#CreativeInnovative with Lee Su-Feh: Yielding, Dissolving, Fighting, and Dancing Within Inquiry

Lee Su-Feh on Creating, Communicating, and Encountering the Humanity of Others

This is the sixth in a regular series of blog posts in which I speak with exciting artists, innovators, and entrepreneurs exploring how their creative skills have enabled them to do incredible things in their personal and professional lives.

You can find all of these interviews by searching for the tag #CreativeInnovative.

Lee Su-Feh, Still from the film Migrant Bodies, Dir. Laura Bari

Lee Su-Feh, Still from the film Migrant Bodies, Dir. Laura Bari

Lee Su-Feh is a force of nature. Until December 2017, we have been two ships passing in the night in the “real world” but we operate in some of the same circles. I avidly follow her online and come to her for advice. I am lucky to consider her a mentor and friend. In December, we finally had the opportunity to sit down together and our discussion ranged over the personal, the political, the artistic, and several other topics we won't divulge here.

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"The notion that you can make a go of anything all by yourself is a capitalist myth. You are who you are because of others" 

 

 

Photographer: Joerg Letz

 

F: Lee Su-Feh, you has a remarkable background in children’s theatre, traditional Malay dance, contemporary dance, contact improvisation, and martial arts, and your career is a neverending cycle of shows, projects, accolades, and collaborations. You have also recently been touring your latest show, Dance Machine. This work consists of a kinetic sculpture, formed by sticks of bamboo suspended from a copper disk, creating an immersive space in which the public is invited to work with the artists, becoming collaborators and mindful participates in cause and effect, play and rest. Oh, and you are an Instructor in the Theatre program at Simon Fraser University where you teach voice.

LSF: You should write my bios from now on!!!

F: Well, I try my best! Now it's your turn to tell me a bit about yourself - what about your training in the arts?

LSF: I did Chinese martial arts as a kid, when I was 11-12. Not a lot. But enough to awaken something in my body, something about the pleasure moving my body, training. When I was 15 or 16, I joined a children’s theatre class led by Janet Pillai, who is now an award-winning arts activist, recognized for her work in cultural mapping. We learned traditional South-East Asian forms like Pencak Silat (martial arts), Wayang Kulit (shadow puppetry), and became part of a larger questioning of what it meant to create contemporary Asian performance out of the debris of colonialism, half-remembered traditions and sitting in the interstices of multiple cultures and languages. We created work and toured across the country. Through this experience of Teater Kanak-kanak, I met my first dance teacher, Marion D’Cruz, from whom I learned traditional Malay dance as well as Western contemporary dance. These lessons took place in the basement of a place called The Temple of Fine Arts, which was a temple honouring Krishna as well as a school for Indian classical dance and music. So I was immersed in Bharatanatyam, Odissi and Kathak, even though I never studied those forms. My first performance in public with Marion D’Cruz and Dancers was a dance from the East Coast of Malaysia called Timang Burung; and we performed it amid a show filled with Indian classical dance with The Temple of Fine Arts. All this is to impress upon you the plurality of approaches, aesthetics and culture that surrounded my entry into the arts. Janet, Marion and Krishen Jit, Marion’s late husband and a notable theatre critic, historian and director in the region, were my teachers and mentors; and they eventually founded, along with others, Five Arts Centre, which remains a provocative arts organization in Malaysia. This hotbed of cultural activity which also grappled with post-colonial politics really set the foundation for me as an artist. I think how I see the world and how I approach performance has been formed by this period. I eventually left Malaysia to go to Paris to study contemporary dance. And eventually ended up in Vancouver, where I continued learning new skills (more Chinese martial arts, more dance, contact improv), but always, always wrestling for my sense of self while being acutely conscious of how power structures play on my body.  

F: How Has your art/training taken you to other places? What are some of the most interesting locations you have experienced?

LSF: Lots of places. Lots of complex relationships to different places. Two examples: Paris for being an incubator of my western contemporary dance ideas, and where I awoke to being othered by white society. Manitoulin island recently for showing me a glimpse into Anishnaabeg ways of being and artmaking as an alternative to settler-colonial ways.

Lee Su-Feh and Benoit Lachambre, Body Scan, 2010

Lee Su-Feh and Benoit Lachambre, Body Scan, 2010

F: Many of your projects are collaborative and call on your ability to communicate. What are the benefits and challenges of collaboration? 

LSF: Collaboration invites you to expand your knowledge - of yourself, of your collaborators and of the form you are engaged in. Any kind of growth is often also painful and involves judgement, a dissolving of who you think you are, a constant question of whether you yield to new knowledge or to take a stand and fight for your (tenuous) beliefs.   

F: How did you decide to take your art in this direction?

LSF: I’m not sure it was a decision. The notion that you can make a go of anything all by yourself is a capitalist myth. You are who you are because of others - humans and non-humans. I usually choose to work with people who I think I have something to learn from. 

F: Did this require you to take on additional training or did you encounter any learning curves?

LSF: Choreography requires communication skills - listening deeply, speaking honestly, while taking care of everyone’s humanity. Maybe my history as a marginalized, racialized person has contributed to my skills in this department. But as I encounter new knowledge and new areas of my ignorance, I also become inspired to learn new skills. Contact improvisation, voice, new ways of dancing...

F: What drives you in your work?

LSF: My questions. About myself, about my relationship to the world, about my relationship to the sacred.  

F: How do you create? From where do you draw your inspiration?

LSF: Usually, the spark of a new project comes from the unfolding of the previous project. For example,  the beginning of my current project Dance Machine was 8 years ago and began as simply an inquiry into the energetic relationship between the human body and inanimate objects. This question came out of working on a piece called Body Scan with the Montreal choreographer Benoit Lachambre, where we worked a lot with fabrics and texture and sensation. I really loved the energetic quality of the costume designer we worked with, Alexandra Bertaut and proposed to her that we explored some things together. I proposed that she do my physical practice, which was deeply informed by Qigong and martial arts, and then see if she could respond by making objects. I would then live with those objects for a period of time and see what came out of my body as a response to those objects. It was during this period of living with the objects - which were fabric based, with personal objects of mine knitted and woven into them - that I went into the studio with my friend and colleague, the choreographer and dancer Justine Chambers. For about a week, we hung the objects up with fishing line, made very shoddy pulley systems and the beginning idea of an environment that was attached somehow to the dancer emerged. After that, I invited a designer/architect Jesse Garlick to help us actually build it. Along the way, I also started to want it to address a whole bunch of concerns - political, social, and underneath it all, my questions about what it means to dance. Anyway, this is a long story. But the gist of it is that works don’t usually pop out of anyone’s head fully formed. I’m usually looking to ask the most interesting question possible and then to construct a process that can lead me to an even more interesting question at the end of that process. Repeat as often as necessary.

You can follow Lee Su-Feh and her work through her company website, Battery Opera, her blog, and on her Twitter page.

 

 

We can aid you in achieving your goals with our individualised approach and flexible sessions. Contact us: 


#CreativeInnovative with Claire Ogden: Entrepreneur and Professional Acrobat

Claire Ogden on Navigating the Political Circus and Changing Culture One Student at a Time

This is the fifth in a regular series of blog posts in which I speak with exciting artists, innovators, and entrepreneurs exploring how their creative skills have enabled them to do incredible things in their personal and professional lives.

You can find all of these interviews by searching for the tag #CreativeInnovative.

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Claire Ogden is a business owner, circus performer and activist. I first heard of Claire and her acrobatic duo Scrambled Legs in 2013 through her performance partner, Shane. I was putting on monthly showcases at Brisbane Square Library and looking for performers who would bring something unique and wild to the library.

Born in Canberra, Australia, Claire lives in Brisbane, Australia and represented the Queensland Greens Party in the Lilley district. In their performances, the interactions between Claire and Shane were a hoot and their performances a big hit with audiences. Earlier this year, Scrambled Legs went on a hiatus. Understandable, as both have moved on to other projects.

I am especially excited that Claire agreed to answer my questions because of her diverse life as a performer, teacher, and politician.

Claire Ogden pictured with Larissa Waters, former Senator for Queensland  representing the  Australian Greens , and Richard Di Natale, Australian Senator and leader of the Australian Greens.

Claire Ogden pictured with Larissa Waters, former Senator for Queensland  representing the Australian Greens, and Richard Di Natale, Australian Senator and leader of the Australian Greens.

F: Tell me a little about your training in the arts.

C: I first became interested in the arts in primary school through participating in choirs and school bands. My parents didn’t have a lot of money but I was able to borrow and learn musical instruments through the school instrumental music program. In high school I got the opportunity to participate in drama and I went on to study drama at university.

After graduating, I got a job in the office of a contemporary circus company. I didn’t know anything about circus but I was inspired by the company’s performers and circus trainers to start learning some circus skills. I participated in the circus classes for adults run in the evenings and on Saturdays. Before long I was obsessed! That job changed my life. I am now in my eighth year of business, performing circus professionally and teaching circus classes for children and teenagers.

F: Has your art/training taken you to other places? 

A few of Claire's students at the end of the year show

A few of Claire's students at the end of the year show

C: In 2012 I went to Indonesia and taught some circus workshops with children living in the slums and in orphanages. It was a great experience. 

F: What drives you in your work?

C: Empowering young people and changing culture. I feel strongly that we can all be a part of changing culture and those shifts are vital to create a better world. I try to be a role model for my students to show them an alternative, fun and creative way of being an adult.

The acrobatic duo Scrambled Legs, Claire Ogden and Shane Smith

The acrobatic duo Scrambled Legs, Claire Ogden and Shane Smith

F: To what extent have you been able to make your creativity work an aspect of all of your jobs?

C: I make all my income from either teaching circus skills or performing circus. I feel lucky to have entrepreneurial abilities so I have been able to earn enough money from a fun and creative path. I am in my eighth year of business. 

F: That is incredible! What are some of your accomplishments of which you are you proudest?

C: I am most proud of generating my own income for nearly eight years. I am also proud of getting a good work-life balance that allows me to engage in the world around me and the many aspects of my personality. 

F: How do you manage burnout/feed yourself creatively?

C: I’ve streamlined my life so I actually have quite a bit of free time. I often consider what I need to be focussing on and that helps me to cut out the things that aren’t really important. I’ve become good at maximising the things that I enjoy and minimising the things that I don’t enjoy because I know that life is short and I’ll be more effective in the world if I am doing the things that bring me peace rather than frustration. 

Claire Ogden ran for the federal seat of Lilley in the election last year

Claire Ogden ran for the federal seat of Lilley in the election last year

F: My work is underpinned by the belief that an arts education not only makes people better citizens, but that training in movement and performance gives individuals concrete and adaptable skills. 

C: Yes. As an environmental activist and Green party political candidate, communication has been very important. There are many people in the world who come up with great ideas and innovative technologies but I feel that we already have many of the solutions to a happier and more sustainable life like for example, embracing the minimalist lifestyle and considering the impact that our diet and purchases have on the environment. I think one of the biggest challenges of our time is communicating the solutions and helping people to see how they can be part of a more sustainable and compassionate world. I’m grateful for my public-speaking skills which I have developed over the years.

F: What adaptable skills have you gained through your art form that you apply in other contexts?

C: When I was younger I watched circus with the belief that I was a mere mortal and the people on stage were somehow super-human. I realise after years of circus training that everyone can learn and practice to become good at what they do. This has been very empowering as I realise that nearly anything a person has passion and interest in can be learned to some extent. This has been particularly useful as I become more involved in politics. I see politicians talking with such confidence and I remember that I could also do that if I practiced all day, every day for years. Speaking to the media is a skill that can be learned and practiced like any other skill and I think that concept has helped me to take up challenges outside my comfort zone like running for parliament which I have done three times now. 

F: That is incredible, particularly as you perform, and run your own business teaching circus!

C: Yes, I work with children, teenagers, and adults who want to learn circus for fun and fitness.

Students at Claire's Circus School

Students at Claire's Circus School

F: What values underpin your pedagogy?

C: I believe that choice is ultimately very important and I like to run classes where students have a lot of choice over their focus. I think people will get a lot more targeted and efficient progress if they  are experiencing a state of creative flow. If they are lost in the moment that means they are so engaged in what they are doing that time moves in a different way. This is what happens when children are playing so I try to make my classes with children very playful.

F: That's a great approach, and people often lack agency in their own learning. It requires a lot of work on the part of the Teacher to give options and be responsive to students' needs. How would you describe your dream student?

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C: Someone with a willingness to learn and a commitment to persevere

F: What do you say to people who claim to “not be creative”?

C: In my third year of studying drama I had a crisis of creativity. I thought, "Oh no! Maybe I’m not very creative.' I realise that this is nonsense. There are many ways to be creative like having a fascinating conversation that goes on all sorts of tangents or merely choosing to make a change like walk home along completely different streets. I also think the way a person lives their life can be a creative act. Simply questioning and being conscious of the forces at play in the wider world is a creative way of being. We can all be creative in our thinking and work on having the courage to let that take hold in our lives. 

Hoops performance at the Mullum Circus Festival

Hoops performance at the Mullum Circus Festival

F: How can voice, performance, training benefit someone who doesn’t wish to be an artist/musician/performer?

C: Nearly all of the people I teach at Claire’s Circus School won’t go on to be performers or even work in the arts but I am passionate about helping people to see the value of the arts for our society. In a world that is increasingly corporatised and polluted, it is imperative that people can think for themselves and question things. We humans are living in a time of shocking waste and we are actually resourceful beings who can imagine and create a better future if only we have the willingness, courage and strong communities to do so. At a more personal level, circus training can help a person grow their brain and improve their posture - two things that are very important for a long and healthy life. 

F: Did you have any teachers who were pivotal in your learning? 

C: I have sessions with a kinesiologist and she has one of the best teachers I could ask for. The sessions help me to identify and get rid of subconscious beliefs that hold me back in life for example the belief of not being good enough etc. I think we are all making decisions based on subconscious programs that don’t necessarily help us and working on some of mine has been a truly profound, humbling and life-changing experience. My kinesiologist always helps me see the world in new ways and open my mind to new possibilities which has helped me more than I can possibly say. 

You can follow Claire Odgen's work through her website here and her circus school site here.

We can aid you in achieving your goals with our individualised approach and flexible sessions. Contact us: 


#CreativeInnovative with Gabrielle Leah New: Passion Is Creating

Gabrielle Leah New On The Healing Power of Connection and Being An Artist Who Doesn't Paint

This is the third in a regular series of blog posts in which I speak with exciting artists, innovators, and entrepreneurs exploring how their creative skills have enabled them to do incredible things in their personal and professional lives.

You can find all of these interviews by searching for the tag #CreativeInnovative.

Bystander. Copyright © 2017 Gabrielle Leah New

Bystander. Copyright © 2017 Gabrielle Leah New

Gabrielle Leah New is a practicing performing artist and a senior Occupational Therapist (OT). She runs her own theatre company, The Space Between Performance Collective, and has traveled around the world for numerous residencies, performances, and exhibitions, which can be read about further here. Her OT work, blended with her surrealist costume, installation, video, and live performance works means that Gabrielle is rarely ever still - and never bored!

I had the privilege of meeting Gabrielle in 2010 when we were both interns at Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre Company in Brisbane, Australia. I performed in her butoh show Creature, and I have been following her work ever since.

Stair. Costume by Camilla Gough. Image by Tony Banks

Stair. Costume by Camilla Gough. Image by Tony Banks

F: Tell me a little about your background in the arts. 

G: I grew up in Melbourne Australia. I studied art at high school then went on to do a degree in Occupational Therapy. I have traveled extensively living in the UK, New Zealand and India. I feel like I’m a citizen of the world.

My training is quite unusual. I have always had an arts practice but it wasn’t until I was 30 that I began my formal training post high school. I went to the Conservatorium of the Arts in Lismore where I studied dance. I was particularly interested in Butoh (Japanese contemporary dance) which I had discovered the year before by attending community classes. I went on to study Butoh with teachers around the world and working with MAU Dance Theatre in New Zealand. I then returned to Australia and studied 3D Art and did a directing internship with Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre in Brisbane.

My main art form was dance and physical performance for many years and I still train and attend classes regularly but over time my practice has developed to be more of a multi-arts practice. This particularly changed after completing a Masters in Fine Art a few years ago and since then I have been exhibiting more in the gallery space than theatres. I now consider myself a multidimensional performing artist, as performance and the body always underpin my multi-arts practice.

F: Your art has taken you to lots of interesting places. What are some of the most interesting locations you have experienced?

Working with MAU in the early 2000s took me to the 4 yearly Pacific Arts Festival in Noumea, New Caledonia. Here I had a major identity crisis as a white Australian performing Japanese dance for a pacific Island dance company and delegation from the Aotearoa, New Zealand. I have danced in Fjords in Norway, In storms painted gold in Japan, in creeks and the ocean in New Zealand and in a city park in Vancouver, Canada. I love making work in/for extraordinary spaces.

Most recently I exhibited and had a residency in Lisbon, Portugal and am on my way to India and Sri Lanka to make work.

Blue. Image by Karsten Muhlhaus

Blue. Image by Karsten Muhlhaus

F: You have created many collaborative creative works. What are the benefits and challenges of collaboration?

Collaborating with other artists is my favorite way to work and I’ve been lucky enough to work with some amazing people. One of the challenges is finding people you gel with and can create a shared vision and language with, this can take time. The benefit for me is having someone to bounce ideas around with and I think that the outcome always benefits from collaborating if people are clear on their roles. Sometimes it’s been tricky when creatives disagree but a resolution has always been possible through listening well and respecting each other. I have been collaborating with sound artists Norman Skipp for over 15 years now even though we live on other sides of the world.

Working in theatre, collaboration is a necessity. You need other people to do the things you don’t have the skills for, like sound and lighting for me. I usually have a lot of input and discussion with collaborators but ultimately I trust them to do what they do best. In my extended arts practice I still work with other people who have skills in areas that I don’t. for example I have made two projects with a videographer/editor, I WANT… and ‘States of Being.

F: Did this require you to take on additional training/learning curves?

G: No, as a therapist I had already developed good communication skills. I’m a team player as well as being really comfortable to share my ideas and opinions so collaboration works well for me. 

F: What drives you in your work?

G: I have a passion to create. I constantly have ideas forming in my mind. My main interests, that all the content for my work comes from, are from my therapy practice and a deep desire to understand people. Archetypal stories and myths as a reflection of the human condition alongside current contemporary dilemmas such as Greed, a project I created that had a number of components including two video installations, an internet group and a live, participatory, site-specific performance. My work often externalizes internal worlds making the invisible visible.

Bird. Image by unknown

Bird. Image by unknown

F: To what extent have you been able to make your creativity work an aspect of all of your jobs? Do you have other (non-creative) work that you engage in? How did you make that choice?

G: I feel that creativity infuses all that I do. In my work as a therapist, I integrate creative activities (which is par for the course for OT’s). I have developed movement therapy groups for people with serious mental illness and a creative art based group for people with mental health and substance use issues. I use it in my work with individuals and with making dinner in the evening when I get home.

F: How do you use your performance skills in undertaking “non-creative” jobs?

As a group facilitator and therapist, I need to be able to perform, improvise, listen and respond. My ongoing training allows me to be constantly developing these skills. I think a lot of my training is about being present. In my work I need to be present with people who are in psychological pain and also be available to them authentically but without my personal shit interfering with the process. I think my practice as an artist and therapist feed and support each other.

F: Yes! Your ability to be seamless between Artist and Occupational Therapist had a profound influence on my own career.

What does your creative process look like? 

G: My creative process is a lot of thinking to start with. I create things in my head before making them in the real world. I tend to create in bursts and I work best under pressure, when I have deadlines. Also if I make dedicated time and space. Physical training and writing are important ongoing elements of my practice. I flood with ideas; I’m never short on them. It’s a process of sifting through them, which ones stick, which are practical and achievable and starting them and seeing where they go.

F: Gabrielle, you have such an impressive list of endeavours, performances and exhibitions. What are your proudest accomplishments thus far?

N: I think my biggest accomplishment is supporting people to move through mental and emotional difficulties to create a better life for themselves. It’s a real privilege to be able to work with people at their most vulnerable and see them rediscover their personal power.

I am also immensely proud of making CREATURE- a shapeshifting journey in butoh wonderland with the company I directed - The Space Between Performance Collective.

More recently, it has been my solo exhibitions, residencies, and receiving an award for my video performance installation Persephone 7 of which I am proudest.

Free. Photo by Shelley Wilson

Free. Photo by Shelley Wilson

F: What role does communication, performance, and using your voice and body to connect to others have in your life? Why is it important?

G: I believe one of the key elements in healing trauma and addiction is connection. Often verbal communication is difficult initially so having other ways of communicating through movement or drawing or other creative forms can be great initially and I use these creative tools a lot in my work. OT is about healing through doing. I think that doing, action, being in the body allows one to find their voice. We all have multiple and individual ways of expressing and as a therapist, it is important for me to be able to offer a range of meaningful alternatives to my clients. My job is to be creative in what I can offer my clients and not to be stuck in one way or one thing that I offer. When working with trauma clients memories are often stored in the body (differently how regular memories are stored) moving in new ways can help move clients through these stuck emotions and give them more options for responding to events and their environments in the future.

F: Working so intensively with people, how do you prevent burnout? 

G: By not working 9-5, 7 days a week and taking lots of holidays. Having a balance between my personal, creative and work life. Having a supportive partner. Staying healthy.

Porcelin Face, SJD Music Video

Porcelin Face, SJD Music Video

F: My own work is founded on the belief that an arts education not only makes people better citizens (heck, better human beings), but that training in art gives individuals concrete and adaptable skills. 

N: I definitely agree. I think anything that makes you more tuned into your own creativity gives you more options on how you respond to situations, we break out of habitual patterns and understand ourselves better,

F: What skills have you gained through your art form that you apply in other contexts?

Improvising. Trusting my instincts. Listening (half of communicating). Self-reflection. Giving feedback to others generously. Being grounded in my body. Facilitating groups. Creating activities to meet a particular investigation. Trying new things. Dealing with failure. Persistence. Acceptance. Intuition is a daily part of my life. Everything is based on my intuition. It is strong. I trust it and I listen to it. My aesthetics are present in my home environment, how I dress and the art I make.

F: How do you set boundaries with regards to managing your personal from your creative spaces?

G: I’m not sure that I do. They often merge. I have really clear personal boundaries and sense of self which helps me to create balance in my life. My boundaries often blur but I don’t have a problem with it and I don’t question it. I think it’s difficult when we compartmentalize our lives. My life is my life it’s messy and not in little boxes. I don’t separate my creative skills with my life skills. It’s all blurry. I am what I am not what I do.

F: Do you have to behave “differently” depending on the environment you are interacting with? 

G: Yes and no. I’m always just being me but at the same time using Improvisation Skills and Being present to the moment, the person, the situation so what I do is different and individually tailored.

F: Tell me a little about your teaching.

G: I teach butoh when I’m asked to do so. This includes performance/art professionals and novices. I also facilitate groups for people with trauma, mental health and addiction issues of all ages and stages. It's rewarding when students discover something new in themselves and they change habits. Or as one of my teachers used to say ‘Find another way.’

F: Do you have an "ideal student"?

G: I’m not sure I have one. I suppose one that challenges me, one that I also learn from.

Baby Bird. Image by Aven Darling

Baby Bird. Image by Aven Darling

F: With such diverse teaching work, what values underpin your approach to teaching?

G: Growth, trust, exploration, risk, adventure, self-reflection, challenge

F: And what do you say to people who claim to “not be creative”?

G: I think everyone is creative but they have a narrow definition of what creative is. People are often injured in their school education by being told that. I try to help them to see all the ways that they are creative in their lives that aren’t being able to paint or draw or sing. Living is a creative act.

F: How can art, music, or movement training benefit someone who doesn’t wish to be a performer?

G: This is the key question. The answer is ‘In so many ways!’ They are kind of elusive and magical and amazing but include; confidence, self-esteem, personal power, better communication, passion, fun, community, mind expansion, connection with others, self-reflection, self-expression, new friends, using new parts of the brain, new skills, spiritual development, etc, etc.

When I went to dance school I had no interest in being a performer. I went because it was something I liked to do. Over time it grew and grew and grew.

I’ve been lucky enough to have many amazing teachers. I think my favorites have a generosity of spirit and they are always learning from their students and refining their practice through their teaching. They do their job but don’t put themselves above you. They are very positive people and have so much to give that is truly authentic. The training is physically and mentally hard but they remain soft. They are fun.

F: Tell me about your business.

G: I’m not really that interested in business. I do what I do because I love it. I don’t fit the mold and I don’t do things the way others do. I’m just making it up as I go along. I follow my intuition and my passions and dreams. I am unique so what I do is and how I do it is. I like making stuff and helping people find more joy in this difficult world.

I started my business because it was something I needed to try. It’s hard and a lot of it is pretty boring. I’m not sure it’s for me. I don’t see myself as an entrepreneur. I’m not that driven by money or business more by what interests me and challenges me and creating a life where I can utilize my skills and develop them and support others as I do that. It’s about following my passions. I’m not cutthroat and I don’t think that actually serves anyone. I think we all need to work as a community and support each other where we can in whatever way we can. 

Fear, States of Being. Image by Robert Spillane.

Fear, States of Being. Image by Robert Spillane.

F: What was the toughest learning curve that you experienced in running a business?

G: Early on I realized that the hardest times were the times of biggest growth. I relish them and use them as opportunities for my personal growth. I always trusted my instincts and faced my fears trusting that things would work out. Never do things that make you feel terrible for too long.

I think self-doubt is part of growth and moving outside of one's comfort zones. Growing is uncomfortable but soooo rewarding. I think my arts practice and training has taught me how to do this and know that it’s safe. It has also taught me how to fail and manage rejection. Being an artist you really need to know how to manage constant rejection and keep going.

F: Do you feel that there are unique challenges when ones' business is so reliant on you? How do you manage these?

G: Yes. I think this is my biggest obstacle as I’m a bit of a commitment-phobe. I find it hard to stay in the same place doing the same thing for too long which makes it difficult to develop my own business. I also find it hard to do things I’m not interested in likes tax and plan for more than 6 months in advance which you need to do as an artist and with your own business. 

The environment constantly changing. I’ve been in the therapy business for over 25 years and in 3 different countries. In Australia, customers are wanting more choice. 

In my private practice, getting clients is difficult as I often don’t put much energy into promoting my business. When working for others, it's key to find support to take creative risks. And in my arts practice, the challenge is managing rejection as well as finding time, space and resources to continue.

I just keep on trying to do the best that I can do.

Jump. Image by Robert Spillane

Jump. Image by Robert Spillane

F: What are the most useful strategies to support you through these challenges?

G: Having good regular supervision. Having great supports and mentors. Getting other people to do the stuff you don’t like or aren’t good at.

F: Is there a tension between your career as an artist and running a business?

G: Mostly time and splitting my attention but I have made peace with this and do both to my best ability as I know that I need both in my life. Both are of great importance to me. Tension is Ok. I think I could be much better promoting my business. This is one side of the business that I feel I’m not great at. I need a Personal Assistant. There is so much documentation and form filling and rubbish that needs to be done now.

F: Where do you see your business going (eg. is it about consolidation/growth/transforming services)?

G: Currently, I’m not sure. I’ve taken 8 months off to travel and work on creative projects but I want to head more into Community arts and engagement with a healing focus. 

 

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