Social media teaches us to be passive. To feel like we’re doing something by reading, liking, commenting, and making comments. It’s very easy to get into the mindset that the best way to learn something is to do a search or ask a question on a group. (And don’t get me wrong…asking those who have more experience is a fantastic way to find answers.) But it’s all to common for someone to pick up their phone to ask a question rather than pick up the clay and try it yourself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a question on a Facebook group where I got up, went to my studio, tried it, and came back to post an answer. We learn by doing. Even if we’re just “farting around” without the intention of making anything specific, we’re still learning. What happens when I do this, or that? There doesn’t have to be a goal. You don’t even have to make a finished piece. But through experimentation, you learn how the materials work, how the clay behaves, and how to move your hands. That’s invaluable experience that will help you make the next thing that you DO want to make! When you try stuff, you learn what works AND you learn what doesn’t work. Try it! What are some of the outlandish that you have tried? What did you learn? What have you learned NOT to do? Tell us about it!
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Category: Ginger’s Musings
I just got back from a few days away. I had a lot of conversations with strangers and one thing struck me about mindset. Just as there are optimists and pessimists, I realized there are also mindsets about possibility. Some of us default to thinking about what limits us. And others of us default to thinking about what’s possible. Some of us look for a set of rules or constraints to work within, looking for the edges and side rails of life, letting them determine where we go. Like a highway at night, the lines keep us safe and get us where we are heading. Lines are good, especially when the stakes are high (such as having a car full of precious people driving at 70mph down a busy highway). But not everything requires this rigid mindset. Sometimes the goal is to wander and explore. In that case, the rules and guidelines will keep you small. Nobody ever found the peace of a secret hideaway in the woods by staying on the paved roads of life. (Speaking metaphorically here!) I think it’s important that we don’t become too invested in what we CAN’T do. Those limitations are a hollow comfort that gives us an excuse to stay small, safe, and expected. Of course, there is a time and place for everything. But generally, in my observation, at least in our art, most of us err on the side of comfort and safety. We are far too concerned about the limits.
The Art vs. Craft debate is a tension-filled topic that always tends to get people into knots. Before our BYOB Roundtable discussions on August 15, my husband and I sat down to brainstorm and spitball the various categories of creative activity. We quickly realized there are not just two categories of Art and Craft. This gets complicated. Here are some thoughts I wrote down from our conversation. I’m sharing this here to give us some common ground and food for thought rather than to rigidly define any category. This is a VERY nebulous topic, that we took much further in our BYOB Roundtable discussions. Fine Art One-off, single pieces Vision or message conveyed Conceptual rather than functional Aesthetics supports the concept Excellence only relevant if it supports the concept Usually requires fine art education Traditionally sold in galleries Often perceived as high status Limited to “traditional” media such as painting, fine sculpture Fine Craft One-off, single pieces Functional item Skillful mastery and craftsmanship is important Aesthetics match convention or historical precedence Often stylized according to the medium and historical precedence Excellence is very important Craftsmen often have a fine art education Traditionally sold through craft shows, from workshops, through individuals Usually includes media of ceramics, wood, metalsmithing, glass, fiber art, etc. Commercial art/craft Prototype made singly for mass reproduction Created to fill a market need Aesthetics match the market’s expectation Very often stylized Often evokes high-dopamine emotions such as sentimentality, belonging/tribalism, religion, sports teams Excellence only as far necessary for
When I picked up my grocery order from Walmart last week, the worker handed me a small shopping bag, branded with the Walmart logo, and wished me a good day. Samples are always fun and everyone loves a bargain, so I happily thanked him and drove home with a bit of anticipation about the treats I was going to find. The reality was less than satisfying. There was a small snack pack of breakfast cereal. A packet of two Oreo cookies. A single gummy vitamin in a plastic packet. And several cards (not even coupons), each wrapped in plastic, advertising several brands of novelty flavored liquor. I sorted the contents into recyclable piles, finally disgusted that the bag, itself, was entirely plastic and consequently half-filled my kitchen trash bin. I was left feeling disappointed and a bit used. They had essentially given me a pile of trash that I now had to take my time to discard. There was no value here. Perhaps the worst side effect of social media is the endless stream of content that bombards us. Inundates us. Content is the equivalent of the sample bag from Walmart. It takes up our time, grabs our attention, and its sole purpose is to wave in front of our faces saying, “Look at me! Here I am! See my brand!” Content is inherently manipulative. It exists to persuade. To leave an impression. To convince. Either to convince an audience or to feed the algorithm so that your channel doesn’t
A parable from priest and therapist Anthony de Mello on the stories we tell ourselves: “A man found an eagle’s egg and put it in a nest of a barnyard hen. The eaglet hatched with the brood of chickens and grew up with them. All his life the eagle did what the barnyard chicks did, thinking he was a barnyard chicken. He scratched the earth for worms and insects. He clucked and cackled. And he would thrash his wings and fly a few feet into the air. Years passed and the eagle grew very old. One day he saw a magnificent bird above him in the cloudless sky. It glided in graceful majesty among the powerful wind currents, with scarcely a beat of its strong golden wings. The old eagle looked up in awe. “Who’s that?” he asked. “That’s the eagle, the king of the birds,” said his neighbor. “He belongs to the sky. We belong to the earth—we’re chickens.” So the eagle lived and died a chicken, for that’s what he thought he was.” Source: Song of the Bird I’ve heard different versions of this same parable over the years. It’s always a story where the main character doesn’t realize his true potential (or is afraid to embrace it) and he dies without ever knowing what he could have been. Different from the Ugly Duckling story, which is about transformation, this story is about never questioning the reality that you believe about yourself. About who you are. Way too
In my newsletter this week, I wrote: “Are you holding back until you’re “good enough”? Do you avoid taking risks because you’re not a “real artist”? Where does that come from? You do not need anyone’s permission to be fabulous! You don’t need a license to create.” I thought I’d expand a bit on that. It’s very easy for us to be quite concerned with what “they” think is appropriate. It goes back to the idea that Og and Zog our caveman ancestors needed to be part of the tribe and that violating group norms meant being cast out of the tribe, which was certain death in that setting. We are hard-wired to be very concerned with what the group will allow us to do. Tribes value and reward members who are reliable and can do certain things well. Knowing how to make bear stew is a good skill. It’s valued. But the wise guy who decided to add mushrooms to the pot got everyone sick and people in the tribe died. So people learn very quickly that getting creative is RISKY. But even in primitive tribes, there are people with specialized knowledge. Nobody doubts that the medicine man knows which mushrooms to use. That’s because it’s assumed that he’s an expert who has been trained. And are you aware that even now, our culture “believes” that “real artists” are properly trained and know what they’re doing and so they have what I suppose you could call a “license to
How Do You Find Your Voice? A recurring theme with polymer artists is that they long to find their artistic voice. A worthy desire! We all want to express things that are unique to us. I don’t believe, however, that it’s something you go out and find. You already have it. You just have to get out of your own way. Your handwriting is distinctive, right? You form each letter pretty much the way you were taught but somehow, you can’t help but put your own unique slant on each letter. Somehow, by the infinitesimal motions of your hand, you create a line of text that is so distinct that anyone familiar with your writing would instantly know who wrote it. And your brain does it without even being aware of the formation of each letter. It’s perfectly automatic because you’ve done it a million times. If you pay a lot of attention to your handwriting and then try on different script styles, trying to find the one that fits the best, will it help you find your ‘true handwriting’? No, not really. You develop your own handwriting by…well…writing the words. Sure, paying attention to the way you hold the pen (technique) will make neater handwriting. But it doesn’t change your voice. Want to develop your own voice? It’s already there. It’s YOU. Your own particular way of making aesthetic choices or holding a tool or deciding when something is done. The best way to refine your own personal artistic
I’ve written before about the idea that we all have a unique artistic voice, how it has nothing to do with your medium or the techniques used, and even if developing your own voice really matters for most people. Let’s take this one step further. Assuming that it matters to you to explore your artistic voice, how can you do it? How can you develop and refine it? The simple answer is to create original work. A lot of it. If you are following formulas (tutorials, projects) or adhering to the aesthetics of a specific trend, you will not see your own voice. It just won’t be there. That’s like trying to be the best chocolate chip cookie maker when you’re following the recipe on the bag. You can do a lot with technique (mixing, scooping, preparing the pan, preheating the oven, etc). But ultimately, there’s just not enough room for enough variation to express a unique voice or vision. 50 Times I discussed this topic with Claire Maunsell once and she explained that her favorite process for refining a voice is to do the same thing 50 times. She said that by the time you’ve done something 50 times, your own voice can’t help but be there. She’s not talking about using the same cookie-cutter idea 50 times, making 50 identical items. Instead, make something, totally from your own head, start to finish. Then look at it, decide what you like and don’t like about it. Then make it
Before trying to see your own voice, it’s helpful to understand what a strong artistic voice looks like in another person. Voice is a nebulous concept. It’s not clear like genre. Everyone knows what kind of books Stephen King writes. But that’s not voice. Lots of people write horror novels. What is the particular, unique, specific way that Stephen King crafts his characters, inserts dialogue, and build suspense? What makes him so unique out of the tens of thousands of authors who work in the same genre? Okay, here’s a test. Who made this sculpture? You probably recognize that this was made by Christi Friesen. There are so many things about it that just screams “Christi”. It’s organic, flowing, animated, bends reality, has bright colors, includes nuances of color and shading, has blingy embellishments, is unpolished and tactile, is full of whimsy, and is…frankly…loud and weird. Everything Christi does is like that. Have you ever met her? SHE is like that. Anyone who knows Christi is not surprised when they see something new that she makes. She’s so…Christi. Here’s more of her work. See what I mean? Now THAT’s voice. It’s easy to assume that it has to do with the techniques she uses. But it doesn’t. Artistic voice seems to pop through no matter what medium an artist uses. Here’s a doodle that Christi made. See? Same flavor. Totally different materials. This one even has a different style (reminiscent of Japanese anime). But the flavor is still Christi. Okay, so what
What is the difference between your voice and your style? To an extent, they’re the same thing. Your voice helps you find a style that you’re comfortable with. But I think there are some differences. Your voice comes from within you and it’s as individual as you are. It’s your inner weird. It’s the part of you that at 5 years old you knew what you liked. Voice doesn’t so much change over time as it deepens and becomes richer. More substantial and defined. Because your voice evolves, revealing itself, it’s quite difficult to encapsulate and describe. It’s like describing who you are…how could you ever put that into words? Style, on the other hand, comes from others. It’s the cultural grouping of ideas, images, looks. It can come out as a trend, or perhaps something even more timeless. Styles are certainly multifaceted, but they can be explained and described. You will only have one voice in your life (it’s you). But you will find yourself drawn to many styles. I might say that your voice determines which styles you want to wear. Maybe it’s more like clothing. A voice is your personality. Your individual you-ness. It’s as much a part of you as your handwriting or the way you walk. But style is like clothes. You put them on and take them off. You wear what you’re in the mood for. Then you do something else. Have you ever been listening to music and realized that you recognized another