Monday, 29 October 2018

Welcome to my blog

Sometimes life goes full circle.

I haven't published a blog for about 10 years. I use to blog before the days of Facebook. Myself & friends would use blogs in the early 2000s as a way of staying in contact, it was our new version of letter writing. We wrote a lot of letters when we left school.

Then social media sucked me in, curiosity to see faces I once knew. Facebook gave me a way to track down friends & family I had lost touch with because of house moves, phone number changes and life in general. 

I am at a point where I have all the people in my life who are important to me and I want to hold onto. But I have turned my back on Facebook. It was beginning to give the wrong people unlimited access to my life. Facebook went from being a fun safe place filled with nostalgia and a shared past, to a place of anxiety and sadness. 

Facebook sucked me in then a decade later it has spat me out. Or I left, ran away for something new, by stepping back to something old, familiar and comforting. So I guess it is nostalgia striking again in its funny way.

Way back when, when I started blogging I was 23 years old, divorced with 2 children, living in a 2 bedroom social housing flat, on benefits, on an estate with no friends. Luckily my mum lived down the road. Back then we were still pretty new to the area. I had moved to Great Yarmouth for a fresh start when I was 18 years old.

When I put my kids to bed at 7pm every evening, their toys tidied away. I was alone. I didn't have anyone to pop round for the evening to keep me company and I didn't have anyone to phone. Even if I did, my kids would have been straight out of bed to find out who I was talking to. I would snack and watch TV. I piled on the weight. 

I knew that I didn't want another relationship. My kids came first. I brought them into this world and just because myself and their dad didn't stay together, it didn't mean I wanted them to have a new person come into their lives. Why should they have to share me? Plus I wasn't in a position to trust anyone after the childhood I had. Not every man is a knight in shining armour, some are wearing a nice friendly mask, but behind closed doors, out of sight, they are sometimes monsters. I couldn't take that risk my kids having the childhood I experienced.

So I decided to continue with my education. While I was married I had redone my GCSEs in English, at GFS Platform Great Yarmouth Young Women's Project, I got an A & B, highest grades I had ever achieved. Girls like me don't get As & Bs. There was nothing to stop me continuing along that path. It would give me something to do in the evenings.

I took part in a drama workshop via GFS Platform Great Yarmouth Young Women's Project, ran by Red Rose Chain Theatre Company. That one workshop grew to be a series of workshops, a script and a short film called Friday Night Shirt. I was really interested in the creative development and behind the scenes stuff. Jo & Dave from Red rose Chain nudged me to think about photography. So I decided to see what evening courses my local college had to offer.

My ex husband let me borrow his laptop so I could write an essay for a photography evening course I had been doing. I wanted to research Photographer's Jo Spence & Diane Arbus and it was at a time when people had started uploading a wealth of information onto the Internet.

When I connected the laptop to the Internet a whole world opened up to me. I will never be able to explain what a wonderful experience it was for me. I was no longer alone in the evenings. I knew my best friend had a blog, so I found it and read it. Created my own. I found myself exploring Live journal blogs, MSN hotmail blogs, chat rooms, MSN messenger. 

After I reluctantly gave the laptop back to my ex husband I went to the local computer shop on our High Street and I picked out a desktop computer. The shop owner gave me a payment book and each week I would go in and pay a bit off. It felt like it would take forever. But I kept chipping away at the balance. Once I had paid in full I was able to take my new computer home.

My Internet bill back then was huge, I defaulted on my bills a few times and kept changing a service provider. When I say huge I mean you were charged per min on dial up and an Internet bill could be £300 a month easily. Dial up Internet would take 5 Min's or more just to load one page. And nearly every page would mainly be writing because this was before digital cameras. The only way to share a photo online was by scanning it in. Crazy times. The Internet providers soon caught up and started selling capped packages with the introduction of broadband. It made things cheaper and quicker. That period of time heavily dented my credit rating in a bad way.

During that time I had several blogs as people moved from platform to platform. Then came Myspace, I enjoyed coding and designing layouts. I didn't really connect with people on Myspace though as I'm not a big music fan.

2004 I went to college full time. My children had started school and I begun a diploma in Art and Design. MSN Messenger and LiveJournal Blogs were my main way of staying connected to my friends and the world. 2005 I had to leave college, having two very young children and being a full time student had taken its strain on myself and my kids. My children needed me at home to help them navigate the world. I was really sad to leave college. I was sad that I didn't get to complete my diploma. But, I always like to find a positive and I decided I now knew what I wanted to do in the future. And I knew I had an education and a career waiting for me when I was ready.

Around this time Facebook started to become popular. People moved over to it. I felt my world shrink in a strange way. I always use to say, I loved the Internet before everyone turned up and ruined it. I enjoyed the Internet when it was all about ideas, words, and sharing experiences. Then digital cameras and facebook turned my Internet world into a sound bite status updates and photos. I took part, of course I did. I enjoyed it, I laughed, I had conversations with people I knew, people I once knew and people I had just met in real life. 

But when I turned my computer off I was alone. And struggling. By day I was struggling with depression, I didn't see anyone from one day to the next, things were happening that I didn't understand and the people who could have and should have been advising me and helping me were more concerned with covering their own backs and ticking their boxes then actually doing their jobs. I went through a very dark period of being suicidal. I was barely functioning. My kids saw me struggle and I watched them struggle. I was alone and had to try and find our way through. I dragged us all through that dark time and out the other side. We survived. Just. But it didn't have to be like that.

Then things settled down, life became easier again. We had a mini family meeting, myself and my children, like we always did, I raised my children to understand democracy and ownership. We sat down together regularly in family meetings to discuss things we needed, wanted to discuss, problems, places to go, you name it we probably discussed it. One day my kids made signs and had a protest about something, I do not even remember what it was about, but they were chanting and marching around the living room, WE WANT WHAT'S RIGHT! I was secretly so proud of them... Anyway one day my kids called a mini family meeting and they said they were feeling more independent and happier and they wanted me to go back to college. They said they felt like it was the right time. So I thought about it and with my mum's support I applied for university.

I pulled together a portfolio of artwork from college and work I had done during my time at home. I was so scared that they would laugh me out of the door. But I got an interview at Norwich School of Art and they offered me an unconditional place with them, they gave me a choice of Fine Art Degree year one, or the new Year Zero Fine Art / Graphic Design. I chose year zero because I thought if I can be an art student for 4 years instead of 3 then that would be great.

It involved a lot of travelling, 3 to 4 hours a day to Norwich and back by bus. My kids went to my mum's after school. I enjoyed the work and assignments. I liked the people on my course. But by Christmas I began to struggle. I was expected to be on campus 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, which meant I got the bus at 7:50am and I got home at 7:30pm each evening. I started missing days, and as I struggled I began to hate everything about it, the bus journey, the place, my tutors. Just before Easter I walked out one afternoon, leaving all my belongings and work there, I knew I would never go back. I had had enough, I was exhausted.

I didn't have a back up plan. I didn't tell any of my friends or family that I had quit. I didn't even formally tell Norwich School of Art. I just never went back. I would see the kids off to school in the morning, then I would get back into bed, shut my curtains and read. I read a whole series of True Blood books, I'm not even a big reader. I barely communicated with people. I shut off and I shutdown.

Then one afternoon I got to the last book in the series and I sat up on my bed and I decided I would apply to UCS Great Yarmouth Photography Degree. So I went through the whole UCAS process again and pulled together a photography based portfolio and got invited to an interview. I can't remember if I addressed why I had left Norwich School of Art during the interview. When I saw who was interviewing me I thought I didn't stay a chance of getting a place because I remembered him from when I had studied at Great Yarmouth College in the past. He had high standards and a successful photography career. But as the interview went on, it went from feeling like I was trying to justify my work to feeling like I was being sold the facilitates on offer at UCS Great Yarmouth. I relaxed, then I was told about a new course they were introducing, a Foundation Degree in Commercial Art & Design Practice, where I would learn a business, commercial underpinning along side my own specialism. I jumped at the chance.

The year I started Norwich School of Art was just after my friends from Diploma Art & Design had graduated from Fine Art Degrees, and I knew from their feedback that they had a feeling of what do we do now? and didn't really understand how to earn money from their work.

So I felt that a Foundation Degree in Commercial Art & Design Practice would be ideal for me. Plus I enjoy being part of new things, and that we would get to help shape the course for future students. I made sure I was a student rep during my time at UCS.

I was expected to be on campus 3 days a week and it was only a short bus journey away. Plus when I was really struggling at home I could email my tutor and they were understanding and supportive of my personal situation. Many times I thought of quitting. Girls like me don't have degrees. But I never missed a deadline. My first year I scraped through with a pass, I hadn't done the best I could because of stress and anxiety. Things at home were hard. My kids were struggling again. My tutor made it clear my children came first and made me realise I didn't have to choose my kids or my education, that I could have both.

My second year was better, I attended when I could and it was OK when I couldn't. When I was on campus our group was very small and our tutor was able to get to know all of us. It almost felt like we had one to one tuition. My grades were better and I graduated from my Foundation Degree with a Distinction. I went to the graduation ceremony and wore my gown and cap, my mum, my kids and my best friend were there. It felt amazing.

I went on to do my top up year straight after. I done a Arts Practice BA Degree Hons at UCS Great Yarmouth. I went into the year promising myself that I wouldn't waste any time thinking about quitting. So I didn't. The year went quickly. In 2013 I achievement a First Class Arts Practice BA Degree Hons. I didn't go to the graduation. I felt I had already done that. I didn't need to wear the cap and gown again. Plus the cost of taking part with hiring the gown really put me off. I've never regretted that decision.

In the October after graduating I started a job as a support worker with a care agency. I stayed in that job until December when I handed my notice in. My hours, overnight shifts, didn't fit in with my children. I tried. But it just didn't work.

Then my very good friend from my diploma in Art & Design Jane Ebel invited me round for a glass of water. I don't drink hot drinks. She had graduated with a fine art degree the year that I started my degree journey. We had a chat about everything and anything. We decided to have an exhibition...... So in February 2014 I declared myself self-employed.

I've been self employed ever since, I've been part of and organised numerous art exhibitions, I have meet fabulous creative people and art lovers along the way. I have written art workshops and delivered them to 2 year old's to 80 years old's. I have started bodies of work inspired by my life. And even selling jewellery on Etsy.

My eldest child has started their own degree journey and my youngest has left school and still figuring this world out. I am incredibly proud of them both. We are, and we will always be, a loving, caring, happy family. And my mum is still the centre of our universe.

2017 was personally a horrific year for me in many different ways. I took a step back from everything I was doing by Dec 2017, I needed a break from work and time to heal from the events of 2017. Plus I feel I needed time to gather myself together. If that makes sense.

Now it's October 2018, I am almost 40 years old, my children are adults, I have a first class degree, a career as an artist and I feel ready to share everything I have learnt and continue to learn on my very own blog.

I am Angie Hewitt, a Contemporary Artist from Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. England. I am using art to make sense of my Journey and I am using the Internet as my platform to share it with you.

Welcome to my blog.

(FYI my Internet bill is currently £40 a month and is still my life line to the outside world.)

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