In this week’s blog post, I’m talking about how I came to be offering coaching to artists and makers and what I love about seeing people fully occupy the core of their making practice.

The name happened in 2011 shortly after I’d finished art school in Brighton. I was starting out in my own practice while freelancing and planning to move back to NI and I’d taken on a marketing project that had a lot of moving parts (ie volunteers). It seemed like every time something was agreed, the whole thing would pivot and dart away in a totally new direction. In all the juggling between planning and doing and being, I felt like I was trying to ‘herd fish’ (and only later learnt of the cat-based version).

So Herding Fish became the label I used for my freelance work. Work that was using skills and experience from my former role as MD of an events company and applying them to various projects in arts organisations. These included delivery of a handful of training workshops – initially for Visual Artists Ireland and later at Flowerfield Arts Centre – that were focused on helping artists and makers with their online presence.

I came away those sessions with the sense that the hardest part of getting your work out into the world is getting really clear about what you’re doing and why you do it, and that once that clicks into place, other things get easier.

I’ve been interested in coaching for a long time. I’d worked on the Mind Body Spirit Festival for 12 years and had seen all kinds of transformative teachings and processes unfold. I have an instinct for seeking out clarity, and I wanted to train with RD1st on their Relational Dynamics programme.  The course would normally have taken place over 3 weekends (in Lancaster) and I’d never quite found the right time between projects, finances (and Fibromyalgia) to go and do it.

Then, as 2020 unfolded the training went online and I was able to study from home.  We all jumped onto Zoom, it became the norm, and that now allows me to work with clients in all kinds of locations. In parallel with my own experience, I love how this work helps people connect with the core of their creative practice and the space their practice occupies within their life and other commitments.

Coaching offers a ‘thinking space’ where people can voice their thoughts and sift through what is and isn’t important. It’s ‘person-centred’ which means each individual client has room to explore their ideas without me imposing external expectations onto them. I listen for connections and/or contradictions that might not be obvious to the client and let those steer the process.

In that space, the coach becomes an accountability partner walking alongside and helping each client focus on what’s most important. And when people are really clear about what they most want to do, the mechanics of getting those things done is so much easier.