I am always doing that which I cannot do in order that I may learn how to do it...Picasso

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Hands

I can't believe that it has been 2 months since I posted my last blog!  I won't wonder where the time has gone because I know and I'd like to tell you about it.

It's been about a year and a half since I began the endeavor called NellsBelles.  Last summer I spent an entire season trying to figure out how to operate the laptop, take pictures, create my Etsy site and all that is entailed in that process.  I joined the Hudson Valley Etsy team which revolutionized my experience of Etsy and accelerated the progress of my business.  A big shout out to my girls at HVET and my appreciation for how they have inspired me and energized me to push myself further and faster than I had planned.

So, shows.  Ah, the arts and crafts shows and street fairs.  What a mixed bag and what a mixed blessing.  My first couple were ego boosters, confidence makers and excellent meet and greets.  I made a few sales and connected with retailers, promoters and many advice givers.  There was the invaluable opportunity to interact with potential customers and actually observe how people reacted to my work.  What attracted people and what didn't.  One of the most surprising things that I discovered was that people loved, I mean loved the Victorian Memory Jars which are my favorite thing to do and what I thought people would be the least attracted to.  That was a thrilling discovery and has really allowed me to focus my mosaic work more.  The "Eyes on the Top of Her Head" headbands seem to be popular and there are about a dozen of them for sale at The Craft Lounge in Leonia, New Jersey.  I met the women who own The Craft Lounge at the Ridgewood fair.  They are fantastic and I am enjoying working with them. 

Mostly what I learned about the outdoor shows is that there is a HUGE difference between a genuine art and craft show and all the rest of the events, regardless of how they are billed.  For the most part, street fairs are like carnivals.  It is an opportunity for large groups of people to walk in a crowd, eat crappy food they would probably not eat normally and drop a few dollars on some novelty item they will grow tired of in a few weeks and wonder what ever got into them in the first place.  Then there are true art and craft shows when true talent is on display and discerning people pay good money to own these works of art.  I am aware of some of these genuine articles and I never in a million years thought that they were where my work belonged.  I have always thought of myself as more crafty and less artist.  I have always aspired, hoped to feel I was worthy of "craft artist" or "artisan" but it was not until I left my studio and put myself in public arenas that I was able to clarify my perspective of myself.

For years, I put myself on the line and I mean literally my self on the line as a dancer and an actress.  It was I that was on display.  It was the talent that was expressed in my body, my voice, my appearance that was open to the judgements of whoever was sitting on the other side of the table in the audition room.  I had to look these people, the almighty job holders, in the eyes and present my self for approval and hopefully get the job.  It was a gruelling life.  A life that can rock the confidence and self image of the most confident and egocentric performers.  I had more downs than ups and in the end, I realize I took a brutal beating during that time of my life.

What I do now, I do in private.  I work alone.  No one watches me like they did in acting class or dance class.  I make my mistakes in private.  If it doesn't work out, I throw it away and no one ever knows what a mess I made.  I can work on something until I am happy with it.  I can choose who I show it to for feedback and I can expose the work to the public when I feel confident in what I have created.  And somehow, when someone looks at one of my lamps or a necklace or a memory jar and they are not interested in any way it isn't a problem for me.  It's not me.  It is a product of me but it is not me.  I am enjoying that distance.  I am happy for that freedom.  I am loving what I am doing with myself.

What I learned this summer, during this show season, is that I can be as good as I want.  I can have a vision, I can follow that vision and really can make it happen.  Simple, isn't it.  We have heard it all of our lives.  We tell our kids they can do anything they want.  Yet for me there was always a major detail left out of the message.  We can't do anything we want.  The accent is really on want and I always thought the focus was the anything.  That anything we tried hard at could produce magnificent results.  Not true Grasshopper, not true.  What we really mean is that we can do anything with what we want.  And we have to want it in a passionate way.  The want has to emanate from the pit of our stomachs, from the bottom of our hearts, from that place that tells us what would really make us happy.  That, as so many of us know is the tricky part.  Sorting out what would really make us happy and to have the sense of self to identify it and stick to our guns.

I always knew I wanted to be an artist.  It was all in the busy hands.  It was in sitting next to Grandma, it was in the sketchbooks I lugged around it was in the pull I felt when I looked at a painting in a museum and felt the urge to walk into the picture and become a part of it.  Other people didn't see it.  They saw me being good at other things like being on stage and I followed their opinions into the working world.  I always knew but I couldn't find the strength to say so.  I never thought I was good enough.  I knew I had the desire but I didn't believe there was talent.  I looked to make anything happen with something that just didn't fit like a glove.

Having a kid changed all that.  It was my son that taught me the real relationship between wanting and doing.  He would make proclamations about something he was going to do and I would, in my mind, scream out,"No!  You can't do that!  You're not good enough, the right type, fast enough...".  Yet, I would always go along with what he wanted.  I wanted him to have the chance to try.  And time after time, it was the things that he was passionate about that he worked and worked at and eventually became good at and in some instances acquired  of mastery in.  His passion always gave him the right to do the things he wanted.  Because of his determination and his commitment to who he is my kid has always seemed to have the ability to make anything he really wants, happen.

I've been schooled.  Yes, indeed I have.  Now I go to my studio and I believe.  I believe because I want to.  I believe because I have to.  My passion is in my studio and it comes out of my busy hands.  Happy hands, happy woman.  I feel at home at last.