Sunday, March 16, 2008

History Lesson

At the recent Synergy Conference, during one of the panel discussions, Elise Winters commented that it would be wonderful if people could see the drawer full of "stuff" that precedes a more fully developed design. Her message was that work does not emerge fully developed. It takes time, trial, error, and a whole lotta ugly sometimes, before a concept reaches a point of "wow".

When I was preparing for my presentation at the conference, I had about 80 artists respond to a survey I put together. One of the comments that stayed with me was about a wish to have kept better records of the development of their work over time. Photos, etc.

Perhaps this is why I felt compelled to spend several hours yesterday, making my own little archive. And as I approach five years of polymer clay addiction, it is probably timely. That, and the fact that I finally had gotten around to setting up a Flickr account.

I highly recommend the journey. While much of the older work is truly cringe worthy, it is also intriguing to me to see patterns emerge. By collecting a selection of images from the hundreds and hundreds on my computer I can see a story. Watching how an idea starts in a rough form, and gradually develops with time. This collection shows some of the development behind my jewelry designs.

When you look at the series of crane pictures, it demonstrate what happens when you do something over and over again. You get better at it. The same can be seen with the vessels.

The earliest work is all over the place. Yet, there are certain things that appealed to me then, and appeal to me still. Who I was as an artist exists within some of that early work. I just couldn't see where I wanted to go with it yet.

In a way it is like any scrapbook of photos. When we look at old pictures of ourselves we cringe at the hairstyles and the fashion. But we also marvel at our youth. Perhaps we looked better than we thought we did at the time. Likewise, I cringed at designs, at finishing, at the photos themselves. But, I also see things there that I still connect with. Or some element that I want to go back and revisit again sometime in the future. Possibilities to still be explored.

I hope, in addition to providing you with a few good laughs, you will also see some of the process of how work emerges and develops. And I hope that you will make your own little archive of your history as an artist. What Elise is doing with her Polymer Art Archives looks at the overall history of the media. Our personal history is full of information as well. Take some time, and look the virtual scrapbook of your work. What patterns emerge? Where have you grown? Is there anything there that you want to revisit and go deeper into?


Libby said...

I posted about this kind of thing awhile ago on my blog. (it may have gone poof with the 4 months I lost) I think it is fascinating to see the artistic progression of accomplished artists. Thank you for sharing your old pictures. I loved seeing how your "voice" developed and refined.

Judy said...

As I wrote this Libby, I was recalling that you had done a similar post....and wished I could have linked to it. Perhaps when, or if, your blog history is restored, I can add that link.

polkadotcreations said...

I was *just* thinking about how interesting it would be to have a visual history of my work. I do have images of things I have been selling on my website going back 8 years or so, but I lack photos of the processes and the failures. And I have virtually no images of my work the four years prior to that. I wish I had these things now.

The good news is that through blogging and flickr, I have started to document the process now. Better late than never, I guess!

Thanks for the Flickr link. I enjoyed looking through your photos.

Judy said...

Thanks Lisa! I do think it will be interesting for all of us to have the history so readily available to us through the many tools that exist for documentation on-line.

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