For anybody who doesn't already know, Louise Gardiner is a textile artist who uses machine embroidery alongside painting, drawing and applique to create her beautiful work. She draws freehand with her sewing machine to create wonderfully vibrant textile pieces. She also happens to be an alumnus of the exact same foundation course I am currently studying at Manchester School of Art. This week therefore, I was lucky enough to meet her in person, listen to her talk about her own work but also pick her brains about how we creatives get by the world. I found her to be such an incredibly inspiring lady and I took a lot from the experience. She seemed to be one of those people who just beams inspiration and I left feeling very motivated to get out there and achieve exactly what it is I want from life. So, with about six full pages of notes and a voice memo recording in front of me, I thought I'd share five of the things I learnt from meeting the wonderful Louise Gardiner.
1. "Rejections shaped my career"
1. "Rejections shaped my career"
Of course we all like to be told that our work is wonderful and lovely and brilliant, however, at some point along the way, somebody is going to turn around and say they think our portfolio is a load of crap. It's hard to imagine that anyone could ever have a bad word to say about Louise's beautiful embroidery, but she admitted that though difficult, it was the negative comments that truly pushed her to reflect on her work and move forward in her creative career. She now embraces her critics, even when negative comments are hard to hear.
2. "Gallery owners all drive 4X4s for some reason"
Far from trying to scare us off from the big bad world of gallery owners, Louise took us on the journey of her career. Starting as a new graduate where she organised all of her own exhibitions, through to moving onto having her exhibitions organised by an agent and subsequently sacrificing 50% of her earnings, and eventually realising that there is a reason why gallery owners all drove fancy cars and she didn't, finally deciding to revert back to organising the exhibitions for herself. With this lighthearted quip, what Louise Gardiner was trying to explain was the way in which the art world worked, and the fact that at least for her, going it alone made more sense.
3. "Start archiving your work now"
During her lecture, Louise showed us an array of beautiful images of her work both past and present. However, she was forced to apologise for the fact that she wasn't able to show us any work from when she herself was doing the art foundation course. She explained that this was because she never organised her work and archived it properly, therefore it had been lost. Several times she mentioned the importance of taking good quality photographs of all of our work, and that in hindsight she wished she would have begun organising her work from the very beginning.
4. "Self promotion is everything"
Opportunity is everywhere if you have your eyes and ears peeled at all times. My experience meeting Louise made me truly realise the fact that nobody is going to like your work unless you love it yourself. Getting noticed is a full time job that requires a whole lot of grit and determination. So get out there, talk to people in the industry, carry a business card wherever you go and seek opportunities to promote yourself in any given situation.
5. "Most people never get a 'lucky break'"
This was a very interesting and important point and one which I think I will remember for a long time to come. The truth is, most people never get that one lucky break that sets off their career like a skyrocket. In her 40s, Louise Gardiner says she is still waiting for hers to arrive. But this does not mean that you have no chance of being successful, it simply means that a career is built on lots of little breaks rather than one groundbreaking moment. You just have to work hard, immerse yourself in creativity and do things that set you apart from the crowd, and little by little you will see your opportunities snowball.