Friday, June 21, 2013

Eye of the Beholder: How artists View themselves

On Wednesday I conducted my first studio visit for a group of fashion design students from Johnson & Wales University in the US.  I had a great time. The students were fantastic, enthusiastic (even though it was 38° C (100°F), they were champs in my little studio space!) and they completely inspired me. I hope I was able to do the same for them, even if it was just a little bit. They had great questions, some of which I am still thinking about even now a few hours later. And they even took notes! 

When the professor contacted me, I must admit I was a bit surprised initially. I was humbled to think that she felt my work and my story were interesting enough to share with aspiring fashion designers. Me? Really? I guess I just thought of myself as a beginner, a struggling, starving artist. What did I possibly have to offer these students? I remember when I was studying at Art Center College of Design, there was a required class called 'studio visits' where we would visit a different LA artist every Saturday for 14 weeks. I mean, how cool is that? So cool in fact that when I had an elective space two terms later I decided to take it again (different instructor, different artists) We would get to go to their studios and see where they created the work and ask them questions. It was great! 

I always remember being mesmerized, inspired and humbled and always thinking of them like rock stars and that it was something I would never be. But I would always try to soak up their insight and expertise and dream of getting to that level. But I think somewhere inside of me, I doubted myself and didn't know if it was possible. I still don't. I know I've come a long way. I know that I have grown and changed as an artist since those days of visiting their studios but I don't know that I every thought I was 'good enough' to actually be one of them. 
Sometimes as artists we start to believe we're worth only as much as someone is willing to pay even if they don't truly understand what we do or how we do it. We never think we're really quite 'good enough' and we are always struggling to 'explain' ourselves and why its worth what we are asking someone to pay for it. Even last summer when I had my first solo show and sold two pieces, I was almost surprised that someone was willing to pay (a decent sum of money) for my work. Maybe this is our way as artists of never letting our guard down so to speak or never letting ourselves get comfortable. Or perhaps its because we know there is still more to say. 

I know that I have a long way to go and I always tend to think that I will get there one day, but not necessarily that I am here. I will never stop growing and challenging myself to create new work but the point,  I suppose is, that we need to value who we are now. At this moment and how far we have come. And while answering the question of 'where do you see yourself in five years' think about where we were five years ago. Personally, I was working on a tiny single table in a tool warehouse without heat in the winter with paint chipping off the walls surrounded by  hammers and concrete mixers, to this amazing space that was nothing more than a sogno five years ago. 
One of my best girlfriends, Laura Josephine, very graciously reminded me of the process and compared it to my half marathon training. 

"Compare it to when you started training slowly for the half-marathon and one day you realize how far you've come but since the process takes a while you don't always notice until you see an end result. You've been consistent and true and haven't given up. You just cant see it yourself, but there are days when we see some jewelry (that for you is just other piece you've been working on) and it's like Whoa!!!" 

My intention is not to toot my own horn, but to possibly help other artists to know that they're not alone in feeling this way. We just need to make sure that WE are the ones who value what we do and not let what someone who may not know the first thing about the creative process undermine not only the work but the passion that goes into each and every object that we create. When we really stop and think about it, art and design are all around us. Someone thought about each and every thing that we use in our daily lives and that deserves our reflection and recognition. 

I am lucky that I get to live in a culture who still values the handmade and passion for design and craftsmanship. One of the students asked me Wednesday morning is if running a business in Italy was different to running a business in the US, and this is one things I didn't mention but I feel it is essential to what I do. And one day, metaphorically of course, (or maybe not, it could happen) I hope to run a full marathon and then maybe even an Ultra - Marathon! (that is definitely a metaphor!)

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