Elina Luca, founder of ArtSnug, who we’ve interviewed previously on Masters of Many, introduced me to Linda. I live in Worthing at the weekends, and Linda was the first of many interviewees that have been recommended to me in and around this area. It's nice to see that the flexible working and entrepreneurial trends spread far and wide! Linda is a brilliant artist, tutor, one of the organisers of the Worthing Artists Open Houses event, and is about to take steps into organising more of her own art and culture events. I caught up with her to find out more about her journey, and where she wants to take things next.
Tell us about what you’re doing now and your journey to date?
I'm originally from Zurich in Switzerland. When I was younger, my Grandma though it would be a good idea to go to Jersey for a few months to learn some English, so in 2001 I went there and never came back. I was there for 4 years in total.
In my fourth year I went and did a foundation course at the local college. I then applied to get into University in the UK and did a 3-year degree followed by a PGCE in the Creative Arts and managed to get a job with Northbrook College in Worthing straight after. I manage the Fine Art Flexible Learning Area, which is a dedicated resource area for the students to use in their independent study time. I make sure the resources are accessible and up to date, and help learners out with the IT related side of their courses. I absolutely adore my job, every day is different and you never know who is going to walk through the door next.
Since August 2015 I’ve also been involved in the organisation and running of Worthing Artists Open Houses. The event is held over three weekends in June and July, and with 60 venues opening their doors to show the work of local artists it’s one of the biggest art events in Worthing. The trail covers the town centre, Broadwater, East and West Worthing and as far as Goring. It's a great event, and a unique opportunity to buy original artwork and meet the artists in their studios and homes.
There's a team of seven of us managing it. It used to be known as the Worthing Art Trail, but when we took it over in August we decided to change it back to its original name, Worthing Artists Open Houses. In some ways, it's been a real leap into the unknown. We’re learning about everything from engaging people and getting them involved, to creating the website and marketing leaflets. It's a really exciting project to be involved in.
That's what I really love doing; coming up with projects, getting involved, organising, researching, finding suppliers and following it through, finish the project, evaluate and plan what's next.
Last October I had the opportunity to exhibit my collages at the Jungkunst in Winterthur, Switzerland. It's a four-day event that showcases the work of young artists. It was an amazing experience. We had 16,000 people through the door over the four days. The event would start at 4pm and go on till 3-4am in the morning with live bands, DJ's and slam poetry. I did really well financially from it too, and it was one of the greatest projects I've ever been involved in.
From the moment I was told I was accepted last July, the whole preparation towards it, while working, teaching and helping to manage the arts trail at the same time, took a lot of time management to make it work. A lot of the skills I'd learnt from the trail I was able to apply to my exhibition preparation, so somehow it's all become inter-linked.
The aim of the Jungkunst organisers is to create an art event that is accessible to anyone, which I think is great. Being involved in this exhibition showed me what I really want to do - to exhibit professionally and internationally. I'd also love to create similar events like the Jungkunst myself.
At the moment I’m looking into the opportunity of getting international funding. There are various funds available for creative projects that make connections with an international audience. That's the direction I'm heading in at the moment. I’d love to create opportunities for myself and other artists, connecting my two worlds, England and Switzerland. But this idea is still only in the starting stages of development.
What is the driver in moving away from your full-time job?
As much as I love my job, I think I've reached a point in my employment where I'm not moving forward anymore. I’m looking for a new challenge where I can apply all the skills that I have acquired over the years, which pushes my boundaries professionally and personally.
I've also reached an age where money has become more important. About two years ago I went to a workshop led by another artist, Julian Sutherland-Beatson, who said to me that you can make money being an artist. This really gave me that confidence to push my work and get it out there.
Is this shift also due to you exhibiting more frequently?
Yes, definitely. Over the past couple of years I've had quite a few exhibitions. You can get your name out quite easily, by keeping your eyes open for opportunities, both locally and further afield. Beyond that it's networking and word of mouth, and when you see an opportunity, you go for it. There was an open collage submission at the Tate Britain, where I submitted my work and got accepted; which was amazing.
You have to keep your social channels like Facebook and Instagram updated too, to reach your audience and get your work noticed. Julian said to me that with 8 billion people in the world, there will be someone out there that likes your work. Today, with the Internet, you have a borderless environment that allows you to reach a world-wide audience. You have to be clever with it though, and I've not quite mastered it yet!
What do you find difficult about managing multiple jobs?
Time management primarily. I'm really lucky though that I can do a lot as part of my day to day work. Work is as creative as my studio time and helps to fuel my creativity. You need to work out how much time you spend on each project, but if it's something that you haven't done before it's quite hard to predict ahead.
What do you do to spur yourself on when you get the fear?
I get the fear a lot - it's a confidence thing - you have a real high, but then something knocks you and suddenly things seem scary. I try to think back to things that have inspired me, such as the workshop I did with Julian. It was amazing in terms of helping you to plan your next steps and long term goals. Revisiting these helps me to stay focussed and motivated.
Sometimes I look at other people and think how successful they are. They seem to glide through life and don’t get bothered by anything, but I’ve also realised that it's not always like that, that everyone has their own struggles.
It also helps to be part of a strong creative network, such as the Worthing Artists Open Houses team. We all have our own set of skills, and if I don't know how to do something, I put the question out there and someone will come back with a solution.
What or who do you find intimidating?
Submitting work to exhibitions or competitions where other people are judging it can be very intimidating. With the work itself, as long as it's real to me, even if it seems surreal and strange to someone else, I'm ok with that. It's more that you have to explain what your work is about and I'm more worried about what they think about my explanation. It makes sense to me, but not always to others!
What makes you feel good / powerful?
Success I guess - being accepted to exhibitions, healthy cash flow, and positive feedback from projects I'm involved in, or how appreciated I feel in my job in general.
What’s the best compliment you’ve been given?
That I inspire people, the way that I tackle things, that I just go for it and that I seem to have no fear.
What drives you, your legacy, or enjoying the moment?
Both. I want to make a change, not change the world, but to change the lives of people around me. It's like when I did the workshop with Julian, he left me with inspiration and encouragement that I still go back to.
How do you define success now?
Ultimately being independent and not having to rely on anyone else. Being able to do what you want to do without being held back by money, lack of opportunities and contacts.
Where would you like your business to get to? Are there things you want to try, or do you have a vision for the next few years?
My long term plan is to set up my own art events, ideally two annual projects, one here in the UK and one in Switzerland. I would also love to host cultural trips in either place, unconventional trips, different to what everyone else offers.
How do you start your day?
I like to have a plan before I go to bed of what the next day brings, and of the things I want to get done. However, in my job it’s quite difficult to plan, as you often don't really know what's going to happen throughout the day.
I plan my evenings too. Julian showed us a system for planning your week on a Sunday night, to ensure you put time aside for your art and your work. You have to be really specific, if you say you're going to do two hours of marketing on a Monday evening, then what exactly are you going to do in those two hours. That's how I function best.
How do you organise yourself?
I have a sketchbook and notebook with me at all times. I don't use planning apps really, although I do use them for my finances. I try not to have too many items on my list for each day. I have two things that really need to be done, and one that could wait a bit if things don't pan out. There are always deadlines to work towards - whether it's work or applying for exhibitions, or the trail, so these keep the weekly plan focused.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I never had an idea. I'm one of four, and none of us really knew what we wanted to do - we all had a late start on our careers. I don’t think I really understood what I wanted to do with my life until I was around 24!
What would you tell your kids about working out what they want to do in life?
I think I'd want to tell them to take time to decide what they want to do, not to be influenced by others, and to ask themselves if this is really what they want to do, and if it's not, don't do it! I had a terrible time at school and I wish I'd realised that earlier, and been able to say that certain things weren't for me. I like the ethos of the Rudolf Steiner schools, where the focus is on personal development rather than grades. That kind of school would have suited me much more.
What's the single best piece of advice you’ve been given along your journey?
Look ahead and not back, as regret is one of the worst things that you can have. Focus on you, and make sure that you're happy, as that's the way to make others happy.
To see more about Linda's work, check out her website at http://www.lindabernhard.ch
To find out more about the open arts weekend in Worthing, check out www.worthingartistsopenhouses.com
Photos on the site from Lorraine Heaysman (http://lorraineheaysmanphotography.co.uk) and artists own.