CHILD-LIKE VS. CHILD-ISH: Our True Artistic Nature

The friend who gave me the go-ahead to ignore the world for a few hours and make my art, also said a messy studio is not necessarily a bad thing.

The artist self in my is child-like, and revels in the mess. “I don’t have to follow the rules!” the child-artist chortles.

Those items piled up, all slogged home from the junk shop and a yard sale down the street? Potential. It all has potential. The artist self delights in the design potential in every object. It’s powerful stuff, pure creativity at work.

“And look at your actual work spaces. Beads and fabric organized by color, rows of trade beads hanging at the window, clearly-defined work areas–your jewelry area, your sewing area, your polymer area, your office area, your book storage area, your fabric storage area…. There’s a LOT of structure and organization here!”

The chaos was disturbing, my friend agreed. “But I think it’s your artistic child self at battle with other things going on in your life.”

The pragmatic side of me envisions wild folk–the good but crazy artist child self vs. the rigid, thrifty, everything-in-moderation somber, sober adult self–flinging flack at each other like a crazy illustration for a Dr. Seuss book. But I understand what she means.

It’s true that when I’m in the throes of creation, it’s like a frenzy. “I need something red! This big! Round!” I pull trays and drawers, pawing through them until I find just what I need.

“I need water colors! I mean, things the color of water! Big chunky beads of water colors! Now!!” Out come the bead catalogs, or a desperate search on the internet, looking for just the right components.

“This fiber piece needs tiny yellow beads around the horse’s head. No, not that yellow, this yellow!” And when I find embroidery thread that echoes that color, a tiny thrill goes through my heart. There. YES! Oooh. And now to make polymer buttons to go with them!

It’s when visitors come to the studio that it all feels wrong. Especially those who aren’t familiar with my work style, or my work. The ones who imagine a creative process very different from my reality.

“I envision you in a serene place with classical music playing gently through the air as you ‘sew a fine seam’,” sighed one customer. “Small dishes of beads set out neatly on your worktable…”

Try techno with a pounding beat, fabric flung all over the floor, and me swearing when I grab a spool of thread and knock over yet another dish of a jillion tiny beads I’ve dumped together,” I countered. Hmmm, must not have been a customer, because I know they left soon afterward. Another myth destroyed….

But there you have it. The child-like artist at war with the child-ish, disorganized, messy, frenzied lunatic. The unprofessional craftsperson with a disheveled studio. Not a grown-up.

Not a grown-up. Not professional.


I realize there’s professional and professional. I do my darndest to do good work, to create quality jewelry and artwork. I strive to do the self-promotion, to build my name and reputation so my collectors can be proud to own a genuine “Luann Udell.” I try to meet deadlines, take care of all the details, keep the paperwork straight and follow the rules.

I often succeed. Some weeks are better than others, to be sure.

But the child-like artist kicks out sometimes. I keep buying beads even though I have plenty. I keep making new designs even though it’s time to focus on other things for my next show. I keep saying, “What if…?” right up until it’s time to pack the box and get it shipped out.

I skip dinner to make more necklaces. Stay up late to finish the sewing on one more wall hanging. Call up my photographer to beg him to make time to photograph “one more piece” before the show. “One?” he asks. “Not five or six? Or twenty?” (Like the last twelve times I’ve called him….)

Missing deadlines, misfiling paperwork, procrastinating, busting budgets….the grown-up in me groans and shakes her head. “What will become of us??” she mutters.

The child-like self is dancing like a wild thing in the woods.