Timothy Bjorn Jones | Nurturing Creative Growth
Being an artist is an adventure.
To those on the outside, the life of an artist can appear blissful; solely a pursuit of passion and inspiration. Looking deeply into the life of an artist or craftsperson will often paint a very different picture.
When I look back, my life was undirected. I had moved across the country twice, worked in law and spent time in the Canadian Armed Forces. I struggled with debt, jumped from job to job and, more often than not, found others making my life choices for me.
I became desperate. I was hopelessly lost with my day to day career path so I chose to pursue my creative passions instead of risking complete stagnation.
Jump forward a few years and I have hopelessly embraced the artist’s dream. I have amassed a collection of hats. Silly hats, colourful hats, boring hats, fancy hats. No one said being an artist was boring, but I never expected this. I don’t even like hats.
Justin Sappier and I met at the New Brunswick College of Craft & Design. As individuals we didn’t seem to have much in common: Justin has two sons, is First Nations, has twenty years on me and he likes hats. I am a pagan, covered in tattoos and probably too addicted to caffeine. However, we both shared high ambition, a good work ethic and, ironically, no previous experience in the arts.
After spending some time together, we came to realize that our differences, and indeed our separate weaknesses, could easily become strengths when working together. Justin would help me overcome my fear of public speaking and I would aid with his writing, for example. As traditional woodcarvers, when it came to our medium we held each other accountable to put in the work. All of it. No excuses. We challenged each other to develop our work — not to the standard of the market, but to the highest quality we could create as artists. We would attend evening workshops, and when there were none, we would carve late into the night anyways. We critiqued each other’s work, learned from each other’s mistakes and shared in the victories, always challenging each other to take our work a step further.
When approached to separately teach two workshops, we opted instead to co-teach both for the experience all while challenging each other’s’ teaching methods. We have had joint gallery shows, publications and have shared space in four artist residencies. Our most recent residency at Odell Park, provided me the opportunity to put my public speaking to the test with television and radio features, and I have Justin to thank for getting me there.
Being an artist is a pursuit of passion, yes. But that is only one of many hats. A career in the arts requires one to wear the hats of entrepreneur, sales person, public speaker, digital content creator, designer, accountant and so many more. Some hats naturally fit better than others. Sometimes it’s impossible to wear every hat.
Justin and I have helped each other with these different roles, and both of our individual practices have flourished because of it. It’s important in our community that we work with our peers to encourage, challenge and raise each other up.
So that let me ask you… What hat do you need to dust off?
Words & Woodcarvings by Timothy Bjorn Jones
Photography by Matthew Kennedy