But I was feeling the pull.
I've always been inclined towards a sense of minimalism. I don't like clutter. I feel overwhelmed when surrounded by too many things. And, of course, organization is a keystone of my day to day life. So, part of my Depth Year was a low-spend or no-spend promise to myself for 2019. I hoped to find peace and joy in what I already possessed, and not in the hunt for something new and shiny. This didn't, necessarily, mean I wouldn't purchase anything at all, but that I would attempt to be very conscious about my purchases.... bringing to me only the things that filled a need, purchases that supported local artists or business owners or fed into the creative community, and purchases that would further what interests I'd already established that I'd hoped to journey deeper into during the year.
And I think, entering April, I'm finally finding my groove with my Depth Year journey. I deleted all shopping apps from my phone (even apps for Michael's or JoAnn's or Hobby Lobby.... those coupons encourage me to spend without necessity!). And now that I've purged unused items, even items I've only recently purchased, I feel much more free to create, or that I'm at least open to creative possibility.
While I may have moments I'm derailed from this new path of mine, I wont punish myself for it or allow it to derail my goals moving forward. I may yet buy another purse. I may buy another tarot deck, despite the 20 I haven't used in months. But I'll endeavor to try, every single day, to invest my time and energy into what I have.
And this isn't just about "things". I endeavor to spend my time more consciously as well. I want to experience the depth of great relationships, encourage other creative souls in whatever way I can (and yes, sometimes this will mean buying things), and keep my interactions positive and uplifting whenever possible. And when not possible, be open to receiving the positivity of others.
So yes, while I may have "failed" at the beginning of my Depth Year, there's still a lot of 2019 left, and I'm opening myself to whatever that means. I'm excited to see where this road will lead.
Are you investing in a Depth Year? Let me know in the comments below!
Here's the rundown:
I am definitely looking forward to what the rest of 2019 brings, which will include other changes as well. Last September, I offered a tutorial membership package, which was basically one ginormous 60% off discount on 12 months of tutorials released (at least 60 lessons!). This year, I am (so far) undecided whether or not I will be offering this membership again. Only because I have a comprehensive online workshop planned that I'd like to offer, and my website can only accommodate one or the other, for a variety of technical issues and the limitations surrounding the platform I use. I could offer the workshop off-site, on a third-party platform like Teachable, for instance, so it's an option I'm keeping in mind. Let me know what you think in the comments below. I've got a few months to go, so there's time to make decisions yet and I'd love to hear what you think!
And now, I shall be off, plan a few more blog posts (I'm feeling chatty after so many weeks away from writing), and get to wire wrapping! I hope you all stay creative, until the next time....
So it seemed a no-brainer, as I got older, to invest a little time in art classes, as part of my school curriculum. I'd always been decent with a pencil, and could work with reference photos easily enough, but looked forward to the opportunity to learn techniques, work with new mediums and stretch my creative wings.
Little did I know, 8th grade art class would start a downward spiral of negative experience with the "creative" side of the educational system. It begins with Mr. Stanley, whose bald head and pompous demeanor I still clearly envision and, if you can't tell, for whom I still hold a great deal of disdain.
We were learning to work with pastels. It was my first experience with the medium, and working from the still life of a fruit bowl (because those are always riveting, am I right?) and I was having a great time dusting all that chalky powder from my hands throughout the class. Mr. Stanley was making the rounds, looming over the shoulders of students, correcting perceived mistakes and pointing out bad technique. To 8th graders. Sigh.
I was proud of my work, and my fellow students were complimenting me. But, as the teacher rounded my table, he leaned in close and said "I'd like to enter this in the state school art fair, but these shadows need a LOT of work. Make them darker". I didn't think my shadows needed more dimension, but he was the teacher. He knew what he was talking about, right? So I worked those shadows, nervously, while he continued his circuit around the class. Eventually he made his way to me again and said (I kid you not) "That looks like shit. You ruined it." But he took it and shrugged and said he'd enter it anyway.
My junior high school art teacher just told an 8th grader their art looked like shit.
And you know what? My piece of shit won 3rd place. In the entire state. Out of hundreds of entries. I thought he was rude and pretentious and a snobby critic, but I brushed it off and brandished my winning ribbon proudly while he said "You could have won first place if you hadn't messed it up."
High school rolled around, and I figured I was done with art class and content to fill my sketchbooks in my own time and work with the medium that brings me joy. I was done with self-important, snobby art-critic teachers. Until I needed a class to fill my schedule and basic art was the only thing available. And you know, it was a good class. My teacher was impressed with me, she wanted to push me and didn't feel she had the tools in an introductory class to do so, so recommended to the school that I move on to the (already full) advanced class. They made room for me and I was chuffed with myself. But worried.
For good reason it seems, because I almost failed that class. I almost failed a class in which the content is 100% subjective. The techniques were ridiculous, the projects totally obscure (for instance, we had to make a place setting for a famous person, from the place mat to the silverware). Gone were the innocent days of using oil paints or acrylics or charcoal pencils, because apparently the classics had no place in modern curriculum. The final project was 40% of our total grade and absolutely ridiculous. We had to sketch our home. I lived in an apartment. Do you know how hard it is to sketch an entire apartment building without any prior knowledge or experience with DRAFTING? But I did it, and it looked good. Damn good.
But that wasn't all. We then had to add texture to our drawing. The door would have carpet on it, for instance, and the windows would have a sponge, and the siding would be popsicle sticks. We had to cut and paste textures to our drawing. Then we would paint the textures and print our homes on a clean sheet of paper. I was horrified. The idea of ruining my perfect, clean, crisp beautiful drawing was heartbreaking to me. And also hella difficult! Because my entire building was comprised of really complicated lines and stair cases and small details, that I now had to try to translate with texture.
Needless to say, my print was a muddy mess and I received a D on my final exam, and a C in the class as a whole. The only C I received in my entire high school experience.
Thinking there is a right way to be creative or "do" art. Have you ever been told you're doing it wrong? That your art isn't art because you didn't do it the way someone else has done it? Have you ever told yourself something similar? Let me be perfectly clear.... there is no wrong way to "do" art. The act of the art is the only thing that matters, because your story matters, and in every piece of art is a piece of our story. Who is that person to control how you tell your story or diminish its important because it doesn't fit inside the paradigm of their own perceptions. Art is, and always will be, subjective. It's an indefinable way to express our own creative spirit. The expression matters, not the methods or techniques used.
Not taking risks. Oh, comfort zone, how we love thee. This is perhaps my biggest creative sin. I do what I know and I enjoy a place of confidence in my competency and the idea of failing at something new really, honestly, terrifies me. But one of the biggest ways to stifle creative flow and growth is by refusing to take risks. This doesn't mean you need the newest tool or the best supplies. This means it's important to flex the creative muscles any way you can, even when utilizing the materials already at your disposal. What matters is trying something new and sharing it with others. Because it's through the sharing of it that we realize our fears are misplaced.
Self-criticizing before the process is complete. Don't get me wrong, it's an important part of the creative process to be honest with ourselves about our work and the ways in which we can improve. But one of the quickest ways to derail progress is criticizing our work before we've even finished it. How many times have you scrapped a project and started over? By doing this, we are teaching ourselves that our story (here I go with the "story" metaphor again) is somehow flawed and, excuse me, but you... are.... not.... flawed. So I challenge you with this: the next time you want to scrap a project, fight the urge and push through. Use that mistake and build from it. Because what is a story without the mistakes from which we learn? And you might be surprised by the magic of your mistakes.
Inconsistent creative times. If you've followed my blog for five minutes, you'll know I'm a huge advocate for organization, planning and order. And while many creatives may fight this ideology and cling to the cliche that artists are inherently chaotic, there is an important role of consistency and order in the creative process. By this, I mean it's important to create daily. Every single day. It doesn't have to be gallery-worthy. It doesn't have to be wearable. It doesn't even have to be particularly pleasing to look at. It just has to be made, however small, however functional, however utterly UN-artistic it may seem. Create something every day, be it a sketch, a poem, collage, a journal entry, a prayer, a photograph. Even 100 ear wires or 5 feet of viking knit chain. All of these activities stimulate the creative muscle and it's through this daily stimulation that our imagination and creativity become habitual.
Consuming more information or skills than we have time to process. I see this one a lot. I want to learn bezel setting. I want to learn soldering, or metal clay or electroforming or acrylic paint pouring, knitting, pottery, crotchet! This may be hard to hear..... this may even be totally counter-intuitive to your nature..... but it's important to limit our creative endeavors to what we have time to really invest in and process. Learn something new, yes, but then do that thing for months and months. Do it until you don't have to think about it any more because your body knows what's required of it to tell your story effectively in your art. Then learn something new, and do that thing for a year. But, by consuming an endless library of skills, techniques or information, you're more likely to overwhelm and short-circuit your creative muscle than you are to flex it.
Believing there is nothing new to learn. You know that saying "there's nothing new under the sun"? You should, because I've mentioned a time or two how much I hate it. The confusion here is that we sometimes believe learning is limited to technique, but art and creativity is more than that. Our voice and heart and spirit (however woo-woo that may sound) is part of the process, perhaps the most important part, and there are always new ways to express that spirit. I challenge you to spend thirty days.... one whole month.... working with only one medium, and make something totally different with that medium each time you pick it up. If wire is your medium of choice, make a pendant one day, a brooch the next, a sculpture, then a candle holder or a wall hanging or a picture frame. Teach yourself (through risk, as mentioned above) that there are endless ways to tell a story and you'll never know them all.
Toxic comparison as a form of self-sabotage. Oh boy. This is a big one and perhaps the most damaging of them all. Because there is no quicker way to dampen our creative flow than by comparing ourselves to others. And we've all done it, I hazard a guess, because we're socially wired to see ourselves as less than. Our bodies are less than those in the ads. Our paintings are less than those in the galleries. Our jewelry is less than those in the magazines. But that's doing ourselves an immense disservice, because comparing our work to others is diminishing the heart and soul of our creative flow. My challenge to you: go to Pinterest or Google and find that artist and his or her work who sparks you to say "I'll never be that good." Go on... do it. We all have that artist to whom we have compared ourselves and found ourselves lacking. And look at their art. Admire it for the beauty and talent and dedication it took to complete it. There is purpose and meaning in surrounding ourselves with the art of others and finding beauty and inspiration from it. But then look at your own art and note all the ways, even if you have to physically write them down, your work is amazing. Did you utilize a new technique in your latest piece? Did that wire flow in just the right way to lead into the next and the next and create a whole? Did the combination of materials spark joy in your when you put them together and planned your work? Be proud of your accomplishments. You made something! And the next time you make something it will be better.
So tell me, have you committed any of these creative sins? Are there sins you've created that I haven't mentioned here? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below!
I love a good documentary! So I've compiled a list of my top five favorite documentaries about the art world, how perception paves the way for art, prices art, how art is born and shared. While these are not related to wire wrapping, directly, there's certainly a correlation between the same sentiments expressed here in these films and the world of wire wrapping or any creative endeavor. Many can be viewed or purchased on YouTube, or on Netflix, though one was a HBO special, and I'm not sure on its current availability.
The Price of Everything: In a world where everything can be bought and sold, this documentary takes a bold look at how we value our own time, the time of others and where are values become skewed due to the perception of ownership and exclusivity.
My Kid Could Paint That: An eye-opening and daring portrait of how we might sometimes paint our own reality to suit our perceptions of art and its value.
Blurred Lines: Inside the Art World: Asks us to question whether or not the art world is more a multi-million dollar industry to feed the egos of the rich.
Exit Through the Gift Shop: One of my favorites on this list, as it's essentially (in my estimation) a Banksy prank, by Banksy, perhaps even mocking his own popularity and the absurd propensity of the public to ascribe value to everything.
Marina Abramovic- The Artist is Present: If there was one artist I would love to meet in person, it would be Marina Abramovic. The Artist is Present details her performance art career and exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. Moving and compelling.
The creative community, especially in a digital era, is an incredible thing. It's a collective sentience from which a world of spirits conjoin to feed the whole. During the last ten years, I've been incredibly lucky and blessed to have experienced some unbelievably positive communications and friendships as a result of my presence and interaction within a creative online forum (in one capacity or another). And I can happily assert that the positive far outweighs the negative, at least when drawing from my own experiences.
But there is a worm working its way through the essence of our communal purpose.
Perhaps it's always been there, this bit of darkness, and it's only the ever-growing digital world that allows it a stage for its play. But I'm concerned, folks. Truly. I run a large wire wrapping Facebook group, with over 26k members (and counting) and, while the majority of the interactions are (thankfully) super helpful, positive and from a place of growth and inspiring creative spirit, there's an alarming amount of negativity. And, having thought about it for some time now, I'm confident in my theories regarding its source.
In essence, self-doubt breeds ugliness. Because there's an undeniable need to tear others down to lift ourselves up. It's easier to see ourselves as better than we believe ourselves to be, when we convince others they are somehow less. In the last week, I've seen individuals criticize (and I have a very strong opinion against offering unsolicited advice or critical commentary) the work of others, for no other reason than to hear themselves talk. Because, ultimately, criticisms are only beneficial when shared in a manner that is empowering. This social skill, like any other, must be learned.
In the creative community, when does serving our own interests justify questionable behavior? If everyone doesn't leave an interaction having been empowered, even if only a little, then there's no justification at all. It's not "helpful" to make any of the above statements, and I honestly and sincerely question the motivations of those who believe otherwise.
It's time we, as a whole, take a moment. Stop and think about how our opinions, and how we chose to express those opinions, affect others. We can no longer enable this behavior, nor foster an atmosphere in which it's more acceptable to say "Well you posted it online, so you should expect people to tell you they don't like it" than to say "I can't wait to see your next creation" or, if you can't or wont indulge in false compliments, say nothing at all. It's time we recognize that because we can offer an opinion doesn't mean we should, and it's important to understand the needs of those sharing their work before we commit to our comments to them.
Words have power. And this power is motivated by either negative or positive intention. Will you chose to use your power to diminish others, or lift them up?
One way in which I keep my space organized is, quite frankly (and much to the chagrin of many, I imagine) to limit what I own and what I purchase. As I've mentioned in previous blog posts, minimalism is a way of living I admire and to which I aspire. And this is by no means a judgement on those who surround themselves with supplies, who have rooms full of their hobbies and crafts, which spill out over dining tables and through hallways. Because, ultimately, we can only do what serves our spirit and our spaces in the best possible ways for the individual, and not the expectations of others.
But, if you're cramped for space, looking to minimalize or otherwise want to give a face lift to your work room or studio, my first suggestion (and probably the hardest to follow) is to limit and reduce your supplies, and keep only what can reasonably be used in a 6-12 month window. While I truly recognize how difficult this can be (we all love shiny things, I know), one way to help yourself stay organized is to allot a specified space for your supplies and commit to the limitations that space demands. I have two storage centers in my living room (aka studio) and do not buy supplies or tools that cannot fit reasonably well within them. Once those tools or supplies begin to spill out into other areas of my home, I pause, take stock, and reduce and re-home what's not be used in the last 6 months.
Small spaces also require quite a bit of compartmentalizing and creative storage solutions When tools and materials must share limited drawer or cabinet space, using storage bags, boxes, baskets or containers can mean the difference between chaos and calm. If you have a three-drawer storage chest, but fifteen different hobbies, dividing these supplies in boxes or bags, within each drawer, helps itemize what you have. When you shuffle through a drawer full of acrylic paints because you need the knitting needles you had no other room for, you not only waste precious creative time, but you also risk distracting yourself from a creative task by the inevitable pull of other supplies and hobbies within sight.
Better still, these (or some variation thereof) are available in a variety of colors, so you can easily color code your supplies! Tan bag for hammers, red bag for torch supplies, blue bag for saws, blades, files and cutters., black bag for beads. Reach for what you need without the distraction of a table top full of tools!
Happy organizing everyone!
What's a depth year, you ask?
Well, first, I'll say I wish I could share with you the origin story of this idea, but sadly I don't know. The concept has been passed from pillar to post so often that I'm afraid I couldn't track down its roots. I happened across this challenge through a YouTube tag, first within the tarot community and then within the planner community, so it's made quite a show online these last few years.
The premise is basically this: "go deeper, not wider". And, by that, I mean delve deep into the things you have that bring you joy and feed your spirit, without the distraction of new hobbies or material possessions. This isn't about deprivation, however. While a depth year often involves a "no spend" or "low spend" ideology, I consider it more a "conscious spending" exercise. I enjoy purchasing and owning the jewelry and work of other artists. This, for me, is an act of conscious spending. As a creative solepreneur myself, I understand the importance of the kind of support I offer to those sharing their work with the world. While I may not need that new pendant I've been eyeballing on Facebook, the act of purchasing and owning it helps feed my spirit by contributing to the creative cycle between small business owners.
So, while I may continue to support the art of others as resources allow, I will be otherwise limiting my purchases. I have rolls and rolls of wire, containers of beads and stones, and while my collection may pale in comparison to others, I have oodles with which to experiment. I have an electroforming and electroplating tool, purchased two months ago, that has yet to be used, so do I really need that new tabletop kiln and copper clay kit? Absolutely not. There's so much to experiment with, such a vast array of possibilities, even with my limited supply, that I could easily go the year without a single supplies purchase, and still find joy in the creations to come.
And this wont just extend to business. While I would love that striking new Schmincke watercolor palette, I have to recognize I've barely made the time to sketch at all in the last three months. And that new Filofax Maldren planner is stunning, but I have two Hobonichis sitting here with empty pages. And don't get me started on the Kindle books I've yet to read, the clothes or purses I've yet to put to use, the growing tarot deck collection that has been shamefully under-utilized and under-appreciated.
It's time to go deep with what I have, to learn to love what I have and seek further only those things which bring me joy (as Marie Kondo would say). And, perhaps, to love myself a little more as well, and appreciate my own company while also learning to love the experiences and moments I'm able to share with others.
So I've begun with my traditional New Year's deep clean. I cleaned my home and purged what's no longer serving me. I organized my work space, re-homed unused tarot decks, and donated purses and clothes I've never appreciated. And I'm journaling. I'm planning and journaling and creating a soul connection with this process that is feeding my spirit in the best possible ways. I'm digging deep into my own shadows, pulling them into the light one by one, examining my spending, enjoying what I own, and consciously purchasing from those whose work sparks joy.
While it may not be an easy exercise, I believe it will be rewarding.
So, happy Depth Year to all of you! If this is something that lights a fire for you, I'd love to hear about your own #depthyear journey in the comments below!
Minimalism looks different for everyone and not every need is the same, so my journey may look a little less stark than some, and excessive to others. I've always been organized and tidy. I've rarely kept things out of sentimentality. And "collectibles" was a word I'd banished from my vocabulary. Almost a decade ago, I donated my entire personal library of 5000 books, and never felt more free from the burden of stuff. So I held on to that memory when starting this journey more fully, when it seemed too difficult to separate myself from my things. Things without meaning or function. And I was surrounded by my husband's stuff. And my kid's stuff. And it all felt.... heavy. While I can't control what those around me chose to surround themselves with, I decided to take some power back for myself. I tossed old clothes.... you know... those clothes we hang on to for the special occasions we've never had in the two years since we bought them, or the clothes that will fit "some day". I condensed my purses to what would fit in a single basket on the shelf in my closet. All things that I had a lot of were all condensed to similar baskets, with the intention that nothing should "spill over" from the space they were allotted.
And this applied to my craft supplies and jewelry supplies as well. While I run a business, and keeping a certain amount of supplies and tools are a necessity, I committed to not spilling into the kitchen or closets with my shipping envelopes or unused or superfluous tools. I would buy as needed. I re-homed the dapping set, tumbler, chasing and repousse tools that I either only used a handful of times or never at all in the two years I'd owned them. And every day, I'm moving things out, to make space for more me.
Don't get me wrong. I still have things. While I purged a ton of kitchen gadgets (I don't even own a blender or mixer any more), and my coffee mugs dwindled from eight to four, I still have things for the fun of it. I have an obsession with hand-knotted mala beads and tarot decks and my aversion to the term "collectibles" turns a blind eye where they are concerned. I am not so minimalist (nor do I believe I ever will be) that I'll only own five shirts, one pair of shoes, or a single plate and bowl and fork and spoon. But what I do have must serve a purpose ("knick-knacks" is not a term I understand), and sometimes that purpose is simply to act as a conduit to serenity. The jewelry I own, for instance, provides a sense of serenity for me, acts as a sort of worry stone, that I can wear, carry with me, concentrate on, meditate with. It brings me to center. But, when something stops bringing me joy, or begins to feel more a burden than a release from burden, I am now quick to let it go.
And what has this meant for my creativity..... downsizing my tools and bead stash and everything else? Surprisingly, it's opened up new possibilities for me. The tools I'd had and didn't use were simply broadcasting this notion that I was somehow "failing" myself. That I wasn't pushing enough boundaries. And, quite frankly, it was stressing me out! But, by moving them on, I discovered there were still so many more boundaries to discover with what I still had. Without the distraction of that tool I "may someday, eventually use" I've become hyper aware of ideas still untapped with the mediums I already know and love. And I'm in a space now peaceful and serene enough to allow me to explore those possibilities.
Now if I can just get my husband to downsize what's in the garage. That room gives me hives!
Now, I'm sure what I'm saying here might ruffle a few feathers. It's easy to split hairs regarding the use of this term, and there's a certain sense of pride in calling oneself "self-taught". I totally get it! There's often no formal training to learn to knit or paint or draw or use a camera. I'm not discounting that there is a great deal of personal dedication required to learn a skill without a formal educational system to push and reward us as students. We don't have papers to turn in, tests to take, and our efforts are not assigned grades by which we can gauge our successes and failures. We should, as creative souls, be proud of our accomplishments but, in doing so, should not forget those from whom we've gleaned even the smallest enrichment during our creative journeys.
And I'm not saying that there maybe isn't someone out there in the world who truly did learn and improve their skills without those resources I mentioned above. There are clearly a few creative savants in the world who, from birth, hold a degree of talent that can't be learned. But I'm confident in asserting we can all be improved upon and improvement comes often as a result of influence by others.
While I never attended a school to learn to wire wrap, to draw, or to take a passable portrait of my cat, I watched endless videos, purchased tutorials (thank you Eni Oken, IMNIUM, Lonely Soldier Designs, Iza Malczyk, to name a few), scrolled through many a DIY magazine at my local craft store, and joined creative communities where I could ask questions and explore possibilities. I would not be where I am without the influence and work of others and, therefore, couldn't confidently (nor honestly) call myself "self-taught".
But let's split hairs (because I know a few are probably dying to do so). Self-taught is defined as "having acquired knowledge or skill on one's own initiative rather than through formal instruction or training" and, as such, implies that many of us creatives would fall within these parameters. But this also implies that we learn without the help or aid of teachers. This, to me, ignores the influence of talented souls we meet and who inspire us to be better. What are those individuals who provide us with videos, articles and lessons if not our teachers? Without these influences, I'm not sure I'd have had that initiative to explore my talents and improve upon them. Please keep in mind, this is my perception of the term and I how I chose to personally relate to it, and I understand others may not agree. But it doesn't fill my heart with joy to congratulate myself on my successes without recognizing the work others have done to help pave my way.
So no, I am not a "self-taught" artist. I am a self-learner. I take the initiative to read those articles, watch those videos, try those lessons all in an effort to improve my skills. But those resources are provided by teachers. And I intend to express how grateful I am for the gifts they've given me, and that I am eternally, thankfully, their student.
But, no matter how you learn, or how you define your journey and your successes, I wish you all one important thing..... a long, creative life!
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