Recently I donated one of my sculptures to a silent auction to raise money for someone in my life seeking alternative medical therapy. I was so happy to be able to help in a way which was meaningful to me. It felt good to give a piece of my artwork, a piece of myself to help the cause. I attended the auction, and had lovely feedback about my work. Within me, anxiety began to bubble up. I could not identify its source at the time, as it felt like a regret for letting a piece of my art go.
I have had an interesting relationship with art over my lifetime. I have always been encouraged to be practical, and think of how I will pay the bills. As a result, my art has morphed over the years to become more ‘craft’ than art. How did I digress? When I was getting married, I couldn’t find a headpiece that I liked that wasn’t imported from China and made of poor quality materials. I decided to make my own. I turned this artful ‘craft’ into a business when friends and family began commissioning their own bridal jewelry. My venturing toward ‘craft’ grew again when I was asked to attend a local craft show and sell my wares, at which time I had nothing but bridal jewelry. I started making sculptural pendants and painting porcelain. I did a number of craft shows over the years, and began my career as a teacher. Then my first son was born. No longer did I want to sit all day on a Saturday selling my crafts while my baby was at home with my husband. Not only that, but what I had intended as a way for me to apply my artistic skills in a practical way to earn money became hypocritical to who I’ve become. I was painting on white porcelain dishes, inevitably imported from far off lands. The wire and beads came from asia as well. Who was I kidding when I pretended to be ‘crafting things’ myself? I was merely slapping together products from around the world to call them my own. Somewhere along the way, I lost my art.
When I came home from the silent auction event and reflected on my feelings of loss and regret, I was stricken by the truth…that it was not the sculpture I was mourning, but the act of creating authentic art. As I pondered this idea, I came to realize that the idea behind that sculpture was what I was sad to lose. Somehow that object represented what once was for me, the ability to sit down and create from nothing but a lump of clay. I miss that. It’s silly to think of how strongly I was attaching my sense of self to an object, especially one I didn’t pay much mind to in recent years. The sculpture represented what I want to be doing. I have had this revelation before, where an object represents an action I wish I were doing, when in reality owning or accumulating things is only distracting me from actually just doing the thing itself. Having the sculpture sitting in a box in my basement made me no more a sculptor than I am without it. Out of the auction, I have four pending commissions to sculpt. What I need now is a lump of clay!