A series of talks with artists about their experiences in 2020.

#3 Sarah Stamp 

(Interview was dictated from audio version)

Sarah Stamps art is best described as an attempt to understand the world and our existence with it. Sarah uses text and language in terms of display and the role the phrase or sound bite plays into her practice. She creates small printed publications based on a pamphlet or newsletter format, containing photographs and text from her research.

Within Sarah's work she explores everyday life and as we are coming to the dreaded 1 year anniversary of the first UK lockdown Pink Collar thought she was the perfect artist to virtually talk to about her work and experiences in 2020 and beyond.

                                                                        Image description - A photo of a white board filled with writing in red, blue, green and black pens.

Throughout the pandemic, art activities were seen as an escapism from the mundane day to day of being stuck in the house. When you are an artist and making stuff is your job do you still see certain creativities as a hobby? Or do you want to rip your hair out if someone else tells you art is good for your mental health?

SARAH - So I think I do see some creative activities and making as a hobby versus making art work and being more about job or career. I think that is probably to do with two things, the method but that started to blur ever so slightly as have tried to use craft a little bit more in my work and is something that I am really into as a hobby and also I think the intense so I do really believe making art and being creative is good for your mental health, whether it's good for your mental health when your trying to make art or be creative as an artist sometimes yes sometimes no but I think doing it as a hobby definitely is quiet fun and relaxing and quiet engaging and it amazing when those sort    of feeling that people are maybe familiar with then there kind of engage with a… I don't know…. Cross Stitch or paint by numbers or some like that it's amazing when you can replicate that kind of flowing feeling in your work and when you're making your art work but offend when I'm making artwork im full of questions, like what im I doing this for, will this turn out how I want. What the point in this, is it going to look OK. Is this right should I be doing this, should I be doing that. Where is when I am crafting so say knitting or crocheting or making stuff with air dry clay or whatever kind of craft stuff Im doing. I don't have those questions and quite happy just to be doing it as getting on with it and if it looks shit it looks shit.

So I really do try and learn. That is my practice and I probably feel a lot happier, more relaxed and successful if I could apply some sort of that thought process to when I'm making art but I guess, it sort of… I maybe don't or struggle to cause there a difference in what the outcome is. One is just for me and just for hobby time and the other is I guess what you're trying to build a career on, it feels like a lot more weight on it.. If that makes sense. 

You’re a freelancer like many creatives. I was surprised to see so many people working in the arts whose contracts and freelance work have all been cancelled didn’t get a penny from our government. Did you get any support? and What needs to change financially in the arts to support artists?

SARAH - So throughout 2020 and the majority of 2020 I was working in a freelance capacity and at the end of the year so in mid Nov I did start doing a little bit more work and I choose to take that on, not as a freelancer but as an employee of a cultural organisation so PAYE basic so that will be a little more annoying and a nightmare for my tax return. I did that because I haven't had any financial support, had not been eligible for despite I do feel having less work and less income that I have might of had, so I choose to take on this additional role on a employee basic cause I wasn't sure what was going to happen in the future we were very much, sort of at the beginning or the mist of the 2nd wave and I didnt know how furlough etc will be going on and as a freelance you not eligible for furlough so it kind of felt a sensible decision to be employed on that basis so as I say I hadn't been eligible for any of the business support grants or business support loans, or self employment loans that where available and that was because I just starting working fully freelance in 2020 and the start of 2020 before that I had been working for the past few years part time, sort of two or three days a week for cultural organisations in sort of audience development, community participation type roles alongside having an art practice that I didn't really make a lot of money doing so that meant I hadn't earned half of my income from Freelance work in the previous years so that was something you need to be able to prove in order to get help. It did feel quite unfair particularly I did a little bit of research around it and found there was like the federation of small business and other self employed support group were saying that the self employed sole traders market is quiet a flued marker and quiet a flued work force and any one time you have a lot of people who are in their 1st year or 2nd in self employment or peeps who are going to be leaving self employment so I imagine i'm not the only one who will have been new to earning all of their income from self employment who were not eligible for any help so luckily that hasn't be to financially hard, I've got a partner who I live with who has a salary role who hasn't been on furlough and I still had enough work, I had about one, one and a half days a week of work in a project man role from museum through at most of 2020 so that mean that I did still have a core income but I do feel like I definitely had less work and less income that I would of had and I also feel like a lot of the time it kind of better now nearly 2021 the artists opportunities weren't there to be able to go out and seek that extra work.

Image description - a yellow neon spiked pop art card, with stock image of a mouth with teeth grinning and a stencilled stamp of a
decorated cube overlapped with teeth image. The yellow paper has an orange string attached.

You don’t tend to put any of your creativity online. Is this a choice to keep your practice private?

SARAH - I don't tend to put a lot of my artwork online, obviously that is a choice that I'm not actually doing it. I would actually like to do it quite a lot more. Its really sort of like a confidence thing in that I'll feel ok sharing something if its a project or i'm going to be involved in an exhibition or something that other people are involved in. I don't feel particularly confident just sharing some things that i've made or somethings that are kind of in development and I don't really know why that is because I don't on social media have a huge following by any means and I just follow and followed people who I kind of mainly know and I know there all really nice supporting people who are creative in lots of difference ways so it's definitely a me thing rather than a thing about knowing that the people who follow me on social media would judge me negativity so yeah just feeling whats good enough to share or not but I really feel it's something that I would like to do more of and I would like to feel more confident in because I'm really aware that I don't have much online presence and that feels a real gap in terms of my CV and I do wonder weather it affect me negatively when applying for working opportunities cause there not that kind of example of working project online also I really love seeing other artists work in development and seeing how things sort of change from 1st idea to the finish project. I know a lot of people probably feel the same and people aren't actually judging it but sometimes I think there's a difference between what you know logically and what you feel, so yeah it's a bit embarrassing to talk about it I know I need to do better with really.


Image description -  a sculpture of a collection of different colour matieral - shiney paper, neon colours, golden tassles. 

As your work is about every day has your practice changed at all? Or like many people, 2020 is truly cancelled in their cultural headspace?

SARAH - Ok so about how my practice has changed in 2020/2021 because of the covid 19 pandemic partially cause there is an element of the everyday and everyday life to my practice. So i think somethings have changed yes so I mentioned at the start about being interest in craft and seeing craft and that kind of making as a sort of hobby and thats something ive always been interest in and kind of probably not just in 2020 probably before that, maybe excellerated in 2020 to use more craft and making techniques within my work. I think that kind of something to do with my usual visual style. I like really bright colours, like neon, really shiny metallic holographic materials and using craft techniques things like paper and gluing and sticking those sort of things.

Image description - printed paper with the word in large print “dont. stupid. work. dont. wast” with the word covered by other
text with the word “Plate” and other wording down the side. 

It allows me to get those materials into my work and feel like particularly things are grim enough some shiny and a bit of colour is really nice and fun and enjoyable to look at so it's kind of an aesthetic visual choice thing and also I talked about I really realize I do find making quite enjoyable, quite therapeutic its something I like about being an artist I think, I used to probaby think and it still really important the ideas and connection and the understanding and I guess the interlleganal context of work and that's probably why I love and make art but also I do like really like making stuff with materials and fiddling about with materials and definitely have started to do more or that in 2020. I think cause i've been crafting more about also because probably has been that slight move away from doing things for application and opportunities and projects, it's just kind of been abit of a potterying on your own but equally regarding the cultural head space I have found it really hard, particularly early on probably March up until summer time to really do much making and doing more a deliberate way that kind of conquency trying to make art work like been to a few conferences and networking events lately and creative practitioner have talked about how it was amazing how they had so much more time they could be lots of stuff and I feel like a party pooper cause I havent really had that experience at ll. Ive just been trying to get through my days and manager doing abit of work and about probably as well its worth saying spending quite a lot of time applying for paid opportunities that are available in order to try get that little bit of work that was art there and in order to try and kind of earned a little bit more money because I was working such a small amount so probably not massively conducive to like amazing creative time and innovation but I do think I have slightly learnt a little bit about my practice and about what I enjoy and don't enjoy trying to learn from that and more it forward definitely not all bad.

And what future projects have you got lined up for 2021?

SARAH-So something I'm really looking forward to in 2021 is I have a piece of work that is going to be part of Baltic open submission exhibition. I feel really excited about that because, Baltic is a really big cultural organisation in the north east, it opened when I was a teenager and seen a lot of art work and exhibition so it does feel quite exciting and quite special to have abit of work in an exhibition there and it's something that I've always wanted. It also feels like something im really looking forward to cause its something being postponed and the dates the exhibition has been postponed because of lockdown because the restrictions we had and it feels like it's been going on quite a long time so I entially dropped my work off for it and I think in October time and the exhibition was going to be intially  between Nov-Jan time and obviously galleries were closed and there still closed and not sure when there going to open so the run day of the exhibition has been extended to September 2021, so that quite nice cause I do feel confident even if it takes little while for galleries and museums and cultural venues to allowed to be open it will get open before that september date and yeah it kind of feels little bit defyent as well cultural organisations and gallery can sort of pick up where they lift off and still make the exhibition that have been hung and maybe unseen make them open to the public. Really looking forward to that actually happening.

 Image description - a photo of dotted paper with the words “make time” sewn into the paper with grey wool. Below text is an abstract shape with a
cosmo image inside and sewn grey wool to keep the image attached to paper. Behind the abstract image is an image and text from a magazine
over someone in gloves and socks with orange wool sewn around it. 

Another thing I'm really looking forward to is working on the project which is part of my role as audience development coordinator with Amber Film and Photography Collective. Although it's not my role as an artist,  This kind of work around the audience development and community participation feels closely connected to the reason I am an artist and I guess a core ethos of my practice i am really passionate about involving people in making art and art being reflected in people 's everyday life. So Im working on a project with photographer Maria Matsa. The project is called Amber Meadowell and its based around a series of works called interiors, which was taken in 1981 by a photographer and founder of Amber, called circure the work was basically of family portraits of people in homes in meadow well and people homes so 40 years on  photograph, Maria is re visiting that, my role is kind of project management I guess a little bit of creative producer type role, supporting Maria with that we are working out how we can engage with communities to share images share memories remotely and how we can create a new set of images for an online exhibition so I am really excited about that its my first big bit of work with Amber and I just started working with then in November and Im really enjoying it so for and its a really nice opportunity to do something which although isn't working as an artist it kind of align quite closely with what my interest are and I think that's partially because of the job role but also to do with the organisation as Amber is founded on working to represent working class marginalised community and they around documentary which really links to the everyday so its feels like a really good fit.  

What are you desperately looking forward to doing when everything is somewhat “back to normal”?

SARAH-So there are a few things I'm really looking forward to being able to do when things get back to normal or some resemblance of normal. I really miss going to museums and galleries and other cultural venues. I used to go to the theatre a lot, so smaller theatre in Newcastle so LIVE theatre and alphabetti as well as seeing exhibitions at museums and galleries. I really love the workshop so just any sort of creative activity going to talks and seminars like there's a little bit more than that you can do but its not quite the same so yeah just really getting back into seeing culture in it wide sense. I do really miss and I think it's really important to my creative practice, in terms of simulating ideas and how we think about things and also it's really important for my well being and sense of identity and something I really love doing. It's definitely something I'm looking forward to doing.

Image description - a orange neon spiked pop art card, with stock image of socks and gloves and an image of a food package of steaklet and
chips. A decorated pink cube overlapped both images. The orange paper has an orange string attached.

Something else I'm looking forward to doing is having a holiday in Dorset specifically. I think that UK holidays are going to be really popular this year so no sure whether Ill get there this summer or maybe in the autumn. Dorset particularly it's sort of just a personal thing of wanting a holiday it's also something which is of interest in my practice. In the past fews years I have become really interested in fossils and rock and geology and crystals and had a really amazing time fossil hunting on the jurassic coast and got lots of new ideas and used some bits of that in my work, thinking about history and prehistoric era and how we think about and find out about things that have happened before we had official records and how we kind of try and make sense of the world, so its on area that I would really like to explore more in terms of my practice and my in terms of a personal interest so I regularly dream of going fossil hunting on a beach in Dorset and I can't wait to be able to do that. It just feels really far away being stuck in my house in Gateshead right now. Also kind of something about fossils and things that are really that old that put things… I dont know in perspective but they do create that relationship to time and something kind of feels mind blowing in terms both its significant and insignificant of holding something a few millions years old and if you crack open a fossil you're the first human to have ever seen it kind of this amazing buzz that I really want to go back for more.