Good afternoon everyone. I have something to say. (Warning: this is a long and self-absorbed post. If you want, you can stop reading as soon I’ve said what I have to say. I won’t be offended. For that matter, you can stop here. It’s really okay. But I still have something to say.)
I AM AN ARTIST.
Does that sound silly? Egotistical? Pretentious? Too bad. You can disagree with me. You can even laugh at me if you want. I’m still declaring it. I AM AN ARTIST. There. I said it. Twice. I’m not entirely sure what “kind” of artist I am, but I am an artist.
This declaration has probably been building for a while, but it’s bursting out of me at this particular moment largely because of two articles I have recently read online. This morning I read this one by Eva DeVirgilis. The title, Expose Yourself In Public, was certainly intriguing! I once worked with Eva and well remember what a lovely person she is. I have also watched the YouTube video of her TED talk, which is delightful. Eva recommends putting your dreams out in the world even when you’re not sure of yourself. Of course, everyone has heard this advice many times. It’s not an unusual message. But today, for some reason, her message particularly resonated with me. It reminded me of this article, which I read a couple of weeks ago, where the author asks why creative people shy away from the word “Artist.” He points out that the word is freighted with an enormous amount of stereotype and baggage, and people who create things often don’t feel worthy of it. And that resonated with me too.
To publicly call myself an artist feels scary. I don’t have anything hanging in a gallery. I’ve never won a prize. I haven’t sold my work on any sort of regular basis. I don’t even have a particular medium. I just make things. I make a lot of things with a sewing machine, which doesn’t fit into any sort of traditional definition of art. And I may regret this post. I do feel exposed. I know some people who read this will roll their eyes. But there it is. I’ve always wanted to be an artist, and now I am declaring myself one.
I often tell people that I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I know it’s an inane line but it’s meant to cover up my embarrassment at not “being” something: a teacher, an engineer, a human resources officer, a consultant. Something I can name. Because I’m not. I’ll spare you the details, but I’ve toyed with an Education major, an English major, law school, historic preservation, open-space conservation, tax law, art school, fashion design, dressmaking, and costume design. I’ve “been” versions of those things at times. But I keep jumping around. My father called me flighty. Dearly Beloved (more flatteringly) calls me multi-talented. I’ve called myself all sorts of things, both kind and unkind.
But there’s been one constant all my life. I need to create things. The only period in my life when I didn’t create things was when I was in law school, and I remember saying afterward that I needed to begin drawing again so I could figure out where I was the last time I saw myself. During my historic preservation and open-space conservation years, when I was working in offices, I obsessively made things in my spare time. I remember one of my colleagues giving me the oddest look as he strolled through a park during a lunch break and spotted me happily sitting on the ground under a tree, knitting. Sometimes when I couldn’t stand not to, I even surreptitiously drew during work hours at the office.
And then one day Dearly Beloved did the greatest thing anyone has ever done for me. He told me to quit my job and go back to school and study art. “You’re not happy,” he said, “And we need to do something about it. We’ll find a way to do without your paychecks. I don’t want you to look back on your life and regret not having done the thing you wanted most of all to do.” I still get emotional thinking about that morning.
So I went back to school. I completed the Art Foundations course required of all freshmen (I felt so funny calling myself a freshman in my 30s!). I thought I wanted to major in Illustration, but ended up choosing Fashion Design instead. (Flighty? Multi-talented?) Oh, I loved it. I designed and I illustrated and I sewed and I beaded and I embroidered. I made wonderful things! And then I graduated.
What does one do with a Fashion Design degree in Richmond, VA? Once again I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say I’ve experimented with a number of ideas and I haven’t exactly been a financial success. It’s not a good feeling. I struggle with guilt on any number of fronts every day. Dearly Beloved still carries the entire burden of supporting our family. I have no answer to the ubiquitous question, “And what do you do?” I’ve tried designing and making clothes for myself, for other people, for runway shows, for possible sale on Etsy. I’ve designed and made clothes just because they were in my head. I experimented with art quilting and thread painting. I draw in graphite. I used to draw in Prismacolor. I’m taking a watercolor class. I’ve made jewelry. I’ve costumed theatrical productions. I’m all over the map. Flighty? Multi-talented? It doesn’t matter any more. As Drew points out, artists are people who share the indescribable need to create something. And as Eva recommends, I’m going to stop apologizing for who I am and start appreciating everything I have.
So this little blog is about to change. It started off as a personal sewing blog along the lines of ones I’ve admired, like Oonabaloona, and Pretty Grievances and Goodbye Valentino, and Erica B’s DIY Style, and oh so many, many more where people post pictures of themselves wearing their wonderful handmade clothing, and review patterns, and talk about sewing in general. I still love reading them, and I’ll still probably still do some posts about things I’ve made for myself, but I’m going to stop limiting myself to that. Even more importantly, I’m going to stop feeling like I should be emulating other bloggers. I’ve decided it’s okay if Her Fine Hand doesn’t fit neatly into any particular category. I’m all over the map, and my blog can be too. I’m calling myself an artist, and I’m putting that dream out into the world. And this is how I’m doing it.