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  • Writer's pictureGina Ferrari

All Change

Two weeks ago, we were faced with the announcement of the death of the Queen in the UK. In some respects, it was not totally unexpected, but she was such a constant feature in the background of our lives here it did somehow feel like a shock. There has been two weeks of mourning, followed by the state funeral and we are a nation facing change. For most of us this hasn’t necessarily had a direct impact on our lives, but it has got me thinking about how we cope with change in our lives and art and the way it influences the paths that we take.

Sometimes change is planned, such as moving house, taking a holiday, going away to college etc. In fact, taking a holiday is a prime example of how we use planned changes in our life to shake things up, add interest, revitalise and refresh ourselves. But often life altering changes are unexpected. However, they are not necessarily a bad thing as it is change that shapes us, making us stronger and ultimately even thrive. And this applies to our art as well as the rest of our lives.

Butter wouldn't melt! Me at age 14-15!

All this thinking took me back to my schooldays in an all girls convent school fifty years ago. I was slightly rebellious teenager who used to be sent to the school chaplain on a regular basis, not so much as a punishment but more of a way of keeping me out of trouble and in a futile attempt to get me back on the religious path I had long since abandoned. Plus, if I was spending time with him, I wasn’t skipping school. I didn’t mind as we used to have heady debates about religion and on discovering I liked to draw, he got me a job making illustrations for the covers of the little weekly booklets that accompanied Mass. Bible illustrations mostly – praying hands, candles, crucifixes and other images full of Catholic symbolism. I wasn’t much interested in the subject matter, but I did like getting paid for making art!

All was fine until one day the subject of what I wanted to do when I left school arose and there was no doubt… I wanted to be an artist. To which he replied, that was nonsense as there were no well-known women artists and it wasn’t a job for a woman. Obviously getting paid to illustrate parish magazines didn't count. Of course, I argued with him over many weeks and although I instinctively felt he was wrong, I had no knowledge to back me up of the numerous women who had fought to make art over the centuries… no Google back in those days! Despite my teenage passion, I was no match for this elderly priest and so that was the start of my ambition being crushed. My parents were never enthusiastic about a life in art either and so I never did follow my dream of going to art college and becoming an artist and maybe I never would. I was held back by limiting beliefs about my own ability and what was possible. It took a major change in my life to force a change in direction.

Suddenly at the age of 41 I found myself a single parent of four boys, the youngest of whom had recently been diagnosed as having ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder). I was unable to continue with my school teaching career and was at the end of my tether. I couldn’t see any future for myself until a friend suggested we took a course in machine embroidery. Armed with a brand-new Bernina (bought with the still joint bank account!) we made the 50 mile round trip each day to Missenden Abbey while my Mum looked after the boys for a week. Back home each evening I would get the boys to bed before writing up my notes and mounting my samples and then setting off the next morning to do it all again. It was exhausting but I loved it. I had discovered the creative outlet I was looking for and by the end of the week I had a Level 1 certificate in machine embroidery and had embarked on something wonderful. Unable to work during the day, I started teaching machine embroidery at adult evening classes and a new chapter in my life was born.

Roll on another twenty or so years and a global pandemic abruptly ended my career in adult education, but instead I turned learning new skills by teaching online and to painting, fully embracing the artist I had always wanted to become. The past two years have been an exciting roller coaster of discovery and I am enjoying how much there is to find out about my own art and art history.

And so, we can never really predict what lies ahead but if we embrace change as a natural part of life it can bring wonderful and unexpected outcomes. Sometimes that change can be big and have an impact on many of us like the death of a monarch, or a global pandemic or it may just be the small, unexpected changes in our everyday lives. At the time change can feel disruptive, even devastating but without it our lives become stagnant and boring. We need the balance of routine and the familiar, but we also need change to disrupt things occasionally. It brings the interest and excitement not only to our lives but to our art too.

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Diana Studer
Diana Studer
Sep 24, 2022

How bittersweet. All in the same mind - to commission and pay for your work, while saying it can't be done!!


Sep 22, 2022

A great read. It's fascinating how the paths we are meant to take always seem to find us, even when we least expect it.

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