How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Art

Art is the desire of a man to express himself, to record the reactions of his personality to the world he lives in.
Amy Lowell

Remember how much fun you had when you were young, just creating things: playing with Silly Putty, drawing, coloring, painting clay pots, gluing beans to tiles, playing with your Lite-Brite, building with Lego…we go from being encouraged to spend all of our free time doing art, to being told it’s not important to study, or that “you’ll never make a living doing that.”

In junior high, I had to pick either home economics class or shop class; at least I got to choose as opposed to previous generations…or at least my parents got to choose.  I chose both actually, and as you can probably predict, the girls were mostly in “home ec” and the guys were mostly in shop.  I loved both: I chose the design and fabric for the outfit we had to sew in home ec, and in shop we had to cut, grind, polish and melt plastic.  Later in high school, I took art and pottery. Making a stained glass piece was really an amazing confidence building exercise and I still have a life long love of pottery to this day, although I mostly buy it from talented local artists.  However, once you meet any class requirements you need in this area, most young people are not really encouraged to pursue their art any further.  I had no art classes in college due to prioritizing classes required to graduate. Some people are lucky and learn some skills from their parents (crocheting, knitting, woodworking, sewing), but I wasn’t taught anything in particular in this regard, so whatever I know, I learned myself.

These ruminations are taking place due to two things that coincided in the same weekend: Lori Anderson’s Bead Soup Blog Party sign-up and Father’s Day.  Once I signed up for this event, Lori asked us to write a blog about how we became jewelry designers.  My father asked me how much money I make and whether this “jewelry thing” is really worth my time?

When I moved states, I went from being a business to being a hobby because it was easier for tax purposes.  I much prefer having a hobby as opposed to owning a business, but you might be shocked to hear how I’m spoken to when I try to explain how different business laws are in each state. I have had people treat me like I’m less important or that I somehow got demoted and am a failure.  Here’s two funny things about that: I make way more money as a hobbyist than I did as a business and the simple fact is even with the economy the way it is, I still sell my jewelry every week.  True, I can’t seem to really get going on Etsy (sigh), but I sell a lot locally with my own designs and custom pieces.  So, how does one judge one’s own success?

For me, it’s got to be that I enjoy what I’m doing and people appreciate it.  I can’t really ask for more than that.  My goal was never to become a millionaire making jewelry.  At a time when I hated my job and was miserable with where my choices in education had lead me career wise, I rediscovered my love of creating and it gave me something I needed to help re-energize my soul.  I know it baffles my family who can’t understand why, as the first person in my family to go to college, I have chosen to work with my hands rather than using my degree…well, that’s a little history revision.  I have some health issues that keep me from working full-time.  Becoming a jewelry maker helped me set my own hours and allows me time off when I’m ill without worrying about FMLA or getting fired.

My feeling is that my experiences go back to support for the arts and the value we place on art and working with our hands in our society.  As a young person, I didn’t have the language, experience, or knowledge to even ask about the various jobs I could do that are art related. It almost makes me want to be a guidance counselor so I can tell students to really think about what they like to do, instead of encourage yet another person to get an MBA.  People make it seem like you have to either make it as an artist, like Jennifer JL Jones, who I went to high school with, or you will be homeless, without anything in between.  If I could turn back time…I would have tried harder to find something like the programs at North Bennet Street School or the American School of Jewelry.  Your art can be your job and your job can be art; don’t let anyone tell you anything different.

So, here are some of the greatest things about working in arts and crafts: you are never too old to learn; you can take classes any time; there are so many different things to do as both a hobbyist and as a professional that you will never be bored; everything you experiment with just gives you more experience and helps you learn what you like and don’t like; you can be inspired by anything; you can create art any time; you can inspire others with your art; you can express yourself in a way that is never wrong; and if you like it that’s all that’s important–if someone else likes it, you have one more friend in the world.

Well, don’t sit there reading this…go make something.

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.
Thomas Merton

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About windbent

I try to reclaim, reuse and re-love items from our past and make them modern again. I see my jewelry as a fusion of old and new, cross cultural, and spanning time periods. Because I use vintage items within my jewelry, there may be age related signs of love that make them special. Each piece will be unique or made in small batches that are similar, but still different. If I find an item I love and it doesn't want to become jewelry, I give it a new home in another art format.
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8 Responses to How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Art

  1. That’s fantastic! My parents were NOT enthusiastic about my doing anything creative, yet they were no help with college, either. I’ve done both now, on my own, and I’m very proud of both!

    • windbent says:

      My parents didn’t help me either, they just felt they had the right to comment while I tried to pick something to study that would earn me their approval that college wasn’t just “underwater basket weaving.”

  2. Loved the bites of wisdom throughout this piece. A wonderful and very timely post.

  3. Great post! I think this is something many, if not all of us struggle with. All I know is, no matter what else I may have to do to make a living, being an artist is what I was meant to be and is who I really am.
    p.s. I’m signed up for the Bead Soup Blog Party too!

    • windbent says:

      You’re right. Having seen your work, I’m a fan and you should be doing what you’re doing. Can’t wait to see what you make for Bead Soup.

  4. What a great post! I totally relate to the “art issues”, only, way back when I went to school, if you couldn’t draw, you weren’t artistic. Any other forms were not encouraged in high school. I grew up thinking that my talents were cooking and knitting, not that there is a thing wrong with being a great baker or knitter, but I came to the jewelry making so late in life and at a time of major crisis. It has saved my sanity and I constantly preach that children should find their talent and be encouraged to follow it. Our society gives accolades to children who are sports minded and the more creative spirits have not the same encouragement.

    • windbent says:

      I think you’re totally right, I can’t remember my art teacher encouraging anyone who couldn’t draw or paint already. It’s also sad that while girls are encouraged to cook or bake when they’re young, once they get older, they aren’t really encouraged to become a trained chef–maybe a caterer if they’re lucky. I really hope that’s still not as true for younger generations as it was for mine.

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