How interviewing artists made me realize I am one
"Oh, I'm not an artist."
How many times have I heard that line? Said it myself? A post like this one has been brewing for awhile. I have shared some personal stuff in the past, but in the three years that I’ve been doing CreatedHere, a site about other people, it’s become more and more personal.
When I was 8 years old, I wanted to be an artist. Somehow in my mind that meant a visual artist, a painter. Trouble is, I don’t love paint. So I never really considered it as a career. When I was young, my mom would give me craft materials for my birthday and Christmas like beads, FIMO clay, yarn, paints… and I would sit in my room for hours and just create. Fast forward to when I started CreatedHere in 2013, I had this thirst for creativity. My own had been dormant for years it seemed. After leaving home, travelling, university, it seemed creative time was squeezed out. Although I do remember having this feeling in university that if I didn’t do something with my hands every day I would go insane from all the reading, writing and stress. I had to make something, even if it was just knitting while watching TV. Also for some odd reason at Christmas I would get a burst of creative energy and make everyone handmade gifts, whether they wanted them or not. I would identify as a creative person, but certainly not as an Artist. There seemed to be so many (lofty) definitions of “artist” that I did not apply to myself - specialized, full-time, having a defined style, trained…
When my second baby was born (Fiona), I was in the throes of parenting a toddler, now also a newborn, and there was an element of survival underlying my everyday. However there was this moment, I can still remember the day, when I heard a lyric of a song by Rend Collective,
“I’m lost without your creative spark in me”
And something clicked. I had lost the spark. Something kindled in me in that moment, and began to burn. I started wanting to do creative things. That’s all I could do for awhile, was want to be creative. As a spiritual person, I knew that God was calling it out in me. But it was buried deep. I suppose all things begin with the desire.
A few months later, as I’ve shared before, I ran into an old acquaintance at a craft fair who had become a glass artist. I asked him how he got there and could have listened to him for hours. I decided I wanted to hear other artists’ stories. I would cold call artists and ask them if I could come visit. I interviewed Darren Emenau, Suzanne Hill, Jeneca Klausen, Ed Coleman... I barely knew what I was talking about but I was fascinated with their stories. Without being able to articulate it at the time, I wanted to know the path to creativity. How did they get to where they were? I launched the site createdhere.ca, with great fear and trepidation (what would people think??) and started posting about the artists I’d visited.
As with any new endeavour, everyone had opinions about what I should do with CreatedHere. How will it make money? You should have an online shop! You should make artists pay to be listed! I tried branching out in different directions, participated in the ArtslinkNB Catapult Arts and Culture Accelerator, trying to entrepreneur my way through. When I pushed to make money, things just didn’t feel right. I still just loved visiting artists’ studios. Joe and Gudi Pach, Ginette Arsenault, Samaqani Cocahq...
When I put together the magazine (as part of the Accelerator program) I now had something tangible to share. There was a turning point when I was at a craft fair selling my magazines, and a thought struck me. I want to be making things too. Meeting artists and telling their stories was expanding my understanding of what it meant to be an artist. At the root of it all, I realized that my internal question had changed. It morphed from “How did they get there?” and became “How could I get there?”
The voices in my head tried to slow me down and deter me. "Who do you think you are doing this stuff?" "People can so tell you're an amateur making this all up as you go along" "This is not worth the effort" It's amazing how our own internal dialogue is often our worst hang up.
I struggled with the fact that it felt like the biggest obstacle to my creativity was my children, whom I adore to death and whom absorb most of my lucid hours. I did not want to have to choose between one or the other. I sought out (and still do) women artists who had children. Lynn Wigginton, Elizabeth Miller,Isabelle Lafargue... I found that some had continued to make art while parenting, while others had placed their career on hold while they raised their families. I realized that everyone’s story is different, everyone gets to where they’re going in a different way, but it’s the direction, the journey that matters. I could wait until my kids grow up to learn to be an artist when I felt like I had time. Or, I could weave creativity into my life right now, reaching for it when I needed it most.
Keep making, keep sharing
So I started knitting while the kids played, dyeing yarn while I made supper, embroidering while we watched TV… some days I do nothing, some days I make it around a braided rug a few more times. I had a hard time sharing the stuff I was making on social media at first, it's something I'd always kept mostly to myself. But now, with CreatedHere, I had grown such a large network of creative-minded people with whom I felt safe sharing my work.
Making is life-giving to me, I find that it connects me with a creative force (I call it God) and energizes me for the rest of life, like caring for my family. I had the privilege of participating in Third Shift: Art Works After Darklast summer, which put me squarely in the category of “artist”. (!!!) From that came the connection that led to one of my braided rugs going to design expos in Toronto and (soon) NYC.
So I guess this is how you do it? Haltingly and just one step forward at a time. I realized that I was looking for some formula to becoming an artist, to see if I could apply it to my life. I think I would say there are two parts, 1) Call yourself an artist and 2) make stuff like the artist that you are. Most of the battle is in your own head. By no means have I attained any high level of artistry, but I’ll keep on the path. Keep making, keep sharing.
I recently started a part-time job with Outflow, a ministry that works to lift people out of poverty in Saint John, NB. The project I’m working on is a social entreprise, a creative studio empowering individuals in need of a job by making and selling handmade items. It’s still developing but I will be able to both help people and use my creative skills at the same time, which honestly feels too good to be true. While I’m super excited about this job, life feels very full. I'm at the computer less. I plan to continue with CreatedHere, although aspects of the project may recede, as I also pursue my new job and my own work. Everything is a bit topsy-turvy, but I couldn’t be happier.
Thank you for being along for the ride! I appreciate the support I get from all of you through CreatedHere, it’s been a big factor in helping me gain confidence as an artist myself. I love sharing the incredible work of artists and makers in our province, I love publishing a magazine that brags about them, and now I’m loving exploring my own path of creativity as well.
I now have a FB page where I will post creative projects, if you're interested.
Keep making, keep sharing.