Friday, January 22, 2016

A Relearned Ah Ha

Right now, the Canadian dollar is worth significantly less than the US dollar. By the time we exchange our money, there's not nearly the amount we thought we had. For me, this impacts on-line purchases and travel to workshops in the United States. I have to think twice when the cost is 30% - or more - higher and that changes what I can do in the studio.

The economic downturn in 2008 had a similar impact. At the time, my textile art work was receiving recognition, being exhibited in several high end galleries, and selling for reasonable prices. I'd recently had two solo shows and it felt like the payoff for all the hard work was finally coming. And then it ended. When the choice is food or art, food wins. Things dwindled to the point that I stopped making textile art. As a business, it wasn't making money. In fact, it was costing money.





The 2008 economy also affected online teaching which was one of my primary sources of income. In the first quarter alone, my income from teaching was down 70% and that too eventually ended. With everything changing so quickly, I went through a really difficult time trying to figure out what to do in my creative career, floundering for quite a few years while trying this and that. With the blog, it felt like falling apart in public. I just couldn't seem to find my feet which quite possibly came across as erratic and inconsistent. Once I realized I wasn't going back to life as it had been any time soon, I returned to sewing fashions only my experiences with creating original textile art made following a pattern rather boring. I wanted the clothes I made to be edgier, more interesting, more authentically me and that started a whole different struggle of learning.

In 2012, I attended my first Design Outside the Lines retreat in Oregon and everything changed. That sounds rather dramatic and yet it was one of those paradigm shift moments. I connected with a group of woman who loved what I loved and did what I did and in fact, most of them did it better than me. I was exposed to all new ways of thinking and I saw the types of clothing I could create. It challenged me to develop my skills and abilities in the area of creative clothing BUT...





... always in the back of my mind was the question of when and how would I get back to creativity as a career. And now, we are back in an economic shift where the choice between food and art is once again obvious. I'm better prepared this time plus I'm eight years older which brings a different level of experience and wisdom to the situation. Reality is that most artist are not self supporting and have other work that pays for life and art. Reality is that even if I had what it would take artistically to beat the odds, I don't have what it would take emotionally. I don't have that kind of energy anymore and it's not a "game" I want to play.

The city I just moved to is very artistic and I'm meeting a lot of artists working with all sorts of mediums. Some are my age but most are older. One thing they have in common is a desire to get to the work they really want to do. When you hear a comment like that coming from someone who is twenty it sounds different than when you hear it coming from someone who is seventy. I began to wonder why they weren't "there" yet and if they weren't there, what would it take to get there... with there being the work they really want to do.





The more I thought about it, the more it seemed to me that we never get to the work we really want to do as much as we explore the process while following a moving target. Each new thing I learn changes the possibilities of process and product with in turn results in "there" shifting itself forward. I wanted to do this and now I know how and so now I want to do that but once I learn how to do that, I'll want to do something else. I think this is good AND I think it requires us to be okay with being incompetent because part of getting to there is learning new things and learning new things requires not having a clue what you're doing until you know how to do it. That's a bit itchy. Actually, it's a whole lot itchy.

Can you stand to feel incompetent? If you can increase your ability to stand it, it'll be one of the best gifts you give yourself as a writer (artist) and person. That increased tolerance for your own incompetence allows you to try more new things and to persevere at times when otherwise you'd be tempted to give up. - Seven Steps on the Writers Path





One of the things my coach - Diane - and I have talked about is that when you know how to do really well what you're already doing, it's a struggle to move in new directions. The place of comfort is to keep repeating yourself and yet that's not the "there" where you want to be so you struggle to do the thing you want - but don't know how- to do. For me, one of those things is making jewelry predominately from textiles. I've been talking about it for years and plugging away at it for the last couple months and not one piece I've made is at all elegant or sophisticated. It's a bunch of less than best however... I've been having fun and my confidence is growing and I know I'm on my way. I am learning to do by doing.

While Francine was visiting, we worked in the studio turning some watercolor paintings I'd made several years ago into pendants for necklaces. It has some "white spot" learning curves but it's definitely progress. While on the outside, the path of me making jewelry may look zig-zaggy and of indeterminate progress, I've come to realize that it's one of those "there" moving targets and that the process of thinking about making jewelry and collecting bits and pieces for making jewelry and making a lot of hmm... really... pieces is part of the process of getting to the work I really want to do which means that I'm already there - doing the thing I really want to do - and each new aspect I learn will take me further along that path.





There were several times when I wanted to show Francine something only I couldn't remember where it was in the studio. That's not like me so she concluded that meant I hadn't spent enough time in here learning the flow. It makes sense. Now that the majority of the work on the house is done, I am at that happy point where I can spend more time in the studio plus - when you give up the external pressures of creativity as a career, you are left with even more time to spend actually being creative. That's a delightful bonus.

Yesterday, I shifted the work island over, added a painting surface, and left an open space along the far wall for the desk which is currently upstairs and needs to be moved down. It's where I want to put together the jewelry pieces once I've created all the elements. I was getting ready for creative flow. That's the ah ha I wanted to tell you about. It's not a new ah ha; it's more of a relearned ah ha.


The only life you can enjoy is your own. - Joyce Meyer


Over the past four years, I've made numerous trips to the United States and in particular to Sew Expo in Washington and Design Outside the Lines in Oregon. I've bought a lot of fabric and other supplies and I've learned many, MANY new techniques. While I will miss seeing the women I've become friends with and the inspiration of the group, the downturn in the economy isn't as stressful as it might have been at another time. Not only have I been here before, since the last downturn my children have all graduated into adulthood, my responsibilities have minimized, I've given up on creativity as a career, and I have a tremendously stashed up studio... which means... I'm ready to take all that inspiration and have fun, play, and enjoy myself in the studio.

I am blessed to have other sources of income so I don't need to turn myself inside out trying to beat artistic odds that are most likely unbeatable - especially now - never mind at the best of times. While there are many many things beyond my control, like the economy, the exchange rate, and who will buy which art piece or take what workshop, one of the things completely within my control is the attitude with which I approach my studio and my creative time. I can choose to step away from comparisons and constant striving. I can choose to be incompetent, try new things, and have fun. Fun... hmm... what a novel thought ! ! !

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - the path to there

16 comments:

  1. What an interesting and inciteful post. I enjoyed reading it and wish you well as your journey progresses.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for your well wishes.

      Delete
  2. I just discovered your blog a few weeks ago and have been encouraged, inspired and challenged :-) I think that finding joy in the journey in the last half of life is so very important. Thanks for sharing and may you continue to do so!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I imagine that joy in the journey as been critical at all times but as I mature I understand the concept better and work toward it more. I think it's one of those "habit" things. The more I work at it, the more I'm able to turn things in that direction even when they're yucky.

      Delete
  3. "Can you stand to feel incompetent?"

    Once again, your post has come at a perfect time to both inspire AND give me a desperately needed kick in the keister.

    My current project is making me feel SO incompetent. DH's request for a trachten vest mandates drafting from his shirt sloper (major skeletal anomalies), plus I could find no pattern for the trachten style anyway. AND, I'm returning to sewing with wool (a gorgeous piece of Pendleton wool (70% off at last year's Expo - the deal of the century)) which I haven't done for decades.

    Incompetent, uncertain, intimidated...and procrastinating!

    But you've reminded me of how incredible it will feel to push through and come out the other side, with greater command of my beloved craft and increased confidence to tackle the next time I meet up with (no longer dreaded) Incompetence.

    Thanks again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. YES YES - it does feel great to get to something we've been circling around. Setting up the painting and jewelry space in this studio was part of that for me. Making those pendants as imperfect as they are is stretching and positive. It's all good. I have no idea what a trachten vest is. Do you have a link so I can see what he's wanting?

      Delete
    2. http://www.trachten-quelle.com/shop/t/men/vests

      What's tricky is that the neck isn't just a mandarin-style collar. That would be too easy (just leave off the collar part of a classic collarband-collar). No, the trachten neckline is a larger curve with the collar part laying (mostly) flat against the body. Still working on that part of the draft.

      Delete
  4. Interesting that you felt you were "falling apart here on the blog" because to me it all seemed part of your creative journey that we were all privileged to be a part of...I know what incompetence feeling...I'm definitely going through that now. However the thing about age and experience is that I've been there before so I know that I can get through to the other side. Can't wait to see what your "other side" will bring!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh I definitely felt like I was falling apart but I'm delighted that you didn't see it that way. Isn't it funny - in that ironic way - when incompetence feels familiar and doable. Much better than running around in circles. The other side sometimes takes quite a while to find but it's such a delightful space when you feel grounded. I can't wait to see what your other side brings as well. Thanks.

      Delete
  5. Wow what a post – Thank you so much – I was really moved by this post today. Thank you for sahring your thoughts and feelings.
    The word ‘Incompetent’ is really strong, I have just looked up the definition of the word and I quiet like being a bit ‘Amateurish’ – it gives me time to explore what I am doing, I am feeling good about this now.
    Also Cack-handed really rolls of the tongue for me, I think it is my English East London accent that really puts into effect and as for the "Vulgar Slang" of ‘Half Arsed’ – well you really don’t want to hear me say that one, I am laughing already.
    I might really look at ‘Incompetent’ as a Creative Project – for all those unfinished garments, jewellery projects etc. that I started and have never finished. They could really go on display under that title – Thank you so much again for this post it has REALLY helped me more than you will ever know – Many New Year 2016 and Beyond Blessings to you and your family!
    Love From An East Londoner From The UK :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are very welcome. I'm glad it resonated and has helped you. That's one of the reasons I write the blog so I'm so glad to hear it was useful. Thanks for posting.

      Delete
  6. Myrna, I wonder if you have a few minutes to explain your understanding of the copyrights around the use of pattern company images on one's own web page? It looks like I would need to write a request to do that to the specific pattern company? Or is it as simple is making sure to acknowledge the source beside the picture or in related text? I'm mulling over developing a website that would often include images of patterns to be discussed. Thanks. I always enjoy seeing your creativity coming out in your clothing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't have an understanding. Typically I use their image instead of my own except when it's impossible like with an out of print pattern. I haven't heard of anyone having issues because it's good advertising for the company when we link to it. I rarely use independent pattern lines and I rarely post negative reviews so I can't speak to that perspective but even if I posted a negative of the Big Four, I'm still linking to their site and often posting a solution as well so it's still positive. Good luck with your website. I think if you're at all unsure, you need to contact them directly.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the feedback Myrna!

      Delete
  7. Thanks so much for sharing your journey on your blog. Having begun my musical training as a young child, I understand well the struggle of a career in the arts. Up until I recently took leave to have children, I had never ever known the joy of music for sheer pleasure. Yes, I enjoy my career, but as you rightly point out, food always beats art. And there is not really any room for admitting to incompetence in the hugely competitive field of classical music. As for learning, I relish that push from incompetence to competence to mastery--in the arenas of sewing and dancing--where it doesn't cost me my living! Thanks again for a wonderful blog post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome. Thanks for understanding.

      Delete

Thanks for commenting. I appreciate the feedback and the creative conversation.