Sunday, March 9, 2014

Do What You Want, Be What you Are

So I want to begin sharing more of the day to day process and inner workings of being a full time maker-of -things.  Let me start by sharing a little picture with you.

This is my studio work table on a random morning taken about a week or so back. Now, the funny thing about this picture is, I almost did not use it for this blog because, as I looked at it, I thought "Oh that's too neat. . . it looks staged." I'll pause while those of you with a neater bent to their organization and creative work spaces gasp and shudder at the thought. : )

In actuality, all I removed from the scene were paint rags and some scraps of notes that were not relevant. The rest, as seen, is pretty much how my work table looks. . . on a good day.

That little clear space on the front/right table, on the clay mat, that is where I make almost everything in my shops. All the rest are the parts of projects that are going on right now, things drying, things waiting for their day in the photoshoot sun, things in progress etc etc. This is the eye of the storm I suppose you could say. . . because it is always a clam and workable space to me. And, in the chaos, it all makes sense.

The point of this simple little post is this:

Too often I think we unlearn things that were simply inherent to us because our "teachers" believed their way to be better.  In the end, as we grow up, we fight our natural tendencies because we may have been taught that they were not good ways to be. Nowhere is this more destructive than in the creative realm.

In my world, that "teaching" was an endless string of contradicting statements that for years kept me from being the wonderful mess-maker that I am.

Family "teachers" said:
"When you are done (playing) put everything away! It's a mess!"

Except so many of my "games" were paracosms and ongoing worlds that didn't end when I had to stop playing for dinner, sleep or some other such nonsense. . . . They went on without me so how could I just pack them all away? How could I slip back into them seamlessly if they were neatly stacked in a closet or forced under the bed?

Art teachers in school said:

"Focus on one idea or technique. Don't try to do it all. Finish the project you've started. Perect what you are doing"

Except that I never was a one thing at a time person.
Not in reading books ( I have 5 going right now)
Not in traveling. The first time I went to Europe I looked at the map of the continent and said, "Right, 17 days and I'm going to 14 countries! (umm that did not work out once I hit France. . .  and so I DO learn you see!)
Certainly not in creative projects, which, I believe, tell ME when they are ready to be finished and not vice versa. So some sit for days. Weeks. Even months till the finish is apparent to me. 

In my first "career" of the culinary arts, I was taught by the chefs I worked for:
"Don't try to do too many things, just pick a cuisine and master it." (So, needless to say, I fell into the Fusion/cross cultural cuisine trend of the 90's with all my heart and soul!)

Oh the list goes on and on. . .

It took me years to learn that I have this pattern of creative chaos and that it works perfectly for me. 
Let every idea come forth.
Jump at making whatever makes me happiest
Figure the rest out as I go along.

That's being me.  That's who I am. Yet I spent a great deal of my early adult life trying to "do it the right way" by what I had been taught was best.

And while I had to do some work to learn how to make this authentic, natural me into a workable model that could make a viable living, it really only came together when I finally sloughed all that old, repetitive programming off and let myself be the creative soul I was born as. . . working with, instead of against, myself.

That's what allowed this to now grow into a full time occupation that suits me perfectly.

The interesting twist to the story is this. For all the "creative" mess one may see in my life, in my daily way of being a maker-of-things, let me tell you where my life has no mess and jumble.

Basically that would be in every other department.

There are few people who get my time, few outside distractions are ever allowed in, I make very few obligations/commitments and selectively extend myself and there are just very few things I feel compelled to do other than create. I have not heard my phone ring in four years and, like the old days, only return calls at the end of the work day when done. I moved to a place where I can walk to almost everything I need (including places in nature where I can be alone) each day.

That too was something of old programming that I had to break.  We are told to "do one thing" when it comes to work, art, careers, interests or anything we want to "achieve". . . but then we are told a well rounded life includes all that excess which pulls us in 20 directions at once.

How many people I have known that felt that a well rounded life was about having all THOSE diverse interests filling up their schedule and making the hours something to be counted and rationed?

How many people have I listened to as they lament not having the time to do the things they really love while constantly rushing off to yet another engagement or obligation?? How many friends have I watched running around frazzled all day long, every day, so caught up in being "busy" and saying it as if being busy were an accomplishment in and of itself?

But I'd swear, if you ask me, busy is a modern synonym for "messy" in regards to living life.
And when I did it, it just made me feel further away from what I most wanted to be doing. 

And so my advice to others, about a creative life, when asked,  is:

Neat or messy, one thing or a whole basket full of ideas, or anywhere in between makes no difference
Do what you want but be . . . what. . . you. . .  are.
And what you are IS inherent. Yes it can be molded and tightened up and tinkered with.
But the core of it is going to be something you always and already were. . .

Because following that path and being just what you are is always going to lead to happiness doing what you most want to do.

So as a word of advice from a mess-maker extraordinaire, messy is cool. . . it's fine to stray and wander and indulge in many wonderful ideas and pursuits. . . just tidy up the REST of life and let the true you rule the creative day.



  1. I love seeing how others work and viewing their creative spaces and places. Mine is almost always a disaster with a bum sized spot on the floor where I sit admid the mess and do my making. I agree with the 'outside' mess. I am happiest in my own world and most weeks venture out exactly twice: to the grocery store, to my kiddos karate class. I am often asked 'but don't you miss it?' The bustle of the city? Nope! The solitude suits me just fine.

    1. Nichola, So that bum sized spot is the "eye of the storm" yes? everything swirls around and in the midst of it is the maker pulling in the pieces that bring each effort to life. That world we dwell in, our paracosm, is our greatest creation I think and, I believe, it's existence has to come first. In my experiences, I feel like there is an authenticity in all creative work that is made in such a world/space and that is what shines through that others respond to. Some may have it early in life and some may not find it until their golden years or anywhere on the journey in between. No matter. . . it is in that stable, well mapped space then that the real maker rises and comes through. :)

      Thank you, so much, for reading and commenting!

  2. Fantastic post Nicolas ;o) I love everything you said! Your studio is beautiful! So nice and bright ;o)

    1. I knew this was the place the moment I saw it! In this little hard scrabble, fishing town on the bay. . . it was such a stormy and gray day and nothing seemed promising as we searched for a place to begin this creative journey. Then we walked into this space and the light and feel were just perfect. It was like an answer to a soul-prayer. The maker in me finally had a place to thrive and come forth.

      Thank you so much for reading and for being here! : )

  3. I so envy your workspace... i end up creating wherever I am, my desk at work, the couch at home.... not a great situation but one that should change soon now that my girls have moved out, there is a room waiting to be transformed soon.... Your advice is sound and good, yet tidying the rest of life is hard actually. I always go back to this place in my thoughts.... Not sure how you managed it so completeley. So much of it is beyond our control.

  4. Oh DO take the time to make the creative space for yourself!!! Before I moved here, in my last apartment, the living room was relegated to being the bedroom because the bedroom had the best light. . . sacrifices had to be made. lol

    Well, in truth, as for clearing house, I guess it was a loooooong process. With people, at first I tried the simple approach. . . just telling people that my art was the single most important thing in my life. That it was where I wanted to spend all of my time. . . hoping they might get the hint or, as I felt true friends really would, be supportive. . . but it is funny how people do not accept that statement when "the most important thing" is not kids, career or them. lol

    But the turning point really was when I started just living it daily myself and found that it became fairly easy to say no to almost everything else.

    Thank you for coming by Andrea! It means a lot. :)