Space has taken on a whole new meaning.
Lockdown has changed how we see the space around us. Home space has become the venue of all, of work, of learning, of eating, of dreaming. Escaping from that space has been impossible and, for those like me – who live with people, mental escapism seems just as difficult.
I’ve always been a person who needs a little space, every so often, to be alone with my thoughts and undisturbed, even if only for a few minutes, a few metres down a beach from the children.
Then the Great Change happened. Stasis. Chances to go to classes disappeared. Opportunities to get lost in galleries and museum went. Trying to take so many children out into the country (safely – as toddlers know no limits of personal space at the best of times) was nigh on impossible.
Even now, with the oddly mechanical restrictions placed on environment, escapism feels remote. The need to be constantly aware of the presence of other people brings on the sort of hypervigilance formerly reserved for being alone on the streets in the dark. The possibility of being sufficiently engaged in surroundings, or in art and ideas, to drop off into another mental space, is pushed out by the existential dread of living in a time of plague.
So, my little nook, created by my beloved in the corner of a garage, has become a place to escape. Me, the woodlice and the rather voracious rafter spiders, who cast their leftovers on my desk between uses, share this shady space. I’m mostly spending time being frustrated at my incredibly limited soldering skills, repeating the process of shaping, filing, cleaning, soldering, failing to make the join, pickling and starting all over again.
It’s not complex stuff, my design ambitions are limited by my skill set, and the mistakes are countless, so opportunities for repetitive, focussed work come up again and again. Frustrations at my own ineptitude, a seemingly negative thought process, gives me a sense of purpose. It is a chance to overcome, just a little sense of overcoming mind. Each error in metal is a thing that can be worked out, through filing and forming. More effort can mean a better outcome. The simplicity of this redemption arc is absorbing to the point of departure from the day to day. To a soundtrack of podcasts I lose myself in time and suddenly I find myself in a different space, escaped.
Of course, time ultimately re-enters my awareness and I tuck my tools away, always grateful for the patience of my husband as he absorbs the timeless time. Very small gains are made on the creative front, but the space created releases a little of myself back to me.
Bench Press is a first-person view of the struggles with staying inspired, finding the time and energy and developing skills in silversmithing and jewellery making written by Ruby Patrick. Ruby is a mother of four, step-mum to two more and a student. She is a long way from being the artist she wishes to be but gets a step closer every time she puts on the apron, picks up the tools and does the damn thing.