Thursday, 23 April 2015

The Value of ‘Being’

A Day with Sam Winston:
The Value of ‘Being’

Lucy Brown

It was a pleasure to welcome Sam Winston to Staffordshire University last month for a one-day lecture and workshop, organised by Alke Groppel-Wegener.

“Sam Winston creates sculpture, drawings and books that question our understanding of words both as carriers of messages, and as information itself.”
 Chris McCabe

Sam came humbly, with some outstanding, beautiful work, and a wealth of mental wisdom to share. Crafted with such precision, his pieces exemplified a practitioner at peace with his process. 

“Do what you love,” I wrote as I listened to Sam speak – a timely reminder for all who aspire to keep their personal practice alive amidst the demands of our busy lives. As teaching staff we must also remember to pass this lesson onto students, to encourage them to do the same.

Sam spoke of recognising the value of the process whilst making new work. He said, “The work is the teacher. The question is the teacher. The enquiry is the teacher.” In his piece, Drawing Breath, Sam presents the value of this:

Winston, S. (2014) Drawing Breath

We often loose sight of the value of process in a ‘results’ driven society where we’re taught that the end product is all that counts. What of the value of the journey, and the road that carries you along the way? “Beyond travel, doing, teaching, working, just ‘being’ in the making is as good as it gets,” in Sam’s world.

In the afternoon, the group discussed how the values of society effect the values of education, which in turn effect the values of a personal working practice. Sam’s workshop was a pertinent opportunity to pause and consider the current values of the educational, creative space, both at our own institution, and beyond. Is our society and culture currently promoting value in simply ‘being’ and making personal, creative work, as opposed to constantly ‘doing’ something else – arguably not.

Throughout the workshop I was also reminded of the value of, "empowered reflection," through the use of journals, notebooks, working drafts, simple mark making and play. It is easy to forget to document and record the process, allowing anomalies and 'failures' to find a place.

Sam reminded the group that life will always get in the way of an ideal working process, and that you will often feel, as you've felt throughout life, that failure is bad. A conscious awareness of the value of process requires daily contemplation, and practice. He said, "The enemy of doubt is trust," and therefore in order to progress, we are to trust our minds, and our bodies to generate work through the space of simple 'being'.

We discussed how the 'back' part of our brain is working subconsciously on our behalf 24/7 - fast as lightning, breathing, processing, producing - executing a whole range of bodily functions without us even noticing. The 'front' area of our mind, in comparison, is actually rather slow, to think, create, work. If we can learn to trust the natural abilities of our body and mind in their 'being' state, how much more at peace may we become with our working processes.

Further information about Sam and his work can be found online at:

Image Credit:
Winston, S. (2014) Drawing Breath Available from: