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.

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

5 thoughts on “CHILD-LIKE VS. CHILD-ISH: Our True Artistic Nature”

  1. I like this post! A few weeks ago I posted about a lesson that I learnt from a mentor. Being childish and being childlike are two very different things. As adults we shun many things because they are popular with children. Sometimes we decieve ourselves that we know it all and cannot engage in “childish” activities. This know-it-all attitude ends up crippling us. Children are learners. True learners never say that they know it all. Childish people are stuck in their mannerisms. I want to go back to my childhood days because that is when I learnt the most. I want to walk in the rain, I want to jump in mud puddles, I want to collect rocks, I want to … (click here to continue reading).


  2. Luann – Your blog post soooooo speaks to me! I sometimes think about what “a body of work” would look like. If you look at my work, it’s clear there’s a person at work who gets bored quickly. What to do? I’m wearing the earrings you made as I speak! Thank you for your perspective.


  3. Oh, I’m so glad to hear I’m not the only who struggles to be “grown up” when what I really want to do is play and create and put up a do not disturb sign!


  4. I just finished reading a few of your more recent posts and have enjoyed them tremendously. But this one REALLY spoke to me. I’m convinced you must have snuck into my studio more than once and secretly watched me work. We definitely have a few things in common. I’ll be back to read more of your wonderful blog!


  5. Heather, just for you, I wrote about building a body of work.
    And I’m not really spying on anyone. Just writing about what’s in my heart and on my mind, which, from your comments, is more universal than I knew! :^)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s