Serving is an Actual Job

The struggle you’re facing is a test to see if you’re truly committed to the life you say want.” -unknown

Boy, does that ring true right now. Since the closure of Textiles West in 2020, I have had mixed feelings about the whole thing. When the Covid-19 pandemic closed all in-person events and classes for a good year and a half, we weren’t sure if there would be any recuperating our momentum toward success. And we tried with on-line classes and events, but it was a lot of work. And in the end, there were only a few people trying to maintain the survival of the entire organization. So, it was decided to close.

We liquidated what we could and donated a lot of equipment to the Manitou Art Center.

While on the one hand, it’s been difficult to see a dream I’ve dreamed for a while shut down for reasons beyond ANYONES control, it’s also been a bit of a blessing getting back to my own work. Things, ideas and projects i didn’t have time for because i was always performing my job as education coordinator for Textiles West.

I have tried to keep the spirit of Textiles West alive by personally hosting events once hosted by TW. I have received grants from the Manitou Art Culture and Heritage (MACH) initiative for Blue Hand Festival, an open and free community event where anyone can register and dye fabric/t shirts/clothing etc in indigo. Next year, I and some other artists will be pursuing more grant funded Textiles West related activities. And I teach my classes and certify members on the equipment at the Manitou Art Center. Some of the instructors related to Textiles West are at the Manitou Art Center as well, teaching their own classes, certifying members and hosting events.

So, what now? Well, as Jim Butcher says, “Keep going”. I have to remind myself of that, often. It seems so much easier to give it all up and look for a job. One where I go, do my job, leave it at the office and be done at the end of the day. I can’t say I have not been tempted. The idea of working restaurant enters, then exits just as quickly. As great as it was at the time, serving is not something I would like to return to. And serving is an actual job-one that requires patience, resilience, thick skin, math/money skills, customer service skills, physical skills, interpersonal skills-the list goes on. So, be kind to your server, they have a lot going on.

But when I think about it, truly think about it, I don’t want to do anything other than what I’m already doing. So, I’ll keep going, follow this path. It’s a bit scary, not knowing where it goes. And who knows what will come along. I just have to remember to be patient and persist. What else can I do?

Maybe I should Post Something

“Risk something or forever sit with your dreams” -Herb Brooks

Herb Brooks, do you know him? I didn’t, really, until I read his quote. Herb Brooks was a hockey player who became a coach. He coached the U.S Hockey team that won gold in the 1980 olympics. A moment in sports history known as the “Miracle on Ice”. The Soviet team was “supposed” to win and were favored to do so. In the last minutes of the game, the Americans played some amazing defensive hockey to keep the puck out of the goal and upset the Soviets with a final score of 4-3 and win the gold.

What if the Americans hadn’t won? What if the puck had slipped by the American goalie more times than not, fulfilling the destiny of the Soviets to win the gold? Would Herb Brooks be less influential? Would his words and quotes hold less weight and meaning? What if the players weren’t “on their game” that day, would he still be considered an amazing coach? What if he had failed?

“To the Victors go the Spoils,” a term coined in 1832 by a United States Senator from New York named William Macy. The quote is a summarization of a political statement directed towards the Democratic Party, defending the appointment of Martin Van Buren to the position of Minister to Britain. The full quote is, “They see nothing wrong in the rule that to the victor belongs the spoils of victory.” Macy was thumbing his nose at another senator, Henry Clay, who opposed Van Buren’s appointment, claiming favoritism and a way of governing he didn’t agree with. Sound familiar?

My point? The winner gets to shape the narrative. The winner is the one remembered and celebrated throughout history for his accomplishments. The winner gets to influence what is normal.

But what about the loser? The person that risked something, sometimes everything and failed? The person that showed up every bit as much as the successful and put in the work as much as any other hard worker, but still their story is used as an example of what NOT to do. Are their stories any less important? Not as a cautionary tale, but as a source of encouragement? Are the ideas of the failed any less brilliant?

Was it timing? not the right time, an idea ahead of it’s time, an idea whose time has yet to come, an idea a little behind the times, and idea that missed it’s moment? There’s a chorus of a million reasons that all have to do with time as to why an idea did not work. There’s a chorus of a million people standing in the background saying, “see i told you it wouldn’t work”.

Which brings us back to the original quote, “Risk something or forever sit with your dreams.” Some are happy to sit and dream. I personally would rather attempt my dream than sit with them.

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

A common misconception about artists is that we don’t work. Artists are viewed as rare creatures who thumb their nose at convention because we 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 we 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 its own. And I try not to get too disappointed when it doesn’t turn out precisely the way I want. 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- isn’t that 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” 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? 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 its 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.

Well, it’s been a while…

 

SO, yeah, it’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog on my page…To say I’ve been busy is quite the understatement.  During the time I restarted creating my textiles, posting a website etc.etc.etc, I got involved with a wonderful group of people that started a textile organization called Textiles West.http://www.textileswest.org  In an effort to get that endeavor established and going, my art work has taken the passenger seat, rather than the driver’s seat.  That’s fine.  Textiles West has become literally a dream come true.

Years ago, in my yute (My Cousin Vinny, anyone?), I dreamt of starting an institution here in Colorado, similar to the inspirational institution I attended while living in Portland, aptly named the Oregon College of Art and Craft.  I loved the immersion and 24/7 exposure to art; art conversations, artists, art problems, art solutions, art art art… I loved that community.  But being a student, it’s a temporary community, unless you are employed by the school.  I always dreamt of living in Colorado, (check that off the bucket list).  I realized late one evening when pondering, “what do I want to do with myself?!” why not start an institution similar to the one I love, here in Colorado?  Why not?

I held that dream in my heart, for years.  Looking here, looking there, asking this person, that person to help, ideas…The problem wasn’t the ambition, it was I didn’t know where or how to start.  What I didn’t realize until now, it takes the right people at the right time to pull together to create a behemoth idea like the one I had.  Enter the neighbor, literally.  2-3 years ago, we got a new neighbor in the neighborhood, the Haldeman’s.  Susan, her husband Dave, mother in law Marilyn and dog Josee, moved next door to us.  I didn’t know what to expect, and couldn’t have hoped for anything better.  She is a fiber artist.  A fiber artist who has similar aesthetics as myself.  A fiber artist as ambitious about learning and teaching as I do.  A fiber artist I could relate to.

She rented a studio downtown and met other fiber artists- Liz Kettle and Ruth Chandlar.  I met these other fiber artists.  I gelled with these fiber artists. These fiber artists worked with the executive director of Cottonwood Art Center and started Textiles West.  We had meetings with other fiber artists, like Mary Madison and Laurie Longberry, and collectively we started Textiles West. We had a million ideas of all the things we wanted Textiles West to accomplish. Every week we came up with some new project we wanted Textiles West to start. We opened up not one location but two locations, one at Cottonwood Art Center and the other with the Manitou Art Center.   Everything was happening so fast. We got overwhelmed and undermanned with all the ideas we had and still have.  We ran into challenges and criticisms because of it.

But we’ve never given up.  We’ve merely streamlined, organized and reorganized systems, procedures and policies.  We obtained our 501c3 so we can go for funding.  We secured our first major donation from Oracle.  We give classes, lectures and special events all to celebrate textiles.  Our mission is sustainability-both in maintaining and passing on textile knowledge as well as promoting green mentality with upcycle, recycle and diy.  And that, along with my art and family and chickens, is what I’ve been doing with myself for the last couple of years.  And that is what I am doing for the next how ever many years in the future, along with my art, my family and…well, we’ll see about the chickens.

Atelier, my creative home

 

Atelier: noun. 1. a workshop or studio, especially of an artist, artisan or designer

 

atelier10      atelier9  atlier10  atelier8

atelier4     atelier3  atelier5atelier2  atelier1  atelier6

 

visual beginnings

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to get back into the groove, I over dyed this silk sarong

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using some of my new and old tricks, this rayon tasseled sarong is painted using earth minerals

 

this piece is 1 yard of silk charmeuse immersion dyed with procion mx dyes and then painted with mineral paints.
this piece is 1 yard of silk charmeuse immersion dyed with procion mx dyes and then painted with mineral paints.

 

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over dyed silk habotai sarong

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mineral painted silk chiffon scarf

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detail of silk chiffon scarf

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mineral painted crepe de chine scarf

Helllooo, lover

“The artist’s life cannot be otherwise than full of conflicts, for two forces are at war within him [or her]-on the one hand, the common human longing for happiness, satisfaction and security in life and on the other a ruthless passion for creation which may go so far as to override every personal desire…There are hardly any exceptions to the rune that a person must pay dearly for the divine gift of creative fire.” -Carl Jung

 

I keep asking myself, “really?”  13 years ago I went on this whole journey in a completely different direction, only to land back exactly where I started. I was working as a server, doing art fairs and teaching dye techniques on occasion. I studied nutrition, in hopes of getting a well paying job, and planned on continuing my art/textiles, in a hobbyist fashion.  I did receive an education in alternative nutrition, got a job at a food bank helping kids and providing nutrition education.  And I landed a job I really loved. I worked with great people, some I’m so lucky to keep in touch with.  So, if it was a bit of a detour, it was a great detour.  I left shortly after the birth of my first child.

And there started my journey back to art.  I worked for a while as the art teacher at a teen center for the YMCA.  That was fun, though my audience wasn’t as interested in art techniques as they were their boyfriends and girlfriends.  That’s ok, I remember those times.  I left that job after the birth of my second child.  That’s when I started my journey back into restaurant, first as a beertender at a small tap house, than as a full fledged server at a local brewery.  And as I work at the brewery, I’m trying to launch my art career, again.  Back full circle

Interesting how life works sometime.  lately, however, I’ve wondered if “I’m doing the right thing” by starting exactly where I left off; wondering if it’s a wise move to go back to what I once left, like returning to an ex.  Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, do I really want to do it again?  That’s what prompted this entry.  And as I sit and write and tell my story back to myself, I have come to the conclusion of, yes this is what I want to do.  There is nothing wrong with finishing out what I started all those years ago.  I didn’t waste any time, resources or energy.  I’ve learned and experienced, tried this and that, failed here, succeeded there.  It’s life.

So, with regrets and doubts aside (at least for today), I forge forward, eye on the prize and return to my work with strengthened confidence.  I’m sure i’ll have 120 more moments of doubt, but I can come back and reread this post, and hopefully feel strengthened again.

Well, it’s about time!

 ” the advice i like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration.  inspiration is for amateurs;the rest of us just show up and get to work.  if you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work.  all the best ideas come out of the process. they come out of the work itself.  things occur to you.  If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens.  But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction.  inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive.  you feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.” -Chuck Close

 

It is just so easy to get distracted.  I am so envious of people who can remain focused.  I wonder what that’s like?  and it is so easy to get sidetracked by things I don’t want to do.  It’s really easy to say “follow  your bliss,” but it’s a completely different thing to actually do it; for one reason or another.  Sometimes the reason is fear, sometimes obligation and other times just plain laziness.  Maybe laziness is too judgemental of a word, but I know it’s easier to not do my artwork than it is to sit down and do it.  And I can come up with a million excuses to not do my work-laundry, organizing the closet, errands.  It’s a matter of discipline.  though I love the spirit of freedom and entrepreneurship, it’s actually a lot of work and requires a lot of discipline. It’s a discipline that sometimes exists beyond structure and is of my own making.

That’s often the misconception of artists and artwork-it’s easy, breezy and fun.  Yes, it is, but it’s also A LOT of work and dedication of one’s craft, skill, failures and successes.  Dedication is ultimately is what keeps artists doing what they do, past the distractions, doubts, fear and misgivings.  And it’s not always glamorous, exciting or sparkly.  sometimes it’s gray, mundane and a pain in the ass.  It’s work and needs to get done.  And sometimes, the laundry will just have to wait.

 

Dusting, dusting, 1..2..3…

the disarray of it all

“you are not too old And it is not too late.” Rainer Maria Rilke.

I love that quote.  it gives me hope and encouragement when i think i’ve blown it.  I took a hiatus from my art;  a sabbatical from the visually creative to pursue other interests.  My problem , however you’d like to view it, is i have too many interests.  I want to know everything.  And i love to learn.   According to Martin Seligman’s personality strength quiz, love of learning is my number one strength.  While that strength may be honorable, it can lead to scatterbrain thinking.  I’ve recently made it a goal to harness this strength to focus and pursue what it is i REALLY want to learn.  what my interests are, not just fancies.

To clarify, I didn’t quit my art.  I stopped for a while. But for all intensive purposes, i never quit.  there is a difference between quitting and stopping.  Quitting implies you’ll never return.  Stopping means you’ll return at a later date.  I stopped and thought i could effortlessly return.  I’m learning it’s not effortless.  It’s taken a great amount of effort just to know where to begin again.  But in pondering my current situation, i realize i want it more, i’m hungrier for art and i’m more comfortable in not knowing it’s purpose.  I used to fret endlessly about the meaning of my work; why am i doing it, what’s driving it, how do i get it done, where do i show it, etc.  Those questions creep up every once in a while and i have to quell the din with, “just get it done, you need it.”  That seems to work.  That and my pinterest board of quotes by other artists who dispel the myth that is art.  one of my favorites (of many)of these quotes is by Pablo Picasso.  he states, “Yes, inspiration exists.  But it must find you working.”

And i’m ready to get back to work.  I’ve learned what it means to work smarter, not harder.  I don’t have the luxury of time like i once did.  I consciously make choices throughout the day of how I spend my time.  I’m learning to let go of perfection.  I’m learning to let go of  certain expectations.  It goes without saying, some days are better than others.  I often feel like a dog on a chain,  constantly wanting to do something or be somewhere, but continually being pulled back by commitments and obligations.  That’s life.  I gratefully accept  it. (It goes without saying, some days are better than others.)    But i realize it’s my impulsive nature that creates my frustration.  I’m starting to understand that perhaps not being able to get things done is what i need, to think things through.

I’ve never written a blog, and i have no idea what i’m doing.  I know it’s something advantageous in this technological age to garner followers of my work .  This blog, along with social media and an artfire.com or etsy.com store are the new fandangle way of being a 22nd century artist.  I still have no idea what i’m doing, but i know i want to do it.  I promise i will try not to bore you with too many emotional trivial gushings of insignificant musings.  Getting my studio back and running is a process i’m choosing to share with the public at large.  Whether that is significant or not, i have no idea. I’m hoping that by choosing to share with others, i will remain on task and not let time lapse by months, as can be my habit.  I’m hoping this blog kick starts the slow churning of a rusty, dusty engine that once hummed easily.