Here’s an entwined set of stories that gave me a flash of insight today.
As anyone who’s visited my studios over the years knows, I have a lot of stuff. A LOT of stuff. I have supplies for every contingency, every project, every medium I work in: Fiber, jewelry, assemblages, print-making, etc.
I have hundreds of vintage and antique boxes I use for my shrine series, assemblages made with my own artifacts. An apprenticeship in a friend’s woodworking studio enabled me to clean, repair, restore them. Whenever I see good ones in the sizes I work with, I snag them. I have more than I’ll ever use in a lifetime.
So why do I still have so many?
Because I’m afraid to use up the ones I love the most.
I’m afraid I’ll use them up, and the work will be mediocre. (Yup, I have Imposter Syndrome!)
I’m afraid I’ll never find more.
And yet, I’m getting pickier about buying new….er…new OLD boxes. They’re a lot more expensive in California. An old cigar box can sell for $25-$50. (I thought $10 was too much in New Hampshire!)
So I found a stash of small wood boxes at a very reasonable price at one of my favorite antique stores this week. (It’s the ONLY non-grocery store I’ve shopped at since March.)
But I hesitated. They didn’t seem all that special, they were pretty small. So I passed. I was very proud of myself.
Then, two days later, I found the exact same box in my stash. It was nicer than I thought, and it really was a great deal. ($5!)
Turned out I’d pulled it out because it was the PERFECT size to pair up with another bunch of boxes, all the same size, I bought before we moved here, for a series I’ve been dreaming of for ages.
Finding another stash of the same boxes, in exactly the size I need…. Do you know how rare that is? I made a mad dash back to the antique store the next day.
And I couldn’t find them.
I searched the entire store. I carefully searched the two spots I was sure I’d seen them in. Nope.
I was so upset at myself! I started to stomp my way out of the store…. And then I thought, why not ask?
So I went up to the cashier’s desk, and asked if the dealer might have taken them home to switch up their display. It was a long shot, and I was embarrassed to even ask.
The cashier was new-ish, was trying to help. But another person who works there, who knows me said, “I know where they are!”
She led me back to a totally different booth, one I’d barely glanced in because it did not look at all like the one I was sure I’d seen them in.
And there they were!
I almost started crying, I was so happy. I snagged them all, and today I scrubbed them up in preparation for painting and waxing them.
As I worked, I looked at other boxes. I’ve been hoarding them for over six years now. Why was I stalling on that project??
Go back and read the part where I was talking about fear.
Every time I start to put together those shrines, I am flooded by self-doubt.
And it’s holding me back from making the work of my heart.
So I started writing in my blort book. These are the journals that should be burned when I die. They’re where I write when I’m angry, scared, frustrated, stumped. And they are also where I write my way back to my happier, kinder, more patient self, with others, and with myself.
The insight I got to today?
I am really good at remaking my work. In fact, it’s part of my process.
I realized I’ve already written about a few projects where I did just that: A little bear shrine that I reworked; the ‘perfect stick’ that wasn’t;
a big shaman necklace I updated with a ‘better’ horse.
People loved them when I made them. People say they still love them now.
I’ve only sold a few of my shrines and big necklaces, and fiber pieces. They cost more than my entry-level jewelry, of course. But that’s also normal for the work I do. It can take years, even decades, and suddenly, it sells. I’ve gotten used to it. I thought.
But sometimes, when I look at all the work in my studio, I get overwhelmed with how much work is there. Especially after a period where galleries close (the recession in 2008, the Covid-19 recession), and a lot of work is returned. And, of course, if the galleries carried the work for awhile, then it’s older work, too.
So reworking stuff is a habit. I like to take an older piece and remake it along the same lines, but updated: Longer necklaces, and more pearls and gemstones for a new line I’ve created. Horse artifacts with more detail, more 3-dimensional. (Older animals were flat-ish, which was fine until they weren’t.)
That was my “Aha!” moment.
I can make that new series.
I will do my best work.
And if I still have them years from now, and I see what could be better, well, I’ll remake them! Just like I always have.
So today I celebrate two little miracles. One, realizing that working in media that allows me to rework old designs. As I know better, I can do better. And two, acting on that weird impulse, to ask an odd question about little boxes, in front of the one person who knew exactly what I was talking about.
Okay, THREE miracles! Knowing that blorting will get me to a better place, even when I’m stuck in the same place for six years.
How do YOU work your way through roadblocks and self-doubt? I’d love to hear what works for YOU!