A Day in the Life of an Artist: Sam Metz

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Continuing our series of features on A Day in a Life of the Artist, Sam Metz shares a one-minute film which details the making of two-layered sculptures from poplar plywood.

Visual description of the film: A white person with short blonde hair dances silently. Next, we see them in an art studio cutting pieces of plywood into undulating shapes. Then they are glueing layers of this plywood together. Finally, we see the finished sculpture, a flowing, layered piece positioned on a wooden box.

Just a few weeks ago I took my last trip to the studio. It was a much-needed quiet space for me, but it was also a space where I felt some fear and guilt for being in, with worries about the coronavirus. I am missing the opportunity to make things, physical things that you can touch – it feels vital and important to me in a time of uncertainty and in a time of waiting.

For this ‘A Day in the Life of an Artist’ showcase a thought was, of course to share some of my day with you, from morning to evening. This doesn’t seem to fit the reality of my practice however, and I don’t want to be misleading. Before the lockdown I was employed full-time as a learning producer for an art gallery. I loved the job and I loved the opportunities it gave me for thinking about supporting emerging artists and communities and for sharing a cultural resource with many people. In my small quiet flat, I miss it!

My work was such that the delivery of it meant I was often working weekends and struggled to get more than one day off in a row as well as the support I needed to lift heavy resources. This meant that I never got a full ‘day in the life of an artist’, because my life due to chronic pain and fatigue caused by Ehlers Danlos Syndrome is so often about recovery.

Person with blue jacket, face obscured cutting plywood on a workbench with a jigsaw

Sam working in their studio

Finding a few hours in a row for creation of new work has taught me to be resourceful and to work quickly. The limitations of my body have changed my work in many ways. I now create objects more than performance, because my body is unreliable. I have enjoyed the way that creating objects opens up my work to new people. I have shared small objects that I have 3D printed with a dancer via post, supporting her through text provocations to create a video of her dance movement in response. The challenge of new ways of working has been positive and has allowed me to create sculptural work as a result that shows the traces of movement.

In the short one minute video below I have made (it’s worth noting I am loving the format of a one minute film!) the part that references my ‘Day in the Life of an Artist’ which was in reality about 2 hours in my studio. It shows me sticking layers of poplar plywood together to make a layered sculpture.

The layered sculpture, which the rest of the film shares has come from a much longer process. It started with drawn shapes taken from the movements of dancer Danni Spooner, which I translate into a CAD drawing through film and animation. I then use the drawing to create slices that reference movement, the piece you see at the end of the film comes from a twisting movement, separated out into different layers like old style analogue animation, like slowing down the movement to see each frame.

I export the layered slices into simple PDFs that allow me to print them out and use them as a template to jigsaw them. Jigsawing poplar plywood has been exciting for me because it’s a lightweight material that I can handle on my own without support, it allows me to have independence in my practice without hurting my body. In the final frame of the film you will see the final ‘choreographic objects’ on plinths. They have a dialogue together, like bodies in space.

Two sculptures on plinths made of layers of wooden board cut into undulating shapes

Layered Sculptures by Sam Metz

My work is about non-verbal communication, from the body and relating to the body and is connected to neurodiversity and stimming. It will often reference repetitive movements. I am interested in affordances of action, how you can read movements onto objects through visual empathy, so the placing of the works together is as important as their construction. These works will be on display as part of a Fruit Factory Network exhibition at Humber Street Gallery in the summer.

Like many artists, I cannot wait to return to my studio, both the working space you see in the film and the Makerspace in Hull, a space that allows me to get access to laser cutters, 3d printers and other tech that informs the production values of my work. Like many people also I am high risk due to underlying health conditions. I think it is an interesting time for disabled people, who have long asked for reasonable adjustments that would enable them to work remotely to access their work and manage their conditions, and also in the framing of what disability is. I hope that it will, after the sadness be a time where we look again at the social contract and suggest what can be done to support each other.