Spotlight artist: Sara Pocher

Read on to hear from our second spotlight artist, Cambridge-based Sara Pocher:


1- In case our readers don’t have/follow us on Instagram, could you please give a little introduction of who you are and what you’re up to at the minute?

Hi, I’m Sara and I’m a second-year student of Chinese at Cambridge. I have been drawing since I was a kid but have only recently started to publish my work on social media and in magazines. I am currently mainly working with illustration and collage, often combining images and words to explore how each can complement the meaning of the other and have just started to experiment with digital drawing.

2- How would you describe your art?

I would describe a lot of my work as dreamlike and slightly surreal.

3- What drives you to create? What or who inspires you?

I take a lot of inspiration from my personal experiences and my feelings. Art and creative expression represent a therapeutic outlet through which I try to make sense of my surroundings: the physical act of creating a piece of work helps me control the sometimes-overwhelming tide of thoughts rushing through my brain, bringing a sort of order and structure. I am particularly drawn to questions of identity and like to explore how the interaction with the outside world can alter the perception I have of myself and others. I often incorporate elements from my daily life into my work, such as books or movies that I find particularly inspiring, discussions I have with friends, my thoughts and dreams.

4- Do you have a few stellar Instagram accounts you would recommend?

Sha’an D’Anthes (@furrylittlepeach on Instagram) is an Australian illustrator I find really inspiring, I love how playful and incredibly creative her work is! Other artists I really like are @phoebewahl, @daralnaimart and @cafeinacoli.

5- Do you feel your art has a trajectory and do you think it needs one?

As I practice more and more, I feel like I’m getting closer to develop my personal style and I’m starting to think about concrete ways in which I could implement my art into my future career (whatever that might be). Right now, my artistic practice is deeply connected with intimate and personal topics, but I’m constantly learning and growing, both as an artist and as an individual, so I’m curious to see how my art will evolve and mature with me. For the time being I’m trying to keep an open mind and experiment with different creative mediums and outlets as much as I can.

6- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given to do with your art?

Don’t comply to other people’s expectations and try to follow your own intuition as much as possible. What I find most inspiring in a piece of art is its ability to convey an individual’s personality and their own interpretation of the world, so rather than doing what everyone else thinks you should be doing, let your work reveal your own voice! Also, and this is something that I constantly try to keep in mind: creativity is a never-ending journey, so have fun with it!

 

Make sure to follow this incredible artist on Instagram at @_nutmeg98_ !

What does it mean to be a feminist? – written by someone who has changed her mind.

Harriet Pinto 

For a movement that concerns every single person on the planet, it is surprising that nobody seems to have really agreed on what it means to be a feminist. I have always noticed how often debates about feminist ideas devolve into disagreements about the movement’s very definition. Is it about equality, or fairness? Do they mean the same thing? Are men welcome in the discussion? What does ‘empowerment’ actually mean? Finally, and perhaps the most frequent: can you be a feminist and still do X, Y or Z? My response has always been to try to simplify the definition of ‘feminist’- if it is a simple, uncomplicated ideological belief, then everyone can uncontroversially call themselves feminists if they hold that belief, even if they aren’t going to become activists or outspoken critics of the patriarchy.

For this reason, I have always called myself a feminist, and have defined this as simply holding the ideological belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. I have thrown this catch-all definition at boys who have told me they are not feminists because they believe in ‘equality’ and so have no need of a concept which ‘only advances women’s rights’, and girls who have worried that particular actions weren’t feminist enough, or even contradicted their feminist beliefs. I wanted ‘feminist’ and ‘sexist’ to be mutually exclusive terms, because it made everything so much simpler.

But recently, I have changed my mind. I attended a debate at the Cambridge Union about whether or not Margaret Thatcher was a feminist, and on going in, I voted ‘yes’ in the pre-vote without any hesitation. Thatcher believed she should have as good a chance as any qualified man to be Prime Minister, therefore, surely, she was a feminist. Maybe her policies weren’t overtly or explicitly feminist, maybe she never used that word to describe herself, but she believed in equality, so she must have been a feminist. But by the time I left the chamber at the end of the debate, I had been swayed in my opinion.

Margaret Thatcher may well have believed in equality of the sexes, yes, but her policies, as I learned, affected women disproportionately and almost completely disregarded the disadvantages they already faced in society at the time. She was dismissive of the issue of expensive childcare which often prohibited women from working full time, advising them to find a relative who would be able to watch their children whilst they worked, and remained stubbornly oblivious to how impossible this was for many. She experienced first hand the male-dominated world of Westminster yet was silent about ways to make it more accessible, promoting only one woman into her cabinet during her time in office. She heavily implied a moral obligation on women to remain at home, unemployed, whilst their children grew up, and many of her economic policies have been shown to have affected women living in poverty far more than their male counterparts, because they failed to take into account the level of financial dependency these women frequently experienced.

A belief in equality is obviously a necessary part of being a feminist. This is why the argument in defence of Thatcher, claiming that she must have been a feminist because she inspired many women, will not work. She demonstrated that women may rise to the highest spheres of power in this country, and that was hugely significant and inspiring to women. But it would have been perfectly possible for a fiercely individualistic woman who did not believe in equality to do this, and so the simple fact that a woman emboldens others cannot be proof of her feminism.

Margaret Thatcher presumably did believe in equality of the sexes. But despite the necessity of such a belief to feminism, it becomes meaningless when the believer has the opportunity to act on it, and chooses not to. The level of opportunity people have to act on their belief depends on how much power they have, and as prime minister, Thatcher arguably had more opportunity than any other person to make significant changes to the lives of women while she was in office. Her failure to do so means that her policies did not reflect her beliefs, and is therefore incompatible with the idea that she was a feminist.

This is why men and women in power who identify as feminists cannot escape from their responsibility to advocate and advance women’s rights and issues. A person working for minimum wage who has not had the opportunity to read feminist literature, who has no time to attend marches and protests, and who does not know how to challenge gender norms effectively, is still a feminist even if all they have is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. But for someone who has had a high-quality education, who has the social and economic opportunity to effect change, or who has legitimate political power, this is not enough.

These people have an obligation to look beyond surface level equality and try to understand how entrenched patriarchal structures mean that women are affected by certain policies in different, perhaps not immediately obvious, ways and to different extents based on factors such as race, sexual orientation and class. They have an obligation to see that just because they have not experienced disadvantage related to a particular issue, this does not mean that it is not a legitimate feminist concern. Margaret Thatcher was one of these people, and she did not do any of these things.

Inspiring others is not proof of feminism, and a feminist woman does not even have to inspire any other women. I don’t think she has to look a certain way, and I don’t think she has to either challenge or uphold any exterior model of a ‘good’ feminist. But I do think that she has to make use of opportunities which she has to act on her feminist beliefs, even whilst acknowledging that not all feminists have such opportunities. If someone does not practice what they preach when given the chance, their sermon ultimately has no significance.

Featured image source: picswe.com

Working hard, or hardly working? Definitely the former.

Sofia Weiss Goitiandia

Work-life balance is undoubtedly one of the subjects I write most about. Why? Put simply because in 2019 the phrase is popular, but the practice is not. We live in a culture that demands near relentless productivity and as a consequence, many of us lack a conception of when to stop, or even the need to do so. We blur the lines between work and home, compulsively check our inboxes, and may even believe that writing essays at 1am is the norm (sadly, it might actually be in Cambridge). All this, in many cases, to the detriment of our wellbeing.

I’ve lived the consequences of overwork first-hand. Your type A perfectionist woman who has felt the need to prove herself since she could crawl, I’ve used work as a coping mechanism time and again, suffering burnouts worse than a thrice-used match as a result. Luckily, I now consider myself to be ‘in recovery’, and am quite fascinated by what it takes to achieve that elusive equilibrium between books and bed – especially in the midst of a Cambridge degree. Whilst I haven’t ‘achieved’ it as such, there’s a few helpful strategies I’ve learned during my (ongoing) journey.

Firstly, if there is an activity that you need to do on a regular basis for the sake of your sanity, make the time to do it sacred. Whether it be a weekly yoga class, music lesson or counselling session, write in your diary and view that ink almost like a tattoo: permanent. Unless there is a legitimate reason – for clarification, this does not include a reading list – you should not skip that appointment. For me, it’s my weekly meetings with the therapist who has guided me through my eating disorder recovery, and now helps me generally to be more mellow, as well as more ‘myself’. I think at this point that someone would have to fight me (and win) for me not to attend. I would rarely encourage anyone to follow my lead, but on this one I do: book those appointments, and go.

Secondly, if I am debating whether to study or whether to attend an event that is not strictly academic, I ask myself the following question: ‘how often does this event happen?’ If the answer is once, I close my laptop and leave for whatever interesting talk or concert or [insert activity here] it is that may be on. For example, this weekend I definitely could have worked, but I chose to attend a public speaking workshop for women instead. Not only did I leave feeling more empowered than I would ever have felt by writing up lecture notes, but the event was a one-off with a speaker from the other side of the country. By contrast, my lectures are nearly daily occurrence, so I’ll find another time to tackle their content.

Note that had this piece of work been a deadline, and the workshop another Wednesday Cindies, I probably would have stayed at home. Not to work into the night though, but to sleep, and hence study more effectively in the morning. Whilst I lament Dolly Parton’s experience of the 9-to-5, I do believe it’s actually quite an appropriate working time-frame to adopt at University.

Finally, finding a work-life balance means – for me at least – learning to let go of perfection. Let me give you an example. Oftentimes the injunction to put work away for the day sounds fine, but the moment you’re stepping your foot out of the library door you realise you haven’t done something as well as you could; you turn on your heel and walk straight back in to do it right. This would certainly have been me in the past, identifiable by inch-long bags under my eyes and a litre bottle of coffee pretty much surgically attached to my hand. What did I get at the end of it? On average, 5% more on an essay. This, on reflection, is simply not worth it. Nowadays when the daunting realisation that I could do more rears its obnoxious head, I question: how much will this matter in one month? What about one year? Usually the answer is ‘not a lot’ and I bid adieu to the library.

Now if all else fails or the above seems too difficult for the moment, do not despair. There have been very many times during this journey where I’ve given in to the annoying roommate living in my head, who seems to think I’m a supercomputer never wanting nor needing rest. Even so, when this side of me wins and I fixate more on my work, I still try to find respite. How? For two minutes I put down my pen, look outside, and try to embrace both the wonder and insignificance of life.

I don’t want to pretend to live whilst actually buried in charts, assignments and to-do lists. I doubt anyone does. Work-life balance is a worthwhile quest and – I believe – achievable; but it is a process of iteration: fail, try again – you know the drill.

Featured image by the author 

Fab in Feb

Anna Mochar 

There are sure signs that spring is slowly on its way: the sun has started to feel warm again and the weather is nice almost every other day. Though there may still be some greyness and gloom in these final throes of winter, don’t let the practicality that February weather demands to curb your optimism or fashion choices. Indeed, there is a very special quality to February as a month: it is a time of contrasts. Winter is melting into spring: the clouds may be grey, but the crocuses by the side of the road are in bloom. Take some pointers from the world around as now, more than ever, pops of colour and interesting layered styles are what’s needed to find the brightness in even the drizzliest of Cambridge days.

It can be frustrating to wait for the right weather to start wearing favourite spring and summer pieces again. But don’t let yourself be constrained by circumstances! Simply adapt the way, in which you style more summery pieces, so as to make them appropriate for the chilly February wind. I like to wear my summery wrap tops and blouses with a simple grey or black turtleneck underneath, for example. Simply pair with jeans for a more relaxed look, or – if you’re feeling dramatic – a black velvet mini skirt, as I like to. Heavy (faux) leather boots will complete the look, while keeping your toes nice and dry when you inevitably step into a puddle on the way to lectures.

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Another personal favourite style tweak this February has been to add fishnet tights to what would otherwise be a very toned-down outfit. A chunky grey jumper and black skirt is a very comfortable and relaxed outfit – but add the fishnets and it becomes interesting. The obvious downside of this favourite wardrobe staple is the fact that it does not provide much warmth. So, consider wearing fishnets underneath a pair of culottes for those colder days when you still want to add a little detail to your outfit.

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In the same vein of adding a statement detail to a simple look, why not consider a statement scarf? A simple red scarf will add an eye-catching pop of colour and pull your look together. A classic outfit (dark top and trousers, or skirt) becomes a blank canvas that allows for self-expression with little details like that. Jewellery has the same effect: I have recently been loving tortoiseshell and medallion jewellery for the slightly vintage and folksy vibe it brings to my outfits. Find small pieces like that, which you can use to express your personal style and interests without forfeiting the comfort of a cosy layered look.

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Another thing worth doing is trying to get a different perspective on things now that we’re moving into a new season. Why not try and wear that long jacket or shirt as a dress? Or perhaps that fancy blouse would look nice paired with dungarees for a more casual look? You can appropriate any item of clothing to the look you want it to be, and this can be a nice way to break away from constraints you set yourself. Why not even try your hand at altering some clothes by shortening them, or adding patches? For example, I’ve been wearing this rust-red charity shop find as a dress a lot recently after removing the shoulder pads from the jacket.

There are many ways to find style inspiration this February and there’s absolutely no reason to resign yourself to a month of purely practical clothes. If you’d like to inject some fun into your wardrobe, or use the opportunity to make a style change (no matter how small or radical), there is no better time than the present. And February is no exception to that!

 

My week in doodles

Chloe Newbold 

When I initially decided to make time for a doodle each day of the week, I was anxious about remembering to fit in this daily five minutes of creative reflection. I’ve always found myself to be an all or nothing person, either to be found throwing my full self into as many activities as possible or in complete burn out mode. While I am grateful for the array of activities on offer at Cambridge, it provides the perfect environment for perpetuating this cycle of strenuous activity and exhaustion.

Two days into my doodling I received a head injury at taekwondo that left me with a mild concussion. All of a sudden the black and white of my all or nothing approach to life felt like it was left with the complete blank page of empty days stretching ahead, unable to focus long enough to attend lectures, too nauseous for exercise and frustrated at my inability to read. Ironically, the doodles that I thought I wouldn’t have time to complete became a quiet moment in my long days of silence and frustration. Days like Saturday and Sunday are most representative of my everyday experiences; part of that weird Cambridge ability to pack a million and one things into 24 hours; making campaign posters at an NUS meeting, a social housing exhibit, catching up with old friends, stressing over Karl Marx in the library and the inevitable Sunday evening rush to taekwondo.

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My doodles for the rest of the week used a similar style, but felt somehow like a creation of my day as opposed to an account of my experiences. A week packed full of drawing, colouring in, walking, catching up with good friends and A LOT of baking felt like a week in which I was fashioning my own day as opposed to simply living by the structure of my degree and extra-curricular activities. These doodles weirdly represent a visual display of a week of listening, listening to podcasts, listening to the advice of friends telling me to relax, but largely of listening to myself and the messages that my body was sending me, telling me to relax.

I have never really understood when people say that you can understand a lot about a person from the style of their drawings or their handwriting. However a closer look at my own drawings made me reconsider this. These doodles are not abstract in any way, they are all a “say what you see” in terms of my daily experience, featuring the faces of friends, the covers of books or things I ate. The lack of shading or variation in colour is a far cry from the bright patterns I am usually drawn to in my clothing and furnishings. These doodles, I guess, belong to a mind that finds it difficult to deal with silence and uncertainty, knowing that the day will be full of a million tasks and things to achieve. One thing I have learnt this week while completing these doodles is the importance of trying to see the blurred lines and the grey areas, the areas of compromise and peaceful existence between the extremes of living in black and white (or maybe I have simply had too much thinking time this week).

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Spotlight artist: Anja Huddart

Editorial 

Introducing the first artist in this new series of Spotlight Artist! Anja Huddart is based in London and has a very active Instagram showcasing her art: @anja_inthemaking. Having seen her varied and beautiful aesthetic, our co-director Bea got in contact with her and asked her if we could feature her on our own account and if she could answer some questions about her style and life as an artist. These are Anja’s thoughts on the questions we sent:


1- In case our readers don’t have/follow us on Instagram, could you please give a little introduction of who you are and what you’re up to at the minute?

I’m currently a first year student on the BA Costume for Theatre and Screen course at Wimbledon College of Arts, UAL. In school, my favourite subjects were Art, Textiles, Photography and English Literature – so a lot of the references in my work come from books or great art masters. What’s fun to me now is transitioning from a flat canvas to one on the body, and layering my ideas with those of the director / designer.

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2- How would you describe your art?

I think a lot of my art comes from the common yearning to do something bold and unexplored, which often amasses itself into multimedia work. I like to play with colour first and foremost, and from there figure out the high and low points of interest in the image, where to place the texture and what should fall to the back. But I always have an itching to bring something out of the frame, to make it tangible and ‘real’, so in my downtime I like to experiment with small canvasses on which I layer scrap fabric from my collection to create fabric palettes for personal inspiration, like a sketch but in material form. They help ground me before I try for something larger.

My newest pieces are all topics that have been widely explored before; politics, the female nude and the depiction of women in the art-world. While the subject is fairly simple and therefore easily understood, a lot of my thinking, as a woman looking at women, is figuring out how different my view is from the ‘Male Gaze’ that has come before. The nude has become somewhat controversial, with fewer men seen stripped down in the paintings in galleries, the equality of nakedness out of balance. Yet to me it is a new area to explore, born from intimate sittings with a model, the act of looking before pencil touches paper burning in anticipation.

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3- What drives you to create? What or who inspires you?

My motivation has always been to have a go at all techniques and see how I can combine and layer them to create new meanings and ways of looking. I don’t think you can ever exhaust these topics. Nature rules all – plants, flowers, organic contrasts in colour or texture that I happen upon. I also used to do ballet, so the way the body moves by itself and within a certain space is also something I find enchanting. Off the top of my head, the artists that I love include: Guerilla Girls, Tracy Emin, Yayoi Kusama, Louise Bourgeois, Anselm Kiefer, Giacometti, Francis Bacon, David Hockney, and Sir Howard Hodgkin.

4- Do you have a few stellar Instagram accounts you would recommend?

I love to see an artist’s process, so that’s often what I seek out on Instagram.

@emily_jeffords is absolutely terrific, as are @_hiedra_ @ryhew @andrew.salgado.art @ineslongevial @emmacutrie . The list could easily keep going!

5- Do you feel your art has a trajectory and do you think it needs one?

I think my art will naturally develop as my position and ability to find time for art changes. For now, its personal, and a challenge to myself to stimulate new ideas from my experiences. Artists are born narcissists, but that’s also what people are interested in! I would love for my art to mature into something more serious, and I think keeping a future goal of some kind is important for self-belief, but what will happen next is a mystery to us all.

6- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given to do with your art?

Not to doubt my instincts, and to remember to take a step back often so I don’t get caught in the corner ignoring the rest of the canvas.

Thank you! xxx

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Meet the founders of the Cambridge Women in Media Society

Blanca Schofield-Legorburo

As someone interested in both the representation of women in media and in a career in the field, I was so excited when I saw that a new society had been set up this year for Women in Media. I quickly sent an email to the committee asking if I could be involved, then received a really friendly reply and went to a welcome meeting.

The founders, Anya Cooper and Natalie Brierley, have shown such enthusiasm in spreading awareness of their new society, but also of the broader image we receive of women in media, be it music, TV, journalism or another area. In just under two months they have managed to put together what looks to be an amazing conference in the Union, with six keynote speakers who are prominent in the media, taking place on the 3rd March. I recently sat down with these two lovely ladies to talk about the conference and what this society means to them.


What inspired you to start this society?

Natalie: We were so surprised that there wasn’t already a WiM society in Cambridge, considering that there is such a big journalism, blog, podcast and creative presence here. We want this to be not just for networking, but also to discuss ideas around the ways in which women are presented. It is important for women to be more present in all careers within media as if there are no women in those roles then the way they are presented will inevitably be skewed.

Anya: This summer I helped organise a conference by Amnesty International on Student Journalism; there I met students from Manchester who had already established a WiM society in their university. A national initiative was then started whereby societies would be set up in several universities in order to build a network of female support across the UK.

Tell us about your launch night with the Hip-Hop society

Natalie: We co-organised a hip-hop society night as a kind of launch for us, which was for fundraising, but also for celebrating this platform for women in music. Music is still an area where women are strangely under-represented, particularly in styles such as hip-hop and, in fact, the Hip-Hop society is looking for more female members.

What are your hopes for this conference you have planned?

Anya: We are hoping that this conference will empower aspiring women and NB students and will give an insight into the nuances of different experiences in the field. For example, this summer I saw Lindsey Hilsum from Channel 4 speak about her career as a reporter in war torn countries. She explained how, unlike their male counterparts, female correspondents pretty much always get 100% of the story in the Middle East, as they are given access to communicating with more people in these areas: as a woman, they are seen as less of a threat. I don’t know about anyone else, but I become frustrated when every women’s talk I attend is restricted to talking about how women are repressed. These conversations need to be supplemented by evidence of empowerment and achievements. This is why Hilsum’s ideas about how being a woman can be used as a tool in unexpected ways in journalism were so inspiring to me. It is also important to represent the different intersectionalities in our society and culture, and so we have women from various backgrounds coming to speak.

What are some thoughts that you have been having on women in media?

Anya: We want to include male allies and hear their experiences about journalism and about working with women. We think it is fundamental that men are included in the conversation, as dialogue is such a significant element of any solution.

Natalie: There can be a tendency for women to be pressured to cover topics only about women – they should feel confident to cover that but also more!

Anya: We need to tackle the objectification of women – this is essential because issues around Women in Media go beyond the boundaries of the profession. Media is everything that we consume – it is not limited to journalism but everything we watch, listen to, read – it fundamentally effects, and often skews, our perceptions as a whole.

What are your future plans?

We want to make the conference an annual occurrence! We are also currently discussing ideas around organising an art show which looks at the way female and NB bodies are presented in media – if anyone is interested in being involved do let us know! We are also thinking of including men in a panel and hearing about their experiences of working with women and representing women, and see how we can create an open collaborative atmosphere. CV workshop events will also be on the agenda for those who are focused on the career aspect.

After this year’s conference we will be looking for a committee as half of us are graduating! It is so important to us that this society continues to flourish and so we hope to organise more and more opportunities and events.


Thus my conversation came to and end with these women, who are so motivated, fun and friendly! Make sure to book your tickets for their fantastic conference, the first ever of its kind in Cambridge, which is taking place at the Union on the 3rd March.

All information can be found here:

https://fixr.co/event/584154752?fbclid=IwAR1ca0YCmCvSgOuucDxtRZtyNbZlJSbVMcjqQgBTU1K_obox0BS3cVbt0yM