20 years as a primary school teacher and senior manager had eventually run its course. I was overwhelmed and confused. A square peg in a round hole. My growth had come to a standstill.
Facilitating children's learning, through creative, purposeful and engaging enquiry had always been my passion and nurturing staff talent too.
Eventually, I was worn out. Anxious. Overloaded. Instead of spending downtime to pursue my own creativity and sense of self; I just slept or caught up with work.
Now the sudden realisation that all that giving had left me empty and lacking self-care; I needed freedom.
Mum had died too. Suddenly and unexpectedly in June 2013.
Eventually, I collapsed. I could no longer function at the 120 mph I was used to. I was barely managing 10. My nervous system broke down.
I sought help...many months of it - and still today it continues. Many amazing and wonderful people have helped me. Taking baby steps, I began to create a career and life that nurtured me first and so others. I continue to connect with many beautiful souls on this journey. You can read all about them here.
I spent a very long while resting and recovering. Slowly gathering myself together. I began to make - write, draw, paint, create. Something you would ALWAYS find me doing as a child. Revisiting my childhood joys was soulful and nourishing. Much needed!
Through artistic creating I began to feed my Spirit, fuel my soul. And I realised I was doing what I always loved to do, what I wanted to do and was good at. To pursue my creative vision and support others in theirs.
And that's how Running Loose was born! My freelance 'services' side to my work as a maker of books, painter and print maker.
If this sounds like you, you are not alone. I can support you on your journey too.
TRACY METCALFErunning loose
I guess I have always had a natural aversion to constriction and constraint. That is me. Being 'loose' in my own art is an important part of my artistic vision, an important part of me. Freeing up, being less tight, less controlled. A bit like the natural enquiries of children and the value of play!
As a child, I was apparently like my daughter – on the go from the word go. Living and learning through doing and feeling.
“Every child is an artist."
At the age of 6 an elderly village neighbour taught me how to sew. She bequeathed to me her sewing box. My first. When visiting us from Scotland, my step-gran would always bring me off cuts of material, odds and ends, useful bits and bobs - for my making. I loved sorting and re-sorting my sewing box of treasures.
Mr Brown, my primary teacher, saw my talent at age 9. I was invited to paint a landscape for the Head Teacher's Office. It was a sunset with North Leverton Windmill in silhouette.
Up until then, I always spent my time creating, making, sewing and playing of course; though making was playing for me too! I also used to somersault off my climbing frame by my legs! My Uncle Bill taught and encouraged me to take risks. This memory always amazes me! Today, I can barely touch my toes!!!
My Aunty Gladys taught me how to knit around the age of 11. After a few Dr Who scarves, I knitted clothes for my Sindy doll. Then for myself.
I went to a Secondary Modern School. Hartland Comprehensive School. I loved it!
Age 12 “There has been a good response from Tracy to all aspects of the work in this subject. Her design, practical and written work are all of a high standard.” [Mr Snowball – metalwork teacher].
Age 12 “Tracy is a very creative pupil who uses art media with skill and confidence. Her drawing ability is quite well developed. All this talent she puts to very good use as she always works very hard.” [Mr Barney - art teacher].
Age 14 “She has shown a flair for this subject producing work which is imaginative and of a high technical standard. I hope she will continue to take an interest in this subject in the future.” [Mr McGuiness - pottery teacher].
Age 14 “She is most capable and shows skill in this subject.” [Mrs Draycott - needlecraft teacher].
Mr McGuiness suggested I study 'O' level ceramics. It was additional to my A level subjects (English Literature and Language, Art and Design and History). I was the only student who sat this exam. In a hall all on my own. It was the only secondary school qualification I got grade A for. He saw I had talent in a very specific area of the arts and encouraged me. I dreamt of having my own ceramic studio, and began to design my own pots. What vision at such an age and this astounds me to this day!
Despite this, however, I only secured a Grade C at both O level and A level in Art and Design, even though my practice averaged B/A throughout my courses. Examinations I never really excelled at, until adulthood when experience and confidence and maturity and tutors combined to support me.
I was dissuaded from following a career in the Visual Arts by my Secondary School Careers Advisor. I cannot remember her name. I was also interested in fasion at that time. Like a lot of teenage girls. The year was 1987. An expressive time in fashion! It wasn't a 'safe' job if I didn't think I was THE BEST. Perhaps I should've been a bit more assertive, but I lacked that kind of confidence or 'know-how'.
“The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up...”
So I trained to become a primary school teacher instead...and I choose Art and Design as my subject specialism. I developed further skills in drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, ceramics and eventually focused on Sculpture and Film (Media). I graduated with a Second Class Honours Bachelor of Education Degree - Division 1. I was really proud of my achievements and enjoyed my college years. I have always liked school, I have always enjoyed learning.
Since 1992, my work in primary education has been based on a passion for encouraging children to push boundaries in all areas of learning. By not taking away their control, children develop creativity, independence and thinking skills that can continue to serve them in their own lives. By being a little less prescriptive, children can flourish, with a little more freedom and a lot more responsibility.
So, Running loose is a very good feeling and, at times, embracing this is wholesome, healthy and liberating and good for the soul. Children do it so well! In my work with adults, I encourage this too.