The past year and everything that has come with it has proven itself to be a major adjustment to people from all walks of life, including the creatives that make up the local scene. Those in the arts, as well as small business owners, have missed gigs, exhibitions, markets, readings, and performances- but they have often proven incredibly resilient and taken this difficult situation as a challenge, finding new and creative ways to keep their art going.
The extra time a lot of us were suddenly given back in March 2020 has even resulted in new creative projects and businesses popping up- giving hope for a local creative scene more alive than ever as the world starts to make its slow paced return to some kind of normality. The Jumble Magazine has asked local creatives throughout NI/Ireland about their experiences over the past year, and how the change in pace, routine, accessibility, social life, and resources has affected how they do what they do. Over the past few days The Jumble has been platforming the voices of local creatives to share their own experiences.
Edie-Mea McCartney (Theartistedie) is an Artist, Illustrator, and small business owner based in Northern Ireland. Edies work often focuses on showcasing the realities of living with diabetes. Edie created the Zine ‘Sex & Diabetes’ alone, and also created a range of badges in collaboration with diabetes focused accessories brand Organising Chaos. Edie has also collaborated with Sustainable Streetwear brand Kosu Appreal and finished a degree during 2020. Edie spoke to The Jumble Magazine about the past year and getting through it as an artist.
This past year for me personally has truly had its ups and downs, without it I wouldn’t have realised just how much my art is persuaded by the outside world and people. I love to people watch when I’m in a busy place, so going from being a busy uni student in a bustling city to living in a small quiet town in the blink of an eye was a huge change for me. I’ve met so many amazing creatives and beautiful people through lock down via Instagram. My practice has been thoroughly influenced by this and how we perceive and view art. I’ve slightly shifted my perspective and started making work that is more commercial and that anyone can enjoy, making sure I love it myself is key.I love bright colours and bold lines, lock down has allowed me to refine my skills and take inspiration from new sources like Instagram, my own home and mundane things. I’ve been doing a lot of reading latley, develing into topics like. witch craft, mental health and Northern Ireland in my book choices, which has also shown itself in my work.
Walking has also played a part in recharging my creativity, myself and my partner recently climbed Slieve Binnian and it was amazing. It really gave me the confidence as someone with chronic pain to start pushing myself and trusting myself more. It felt magical. I’ve been stepping outside my comfort zone more and trying new things, I started print making and hope to add prints and other reacting items to my online shop. All in all this past year I’ve kept myself busy and continued to work on myself and mental health to make sure that I can give my art the attention it needs. Finishing an art degree in lock down didn’t feel like the best accomplishment in the world, and im sure others can relate, I was left feeling unsuccessful and useless because the world was at a standstill, but after exploring my practice, speaking to other creatives and being open about everything I was thinking I was able to push through and create more and more.
Long distance friends and family members have started reaching out to me to make special gifts and portraits, I’ve loved every minute of doing that. Overall, the year has been pretty positive, despite all the horrific things going on globally and my own personal struggles.
H. R. Gibs is a writer and Journalist currently based in Belfast. Throughout the course of the pandemic, Gibs found herself moving between the lock down at home and in Dublin, where she began studying her Masters Degree. Gibs has written for publications like Golden Plec, Chordblossom, and The Thin Air while simultaneously being involved with the running of the Belfast based co-operative Soup Ink. Gibs has also showcased her short story ‘Eric Bob’ right here on The Jumble Magazine. Her vast experience and talent in both fiction and non fiction writing makes her a perfect voice to finish off Introspective Edit, enjoy her thoughts on creativity and writing during a world shifting year:
I rarely sit and ponder on how chronological events affect my writing. I work in a spiral; I write, it pours, I think it’s worth something, I go back, it’s not. During the pandemic, out of job and waiting for a new course to begin, this spiral wound itself tightly. Between March and September 2020, I wrote something close to 40 feature articles and essays. I had the time. I was consuming films and albums and books with mechanical and capitalist intention. Digest, make thoughts, make words.
In September I moved to Dublin. In October I started my MA. It was like waking up to find yourself falling through mid-air. Writing had eased into my life like a subconscious thought. I did it often, so I had to be good at it. I was naive enough to think this thought would hold fast in a competitive environment. Journalism is a very different sport to creative writing. I found the extreme focus on philosophical truth telling against the now, now, now of breaking news jarring.
Outside of class, I was lonely. Dublin had plunged into a new lock down the fortnight after I’d moved. I was in a new place. I knew no-one. I studied. existed online. Writing for writing’s sake went out the window. I forced out bad poems and short painful stories that hung on nothing. I was suddenly very aware of how I wrote. I held it up against the light and found it to be full of holes.
In reality I was probably just getting better at it. I don’t think I paid much attention to the precise cause and effect of the pandemic. I was analysing the news every day in class. I was numb to the death tolls and the travel restrictions. I became small and cynical during those months and so my memories of that time are the same.
Before I’d moved I had emailed my favourite English lecturer to ask for help with writing poetry. I knew I needed feedback. I could never get a handle on what I wanted to say. I was too distracted by everyone else also writing and pulling images that I thought I should have been the one to come up with. My worst flaw is my jealousy. I am jealous of everything beautiful.
She emailed back advising to find a group of people to work alongside and learn from. I took her word as gospel. I wanted then, as I want now, to be good at writing. I reached out to people I knew and those I didn’t yet and took up a habit of talking to them about all of it. I let people in on my ideas. I let them perform autopsies on my weakest works. It was like swallowing bullets. I read their work. We talked about stories and being from here and language and I realised, with sour delight, that in that place I was almost always the least interesting person in the room.
But how has my writing changed during the pandemic? I don’t think in all that time I wrote a single piece about quarantine or sickness or having time. Other people were doing that much better than I ever could and I was distracted by smaller feats. Perhaps the better question to ask is how have I changed during the pandemic? I have learned to organise and unionise. In June 2020 the ground turned to fire and what I believed in changed. My vocabulary absorbed new definitions for old ideas; class consciousness, abolition, direct action, direct provision, solidarity, solidarity, solidarity forever.
But more, more. I fell in love without noticing it, like I’d slipped into water. I stopped shying away from phone calls. I started to care more about asking the questions than knowing the answers. I had conversations. I learned to listen better.
Outwardly I don’t know what my writing looks like compared to a year ago. I find it embarrassing to look back on, but, if I am being honest, I don’t think it will look much different. I think I might be less interested in myself and my own opinion now. I now know that I’m really not that much different from everyone else. I want to be understood and seen and paid attention to. So, upon reflection, what might be the most notable and altogether impressive thing about my writing is that I’m still doing it.
Check out Edie-Mea McCartney’s work on Instagram.