Thursday, June 20, 2013

Creativity in a box

"No grieving for me, these thorns that make us bleed, no lies just reasons to believe."

I've been pushing the envelope a little, working outside my comfort zone a little, which this week means I have been working with a lot of colors I'm not usually drawn to. Neutrals, browns and ivories and caramels and tans and taupes. There is an endless range of these colors in the world of glass and I own more than you'd think, given my love for more vivid color.

And this is what came out of my kiln.

I showed one to Neil, because this is a palette he appreciates more than I usually do. He's all about the warm colors and I like the cooler colors. I live in the range from red to blue and most of the way to green. Neil starts with red and goes the opposite way around the color wheel, through yellow. Poor green is left out, although I'm learning to love it more. It works into my neutral palette very naturally.

Neil looked at the bead, I think it was the top center one, and said, I'd name this one "Oasis." I'm not 100 percent sure why, but I'm going with it. My new Oasis series.

Another look. Same beads, different view.

I'm still fine tuning the design and I have some in the kiln now.

And then I tried my hand at Sugar Skulls. I don't know why it took me so long.

The second guy from the left is my favorite. And he's green. (I hear it's not easy being green.)

I'll be fine tuning this design too.

I'm grateful to have this little window of inspiration.

I'm still treading water in terms of where I'm going with my glass art.

Days go by and I have no sales. And I know that should not be the ruler, the benchmark for what I do.

Van Gogh sold no paintings in his lifetime.

I don't have to sell beads to live, but I do feel very aware of every dollar I spend now. If I sell a few beads or some of my glass that I don't use, then I allow myself to buy a little new glass. But for the most part I have all the glass I need.

So if I'm not doing it for the money, then I'm doing it for the creative expression. Unfortunately my muse has been phoning it in a lot lately.

Against my better judgment, because I rarely find this sort of thing useful, I purchased Kim Neely's e-book, Creativity Bootcamp for the Glass Beadmaker.

Kim is a talented bead artist with a reputation for making magic out of silver glass, particularly an early Double Helix color called Terra. Terra was originally going to be called Chaos, but after Kim named her first bead set made with the glass Terra, Double Helix asked her permission to rename the glass Terra.

A year or so ago, Double Helix re-released Terra and Kim wrote a tutorial about how to use it, called Taming Terra, which I own. I was a little disappointed to learn that one of her secrets was that not every bead turns out magical and that she weeds out a fair number that don't quite turn out. She also works with two small kilns, alternating them in order to keep soak time short. Not necessarily a practical way to work for someone with a setup like mine.

After being underwhelmed with this tutorial, I probably wouldn't have bought another, except that it was on sale for 50% off and with my ongoing creativity crises, I decided to gamble the $12.50.

I need to spend more time with it, at least read through all the exercises, perhaps even try a few. Kim even starts out by asking us to commit to trying the exercises rather than just reading and pondering them. I suspect she intuits the skepticism that some are likely to provoke.

But I could have told you before I bought the book that the likelihood of me doing a bunch of creativity exercises was slim to none. I knew I was buying the book more out of curiosity to see what exercises someone like Kim would come up with that she felt were valuable enough to sell. And OK, I was feeling a bit desperate.

Kim was a writer by profession before she was a beadmaker, and her tutorials are well-phrased with pretty pictures. And a couple of things she said immediately drew a reaction from me.

The first was about validation, a topic dear to my heart, as you my faithful readers well know, since I've written about it ad nauseum. Kim has this to say.

... when you sell your art for a living ... youʼll begin to see sales as validation, a sign that the work is good. Which it is, of course — the problem with relying on sales for validation of your work is that when you do this and then the work stops selling as well — even if itʼs the result of external factors like changes in the market or a weak economy — itʼs very, very hard not to take the slump in sales as a rejection of the work. If strong sales mean the work is good, slow or no sales must mean the work is bad, right?

Not necessarily. Sometimes, even if people like your work very much, they just donʼt have the money to buy it. If your work isnʼt selling or is selling more slowly than you would like, itʼs not a personal rejection. Thatʼs Rule #2, and life in the cruel world of commerce will be much easier on you if youʼll take that one to heart.
I think, now if I can just internalize that philosophy, then it's already been worth the price of admission.

But. You'll notice I bypassed Rule #1. For a reason. Because it is this.
Putting too much emphasis on sales (or lack thereof) can really do a number on your artistic vision and take your work places where you donʼt want it to go. The first thing you want to avoid is the temptation to alter the direction of your work based on whatever styles of work are currently selling. This never works out well. ... So, Rule #1, donʼt break your neck trying to make what is selling for someone else. Make and sell what you love, always, and the buyers will eventually find you.
And that's where I want to say, no, scream, but how long? How long is eventually? I've been making and selling what I love, for years now really, just when is it that the buyers are supposed to show up?

I wonder if I'd do better writing books about creativity exercises than making and selling beads.

I'm not intentionally or heartlessly dissing Kim's teachings. I understand where she's coming from. She's wrestled with her own creativity demons, the ones she speaks of, fear, motivation, self-doubt. Quite possibly she has systematically vanquished them by plodding through the exercises she describes. Yet the rather loud cynic in me thinks of what my dad used to say, them as can do, and them as can't teach.

Tutorials, especially well-written ones with pretty pictures, are doubtlessly more lucrative than cranking out yet more of the beads you are famous for.

On the flip side these exercises may be just what the doctor ordered for some beadmakers stuck in their own personal limbo of fear, doubt, procrastination and demotivation.

I've already been doing many of the recommended things. I'm dutiful. I work at my art when I feel like it and when I don't.

One of the hooks that pushed me over the decision line to buy this e-book was this.
The one absolutely foolproof way to break any creative block
How could I not need to know that secret?

Silly me. I'm old enough to know that when it comes to something as intangible as creativity, there's absolutely nothing foolproof about it.

Let's just say, without giving away the farm, that my personal creative block has proved foolishly resistant to being broken in this particular way. That's not to say it wouldn't be the ram that batters through that annoying block for someone else.

Of course there are the "hands-on exercises, assignments and creative prompts" that I have yet to try.

I think it's not impossible that my recent bout of inspiration was animated by my desperation to avoid doing those very things. If that's true, then in some contrary way, the tutorial did serve to stimulate my creative muscle.

But holy holy, I'll take my inspiration any way I can get it.

"You've known the distance
From sea to field of green
I've traded mountains for a dream
Some hearts lay broken
By love's unanswered prayers
Words fall like roses
Through the air
Roses around my feet are telling me something
Roses around my feet
I used to feel nothing
No grieving for me
These thorns that make us bleed
No lies just reasons to believe
Roses around my feet
Are telling me something
Roses around my feet I used to feel nothing."

(Tish Hinojosa)

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz