Saturday, February 16, 2008

Artist Seeking Focus . . . or Really Big Box

The rant I'm sharing with you today started off as a response to this post over at futuregirl:

"When you're spread so thin, does it keep you from getting the really great ideas? Am I keeping myself from really shining? Oh, I don't know. I like doing lots of different things. Could I even *just* crochet or *only* embroider ... even if I decreed it? Probably not.

You know, this is one of my eternal struggles ... deciding where to focus my energy. Conventional wisdom says that you should pick one thing and put everything you've got into it. But I've never been conventional, and I don't see any reason to start now. :)"
Do I feel spread thin sometimes? You bet! Recently, I made a conscious decision to keep doing the analytical sub-contracting work, the work for the other part of my brain. It's exhausting, but it pays well and it keeps me balanced. Working that part of my brain - in moderation - keeps my creative juices flowing and structures my time enough that when I do have time to work in the studio or do things to support my creativity business, I'm much more likely to jump in and actually follow through. It also takes some of the pressure off of feeling like every creative endeavor needs to be profitable.

Yet, even as an artist, I keep feeling like I *should* have a niche, like, "Oh, yeah, she's that encaustic collage girl" or "She does the greatest things with reclaimed fibers!" or "Bridget's the cigar box shrine lady."

But heck no! I can't even fit myself firmly into the "art" or "craft" camp . . . I seem to delight in having my hands in every possible pot, mixing it up as much as humanly possible . . . as a perfect example, I spent part of yesterday researching arts organizations and artist associations - it's a great way to network and learn about exhibit opportunities and teaching opportunities. There's the International Association of Collage and Assemblage Artists (ok, but does fiber work fit into any of that? what about jewelry making? or printmaking?), the Studio Art Quilters Association (hmmm . . . I don't technically quilt much of anything even though I incorporate fiber into the work, and it is art . . . but what about encaustics?), the Surface Design Association (ok, so that's just about anything I might do on fabric, but what about the collage and shadowbox shrines?). Uh-huh. I could end up shelling out a small fortune on Association fees alone . . .

Maybe I should start the Association of People Who Like to Make Things and Teach Other People to Make Things or The Organization of REALLY REALLY Mixed-Media Artists (TORRMMA, for short).

On a more serious note, focus is a challenge when you work in so many different media . . . and have so many different interests. I struggle with that in the blog, too - feeling like I should just focus on one or two things . . . but the diversity is part of what keeps me engaged.



gl. said...

yes! one of the things i like about what you do is that you're willing to do it so many different ways. (hmmm, please don't misinterpret that. ;)

but i would join the Association of People Who Like to Make Things and Teach Other People to Make Thing! in early 2006 i wrote about the ways in which sven & i blog: "another reason we like to write is because one of our 'problems' is that we're inspired to create in lots of different mediums, and sven & i create in entirely different modes. our breadth is unusual, and this is a "problem" for most art marketing, which wants you to be rarified in your niche. but writing about what we do lets us cross-pollinate to create strange and fascinating flowers. jane levy campbell called us 'a real Renaissance pair!' when she discovered our site and i thought that was one of the best compliments we could have received."

d said...

i tend to focus on 'one way' of doing something until i get bored with it and then i expand on it, or alter it to make it fresh again and then grow bored. rinse and repeat. but that's because i don't multi-task very well.

SisterDG said...

First, I will join your Association right now. Just tell me where to send my dues.

It's one of my pet peeves, that idealism toward specialization in creativity. I know I've never mastered any of the hundreds of different crafts I dabble in, but mastery is not the point for me. Exciting cross-pollination is. And, just simply, the process.

. . . But you're right - this approach does tend to lead to a jumbled studio, stuffed brain, and staggering To-Make list.

futuregirl said...

I didn't realize you posted about this after your comment. I love your thoughts on the subject. :)

Christina said...

There's a book called "Refuse to Choose" by Barbara Sher. According to her, we're called "Scanners". The best part of reading her book was realizing that there's nothing wrong with doing what makes you happy. Odd that I needed a stranger's permission to accept my wacky self!