Do Your Work

“Just do your work. And if the world needs your work, it will come and get you. And if it doesn’t, do your work anyway. You can have fantasies about having control over the world, but I can barely control my kitchen sink. That is the grace I’m given. Because when one can control things, one is limited to one’s own vision.”

Kiki Smith

The common misconception about artists is that we don’t work. Artists are viewed as rare creatures who thumb their nose at convention because they are too free spirited to be tethered to a mundane way of life. For this, we are either disdained or admired. While with some artists this may be true, there is one thing that is self evident amongst all artists-to be an artist you have to show up and work. And work beyond status quo. We have to set standards and expectations for ourselves, normally provided for in a traditional work environment. Art requires self discipline to do the work. To be self disciplined, we have to set our own schedule. To set a schedule, we have to know when we work best-day or night, before getting the kids from school, after, or even to have kids in the first place. The beautiful yet exhausting state of being an artist is to continue to intentionally make intuitive decisions so that we can show up and work. At least it is in my life.

Most of the decisions I make originate from intuition. Sometimes they are viewed as impulsive. Sometimes they actually are impulsive. But most of them are based on the knowledge that I have at the moment. I do this in my artwork, too. I make artwork based on the knowledge that I have at the moment. And I make no distinction between art, craft or production. Each may have a different end goal, but all come from a need that I must fulfill. An idea, a concept that needs to express itself by way of the skill I have. A lot of what I do, I follow a formula to carry out the process. And as much as I follow the formula, I still don’t have complete control over the outcome. The piece has a life of it’s own. And I try not to get too disappointed when it doesn’t turn out precisely the way I wanted. I work hard to tamp down my expectations of what it should look like and let it be what it wants to be, and work with it from there. I make it work. What else can I do?

Another common misconception- that to be a master you must have complete proficiency over the process and know exactly how it will turn out. I don’t know if this is necessarily a truth. It doesn’t allow for the artwork to speak- for itself or for you. And it keeps people from experimenting with art. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard students in art class complain they can’t even make a stick figure-that’s why you’re in the class; to learn, to practice, to get better and progress in skill. I have an intimate knowledge of the materials. But even with that, unique, brief moments can happen, that will never happen again, which changes something in the process. This incident then challenges everything I know and have known for the past umpteen years. I can either allow it to be and work with it, or scrap the whole thing. I’m still learning. And I’m curious, so I will continue to learn.

And one more misconception is creativity is limited to art in one form or another. I’ve chosen the visual form of art and the process of textiles because it’s something I relate to more than any other form out there. But it’s creative to come up with a sales pitch and it’s creative to come up with a scientific theory and test it’s truth. Creativity isn’t bound to any specific form. The only boundaries to creativity are the ones I create. That’s why it’s important to continue to learn and stay curious. To stay intimately acquainted with creativity is to follow a path that isn’t necessarily easy and sometimes ugly, but can lead to some pretty amazing things, circumstances and people. It’s a never ending, every changing path that I’ve consciously, yet intuitively, chosen to walk.