Monday, December 18, 2006

Life lessons

Often when we are stuck in a place, we turn to others for advice and help. Especially those who have more experience or knowledge. This is as true with artists/craftspeople as it is with anyone else. But sometimes people just are not ready or willing to hear what they need to hear.

You can not grow as an artist or as a business person without making mistakes, or learning how to sift through the feedback and figure out the truth. The truth can then guide you to where you need to go. You can keep blinders on, and blame the informer, but you will not be able to be better at what you do when this happens. And when you keep hearing the same thing over and over again, the right response is not, "yeah, but...".

Ignorance may be bliss. But I find knowing you are ignorant can be a blessing. It can be a place to start from that is open to learning. When you think you know all the answers, you may miss out on a chance to learn. I spend at least 15 minutes each day surfing around through various boards and blogs reading and learning. Sometimes what I learn has no immediate value to me. But, eventually, many of those tidbits have become valuable.

But not all sources are equal. There are boards that are focused more on the "self-esteem" of the crowd. Everyone does "amazing" and "beautiful" work. When the rare voice speaks up that has an honest critique, they are immediately squashed. How dare you be so critical? We need to be supportive of one another. This may keep the peace, but it may also keep people from achieving the growth they are capable and deserve.

Some boards are more rough and tumble. Egos get bruised, and the talk can get harsh sometimes. But,....these are often the places where I learn the most. These are the places where the most knowledgeable people are often found.

The same is true off the internet as well. We all want to hear the positives about our work. But, growth only comes with the honest critique. The galleries owners I appreciate the most are those that will be honest with me about my work and whether or not they believe it to be viable in the market. It may hurt when I hear that a new line I am exploring is not working. Or that it is nice, but won't sell. Or that it needs more work before it can be saleable. Or they like this about it, but this other part is a problem.

But these bits of information are actually gems. They need to be carried home carefully and polished. The truth needs to emerge. And we need to re-evaluate our work with this new light. Not all feedback is accurate or valid. Sometimes someone has had a bad day. Sometimes it may be true in one setting, but not in another. Figuring all this out is the hard work. It takes putting your ego aside, looking harshly at your work, and teasing apart what you have learned from your advisor. They may be wrong. But if you hear the same thing again and again....if you do not listen, then you will never move from where you are.

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