I haven’t written in a few days. I will now admit why.

I have been consumed with jealousy.

There. I said it. I’m not proud. But there it is.

I’m once again in the middle of scraping out my studio, getting ready for my Open Studio this weekend. I’m on the League of NH Craftsmen’s Open Studio Tour this weekend. As usual, I am behind. As usual, I’m in a mild panic about it. Which, as usual, is a gross understatement. Does anyone else ever wake up at 4 a.m. convinced they will be utterly humiliated by the general public’s lack of enthusiasm about their studio??

One of my cleaning “issues” is I tend to hang on to magazines indefinitely. I have hundreds of them. And I don’t know why, but I’ve picked up about half a dozen this week that have articles about the amazing work of other polymer clay artists.

I went surfing while enjoying a cup of coffee the other morning, and came across an artist whose work just stopped me in my tracks. No, I’m not revealing the artist. I may be sick with jealousy, but I’m not masochistic! It’s work I could envision myself doing, if I hadn’t headed down the path I’m on now.

So I’ve been writhing in spiritual discomfort all week, trying to remember my own wise words from another blog entry I wrote about professional jealousy here and here but it’s not helping.

Here’s why (and this sucks, too):

No matter how many times you “fix” a “problem”, it doesn’t simply stay “fixed”.

I can intellectually understand what envy/jealousy does and does not do for me. But when it hits, I have to work my way through it all over again.

So what’s different this time?

This time, I realize it’s my own self-doubt and insecurities–fueled by a few of those “nibbles” from other artists I talked about in my Mean People Suck #2 entry–that are holding me back.

Here’s the rub. I’m “odd” in the polymer clay world because I don’t use a lot of color in my polymer clay work.

For almost every polymer clay artist out there who is big, or going to be big, it’s about color. Technique, skill, composition, etc.–yes, those, too. But mostly it is about COLOR. Even the artist whose work intrigued me actually makes work in the same vein I do–except it’s colorful.

My artifacts are…well, bone-colored. Ivory. Even the new finish is soapstone, in beautiful but subtle, soft tones of gray, gray-green and black.

I rely on other elements for color and texture–beads, fabric, thread.

In fact, in a sense, most of my work is about collecting and assembling other objects to create a piece–antique and vintage beads, old buttons, recycled fabrics, beaver-chewed sticks.

If I can’t find frayed or distressed fabric, I distress it myself. I twist it, fray it, burn it, paint it, overdye it, even rub dirt in it, to get it to look the way I want. If I can’t find the right kind of button, then I make one out of polymer clay. But I usually have one that’s “right”, and use it as a mold to make more.

In fact, I only started making my own artifacts because I couldn’t find artifacts that “worked” in my assemblages. I experimented for ages to get just the right look, size, feel. They still continue to evolve.

The artifacts took on a life and purpose of their own, and a powerful one. This summer, a customer came to my booth to rave about a horse sculpture she’d bought the year before. “I have to confess”, she said, “I only bought him at the time because I thought he’d look so great with the little wall hanging I’d bought the year before. I mean, I thought he was cool and all, but I saw him as a ‘supporting player'”

But now, a year later, she comes to my booth to tell me he has a power and mystery all his own. “He’s really grown on me, and now I think he’s the most incredible piece of art in my home,” she said. “I absolutely love him!”

So obviously something powerful and fresh is happening with my work, whether I’m even aware of it anymore or not.

So where do I go with all this jealousy and lack of color thing?

Here’s my thoughts today–or rationale, if you really think all polymer clay artists should be about color/change/innovation/novelty and I’m simply missing the boat:

My work may never be in those upper echelons of the polymer clay world. I may feel a pang now and then about not being there. But that wasn’t ever really my goal or my vision–to be a famous polymer clay artist. It would have been nice. But that wasn’t on my road map.

I wanted to tell a story about how I felt about a certain cave in France. Why it moved me so. Why it made me cry.

As I told that story, something happened. As I became more thoughtful about what I was doing, and thinking about why I was doing it, I found I was telling my story.

Making art became a way of sneaking up on baring my soul and sharing it with a larger world.

I think my artifacts have stayed simple and neutral in color for a very good reason.

It helps me focus on that story.

I don’t want to get all caught up in the newest techniques and tools–unless they really help me tell that story better. I don’t want to be cutting edge–because then it becomes all about being cutting edge.

Just as I don’t need colored paper and glitter pens to write a good essay, I don’t need the colors to do what I do best.

All I need to do is stay connected to the story that feels true to ME.

I think I can come down from the ledge now. But if you see me up there again in the next few days, please don’t tell me that pink is the new black.

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.

20 thoughts on “GREEN-EYED MONSTER”

  1. Wow.
    This was very moving for me to read, even if I clicked on this post half-curious. I began to read, and just became intrigued. I’m a high school student, and I’m not a very hands on artist. My specialty in art is writing, but this post still touched me very much.

    I’ve been having some tough spots myself with insenstitive and smothering teachers who are stunting my growth in writing.
    This passage helped me realize that what I love to do doesn’t have to be at the normal standard of all other writings.

    Thank you.


  2. I’m so glad you wrote! It’s reaffirming to realize what my journey is really about.
    It is so hard to appreciate our gifts when we feel dazzled by others’ gifts.
    We CAN be so much more than what we are–when we realize “what we are” is where it all starts.
    If my writing about this stuff helped YOU get through YOUR stuff, just for today, then I’m happy!


  3. I have my little Lascaux pony where my eye comes to rest on it several times per day (right at the corner of my computer monitor).

    I notice it has become a little invisible. Now I get to look at it another way, with admiration for what it meant to you to create it. Thanks. It is wonderful. All of it. The words, and the art.


  4. While you feel the occasional twinge about not using much color in your polymer work, you have reasons for that choice. Don’t forget them.

    If it continues to bother you – there’s no harm in goofing off and creating some bright colored artifacts. Even if you don’t use them in your work, it’s a creative exercise that might give you an idea for your next project, or at least it could give a bit of catharsis because you’ll be able to say, “There I did it, and it’s pink” and go back to your own style.


  5. Hi Luann.

    Thanks for sharing this. I think we all go through this. You wrote that you need to keep connected to the story that is true for YOU. Maybe your story is changing. Or maybe a new story is trying to come out.


  6. I echo the words of savraeroc. You are concise and deliver your points very well. I am not often interested in reading the blog-anxieties of those completely unrelated to my life.

    The green-eyed monster title hooked me into clicking from the wordpress frontpage (I’m in love with a girl with green eyes). I didn’t realize you were making a wonderful reference to envy. Nice touch.

    Please keep writing. You enrich our culture with your thoughts.



  7. Ali and Lori, what you say is so true. Thank you for your comments! :^)

    Cathy, I think it was actually an OLD article from Bead & Button magazine: “Evolution of an Art Form: Seminal Figures in Polymer Clay” Bead & Button, June 2001. It highlighted Elise Winters, Judy Kuskin, Jeffrey Deaver, Stephen Ford and Cynthia Toops. I didn’t think it was THAT old, but I’d already stuck the magazine in a pile to go to the garage (trying to remove piles of magazines for my open studio!) and I had to double-check Elise’s website for the issue info. It IS sad it’s that old–it really is a beautifully-photographed article.

    And Craig, I can’t thank you enough for your words of encouragement and praise. Well, yes I can–Thank you!! :^) They mean a lot to me.

    Thank goodness no one thought I was writing about Fenway Park!


  8. AHHH color is over-rated. I love color but there is something about the neutrals that speak to me. Something primitive and ancient like fossils they have variations of neutral tones and look how people respond to fossils. Neutrals tell their story another way perhaps that’s why you create what you create. You are connected to this cave, and these stories, and that is a wonderful gift.



  9. Luann:

    Although I’ve had to admire most of your work from afar (I do own a wonderful pair of your earrings – Web site, etc.), it’s the textures that speak to me. As a fellow artist, I love color and appreciate it’s varied expression. But your textures are amazing and no one else does what you do!

    As always, I love your process and the fact that you are so open with us about it here.



  10. Oops,typo above – I meant I’ve had to admire your work from seeing it on your Web site and in magazines (except for having a pair of earrings).



  11. Oh, it’s so good to stay true to our own roots! Pink may be the new black but ivory is still ivory. Who would want it to be pink anyway?? Your work is amazing precisely because it stands out from the crowd. Stay away from the ledge and keep walking toward the light of what you love…and do best!


  12. This is a courageous post! I usually feel a jolt of excitement and inspiration when encountering superior work.

    Jealousy, for me, pops up when there’s sometrhing I’m yearning to express or do or become but for some reason I haven’t allowed myself to… It’s an interesting and uncomfortable signal that points to some kind of a block.

    Could it be the same for you?


  13. Deryn, thank you for your thoughtful words of wisdom. And Laura, that’s a good insight, one that could help someone overcome that “green eyed monster” and work through to the other side.


  14. Thanks for sharing your journey. It helps to put my experiences into perspective.

    Your comments about telling your story with the clay really resonated with me. Straying from what’s important is rarely a good idea. Staying true to your inner wisdom sometimes has its challenges, but it’s most often the most rewarding in the end.

    Best wishes!


  15. Brenda, thank you for you insights.
    You are RIGHT–I never thought of my decision to stay focused as a challenge in its own right!
    Some people see change as automatically the “right” decision and focus as the “wrong” decision.
    In fact, that’s been my internal debate over the last 8-10 years: What steps forward in my art can I take that feel as grounded and as powerful as my first steps?
    As I look back, every time I’ve moved forward, it’s been with a story that BUILDS on what I already do, but does not move AWAY from what I do.
    There HAS been change–in fact, I think my blog reflects all the inner thinking that’s gone on over the last five years in me.
    And the art DOES reflect that. IF you know where–and how– to look. :^)
    I’m so glad you wrote today!


  16. You mean a fabulous artist such as yourself gets jealous!!!???!!! I am not alone!!! 🙂 I actually work to NOT look at other jewelry artist’s work because it makes me wonder – why didn’t I think of that? It’s gorgeous! I love it…I wish I could go home and do it but then it’d be copying and I refuse to do that. And then I get that little green monster. 😦 *sigh* So I just avoid looking at work by other artisans as much as possible. *sigh*


  17. If it’s a comfort, Megan, I once knew an artist who did just that–avoided looking too much at what else was out there.

    She swore it kept her vision purer, so she would not fall into the habit of unconsciously being influenced by others.

    And yes, there’s ALWAYS someone whose work is “better” than yours. The trick is to remember we can only do OUR work–not someone else’s.

    Thanks for writing. And hey, thanks for the lovely compliment, too!


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