I received an interesting piece of hate mail yesterday. It’s taken me sometime to process it and I’m still working through that. But the bottom line is that I had gone to a group of creative people who were not my primary art interest (we’ll say they were weavers, because they were not), and my selfish self had shown itself. A really dear friend of mine who the letter was from, cataloged how I had offended everyone, and how I had no interest in being in a group of creative people because I was selfish and driven and rude.
I was pretty much raised in a barrel as a kid, so it’s not impossible that I was. Most of the manners I have I’ve learned from the kindesses of quilters. I do try. I have my failures.
I can’t quite dismiss what she said, although I have a problem with anyone who wants to tell me how I’ve harmed everyone else. There’s no way to fix that. Tell me how I’ve harmed you, and I will, if I can to my best to make it better. There was so much rage in this.There was no way to back up, apologise, rework it. Which makes the friendship a dead duck on the floor. At that point there’s nothing to do but sweep things up.
Then I remembered, they do for a hobby. I do this is a part of my job. I take it out in front of people, occasionally sell a piece, occasionally teach with it, and use it in a daily way. I’m really not sure most of them do, except in this small class in this group. And I am sure it puts me in a place where my needs creatively are quite different.
I’ve known so many amazing artists and quilters who were loathed in their groups or guilds. They were like an eye in a hurricane. All kinds of chaos swirled around them. And that was usually the complaint. “They’re self absorbed. They’ve very driven. They’re competitive. They believe that they are geniuses.” I suspect that I am guilty as charged. It takes an amazing amount of courage to put all this stuff in public. And a huge amount of drive. And don’t forget arrogance.
I’ve believed always that everyone is an artist. It’s part of the human condition. We breathe, we dance, we tell stories, we make art. And what that is is imposing order and beauty on the random ugliness and cruelty that often is part of living. We re order it, redefine it, rework it until we make it something we can live with. Talk about selfish. Well, yes. To do that professionally takes immense drive and compulsion and probably puts you lacking in the social skills. Because everyone will challenge what you’ve done, or what is worse, ignore it.
I’ve never much doubted my abilities, because I am so often alone with them, so often compelled by them. To doubt them would be like trying to breathe in a vacuum. You can. For a very short period only, you can.
I’m sad for this letter, this judgement, this failure of comprehension on their part and manners on mine. But I understand how threatening it can be to stand next to the eye of a hurricane. Even an older hurricane who’s weathered by time and experience. I wish everyone in this group the joy of their creation, and understand that the chaos of my own is probably not group appropriate. And that my own will have it’s own joys. That will come too. I’m an artist. It’s an isolating process. I’m prickly like that.
This porcupine is another Grandville image I’ve played with on photoshop. He’s my alter ego today. He’s blue, sc^&*^ed and tattooed, which is pretty much how I feel. Ah, the glamorous world of art!
See Making Layers in Art if you’d like more information about how it was done.