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How the opening of my exhibition made me realise I’m finally in the right place!

Last Thursday was the opening night of my first ever exhibition in London. Probably the easiest, but also one of the hardest exhibitions as I’m being displayed at the coffee shop I work, Wilton Way Cafe in Hackney. Meaning, my job suddenly got way more exciting, as I can talk about my art work all day long, but I’m also more vulnerable. People have opinions, positive or negative, one of the key purposes of art and the thing I love about it, but this means you need to be able to endure criticism. However, it also means I’ve got the unique opportunity to get on-the-spot feedback and observe people while they observe my work.

But how did I get here in the first place, how did I experience the opening night and what did I learn from it?

After having left behind the corporate world, and in need of money, I was drawn to this particular coffee shop because they served premium coffee ánd focused on art. Every month they’ve got a new artist exhibiting his or her work. Once hired I immediately secured my exhibition, August 2017. I chose one style, decided on the colours and created a very appropriate series called “structure in chaos.” In my next blog I will discuss the preparations for my exhibitions to more extent, but today I want to focus on the opening of this specific show as it was my first in London and an absolute eye-opener! So let’s fast forward to the opening day and night:

I must admit I was nervous, very nervous, but in a thrilling way. The only way for me to explain that feeling is the way you probably felt as a kid waiting for Santa Claus’ Christmas presents. You are acting normal, doing what you always do, but somewhere inside you’ve got this restless feeling knowing that something exciting is going to happen. Well that happened! I went in a day early to get my work on the walls (optically straight I hope..). and when I walked in the morning of the exhibition and the first customer complemented me on ‘the new work,’ my work, I just felt so proud and happy but also my nerves got worse.

After finishing my shift I went home to arrange the last things such as flyers and business cards. As I ran out of time to print the flyers on proper paper, they did not exactly turn out the way I hoped they would. Luckily, after spending a couple of years learning how to deal with imperfections (these learnings are also incorporated in my art), I accepted this imperfection without stressing out. Thus, after forcing myself to eat some food to lay a foundation for the wine being served later that night, there was no way back and I made my way to the grand opening.

When I got to the coffee shop and people that I hadn’t seen in forever showed up, I was just blown away. Half way through the night the cafe was mostly filled with people in suits, former colleagues from the Netherlands, London and other international experiences. People you don’t necessarily expect to see in a Hipster cafe in East London (based on my daily observations), but the ones that made my day back in the corporate world. Seeing these same people make the effort to come out to see my work and support me – I couldn’t believe it! Also, lots of regular customers made the effort to come and buy art from me – the icing on the cake! So much love, so many good feelings and a fantastic night.

In order to grow however, I believe it is important to always reflect on things that can be improved. There is always room for improvement. This time it was the fact that 99% of visitors were either friends or regulars at the cafe, which means I didn’t grow my fanbase 😉 Note to myself: make sure to use different ways of marketing for my next event. Oh and for those interested to join me at one of my next shows, I’ve got one every month till the end of this year (see schedule below).

Besides the latter, looking back at the event I dare to say that the night was a real eye-opener. During the night I had the major realisation that I might actually be in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing. I was happy, sincerely happy. But this did not happen overnight. It took time, a long time, to find out what makes me happy and energetic.

For a long time I’ve tried to live up to my own and others’ expectations rather than following my heart, which brought me in a constant state of insecurity and fear. Due to this insecurity I wanted to impress myself and other people, show them I was smart enough to graduate in Business ánd IT ánd work in the Financial Sector without being a disappointment. I wanted to constantly justify that I was worth it, that I belonged there. I attended as many (networking) events as possible because there I could do the one thing I was secure about, socialising and convincing people that I was good at what I did. What I did not understand back then is why I ended up being so extremely tired after these same events.

Looking back I realise I did not speak from the heart, I tried too hard to live up to a future ‘successful’ image of myself, a respected business woman working 80 hours a week. In reality I was in a constant state of fear, trying to compensate for something I was not.

But this time it was different. Before the opening of my very first exhibition I was nervous but extremely excited at the same time, I could hardly wait until the opening of the show. I believed in myself and the works on the wall regardless of peoples’ opinion. I did not want to impress anyone, and most importantly did not want to compare myself to anyone, I just wanted to enjoy the night and I did as my authentic self! It was an absolute blast and I can’t wait for the next show!

———————–     Upcoming events

August 22 – September 3 2017
Bricklane Gallery, Shoreditch, London

October 5 – November 1 2017
Creative Debuts, Shoreditch, London

November 1 – December 1 2017
Acqua7, Dalston, London

January 13 – January 28 2018
Het Achterhuis, Roermond, The Netherlands

Lots of love,
Anne-Claire