Welcome To My Blog – An Introduction to Claire Cotterill
I’ve finally got around to writing my blog and it’s been a long time coming! I’ve thought about it for some time and finally decided to bite the bullet. So much goes on behind the scenes in developing a creative idea or project, yet until now, I’ve only tended to share the final results, somewhat sporadically and shyly on social media!
This is a new beginning, a way of documenting projects and sharing the various stages of their development. The process from concept to design, production to installation. Some of the commissions involve working with local people and communities, some are purely my own. Each is unique in character and generally bespoke and tailored to respond to a site-specific requirement.
Who am I?
I grew up in the Scottish Borders, a beautiful place to be as a child. In the days before social media and few TV channels, there was a lot of spare time, so besides my passion for everything to do with horses in my early teens, I drew and drew and painted! It was my little oasis of calm, I copied from magazines, drawing my favourite pop stars, making shrines to David Bowie etc, always accompanied with music. We had a great selection of pop up second hand record shops and very cheap first edition albums! Sometimes I would go out into nature and draw trees, plants and landscapes. Through music and nature I would lose and find myself, And the gigs in Edinburgh and Glasgow brought those albums to life !
At the age of 18 I moved to Newcastle Upon Tyne, to study foundation Art and Design. And I loved living in the city. After moving through all the various creative options, I settled on Fine Art, my final works were inspired by a 6 week hitchhiking tour around Europe with my best mate. We saw the Berlin wall before it was knocked down, refused entry to East Berlin, due to our crazy punk hair do’s, taken to Dachau concentration camp by our insistent German lift giver and slept on the beach in Southern Italy for a week, so many stories and so much material to work with !
I then applied for my degree and had offers from Duncan of Jordanstone and Birmingham School of Art, which was part of Birmingham Poly at the time, settling on the latter. I fell in love with the beautiful building in Margaret St, you’ll see what I mean if you click the link! This led to more drawing and painting, clay sculpting of life models, such a luxury when I look back – the days of no tuition fees and small grants, topped up by cash in hand work in pubs. In my 2nd year, ‘extracurricular activities’ resulted in a surprise pregnancy (unusually three of us students declared the same within a week of each other – a fertile peak !)
I sadly separated from the father early on in my pregnancy. I found a new home and very fatefully met one of my dearest friends, now in her 80’s and welcomed my beautiful son into the world. I had very little, but I felt so happy and abundant!
Following a year out, I went back and completed my degree and probably achieved more than I’d done in the past three years, I valued my time differently and was full of inspiration. I really flourished, I explored the work of Joseph Campbell, comparative mythology and religion, the commonality of stories from different cultures and religions, all over the world. I looked at the tarot, the I ching, a bit of Carl Jung. My final show was inspired by these themes and titled “The Story of The Fool’. I created five, very large figurative drawings that seemed to come from nowhere and all produced in two or three weeks (Just in time !) The most ‘finished’ works I’d produced to that point. My dissertation was on ‘Black Political Artists in Britain’. My son is mixed race and on reflection this life experience and the growing awareness I had made me concerned about his potential future opportunities. I became even more conscious of the lack of diversity and fair representation of so called ‘ethnic minorities’ (for want of a better term) in the world of art that I knew; in society in general. My dissertation involved a lot of research into under representation of Black and Asian artists in the mainstream arts world. Eddie Chambers, from the Black and Asian Visual Artists Archive in Bristol was a huge help, as was the serendipitous opening of the Tate London exhibition ‘The Other Story’ demonstrating this inherent racism; grouping so many diverse artists in one space, purely by reason of ethnicity. It was controversial, great artists, but thrown together in a disrespectful way I thought – It was met with both derision and acclaim.. This was the mid-eighties and there were only about two relevant books to reference, so I needed to get out and about to meet and talk to people, still part of what I love today!
I didn’t expect to delve to far back and in such detail, but I suppose these are the foundations of my work and relevant for that… I do recommend if you’re interested in these themes, you check out Joseph Campbell’s prolific writings too. His last interview with Bill Moyers, was what first grabbed my attention, it looks quite dated now, but Joseph Campbell is a pleasure to listen to, so much knowledge of stories and you can see how enthusiastic he was until the very end. Very relevant to our times. To see how much we have in common, rather than what separates us. You can watch the series ‘ The Power of the Myth ’ on Netflix and Prime.
On my blog, my plan is to share my projects, past and present and share the things that inspire me. There’s something wonderful about the process of creating something from nothing, the places you go, the people you meet, the stories you hear. So I thought I’d start by sharing ‘The Story of The Fool’ series, this renown archetypal character has resonated with me over the years and as I said, they were inspired by research into stories common to many religions and cultures throughout the world. I hope you enjoy them. There is one missing unfortunately, I did meet someone once who said they’d seen it floating around Moseley, the area in Birmingham I live in, let me know if you spot it anywhere!