It sounds romantic and inspiring, but moving around the world as a working artist can be a struggle as you need to deal with cultural differences and varying circumstances, all while creating your art.
Moving to China was not easy…the language, the people, the food! But if you learn to appreciate the smallest things and see what is around you, you get to enjoy it. One of my first barriers living in a big Chinese city (Guangzhou) was not knowing what was going on around me, not understanding the signs in the streets, etc., because all the newspapers and signs were in Chinese.
I had to study Chinese not just to survive, but to ask for food and give directions to the taxi driver, which required learning 100 Chinese characters (out of 3000), just to get me through daily life. Characters for words like small, big, up, down, clean, dirty, take away, go, slow, fast, were words that helped me get though the day.
This brings me to this amazing Ceramic Studio in the middle of the city in the park. For me it was an oasis. I found other artists like me, and a way to make ceramics; however, for many foreigners this was the worse place. By that I mean no regular toilets, they invite you to have tea for one hour every time you arrive before doing anything (even if you are in a hurry to do your work) but, I survived. I enjoyed the culture, the food, people playing Mahjong or walking their bird in a cage in the park, practicing Fan dancing, exercising, fishing, doing tai chi, and couples dancing.
Xiamen, China, People waiting in the street, 2015
My painting from Guangzhou, 2006
On the cover of the magazine Gazette, directed towards the expat community
Painting from the exhibition in Guangzhou
Guangzhou Museum of Art, 2006
When I moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia I was in shock with so many different cultures, that I couldn't focus on painting. Instead, I was drawn to clay and ceramics. I was able to keep working on my art and I set up my own studio, complete with a kiln and wheel.
India was different from China in that communication challenges weren't as difficult since almost everyone speaks English there, but arriving to Chennai with an electric kiln was problematic. It took months to figure out how to plug in the kiln correctly. The electrician and I were a team: he suggested ideas and I analyzed the cost, the problems inside the house, etc.,
My art Studio at Sanskriti,
Delhi, India, during my art residence in 2015.
One of the main issues in India is that the power goes out at least once a day for a couple of hours, and one entire day once a month. To make it even more fun, the hours change every time!
The first test firing was memorable. Everybody was there including the security guards, maids, driver, gardener, electrician, and my two kids (don't ask me why, but nobody wanted to miss the action). At the end of the firing, when it was getting dark outside and the security guard put on the light on the house, Bump! “fire! fire!” they shouted. One of the fuses in the fuse box caught fire so we had to cancel the test firing.
Besides this you have to learn to deal with other things, like appreciation of the culture. For example, 100 rupees will be at the end, 500. 1 hour is at least 3 hours and 1 week is a month. "Soon madam, soon" means never. Regardless of the challenges, it was fun and I was inspired to take professional photos there because I wanted to portray the beautiful faces of the people in my work. I love India, and loved all the places and opportunities that I have had on my journey.
My travels provided me with the opportunity to teach kids from many nationalities and learn from their different perspectives; helping to make me an open-minded artist/teacher.