Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Crafting a Plan...

Over winter break I discovered, and then binge watched every episode available, a wonderful series on PBS called Craft in America. Some of the episodes I listened to while doing other tasks. Some of the episodes I watched fully engrossed, at times even on the verge of tears for the beauty and meaning the producers were able to capture. So many of the episodes I would, and probably will, watch again and again. I hear there is a companion book to the series. I image you know what that means.

(Takes a time out from writing to click over to Amazon. Places order.)

I did not grow up in a world that included a lot of fine art. I don't know that I ever stepped foot in an art gallery as a kid. Obviously if I did, it was not a significant enough experience to leave a lasting impression on my memories.  Even though my exposure has increased significantly in my adult years, I still don't always "get" fine art. I greatly appreciate the skill required for Monet to paint his beautiful landscapes, and the vision and faith in process it took Michelangelo to chip away at a block of marble to create the Statue of David. I respect how artists have used their medium through the centuries to not only create works of beauty, but to bravely convey a message or opinion that might not have been the popular views of their time. But I have to be honest, there are times I've walked through a gallery and wondered how the heck some pieces have earned a place next to the long standing greats in art history. It is in those moments I have to remind myself that art is quite possibly the purest form of free, individual expression, and then I move on to viewing something else that speaks to MY soul.

While the world of fine art may not have been a regular playground for me as a kid, I did have regular access to the art produced through the process of craft. Craft to me is not only beautiful, but tactile and functional. Fiber arts. Pottery. Wood arts. Metal work. Watching the artists talk about their processes and demonstrating their skill throughout the Craft in America series made me want to reach out and hold their pieces in my hands to feel the quality of their work and the spirit of their process. I'm a touchy, feely person. Craft to me is touchy, feely. Touching a handmade item immediately connects me to my experiences growing up of watching my mom create with fabric and her sewing machine. Of watching my grandma paint ceramics. Of looking the latest wooden creation built by my grandpa. Of snuggling under afghans that had been crocheted by various members of my extended family. Those items may never find a place in a gallery, but they were, and still are, beautiful and useful representations of the unique creativity inside each individual in my family who took the time to make for the sake of making, rather than buying.

With the turn of the calendar to 2015 comes a personal milestone. This is the year my age changes from a number that starts with a 3, to a number that starts with a 4. For whatever reason, that has been on my mind more than I care to admit over the past year. What do milestone birthdays do that to us? I'm sure there are studies out there to explain the psychology of it all. Whatever it is, facing 40 has me thinking not only about where my life has taken me over the past 40 years, but where I will choose to take my life over the next 40. One of the common themes that keeps jumping out at me is my love of learning through the process of craft, and my need to create simple, functional works that express my creativity.

I feel very blessed to have somewhat unexpectedly fallen into my work in public education. It has allowed me to contribute to my community, which is important for my ego; to teach, which is a passion of my soul; and to connect with others, which is something I struggle with if left to my own devices. That being said, this being my 4th year working in the public education system, I can honestly say it's a temporary gig for me. It's a work life I enjoy, but not one that I see myself settling into for the long haul remainder of my 20+ working years. It's been, and continues to be as other temporary professional gigs I had in the past have been, a useful experience that I feel is helping to guide me as I start to re-imagine the direction I would like to move my working life. I can't yet see a clear picture of what direction that is, even though I've had an idea forming and rolling around in my head for well over a year now, but I know the following will be true as I craft my next work life reality:
  • There will be opportunity for me to learn and create most days.
  • There will be opportunity for me to share my interests through teaching to individuals of all ages some days.
  • There will be opportunities for me to feed both my introverted side that desires to quietly hide away in my own space getting lost in learning and creating on my own, and the side of me that needs to feel part of a larger community that is making a difference in the world around me.
  • There will be an opportunity for me to generate usable income, not because it is something I personally hold as a high priority, but because it is a need of my family and a fact of living in a society that functions on the exchange of money for goods and services.
  • There will be the opportunity for me to set my own schedule, and a seamlessness that allows for my life to be my work, and my work to be an extension of my life.
The logistics of creating such a non-traditional work life always causes me reason to pause, to question the validity of attempting such a project. Often my practical side speaks much louder than my creative, dreamy side. I'm trying to not always let that be the case. I've been trying to remind myself that I once successfully crafted a less than traditional work life, and that even though I am no longer living that life, the fact is I did the work to make a dream a reality. And it was great. Spending time over winter break watching the Craft in America series seems almost like a little divine intervention. An aligning of the stars. Like the greater universe is trying to push me towards the start of the process of action that is required to eventually turn my day-dreamy thoughts into a new tangible reality. The fact is, nothing in life is a given. Traditional working lives are just as likely to take an unexpected direction at any given moment. One would think that the experiences Scott and I have had over the past 20 years would have been a good teacher of that fact. Having gotten to know people who have found a successful way to flourish in a life that includes a non-traditional work life also serves as good encouragement that it is possible to make dreams a reality. The inspiration of watching the many craft artists, from all walks of life, featured in the Craft in America series talk about their work and how it permeates the whole of their lives may just be what I needed to help me take my first steps in creating a life where I can live MY craft.

Thanks PBS! My mental wheels are turning...

~ peace