When imagination & hard work collide: making something amazing

Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe, by @debsnet

If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all. ~ Michelangelo Buonarroti

Today is International Women’s Day and as a woman trying to balance parenting, working, PhD and being a person, I have recently felt overwhelmed. I don’t believe in men or women ‘having it all’ but I do want us all to have the freedom and power to make our own choices. Sometimes, though, the choices we make can feel like difficult paths to walk, especially when something surprising tips us off balance and throws our delicate ecosystem of relationships, roles and responsibilities out of its precarious equilibrium.

On top of the usual teaching, parenting and life stuff, my work at school is currently focused on school-wide implementation of a strategic project focused around teacher growth. My PhD is centred around pulling 300 references, reams of data and over 200 pages of words into a coherent thesis, in time to meet my own personal deadline for submission (of course, this deadline is four months ahead of the official deadline required by the university.) Along the way, I am trying to keep the magic, spark and creativity in my thesis. It is a bit weird, a bit whacky, and a lot me. Part of me is thrilled that I have been able to craft a research project and document which so authentically aligns with my own (lovably weird) identity, and part of me is anxious about the work still ahead. I need to ensure it resonates with what I value in research while also being acceptable (even significant?) in the world of academia.

So, much of what I am presently in the midst of working on requires daily commitment, laser-like focus and hard grafting work. Perhaps this, combined with piles of marking and lesson preparation, has contributed to me feeling drawn to the creative and the crazy. I have been seeking out connections with things which capture my imagination and buoy me with their colour and magic.

As a follow-up, then, to my experience of gigantic marionettes walking the streets and this post on my friends’ amazing interactive sculpture-on-the-beach, here are some more shots from this year’s Sculpture by the Sea exhibition.

Perhaps you will also find solace and escape in the wonder-full, the unexpected and the strangely beautiful. How is a PhD like a sculpture? These sculptures, while capturing imagination, are also the outcome of commitment, dogged determination and hard, systematic work.

Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe, by @debsnet Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe, by @debsnet Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe, by @debsnet Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe, by @debsnet Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe, by @debsnet Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe, by @debsnet

Dream Big, Do Big: an example of inspiration, imagination & perspiration

Creativity represents a miraculous coming together of the uninhibited energy of the child with its apparent opposite and enemy, the sense of order imposed on the disciplined adult intelligence. ~Norman Podhoretz

artists Nicole Bailey and Trisha Lee enjoy their interactive sculpture

artists Nicole Bailey and Trisha Lee enjoy their interactive installation

This week I have watched some friends bring a crazy-wonderful dream to life. I am so excited about it because their project was the perfect storm of imagination and perspiration, creativity and scientific thinking, dream and action, madness and wonder. For this year’s Sculpture by the Sea exhibition at Cottesloe beach, they have brought together Aboriginal art, sand, sea and colourful PVC fit balls to create an artwork. As it says on the Water Dreaming webpage, “Water Dreaming is an Aboriginal dot painting installation in which the dots are represented by 250 inflated PVC balls embedded in beach sand. From terraces overhead the viewer will see a Dreamtime dot painting. Up close it’s an interactive play space where art and fun collide and visitors can bounce on and around the dots.”

It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things. ~ Leonardo da Vinci

filling balls with sea water and air; work in progress

filling balls with sea water and air; work in progress

The artists Trisha Lee and Nicole Bailey collaborated with Indigenous artist Shorty Jangala Robertson, of the Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Corporation, to design the concept of bringing a Dreamtime story to life on the beach. The beach is an apt location for a depiction of an artwork from a tribe whose artists traditionally make art on sand and appreciate its transience and changeability. As an interactive artwork, it may well change during the exhibition, which runs from the 6th to the 23rd of March.

balls at sunrise, ready for installation

balls at sunrise, ready for installation

Not only do art and fun collide in this installation, but so do art and community. The installation is crowd funded, crowd created and will be crowd enjoyed. People will be told the artist’s Indigenous Dreamtime story and be able to play between, around and on the bouncy balls (which are filled with sea water and air).

To create this interactive sculpture, one lone water pump pumped 17,500 litres of water from the sea, across a sandy beach, up a hill to water tanks and all the way back down, to fill 246 big colourful fit balls. A digger dug a trench perimeter and helped to shift 30 cubic metres of sand, covering 290 square metres. Over two days, an army of one hundred volunteers filled and laid 250 sandbags and filled, rolled, hauled and placed balls. You can see it being installed in these time lapse videos of Day 1 and Day 2 of installation.

Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. ~Lewis Carroll

installation involved a digger and 100 volunteers

installation involved a digger and 100 volunteers

This was an example of risk taking in full flight and dreams come to life. What sort of inspiration and perspiration does it take to create a painting on a huge scale amid moving sand and with balls able to be bounced on and interacted with? What sort of people, what kind of force, can make that happen through the power of people, nature, art and technology? This project required not only blue-sky imagination, but also systematic experimentation, trial and planning in order to make it work.

The finished work - a dot painting on the beach, against the backdrop of the Indian Ocean

the finished work – a dot painting on the beach, against the backdrop of the Indian Ocean

This artwork stands as an inspiration to me as an individual, parent and educator. Shouldn’t we all aspire to making improbable dreams possible, to bringing vision to life, to dare to do something others might think crazy? Here’s to being creative, wildly imaginative, joyful and experimental, but also systematic, pragmatic, scientific and dogged enough to make moonshot ideas tangible reality.

Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try! ~Dr. Seuss

weeks of interactive bouncy fun!

weeks of interactive bouncy fun!