Last summer I had the pleasure of spending some time with artist Halima Cassell. She is a British sculpture working in clay, marble, wood, and even glass.
To quote Wikipedia: “Her work is described as having “strong geometric elements and recurrent patterns that are often inspired by the repetitive motifs found in Islamic architecture and North African surface design”
The plan was to spend a few days with her and to photograph her sculpting. To capture the artist in the moment of creation. I envisioned detailed, tight shots of her hands on the blade while chips of stone flew haphazardly to the studio floor. Sweat on her brow as the forms took shape. The passion in her expression. The artist at work.
However, the visions in my head didn’t end up in my lens. I observed her making phone calls to gallery owners and private collectors, writing up proposals for art grants, meeting with museum curators to talk about her current show, and making connections for future ones. I helped stuff cards with photos of her work into envelopes to be sold at her various exhibitions. I went to a school play, ate dinner with the family, and read chapters of Charlotte’s Web before Izak’s bedtime. Picked heaps of ripe berries from their vines as the boys played in the front yard between the sculptures in the garden. This was not at all what I had pictured. In fact, it was better.
I witnessed a real, working and living artist. A woman who put in 12-13 hours a day on the business while making sure there was time for the family. I witnessed a home that was hectic, but full of life. A place where being an artist, a mother, a family was as seamless as living and breathing. Works from previous exhibitions sat next to soccer balls and bikes. Sleepy cats curled up on the stone structures to sun themselves. Even though this was nothing like I had imagined, I learned something valuable.
For Halima and her family, art is life and life is an art.
Thank you Halima, Martin, Izak, and Hannas for allowing me to be part of your lives. I was an honor and a gift.