We asked Tania Holland, a professional artist based at the Red House Glass Cone, some questions about her experience of working in the art industry. Here’s what she said
How long have you been an artist and what made you decide to use the medium you work with?
I am someone that has naturally, from an early age, drawn and made things. I committed to the idea of art as a career when I chose it as an A-level and began my career in earnest in 1995. I went on to found the Tania Holland Gallery in 2008 when I relocated from the south and solved the problem of employment by opening a shop in Bridgnorth! Whilst there, I developed my current style, initially in response to customer demand for postcards showing the picturesque town. I had always worked experimentally, learning techniques with a large variety of media as I went along, but I began incorporating snippets of the local paper to enhance the meaning of the historical buildings that I was depicting and the rest is history!
How did you learn to be an artist? Did you take classes? Do an apprenticeship?
Following a Foundation Course and my degree in Fine Art at Oxford University, where I specialised in sculpture, I went directly into practicing full time as an artist. This sounds straightforward, but a degree in art is just a starting point and there are no manuals for being an artist! A natural aptitude helps and you don’t have to be formally trained, but you will need an open mind, determination, resilience, inventiveness,
resourcefulness and much more to achieve your goals. Personally, I have aimed to accumulate as much experience within my field as widely as possible and tried to make my work original.
What is your favourite part of the process?
Like many people, I love to start a new project, but have to use a bit of self discipline to finish it off because the next crackpot idea is calling for my attention!
I think it was inbuilt and therefore inevitable that I would one day be working in the creative industries, but you could also blame too many hours playing with Lego as a child…
What advice could you offer people looking to get to where you are today?
I took a traditional path to becoming an artist, but many people become artists later in life following a first career. I think this can really help to fund your professional development – I wish I’d thought of that!
Making a living as an artist is not easy as it is a luxury commodity; be aware that the vast majority of creative people have some form of second income to help support their careers – this is nothing to be ashamed of. I know a good many accomplished and successful self taught artists, but I think a lack of understanding of formal technique such as drawing skills, colour theory, composition, proportion and perspective can let work down.
There are many ways to study technique and you are never too old to improve! Be prepared to make “bread and butter” work, but always keep your eyes on the prize!
From your experience so far, what have you found to be most challenging?
Aside from self funding, I find the misconceptions towards art and artists the most challenging thing to deal with – often based around fear. Do ask about the artist and the work (we don’t bite!); just because certain artwork is saleable doesn’t necessarily mean it’s high quality – buy what you love, not what the neighbours will approve of; that piece of art is really expensive because it took many hours and many years accumulated experience to make, it’s only possible to make a finite number of artworks per year and we have bills to pay too!
Do you have a favourite piece and can we see a picture?
I am pleased with my latest sculpture designs because I think I have finally resolved all the design issues after about 10 years trial and error!
Is there anything you are currently working on that you would like to tell us about?
I am currently trying to find ways to make the aforementioned sculpture designs suitable to go outdoors, watch this space! I also have a stand booked at British Craft Trade Fair, in London in the autumn so will be making lots of new pieces to take along to that.
Last year at British Craft Trade Fair was pretty amazing as the organisers had blown one of my collages up onto a vinyl and emblazoned the entrance to the show with it in Brick Lane, for all to see, which was a complete surprise and we nearly crashed the car when we saw it for the first time!