So just over a week ago I was steadily working my way through some ideas for my new Etsy shop, I had a few different things in mind, but was quite happily toddling along taking things at a steady pace. I went for a walk in the woods, gathered some branches to carve into bits and pieces, went home, watched some Breaking Bad, checked my Facebook and BOOM!
The mighty Mister Finch, the hugely talented, influential and generous textile artist had posted some photos of my work to his 160,000 followers, with a link to my Facebook page and 1,200 people had shown their appreciation by hitting the “like” button in just a few hours. This had led to lots of other lovely bloggers, writers and artists sharing my work and an snowball of attention and commissions.
Now I am not and have never been the sort to covet Facebook “likes”. When I set up my page I shared it with my friends and asked them to share it if they felt so inclined. I always wanted appreciation for my work to be genuine and voluntary rather than out of obligation or harassment. Don’t get me wrong, I know that for some businesses, a high “like” rating on Facebook is very important, but I just can’t understand people who cajole others to “like” their pages and who see “like milestones” as an end result in themselves. “Likes” are ultimately abstract and should be seen as a gesture of appreciation and interest, rather than a measure of success.
I was over the stonking moon!
The beautiful messages of support, interest, fascination and sheer loveliness were staggering. Some made me cry, especially the people who told me that seeing my work had inspired them to make their own. That was particularly nice.
I spent most of the weekend feeling all fluffy, then went back to the studio on Monday petrified that the next thing I made would be awful and that I’d let down all the lovely people who’d taken the time to write to me.
I was reminded of almost every other creative success in my adult life and how every single one had been followed by crippling self doubt and the crushing weight of my own expectations.
So, I decided to go back to what I know best and spend a day in the studio making random things for no other reason than to see what happens. My good friend Louise McVey, a beautiful and very talented ceramic artist makes time for this sort of creative work regularly ( this is the woman who came up with ceramic monobrows on sticks and noses that sneeze giant flowers, for no other reason than just because) and I always find that it’s a good way to get a grip of your (my) own spiralling freak outs.
So I made these fish skeletons.
I had no idea if they’d work out, if they’d look good, if they’d be anything I’d want to share with anyone, but to hell with it! I wanted so see what a fish skeleton would look like if it was made from silk and cotton.
I think for any of us who work in creative fields, it’s easy to latch on to the work and processes that are commercially successful as most of us live with unstable, if not chaotic incomes, and it can be difficult to find the time to invest in something as simple and seemingly ephemeral as creative play for it’s own sake with no specific outcome.
To suddenly have overwhelming support for work that had been largely unnoticed for the last while had thrown me into a panic. I suddenly felt the pressure to do meaningful work that would also keep everyone’s attention, when what I really needed to do was go back to basics and work as if no one was watching. As much as I value my work, I think it’s important to keep just a little bit of perspective on just how important it is in the grand scheme of things, and I firmly believe that taking time to simply play around with creative ideas can keep you from taking your work and yourself too seriously.
I want to thank every single person who has taken the time to write to me, to share my work and your thoughts about it. I am so completely grateful for your time, your lovely words and your generosity.