Working 9 to 5? Dagmara

Morning diaries pagesHere in the U.K the sea is still warm (apparently!) but there is a definite autumnal nip in the air and Winter Solstice seems much more of a reality as we get closer to the collaborative installation marking the culmination of our research for project Snow Q.  Our starting point was Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen story which has been changing in our minds into something of our own. We’ve been sharing our working process with one another –  where and when we work, how we get the inspiration to work creatively.  Our project manager Mark has been coming up with ideas at 2am.

Dagmara tells us a bit about her process here:

How do I get inspirations? They rarely simply just come to me.

I don’t stumble across them or wake up with them.

I have to lure them in.

If I show up on time and feed them, I know I am more likely to earn their trust.

There are several routines which help me with doing this. Because I live in a busy and lively and a messy house, I try to put time aside in the early mornings, before everyone wakes up, to write Morning Pages. I learned about them a few years ago, when a friend recommended ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron.

Morning Pages are to me a cross between a diary and a sketchbook. I seem to be able to write them only in the morning, in complete silence and stillness, when everyone is asleep. If life gets in the way and I stop writing them for a while, it feels like I have closed a gate or like I have stopped showing up. I truly recommend Morning Pages to everyone.

Morning diaries pages


Because my young family is getting quite independent now, I can leave them to get on with it and can still ignore my other commitments for a little while. If I don’t have an early start at work, I take our dog for a long walk and this gives me a chance to think of what was caught in my Morning Pages. I walk or I run. I am tremendously lucky to live here in Kemp Town, Brighton, near the sea and the little woods. So I have my dog, a great silent companion with me and either the majestic sea or the rolling fields of the Downs. The rhythms of tides, the ever-changing landscapes calm me down and energise me at the same time. If anything, this puts my life and art practice in context- even if most of my ideas come to nothing, I feel grateful to be alive and to be able to work.

Then I either go to the college where I teach Art or to my studio at the Phoenix Brighton. They are both energising and creative environments, filled with like-minded people who all try to juggle their family life, making a living and doing creative work. Conversations with my colleagues at work, most of whom are practising artists and designers and other artists at Phoenix are always a great source of strength and support to me. Teaching young people is also inspiring as I get exposed to ideas and imagery I would not otherwise consider.

I belong to Fabula Collective: a group of artists and designers I met a few years ago at the Uni. We meet to support each other and every now and then we collaborate on art projects. We all come from slightly different backgrounds and it is good to share our art practice:

And then, there is my wonderful SnowQ team who has become a new source of inspiration. Except for Mark, I have known my Snow Q partners for many years and worked in the past with Wendy (who is also my work colleague and who is also based at the Phoenix) but I haven’t witnessed their own processes of working until now and it is a very informative experience.

Having my own space at the Phoenix is really special:

At the beginning of each project, I cover walls with visual references of all kinds: works of artists I love, Mood boards of images printed from Pinterest Boards I create for different projects.

I try to visualise ideas I have described in the Morning Pages through sketches. This can be done through drawing or collage or material swatches .

Or I empty bags of garments and various broken objects I have been collecting over the years and see if I can provisionally put them together. They are essentially 3D doodles and extensions of my sketches. I love exploring the narrative potential of materials and and objects and I think that this suits my practice well because I like working with layers- layers of materials and layers of meaning.


studio 3D

As I drew and paint and cut and sew, new ideas may be suddenly rushing in and I write them on walls or on small pieces of paper which I stash on my window sill. I put my new work on my studio walls so I can see it first thing when I come to Phoenix another time.

That means that I can look at it with a fresh and hopefully a more objective eye but can often be a disappointing experience; it is disheartening to realise that the entire day’s work was rubbish.

  If I have to concentrate, I work in silence but if I have to do something more mechanical, I play music or listen to podcasts. I usually finish working at my studio or my teaching around 6pm and go home. Our family life has its own routines but if I have a little bit of time, I will do stuff that does not require mental energy but maybe is time consuming and needs to be done to allow me to progress with more creative work further. This can be cutting images for collages or sewing bits of textiles. As a result, I often bring bags of stuff home and clutter our already cluttered kitchen table. I try to clean everything up before I go to bed because I need the space relatively clean to do the Morning Pages eight hours later. I tend to spend weekends with my family and try to see exhibitions and performances as much as I can. They almost always enrich me and make me believe that the Arts are important for us to stay well.

Just to keep myself going, I take small challenges on with other Fabula members, such as  ‘January Draw’ .

There are days when work goes smoothly and I feel like the luckiest person in the world but more often then not, I feel very frustrated with what I create . I question myself as an artist and the purpose of art in general almost every day. That’s why my morning routines, my support groups and witnessing other people’s creativity is so important. I don’t think I would be able to go on doing art otherwise.


2 thoughts on “Working 9 to 5? Dagmara

  1. amanda

    What a lovely new post from Dagmara. I so appreciate how inspiration needs to be ‘lured’. The importance of self care with fresh air and needing the silence. How there are times when her life is amazing, but times when it is just frustrating. Thank you!


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