I was introduced to Tash via a lovely lady called Elizabeth, who runs Officreche in Brighton, an innovative flexible childcare and co-working space shortly to feature in a piece on the changing world of childcare in response to the needs of independent workers. Tash is a book editor, magazine editor, artist, event creator, and generally someone who has an idea and finds a way to bring it to life and make it exciting. And somewhere in there she's a mum too....
We caught up with her to find out more about her journey to date.
Tell us about what you’re doing now and your journey along the way...
I had always wanted to be an artist, and I studied Fine Art at University. My mother was an artist and that was the journey I wanted to take. After my degree, I didn't want to go directly into work and so I went away to Thailand, stayed there for a couple of years and then spent the next two years travelling around America and France. Then I had to face up to life and come home!
I had no idea what I wanted to do. I considered photography, but didn't have many connections in that area at the time. I got a job in a fabric shop in Primrose Hill and worked there for two years. It was boring though and I knew I couldn't work in retail forever.
I decided I wanted that a way to get into photography would be via picture research. I applied to lots of companies and eventually got accepted by one in in Leather Lane, in Farringdon. It was an editorial assistant role, at 'Step by Step' art magazine. I had a really fun time, going out to prop shops, taking them to photographers studios, styling them for shoots, working with artists, scanning in transparencies. In the end I had full editorial control for a strand of the magazine. I even wrote for the magazine, which I hadn't done before, but really liked.
I got promoted to production editor, but got quite badly bullied by my boss, and so I decided to leave. A colleague introduced me to her husband, whose company needed a sub-editor. I spent two years working there, reading books, writing a synopsis, and getting into the editing side of things, it was really good fun.
However, I knew deep down that I couldn't do a desk job. I went to Australia one Christmas, and thought about how it would work if I gave it all up. I handed in my notice at the company, but still got freelance work from them as a proofreader for manuscripts, which was really nice. I decided to get an artists studio with a friend of mine in Wimbledon. I had been out of that world for 10 years, but I loved it. I went in each day and painted. I sold one or two paintings here or there and then got signed with a gallery. That was my life for another 5 years, and it was really good.
Then I turned 37 and I got pregnant. I knew I couldn't stay in the studio, because it was in Wimbledon and I lived in Streatham, and it was expensive. I'd always been anti-selling out and wanted to be able to paint what I wanted to paint. I decided I wanted to make my money from editing and be able to do what I wanted in my studio.
A friend had taken a studio in a building in Streatham and so I went there too. I could walk to it and it was easier with my son as I'd bring him in while I painted. To be honest, in the first year, I didn't do much painting though, as it's hard to keep up the momentum when you've been out of it for a while. I still secured a lot of editing work, and then my son went to a child-minder three days a week, so I had more solid time in the studio. It helped me get a semblance of myself back. I continued with my editing, and got work for companies like Penguin, which was fine as being in their offices was a novelty when I didn't have to do it every day.
Then two years ago, everything changed again. My mother died and it was a whirlwind. My son was also ill in hospital for a month, and my head wasn't where it should have been.
I was still going to lots of private views and I had a conversation with a friend of mine, Paul Cole, about whether we should we start a project together. We knew we had a project space in our studio block that we could book for x amount of time. We wanted to create something slightly different and we came up with the idea for Dolph Projects.
We wanted to get artists to create an exhibition based on their practice and how they would contextualise it, taking them out of the traditional gallery environment. They could do whatever they wanted to do as long as they stuck to our brief, bringing in any objects of personal significance to their show, be it music, videos, text. Ultimately they have to curate an exhibition that tells a story about their practice.
We started to look at artists who might be interested in taking part, approached some and they were wary about being involved. We wanted to do a bi-monthly event, as we are both artists, parents and have other jobs, and so didn't want to over-saturate it. We approached a guy called Philip Newcombe and he agreed to do our first show. He grabbed the project by the horns, although he was nervous and changing stuff until the last minute. It was great, and received well
Since November 2014 we've held the events every 2 months and slowly but surely more people have heard about it and come to the viewings. We're in Streatham, so it's a real destination to make the effort to come to. It's a free private view, followed by a talk with the artist about how they responded to our brief.
Through Dolph we have created awareness about both of us as artists and secured shows through it. We did Sluice_ art fair last year. It's not an art fair in a traditional sense, it's more of an arts initiative, and we used it to announce the artists for 2016. We're booked up until November this year and now that we have a years experience people want to be involved and send us proposals. We're hoping to take it to NY in October, with Sluice, and an American gallery might take on a Dolph brief. We were invited to do a talk at Wimbledon Art School last week about project spaces. It has all snowballed in a really short space of time.
I'm also the editor of Sluice magazine, which was launched as part of the art fair in 2015. I meet people from doing that and I write articles for it myself. They're bringing out the second edition in April, and the third in October to launch the fair in NY.
At the moment Dolph is funded out of our own pockets, and we pool our skills for the show. Paul is great at carpentry and the technical side of things, and I do admin and any painting that's required. There's always money that's required though, for paint, insurance, even beers for the viewings. We've applied for funding, as there is a lot that goes into it. If it starts earning money that would be amazing, and we could do more talks, but I don't want it to become too commercial as that's part of it's charm.
I still take a lot of photos with a view to including them in art projects. I was up until one am last night editing. I really like words too and years ago I used to bring text into my work. I prefer it when I can sit in my bed and do it as opposed to sitting in the office! The book editing projects I work on have been really varied. There have been loads about the war, but now I'm doing classic cars. I've worked on bicycles, photography, film.. it's the variety of book genres that I like.
When you'd started Dolph, how long did it take you to feel like you’d made progress?
The first show was really nerve racking. You wonder how many people will come, whether it will be well received, if the artists will enjoy it. It was after the third show that I realised how much I enjoyed it. Meeting artists who I didn't know and becoming good friends with them - they're all like me - everyone is scared about their work and you meet really interesting characters.
As things started happening we got reviewed and once people said they'd heard of us, we realised it might actually go somewhere. We're both really enthusiastic about it and would like to do more travelling around the country and meet artists from further afield. I don't want to get too London centric. We will have our first international artist next year, which will be great. We also have some collaborative projects in the pipeline.
How often did you feel like ‘it’ wasn’t going to work?
I don't think I ever have! We went into it thinking that it was going to snowball, and it has. Ultimately we want to take the concept as far as it can go. We could take the idea into schools and work with colleges and art schools. It is a different way to think about what they produce, not just about the finished piece of work.
We get artists to focus inwards, why are they doing this, what are they inspired by, what is their work about, how do they make it and their process. It's all of the stuff that is hidden from a show, and it can be really hard for people. However, the artists have enjoyed it as they're out of their normal environment and they can do whatever they want to do.
Last year both Paul and I went through the Dolph process. We thought it would be a good idea to see the project from the inside and to see how the artists feel, and it is really hard! The whole thing has been a huge learning curve. When we started Dolph we didn't have any audio-visual experience, we had to beg borrow and steal equipment, often things didn't work and it's scary. But you do one event and then another and it gets better.
What do you find difficult about managing multiple jobs?
Sometimes I feel like Worzel Gummidge, where I'm constantly changing heads. I feel like I'm spread too thin, but actually I secretly enjoy it! Paul and I had a conversation at the end of our event in January and agreed to take February to do our own work and have quiet time.
But then someone emails you to ask you to be in a show, or do some editing or your son is sick and that expanse of time suddenly becomes non-existent.
I think it's important to be able to relax and switch off. I exercise and have gin, although not at the same time! I meditate as well which has really changed my life. I got into it after my mum died when everything became overwhelming and too much. Her death has made me feel invincible somehow. I'm not over it, but it's made me realise that life is too short to sit in an office all day and to hang out with people you don't get on with or to not have that piece of cake because your stomach is a little fat.
My mum used to say 'jump and the net will appear' and that's my main focus. Since doing Dolph I've been forced into a lot of things that I previously would have hated. Things like having my photo taken, public speaking, being filmed, and being on the radio. They were nerve racking, but ultimately I enjoyed them.
What do you do to spur yourself on when you get the fear?
I don't think about it, just do it. I was always wrapped up in thought before and fear comes from overthinking things. That's where meditation comes in - not getting wrapped up in what could or should be, and let it go. What I want to do is deal with the problems physically when I meet them then and there - as opposed to dealing with them mentally before when they might not happen.
What makes you feel good / powerful?
Doing something I love and it being well received. My work has become more site specific, e.g. you look at the show space and make it there. Making it in situ is scary but I quite enjoy flying by the seat of my pants, as I know deep down it will be ok. In the autumn last year we had a number of shows very close to each other and it was really busy. I just took a roll of orange tape, I figured I'd find stuff when I got there, and I did!
What drives you, your legacy, or enjoying the moment?
Definitely enjoying the moment. What fun will I get out of my legacy? That comes from my mum dying - you have to enjoy everything.
How do you define success now?
As long as I'm happy, I'm successful. There's nothing better than seeing something that you've started from nothing turning into a tangible something that people really like. That's success.
What's the biggest thing that your new way of working has changed about your life?
Freedom - not having to stick to any form or routine. I like having the freedom to decide I'm going to the studio, or stay at home and edit in bed, or go and do a run, or pick up my son when I need to. Freedom is ultimately what I strive for, and need.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to work in a sweet shop! I liked the old jars, and I thought it would mean I could eat sweets all day.
What would you tell your kids about working out what they want to do in life?
That they can do absolutely anything that they want to do; even if my son wants to be an accountant, I'll support him. Not to be driven by money, but more by what makes them happy.
If you could do any other job in the world, what would it be?
I'd be a travel writer. I still have the wanderlust. I feel quite rooted because of my son, and he's started school so it's not so easy to whip him off, but if I could write about it, that would be amazing.
To find out more about Dolph Projects, check out their site at www.dolphprojects.com or follow them @dolphprojects on Twitter.
Tash can be found on Instagram @thisladypaints