How Thomas Edison, Scarlett O’Hara, and Cake helped me through some hard places.
Years ago, the band Cake came out with an adorable video about their newest song, “Short Skirt/Long Jacket”.
In the video, people on the street are offered a chance to listen to a new song by an unnamed band (Cake) and asked for their opinions.
I love this tune! Every time I hear it, I want to get up and dance. It’s swingy, it’s lush, it’s pure-d fun.
In the video, about a third of the folks hate it, and tell us why. Another third like it, commenting on the parts that work, and don’t work, for them.
And the ones that absolutely love it? They don’t even talk.
They just dance.
They move to the music, oblivious to everyone else around them.
Why bring this up today?
Because I’m in the middle of a dream project I’ve carried in my heart for years.
It’s a new series of box shrines, made with antique, vintage, and distressed new wood boxes, painted, antiqued, screwed together in stacks, and mounted on wood bases. I will fill them with my own handmade artifacts. You can see them here on my Instagram account.
I’ve made them before, big ones. I had access to a friend’s woodworking studio, their tools, and their expertise.
This time, it’s just me.
Many, many things have held me back. Relying on antique and vintage boxes meant it was hard to have exactly the right stock for every configuration. I decided against using construction glue and epoxy this time around, because I found out the hard way that old wood can be more fragile than those glues. I still wasn’t sure how to mount the artifacts in the perfect way.
In short: I believed I couldn’t just start until I had everything figured out.
Which meant I didn’t start for more than seven years.
The pandemic changed everything. I had nowhere to go, no open studio events, no galleries open to selling work.
And also no excuses.
So I changed my attitude and my strategy.
I would start with what I had. If I could only put together a couple shrines, well, okay then.
And I decided I would just keep making and moving forward until I hit the next roadblock. And then I’d figure it out.
Guess what?? It’s working!
Every purchase that was a mistake? That was information on what would work better the next time.
I found sources for new wood boxes that I could distress and texture to look old, to fill in the gaps in my collection. A friend sent me a bunch of small handmade parts drawers. I bought brackets and braces, experiment until I found the right ones.
Like Thomas Edison, I found hundreds of things that didn’t work.
And then I found exactly what did work.
One of my biggest hang-ups was finding shallower/flatter boxes to use as bases/foundations. They gave the shrines a more ‘finished’ look, but finding ones the right size and price was tricky. Until I finally found these affordable wood painting panels in a variety of sizes and shapes, that worked perfectly.
I agonized about how to make my own museum mounts for positioning and displaying the artifacts. But instead of waiting to find “the perfect one”, I bought one type. Instead of lamenting my inability to weld or braze, I thought of different ways I can make them myself. (And just as I’m writing this, I’m realizing I did a huge favor recently for another artist who is a life-long welder. Hmmmm……I think I know a favor I can ask of them!)
I worried about how many and what kind artifacts I need to make. But I’ve put that off for now because warmer summer months will be better for working with polymer clay. (My studio’s average winter temperature is 48 degrees.)
And the last barrier getting in my way? I wake up at 3:00 a.m., realizing my studio is now filled with soooo many shrines, there’s no room to even adequately display them all. And I’m worried no one will buy them.
My solution to that? I use what I call my “Scarlett O’Hara” approach: “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”
I tell my lizard brain to go back to sleep. It’s not about the selling right now, it’s about the making.
I’m sharing my progress on social media. That helps me not only record my progress, I also get to see the response. Which has been favorable!
Most people seem fascinated. They can’t wait to see where I go with them. Some have been inspired to explore their own versions. Many people are interested in a class, which, now that I have sources for affordable new boxes, could be possible.
And today, I came across an old journal from 2015, with those insights about Cake’s new song, which in turn inspired this article.
There are people who will love these shrines. There will be people who won’t.
And some won’t have any words.
They’ll just dance.
· Just for today, don’t worry about who will and won’t like your work.
· Just for today, don’t worry about whether it will sell.
· Just for today, start that project you’ve always dreamed of. Experiment. Trial-and-error. Tiny steps forward.
· Just for today, share your progress and process with your audience on social media.
Just for today, make the music that is your art, that makes you want to dance.
Ironically, today I also found this quote on Cake’s website:
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
—Martin Luther King Jr.
Your comments are always welcome, often insightful, and sometimes inspirational, too! Shares, the same. You can find more of my articles at Fine Art Views, and/or visit/subscribe to them at my blog at LuannUdell.wordpress.com.