Marigold the Maker is an artist with a passion for teaching skills through digital courses and workshops such as embroidery, drawing and printing that bring people back into the present. Marigold started out as a Primary School Teacher and taught for 15 years in inner city London Schools. Her career culminated in a headship at an East London Primary School but in 2018 she took the brave plunge to follow her heart and pursue a career as an artist and maker.
Last year, Marigold
took part in The Big Draw Festival, Drawn to Life
, running 'The Still Point Sketching Challenge', a 30 day online drawing challenge. For this year's Festival, The Big Green Draw: A Climate of Change
will be running another free 30 day challenge
throughout May around the theme of Limitations, and how they can actually enhance our creativity! Find out more about her Big Draw course and how to get involved here
Interview: Matilda Barratt in conversation with Marigold the Maker.
Could you start by telling us a bit about your practice? The materials you use, the subject matter, the inspiration…
"I do a lot of observational drawing because I find it’s the most direct way to connect with the present moment, with myself and the world around me in a deeper way. I was brought up in rural Wales so I have a strong relationship with nature. I now live in a very urban area of East London but still find endless inspiration in natural found objects in my garden, local parks and on my allotment. I also have a lot of house plants which I seemingly never tire of drawing. I like to create studies of natural objects - to draw them repetitively, really take time to look at them and appreciate them in their entirety. I tend to draw mainly with pens - two of my favourites are the Rotring Art pen and Pilot G-Tec-C4 and have also started “drawing” with ink using a Pentel Aqua brush. I have been exploring drawing through the medium of mono printing recently. I like the element of surprise, the fact that I have to surrender control and attachment to the outcome and can use a variety of techniques and disciplines."
I understand that you worked as a Primary School Teacher for 15 years before pursuing a career as an artist. Had you always had an interest in art? Was it a daunting career change?
"Yes, I grew up without a TV so I had plenty of time to draw as a child and always loved art. But I’ve taken a few 'creative u-turns' along the way and ended up working in inner city London state primary schools for 15 years, most laterally as a headteacher in East London. But I always did art 'on the side', it has always been my refuge from work and the business of life. I took endless art courses and had a studio I went to after school and during the holidays. So, yes, it was a very daunting career change but also one I had kind of been building up to for years too without really knowing it or believing I could do it. I loved working in primary schools but I’d also always wanted to be an artist so I’d been saying to myself for years 'I just need enough money to cover my living expenses for two years' and I eventually saved enough and was able to take the plunge. I’m still daunted most days and I’m still finding my way, my voice and my style but I absolutely love my job now, I look forward to work everyday."
You’re no stranger to running online courses! Could you tell us a little bit about the digital workshops that you have run over the years, and some of the challenges and successes that you’ve faced along the way?
"Yes, it was never really the plan! But after I left education I invested in some online courses. I’d been following Marianne Cantwell - “How to be a Free Range Human” and Selina Barker - “Project Love” who are both pioneers in the whole digital nomad, design a life you love world. I also invested in some career coaching and my coach just said “Be an artist”. Terrifying! But here I am doing it. And I soon found out that being an artist doesn’t mean you just do art all day, unfortunately! So the online courses are a great way of combining my teaching experience with my love of creativity. I am, believe it or not, the most technically challenged person that I know - I had to overcome a lot of fears and limiting beliefs but now I’ve built my own website with an online shop and have run over 10 online creative courses in the past two years. It’s definitely been a journey and continues to be one, I still always have a complete meltdown before I launch a new course or challenge. But I’ve found there’s always an answer on google and you have to ask for help a lot and also let go of the idea of perfection. I say start small and build up, running a free challenge is a great way to start because it’s very low stakes and everyone loves a challenge."
Last year you took part in The Big Draw Festival, running a 30 day drawing challenge as part of your ‘Still Point Series’. We’d love to hear a little more about the Still Point Series!
"Yes, it was such a great challenge and I loved the theme of the festival last year, “Drawn to Life”. It really spoke to me because for me, particularly over the past two years, drawing has become more of a mindful, wellbeing practice. I need to get on the page everyday in order to centre myself and I find drawing really shows me where I am in myself - the lines never lie! For me it’s also the most direct path to the present moment - drawing quietens my thoughts quicker than any other form of mindfulness. The “Still Point Series” originally came from a quote from a poem by TS Eliot: “The still point in the turning world...”. Over the years I’ve found that drawing, hand stitching and calligraphy have helped me to find a place of peace and stillness, a refuge from the endless addiction I seem to have to being “busy”. So the Still Point Series is my offering to my community to help people find that “still point in the turning world”. There are three strands to the Still Point Series - Stitching (hand embroidery and mending), Sketching (drawing and printing) and Scribing (Calligraphy and Lettering). I encourage people to develop daily stitching, scribing and sketching practices - to focus on the process rather than the outcome and to nurture these creative arts as a wellbeing practice as well as a creative outlet. I regularly run workshops in East London and in my home (pre-lock down!) teaching calligraphy, embroidery and mono printing. I sell a variety of starter kits and do a 6 month embroidery subscription offer. And I also run a series of 30 day challenges and longer 12 week online courses for each of the three disciplines - sketching, scribing and stitching. And there are the Still Point communities that I run on Facebook and on Instagram."
What exciting things do you have in store for this year’s Festival, ‘The Big Green Draw: A Climate of Change’?
"Well, again I really love the theme and think it is particularly apt given not only this massive rest we’re currently giving the environment but also the huge change we’re all undergoing internally and externally. I feel like it would be a good opportunity for people to develop their relationship with nature through drawing natural objects. I find drawing really helps me to deepen my relationship with my subject and through drawing something, giving it that undivided attention, I somehow develop a level of intimacy, interest, knowledge and care for it that probably wouldn’t have been there before I drew it (I really love my house plants - they are very well cared for - they have my drawing practice to thank for this!). Drawing is about being fully there, and seeing without judgement what is truly there. It’s quite an overwhelming feeling when you really connect with the absolute pure beauty and intelligence of nature. And we’re all part of it, that natural energy force, that is us, we are it (although often we mistakenly think we are far superior to it) so I think that the more people draw nature, the more they’ll be humbled by it’s intelligence and grow to really appreciate it, love it and therefore want to protect it and care for it."
Why is creativity important to you?
"Oh it’s the very core of my being. It’s the essence of who I am, who we all are. We all have an innate need to create. I’m happiest when I allow myself to create and be led by my creative flow and energy. It’s also my life line, I can’t really be without it. I have to live a creative life. There’s no going back now! It makes me feel more alive than anything else. I’m happiest when I’m creating something - be it a salad in the kitchen or mending my jeans or making a card or developing a series of prints. I find creativity in everything, it can actually get a bit annoying sometimes - all the ideas!"
How have you been coping with the current situation?
"Well, interestingly, I’ve found I’ve had a real surge in creativity. I think it is something about the lack of distractions, the pared back simplicity of our lives now, being forced to do only that which is essential has really given me so much more focus, time and energy to create. I’ve also been feeling very sad about the daily death count and all the human suffering caused by Covid-19. The scale of change and impact on our daily lives, having to let go of so much I’ve found at times to be completely overwhelming. I feel things quite intensely and it’s hard and painful but, I feel, necessary to connect somehow with the scale of human suffering that is going on around me. I’ve been enjoying having my fiance being at home working too (mostly!) It's really nice to spend more time together and have the company in the day (it can get a bit lonely sometimes working at home on your own all the time) and we’ve been playing a lot of yahtzee! The studio on the allotment has been a massive bonus too - a real place of refuge - so much beauty and inspiration. It’s on the edge of Epping Forest so there’s a real sense of distance from London because you can see the city way off in the distance. Exercise and routine have really helped too and getting creative in the kitchen."
What would your advice be to individual artists looking to run their creative events, courses or workshops online?
"Hmm, I would say first sign up to take one yourself if you haven’t already, and experience what it’s like to be a participant in an online course. Then probably invest in a “how to run an online course” training if you can - there’s heaps out there. Also sites like Teachables and Obby do a lot of training for free. Don’t wait til you think you’ve got the perfect idea or spend too long on making it all look perfect - put it out there and then improve it and put it out there again. Ask for feedback from participants after the course is finished - do a survey monkey - listen to what people want and respond. But mostly make it something you feel confident teaching and would like to take part in yourself. If you need it and want it, it’s highly likely that others will too. Don’t get too distracted or discouraged by all the “noise” - there’s so many people saying do this, don’t do that, the whole “I made £1 million in 3 months” - try to ignore all that as much as possible and do it your way. And have fun building a community - feed your community - enjoy being of service to it - the world needs creativity and art and there can never be too much of it."
Thank you Marigold!
If you were inspired by this interview with Marigold and would like to find out more about her work, head to her website here.
Registrations are now open for The Big Draw Festival 2020: A Climate of Change! Find out more about the benefits of becoming an organiser here and other ways to support The Big Draw's mission here.