Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Four weeks to go ...

At the grand old(ish) age of 50, I am going to university.
Next month, I start a three-year full-time BA hons course in surface design and textile innovation.
So why now?
Well I did actually apply to university back in my youth. I wanted to read philosophy, but although I got the same A level grades as Prince Edward, he got in and I didn't. Never really been able to work that one out.
Then my life sort of drifted aimlessly until in 1983 I ended up training as a journalist. I spent nearly 20 years as a sub-editor and writer on various national provincial newspapers, and had two children in the course of my career.
After taking a career break to look after my youngest, I yearned for the opportunity to do something else with my life, and eventually found the perfect turning point - an art access course for adults at a nearby college.
For two days a week from 2003-2005 I learned about art history, printmaking, drawing and painting, life drawing and creative textiles. It was the latter which completely blew my mind. Our teacher, Karen, introduced us to traditional methods such as felt making and weaving, to the experimental - polyfusion, painted bondaweb, stitching on brusho painted brown paper, and much more.
It wasn't until 2007 that I got round to applying to do the BA hons course on textile design. I was accepted, but I had gone down a rather bumpy road of setting up my own arts retail business. (But that's another story. ) I didn't feel the time was right for me to undertake full-time study.
In 2008/9 I took over the children's after school art club at my son's primary school. From there, other work opportunities arose. Setting myself up as a creative practitioner and workshop facilitator, I went on to work under various art projects, with community groups and schools, with severely disabled adults, blind youngsters, an Asian women's group, a nursery, and even at a care home where a 90+ woman told me to: "shove your art up your arse."
I blame the economic climate for drying up most of the funding that was employing people like me to run one-off or regular workshops. Now, in August 2013, I only run occasional workshops at a local arts centre - bringing in an income of £40 a month!
So back in February/March I rethought university. I might as well apply, I thought - especially now that my sons were more or less self-sufficient at 14 and 19. The process was reasonably simple, as was applying for student finance, and I only had to ring the helplines two or three times!
In May I attended the university interview, laid examples of my wares before the lecturer, chatted for a while, and was offered an unconditional place. The following week I received confirmation from student finance that I would receive a grant and loan for the duration of my study.
So ... it's soon going to be all systems go, from empty days to hectic ones; from mindless hours on Facebook etc to motivational and stimulating study.

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