Friday, June 6, 2008

What Do You Know?

It always surprises me how much insight is possible in the obvious. But it is only when we step outside our normal framework that we can perhaps have the vantage point to see.

When I began this journey into becoming a working crafts person, I found there were many steps and hurdles along the way. First, it was developing the technical skill with my material. I can still remember Nancy Markoe at a class at the Arts Business Institute. She was reminding us that no matter how much we learned and understood about the business of craft, in the end we had to also spend time in the studio, honing our skill. We had to be able to have our hands understand the material. She used an example of making a handle for a mug 100 times before you might begin to be competent at that task, and develop the muscle memory of the task. Her words ring even more true for me now.

I have come to understand that we often start from where we are. Obvious, yes. The experiences we have had will color what we see as possible. For me, jewelry was an obvious thing to make. I have worn jewelry for as long as I can remember. I have collections of antique and vintage jewelry. At a craft show, I have always been drawn to the jewelry. I know jewelry. I love jewelry. And my cranes came from a connection to that origami form.

But recently, I began to venture outside the familiar. When I began work on the Crane Project, I was scared to death. I knew nothing about this new terrain, or a project of this size or scale. I knew I was going to have to find a place to install the project. How do you find that? How does it get installed? How do I get the money to pay for it? How in the world does something so big and overwhelming ever happen?

I am still learning answers to many of those questions. But in the process, I have had my world expanded a bit. What seemed beyond me, and a world inhabited by others, more daring or more creative now seems like a place I might want to visit. I have had several ideas stirring up lately that I am excited about exploring. I don't know when there will be time to get to them, but nonetheless, I have experienced a shift.

When we move beyond what we know it is stretching our muscles. It may hurt. We may be rejected. We may not fit in. But, it may be worth the aches and pains on the way to creative growth. We grow when we go somewhere new, or try something different than what we already know how to do well. Growth is seldom going to happen by sticking with what you already know.

In the last few months, I have applied for, and been rejected for, several grants. A year ago, the idea of a grant was not even on my radar. I have now learned more about that process, and will continue to refine my approach. I have learned more about budgeting for a project. I have asked all sorts of people for all sorts of help. Some say no, but others say yes. Some days I feel like a politician running for office and trying to raise funds for the campaign. It is not what you are in this for, but if you don't do it, the other opportunities may not come your way.

By taking this step across the imaginary line of what I saw as possible, into the impossible, I feel like I am Alice in Wonderland. I have entered a new place, with all sorts of doors to explore and possibilities to consider. I may decide I want to go back to the safety of what I knew before, but I may end up feeling a creative expansion that would not have been possible if I did not step across that imaginary line. The line was only there in my head. I decided what I could do, and what was not possible. The line is mutable though. We can redraw it at any time. We can venture into areas we thought were off limits.

What you know and what you have done before does not have to set the boundaries for where you go in the future. They can be a foundation. A stepping stone. A safe harbor. We get to choose.

Do you have any lines you want to redraw?


Elaine said...

There are always lines I wish to redraw in my work - as a developer / designer or as an artist. It's 'one of those things' with me.

Right now, I am taking stabs at print publications,contest entries, medium sized shows and toying with the idea of teaching in the real world which is particularly terrifying due to a mild but tedious handicap.

Judy said...

Elaine, Thank you for your comment. It sounds like you are constantly testing the boundaries. Not everything may fit you in the end, but you will be able to more comfortably choose in the future. Good luck with the new ventures!