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.
14 thoughts on “And now for something completely different…”
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the recent attention and new fans. I am grateful Mister Finch shared you too!
I really need to send that man some sort of gift basket for sending so many lovely folk my way 😉
I love those – so unique – wonderful!
I love these, love the way the bones look gelatinous. They’re so good I’m sure if I sniff my screen I could smell them. Now just need a squeezed quarter lemon and then they could be mounted on a china saucer 🙂
Oh my goodness, I need to go find a china saucer immediately! 🙂
Everything you said resonated with me – “playing” vital to keep creative and fresh. Love your work, just keep playing!
Another Mister-Finch-Liker 🙂 So glad you are getting the recognition and “likes” for your wonderful work. Completely inspiring! X
Thank you <3
Your work is so inspiring! and these fish are no exception. Kudos for your approach to work like no one is watching. I shall take your shared thoughts into mind while I begin creating my next project. Thank you for being true and openhearted! x
You’re welcome, thank you for your lovely message. Good luck with your next project x
I’m actually at a bit of a loss for words! I find your work and words deeply touching having spent my entire childhood and early adulthood making and drawing little dolls but then stopped all that ‘nonsense’ when I went to art college as I thought people would just think they were silly and I plunged myself into Serious Work. Catch myself doodling small people or finding them made out of paper napkins or tin foil if there’s any within my reach! But it was your words ‘work as if no one is watching that got me. Of course! I never do that! Always working with a view to selling or working on commissions and then wondering why work doesn’t ‘do it’ for me anymore! Suffice to say am approaching painting with a different mind set and now feel like I can breath properly. Oh, and I suspect I might be making some little people fairly soon. Thank you so much. xxxxx
I’ve just had to go make a wee coffee and take a deep breath before replying. Your experience sounds eerily familiar Deb. I have a funny feeling we’re not the only two who’ve done this to ourselves either. Isn’t it ironic that we go to art school thinking we’re bucking the trend, going against the grain and taking a step out of the system then we just go head long into behaving ourselves and doing what we think is expected of us? I don’t even think it’s art schools that are at fault, in my case I put so much pressure on myself and was so much more aware of what I thought I should be doing instead of bothering to ask myself what I wanted to do. It’s incredible to know that this wee blog post has affected you in a positive way, thank you so much for letting me know. xxx
Thank you Mister Finch for leading me, and obviously many others, to this wonderful blog. Absolutely inspiring work and exceptional writing. I’m loving every post.
Thanks Carol, glad you found your way here too 🙂