Exposed: An Exposé

Exposed: An Exposé

Discovering the Beauty in a New Beginning

The Exposed Collection connects us to the emotions we experience when we embark on a new project or face a change in our lives as we know them, or both in my case.

How I Discovered Art

I’ve worked in HR for 10 years, always in social care and latterly with a charity supporting people with addiction, homelessness and other hardships. I worked for the charity for seven and a half years, the vast majority of my HR career. what a rollercoaster it was.  A fun one for the most part. Incredibly fast-paced, lots going on, lots to do and lots to learn. I’m proud of what I achieved there and the reputation I built for myself as being a calm, compassionate and empowering leader. I enjoyed it - I did some fun and challenging projects in equal measure and know I added value.

Then I discovered art in May 2023. It showed me my purpose. From those early moments dabbling with new mediums and techniques, I knew my relationship with HR had changed. There was an opportunity to do something different… I could be an artist! A pipe dream at the time, or so it felt, but something I’m now exploring as my new reality. I’ve always been creative and prided myself on being a disruptive voice within the organisations I’ve worked for… going beyond being a bastion of the organisation’s values, diversity and treating people well (as all HR professionals should) and encouraging people to think differently, through a different frame, challenging the norms and creating better ways of doing things. I had teams of people, who I empowered to believe in themselves and be as bold as I was. I was great at it, but looking back now I’m surprised I ended up working in HR, where it’s sometimes risky to be creative in a world which can be very procedural.

Art was a welcome release of creativity, reminding me of how much I loved drawing when I was a kid. I was consumed by it and went for it, creating piece after piece, buying a domain, starting to build a website. I even did an art fair in October - I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but still managed to sell some pieces. Art was my new purpose. It set my soul on fire. But it wasn’t the art per se, it was the emotions it was igniting within me… passion, pride. A new experience ultimately.

I’d already compressed my hours at work, so every second Friday was my art day. But it wasn’t enough. I got into the art fair late, meaning I had to create a new collection in 2 weeks. I took two weeks off work and literally swapped one full time job for another, painting for 12 hours straight each day.

Redundancy: A New Opportunity

All the while, there’d been something bubbling at work. A restructure. It was first talked about in July and there and then, I made up my mind it was over. I’d already decided what I was going to do. I’d become stagnant and needed to take this opportunity to start afresh, whether in HR in a different sector or something completely different.

What happened next was months of waiting for the process to start. The formal consultation didn’t start until October. Sitting with that in secret, having to manage my emotions more than I ever have before, was tough.

Emotional Labour

During my career in HR, I became a bit of an expert when it comes to emotions, how we experience them and the need to regulate them when we’re at work. When I did my masters in HR Management, I was introduced to a concept called ‘Emotional Labour’, which is effectively the art of emotion management when at work. We can’t tell our colleagues or customers how we really feel, can we!? I wrote my dissertation on it and was utterly obsessed by it as I found it so interesting. I took this with me in each of my corporate jobs after I finished the masters. There’s a concept within emotional labour called ‘surface acting’, where the emotions we’re required to present to people by the organisation we work for don’t correspond with the emotions we’re feeling on the inside, so the emotions we present to people are effectively faked. This bit in particular resonated with literally every single person I introduced it to.

Although doing it subconsciously all the while, consciously knowing they were doing it helped people to compartmentalise it and make peace with it. This came into its own during the pandemic. People remember the message I gave them at the time “put your own oxygen mask on first”, a nod to the cabin crew I interviewed as the subjects of my dissertation, but an equally important metaphor to prioritise your own wellbeing.

Emotional Labour is utterly exhausting. It takes a level of emotional resource and resilience that we don’t always have. It basically requires us to suffer fools, something I’ve never been good at!

The Impact

Although we all flit between needing to regulate our emotions and being able to portray genuine ones while we’re at work, I was deploying emotional labour all day every day at work from August onwards, save for a few stolen moments with colleagues and my team where we could talk about how we really felt in a safe space. I’d lost all desire and impetus to try and do all the things I’m good at.

Twists and turns took place during the consultation, the outcomes were delayed and the treatment of people within that process (myself included) was poor. 

That took a toll. It wore me down. I was frustrated, angry, sad, impatient - all the things people would never say when they describe me. 

When art should have been my go-to release of emotions and a meditative act, I didn’t go near it. I’d lost myself. My oxygen mask was nowhere to be seen, let alone firmly attached to my face.

When the redundancy actually happened, it happened really quickly. I’d negotiated to leave immediately as soon as the outcomes were confirmed, rather than working any notice. The outcome was confirmed on the Wednesday and my last day was to be the following day! Remember on Big Brother, when they used to sometimes evict people via the back door… no crowd, no interview…? It was literally like that. Most people didn’t know I was leaving until after I did. Sure, that was my doing as it was my decision to leave and quickly, but I hadn’t prepared myself for how that would feel.

What I was feeling was less obvious to me at the time. It was two weeks before Christmas, so I plunged myself into that as we were hosting. Christmas and New Year came and went. My original plan was to put my feet up over the festive period and look for new jobs in the New Year, but just before we ushered in 2024, I remembered who I am. I’m a disrupter - I challenge norms and don’t have time for the ordinary. I didn’t survive all that just to go back. I enrolled in a programme all about building successful art businesses instead. It might work out, it might not. What harm could it do. The realist in me knows it will be a journey and a lot of hard work, but the optimist in me knows it will work. It’s what I’m passionate about. It’s what I want to do and I won’t stop until I’ve tied everything to make it work. I might just have made a decision that changes the course of everything. That’s inspiring. My Piscean intuition very rarely lets me down - it told me to go for redundancy and it’s telling me to make a go of art. I’m listening.

This is the second time I’ve experienced redundancy. The first time, it enabled me to do the masters full time for a year. This time, I’m building my own business.

My masters dissertation was titled ‘From Feeling to Faking…’ The moment I closed the door on that job, I went from faking to feeling.


The Exposed Collection commits all of the emotions and feelings I’ve been experiencing over the last month to paper. I’ve laid myself bare to something completely different. I have a new purpose and a belief it will work, but that doesn’t stop the internal saboteur surfacing every so often to instil the doubt. The fear. The unknown. Hope’s keeping that in check for now.

Exposed is symbolic of new beginnings and the need to experience the emotions it awakens in us. The neutral palette soothes, but at the same time speaks to the raw nature of any ending or new beginning. Exposed encourages us to sit in the ambiguity of those emotions, calmed and at peace, waiting for those moments of clarity to guide us. 


Back to blog


Oh Chris! What an amazing human you are and what a journey – totally inspiring! Really pleased you’ve found your joy x

Emily Bettesworth

brave for sure Chris, totally admire your attitude and honesty!
bring on the next challenge and smash it man!

Kelly Cunningham

Beautifully written, best of luck in your new venture, looking forward to following your journey.

Rachael Taylor

Beautiful words Chris. You’ll never regret working in something you love. I never did! Well done you xx

Kim Walton

Just xxx all power to your artistic elbow xxx go for it Chris

Charity Easton

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.