For the whole of January I’m benefitting from the opportunity to step out of my day-to-day life in London and to immerse myself in drawing and writing at ComPeung artist residency in Doi Saket near Chiang Mai in Thailand. ComPeung was set up in 2007 by artist Ong Kesorn and has since then hosted over 100 artists from all over the world. Residents stay three at a time in small houses built by Ong himself using earth from the site and recycled materials. The accommodation is surrounded by beautiful tropical gardens. A bamboo platform is providing me with the perfect outdoor studio in a tree.
Whilst I’m here I'm devoting myself to two activities that usually get pushed aside by commissions with deadlines and paid work. Firstly, I’m making time to draw from nature. I consider observational drawing and mark making to be at the heart of my practice as a textile designer/maker, although too often they get put to the bottom of the list and then forgotten. Being free from time pressures is allowing me to draw in a stimulating new environment, and to reconnect with drawing as process and as a way of thinking.
Secondly, I’m advancing some writing projects that have been on the back burner for too long. As a crafts researcher, I have two overdue papers to write: one tying up some ideas about making and design pedagogy from a funded residency last year with the Museum of Domestic design and Architecture (https://moda.mdx.ac.uk/projects/katagami/); the other for a themed issue on the relationship between crafts creativity and wellbeing in the journal Arts & Health. I’m also writing a proposal for a book on making and mental health, and applying for funding for a related project. Sitting in a tree, disturbed only by the meal bell three times a day, I have no excuses for procrastination left!
One challenge of the first few days of my residency was to get a sense of how best to use my time. As well as bringing all kinds of writing and other projects with me, I’ve been buffeted by stimulating new sensory impressions of every kind - including hectic Chiang Mai life, several new culinary experiences a day, and a plethora of never-before-seen flora and fauna (some of the latter too close for comfort!). It took me ten days or so to have some clarity about what to focus on. Writing in this setting is turning out to be productive. Extraordinary plant life has made the strongest visual impressions, and has the keenest relevance for my practice as a designer. I’m settling back into drawing, having neglected it for some time. It’s been a while since I drew every day, and making this a daily practice is starting to bear fruit. At the moment, I’m fascinated by all the plant life that floats on water. These plant forms, from the tiniest water weeds to lily pads two metres across, randomly distributed on a flat surface, seem to be textile designs in the making.