Wednesday, October 12, 2016

doing the new work

I've been making some porcelain jewelry in the last month. It's something I have been thinking about for about 5 years. I was talking with a friend of mine about the difficulty of breaking out of our normal habits of making and trying something new. In fact, sometimes as artists it feels like the hardest thing in the world that we can do is try something new, even though that is the very thing we have to do to even make good work.

I think following the impulse of a new idea is so important, yet I often bat away that impulse because it can frequently feel inconvenient and uncomfortable to try something new. I feel a little bit ashamed even saying that. It's like not wanting to go to bat when you're a baseball player.  I almost feel like I am trying to contain my own creativity, keep it enclosed, safe, in a place of knowing exactly what I am doing. I guess it's just the comfort zone, but ultimately it makes me feel muffled. As I get older I am starting to think that my life's work isn't so much about the work itself, but trying to open myself up enough to even get it out there.

A grandma bracelet.
Getting back to the jewelry, I had to fight some negative feelings I have about clay-based jewelry,
even while I was making it. Like jewelry in general is frivolous and fashion-driven, which is not even something that I really believe, yet my brain conjured it up as an excuse not to get involved. 
And clay is for bowls, and sculpture, and things like that-- not jewelry. That ceramic jewelry is silly because it is breakable; my grandmother was a silversmith and made gorgeous silver and turquoise jewelry, and that formed an early imprint in my brain that "real" jewelry is metal and mineral.  And jewelry is a universe I don't know well, and who do I think I am even trying to break into that world. Go back to your wheel, potter.

All of that is just garden-variety resistance, trying to find excuses for not doing something new that I basically know nothing about yet. The state of not-knowing can be fun, but it can take me some work to get there, feel the excitement. My friend and I challenged each other to take one of the many things on our list that we have wanted to try, and hold each other accountable for showing some work on it within a month.

One thing that really helped-- and this was her idea-- was to break down the process into as many small steps as possible. This was good because I could start the first step easily, and then just the process of starting that one step carried me along to the next step. And without resistance or fear I was able to move through all of the steps, and before I knew it I had a small collection of work that I could start refining.

If you are having trouble trying something new that you have been thinking about for a while, I recommend that you break the process down to as many small steps as possible. I hate it when people tell me to break things down into steps, because that sounds very thoughtful and sane and I like to just fling myself at things and use blind will to carry me through. But the 10 minutes of pre-planning I put into it paid off.  It made things easier for me. We all know by now that I prefer to do things the hard way so I can suffer a little bit-- or a lot-- but I think I will try it again with my next project. Maybe I can become a more thoughtful and sane person.

And now you must be dying to see my new jewelry, I'm dying to show it to you. Here is a selection of some favorites: