I’ve been set to thinking by a couple of recent posts — well, fairly recent — on other blogs. A couple of weeks ago, Meg was reflecting on “what makes attractively-installed textile exhibitions” while, over on the Textile Blog, John Hopper was pondering the role of competition in the world of art and design. My perspective on both of these things is very strongly rooted in my childhood and my school education. The outcome is that I am very, very particular about presentation and absolutely loathe competitions.
I do have a competitive streak, but it is only triggered by a certain combination of circumstances. I can think of three periods when I have felt spurred on by competition (as opposed to anxious and demoralised). One was in the early years of secondary school, one was on a postgraduate course at university and one was in a job that I had. In each case, I had a friend who was also a rival: someone who was extremely well-matched with me in terms of ability and in personality. We got on brilliantly with each other, but also challenged each other to do better at the things we were working on. We might race to be the first to get a particular result, or to master a technique we needed to use. It didn’t actually matter which of us was the first, it was the race which was fun — and, because we were well-matched, in the long run it would be fairly even.
Of course, that’s an advantage of a friendly rivalry: that there is a long run for things to be evened out in. I tended to do well at school, and in my experience coming top in the class is rubbish. Coming joint top with your best friend is fantastic. Without the relationship to make the race fun, though, I just find it unpleasant: embarassing to win, disappointing to lose. I’d rather be getting on with my own thing. And I find it hard to think of creative work in this competitive way at all. The recent ridiculous fuss about the Man Booker Prize shows how absurd the pretence at having some objective “standard” can become.
My dislike does not, of course, stop me from entering competitions, since competitions are everywhere. I’m currently thinking about which of the many juried shows I might submit work to next year, for instance. My main criterion for choosing something to enter is that it has to push me to do something I would have wanted to do anyway, but might not have got around to without that push. That is what will make it worthwhile. If I should have my work accepted, that’s when I start to worry about presentation… but I won’t go there just now. Instead, here’s a picture of my current warp.
It looks much brighter here than it does in reality. The colours are a very dark green and an almost-as-dark purple, and between them they seem to suck all the light out of the loom room. However, they are also the favourite colours of a certain relative who will be getting a scarf for Christmas. I had to wear my mini-headlamp to do the hemstitching and it was still pretty tricky to see how many ends I was catching. I’ve started weaving since I took this photo and with the weft in place — it ‘s a lighter shade of green — it brightens up considerably.