We decided to write ourselves a letter. A letter to our 8 year old selves. This is where the idea for M2 AIR grew…
Written: 19th September 2016
Read: 19th September 1994
It’s hard looking back to remember exactly what your life is like at this moment. You are eight years old, a student in year 4 at Wirksworth Junior School and Miss. Morrison is probably your teacher. I’m trying to remember…
I know you were into Polly pockets and miniature dreams of The Borrowers, The Poddington Peas at this age, playing mines at wet break (by crawling through the tables, and imagining the olden days). I know that at break time on a sunny day, what you enjoyed more that anything was playing on your own outside in the trees planted at the back of the playground. You would sit quietly, gather twigs and green leaves from the bushes and sew together the leaves to create a blanket. Going back to it to add sections in afternoon break and then the next day, at first break, lunch and after break, until it became too huge to hide and probably got destroyed by the lads.
Sometimes you would build caterpillar dens with the cassette tapes from the library. There was an abundance of Yellow caterpillars in those bushes.
What did you dream of being at this age? What did you want to do more than anything? Some break times you would play ‘Hairdressers’. You dreamed for a short while of being a trapeze artist in the circus, and sometime around now you drew a lovely picture depicting this. I remember drawing it, and I remember telling Emma that this wasn’t a reality as I did it. We all knew the circus traveled together and was an ‘in crowd’, and besides there was no where in Wirksworth to train in aerial skills from a young age. You knew even when you drew that picture it was a pipe dream. But RESPECT Megan – that summer you hung upside down for eleven minutes, timed by Luke’s stop watch – that was super impressive.
I remember the fascination with ‘999’ the TV show, the walk to and from school passing the fireman’s practice tower near the jet garage. Imagining being a firefighter and the thrill of climbing a tower and rescuing a dog or a small person. Another ‘pipe dream’ as I was aware my asthma wouldn’t allow it.
But y’know what Megan, I think what must have affected you more you are aware now – was when Mrs Savage asked you if she could keep the painting you did in class. You were so flattered the moment she asked you by saying ‘it just goes so perfectly with my new bed spread, are you sure you don’t mind Megan?’ When you went home it was all you do was boast about to your parents. During half term Mrs Savage had a baby and mum took you round to deliver a gift for her and the baby. The baby was cute and all but when you went to the loo, you ducked into her bedroom quickly and there it was – framed on the wall like a real artist. Six months after painting the picture it looked great in the frame you had to admit, but like a true artist you saw the flaws and it looked much lower quality than you remembered. Technique improved much quicker with time in those earlier years. But I think, I know that was the moment you flirted with the idea of being an artist.
So here we/you/I are now. The year is 2016 and you are an artist. You aren’t rich, you don’t own a house, you never fulfilled the dream of being a background dancer on ‘Stars In Their Eyes’ for a series. You don’t have long dark hair with a block fringe. You aren’t thin. But you are an artist. You aren’t starving. You wouldn’t call yourself a hippy. But you are an artist.
Here is how you describe the kind of art you do now on your website and on applications for big projects…
‘I’m Megan Clark-Bagnall. I’m a freelance contemporary artist living in Bristol, UK.
I am currently concerned with making artworks via interactive and participatory processes by inviting audiences or select participants to involve themselves in assisting the realisation and outcome of my creative concepts. I enjoy making work that is accessible, questioning, fun, humorous and often a little bit ridiculous.’
You like making funny projects with people and you recently started calling yourself a ‘social maker’, which is silly term you aren’t quite comfortable with, but it makes sense.
When people ask you what you do it’s often easier to lie and say you are a dentist because you aren’t an artist that paints or makes sculptures. You are an artist that makes big projects with people. Projects that bring people together. You re-create games of snooker in a swimming pool and make hats for the swimmers to make them look like pool balls, you build haystacks out of destroyed worries and then help people search through the haystack to find a needle of hope. You play games. You are silly. You don’t make serious art. But you are serious about making art.
I’m writing this letter because you now live in Bristol. You’ve been here for almost 6 years and you have a lovely shared studio space. In your room are 10 other artists. Although you make most of your projects independently, you share ideas/advice and materials with others in the room. Sometimes, you work together with Ali who is another ‘Social Maker’. She’s very good with fabrics and knitting and makes very tactile loving projects. Recently you had a brainwave together. What about providing people like our own eight year old selves with the opportunity to be an artist in residence in our studio space? This means inviting children aged between 7 – 11 years to come into our space and to create a creative response in our space over two days with a little showcase at the end and budget for cool materials. We just thought, wouldn’t it be great to show our eight year old selves a world we didn’t know existed, a world that sits on the door step to so many primary schools.
I feel this letter is too long already.
I just wanted to show you that there is more out there than meets the eye. I know you already think you know, but there’s always so much more to know. Keep your eyes peeled. Keep noticing things.
Megan (age 30) x
Artist and Social Maker
Written: 19th September 2016
Read : 19th September 1992
Dear Ali (age 8)
I am you but grown up now – I am 32.
24 years have passed by from when you are reading this.
I am writing to tell you what I am doing now and to remind you that you really can do what ever you want to do.
Keep writing your stories, drawing, imagining and making things.
Carry on building dens, keep reading with a torch in the bathroom cupboard, making bars to dance and drink in with your imaginary friends… All of these things have come in very useful here in the future.
Michael Jackson is dead, but I still dance to his songs. ‘Off The Wall’ is still one of my favourite albums. Now I listen to it on my phone, which is a mobile, it has no wires and it is much, much smaller than the phone we have at home.
I digress; my real reason to contact you so far into the future is to tell you about my job. I am an artist. Yes an artist. I make things with people all kinds of different people and all kinds of different things, I made a whole supermarket out knitting and wool, a tiny city made out of bird boxes, a town out of cardboard and a huge giant woolly jumper to hang outside a hospital. All of these projects have involved hundreds of people and whilst these projects sound big and impressive the real magic is in the making – Making something together, meeting new people and making friends. Its so much easier to talk to people your don’t know when you are making something together, and so much easier to work out what you really think about something when you are making and not really thinking about that something – but you probably know this already.
I live and work in Bristol and have the most wonderful studio called M2.This is where I start all my working days. It is work home to 11 amazing creative women. They are lllustrators making pictures for books, a set designer making things for films, and other artists who make things with people like I do! M2 is a part of a much bigger building called BV studios where over 150 other artists and creative people make all make all kinds of work. You may not know that places like this exist, but they do. There are lots of them hidden down streets that you haven’t walked down yet.
Another thing I want to remind you of is confidence. Sometime soon Mrs Davis is going to tell you that you have spent far too long on that fire painting and ruined it. Don’t worry she was probably just having a bad day. If your enjoying making something spend as long as you like doing it. You are the one who make decisions about what you make and for how long, what colour it is and what it is.
You are an artist and you know what you are doing. You really can do what ever you want to do, you just have to decide what it is and start doing it. Don’t compare yourself to other people, you are you and they are them. All the people who seem like they know what they are doing, don’t really know, they are just trying their best. Everyone is just trying their best, and that is what you must do too. Listen to what they have to say but then make up your own mind. Speak up, what you have to say matters and is important, because it is only you that can say what you can in the way that you can.
Follow what interests you and keep exploring. One day looking back all the things that don’t make sense now will eventually make sense. There is a thread that runs through everything.
Just because you cant see something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
Life is full of different twists and turns. Round a different corner, or through door you haven’t yet walked through new worlds open up, with new people, new ideas and new ways of doing things. Stay curious so you notice the corners and the doors. Be brave, even when it’s scary to step into the new things.
Carry on learning to knit with Granny. It gets easier and soon you will get new needles that don’t bend.
Keep asking why? Even when it gets you into trouble – which it defiantly does for most of the rest of your school life. Now I find asking why to be a very useful skill indeed.
I am waiting for my friend Megan as I write this – she is great. I think you would like her too! We are having a meeting with coffee and cake, to discuss our new project in which we invite people just like you to come and be an artist in residence in our studio, to make things and to work alongside us for a few days. Its called M2 AIR and is based in the studio I was telling you about. I think you would love it.
I’ll be in touch soon.
Ali (age 32)
Artist and Social Maker