Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Faith and Frustrations of Creativity

I have an issue to discuss. Bear with me, it will make sense by the end.

I can do many things, but mostly I don’t feel that I stand out at many of them. I am a sponge when it comes to learning new things, but until lately, I haven’t had the feeling that I had anything new to offer.

For instance, I am a good writer–on a project basis. I recognize superior writing. (I was the children’s book reviewer for the newspaper for years.) But if you asked me to write a novel, or even a good short story, I would be lost. I recognize good fiction, but I can’t write it. I can write persuasive and moving speeches, but not fiction.

I look back at things I have created in a flurry of passionate artistic frenzy, and I marvel at them. At the same time, I get angry with myself because those creative periods peter out.
This time, I have done all the research, and I think I have got something unique and superior to offer. Some of the things I am creating are unique; I can’t find other similar things on ebay or etsy. The flurry of creative activity is not petering out, and I believe that I could continue to create my “art things” forever. But I don’t even know what to call this stuff. It doesn’t have a name, and some of it doesn’t have any use (like most art).

Sometimes I get inspired by someone else’s work. For instance, for my birthday my husband gave me a “pincushion” made of chenille with a little figurine of a deer on it. I took that idea and ran with it, and now have created many cloth and china “sculptures,” little vignettes of vintage animal figurines, old millinery bits, vintage buttons, bits and pieces of ribbon and trim. They are adorable. They are charming. They would sell — if only I knew how to categorize them in order to get them before the buyers on, or even ebay. They are technically pincushions, in the sense that you could use them as pincushions, but I don’t think most people would use these “story pincushions” for sewing, but just to look at. I have sold three of them, I think almost by accident, because the buyers happened upon them when they were looking for something else.

Then there are the “art collage tags.” I mean, these are just useless entirely. They are the size of manila hanging tags, with a hole at the top through which I thread ribbons. Most of them are on a wooden tag, too substantial to use as a bookmark, but with no real other purpose. But they are just great, with beautiful Italian papers, charms, old ribbons, photos, and gilding. Some of the papers and tags are made with a 50s retro feel, some with Art Deco flair, some tell a kind of story, or encourage the viewer to create a story. They are sort of altered art, sort of collage, sort of girlie vanity things. Who knows how to categorize these? There is nothing like them available for me to match up against.

Then there’s the knitting. God help me, I spent a lot of time and money on exotic fiber, beautiful embellishments, and vintage buttons so that I could make these adorable little handbags that you could use as an evening bag, or for your ipod, or your cell phone, or just to hang over a mirror and admire. Other people do make these, so I at least know how to classify them on But how to price them? Well, I think I will probably break even if they all sell . . . folks this is not the way to wealth!

But I am very proud of my sock monkey portrait series. This is a series of little 4″ square pillows or pincushions, each with the face of an individual, unique sock monkey character. I imagined that these monkeys enjoyed getting their picture taken, gave each of them a name, and made tons of them. They could be used as pincushions, or just as easily as toys for toddlers. I even contemplated making up a little card for each character, telling a little story about where they are from and what they like to do or to eat. I would have loved for my kids to have such a charming toy to spark their imagination.

So imagine, if you will, the irony of having finally gotten to the point in my life where I actually think something I’m making is not mediocre, but superior. But — wait for it — I have no idea how to move it into public view in an effective way! Aaaaah!! I am afraid I will get discouraged before I have given this endeavor enough time. I know that is the best forum for these creations, because the cost of making a shop and getting started on selling is really low and very fair. I know that the people I have met through the site thus far are spectacular women (I haven’t met any men yet).

Since this is a blog, you’d think I could write about my trials and successes without guilt. But no, I am not used to writing about myself, and so I feel like discussing these things makes me self-involved–a whining princess who needs to get over herself. But menopause has made me bold, and I am going to overcome the rude comments by the “committee” in my own head. I am shushing them for the first time. (They all seem to speak in the irritating voice of a very unpleasant relative, now deceased.)

I would value any advice and counsel by other travelers, other pilgrims. Creativity should lead to grace, not to angst, don’t you think? Share your stories with me. There’s power in numbers.

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