5.27.2013

Risk, Vulnerability, Failure, and Growth


My friends,

My mind is a bit frazzled and fuzzy and I'm having a hard time focusing on what I really want to share with you this week. Truth be told, I'm in this strange place between shows feeling like I don't really have enough time to get the work done. And as a new mama, this is not a new feeling but it's not really a helpful feeling either.

So I am still trying to resolve that. Or to let that turn into a more-helpful feeling that might be accompanied with clarity or movement. You know, when you're muddling through and you finally have that moment of clarity and then you can just get behind the clarity and make the work? Yes, that's what I'm looking for and I fear it's coming too late. (Dear art gremlins-- please be kind.)


So this strange space between shows has me thinking about risk, vulnerability, and growth. I'm really thinking about the risks artists and designer and writers have to keep making. The leaps we must attempt to keep our work fresh and relevant and, well, meaningful. And I'm not talking about making it meaningful to critics or curators or publishers or institutions or potential buyers. Or even other artists.

No, I'm just talking about keeping it relevant to our selves. To the maker. So that we can look at the work and see our selves reflected. And this is not so different to any other meaningful work in our lives--parents, lovers, spouses, friends, or anything that is relational, really.

Alternatively, we can stop taking risks to push our own work into new territory and stay with that one show/ concept/ technique that really worked well (or was really well-received) and we can keep doing that one thing over and over and over. But, ugh... and then we just become another cog in another wheel even if this wheel is one we originally created. That's not what I'm looking for in my creative work. That's not what I'm looking for in my personal life either. So that's not my match.


I'm thinking about all of this and thinking about how much my own studio life has evolved since I walked away from my day job when I had my little one. How much I prefer the "slow design" or "slow craft" movement and values but the truth of freelancers is that we have to hustle. Yes, hustle. We have to hustle for the next gig while finishing one gig and beginning another.

I'm not complaining. I'm just acknowledging this hustle is new for me. And realizing my new place in it. And as I straddle various mediums and keep trying to move my own work forward, I am now straddling this new divide of freelance artist working to teach, make, organize, and collaborate and then I am straddling this world of new mama. Oh, the new mamas.


Folks ask me how I manage to finish so much creative work with a little one at home and I feel shocked. I feel really, really shocked. I feel like I'm not making as much work as I could be making. I look back to my previous life when I'd stay awake late into the night, or take a day off from my day job to get the creative work finished, or work all weekend. I'd pace my exhibitions or craft fairs or projects far apart and well aligned with my day job schedule.

I'm grateful for 11 hours of daycare each week but this places me, oddly, between the worlds of stay-at-home-mom and full-time-working-mom and I'm actually both and neither. I work from home part-time and like any parent, I'm a full-time parent. (This is an entire dissertation I probably will not ever write. But it's lengthy.)

Working until 2am just isn't an option anymore. The little one wakes by 6am regardless of what time mama goes to bed. But sometimes I feel like I'm straddling all this and all the pieces are still falling through and making little piles of all those little pieces on the studio floor. And sometimes it all feels graceful for a few moments like, "OMG! I'm actually doing this all and it's somehow all getting done" but then that eventually passes and something falls to the floor. Oy! Parents, you can understand? Freelancers, you can understand? Humans, you can understand?!?


But I just wanted to step out from behind the blogger curtain this week. There's been talk about social media and how it creates unrealistic images. And I just want to say, "Of course, it does! It's only one side of the story. It's only one poem in the entire poetry section of our lives. And it's edited. And some people do it professionally with sponsors and assistants. And it's just a fraction of our entire story--it's just one voice."

Mostly, I'm thinking about risks and failures and vulnerabilities. And trying to embrace all these things here in this post. And thinking how all of this is necessary for artistic growth. Or any growth. And sometimes we risk or fail in public and sometimes we have the comfort of doing it in private. But, regardless, we do it. We have to. It's the only way we can cultivate growth.

So this week my head and heart are full of all this thinking. But as I look at this week in my studio life I think the most satisfying parts are not in my studio at all. Not this week. This week, it's the peach lemon marmalade that now goes into the "best jam we ever made" category. (Thank you, Blue Chair Jam, minus one pound of recommended sugar). It's the Tillandsia bloom that literally made me gasp aloud as I reached over it to open the studio curtain. And my little boy with his toothy grin--he has this direct access to my heart that's unlike anything I've ever experienced. It's immediate and relevant and intimate and, well, vulnerable all at once.


Risks. That's what I'm thinking about. And vulnerability. And growth. And it's what I want to cultivate in my work. In my self. In my family. In the world. And sometimes that means trying something different. Are you with me? Okay, back behind my curtain and back to the studio I go.

xoxo,
k

14 comments:

  1. Hello, it's so nice to see you and your little boy. Is he shaving yet? I will make this brief...I am with you on all levels. I think it's your spot in life, and mine too at this very time, in this very year at this age and with this experience.

    A few years ago, I decided there is too much fear, and taking chances is what I needed to do more of, so I did. I would literally mutter in my head and to my worried husband, "we will not fall" We didn't. Never. Not yet.

    As for this fuzzy headed feeling of accomplishment and the stress of the next just out of the horizon, I think it's our age. We have enough experience to know better, but have a mature need for the next big thing. We have rode the economy after school and through the tough times well. We were the lucky age. It's good, and we all see it's about to be better.

    I think too, we are at the age of either embracing getting older (because I sure feel it and see it) or not. I have embraced it.It's an honor to age, right? It's nice to have a hand in mine that too, will dry out, wrinkle and weaken. There are no team of horses that can overcome the strength of true love.

    So much for keeping it brief.

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    1. Oh, Beth. So much of what you've said here has resonated with me all week. The part about leaning into fear. About choosing risk. And the part about being old enough to know about risk but young enough to need it. And the part about aging being an honor. Raising my virtual glass to you... Thank you.

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  2. hey beautiful you. i miss you. great post lady friend. xxxooo

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    1. Thanks, my dear. I think we need a major girl date soon. You know, major. Like an entire day! xoxo

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  3. Excellent post!! Oh boy, those exact words could have spilled from my very own lips! I'm going through that middle-muddle moment in my work too. Just shipped off those darn quilts, done! And am now pondering what's next. What to do this summer .. and how to do all I want to do with an 'I'm SO bored, mom' eight year old flowing in and around me the entire time. I'm going to try ... and I'm going to share the messy process in the hopes that something sticks and other parents can relate to that 'how do we manage to survive' thought that passes through our heads at least ten times a day! We must do lunch/coffee soon and push each other on!

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    1. Kathryn, you've said it perfectly "going through that middle-muddle moment". Oh, that's the hardest part for me. The concept, the research, the planning are great. And finishing up the final touches are also great. But that very messy, very important middle part of making it all work--conceptually and technically. Oh, that's damn hard. And YES. I'd love to have coffee soon to talk parenthood in the arts and all things gardening and summer. Yes.

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  4. yes, i understand. my current mix is different than your current mix, but it is all the same underneath it all. i was reading and nodding and hugging you inside my heart.

    and then i stopped at the picture of your sweet little sir. i couldn't help just studying the little face and how his eyes twinkle and crinkle in the most precious way. he is a beautiful soul.

    you *are* doing it. this struggle is part of the doing (when the doing is done right). the tugging and shifting is part of the beauty of the journey. and you are surrounded by people who love you and are cheering you on and watching in awe as you navigate your way through each changing stage. this really is what it is all about and it is so worth it.

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    1. Oh, goodness. Thank you, lady. It's a struggle, isn't it? And it IS all the same whether you're working in the arts or another industry. Straddling all these big beautiful things IS the work. And sometimes it's just simply tiring. Ugh. And those twinkling eyes... so true.

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  5. brave brave you. so true. all of it.
    the risk, the vulnerability. the FAILURE. that's where it's really at. in art, in parenting, in life, right? to be honest, these days i get nervous when i'm comfortable. not that i enjoy the muddle, but it's just part of the whole thing.

    yes to seeing you after the 14th and before you go to NY... hugs.

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    1. Lisa, I keep thinking about the part you said about leaning into the nervousness. That if you're comfortable maybe that means something needs to be pushed to the next space. And we learn so much from failure but, ugh, it's not pretty. And risk is hard-wired in artists at some point, right? And then we have to keep rewiring our older selves to keep pushing. Coffee. Yes. Yes.

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  6. I think you're doing an amazing job, Katrina. I don't have a creative job, but I do understand what it feels like to work part-time at home and still take care of little ones full-time. That's me and I'm so thankful that I get to stay home with them and still bring in a little income, but it does mean life feels a little overwhelming at times. The picture of your little boy is so adorable... and that jam looks amazing. Have a great weekend!

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    1. Oh, Andrea. Thank you, friend. It's the same in or outside of the arts, I think. Balancing all this parenting and working and the short-term and the long-term. And somehow managing to prioritize the down-time too. Phew. It's the good work, in my book. But I still feel like such a newbie as a work-from-home new mama. But, the good work. Yes. (Hi you.)

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  7. Just wanted to drop you a line to say that I look forward to your posts every week. Not only is it nice to see what someone from back home is up to, but to see what little piece of heaven you have carved out for you life is truly inspiring. We wouldn't be human (or mothers) if we didn't doubt ourselves every now and then. But then all you have to do is see that little smile in your child's eyes to know that you are doing a great job. I love your creativity! I love how you create things that are simple yet absolutely exquisite. I wish I could support you in person, but in this world a virtual hug a gratitude will have to do.

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    1. Belly--Thank you. For reading these words, for visiting this space, for encouraging me and for holding this conversation here too. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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Thank you for your comments, friends. I like to think we are creating a dialogue in this space--building a virtual community.