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