Read the Instructions
For a few years in my mid-20s I was a maths and science teacher. At the start of the school year when a new intake of fresh faced children arrived, I’d set an exercise. Each child had a sheet of paper that clearly said at the top, ‘READ ALL THE INSTRUCTIONS BEFORE STARTING’. There followed a series of simple but irrelevant questions. Most importantly at the end of the paper it said ‘Ignore the questions above. When you read this just fold your arms and wait.’ Needless to say the children who had their arms folded first were (rightly) proud of themselves as the others beavered away. The point was (hopefully) made that in a science lab you need to understand all the instructions before you start, because chemicals and flames can be dangerous.
I was reminded of this exercise a few weeks ago. For many years I have entered a charity fund raiser for The National Brain Appeal, an organisation that researches a wide range of brain dysfunctions, including dementias and strokes. Annually they run an event called Letter in Mind and ask people to decorate an envelope and send it to them to sell anonymously via their exhibition and website. Most people paint or draw on the envelope, but being a ceramicist I usually make something three-dimensional related to that year’s specific theme which I then mount on the envelope. This year I came up with my idea and proceeded to make the clay model and after two firings I was pleased with the result. It was then that I sat down with the paperwork and filled in the form for submission – only to find clearly written in the instructions ‘NO THREE-DIMENSIONAL WORK THIS YEAR’!
It was back to the drawing board (literally) and I quickly had to create another design for the envelope that I could submit. But it was a salutary reminder not to make assumptions no matter how much you think you know what you’re doing!
In case any of you are creative and fancy helping this charity event there’s still time. Just register to enter and submit an envelope with a design on the theme of ‘a sense of movement’ before 15th July. More information can be found here: A Letter in Mind: ALIM22 – National Brain Appeal (But read the instructions!!) And if you would rather view art than make it, the exhibition will be at Gallery Different, 14 Percy St, London W1T 1DR, 2nd to 6th November 2022.