YOUR NEXT STUDIO

I wrote this article for Fine Art Views, an online art marketing newsletter for Fine Art Studios Online, a host for artist websites where my own site now lives. I reprint it here, with their generous permission. Enjoy!

YOUR NEXT STUDIO

 The curse and blessings of many moves is, each studio is a life lesson.

A friend here in Santa Rosa has moved her tiny jewelry studio almost five times in the year I’ve known her. Last night, we moved her “best studio” into a delightfully bigger space, with a large display area. Armed with hand carts and three mighty men (husbands and friends), we moved all her stuff in two hours. (A little over the estimated “fifteen minutes”, but we all knew better anyway.)

I’ve had many studios in my time.

In our tiny Baltimore apartment, I filled a small hallway with my knitting yarn. In our Boston apartment, our bedroom was filled with shelves of….not clothing, not bedding, but quilting fabric. Our “dining room” had what bemused visitors called “a wall o’ yarn”, dozens hundreds of skeins of yarn hanging from several dozens of those expandable wall coat/mug racks.

Fortunately, because of my tendency to arrange everything by color, my Dear Hubby found the shelves “cool-looking” and visitors found the yarn display “artistic”. (I still have a tendency to sort everything—paints, beads, thread, buttons, artifacts, beach stones, shells, nails, mat board (er….am I revealing too much here??) by color color color, shape, and size. In hindsight, maybe I could have become an installation artist….??)

It was when we moved our small family to our first home in New Hampshire that I stepped up to the plate as an artist. I had the insight, inspired by my kids, that inside me was an artist screaming to be let out. It was the first time I realized I needed, not just dedicated storage space, but a dedicated workspace. Fortunately, my DH, again, also stepped up to the plate. We worked to figure out how to get me a studio.

My first “real” studio workspace was in our attic. It worked beautifully, for a few years. But then we needed the space for the kids when they couldn’t share a bunk bed anymore. Then a rented room downtown, in a building due for development and renovation. Then another rented suite in another such building, a former dentist’s office.

Each space got bigger and bigger, and the better each situation got, the more I worried about losing it. How could anyone ever improve on a dentist’s office?! I had four tiny rooms and windows overlooking Main Street! It even had a darkroom.

13722_2256516m

My wall-o’-fabric is always with me!

This fear, the idea that I would never have anything “better”, and the knowledge that someday, the building would be developed and sold, gripped me. My mentor visited me and listened to my fears. And as I rattled on about “this studio” being my “best studio”, she corrected me with the words, “Your NEXT studio.”

It wasn’t til several more years passed that I got it. Her point, I mean.

I did indeed “lose” that space, less than two years later. Which led to no studio for a year, as we bought a house with an entire two-story barn for my studio.  The best studio in the world.

When we moved to California, I had the same fears: In an area rife with sky-high home prices and rents, where on earth would I find my next studio?

But I did find one. Several, in fact.

Our home has a basement, rare in California, and I set up a studio there. But the ceiling is way too low for visitors (and I have the forehead bruises to prove it), and the layout doesn’t allow for them to “free range”, something I love to offer visitors.

I found a studio with public access, and moved in.  Too small. Less than a year later, I moved into the space next door, with twice the space and a display window. Perfect! But it’s too isolated, and has other issues. Now what?

Once again, another opportunity is in the works. I’ll be moving again. Again!

There is a blessing in having a studio space that “stays put”. The time spent packing, moving, unpacking, is spent on actually making art. It’s easier to set up a routine that works, and stick to it. Everything is in its best possible place, and stays there. And you don’t have to put tiny new address stickers on your business cards and postcards. People know where you are.

But there are blessings to “many moves”, too. Mine were big/small/big/big/really big/small and now in multiple locations. (Which one has the frames and mats? Which one has the modeling supplies? Where the heck are all my seam rippers???)

Some “perfect studios” were inaccessible to visitors. My “perfect” dental office/studio? Inside a building locked at night, and up a massive flight of stairs. Not exactly open-studio friendly. The roof leaked, and destroyed a small roomful of paper supplies. And the FBI agents were quite upset with me during President Clinton’s speech on the town square. (I’d inadvertently avoided the security lines, and opened a window to watch his speech, throwing their security team into a panic.) (They DID think my work was cool, though….)

My friend feels overwhelmed right now. During this busy holiday season, she now has to set up yet another space before she can get back to work. But I noticed how incredibly organized she was, as we moved her stuff. She has a “system” in place, one she’s perfected over the last half-dozen moves. She has firm ideas on what will go where. She will be settled in, in no time.

As I contemplate my own “perfect studio”, I find myself thinking once more about my NEXT studio. There are beautiful things here I will leave behind, but new, future aspects that are already speaking to me. I will miss much of the community I found here, but also relieved about not having to “go along” to “get along” so much. (I hope!)

13722_2256519m

One thing I can guarantee: In every studio, my workspace is ALWAYS cluttered.

I’m on a waiting list, which could last a few years—or a few months. Either way, I can deal.

The beauty, the real blessing of many studio moves, is nothing is ever going to hold you back for very long. You learn what to keep, and what you can let go of. You learn to enjoy the gift of each one, of what you gained, and what you can give up. What you need, and what you can go without.

Every studio is a life lesson. And me? I, a dedicated, eternal student of life, can only wonder what I’ll learn next, with open heart and many, many moving boxes.

EXPLODING DOORMAT

If you choose to GO ALONG in order to GET ALONG, only do it long enough to GET AWAY.

20150728_153323 (576x1024)

“Rat” in the comic strip Pearls Before Swine by Steven Pastis can be very nasty. But he has a place in the world. People don’t like it when we set boundaries. Too bad. We can’t all be the Buddha.

I wanted this post to be something happy and bright for the holiday season. But other stuff is in my head, and so you get something a little more sobering today.

Some interesting choices are in my path for 2017.

I’m not here today to talk about them, not yet. But it’s interesting to contemplate the insights and “aha!” moments I’m holding as a result of those choices.

The exploding doormat.  People are surprised when I finally blow up at somebody. But it never comes out of “nowhere”. When I first heard the phrase, The Exploding Doormat, I felt like the veil had been lifted from my face.

I still struggle mightily with setting boundaries. But when I do, and it works, it is amazing.

Setting boundaries carries its own hard places, like being accused of being “selfish” and “uncaring” and “a sorry excuse for a human being.” But that’s still a heckuva lot better than trying to scrub shoe prints off my face.

Sitting with uncertainty until clarity presents herself.  I first heard this phrase from an incredible woman with deep life wisdom, Sheri Gaynor. It was profound. Sheri and I crossed paths this year, and our journey was filled with insight and miracles. She has since returned to her beloved Colorado, but I have a feeling our paths will cross again someday.

I’ve noticed that when I decide something has to happen, I waste an inordinate amount of worry, and pushing, and hammering square pegs into round holes–which only exhausts me, frustrates me, and ruins the pegs. This simple phrase reminds me that when I let go, many things fall into place–or don’t, but for very good reasons. It may sound New Age and karma-laden, and the pragmatic side of me complains–but it’s true.

do believe that you can’t just sit still let the universe barge in through your front door, because that rarely happens.

But taking one small step outside your comfort zone–taking a class with a friend, going on vacation, being open to possibility, taking a little chance on some small thing–this is often just enough for something new to cross your path.

Protection through rejection. So many times, the things we desperately want, and don’t get….well, it often turns out to be a good thing. When we look back, we see we narrowly missed walking into a quagmire beyond belief.

Note: This isn’t a reason not to “go” for things. Being afraid to try something new is stifling. But it can help me get on track with “the next thing”, instead of living in the past, and wailing about it. (Some people might say, “Not so much…” but pooh on you. I am getting better.) (A little better.)  (Sometimes.)

Going along to get along.  (See also: Exploding Doormat) Trained from my infancy to “be nice” and “get along”, I am still addicted to this behavior. And it’s led me down some downright scary paths. I’m getting a little better at this, too. But I will always, always, have to actively think about not doing this. My new mantra is, “Go along to get along, until I can get away.” It’s working.

Suffice to say, this year has been baffling and puzzling, with strange, frightening behaviors in some people who I thought were friends, a lot of pompous posturings from same, many micro-aggressions. (One tip: If someone gets upset and starts making pointed and repeated remarks about “rape” in your presence, that person is no friend of mine. Or yours.)

The last insight has many permutations. This ain’t your first rodeo, you don’t have to be the clown. (Thank you, Melinda LaBarge!) You don’t have to do stupid stuff to be part of the group.)  Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys. You don’t have to take on other people’s issues if you don’t want to. And someday, take half an hour to read The Nibble Theory by Kaleel Jamison. You won’t regret it. (Explains why some people behave the way they do, in simple, beautiful, enlightening prose.)

And my absolute favorite, from Dr. Maya Angelou::

When people SHOW you who they are, believe them.  

It is astonishing how much bad behavior we accept from others, and the incredible stories we make up to explain it away.

Don’t do it anymore. You are just prolonging the agony. Every single time we look back on our interactions with toxic people, we realized we had willingly overlooked all the ‘tells’.

We’re getting better at this, too.

I really do hope your holidays are filled with love and joy and family and friends. But remember, sometimes you just have to add a lot more rum to that eggnog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE WAITING GAME

No one is ever 100% productive. No one is ever 100% efficient. No one has 100% of their time to spend on their art. And anyone who says they are either has a rich partner, or a support team who takes care of everything else, or is lying through their teeth speaking metaphorically.

Even if we are amazingly focused and disciplined about making our art, life happens. The kids get sick, the dog gets sick, we get sick. People (and dogs) die. The power goes out. (Yes, even here in “sunny California”, where we’ve had 15″ of rain, including a whopper storm that just left, and yes, some people did lose power.) Heck, sometimes we just run out of paint/clay/paperclips.

Today on Fine Art Views, a writer shared how they maximize their creative time in the studio. They maximize their time spent on other tasks, su as that 30 minute wait at the doctor’s office, and that 4-hour airplane trip.

And so, here are a few of mine.

The most basic tool I’ve found for time management is some sort of daily planner. I used to use those expensive fancy ones, until I kept losing them and having to fall back on my old standby: The lowly composition book.

composition-books

I really need to not use just black-and-white books. Too confusing! And WOW, September was a busy month!!

This actually works better for me, because the task list for some days are very brief (nothin’ much on the page after your colonoscopy exam  health procedures. And other days, there is so much to do, so much information to record, so many things to keep track of, I need more than one page. With a composition book, I can use as many or as few pages as I need, and I can tape or staple important notes, business cards, or sales flyers in there, too.

But even more important than a place to write and plan is this helpful little question to ask myself before starting anything:

What needs to happen before that?

I learned this concept years ago, and wrote about it here. It really helps to sort out your “next step”.

And the reason this can maximize your time in the studio is, so many times we get to the studio to “work”–and realize we’ve left that one critical thing we need at home. Or we’ve forgotten to get that critical little task completed, or forgot to order that crucial supply.

There I am, at the studio, as planned, and I can’t finish the one thing I’d established as the priority of the day.

Here’s a perfect example: I’m back on track with my fiber collage work. I’ve got half a dozen works in progress. I have a couple pieces ready to frame. I have great new ideas for the next projects.

I arrived at my studio, ready to get to work. But when I went to frame one fragment, I realized I was missing a backing board. And everything ground to a halt.

Easily fixed. When I got back home, I put together what I need for the next couple projects. I realized I was out of other sizes and colors of mats. I researched sources, and found a great local mat source. I placed an order, and can pick it up today.

And realized that all this happened because I hadn’t followed my own rule:

Write down ALL the steps that have to happen before a task can be considered completed.

Who has time to do that?? you may well ask.

Well….that 30 minutes in the waiting room? That’s a good time.

That four-hour flight? That’s a great time to layout your goals for the next month. Or even the rest of the year. (Er…just in case that was one of your New Year’s resolutions that never actually made it into reality.) (Not me, of course.) (WHY ARE YOU LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT AND SNIGGERING???)

And here’s the last tip that really works for me, when I remember to do it:

When you stop for the day, leave your work at a place where you can easily pick it up again the next time.

It’s so much easier to get right down to work if you can easily see what your next step is.

Or, if you’ve completely finished your current project, set up for your next one before you leave. This is also a good way to know if you have everything you need to get started. If you don’t, well, you know what to do once you get home. (Or, if your friendly art supply store is still open, pick it up on your way home!)

These tips work really well for me, when I remember to do them! Which reminds me….

Where’s my notebook?? I need to write this down….

 

THOSE DAMN ART FAIRS

20160430_112900

Before I did this show, I’d never thought of simply hanging this collaborative piece on my booth walls. (They were part of a luminary piece, and the frame broke during The Big Move.)

A reader wrote to me recently. They are an artist, a creative person who is just starting to explore the art show circus route. They’ve aced their first show, and wrote to thank me for my series on doing shows, and creating an attractive, functional booth.
This time, they wrote to ask me about a clusterf…. a show lacking any sense of professional organization some detail in the show guidelines. Here’s what I wrote back.
LOL, Oh, dear, excuse my laugh.
I feel your pain.
Shows are as different as….well, people.
No, what happened to you is not professional, and I would have torn the rest of my hair out.
Sadly, though, it’s not an isolated case.
It helps to realize that people organize and manage shows for a lot of reasons.
The best ones is, they enjoy it. They are good at it. And they truly love using their skills and expertise to help artists get their work out into the world. Artists and craftspeople owe much to the people who work to make this happen. Don’t forget to thank them whenever you can.
They may be the good kind of “shadow artist” (a phrase coined by Julia Cameron in “The Artist’s Way”.) They wish they were artists, too, or they ARE an artist, but haven’t gotten to the point where they ‘grow it’. But they sublimate that desire into helping others who are further along their path.
The worst reason is….well, that’s where the “lot” comes in.
They may be pompous er…idiots, who use the prestige of being the official ‘face’ of the show to bolster their own self-esteem.
They may be artists in their own right, who are jealous of other, more talented artists.
People who have not recognized the ‘lizard brain’ in their actions and act accordingly. (We all have a lizard brain that’s easily angered, always jealous, always afraid. Our spiritual growth means KNOWING this, and to choose to think–and act–in spite of it.)
They may be the passive-aggressive shadow artists, who are not putting their whole heart into their own art, and they are secretly jealous of those who do. There will be a million tiny cuts that turn you into a bloody pulp if you don’t recognize them and protect yourself.
They may have mental health issues.
They are simply NOT good at what they do, but it’s fun, and it pays well. (Okay, not likely, but it sure feels like it sometimes.)
They have been put on earth solely to try your patience and test your intentions.
Add your own speculation to the list.
The good news is, everything you’ll need to deal with this kind of behavior in the future, you will gain by going through this experience.
The next time you find yourself waiting more than a day for a promised email, you’ll be calling the organizers to make sure they have the right email address for you. You’ll find the person in the organization is IS organized, and professional, who will fill you in. You’ll contact a few artists who have been doing that show awhile, who will give you the information you need. Or, sadly, if you discover ALL the artists are brand-new, you’ll realize this is a show seasoned artists either don’t do, or don’t return to. Big clue, and one I miss a lot myself by not doing my homework.
And of course, the next time you run into a roadblock, it will be something entirely different.
I’ve NEVER gotten to the point where I took any show, large or small, for granted. Something always goes wrong. Sometimes it’s big. Sometimes it turns out to be pretty minor. Sometimes it makes me rethink something that needs to be rethought.
And sometimes it forces you out of your comfort zone, and creates something that works even better. Your best strategy is to learn, to be flexible, to be prepared for everything. And not panic when something new gets added to the “everything” that’s gone wrong before.
You’ll learn what works, and what doesn’t. Your booth set-up will get streamlined and efficient. You’ll learn wonderful new uses for all your tools and materials. (Duct tape/Gaffers tape, cable ties, etc.) Your best resources will be your fellow fair artists, who will be full of suggestions, remedies, and a great source for the tool you left at home.
And you will persevere. You’ll eventually have a battery of venues that work for you, and eliminate the ones that never do. That’s when you’ll add a new show or venue from time to time, to test the waters and explore a new audience.
Or you may realize, as I have, that most shows, especially small shows, don’t work so well for you. Although, for me, even “unsuccessful” shows are incredible for life learning experience, amazing connections, and the next opportunity for me to explore. Although, from your previous correspondence, it sounds like shows are going to be a great way to sell your work and grow your audience.
I hope this helps. What should help is recognizing the issues that aren’t yours vs. the things you can get better at. There is no grand signal from the universe telling you not to keep making your art. Especially just because someone else is being an idiot.

PRIVILEGE–Use It!

 

Today I was talking with someone about traveling across the U.S. 35 years ago. “No credit cards, we had traveler’s checks.” (Remember those? Before they were a scam??) “No cell phones in case our car broke down.” (When I backed up our car into a deep hole in a campground, we had to hike out seven miles to get a tow truck.Fortunately, someone gave us a lift, and we got to ride back with the tow truck.) “No smart phones or Kayak.com to look for hotels for the night.” (Let alone hotels that allow dogs, like on our move out here two years ago.) I said I was anxious every time we traveled, because I was afraid we wouldn’t find a place to sleep at night, our car would break down, and we never knew where the next gas station was.

Ahhhhh, the privilege the internet, cell phones, and credit cards….. especially a card that gives us reward miles.

Yesterday, I finished binge-watching the Gilmore Girls reboot. My daughter and I checked in, and agreed Rory was not as mature as we’d expect by now. She (Rory) was having trouble finding a steady journalism job, as she flubs up and thrashes around in her adult life.

Ahhhhhh, the privilege of wealthy grandparents and an even-wealthier secret boyfriend who lives in London (who’s engaged to marry someone else.)

I’ve been thinking of my kids, who never tire of pointing at their childhood in Keene NH, which was (and I quote) a “white liberal bubble of privilege”. Which, to be fair, it was.

I could get resentful and say, “Were we supposed to deliberately be poor?? Aren’t you glad we lived in a place where you could play AirSoft in the woods and not be shot on sight by a police officer? Aren’t you glad we were able to help you with college, and housing, until you could make your own way in the world?”

But there’s no getting around it. Privilege doesn’t necessarily mean wealth, or an easy life. It does, however, mean there are some things we didn’t have to worry about, and some dangers, aggressions, situations, hostilities, we didn’t have to face.

The thing with privilege is, you’re either born with it, or you’re not. You’re either born in a first-world country, or you’re not. You’re either born a person who’s not considered “of color”, or not. You’re either born with your “assigned” gender, or not. You either have the wiring for mental health, or you don’t. You are either born being able to take or leave alcohol, or not.

I can’t change how I was born.  No one can.

But we can change what we do with our privilege.

In Rory’s case, I think back to a time where, if you were a writer, there was only one way to make a name for yourself writing. You wrote a book, which hopefully became somewhat successful. Or you got a job working as a journalist, or wrote for a magazine. Otherwise, you could write to your heart’s content, but not very many people would ever get to read what you write.  When I think of how this has changed, with the internet, with self-publishing on Amazon and other sites, heck, with blogging, the mind boggles. I did write a book (a craft book which did not become a best seller, but hey, my dentist owns a copy, and she absolutely loves it.) I did write for a magazine, until they decided I wasn’t really relevant anymore. (ouch) I finally did write an article for our local newspaper. It was published two weeks before we moved to California.

But now I can write whenever I like. I may whine about deadlines, and how little money I make from writing now (my one paying gig pays me $30 a column). But the bottom line is, I can write and share my thoughts with the world. Saying I won’t write unless I’m paid to, just seems…..ungrateful. For the simple reason that I do have an audience, and sometimes they even let me know how much they enjoy my work.

I can’t change the fact that I grew up in a different world than millions of other people. I won’t apologize that I gave that same safe haven for my kids. But I can show my gratitude, that in certain ways, my life was/is easier than some people who have different experiences because of their gender, skin color, religion, nationality. I can be aware I have this privilege, and do engage with causes and actions that hopefully will make the world a better place for all of us.

And so, too, with my art. Here I am this afternoon, racking my brain on how to make more money from my art during the holidays. Until I catch myself….

Like every other artist I’ve ever met, I worry that “not making a lot of money” with my art means “I’m not a successful artist.” I’ve learned that money is not the only measure of my success (a big hat-tip to Alisha Vincent, who challenged me on that almost 15 years ago.) I’m fortunate to know from the start that the only thing keeping me from making, and sharing, my art with the world, is me.

Every day I wake up, I get to choose. I get to choose what I make, how much I make, how I make it. I get to decide how to share it with the world–by selling, teaching, donating, exhibiting, posting online. I have the time and a studio space, I have the materials and the knowledge I need, and I have the support and encouragement of my husband, my kids, my friends, and yes, even a few happy, loyal customers.

Making art is a gift. And a privilege.

Sometimes my buzzy brain goes a little crazy. Then I fret about money, about success, about fame, about exposure/sales/taxes/PayPal fees/my website/time/ideas/inspiration until I finally sit up and yell, “Stop!!!!!

Because I am so grateful I have enough time, enough money, enough success,  enough exposure, enough of a following, enough of everything. Heck, I’m delighted I have a website, a blog, PayPal, a Square, even! (If I think really, really hard, I’m sure I can get to the point where I’m grateful I have enough of an income to even pay taxes on.) (Still thinking.)

So just for a few minutes today, think long and deep about your privilege. Blessings aren’t a good thing unless you share them. Privilege is meant to be a springboard to raise others up, too. When you start to feel sad about your art, take a deep breath and exhale slowly.

Rejoice you have this time in your life to bring the world of your heart out into the world.

And then go do it.

If you have time (and I know the holidays are ramping up!) tell me something you’re doing this month to brighten the world. I’d love to hear it!

 

 

BE THE BUNNY

Fear keeps us immobilized, but action is what we need now.

Bunster (2) (1024x768)

I was blessed to have Bunster! I hope there are Cheerios in Bunny Heaven.

I remember only one line from David Cronenberg’s 1986 movie, The Fly:

“Be afraid. Be very afraid.”

Fear is a protective mechanism. It can keep us from pursing dangerous pursuits. It can keep us safe.

It can also keep us locked in anxiety and block us off from the very opportunities that help us, and others, grow and thrive.

Just before we left on our California aimless road trip, a studio visitor brought me a book to read: Unsaid, by Neil Abramson. I didn’t actually get a chance to read much on the trip. But today I read the author’s note, to see if I should read it right away, or start with my pile of borrowed-time library books.

And then I read his words:

…I was surprised at the depth of the loss I felt. The only way I can explain it is to tell that something deep within me shifted. I realized I was so grateful for every minute with Skippy and I wouldn’t have traded the time with him for anything in the world, even thought that time ended too soon. Then I realized that this was Skippy’s last gift to me…(H)e taught me how important the act of living really is and how limited by fear I had become….   (Italics are mine.)

How limited by fear I had become…

Everyone I’ve talked to the last few days has shared how they’ve felt the last few weeks–stunned, anxious, ill, sad, depressed, fearful.

We thought the social changes in our world were going to continue for years to come. We thought we’d overcome our fear of ‘the other’–people who are different than us, people who talk differently, who have different skin color, who pray with different prayers, who love a different way. “Different” had gone from “dangerous and scary” to “yet another color on the spectrum of humanity”.

All that seems swept away. The fear of “different” feels like it’s not only reversed, but reached monstrous proportions. And we feel helpless.

We are not helpless.

It’s time for us to get brave, and step outside our comfort zone. It’s time for all of us to become activists, however we can. It’s time for us to put our money, our time, our words, our presence, where our mouth–er, heart–is.

All of us have skills and strengths, interests and connections. It’s time to put them to good use.

I’ve talked to people recently, who have gently moved from “being afraid” to realizing they can put their expertise to good use. They can contribute to stopping the spread of fake “news”. They can teach people how to research the crazy articles that foment hate and fear. They can put their hobbies to good use raising funds for social justice. They can share the joy and courage in their hearts, that has spurred them to make their creativity visible in the world, and create joy and courage in others. They can use the simplest acts to help others.

Food kitchens have hordes of volunteers on the holidays. Why not commit to helping on the ordinary days instead?

I love reading. It’s time to share that love with elementary kids again.

I see friends who have people they cares deeply about, people who, historically, have been easily marginized. They are standing up for them.

I’m going to join the Million Women March in January. I’m scared–I’ve never been the protest-march type. But what is my fear, compared to the very real fear of so many other people? Not much.

Don’t let fear immobilize you.  Don’t let it speak for you.

Let your heart speak for you instead.

Something will cross your path in the days ahead–a volunteer opportunity, a fundraising effort, a conversation, a chance to participate. For me, the afterword of a book I haven’t even read yet.

When it does, your heart will let you know. You will feel “the call”–a tiny, unexplained lifting of your spirit.

Follow it. See where it goes. Share it here. I’d love to know!

Remember those other, just as powerful words, that will take you to a place of light, and connection, and justice:

Be not afraid.

Be like my rabbit Bunster, may she rest in peace (with lots of stuff to chew on, and someone’s lap to leap into.) She was full of fear. Rabbits are full of fear.

But she also had a place in the world, and my life is richer because of her.

 

 

THE NEWLYWED GAME

I’ve been away, but I’ve also been thinking.

Here’s my post for Fine Art Views, that appeared on November 17, 2016.

The Newlywed Game

by Luann Udell on 11/17/2016 10:04:07 AM

This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….”  For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.

 Yes, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.

 Four years ago, we came to California after an exhausting year in New Hampshire. Both our adult children had been in extreme danger. Our mantra, when people asked, was, “Nobody died!”  And we meant it with all our heart.

Still, nobody wants to get that phone call at midnight, and two of them had definitely taken a toll. A friend suggested we take a vacation, just my partner and I. “We’re fine!” we insisted. The suggestion got stronger. And we listened.

 My husband was a long-distance employee of a West Coast company. Long story short, his job was disappearing soon. We decided to fly to Washington to see what could be salvaged there, and then drive down the Pacific Coast, then fly back from San Francisco.

 Turns out the job was a lost cause. So we started a thousand-mile journey subdued, anxious, not knowing what was going to happen next nor what we should do.

 The restorative power of the ocean, the wild landscape, the light, the winding roads, soon healed our souls. Unusual for us, we had nary a bicker nor a cross word. (We were nicknamed “the Bickersons” early on in our nearly-forty-year relationship, and we try to live up to it every day.)

And on that trip, we fell so deeply in love with Northern California, six months later, we decided to move there.

 We put our home up for sale, and sold or donated almost 75% of our possessions (we had a full attic, a mudroom, a basement, a garage, and a two-story barn, and we I had filled them all.) We filled a shipping container with the rest (which went into storage), packed a car with everything we needed for a two-week trip (including our two big dogs) and started our last New Hampshire-to-California drive across country.

 Jon was losing his job any minute. We had no place to live. We had no agenda or plan, just to stop and see friends and family members along the way. We were leaving behind a life of 27 years, good friends, good times, good memories.

 It was exciting, and daunting at the same time. It was hard for some of our friends to cope. What were we doing?? Were we crazy??  How could we leave all this behind? And for what?? Earthquakes, sky-high housing prices, you name it, California was full of it.

 We told a friend’s mother, who was widowed, our “plan”. And she said the words that beautifully framed our biggest, latest life adventure:

 With a deep, happy sigh, she said, “Just like newlyweds….!!

 Those simple, wistful, yet powerful words set the tone for us, for our journey, and for the years ahead.

 How many times in life do we deliberately take a leap into the unknown? For most people (especially me!) we don’t. The older we get, the harder those choices become. Better to rely on the tried-and-true. Play it safe. Don’t rock the boat. Hunker down, and weather out the storm.

 And yet…..

 All ships are safe in harbor. But that’s not what ships are for.

 Coincidentally, we are also on another California trip, heading south to explore new places, fresh vistas. Simply a vacation, but again, with no agenda, no schedule. All we ask is for it to be another metaphor for the work that lies ahead.

 After the disappointing end to a scurrilous year, wondering what will survive of all the gains we’ve made in this country, we are all taking another leap into the great unknown. There is strange new territory ahead, one that looks formless and raunchy, full of hate bubbling over into hateful actions. Countless people are fearful because their gender, their skin color, their religion, is simply the wrong kind now.

 And yet…..

 Our role as artists is even more important than ever.

It may not feel like it. When times are hard, when people are afraid, they often hunker down. And art is not usually the kind of purchase they make when they don’t know what fresh hell is coming.

 Now it is even more important to create the work of our hearts.

 It’s even more important to help others see the true beauty of this world.

 It’s up to us to share our vision of what is light-filled, color-full, thought-provoking, and soul-deepening.

 When the towers fell in 9/11, I went to my studio in despair, sure the world had changed forever into a dark and dreary place.

 But instead, I found inspiration from the very cave that inspired me to pursue my own creative journey. The cave of Lascaux also dates to a time of great upheaval and frightening change. Those people saw their entire way of life in flux.

 Their choice, their powerful choice, was to send a message, a message we cannot ‘read’ as it was not addressed to us. They filled the cave walls with hauntingly beautiful images of running horses, leaping deer, agile aurochs—images that still create profound echoes in our modern hearts.

 Today, you and I start a new journey, too.

 Your art can heal the world.

You can do thia by sharing what is in YOUR heart, so your work will speak to the hearts of others. The act of making art is restorative. Share that with others, so that they can be restored to themselves, too.

 Stand with those who are given no place in the world. Speak up for those whose voices are not heard. Make room for those who are different than you. Support those who cannot stand alone. Feed those who are hungry. Hold the hands of those who are afraid. Sing. Write. Dance. Paint.

 However you bring joy into the world, do it now.

 Let them know the true role of the shaman/artist in the world….

 Teacher. Healer. Creator.