Hello! I'm Meg, I am a creative person who lives and works in Nottingham. I like walking and swimming in wild places, am a big fan of all animals (even slugs) and I love the smell of farms.
The Jam Makers - A Shadow Puppet Adventure
I have recently taken a bit of a leap into the unknown with my creative practice, and I thought I would send the story through as it might give someone a good laugh even if it doesn't inspire them to try something new for themselves!
A while ago I saw an opportunity appear on the City Arts website. The brief was to submit a project proposal to create a show that would form part of the Nottingham Puppet Festival. The successful applications would then receive a bursary to complete this work. I thought.. 'yeah, that sounds interesting.. but it's not really for me/I'm not likely to get it/i've never made a puppet before in my life/My work should never be seen in public let alone at a show'.
My friend pushed me to put in an application with a 'what's the worst that could happen' and to my amazement I actually managed to secure one of the bursaries. This was the first time anyone had taken this big a chance on one of my ideas, and my first thought was sheer panic. What if they find out I can't actually draw, that I'm actually a ridiculous human, not to mention someone who sometimes wears pants over the top of their tights to keep them up.
Since then I have tried and failed to come to terms with being referenced as 'the artist' which is something I'm not actually sure I will ever get used to. I have been working on the show lots, figuring a lot of things out about shadow puppetry, and acetate, and how best to translate my usually static illustration work into something that moves and lives a life of its own. It has been an enormous learning curve for me, but an adventure that I have loved every minute of!
The show is called ‘The Jam Makers’. I know it sounds totally clichéd but the idea for it actually came to me in a dream. It’s a dark and mysterious tale that centres around a small coastal village on a remote tip of the British Isles, and the strange events that occur there when all the villages get a delivery of the most delicious jam they have ever tasted. The work first took shape as a nearly published picture book, and then as a stuck together zine (which will be available at the show). Its current form is a shadow puppet installation made with ink and acetate, brought to life with an overhead projector!
Although I do sometimes make digital work, the vast majority of it is done by hand using tangible materials like ink and paper and pencil crayons. My work is down to earth, rooted in everyday humour and absurdism. It is meant to be laughed at and interacted with. I don’t like to think of it on the wall of a gallery where it can’t be experienced, used or touched. This is why puppetry captures my imagination. The art form feels very tangible and real. It is the perfect way to translate my illustrations into living beings.”
The bursary has cleared a path for me to realise this story in a form I never thought possible. It has legitimised the idea itself, and allowed me to grow the project into something completely different. Thanks to the bursary I have been able to support other local artists by collaborating with them on aspects of the show. I am also able to give copies of the zine away because of it.
What are your top tips for people starting out on their creative journey?
Think carefully about what you like. I’m not talking about what the world is trying to tell you to like, what do you ACTUALLY like? What speaks to you? If you can zero in on your niche, that is where the true magic happens.
Also play. Play very often and never take yourself too seriously!
And finally don't let those voices in your head tell you you shouldn't apply for something just because you might not get it. If you've got an idea it's worth your time just putting the application together.
Special thanks to Alison Denhom at City Arts for the opportunity, and the wonderful artist and friend Deane Thompson for pushing me to apply!
Cats of October
The other project I wanted to mention, which might be a bit more relevant for your readers is the series of grumpy cat drawings I did for the #inktober challenge last year. I'm working on getting these together into a book or zine. This project pretty much got me through the darkest days of the lockdown winter, and was inspired by the wide variety of cats that frequented our garden and barged their way into our house when we weren't looking. That's cats for you.
Find out more about my work
Megan’s upcoming show The Jam Makers in an immersive installation featuring a 15mins animated film. It is being presented in the Broadway Gallery on Heathcote Street, with regular showings throughout Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th June.
Get your tickets from the Puppet Festival website!