This article originally appeared on my first blog site, Radio Userland, on October 27, 2004. Two things astonish me: 1) I don’t remember writing it, and I love it even more today. 2) I sound like Seth Godin

My Hands
I wrote a book on stamp carving for Lark Books a couple years ago. The oddest thing about the process was when it came time to do the photos for the how-to pages. The editor had me fly in to Asheville, NC to do the shots, and my hands would be in every photo.It was exciting, in a way, but stressful. I became very conscious of my hands and how they looked. They are very capable hands, but they certainly aren’t youthful-looking anymore!

For a full month before the shoot, I took extra good care of my hands. I tried not to chew on hangnails, I used hand lotion every day and beeswax every night. I scrupulously did cuticle care. I used tools instead of my fingers and avoided situations where a nail could be broken.

I remarked to my sister how important taking care of my hands had become. She told her husband later and he exclaimed, “Oh my God, it’s like that Seinfeld episode!” (Apparently George gets a chance to be a hand model and my obsession was mild compared to his.) Life, indeed, imitates art.

But my world got very small for that month. Every action and opportunity was considered for how it would affect my hands. It was a relief when the shoot was over and I could return to my normal, active, haphazard lifestyle again.

Why am I writing about hands today?

It occurs to me that we need to be careful of giving too much focus to anything that makes our world smaller.

Whether it’s our physical self, our emotional self, our spiritual self, our professional self, we need the focus that allows us to put our time and energy into our highest priority.

But in return, that investment should make our lives bigger somehow. It should enable us to connect more powerfully to the world, through our art, through our actions, through our relationships with other people.

After all, the book got published because of me taking advantage of an opportunity offered by a book editor. And because I created a relationship with her. And because I carve good stamps and make good work. And because she knew she could count on me to do a good job writing the book. And even more importantly, she knew she could count of me to finish it.

I wasn’t chosen because of what my hands looked like, but because of what they can do.


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.

4 thoughts on “MY HANDS”

  1. I especially love your second to last paragraph where you list the “whys” of how you were chosen….such as the very important one of “she knew she could count on me to do a good job….and what’s more…”she could count on me to finish the job”. Many artists I have known have trouble with those two…especially the latter. Being a bit ADD myself, and born before that was even recognized….it took me years to understand the problem in that. Once I learned it and worked on it…I find myself amazed at how much it improved my life. It seems rampant among artists! I have my own theory on that — I think its part of what makes us good artists….we have the ability to “change horses mid-stream”…but having the ability to be dependable and follow directions in a contract is a necessity in getting ahead too. When others are willing to bank on us, offer us exhibits, promote us, use their time and money to help us get our art out there, we need to be dependable. I have been on both ends of this scenario, and once someone fails to meet deadlines, or shows up with work unframed when it was suppose to be framed, or any number of things that fail to meet what was promised…..the artist has greatly diminished my interest in helping them….as I cannot count on them to do what they promise to do. Artists out there…please take note…your ADD can work for you, it can also work against you. Try to tame it…there are many “tools” for helping ADD in adults.


    1. Roberta, WOW, great post! So true, our greatest strengths can become the very things that tear us down. Your story shows how working on our greatest weakness can turn that around. I’m not perfect, I still drop balls from time to time. But so far, not anything that leaves someone hanging or wrecks what THEY are trying to accomplish in the world. I’ve learned to own that, make it right, apologize (the right way) when it happens, and do whatever I can to restore someone’s trust in me. You’ve given me food for thought today. Thank you!!!


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