What do you do at an artist’s residency?

That’s the question I have been asked the most before I came to Japan. In short it’s an opportunity for an artist to produce whatever work they want over a specific time. It’s rather like a writer’s retreat, but with more messy fun stuff to play with. In my case I have two months at Youkobo to spend doing pretty much whatever I want to and therein lies the challenge.

Pedestrian mall in the nearby suburb of Kichijoji

I don’t have to produce anything specific while I am here, but some artist’s use the time at a residency to prepare for an exhibition or complete a specific body of work. At the end of my time at Youkobo I will have an ‘open studio’ where anyone can come along and see the work that I have been making. My goal is to produce new work that will also be shown when I return to Australia.

Some of the work I am making is related to what I have made before. I am also open to new ideas and already I have made some different types of work to my previous pieces. That’s the fun part, seeing where those ideas take me.

The laneway near the Igusa Hachimangu Shrine

I didn’t prepare specific work to take with me to Japan, because I wasn’t sure what I would find when I arrived. I certainly bought lots of art materials along! I had one large packing cube of sketchbooks paint and the like and a smaller packing cube of material threads and general sewing stuff. 

What I do have are some strategies to get me started. I have my ‘working wall’ where I stick up things I’m working on. I also a few pieces for inspiration that I  brought from Canberra. 

The ‘working wall’ a work in progress

I’m currently working on a piece of stitching which is like a diary of some of the things I am seeing around our part of town. I love taking photos of odd bits and pieces, the sort of thing that you may not think of as subject matter for stitching. I like road repairs, decaying buildings, rusty things and odd stuff, like the large goldfish you can see in the picture of my ‘working wall’. (We found the goldfish lying in the middle of the footpath near our Canberra home one day – you see, quite odd). 

I will work on this piece most days, as it takes a lot of time to stitch something this size, even when it is quite narrow. 

My daily stitching piece another ‘work in progress’

Of course I don’t sit in the studio all day either. A whole other part of being here is to get out and about to all sorts of activities, explore  and be inspired by the city, but more of that in another post. 

Chatting with the Peach Girl at the Momoshi Elementary School Autumn Festival