Spirited Sound, Love and Life

I want to begin a while back, because this road has been a long journey. This year has been more challenging, but also finally a turning point – in my art, with Spirited Bodies, and in my love life. It all happens at once, yet in stages. I get challenged about why I am sharing the personal, in an art project which is supposedly more for the benefit of others, and I respond, because when I was a younger woman I missed an older female role model, who had the appropriate life experience. I struggled with that, until things gradually fell more into place. I wouldn’t have listened to anyone who purported to understand, and I’d know if they really did. Any more privileged woman who thought she knew best, definitely didn’t. Now of course, I may be the more privileged woman for many, but I am happy to share that it hasn’t always felt thus, and if in some way my message can reach distant others, that is what was in my heart all along.

In short since late May, this year has included several frustrated attempts at connections with venues and individuals with whom I seemingly failed to build a rapport. Trans activists (who were not actually trans themselves) with whom it was impossible to have a sensible discussion about trans issues and how they intersect with the needs of cis women rape survivors in some cases. Competitive women with similar projects to mine, who either viewed me with suspicion, or just thought they knew better. Community collectives who were not open enough to host Spirited Bodies! What could be more appropriate for a community…?

Earlier in the Summer I met Sarah Kent at Brockley Open Studios, in my neighbourhood. We got chatting in artist Gill Hickman’s studio, and something resonated. I attended Sarah’s soundbath and experienced the healing sounds on the floor of her living room. I felt at ease with her, as well as moved by the intense yet soothing vibes. She said expect changes in the next few days, and ideally make space for them.

What I hadn’t known was that my old friend Michael, had died that day or the day before… and I found out a few hours after the soundbath. Michael’s death, for me marked a turning point, a shift of focus. In the middle of Summer this news penetrated layers of the fabric of my being. It took me back to the late 90s when I knew him best, the times and the company we shared. Though I had not been so in touch with Michael in recent years, his strong uncompromising world view sank into me as I relooked at the world through his imagined eyes and the filtered lens of the girl I used to be. Somehow both introvert and extrovert, rebellious, even fearless. The power of youth! While most of us had mellowed, to be fair including Michael in his own minor way, really he had sustained a strikingly similar mentality to what we all remembered. I instantly felt tougher, unaffected by petty crises previously around me. For a while I was invincible! Untouchable. I thought of Michael a lot.

With Michael (centre) and friends at an anti-criminal justice bill demo, mid 90s
With Michael (centre) and friends at an anti-criminal justice bill demo, mid 90s

My erstwhile longterm relationship that had been faltering, now felt briefly healing again. My partner, connected to the old tribe including Michael, understood intimately my feelings, but the ending of our relationship was imminent. We had drifted apart, and I craved cohesion in my life. A nervous breakdown at one of my modelling jobs alerted me that something had to give. I could not visualise a future that felt fitting, under my current circumstances. The breakdown involved intense feelings of being violated by the artists sculpting me, when in fact I was also aware that neither they nor the tutor (who is one of my favourites) was responsible. The conditions of my life were so disadvantaging me, that I could not see light in my routine. To make a success of my art projects I needed all energies and people in my life to point decidedly the same way, otherwise it was dissipating. I needed freedom. We technically had an open relationship, so when I did find closeness with a new partner, it took me a little while to realise that I could not be so intimate with two men simultaneously. The new relationship rapidly came to mean so much more to me than I could have anticipated. So intense is this new connection that it felt prudent to break up with Aaron. Simple is better; and freshly blossoming love deserves the richest, most fertile ground in which to take root.

In my new partner I found a fellow life model and writer, as well as an enthusiast of all my projects, sharing much passion in nude art adventures, and travel, something I had missed in the past. I also found so much love I hadn’t dreamed of, expected, in one with apparently such different background. His openness, sensitivity, intelligence and understanding take my breath away. As the Autumn took hold, this new excitement grew, and grows. I am in love.

Spirited Bodies again feels in a good place. I have resolved some issues, and feel confident about the involvement of men modelling again. For Spirited Sound I didn’t take any chances with male models. I knew all of the chosen ones personally and felt 100% safe with them. With the help of my partner and other trusted male models, we are creating an exceedingly safe space for everyone. That’s not to exclude the trusted women models from this equation, or the artists, but it was mainly an issue with deceptively inappropriate male models, so feels apt to be solved first, by male models.

All artwork from Spirited Sound, 8/11/15
All artwork from Spirited Sound, 8/11/15, at the Bargehouse, Oxo Building, Southbank

The healing power of Spirited Bodies is very important to me. I have explored this a few ways; in more intimate workshops, through interviewing models (and artists) about their experience and playing their recorded voices during sessions. Now with Spirited Sound, a new, more direct, less personal but more universal model has been born. The sound instantly seemed to free up the format, necessarily instigating greater experimentation. Traditional life drawing standards according to the wants of some artists are thrown out. This is all about the Spirited Bodies, and this time we tried some movement poses which was a beautiful way to discover even greater harmony as a group. Three minutes of very slowly opening up from a closed posture into something more expansive, and five minutes of flickering gently together, moving as flames of a fire burning brighter and closer.

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The session was divided into 4 sections, each representing an element – Fire, Air, Water and Earth. Shorter and movement poses in the first 2 parts, then longer poses for Water and Earth. The models connected with each other when they felt drawn to, as they collectively expressed themselves elementally. Dynamic and expansive for Fire, including a slightly longer Scene from Hell – the fallen among the devils. Light and floaty for Air, as well as being blown together in a very strong gust of wind. Flowing waves for Water where the models lay variously in a row, some interconnecting; and pure grounded connection for Earth, each model occupying their own comfortable (I hope!) space. It was a big pleasure to work with the group of models, several I have gotten to know over time with Spirited Bodies, including professionals who enjoy the deepening experience a lot. They create a warm atmosphere for any newcomer.

5 minutes blowing in the wind
5 minutes blowing in the wind

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Spirited Sound happened because I had connected with Sarah, and she was interested and happy to bring her sound art to Spirited Bodies. It was her idea to work with the elements as a theme, and she created sounds to fit each mood, to accompany and inspire the models (and artists), and weave a layer of vibrational texture into the space. There were bells, singing bowls (including one large one containing water), large gongs, a rainstick, a jingly instrument which when shaken lightly produces an array of gently tingling bell sounds of different notes.

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Spirited Bodies becomes something more layered with the inclusion of sound art; another type of art is intersecting with the life modelling and drawing. A new relationship emerges between musician and models (and artists). Is the sound influencing the models, or vice versa? A bit of an exchange for sure. At one end of the room Sarah laid out her instruments, from where she could see all the action (and stillness) of the models. Had we been in the larger attic space as originally planned, she may have arranged herself in more spread out fashion around the room in order to move about and be among artists and models, so that sounds would emerge from different areas and directions, possibly moving too. Sarah and her instruments could have been linked to the visual aspect of the artists’ attention, perhaps appearing in the art, as positioned within the scenes of poses. The attic also had a particular atmosphere which would have lent itself well to the gravitas of gongs, however it turned out that heating and lighting that space was a task beyond the electricity supply. It was great as it was, but it would also have been fantastic for Sarah to have been slightly more integrated with artists and models. Nevertheless, her presence and sound creation were deeply felt and appreciated by all. This was a joyful collaboration which I hope we may explore again.

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I feel more comfortable with the trans inclusion (to women’s sessions) now. This is very delicate, but it’s important to be open. I sometimes feel that a separate group for women only – excluding non-transitioned trans women – will be helpful (particularly for cis women rape survivors, of whom there are probably more than the entire population of non-transitioned trans women). I will tread carefully. One thought is that, if women’s events are open to all trans women regardless of transition, that gesture is what is important. Possibly those trans women themselves are not interested to come along, and may well realise that their inclusion can be tricky; without wanting to be divisive, there are very different needs at play.

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The issue of competitive women is being resolved too. I am not taking this personally, but see it as symptomatic of us women, learning how to share our power. This might seem odd to be so gendered, but I do think we are not so familiar as men are, with having power in the first place, and often if we do, we are encouraged to beat off the competition. This doesn’t make sense when our projects are about liberation and empowerment, for all, not just some elite. These higher principles must filter through otherwise projects will die.

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Leaving you with a few more pictures of artwork from Spirited Sound. We were very fortunate to have a lovely photographer with us at the event too, so there will be photos of the group of models to follow at some stage. Also, I am just planning an event for December, so keep looking out! And a blog post about the women’s event at Bargehouse will also come soon.

Watery bodies
Watery bodies

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With much gratitude to all the models, artists, and Sarah, as well as Kathy, Angie and Jenny from the Southbank Festival of Creativity at the Bargehouse

Stormy Nights of Transformation

In 1987 I was 10. About this time of year there was a very memorable storm, you may recall, not dissimilar to the one on outside tonight (in London, UK). Trees collapsed, cars were smashed, gardens were destroyed, and I felt a fascination with this touch of wildness in our city and indeed beyond.

I wrote a story inspired by that night, for creative writing was my favourite outlet for self expression. In the fiction I was preparing for a Halloween fancy dress competition, which seemed fairly significant at the time, not least because my arch nemesis would be competing with me, and to me at any rate it might as well just have been me and her in the contest. I knew she was hotly tipped as the favourite; being richer and possessing finer garments standing her in perhaps better stead. I was unperturbed, and created for myself a unique costume fashioned from bin-liners, and rolled a black cardboard cone hat, adding some details by sticking on old scraps of material. Nothing fancy but the best I could muster. I reckoned further points may be scored for originality and style, the way an outfit was worn as much as the clothes themselves.

I laid my costume out before I went to bed, the night before the big day. That was the night of the manic storm, and nothing was the same after. In the morning I discovered that our back garden had been blown several blocks away and a tree fallen on Dad’s car. What more despite being apparently safe inside, my carefully crafted costume had been shredded, crumpled and broken beyond repair. I was distraught and could not conceive how this might have happened. The rest of my room was ok; it was most alarming. I thought I could no longer enter the competition and felt utterly disappointed, with a sense of void as to how this came about. Sighing and tearful I left the room to tell my Mum who was busy getting my brother ready for the day and making breakfast. There was no hope for this day I had so looked forward to.

But on returning to the bedroom I saw an unfamiliar object in my midst, positioned where I might have missed it before, high up on the cupboard. A shiney white cardboard box sat quietly and expectantly, with considerable promise. Tentatively I approached, reached for it and took it in my hands, examined it and removed the lid. What was this! A brand new beautiful black velvet and lace ensemble, complete with sparkly hat and shiney pointy shoes! I was flabbergasted, gobsmacked and temporarily frozen in disbelief. Everything was going to be all right after all. But how? Never mind that, the important thing was, did it fit? What do you think? It was the best fit since my Grandmother had stopped making handmade clothes for us because she was tracking down her first husband on the other side of the world. From the starry hat, lacey gloves, velvet frock and cape to the snug ankle boots, I was perfectly decked out. There was even a wand, but I was not sure about that and thought it might get in the way; I was a witch not a fairy, so I tucked it into my left boot. Over the moon, I set to shadowing my eyes and heightening my lips. My parents were contending with immense loss – you could just about spy the remnants of the shed and eucalyptus tree a few gardens away. The insurance line was jammed, in fact I don’t think the phone worked at all. I easily persuaded them I’d be fine on the bus.

I was still nervous even though I was better dressed in the new cloak than possibly I ever had been. I think the unexplained element of arriving in this attire put me a little on edge – not only was I not used to it, but also, part of me questionned my right to be in it. What if it was a mistake, or worse a trick? But who could hatch such a plot? I was flummoxed. Broken into by my arch-rival Gwendoline’s steely intent to trip me up and foil my desire (since our last run-in at the fairground when from high up on the wheel I poured some noxious concoction on her head)? We had been very good friends once, but she resisted strongly when I suggested we open up our friendship to others in the neighbourhood. While she might have motivation the practicalities did not support this. She could not have the keys to my home, and all the windows were tightly closed in this time of storm. The beautiful outfit could be a sign of her original devotion to me, but there would have to be a catch… Maybe more weirdly, I had been visited by fairies in the night, performing magic? Either way I barely dared entertain these thoughts further which had been lurking in my adrenaline fuelled glances on the top deck of the 43 bus. I arrived at the town hall, sounding my heels on the steps and escorted myself into the tall brick building to register my participation. What would the others be wearing? What would Gwendoline be conjuring? Could it be as incredible as my dress? As a final touch, on the way out of my house I had grabbed a broom which was scattered in what was left of the front garden to complete the look. I walked into the hall and found a place to watch others from, leaning on the broomstick nonchalantly.

The speeches and parades went by in a bit of a blur as I found it tricky to focus on the formalities. I could make out Gwendoline on the other side of the room, though really she ceased to be as important now I had arrived. It seemed that everything was out of my hands now anyway; the unusual events of the night and morning had taken care of that, and this awareness started to settle. My Mum and brother arrived shortly before the adjudication was made, and I was grateful to not be alone. This place was a little way from home so I didn’t know many others there particularly well. I just knew that Gwen would take part as we had talked about it and planned it before the split transpired. I think when the mayor or whoever he was announced my winning, I was no more stunned than I had already become accustomed to. I glowed nonetheless, overwhelmed with pride and joy to have succeeded in my special quest. Why did I want to be the best? Probably because I was tired of Gwendoline behaving like she was superior all the time. I wanted to shut her up. And winning is fun. I’m not sure if there was money, a prize or a crown, but not long after being acknowledged as the winner, I got on my broomstick, quite conscious that miracles or magic were entirely possible, and flew off before everybody’s incredulous eyes, and out through a high window!

A few months later in early February I sat an entrance exam to a girls grammar school. For the English section I basically rewrote this story as one of the titles was ‘The Stormy Night’, and that was what got me into the school I spent the next five years in as my maths was fairly basic.

It gives me great pleasure to remember the story (and the story of the story), unfortunately I do not have the original with me, though it’s possible that it is housed in my parents’ attic.

Apart from this reminisence I wanted to tell you that Spirited Bodies is going to have a break soon. We will cease events and workshops for some months as the routine has taken hold and its grip is lethal. We were meant to be less predictable, for therein lies the most potent magic. What ought to be extraordinarily remarkable occasions, were in danger of being overlooked, become commonplace in my spectrum. I don’t mean the extravaganza just gone, but the monthly sessions where in fact more new people come to celebrate some milestone, than at the recent biggie. Each of those moments deserves more attention, and the time to regard each potential participant; who will benefit most, and will the group bring out the best in each other?

Managing men has been an ongoing matter. So many want to take part, but who has the most honourable intentions? You cannot tell from a simple questionnaire, or even necessarily meeting. But the most nervous women involved and sometimes our team who are less immersed than I am pick up on energies once the nude proceedings are in action. Artists too remark of male models not in it for a purpose befitting us. Meanwhile I am so preoccupied with replicating ‘The Raft of the Medusa’, and everybody’s comfort that much that is important eludes me. And while I do all the admin and run the show, I cannot be all things to all people.

So clearly we need time to change. We have a good strong team, and we will work more as such in the coming months, refashioning the Spirited Bodies experience. Newer team members especially Thelma felt strongly that we must return to our core, what the original mission was. This was about the models’ transformation, and it was about women modelling for the first time to experience a remarkable transition towards confidence. We reconnected with the founder, Morimda to hear in her words what inspired her, and as well she took the time to join in a little.

Meanwhile I want some time away from the overwhelming admin; I want to travel a bit and get back to writing and performance. I have felt like I was doing the project more for others and no longer so much for myself as it used to be. I need to give back to me. But I know Spirited Bodies will keep calling me back too, and at the right time, something magical will emerge again. Happy Halloween fellow spirits!

If you would like to join in an all female event coming up very soon before we take our break, click here for more details on how to get involved and do not hesitate to get in touch. Making the decision to refocus our mission has freed me up to feel appropriately enthused about our final events! There are 2 more sessions at Holborn (see Workshops & Events) as well as the aforementioned new opportunity for women. In addition a small exhibition of some of the Spirited Bodies art work will be on display in the Sh! shop in Hoxton throughout November. Please note this shop is a women’s shop and men may only go in accompanied by a woman, except on Tuesday evenings between 6 and 8pm which are ‘Gents Tuesdays’. As we come to the end of this season we celebrate Spirited Bodies’ 3rd anniversary.

IMAG1324Magic shoes from a recent costumed session Thelma & I did in Tadworth!

Thelma & I being ladies who lunch
Thelma & I being ladies who lunch

Introducing LaDawn to the Spirited Bodies team

I wish I could remember with greater clarity that moment when I thought life modelling would be a good experience for me.  But the fact is I don’t.

I do remember being adrift.  I had been suffering from severe depression and my days were a jumble of hoping I had enough energy to get out of bed and then pure anxiety coursed through my blood stream all day as I tried to keep myself from returning to the comfort of the duvet.  My life was nothing like it used to be.  I was nothing like I used to be.

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For the previous 25 years, I had worked in IT.  I was a senior manager in a FTSE 50 company.  I was a mother to two children, a son who is now 12, and a daughter, now 9.  I was the wife of a man who ran his own IT consulting company.  I juggled the demands of a working wife and mother with the precision of a military operation.  I had weekly menus for our meals planned out for the next 3 months and their corresponding grocery lists just waiting for the calendar reminder to alert me to the exact time the order needed to be placed online.  I raced from office to school to home and back again.  Our social life was a whirl of engagements.  I loved hosting dinner parties.

One day it all went horribly wrong.  The doctor diagnosed me with depression and put me on anti-depressant tablets.  I was catatonic.  My husband took the children and me on holiday hoping that would help but instead of the lively, chatty, laughing wife that would normally accompany him on our road trips, he was left with a wife who spoke only to announce she needed the services.

It only got worse when we got home.  Finally, I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital and after 2 separate stays totalling nearly 4 months, I finally had the right cocktails of medication that meant I could be trusted to be left on my own.  But I was far from “cured”.  I couldn’t plan meals and I certainly couldn’t cook.  The multi-tasking required of my brain was a step beyond what my impaired cognitive abilities allowed me to process without having a major anxiety attack.  I found just leaving the house an insurmountable challenge.

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In the eternal quest to fill my days with something, anything that was meaningful I found myself reading an article written by an artist friend of mine about a life drawing event she had attended.  The models were provided by an organisation called Spirited Bodies.  The organisation was founded on the principle that life modelling had the power to redefine the definition of what society saw as beautiful.

Having been curvy since puberty and having gained several stones as I had babies and grew older, my inactivity during my depression had resulted in even more pounds being piled on.  I always found my ability to make friends relied most heavily on my sunshiney personality.  But my confidence, the place where the sunshine gained its potency, was lost; not just misplaced but dead and buried under a mountain of fear and shame and disgust and futility.  My self-esteem had evaporated as I laid in my bed and tried to come up with another plausible way to kill myself while not destroying my children’s lives.

Spirited Bodies indicated that life modelling could be a way to improve not only the image you had of your body but also your own confidence and build your self-esteem.

This made sense to me.  I mean, look at all the beautiful art of nudes hanging on all those walls of the best museums in the world.  Those women were gorgeous.  One day that might be me.  That would be cool.

This all made perfect sense to me.  Not so much for my husband.

He was quite possibly the angriest I have ever seen him when I returned home from my introductory meeting with Spirited Bodies at a pub on Lavender Hill in London.  Quite rightly, he was angry because I hadn’t told him much about it.  I hadn’t even told him where I was going or who these people were.  He was worried for my safety.  On the other hand, it’s not like I took my clothes off or anything.  Yet.  Instead I explained that I had learned about the role of nudity in art:  painting, drawing, sculpture.  I explained how you had to choose your poses carefully because you need to be able to maintain that pose for what could be a long time.

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I patiently explained to the man who had been caring for me virtually night and day that this was important to me.  He said I had never done anything like this before.  And I said, “Precisely.”  I wanted to step so far outside my comfort zone that I wouldn’t have a point of reference for my anxiety or fear or depression to take hold of me.  “But you are going to be naked” was his only reply.

I went to the second workshop and my anxiety levels were a little bit higher since there was a fairly good chance that I would need to get my kit off.  I’d brought my dressing gown just in case I was feeling super brave.

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Lucy, of Spirited Bodies, explained that we would be drawing each other.  No one was obliged to take off their clothes.  They could choose to be drawn clothed.  We were asked to take some paper and our pick of various drawing utensils.  Now this put the fear of god in me.  I can’t draw stick figures.  As I fidgeted around in my seat trying to look uber cool and comfortable holding my pencils and charcoal, Esther, of Spirited Bodies, stood in the middle of our circle and dropped her sarong and simply said “Draw.”

I looked at my blank sheet of paper.  I looked at the form standing in front of me.  I looked at my pencils.  I looked back up at Esther’s elbow, then her toe, then her neck, then her knee.  I looked back at my blank piece of paper.  As I put pencil and charcoal to paper, I struggled to transfer what I saw in front of me to the paper in a way that anyone would recognise as a human form.  I got lost in the moment and before I knew it 5 minutes was up, Esther had picked up her sarong and tied it around her neck and we were being asked how our drawings looked.

In those moments I realised that Esther had become little more than a bowl a fruit, a beautiful bowl of fruit, but a bowl of fruit nonetheless.  As more people volunteered to model I then realised that the beauty of life modelling is that everyone completely forgets that there is a naked person in the room.  The new model is consumed with thoughts of holding the pose, maintaining utter stillness, and the itch on her nose.  The artists in the room are consumed with capturing the curve of the spine, the droop of a breast, the length of the femur and those hands and feet.  Oh, the dreaded hands and feet.

One observation I’ve made is that not a single one of us looks even remotely the same when we don’t have our clothes on.  I’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between a bowl full of apples, but put a bunch of naked bodies in front of me and I can guarantee that every man’s knee looks remarkably dissimilar to another man’s knee.  One woman’s nipple looks very different from another’s.  Everyone has something rather odd about their elbows.  Shoulders are amazing.

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I took my turn that day.  For a surprisingly brief 10 minutes I joined 2 other models, both males, and we pretended to be caught in the heat of a battle over a parking spot.  As one does, wearing nothing at all.  The funny thing was, it never crossed my mind, that I was nude.  I was more worried about holding the pose, not moving, respecting the other models, and making sure the artists had something interesting to capture.

On the day of the Spirited Bodies event at the Battersea Arts Centre, I was more excited than nervous, although in that moment before we took to the stage I thought I might vomit.  I took solace in the fact that I was surrounded by dozens of people, young old, small, large, fit and unfit, of every colour, with disabilities of the bodies, with tattoos, with scars, with breasts, without breasts, shaved, unshaved, tall, short, with hair long and short and colours representing every shade of the rainbow.

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There was an audible gasp from the artists as we entered the room.  We assumed our positions like professionals.  You would have thought we had been doing this all our life.  Models interacted with each other on the various levels of the stage and created beauty.  Created art.

During our breaks and at the end of the day, the models were given an opportunity to walk around and view the works that had been created.  It was also at this point that we got to interact with the artists.

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It was at this point that the real value of life modelling comes into its own.  Artists were effusive with their praise, generous with their compliments and it was easy to dismiss them as just being polite.  But then you looked at the art.  You may recognise your bum or your breasts or your back.  And there you were:  in a beautiful, stunning, breath-taking piece of art.  The partnership between artists and model had combusted and created this incredible piece of art.

My opinion of myself, my body, my whole being changed in an instance.  I could feel the endorphins coursing through my veins.  I was bubbling over with confidence, enthusiasm, passion, and joy.  Pure unadulterated joy.

The very next day I registered with RAM, the Registry of Artists Models.  Within a week, I had a few inquiries.  I had business cards printed.  Every time I posed, I handed out my business card to everyone in the class.  Soon I had more inquiries.

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Now I regularly model for various classes, universities, and groups all over the south.  Most of my work is in London but I do travel as far as Hook in Hampshire usually once every 6 weeks for a lovely group of older artists who create some of those most creative and remarkable work I’ve seen.

Sometimes I get cold.  Most are very accommodating about turning up the heating.  Sometimes the job is 2 hours of short poses (< 5 minutes each) which is exhausting and painful the next day when you are as unfit as I am.  Sometimes the job is a couple of really short poses (<1 minute) followed by 3 hours of one very long pose for 3 weeks in a row.  Must make sure that is a comfortable pose!

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I have met so many interesting people outside my normal social demographic. Life modelling has made me aware of my body and certainly more aware of the people around me.  I have gained confidence I never had and my self-esteem has fully recovered.  I can honestly say that life modelling has changed my life.

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(In defense of) Promoting Life Modelling

We come under criticism by some life models who resent that what we do opens up life modelling to many who would otherwise not get into it. We contribute to an ever increasing pool of life models, and those who depend on it for their livelihood and are without other alternatives worry that they may lose work as a result. It is feared that new, less experienced models will accept lower wages, and some who already have decent incomes, will even do it for free. I appreciate these comments, they have some validity, but I also have plenty to say in response.

  1. Most who try life modelling with us will do it just for the experience, not continuing further. Life modelling is not easy or for everyone; you have to be particularly good and/or unusual to make it work regularly.
  2. Artists or class organisers still overall prefer regular, reliable models they trust. A few groups low on resources will opt for cheap models.
  3. We also contribute new artists to the pool as we promote drawing in our workshops. A newcomer is equally likely to take up life drawing and they often do, thus expanding the possible market for life models.
  4. We are part of a general increase in life modelling/drawing interest in the UK and beyond at the moment as evidenced by several newspaper articles on the subject and TV programmes, plus a rise in experimental as well as traditional groups, even if curriculum based life art in art schools has declined.
  5. I understand being stuck in a rut and down on your luck for years on end, on drugs even, in unhealthy relationships, not enough real friends… it can be hard to appreciate others’ good fortune then. Actually in the long run it’s better to celebrate others’ success, and at least not be down on it. Emphasizing negativity only brings more of it, when maybe what you really want is a bit more of the pie! I know what it’s like to look at others and imagine they are doing better than you and perhaps assume they are more privileged. Did that for years and it is miserable, futile and wrong-headed. In that respect, karmically I may well deserve the very same that is being done to me now. On the other hand I know that in that time there is no way else to be; that is how the world looks, and being less happy, you have less control over it or ability to alter that viewpoint. I accept this state in others just as it was in me and bear no malice in return or grievance. It is a shame they feel that way, but c’est la vie.
  6. One criticism leveled at us is that Lucy and I are privileged as life models go, both being English, almost educated (well Lucy went to Cambridge, I barely passed an experimental theatre degree!) and with posh accents. It’s easy for us to make this happen – what about the majority of foreign life models whose English is not so good? One of the reasons they like or choose to live in the UK is that open free market policies have made us a diverse culture with the possibility for trying new and creative projects and businesses. There is help available for starting up new businesses and if you put your mind to it there are ways to transform your potential. Lucy and I have both suffered with mental conditions, Lucy with physical conditions, and I have worked alongside Eastern European ilegal immigrants (in the ’90s before their migration status had been changed) as a sex worker effectively choosing life options beneath my status. The stigma and psychological damage rendered by this has taken years to overcome.
  7. Lucy and I fully offer advice when asked about how to improve others’ projects. We happily share what we know, for free. And that goes for life modelling too, since the benefits to others seem too positive to be overlooked. Yes we do charge for workshops, but if you are broke it is totally possible to attend for free. And our availability extends beyond the paid workshop. Naturally helping others helps us. We have both gained immeasurably from this project in ways that go way beyond any money made (which is negligible compared to the time/energy put in).
  8. I don’t need to write this, but it was bubbling inside me so I guess I wanted to get it off my chest!

Pictures to follow from recent event at The Mall Galleries. We have packs of 8 postcards of these photographs available for sale, including some of the pictures shown here. Get in touch if you are interested. We also have packs of 10 postcards of artwork from our events.

models chatting in the break
models chatting in the break

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a portrait pose
a portrait pose
a chain of models, in 'A Dance to the Music of Time'
a chain of models, in ‘A Dance to the Music of Time’
our version of 'The Pieta'
our version of ‘The Pieta’

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This brings us to the end of a very full and special season of weekly workshops around London and 3 very different events. This evening was part of Telegraph Hill Festival, local to me. 11 models created powerful poses based on the theme of a ’20s cocktail party, a naked protest, and a turkish sauna/baths. Some fabulous art work will be uploaded to Facebook soon!

Lucy and I will get to plotting the future imminently and then return with a new schedule after a short break. Thanks to all who have been involved, we love our art baby very much!

Enter Jaki Loudon, my Motivational Guru & Fellow Actress

Jaki cheered me up today as we waded into the backlog of promotional activities I have let build up…

Here’s what she helped me come up with for Why You Should Come And See ‘Girl In Suitcase’!

“This comedy-drama is inspirational, mind-blowingly honest and touches on poignant, contemporary issues. It approaches the human form in a new light making it unmissable – providing a wake up call to do something while the opportunity is still there.

Enjoy this new play by a new writing talent.

Spirited Bodies (the presenting company) is all about encouraging women (and now men) to step outside their comfort zone, and bare all. This is about shedding our fears, inhibitions and hang-ups relating to body image. This is about tuning into who we really are. Very few of us are actually comfortable with our bodies. This show may unlock a hidden desire to be seen as a work of art.

‘Girl In Suitcase’ is an autobiographical account of the relationship between a Mother – played by Jaki Loudon – and her daughter Rebecca – played by Esther Bunting – on their journey through life. Sara is now in the advanced stages of MS (multiple sclerosis) and has been estranged from her daughter for many years. The approach of death throws a bold new light on their lives.

Controversial issues about life and death are addressed in the play while an undercurrent of dark humour is ever present.

Allow yourself to be entertained by the antics of the cantankerous Sara and her libertarian daughter Rebecca.

Enjoy the inbuilt life drawing class. Come along and we’ll give you some paper and a pencil; give it a try.

Our characters highlight the need to grab opportunities while they still exist – before time runs out.

Time is of the essence.”

CAST:

JAKI  LOUDON

Trained at Academy Drama School & The Bridge Theatre Training Company. Theatre credits include : Gail in Gail Can Sing, Rat King & Captain in Dick Whittington, Sheena in Aurora, Queen Margaret in Richard III, Anfisa in Three Sisters, Violet and others in Find Me, Marion in How Love is Spelt, Flora in A Slight Ache, Time & Paulina in The Winter’s Tale, Witch in Story of the Amulet and Mother Miriam Ruth in Agnes of God, and many more

Film and TV credits include: Vodaphone Codes TV commercial, Charlotte Pope in CryBaby, Journalist in Patient 17, Penny the Bric a Brac stall holder in Coldplay’s Music DVD Life in Technicolour 2.

My lovely friend Jaki

ESTHER BUNTING

Trained at Rose Bruford. Theatre credits include Sara in Assisting Sara, Protagonist in An Ordered Kaosz, Young Syrian in Salome, Rose in Remembering Rose.

Esther wrote Girl In Suitcase, Assisting Sara and An Ordered Kaosz.

She currently works as a life model and started the Spirited Bodies events.