this age that I began to face my first major life conflicts, with my grandmother (whose home we lived in, then inhereted by my mother) passed away, triggering my mother’s first major episode of a psychotic manic episode, leading to her diagnosis of bi-polar disorder, leading to a period of hospitalisation. Shortly following this in the following year, my father was diagnosed with cancer of the kidney which spread to the brain, hospitalising him and having him pass away soon after on my ninth birthday. The again caused my mother to have another psychotic episode, leading me to spend a large part of the next year living with other family members, and visiting my mother in the mental hospital, while coming to terms with my father’s death.

Needless to say, this was a traumatic time for me, and signifies to me a very clear loss of childhood, and a sudden mounting of responsibility, represented by both the new set of house keys, and the painfully absent set of children’s keys. While this back story is clearly not something which will be understood or inferred from these medals, an outsider will not look at these two medals and deduce “this is a representation of the artist’s loss of a father figure as a child and her mother being institutionalised”, they may be able to understand the dialogue; the loss of childhood innocence moving into a different stage of life, and the sense of both loss and new found responsibility and independence.

The third medal in the set, this time shows still the set of house keys from the previous medal, but also a new, more ornate key. This key is in clear contrast to the more practical house keys, looking more decorative than functional, with a complex handle and simplistic locking mechanism. Rather than being held with a sturdy keyring, it is instead held with a set of two small loops, such as you would find on a necklace. We can understand from this key that is perhaps more sentimentally valuable, than for its function as a key, and that this is a new addition in my life.

The key in question, was in fact a gift that was given to me by my boyfriend of five years throughout my teenage years and school. If we understand that the first key is that of a young child, and the second is a first set of house keys, we can then deduce that this third medal is perhaps set in the teenage years of the person’s life, and that they have a new sentimental attachment of some form in their life that they treasure.

necklace key

a photo of me in my teenage years, almost exclusively always wearing the key necklace

This relationship was one that was incredibly valuable to me throughout my teenage years, as my life became increasingly turbulent. Teenage years are often a turbulent time for many, a stage of uncertainty and insecurity, beginning to question, search for and identify your own personal values and your relation to others, while also navigating the needs and troubles of others in your peer group. Not only this, but once again I had to face the various periods of my mother’s mania and depression, and while this was not a constant condition – with her often going many years without an episode – the interludes were often filled with an uncomfortable role reversal of parent and child, attempting to manage her general absent presence and alcoholism. My relationship with my boyfriend of the time, and his family, acted as a much needed anchor and support system to fall back upon in these difficult times, in the face of otherwise isolation.

The house keys, both in a literal sense and the symbolic sense representing my relationship with my mother, are still present in my life, despite being an anchor in the suffocating sense, rather than supportive sense of Martyn (my boyfriend) ‘s family. While time with Martyn and his family (represented by the decorative key necklace) is a welcome relief and separation between myself and the family home, the distance – again, in both a physical and symbolic sense – is only slim, and the looming sense of responsibility from home is never far.

On the reverse side we can see imprints of both the childhood key, and the house keys despite them still being present on the surface. While the childhood key was not present on the surface of the second medal, it is still something that is felt as an absence even into the teenage years. However, the colouring of the childhood keys are less dark than the previous medal, and lighter than the near black tone of the house key imprint, signifying the depth of the loss felt. This is a continuing conflict throughout the medals, the simultaneous presence and sense of absence of the home keys, as it is a continuing theme and conflict throughout my life – of feeling inescapably tied to my home life.

The fouth and penultimate medal in the set, features again the set of home keys, but now instead of the decorative sentimental key, there is another set of sturdy, functional keys. Moving through the timeline of my life, from childhood, through to teenage years, this medal represents early adulthood. This set of keys is in fact the keys to my first flat, which I moved into during my second year of university after spending the first year still living at home, as my family home is in Cardiff. However, after my mother having another manic episode towards the end of my first year at university and the intense stress it was putting me under, thanks to the strong advice and support of the university’s chaplain Paul Fitzpatrick I was enabled to finally move out from the family home after having resigned myself for years that I was to be trapped in that destructive environment.

While I now had more options and avenues of escape in my life, with the new set of functional keys representing my new access to a home other than my family home, in many ways I was more isolated than ever before, and still strongly and crushingly tied to my home life. Shortly after moving out within the first two months of the second year of university, while still recovering from her previous manic episode from the end of the last academic year, only recently having been realised home from the mental hospital, my mother suffered a severe stroke. This left her hospitalised for roughly six months on end, being possibly more dependent on me than ever before. This left me travelling daily on the bus between university, the family home to look after the dog in the empty house, to the hospital to visit and bring support, supplies, and clean clothes, taking away her urine soaked clothes back to the family home to be washed, before finally catching the last bus to my flat. Although it most certainly would have been more practical for me to move back to the family home, I was determined to make full use of my small foothold of independence despite being pulled tighter home than ever before.

Meanwhile, while this is all happening, I am still feeling the loss of childhood – although the child’s keys are now a lighter colour showing my coming to terms with this, and clearly still the conflict of home, but also the loss of my supportive relationship in the form of my 5 year boyfriend and his family, as well as the loss of the family dog whom I loved that I was no longer able to care for.

As we can see from the medal, this was a period of much intense loss, with only the added modicum of independence being gained.

The final medal, while still having the set of house keys, more significantly features an entirely new set of keys, completely separate and overshadowing the house keys. These keys represent my shift fully into adulthood, becoming entirely independent from my home ties. Despite still being present, they are now a far smaller and less significant focus in my life. The new set of keys are they keys to my second flat in which I am living with friends from my course – rather than the previous year in which I was living on my own for the best part of the year. I am both living and functioning happily and autonomously, and although I still face pressures and demands from home I have deliberately put once again both physical and emotional distance between myself and the family home, setting a firm limit on the amount of time that I am willing to spend there. The absence of family life is still felt, although now much paler in colour than the previous medals as I come to terms with this, and there is an loss felt for my time at St Michael’s (my first flat) and the yearning for what my first year of independence could have been, this too is something I have largely come to terms with.

This final medal is far more hopeful, with the gains far outweighing the sense of loss. Not only this, but it marks the completion of the set, allowing all of the medals to come together in order for the poem inscribed on the side to be read.


Each individual medal is a thin and isolated slice on its own, as is any extract taken from a person’s life. Upon meeting a person, we only see and are able to interpret what is presented to us, the current iteration of their self, and perhaps speculate as to what may have come before it. We may, through investigation then reveal different slices and layers of their life, which may seem entirely distinct or perhaps only a very minor change to the version you see in the fully formed person. It is only then by putting these pieces together as a whole, that we can truly appreciate and understand the full breadth of a person and their experience, and understand the sonderous nature of another person’s life in relation to our own.

The lines inscribed down the side of the medal are extracts from Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “If”. They read,

” If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you

If you can meet with Triumph & Disaster,

& treat those two imposters as the same

& so hold on when there is nothing in you,

Except the will which says “Hold on!”

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much

Yours is the Earth and everything in it, & what is more

– You’ll be a Man my son! “

This is a poem which fundamentally expresses the process of the development of the self, in the face of both the trials and the successes, and coming out the other side more complete. This poem, and these lines especially are particularly poignant to me personally, while also serving to make the set of medals more easily accessible and understandable to the viewer giving the objects a context in order to decode the imagery and symbolism behind the keys.


Professional Practice: New Zealand Visa Application

After having found the form, and filled out the majority of the details required in my last post, all I needed was the information regarding the date of issue of my birth certificate to continue. Having gone home and found my birth certificate, I can now finish the application.


In order to submit my application, I first had to agree to the various conditions that I allowed my information to be verified, everything I submitted was correct and that I was not guaranteed to be accepted for a visa.

After agreeing to all of these terms, and submitting the form, I was then told that I had to pay a fee of $208 (presumably New Zealand dollars) in order for the form to be processed, which works out at £99.38.visaapplication2


And with that my application has been sent! When and how I hear back as to it’s success, I’m not entirely sure. But I now wait and hope.

Professional Practice: New Zealand Visa

After some time to recover from my last plight to find the New Zealand Working Holiday Visa, I tried a second attempt at finding it.


Going back to the original login page seemed like the best place to start


My friend suggested to me that I look at the top at the page, as I was apparently already logged in to the website even though it still gives me the login screen at the bottom of the page. At the top of the page there was a “my applications option”, which we thought might lead me to a screen where I could find the working holiday visa applications, however only this pop up box appeared which never loaded into anything more.


Logging into the generic information screen, we found that instead of following the link to the “working holiday visa” which is on the right of the page, and also under the “work” heading of the page, if you click the “working holiday” on the left side it brings up this pop up window, which seemed promising


Following through the popup window seemed to be the actual visa application, which was a great relief after the frustration of my last attempt, it seems that this application is actually going somewhere!


I was able to fill out all of the application, my passport details (removed from this screen cap for obvious reasons), my criminal history (none) and area of work, however the only area I could not complete right now was the Second Form of Identification. The only one of these documents that I own is a Birth Certificate, which I do not have to hand and will have to pick up from home in order to find the date the document was issued as I’m pretty certain it is not necessarily issued on the actual date of birth.


One of the sections requires me to select my occupation, and after having looked through the long (and in some places bizarre) list of occupations, the one which I felt suited me best was “Visual Arts and Crafts Professionals nec” although I wasn’t entirely sure what that constituted and the list itself offered no explanation for each title. Upon googling it I found this description which covered the australian and new zealand visa application descriptions, and I feel that I cover all of these points comfortably. The page also said that there was no minimum requirement for this title, and I will be graduating with a degree in the arts so I should comfortably fit into this category even though I was wary of the “Professional” title.

So thankfully the visa seems in progress, but currently on halt until I can find my birth certificate.

Professional Practice: Book Fair

One avenue of pursuing a live application that has been suggested to me is looking at book faires.

My first instinct was to google “Book Fair”, and the top result was London Book Fair 2016.


However, from looking at the website it’s hard to determine whether or not artist books would be covered, it seems to be a showcase of more standard format books and so I’m unsure whether or not I would be able to apply. Looking under the small heading of “Exhibitor Profile”, the only information that is given is 1,000+ companies from 67 countries around the world. From the giant houses to the smallest independent, publishers of blockbuster novels and academic texts, producers of children’s books and graphic novels, mobile companies, and gaming start-ups.” While it does seem to cover a range of different formats, including children’s books and graphic novels which are more image-based, I’m not sure whether a set of fundamentally art piece based books would be appropriate. The purpose of this fair seems more to promote businesses, rather than to showcase an individual book or set of books, which I am not producing to sell.


Looking at the exhibiting options, it seems as if what I would be applying for is the “Small Press” package, as I would only require a very small space to be manned by myself


However, after searching around the website for details and prices, I found that the cost for this (the smallest exhibition space), which would be rented for three days in the week long London Book Fair, cost £1,525 +VAT to apply for. Considering that I am unsure whether or not this fair is the right fit for my work to begin with, and that I am not mass producing or particularly looking to sell my set of books, there is no way in which I can justify the cost of renting a stand for this show.


Refining my search to “Art Book Fair” seemed to yield better results, with the top result being Bristol Artists Book Event, a promising title


However, unfortunately it seems that I have just missed the boat with the event, with it having finished last week. After having looked around the website and seeing no opportunity to apply for the next event (assuming it is more than just a one-off show), and the “What’s on” page has no events relating to artists books to show of. Looking again at the Bristol Artist Book Event page again, there was no contact details specifically relating to this event itself so that I could inquire about whether or not it would run again in future. The email addresses found under the “Contact” section of the website relate to the box office (which I assume covers ticket ordering and inquiring), contact for the shop, cafe, room hire, supporting the gallery, and artist’s proposals. Artist’s proposals however cover a very specific format in which the email is structured, in which you are asking the gallery for funding in order to produce a specific show, and I do not feel this would be relevant for my exhibition inquiries.



Then I stumbled upon a promising looking twitter account, The London Art Book Fair (@TheLABF). Unfortunately, the show it seemed to be promoting was on last year “10-13 September 2015 at the Whitechapel Gallery. Celebrating the best of international contemporary art publishing.”. Although the show is clearly over, the twitter account itself seems at least semi-active as it had made a post promoting a magazine on the 30th of March, so I figured I may as well send them a message

Following the link from the twitter account to the website The London Art Book Fair, I found reference to previous years of The London Art Book Fair running, which suggests to me it’s an annual event I can potentially apply for this year or the next


However, the main header of the page only refers back to the 2015 exhibition. Despite the URL of the website being the website itself seems to be the entire catalogue and upcoming events for the Whitechapel Gallery. Looking around which, I can’t seem to find any information on a book fair in 2016 or beyond. Going back to specifically the book fair page, there is a contact email (as well as the twitter handle, which I have already contacted), so I may as well drop them an email too.



While looking through my emails, I remembered an email which I sent at the beginning of the year, making inquiries about the BAMS New Medalist Scheme, as the information on their website only referred to applications for the 2014-15 run.


Janet was very helpful in response to my series of emails, informing me that at that point they had currently not secured funding for the 2016-17 run of the New Medalist Scheme, and that she would email me in the coming months if they had any news in terms of updates and applications.

With several months having passed now, and I haven’t heard anything back from Janet and  the New Medallist website still only containing information on the 2015-16 application, I thought I’d send a short email inquiring about updates


Hopefully I will hear back soon, but currently all my live applications have hit a dead end.

Professional Practice – Post University Life

My plans for what I’m going to do post graduation are to spend the next year or so travelling abroad with a friend. My friend Craig has been working and travelling across various places around the world (America, Canada, India) for the past 6 months or so now, and when asking him where abouts in the world he plans to be come July he told me that he will be in New Zealand. He is currently living and working in New Zealand, and his visa doesn’t expire until early 2017 at which point he is currently contemplating travelling to Asia.

Travelling is something I have always contemplated doing, but either never had the occasion, or the confidence to do, and it is certainly a daunting task. While I could potentially travel to any country in the world, alone or with another person or a travelling group, I also have no incentive to do any of those alternatives over the option of travelling to New Zealand and elsewhere with Craig. If anything, having the anchor of meeting with a friend who is in the middle of travelling is a much stronger incentive for me to go, and eases a lot of the fears I would otherwise have simply turning up in a foreign country knowing nobody and with no experience behind me. Travelling with an experienced friend who is already in the country means that I am guaranteed to have a safe place to stay, whether that be an apartment or a hostel which means I don’t need to worry about finding one; he is experienced in picking up jobs wherever he travels, and in the area we will be staying and so therefore be able to advise me in how to get a job to help fund my travelling; and generally give me a companion to travel with which makes the experience both safer and more enjoyable. Because of all these reasons, I am completely content with simply travelling to whatever area of New Zealand (or indeed the world) he will be when I graduate, rather than anywhere else in the world of my own choosing.

Should all go wrong – which I can’t imagine it would as we are both very relaxed and amiable people – I am not in any way tied to travelling with him, and so should we decide we do not want to travel together any more I will hopefully by that point have enough experience to confidently be able to make my own travel arrangements or have found a different person or group or people to travel with, whether that be a separate hostel or travelling to a different location altogether. This and the fact that at any point, I can simply return back to the UK, as part of the Visa requirements for New Zealand are that you carry either an open plane ticket or enough money to buy a ticket home at any given point.


After having registered my interest online for travelling to new zealand a month or two previously, I decided to delve a bit deeper into the visa process now that we are moving closer towards the end of the academic year.

While I have no current set date as to when precisely I will be travelling to New Zealand, my time frame is currently around mid August as many of my friends living around the UK want to see me before I leave, so this gives me a comfortable time frame post graduation to get everything in order.


After having done some research, and having double checked with my friend Craig, it seems that what I need is a Working Holiday Visa, which according to the New Zealand immigration website I am eligible for being aged 18-30 and planning on staying for under 12 months.


One of the main criteria for a visa is having sufficient funds to purchase a return ticket, and a minimum of NZ$350 per month of the visa. 350 New Zealand Dollars currently equates to 166.45 Pounds, which for a 12 month visa (the minimum length visa which you can apply for), that works out at £1,997.40, which we can round up to £2,000. Now to find how much a return ticket costs


I couldn’t find any way of booking an open return ticket, which is ideally what I want because I don’t have any set date on returning to the UK, and am not necessarily returning from New Zealand to the UK and possibly travelling on to Asia afterwards (following the plan of my friend). Websites only seemed to want to sell me fixed return tickets with no mention of open returns.


From looking at various websites, the average price for a return ticket to New Zealand seemed to be around the £850 mark

Following the link from the last page takes me to this page on the documentation that you will need in order to work in New Zealand, I will apparently need to apply for an IRD Number. However considering that your IRD number will be sent 8-10 working days after your application is sent, and you can start work before receiving your application, it is something which should be filled out closer to my time of travel or when I begin work, rather than completing it now before my visa has been completed, sent or accepted.

Now that I have officially registered my interest in visiting New Zealand, I am able to apply for a visa


Following the links given to me took me to this page, to apply for a visitor visa, which is not what I need, but it is asking me to create a “RealMe Login” in order to proceed.


After having created a RealMe Login, it did give me the option to apply for a Work visa, however it then told me that I was not able to apply for this through their system but didn’t redirect me to where I do find this application, which was becoming rather frustrating.


Looking at the only other option on this system, the Visitor visa, was not what I was looking for either, and again it only directs me back to the website I had already come from with no specific link. Once again, frustrating


Finally upon going back to the original website, I found that the drop down now gave me the option of a Working Holiday Visa, and now that I have a RealMe Login I can sign in to the website


Logging into the website doesn’t take me to the visa form, but rather to a general information page about visas which takes me back to the original information page that I was on.


After having gone round these pages several times, I only seem to be led in circles and can find no trace of the actual visa application itself. At this point all I can say is I’m very frustrated by this inane and out of date system, and I will hopefully have better luck in navigating this website another day.

Worries and concerns

Having come back from the Christmas break, I am finding myself feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the reality of how little time we have left in university. Graduation aside, which is in 6 months from now, our timeframe for completing our work is realistically only the next two months, possibly three at a push, before we have to direct the majority of our energy to planning and assembling our degree show.

While this is an achievable deadline, what concerns me most is that I do not feel I know where I am now going with my project after having had my feedback from my formative assessment before Christmas. While the tutors seem to like the medal I have produced so far, and the idea of the set, they do not feel that it is enough work to constitute a degree show which requires a “body of work”. This is a fair point, which I had not previously considered, not knowing precisely what is expected of a degree show and thinking more in terms of having a final piece than an entire body of work. The tutors seemed most interested in the notion of the medals stacking, and working together as a set, and suggested that I create several more series of stacked medals which tell a narrative. However, they did not seem to want me to continue in the direction of personal narrative, as I have been looking at in my current set of medals. They noted the fact that the message I am expressing may not be apparent to everyone when looking at my medals, giving the example “I could look at these and just think that this was a person who was just very interested in keys”. While this is true, as I have written previously I do not think that the message is entirely obtuse to those who are willing to try and ‘read’ the imagery, and that keys are identifiable in their function which is then tied to their significance. While it is true that these objects hold a particular significance and meaning to me, which they will not necessarily hold for others, I would argue that that this is true for many artworks and that there is always the risk that viewers will not understand, or frankly care about your work or message.

When asking if perhaps what they were suggesting with creating several other bodies of work in relation to my medals, was expanding on or reinforcing the message of the main set to perhaps make it clearer or provide context to the objects (keys), their response was a definite no. They were clear that rather than being related to my personal narrative, they should be a response to narrative as a whole, and specifically not related to me. From my perspective, I can’t help but feel that this completely undermines and detracts from what I consider to be my ‘main set’ of medals. This then tells me that discussing my own experiences is not as worthwhile a topic as I had initially thought (despite the fact it was not something I was originally considering, but was convinced of its value by other member of academic staff), which is very disheartening as I have spent a lot of time and energy labouring over the theme and concept to get it to what I thought was a reasonably robust point. It also seems counterintuitive to me to create an additional body of work that does not reflect the tone or message of the main piece, that I do not feel connected or engaged with and I do not feel works cohesively to strengthen my work as a whole. Perhaps this is not the case, and it is by nature my challenge to take the suggestions I am given and work with them in a way that does enhance my work, but currently I am having difficulty in seeing the value of the exercise other than simply to produce more objects.

This not to mention the fact that I find this task of making two or three more sets of stacking objects incredibly daunting in itself. While I understand my tutor’s argument that the medals I am working on currently can by produced into bronze without a huge amount of difficulty, and that I should be more ambitious with my work. However the idea of designing from scratch two or three more sets of stacking objects (while it was suggested they do not have to be medals or take as much effort to construct, potentially coins for example), is not one I take lightly as I feel the nature of two sided objects, and in addition to this the stacking of them, is a relatively complex set of dynamics which is why I chose to work with it in the first place. This combined with the fact I have little sense of clear direction with this task to drive me, no anchor point to construct my work around other than “narrative” which is almost ubiquitous in nature, leaves me feeling incredibly uncertain and concerned for the completion of my project.

While I’ve no doubt that I will at least pass and complete the year, graduating from university, I understandably want my work to be as strong as possible and approved of by others (especially my tutors). Because of this I am left feeling shaken by my overwhelmingly average formative feedback, falling perfectly in the middle of the bracket “Satisfactory”, aside from context which was in the bottom of the bracket “Good” (2:2 and 2:1 respectively). While I did not anticipate getting a first, and I understand that this is formative feedback which forms a basis to improve your grade, it is disheartening to me to be told that your work is simply “satisfactory”, ‘it’ll do’. It makes me question whether or not I have any real skill for art, and whether I should pursue a career in the arts at all, let alone as ‘an artist’ producing and selling my work (not that I have any real concept of how to achieve that in the real world to begin with). It is a consistent feeling that I’ve had throughout my time at university, that there is something fundamental I just seem to be simply ‘not getting’. Something that I seem to be lacking that leaves me in this constant position of uncertainty and achieving only average grades, yet I can’t seem to grasp what it is that I’m missing. I come into university every day and work consistently, staying later than most (although certainly not as late as some) working for several nights in the week this past term. Trying to ensure my ideas are refined and robust, and when sculpting trying to make sure my technical skills are good and the objects are detailed. All in all simply trying to create work that I can be proud of and working hard. However this simply does not seem to be enough to even bring me within the bracket of “Good”, to get any indication at all that the work I’m doing is worthwhile and of any value.

Then there is the matter of what happens post-graduation. We are being made to look for post-graduate opportunities that we might engage with, form and idea of what it is we are going to do upon leaving university; a useful exercise in itself. Unfortunately I seem to be at a complete loss, hardly knowing where to begin, unsure of what to search for or what avenues might be available to me, any attempts I have made have come up largely at dead ends looking seemingly not relevant or not achievable for me. I am feeling an incredible sense of panic building in me at the realisation I have no plans in place for when I finish uni, and in fact no concrete place to live. While moving back home is realistically an option, and I am not expecting to have to live on the streets, it is certainly in my mind the absolute last option available which I would give almost anything to avoid, even if that means living on the sofas in friend’s houses. While I imagine many students sympathise with the notion of not wanting to move back into the family home after graduating university, for me it is a particularly pressing and important matter, and frankly the only goal that I have upon leaving university to never move back home again. This is why I feel it is very important to have a clear exit plan upon leaving uni, which would ideally involve some form of professional practice such as a residency or work experience as the tutors suggest, around which I could plan where I’m going to live, how I intend to make an income. This is also why I am finding it very distressing I do not have these matters in place, and in fact have very little clear idea of what it is I’m aiming for or how to achieve these goals, with the knowledge that graduation is coming ever nearer and these plans need to be put in place now at the latest, and ideally should have been done sooner (and certainly cannot be left until any later) yet I barely know where to begin and am certainly not in the finalising decisions stage. Any plans that I can envisage making such as residencies generally only last a couple of months at the most, which leads me to the question of “what then?”. Will a residency necessarily lead onto paid work, or to another opportunity? Most residencies provide some form of accommodation or housing over the course of the programme, but even assuming I find a residency which I am accepted onto, and can start soon after graduation, where do I live once it’s over? There are so many uncertainties and factors which I either can’t account for or have the potential to change so wildly, it seems impossible to be able to make concrete plan in which I can feel secure.

There is of course also the matter of the dissertation, which is due in three weeks from this point, although realistically it should be effectively completed within the next week in order to allow time for proof reading, getting it printed and bound, etc. Thankfully, at this current moment in time I am not too concerned about this, as I feel that the dissertation is in fact the one thing that is going positively at the moment, and I feel that it is an achievable goal to complete it within this next week as long as I push hard on it now and dedicate time to it. How I feel about it next week however, might be a completely different matter.

While I of course intend to discuss this with the tutors, and any other relevant members of staff, my concern is that I will be met with the response of “well we can’t do it for you” and “go and research”, which are responses I’ve come across in the past. Although I do appreciate the sentiment behind these responses, certainly the tutors cannot be expected to do these things for me while I sit back and reap the rewards, and it is down to me as an adult and an independent person to research opportunities that are relevant to me, I do not think this is what I am asking of the tutors. I have never asked and certainly would not expect, anybody to do my work for me, or to hand me things on a plate, which seems to have been the impression people have gotten when I explain the difficulties I am having. I am simply aware that I am lost and clearly looking in the wrong places for information seeing as nothing I seem to be finding is of use, and am in need of some advice pointing me in the right direction or narrowing my search. This I feel is within the remit of the tutors, drawing on their experience in order to guide me in a clearer direction of search, which I then fully intend to act upon and research myself.

Hopefully, after a booked tutorial on Wednesday, and an appointment with Paul Fitzpatrick which I have requested, things should begin to look clearer and less uncertain. In the meantime I can at least put my energies into my dissertation while I work on a plan of action in regards to my project and post-graduation.

Medal design ideas – Keys as motif


Due to what I feel is the success and the strength of my last sketch, it got me thinking that perhaps the strong point of these images is less about the hands, and tied into the set of keys which I am holding. It is after all the keys that show the representation of change in my life, that add the quality of subtlety in imagery to the piece.

keys now and then

Keys are objects which you always carry with you, and yet you never acknowledge. They are considered only upon the entering and leaving of the home, and are otherwise silent and inert objects. Unlike say a mobile phone, which is potentially carried on the person even more commonly than a set of keys, keys themselves have a very physical quality, a sense of permanence and importance about them. If we find an unknown key in the house, we cannot simply throw it away, what if we need that key some day, what if it unlocks something important? and so it is put in a drawer, forgotten about and silent, yet ever present and important. Not only do we always carry keys with us, the set of keys which we carry changes throughout our life, giving us access to new places, new opportunities, and are a physical representation of these changes. In this way, I think there are an excellent analogue for changes throughout life, as well as being something that is understandable and easily identified by the viewer, without being too heavy handed.

keys in stages

Over the past few years the set of keys which I have had has changed several times. I have gone from having simply the set of keys for my family home in the first year of university when I was living at home, to moving out in the second year and having a second set of keys (not represented in these sketches as I no longer have them to draw), and now in the third year having a new set of keys for my current flat. In the second year, although I had moved out of the family home I was still very closely tied to it, having to travel back there most days between trips to the hospital to visit my mother, and to walk the dog who was left alone in the house. Now in the third year, having moved in with two friends on the course I truly feel far more independent, and above all else in a very stable position, rather than the extremely vulnerable and isolated state I was in last year and constricted by my ties to the family home. This sense of independence, and the gradual lack of importance and distancing between myself and the family home is also reflected in the sets of keys I hold, with the family keys now being seen as simply one in a set of many keys, which is used infrequently. I have found it interesting to note by own behaviour when using my keys, in when I reach for my keys I automatically take hold of the flat key, even when I am visiting the family home, as I know I am returning “home” and my mind has classified the flat as where I feel most at home. In these sketches I have also looked at the use of key charms as markers in my lifetime, with charms such as my tesco clubcard representing a transition into a more adult life, and other charms such as the heart on a chain and the lion king having been given to me by men in my life.

keys and place on medal

After having had a presentation from a woman from the British Art Medal Society (BAMS) primarily to talk to the second year Makers about their BAMS brief for the year, it got me to consider the sense of scale and representation of place in a medal. Unfortunately I did not get any images or names of artists from the talk to reference, and I shall try and find these at a later point. This sense of scale could be very interesting when looking at the interplay between the two sides of the medal, perhaps with one face having an image relating to place, inherently seen at a more distant scale in order to view the place as a whole, and on the reverse then having a very close up image of the keys relating to that place. Scale could even be played with in terms of representing  my own feelings in relation to that place, for example the family home being seen much further in the distance, whereas the flat door would be seen much closer. keys on medal

In the same way that scale can be played with in terms of looking at place, perhaps incorporating place in relation to the keys.

While there are still many questions to answer, in terms of precisely what images I want to use, the relationship between the front and reverse of the medal, as well as between each medal in the set, I am feeling very strongly and positively about the use of keys as a motif. At the very least I now have a clear point from which to work from and to begin to distil the medal’s design.