Major changes are going on in my artistic life these days. Without giving away too much at the beginning, I am shifting my life away from certainty toward the unknown. At the suggestion of a friend, I have decided to chronicle this journey in the open. Thank you Dana.
In short, I am committing more time to my art, and spending less time in a dependable office setting. I have seen changes within myself, even before actual time commitments have shifted. In particular, I have been more relaxed and less stressed, even as I have more things to do to keep these balls in the air. Spending more time on my passion seems to be good for my health.
I anticipate there will be more changes — some of which won’t be positive — to come and I will share them with you here. This first installment starts (almost) at the beginning, with my story of rejection.
Over the last year, I have been directing my energy into becoming a better potter, finding more opportunities to improve my craft, and being recognized for and selling my work. All of this while working a full time job. So when I was recently invited to apply to be a resident artist at a local art center, I was thrilled and flattered. Other than a few sales, this was the first time someone in the ceramics world acknowledged my work and said we like what you are doing. Wow. I was jazzed beyond belief. Yes, it is great to be nominated.
I was also flustered and anxious. I was getting what I wanted but as with any residency, there are commitments. This one in particular required 25 hours per week at the studio. Yicks! I have a 50-60 hour per week job. Yet this is what I wanted. And I wanted it badly. So for the first time in 20 years I became serious about doing something other than climbing the corporate ladder. I certainly wasn’t going to leave my day job to become a full-time potter (as fun and dreamy as that sounds) because I still have bills to pay. However, I had to figure out how to make this work. So I did some calculations – on both money and time – and determined that if I went part-time at work, I could pay the bills and make the most of the residency.
The first step was talk to my boss to see if this was even possible. I put blinders on so I wasn’t distracted by my demons and I plunged forward. However, I made the mistake of having the conversation over lunch. Oh my stomach was in knots and I barely made it through half of my sandwich. Despite my stomach-rolling anxiety, he said “yes, we could make part-time work.” I am most grateful that he was supportive. With the logistics out of the way, my journey to transform my art into avocation had commenced.
I began to assemble my application, including reworking my artist statement, and writing a statement of intent. The statement of intent was the hardest thing I have ever had to write (and I have written briefs for federal appellate courts). I found that I needed to do some emotional preparation before I could bare my intent (which felt like baring my soul) on paper. I realized that I was scared to apply and scared not to apply. I had to convince myself that I deserved something like this. I also had to accept that I was good enough to make the most of it. That was a lot of emotional turmoil to work through for someone who dreamed of being a potter, but has a life long habit of letting her demons get in the way. Thanks to my mentor, friends, my husband, and “The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women” by Gail McMeekin, for helping me ignore my doubt.
I submitted the application in mid-July. While waiting, everyone kept telling me that I was a shoe in. I started to prepare mentally and emotionally for how my life would change. During that process, I realized that while the opportunity was right on so many levels, it would take a lot out of me. So I began to investigate if there were other ways to get where I wanted to be. Certainly this residency wasn’t the only path to my goals. I started preparing a plan B and a plan C.
Last week I received the letter. I was rejected. For about 18 hours, I was very zen about the whole thing, and maybe a little relieved. I was comfortable in knowing deep down that this hadn’t been the right opportunity, but was instead the cosmic kick in the arse I needed to push myself. I accepted that and was thankful for it.
So I was surprised that the next afternoon I fell into a funk. Oh the pain of rejection. Even though my gut knew this was how things were supposed to play out, my heart hurt and my soul was bruised. So what does a potter do in such moments? She grabs one her favorite drinking vessels – in this case a Jeff Oestreich tea bowl (sorry Matthew, your cup was in the washer), fills it with wine and goes to the basement to throw a few pots.
I threw a few standard pieces (tasting plates and tumbler), but mostly experimented. I worked on a candlestick and then decided to go back to jars – a nemesis of mine. The jar turned out beautiful, although the lid was much farther off than my calibers indicated (I’ll blame it on the wine). So while not perfect, I had turned the pain of rejection into a positive – a beautiful jar that will inspire more. Once glazed I will keep this jar on my night stand. Every time I encounter a disappointment in my journey, I am going to write a note to memorialize the moment and put it into my jar.
Stay tuned for Part 2: Plan B Really is Plan A