How Long Does It Take?

This is a question that comes up often when people visit my studio or meet me at craft fairs. It's an understandable and natural question when viewing a piece of artwork, especially with an unusual medium. It's a way of gauging the complexity of the methods I use and understanding the effort involved. The problem is it's a very difficult question to answer!

My usual response is to talk about the number of hours I have spent sitting at the table and physically making the piece. However, the more I think about this the more I realise it doesn't tell the whole story.

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Firstly, there is the time in between sitting at the table. If I've spent a few hours in the studio in a day, I will spend as much time outside the studio running through the piece in my head, looking at the source photo or at the work in progress photos I've taken that day. I will be thinking about what is not working in the piece and figuring out what it needs. I will be planning the next steps to make the next day's studio time more efficient. Studio time is limited, especially in the school holidays, so I need to make the most of it!

It also helps to think about things away from the studio as it can bring fresh ideas and perspective, especially when going through the frustrating phase that I get with every piece. So, if you see me looking like I'm daydreaming or in another world - I'm usually thinking about a current or future piece of artwork. This is most definitely the case when I’m out walking on the Ridgeway!

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Secondly, there is the time before I start the physical making of the piece. Finding ideas, sourcing or taking photographs to use as inspiration, getting permission from photographers, choosing the right composition for a piece are all done before 'work' starts.

For commission pieces I take time to discuss the idea, composition and photograph with the customer to ensure they are going to get what they want as well as making sure it’s something I can do and am comfortable with creating. In some cases, there will also be materials to source if I don’t have the right colours in for a piece.

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Thirdly, and most importantly, there is the time spent over the years training and practicing. Time spent on pieces that still sit in the bottom drawer of the studio because I don’t like them or the ones I’ve started again because they were not going well. 

Trying out new materials and techniques which don’t always work or need a lot more practice and fine tuning.  

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And thinking about it constantly...

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That’s a little insight into my creative process, I’m sure it’s pretty standard for many artists. Though many work a lot harder and are much more disciplined, especially when it comes to sketchbooks. I’m very dependent on my phone and it’s camera!

If you’re planning a visit to the studio for Swindon Open Studio or if we meet at a craft fair around Christmas, please do ask me any questions. I may not be able to answer properly at the time, but I love the questions. They make me think about my process, help me refine it in the hopes of becoming more efficient, and hopefully be better at answering questions next time.

Swindon Open Studios:

22nd,23rd,29th.30th September 11am to 5pm
https://www.swindonopenstudios.org/ushma-sargeant