Tasmin explores her own internal dichotomy between artist and athlete in this editorial about her “making” side and her “moving” side.
I always felt that my sporting activities and my creative streak were two separate parts of me. I guess it’s because I’m a Gemini so I naturally thought it was my warring personalities. I always loved swimming and I was a bit of a tomboy growing up but I also loved painting, knitting, sewing and making stuff out of nothing. I never considered that the two should meet or influence each other. I started swimming lessons at 3 years old because the doctors told my parents it would help with my asthma. Fast forward 23 years (it hurt to write that I’m so old omg) and it still is a huge part of my life. Swimming has provided me with a pretty amazing opportunity to get paid to take people on open water swimming holidays. What’s better than meeting like minded people in holiday mode on some remote island in the Mediterranean.
I inherited the Powell family love for making, or maybe I just learned it from watching my dad and grandad in the workshop. My grandad ran a Joinery workshop where his three sons worked. My dad is the youngest and started working there after school when he was 14. Both of my uncles continued to work in fields that require craftmanship.
I would go to work with my dad in the mornings. My grandparents’ house was attached to the workshop and my grandad would take me to school and pick me up till my dad was finished working. I would walk up the steps that ran along the office and then past the sawdust collector, (and, depending on if it was getting emptied that day, through knee deep sawdust in my school uniform), through the gate and into my nan’s kitchen.
Listening to my dad tell me the story of how he and his brothers made two canoes from scratch and spent his summers out on the water. Making something for yourself and then taking it out and using it seems like twice as much fun compared to just buying. I don’t think my mother would agree. She slept on a mattress on the floor for 2 years after marrying my dad on the promise he could make a better bed frame than the one they looked at buying in a few days. Don’t get me wrong, my dad is a master of his craft, and like all great masters he took his sweet time. It’s hauntingly familiar to myself actually…
I was in primary school when a drawing I made of Monet’s Lilies was submitted into the Eisteddfod and I got a gold award for it. That was the height of my artistic career and it’s all been downhill from there tbh. When I chose my A Levels; Art Design, Textiles and English, I remember my mum saying, are you sure you don’t want to do something more practical like sport studies? Hell no! I couldn’t think of anything worse. I just spent the last 3 consecutive summers training every day for long swims and I wanted a break.
After doing some research about athletes with creative passions, I was surprised to see that there was a link between sports people and the arts. Serena Williams took painting lessons in Paris before competing in the French Open, then in 2013 she debuted a series of paintings. Terry Crews, a linebacker in the NFL, has a Fine Arts Degree and is an accomplished painter/Illustrator and furniture designer. Shane Gould won 3 gold medals, a silver and a bronze medal at the 1972 Olympics for Australia for swimming. She has a degree in digital film making and a master’s degree in contemporary art from the university of Tasmania. The similarities between the two practices in terms of what does it take to become an elite athlete and a successful artist? Passion for what you do, and the skill and determination to put the work in to improve. Just like a swimmer trains to perfect their stroke; an artist has to constantly work on their skills to execute their vision. Muscle memory is just as important to artists as it is to athletes.
I never considered how my swimming experiences influence my work, either by the places around the world that swimming has taken me or the water itself. When I began to think of my swimming as a source of inspiration, the scales fell away from my eyes (please forgive the bad pun but I had to) and a whole new world of creative possibilities started opening before me. All the shells and rocks I collected from my travels and the go pro footage of swims that I took to keep my memories alive were looked at with a new creative lens.
Swimming gives me a lot of time to think, so there isn’t a better place to think about new projects than the isolation of having your face in the water and the rhythm of your arms and legs going through the motions, of repeated muscle memory, strokes coursing through the waves.