Our household is in disarray as we shift furniture and reorganise to make room for my new art studio and the furniture we’ve inherited from our flat rental.

I’m an organised and tidy person by nature and so I’ve found the upheaval quite stressful, although I’m enjoying the results tremendously.

One of the jobs I’m tackling as a consequence of all the redistribution is to integrate some of the stuff I’d brought back from my mum’s house after she passed away back in January.

There isn’t a lot – my stepdad is still very much alive and enjoying the house they lived in together – and so the stuff I’m working through is mainly personal paperwork – souvenirs, letters and remembrances to which I’m linked.

Jamie Ridler has invited members of the studio to explore their personal art history this month, and it seemed quite timely that in amongst the #stuffmymumkept are  quite a few pieces of my art history.

I am particularly intrigued by this school report when the aged seven me was marked as ‘competent’ in everything (although ‘slow to grasp new processes’ with numbers) except for a ‘special aptitude’ in my ability to express ideas through painting, drawing and modeling:

career clues

That gives me such a thrill these days. That grading of ‘special aptitude’ touches me so deeply – as I am living my creative renaissance after being separated from this aspect of myself for so many years. I’m intrigued at how much it feels like a validation of my coming home to self – despite my home-educating belief system that abhors the very nature of school tests, grades and reports!

Mum’s papers and keepsakes were random and fairly disorganised but amongst them I found possibly the only certificate of achievement which survives from my whole education history:

Certificate of Achievement

During six years of high school I in fact won three awards; in my first year, I won 1st in the year for General Technical studies, in my third year, 1st in the year for Art (the certificate shown) and the same again for my fifth year.

I don’t know where all the other certificates are – I don’t even have my qualifications certificates or college diploma – so this wee gem amongst the files helps provide an answer to my snarky inner critic, whose constant refrain is “ah, but you’re not good enough.”

Honestly, I’m a little ashamed that the certificate provides that validation – after all, certificates, prizes, school grades should really have no bearing on my creative work (and it feels a little like boasting, too.)

There’s something that tops all of those feelings, though –  I’m thrilled that my mama was proud of my achievements. Proud enough to stash away some easily breakable objects, like this high school pottery project;

high school pottery vase

When my step-dad first showed me this, I had absolutely no recollection of making it. But now it sits on my studio windowsill as an invitation to go and dig my hands in some clay. I can see my hand in this vase, even as I’m typing these words to you.

This next find really highlights the love and care my mama took over the most random of treasures;

house made of egg

This primary-school age piece of art is a wee house made out of an egg! The egg is empty, of course, as we had blown the contents out at the time of making it. This piece of my art history must be well over thirty years old and has survived at least two house moves! I’m in tears to think that my mama chose to keep it amongst her precious objects.

I am not a great sentimentalist. I don’t own any of the art I made throughout high school or college. When I walked out of my sixteen year relationship, I left almost everything behind.

It isn’t often that this means anything more to me than freedom, but I will admit to a few stages in the last few years when I wanted to show my husband and son the type of art I used to make, when I ‘used to make art.’

These few pieces of my art history fill that hole for me. Not quite what I’d have chosen to keep, but perhaps all the better for it!

Thanks Jamie for the invitation to explore xo

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