Continuing my series on emerging women, this post focuses on Amy Nettleton, a conceptual artist working in installation and sculpture. We chat about studio time, juggling multiple jobs and finding the determination to succeed.
How would you describe your work in the arts?
Ultimately I am an artist with a strong conceptual practice, working mainly in installation and sculpture. I exhibit both locally and nationally, but to survive I have part time jobs. Currently, I run workshops for a new art space in Suffolk, am artist-in-residence at University Campus Suffolk, and do research for curator Catherine Hemelryk.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced as an emerging creative?
I live in a very rural area and conceptual installation is alien to a lot of people. It also makes it difficult to get to exhibitions and to find work. I have been really lucky since I graduated, having worked for artists on their residencies, delivered talks, helped to develop a local children’s art space and interned in curating at a contemporary gallery.
How do you manage your time?
I am hoping for an eight-day week! I spend one to two days at my studio; my plan was more like three. I spend the majority of my time on the computer, answering emails, applying for exhibitions and residencies and researching ideas for workshops. I am determined to work as an artist and not let the lack of money or time get in the way.
What, if anything, do you do to relax?
I go to my studio, where there is no internet or phone, to relax, work and just be creative, and I play wheelchair basketball twice a week for two teams in East Anglia.
How important is being online?
It is so important. I update my website weekly and have both a Twitter account and Facebook artist page. When I come across a new artist online, and I feel a connection with their work I always send them an email.
Does gender bring particular advantages or disadvantages in your experience?
I have a competitive nature and have always gone after what I wanted regardless of my gender. The majority of arts professionals I have worked with have been women. Tracy Emin has had a good go at thrashing down any barriers that may have existed for female artists, which I suppose has let the rest of us ‘get on with it’.
What is the one thing you wished you’d known when setting out on this career path?
I don’t think I knew how much paperwork was involved. If I don’t do my job, i.e. making new work, applying for opportunities and running workshops, no-one is waiting to pick up the slack. Time is not your friend. Knock backs are hard, but they are never personal, I think having belief in yourself and your own ability is the key, and that doesn’t come easily or quickly – I’m still waiting to find it!
As an artist who is paraplegic, have you found breaking into the professional world after graduation poses particular challenges?
I’ve been disabled since I was eighteen (I’m now twenty-four) due to a movement disorder called Dystonia; I use a wheelchair full time and have come across lots of challenges in being taken seriously as an artist. When I go to interviews or meetings, people immediately shake my assistant’s hand, ignoring me. I’ve learnt to speak up, appear confident and be resourceful.
The main challenge was finding a wheelchair accessible studio – it took me a year- but was worth it, although it’s in a graveyard next to a sorting office, so I meet a lot of postmen!
How can we find out more about your work?
My website is www.amylouisenettleton.co.uk, which is regularly updated with exhibitions and new work. You can find me on Twitter @My_Red_Studio. I am exhibiting at the Riverside Gallery, Richmond, London until the end of February.
Becky Hunter is a freelance writer and artist who has just completed her AHRC funded Masters in History of Art at the University of York. She is currently planning her PhD proposal on the abstract painter Agnes Martin.