I’m often asked to speak about my art. I’m good at it, too. It’s been a long journey, but I’ve become extremely comfortable sharing what is in my heart.
There is one frustration I sometimes encounter, though.
That’s the people who come up afterward and ask, “Can I make horses, too?” “Can I combine fabric and polymer, too?” The woman who exclaimed, “Oh, I love that idea! I paint gourds, and I’m going to make cave pictures on my gourds, too!”
Or the people that don’t even ask. They just start making cave ponies.
It’s not that they took my idea.
It’s that they got the wrong idea.
I know we all “copy” to some extent. I consider it a spectrum, just like any other human behavior. It ranges the gamut, from being inspired by someone else’s work (“I love that shade of blue! Hmmmm…I could make a necklace…”) to outright hacks. (Like finding your design on a shelf at T.J. Maxx or Target, and yes, that has happened to artists.)
I know I don’t own the idea of horses, the Lascaux horse, or even ancient images. It would be preposterous of me to say no one else can use these images.
I DO own my story.
And if you’ve ever listened to, or read my stories, and really heard them, you know I’m not just making little plastic horses.
I recently had a visitor to my studio, a delightful person who collects my work. We talked about her work. It’s an unusual profession, and one where many people would pick up the “hero” aspect. (I haven’t gotten her permission to write about this, so I’m being very circumspect.)
Her take was different. Deeper. More sensitive. Profound.
And when she spoke, I felt that ring of truth, that recognition of passion, that little shiver that goes down your spine when you hear deep knowledge expressed by someone from their heart.
It was her story. And it was astonishing.
If you know my story, you know my little horses represent many things to me–a childhood desire to run free, to fly, to feel the wind blowing my hair as my horse and I course across a plain together. You know it’s about the beauty of horses, the thrill of watching an animal born to run, run with all their heart. Doing what they were meant to do. Being what they were meant to be.
But they also represent choices. The choice to be the person you were meant to be. The choice to overcome fear, self-doubt and the weight of adulthood, and try something you’ve always dreamed of doing. To step into yourself, to take up your dreams, and live them. To follow the call.
And the choice to create beauty and embrace hope in the face of despair.
It boggles the mind to think that someone can hear my story.
And then copy my work.
Not just because my work is so personal and so important to me.
But because they missed the whole damn point of the story!
It’s that in YOU, is a story that only YOU can tell.
Because it is YOUR story. It happened to YOU. And it changed you–how you look at life, how you look at yourself, where you fit into the world.
Your story creates a place where, when you stand there, you are powerful. And you are beautiful, and you are whole.
How…..can anyone want to ignore their own powerful, wonderful, incredible story? And try to substitute someone else’s??
Even when your story is not about something you do, or something you make, it is still a place that YOU came to, a crossroads, YOU found yourself at, a journey YOU find yourself on.
Example: Anyone can do hospice work. It doesn’t take a “special person”. It just takes someone willing to be there. Anyone could do what I do.
But only I can tell the stories that come to me by doing it.
I know a woman who translates for the rights of an indigenous people in Brazil. She has even spoken at the United Nations. She insists she does not speak FOR them–they speak THROUGH her. She is their pipeline to a world that needs to honor their cries for help.
But the stories she tells about how they found her are incredible, and powerful.
That is why envy, and jealousy, are so destructive to creative people. To ANY of us.
Because it means we cannot see the power of our own stories.
What is the story that only YOU can tell?
And how will you tell it today?