When I was asked by Alison to write a blog about what I have been doing during lockdown, I had a feeling of dread having to own up to people that I’ve not been doing much at all. Seriously though, my thoughts were “what have I been doing, what the heck have I got to say about this….has it really been eleven weeks already?”
The day before we were told about lockdown I remember writing a list of all the things I could do at home, those little jobs that you put off in both your work and personal life, I packed some bags of art equipment and one of my stall tables ready to set up a workspace in our spare room. I left the studio feeling extremely positive, like this was the time I needed to get myself back on top of things, well I can report to you now those bags, and that list, have pretty much sat there untouched this whole time.
I don’t even know what happened to the first five weeks, it’s like they evaporated. In the early days of this situation, as with a lot of my fellow makers, I felt very uncomfortable with the idea of selling, it was so awful to see the struggles of the NHS, key workers and the people getting ill, I just felt like I shouldn’t be pushing for sales during all this turmoil. I also didn’t feel comfortable going into Post Offices, doing parcel drops at shops and adding to the already struggling systems, so I just shut my online shop completely.
On the opposite side of things were social media posts about workers being on zero hour contracts who were encouraging us to carry on, it was so confusing, so after a time I made my cards available on my website (something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time) and small prints that would fit in a post box, as people at home did want to be able to buy things and write to their loved ones. During this time I kept an eye on Royal Mail’s stance on the safety of post and was led by them.
One thing I did do, when I wasn’t really achieving much myself, was I watched the amazing things that my fellow creatives were doing, making free colouring sheets, giving away posters and products to help people be creative at home, sewing scrubs, donating profits to charity and the Artist Support Pledge (where sellers promise a portion of their sales to buy from other artists). These were all wonderful things to do, and I guess my mind had been bubbling away with things I wanted to do, but nothing felt quite the right fit for me. Instead I decided to use this as an excuse to support the artists I had admired by buying their creations…so something like the Artist Support Pledge but without the selling part!
In the sixth week I decided to return to my studio, realistically I couldn’t do my work properly from home, I am fortunate enough that my workspace is self-contained and I can literally park a metre from my door. As soon as I was back I finally pulled my finger out and created what I called the Lockdown Shop, the intention of which was to give people a different offering to my usual, something I wouldn’t sell through a gallery, I also didn’t want to feel like I was profiting too much during this time when I was conscious a lot of people were struggling. They were to be little offers of items that would only be available at this time, affordable and would hopefully allow people to treat themselves and gift to others, I have always offered this as an option but I made this easier to do in the buying process.
I decided to upload at least one item to the Lockdown Shop every Monday, notifying people via my mailing list and then social media, the first couple of items were free (apart from postage), I’ve recycled rejected prints into cards, put together bundles, had notebooks printed, put some of my older work up very cheaply and had a pre-order t-shirt with a portion of the sales going to Manorlands Hospice. Some people have bought pretty much weekly which always feels amazing, people have sent the loveliest messages to their friends and I am so pleased that it does feel like a positive thing even in its own small way. I have a few more weeks before I think I’ll shut this shop and hopefully we will never return to this situation.
As with many people’s experience one of the other positives to have come from this time is it’s given myself and my partner the opportunity to really explore our area, having bought a house in my old neck of the woods in Shipley last summer. It’s brought me back to some of my favourite childhood places that I have neglected as my work has taken me to places further afield. I hope to do a little range of work based on these daily walks in the not too distant future.
Sarah Harris 06.06.2020