I am an artist. It took me a long time to own that title. Funny thing that. I have made art my whole life. Other people have called me an artist. I have even won awards to that effect but I still always felt inauthentic referring to myself as an artist. I think I always felt that to earn the title I had to be selling enough work to earn a living.
This idea came back into my thoughts a couple of weeks ago when my badge from the Sawdust Art Festival caught my eye. I am pretty proud of it to be honest as it represents the beginning of me launching what I hope will be a successful pottery business. I made the commitment to myself last Summer that I wanted to really give this a go… that I would learn what I needed to put my work in front of people.
I had been thinking for a while that I wanted to work in a creative field and had been exploring that. I had also been making pottery mostly for fun when my dear friend who is herself a working potter and artist really pushed me to give it a try… to do a really big show to see if this is what I wanted. I have been a potter for over 20 years but had never pushed myself to make it my career. I applied to the show and was accepted and that set in motion my whole Autumn. I cobbled together a production calendar and got to work. Three hundred and something pieces later I was ready to pack up and head to Southern California for a 5 weekend show.
At this show I was an Artist. I was treated like an artist, I hung out with artists, and I sold lots of work to happy patrons who seemed to love what I do and want me to talk about it. It was a crazy whirlwind of a show. I came away from that with the kind of happy exhaustion that happens after you put your heart into something and then see it to fruition.
So I looked at my badge and thought, “What is an artist anyway?” I actually did the totally trite thing and looked it up. Google. Love it. The simple definition is that an artist is someone who practices the discipline of an artistic medium. Well that seems simple enough if you ignore the old argument about whether or not something is an art or a craft and that has been argued to death and never settled.
For me though I think that you maybe are an artist if you approach life with the eyes of an artist. If you have an artistic way of experiencing and interacting with the world. I think artists have a deep desire to make feelings and impressions visual or tactile. I experience intense joy when I see a beautiful thing or a vista or when I experience a particular smell or gentle breeze. I ache to preserve that feeling and will often use multiple means to record that moment. Photos, pencils, or just being still and imprinting it to memory are all tools I use to make my impression. The next part is the most important though because it is contrary to what we think about artists as solitary beings…. I use my art to try to share those profoundly joyous experiences. It is a form of communication for me which means it is ultimately about a desire for human connection. Most people think that art is narcissistic…”Look at me and this cool thing I made”… I really think it is much more like a conversation. Besides, making art is way more socially acceptable than openly weeping because of how lovely the warm sun feels on my face or just how good that margarita tastes.
So I am an artist. And a working potter. I will own this regardless of what my w-2 looks like.