30 Dec

New Year, New Plan?

It’s that time of year for reflection and plans for the next year. I’ve been contemplating my plans, or lack thereof, for a while though. Life is pretty good. I’m OK referring to myself as middle-aged (although if 30 is the new 20, then is 43 really middle-aged?). I live in Hawaii and I have a devoted husband and two kids who so far seem to be pretty well balanced, nice little people. They’re cute too. 😉 We have a roof over our head, a gorgeous house that we are renting, and hubby’s got job security and a steady paycheck that provides us a comfortable lifestyle. I’m happy with our place in the world.

But I’ve been thinking about my own ambitions lately. My accomplishments are essentially in the same place they were five years ago. I have no plans for where I want to be in another five years, let alone ten, and not much of an idea of what I want to do with my art (or career if you want to call it that).

The part of me that needs validation really, really wants something invitational. It’s great to be accepted into a show or publication one has applied to, but for me it would be particularly validating to be invited to be part of something. Of course, I would need to have some sort of presence for the right people to know of my existence in order to then invite me to be a part of their show or a feature in their magazine. And I readily admit that I have done next to nothing in the last year to promote myself or my art.

“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Although I’ve been a lifetime crafter and I have a degree in graphic design, about five years ago I discovered that I loved to sew art. Over the next few years, I had a show (right place, right time), I had a web site and blog created, and I began to share my art by teaching locally. I was “emerging.” Today I still feel like I am in that same place on the edge of something. I’d like to say that I’m completely satisfied making what I want to make, when and how I want to make it purely for the joy of making it, but there’s that nagging part of me that still wants outside accomplishment.

Blogging has been good for me in that respect — I get feedback on what I post and that, in it’s confined way, validates what I do. I can also feed off what others are doing. That is a double edged sword though. For all the inspiration I gather, I also find myself comparing, as a wise friend once said, “My insides to other people’s outsides.” I see so many shows I coulda, woulda, shoulda entered, so many peers getting work published and I wonder why no one is knocking on my door. Of the 37 blogs on my sidebar, 21 have been published and there’s ten blogs not listed that I read regularly all of which have been published recently too. Some bloggers have been at their craft a lot longer than I. I look up to the maturity of their vision. I hope that I can be like them when I grow up. Others I consider to be my peers, and I wonder what makes them more appealing than me. I debate, “Should I be writing proposals to magazines and publishers, entering shows, participating in swaps, and maximizing my Flickr account so that people actually know I’m out there?” Yes, there’s a bit of jealousy there, I won’t deny it, but mostly it’s kick in the pants to me that says, “look, if they can do it, so should you — so get in your sewing room and do it!

Now, I know that there isn’t one answer to success or validation and I know that whatever today’s answer will be, it will likely change tomorrow or next week and continue to evolve for the rest of my life. I also know that I need to define what success is for me and not worry about anyone else’s definition. I wonder though, at 43 shouldn’t I be “grown up?” Where’s my maturity of vision? Perhaps I need to learn to make better use of my time to work on those fine art quilts that should be filling my online gallery and eventually a brick and mortar one. I’d love to make a body of work worthy of Quilt National or Visions. That takes time and sweat equity and I know it. So why do I splatter my attention elsewhere? Do I use my status of a nomadic, oft geographicaly single, mother of youngish children as a way to subconsciously hamper my opportunities to be more? If so, that’s lame because there’s no shortage of single mothers with major accomplishments.

I worry that my schizophrenic interests might be hindering my impression as either an artist or entrepreneur: too many mushroom pincushions and tales of shave ice taste-testing do not a serious artist make. On the other hand, my lack of monthly how-tos or a robin’s egg blue studio (we’ll call mine “gallery white” instead of “it’s-a-rental-white, OK) keeps me from being noticed in the crafty circles. That’s who I am though and I don’t want to change it just to be a popular blogger or respected artist. I like the conversations about local foods and travel and cute things to make as well as beautiful quilt art that we’ve been having since I started blogging.

So that’s where my head is at right now: half of me wanting to keep it “pure” and just do what inspires me, be it cutesy crafting, quilting with a deeper message, or just sharing our adventures; and the other half of me thinking I should change my on- and off-line presence so I can be seen as a contender.

As I’ve been writing this post over the last few weeks, I’ve contemplated changing my blog, but I like it as-is. It reflects well who I am (or at least the cheery side of me — I rant more in the privacy of my own home than I do here, though the occasional deep thought or laundry tantrum does sneak in from time to time!). I thought maybe I could use my web site to focus on the art (and hope to have more to add in the next year). Then, as it seems that Flickr is a gateway to other projects, I could use it more. Photography is not my focus or goal, but it seems to be increasingly important as a self promotion tool. I wanted to put my crafty stuff there and not on the blog, but obviously that hasn’t worked since my last few posts have been of craft projects and not art quilts (I won’t link yet to my Flickr site as there’s some stuff there that needs to stay secret from a regular reader for a little longer). I probably also need to do more of the obvious — write proposals and apply for things (I actually did write two proposals in November). Sure, some of the people I admire have been invited to be published, but I’m confident the majority have submitted a request or 500 of some sort. The teacher doesn’t know you have the answer unless you raise your hand.

OK, I’ve said it out loud. It looks like this could be the year I start raising my hand again (oh, and I need to get studying so I actually have an answer to give).

18 thoughts on “New Year, New Plan?

  1. That could have been me writing that when I was 50, same thoughts, same ambitions. It’s like there was something missing. Even though I have been published I still always felt like there should be more. It is the journey not the prize that will fulfill you most. That is what you will look back at some day.

    Even though some single moms (as you kind of are for periods of time)have made great accomplishments, I think you will find that 90% are where you are, devoted to doing a good job raising your kids while working at what makes their heart sing.

    I enjoy your every day things you post just as much as your craft/art. It is all your personality coming out whether it be daily jaunts and your reflection of it or something you have made in your wonderful style. As far as craft instead of art: doing something, staying active in your medium, will make the ideas flow. If you stop crafting because you don’t think it is serious enough will you have any ideas at all when you walk into the room to start making art? Do we have to be so serious all the time, and not have a little fun along the way?

    You are young. When I was young I thought the 50’s was middle age, but my daughter 44 says she is middle aged like you did. You are young. The door isn’t closing yet. Just keep striving to make the next piece even better and when the time is right, things will happen.

  2. Heck, Kristin! You are who I want to be when I grow up. I have similar thoughts…about other artists and why they are published and I am not…but I don’t put myself foreward. The couple times I have been written about I have basiclly had to go into hiding to get away from requests. It is a double edged sword part of me WANTS fame and praise, but the other part prefers the quiet satisfaction of my little life. Hang in there, whatever you do will be right!

  3. Ah yes, the what do I want to be/do/create/become question. I too, could have written your post with a few variations and I am a wee (cough) bit older. There is a voice within that says you can do so much more and so go out there and explore, create, challenge yourself. The key is to listen to that voice. I enjoy the down to earth way you present yourself on your blog. You show how difficult it is to balance your dreams and creative time with life and family. I am so glad your are going to raise your hand and sing out the answer in a strong voice because you are so talented. I truly believe that once you do, your hopes and dreams will be realized. Wishing you the best in 2009. Cheers.

  4. Whew! I had to take a half hour break from my busy life to read this. I have told you over and over that you are a textile artist to be reckoned with – it will happen.

  5. I wish I had an answer for you, but I definitely don’t. There is a part of me that wants publication and attention but another that says, why can’t I just work on what I want to do and not bother with all of that. sigh. The thing I try to keep in mind is Be True to Yourself. Even if you don’t know who that is completely. A bit of this and a bit of that is okay. Not sure that made any sense, but good luck and Happy New Year.

  6. well i am pushing 60 and this is the first year that i can say i did some of what i wanted and i also feel that it reached a boiling point and just oozed out of me. if it is in there it will come out. having family and children and all that can really divert creative energy. i know. i have been there a long time. i think disappointment, jealousy, disillusion ,frustration and even exhaustion is all part of a good soup. you may just be a slow cooker and we all know the benfits of that. good luck in 2009. just stir the pot once in a while.

  7. hmm…. somehow I´m not worried, something will pop up out of nowhere and no, you won´t even need to study for it because you´re spontaneous and creative enough to just grab it and make it into something totally awesome 😀

  8. Dear Krisin, I feel like you do all the time. I am not nearly so far as you and want to be that accomplished. I think creative women have so much in them we always want to be more validated. Your friend is right about not comparing yourself with others. It works for Olympic athletes. I find my identity in Christ helps but doesn’t give me a complete answer either. Love and prayers for direction.

  9. You will never, ever, regret the time that you spend with your kids. They grow up so quickly. Too soon you will have all the time in the world to focus 100% on your art.

    Keep doing what you are doing. Start setting goals; they will be accomplished sooner than you expect. I’ve found that once goals are spoken into existence, they tend to become reality.

    I will watch with excitement to see what happens. Who knows? Maybe this particular post is all you needed to start the ball rolling on that wished for invitational…

  10. I’ve managed a bit of quilty/textile art in my time…not a huge amount, but fair enough to feel that I’ve produced something original. For awhile I even played with writing for a magazine-rack quilt mag, producing articles (pretty minimal creativity) over a period of 3 or 4 years. Even at the time I recognized that I was capable of doing far more but while I would have enjoyed the success, my focus was on ‘more important things in life’, so to speak. I simply did not want to spend the massive amount of time required for that kind of success. Now that I have reached ‘old age’ compared to your ‘middle age’ I am not unhappy in the least. In fact, I now have more time than ever to do as I please — Ah! Retirement!

  11. ahhh… yes what to do? i ponder that too…. and will continue to ponder in the new year right along with you. here’s wishing you a healthy happy and creative new year!

  12. Hmmm… You are a graphic designer turned quilt artist, and you want to be published. Have you thought about self publishing? You could even work in your Mom talents and write a book on fiber arts for kids.

  13. You and I are thinking so much alike! I have had a quilting book published, but other than teaching at the Paducah show once, I’ve never really felt “known.” And I’ve always felt, too, that I should/could be doing more to move my art forward. For 2009, I’ve made a list of goals (NOT resolution), many of which will, I hope, propel me. Many of the goals are simply about making more quilts. A few concern sending out proposals and entering quilts in contests. But we all have to start with the quilting part! Good luck!

  14. dear kristin,
    happy new year to you!

    ok… i really hope, my english is good enough to explain what i like to say…

    above all the wondering and pondering, the whys & why nots, the hows and the whens… the shoulds and coulds… that we all feel (yes! you’re definitely not alone with your thoughts)…

    don’t forget that we own a special GIFT…freedom!!! nobody tells us what to do, what to “produce”, which way to take.

    ok, it’s also a burden sometimes… but would you ever exchange for another job? ;o)

    i wish you all the best for 2009!

  15. we’ve talked about it earlier and you know what i said. you’ll make it, i’m sure!
    but in this post i really like the phrase about comparing your inside to other peoples outside… right. what we see in those awesome blogs (and for me, your blog IS “one of those”) is the outside. the outcome. the final product.
    we don’t see the work behind (though we know it). we don’t see the work that’s left undone. or the uncleaned house. or the pile of laundry. or the regular rant. my husband once asked who writes my blog, because he doesn’t know that person. too balanced 😉

    i kicked some blogs out of my reading list lately because they made me feel guilty. envious. not encouraged but bad. so i dumped them until i got myself back on track again.
    fingers are still crossed for your plans (and can you imagine how difficult the housework is with your fingers constantly crossed?!)!

  16. I am right there with you on all those thoughts. But I enjoy reading your blog just the way it is. It’s great you have time to enjoy your kids now. That’s what you will probably remember more in the end anyway. Just stating your intention to get back to your art more seriously will set you on your way. No hurry.

  17. *fistbump of sisterly solidarity*

    I think it is because there is no place in our model of emerging artist for people who make it part way; well known to a small circle of bloggers but not in print, selling small items at a local gallery but not featured at Quilt National.

    There is this feeling that with the correct placement and a feel for the zeitgeist we can be “discovered” doing what we did all along, and it will become profitable. We’ll be published in Craft and featured on Whip-up and suddenly our Etsy shop will take off and we’ll be famous.

    As my partner keeps asking me, What do you want? (not in a whiny what-can-you-possibly-want-for-now kind of way but a delineate-as-clearly-as-possible-the-desired-outcome kind of way.) Once you can describe it, you can work towards it.

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