16 Apr

So Many Paths

What to do, what to do? I’ve been thinking a lot in recent months about what I want to do with my art, or even if I want to do anything. I’ve whined before about watching my peers seemingly pass me by, but then done little about it. Well, little tangible. I’ve been thinking about options — and there are so many.

I could focus on art quilts. Enter more shows. Focus on marketing that side of me. (I might need to cut back on the public handbag-making, knitting, and kid-art crafting though.) To that end I’ve entered four shows this year and submitted two project proposals to a magazine. The results to date are three rejections, one still-waiting, and one acceptance. Yay! I’ll post more closer to the date, but my latest “Rooted” quilt will travel the US with the “Tactile Architecture” show.

I could pursue fabric design. I’ve got some ideas, but I’m not really sure where to go next, or if this is even an avenue I want to commit to. To that end, I’m happily drawing away on my computer here and there, slowly building a collection of patterns for a rainy day.

I could succumb to my crafty side and grow the blog with more tutorials, swaps, community building, and reproducible inspiration. I could submit more proposals to magazines and crafty web sites. Maybe this is where my kid-inspired art takes the lead. This area is already chock full of more qualified people than I though, and actually the least enticing direction. But I have to admit that I do tend to post a lot of projects that would be just as happy on a dedicated “craft blog” as here.

I could focus on writing that parent/child picture-book-with-project based on our butterfly adventure. To that end, I’ve considered a few illustration styles and made a short list of possible publishers, but then lost it.

I could just do what I enjoy doing each day, and try not to worry about it. This is what I’ve been doing lately, and although it feels right, it also feels like it may just be the path of least resistance.

When my dad was here, we talked about defining individual success and priorities. How important is tangible success like a booming Etsy shop, or published articles? What would it take to make those goals a reality? Would those steps fulfill me? There is a certain honesty in being my multi-faceted self even if it means I’d be sabotaging myself by muddling the definitions (artist, crafter, designer, writer) that make us “marketable.” Embracing that self and accepting that that person will probably never be outwardly successful is definitely a goal of mine. However, speaking of sabotage, I still want the outward validation. I’m in the enviable position of not having to support myself or my family with my art, so why DO I want to be successful or marketable? Do I even feel comfortable selling things or ideas? Why is it necessary (for any reason other than to place value on the work itself) since I don’t need the income? Besides, I’ve always had a problem with convincing others to buy things they don’t really need (the advertising world and the design world overlap and I was always aware of that grey area I didn’t want to cross).

So, if I don’t need the income, and I’m not much of a marketer; if I like my hand in many pots; if I can wrap my head around not needing outside validation, then perhaps my path is not the one of least resistance, but the one of self discovery. My mom suggested I just keep doing what I’m doing and throwing the ideas out there in hopes that one may take hold and show me the way. And that does seem to be the direction (if one can call it a direction) right now. Underneath this hodge-podge of a blog about art quilts, ripple blankets, sewing, backyard bugs, motherhood, military life, travel and cultural exchange, there is but one journey.

*It occurred to me after writing this that part of why I keep coming back to this need to define success and to decide whether I need it or not is a cultural predisposition to need to always be growing and moving forward.  Perhaps I need to get out of my American head and look for other perspectives.

23 thoughts on “So Many Paths

  1. Congrats on the Tactile Architecture exhibit! That rocks!

    The rest of it? It sounds so cliché, but I have to say it anyway: Do what you love, when you love it. Last year at this time, when I was on the edge of this whole crazy Inchie thing, my mom said “There’s nothing wrong with massaging it along if that’s what you feel like doing at the time, but don’t obsess over it.” I’ve been obsessing over the very same issues you have for years. You have a gift, Kristin, and your direction will make itself plain at some point, and it may not even be one that you’ve thought of before. Massage if it feels right, but don’t obsess.

  2. I’ve never been big on making long-range plans, or having a list of goals.

    When I take a road trip, I don’t even take a map…..I know the destination….sort of, but the journey is the fun part. I like taking that quick, unexpected right turn, down the unmarked side road….and just discovering what is there. It isn’t always earth-shattering important or great, but it is unexpected, new, and fresh. And that’s the thrill. That’s where the real discoveries come from.

    If we plan everything to the last detail….well, the result is also predictable.

    Let it flow. Enjoy the moment and the journey. Live in the now, and be surprised by what you discover. Love, Opa

  3. I understand the validation, it seams since having a child that need has been increasing for me. I had someone say to me once, “Life is a two way street, you can always turn back”. Not sure how true that is but take a risk, you can always change your mind later. 🙂

  4. I think you ahve to keep doing what you are doing and one day something will overtake you and you will know the path. I have been searching for the non-traditional professional path for myself for years. Do I want to be a professional quilter? a pattern designer? an art quilter? Who knows. It’s taken a long time but but it’s finally happened and I know what I am supposed to be doing. To get here, though, I had to try everything! Keep doing what you are doing and enjoy it!

  5. Ah, yes, the journey. I would like to travel with Opa. My dh always has a destination. I like to take the road less traveled and see what happens. That is sort of my direction in art making, too. I also like the idea of doing what you love, what you have a passion for. What will be important to you 10 or 20 years from now when you look back on these years? I think you will want to know that you did a good, no a great job of being a single parent for most of your children’s young lives. To be successful at that, you can only put so much effort into other work. You are very talented and creative and the path will become clear when it is time.

  6. *fistbump of fabric sisterhood*

    I understand exactly what you are saying. When I survey all the different ways I might go public, other people with (more) talent and ideas and energy are there already, and I don’t feel any urgent need to compete with them.

    When I think about it hard, I can almost say what I want: I want to make stuff that I find compelling. I want others to see it. I hope it might compel others. In order of importance. Around that I have horses, and circus classes, and yoga to improve at, and over all of it I have kids and husband and neighbors that require my presence and my care.

    I have been thinking about local fame and local avenues for what I want to do. I will have an exhibit up at the town library in Feb 2010 – that is pretty exciting. If I keep my focus local, then there are craft shows to think about, and a few other local galleries to approach, and even some local places that might be interested in some teaching. It has helped me narrow the overwhelming choices the internationality of the internet offers!

  7. For awhile I struggled with this same issue, though perhaps on a smaller scale for I recognize talent in your work that was not there in mine. I played with writing articles for a low-end quilt mag … it was a royal pain to deal with an editor who often said one thing and did another in regards to my articles/quilts. It was fun while it lasted but I could see the writing on the wall when the mag acquired several well-known quilters as “regulars”. So now I enjoy my quilting for myself…whether I make some artsy or some lovely traditional quilt. I’ve decided I enjoy the process more than the recognition. Now other things in life, family, etc., are much more important to me than seeing my name in a quilt mag. And don’t forget the tremendous amount of time that any achieving artist must invest; that means time taken away from the other things in life. But it surely is cool when one of your works is accepted for a big-time quilt show. That is a big recognition pat on the back.

  8. You are not alone, and I don’t have any answers. Some of the struggle may be that we have too many choices. The world is open to us and the internet is always displaying new roads. Add in the freedom of not needing to put food on the table. My only suggestion would be to keep doing what you love and give yourself a break. Your work is amazing — your pride, craftsmanship and personality shine through!

  9. Choosing the path to take is difficult, but what if the path is not a straight line from A to B? What if it is a more circuitous route? I envy those who wake up one day and say “I am going to be a _____” and know in their hearts that is what they will be. Or do they? I think the path is one of self discovery – things that I thought I was passionate about in the past are still interesting, but do not fulfill me. It is a life long journey with many detours. Think of the trees in your artwork, you focus on the roots, what if you turned your attention to the branches and leaves? They both are metaphors for life, twisting, turning, stopping, while some continue on to seek nourishment and/or sunshine. In my honest opinion, you have incredible talent, skills, support, and desire, what you might be lacking is the confidence. Focus on the acceptance and not on the rejections because we all know you are Ms. Incredible and are rooting you on. On a side note, have you seen Calamity Kim’s blog? She is working on a wonderful table runner of mushroom houses and gnomes. Have a fantastic weekend doing what your heart desires. Cheers.

  10. From here it looks like you are already doing a pretty fabulous job at everything you turn your hand to….If we get to vote on where you should focus, I vote for the art quilts, for the purely selfish reason that I love your work and want to see more of it! Congrats on the Tactile Architecture acceptance.

  11. i have always been in this dilemma and although some luck has come my way, i question the satisfaction it will ultimately bring. i think we have the same issues in different forms. i have only decided to try everything first hand before i judge its value. to accept acceptance or rejection as a point of view and to stop doing something the minute it interferes with happiness. in the end i wonder whether it is worth manipulating what i do to insure “success” i think not. my problem is …i like most … the work i do that never gets any reaction. so that will be a problem down the road for sure. the choice of not having to pimp yourself is one of the most valuable. and by the way, i love your work.

  12. Kristin, I don´t have any good advices, but I know most of the thoughts, questions and issues you are writing about. Finding myself in a similar stage of mood and mind from time to time, especially when comparing to other more successful artists.

    When one has many interests and talents, then focussing on one thing/path, just because this could be more “successful” in the end, seems difficult to me. This head decisions often kill fun and creativity. Your moms advice seems a good one to me.

    Congratulations to the “Tactile Architecture” show! Yah!

  13. Kristin…
    Do what you love. Be careful how you define success. Art stands the test of time.
    Creativity bubbles out. It cannot be squelched.
    And enjoy every minute of it!

  14. I just found my way to your blog and it is wonderful! I love all the beautiful art you do. I like your mom’s advice. I think yu should keep doing what is making you happy and see what direction that ends up taking you.

  15. Just discovered your beautiful (both the writing and the graphics) blog. I can only echo what everyone else is basically saying: Keep on doing what you love. That’s what leaves you with satisfaction and good memories in the end. Artistic talents are meant to be used regardless of whether they make money or fame. Anyway, if the economy keeps going the way it is (and I hope things will look up!), “crafty” talents like yours are going to gain more value.

  16. Dear Kristin,
    Not to confuse the issue any further but…
    like you I feel all these problems too as well as the guilt of having all these choices. To many this may sound like self-indulgent, self-centred self-torture. Many would love to have the luxury of these choices. Unfortunately, there aren’t answers in this added clutter. sigh. So much pain.

    Also, artists are supposed to suffer, right? That’s where the need to express comes from right?

    Sometimes, ok all the time, I feel like I’m running in circles with this…

  17. I recognize these mussings Kristin! How wonderful you are to share your inner thoughts with us. There are many isses and battels you are addressing. It is too bad there is no one right answer, but most likely in posing and re-posing the questions you will get closer to determining what is the path for you. I periodically ponder the path I am on. At present there is too much going on in my life otherwise to give anything else a try. I hope to have more time and energy for more artistic endeavors later.

    The real problem for you, dear Kristin, is your boundless creativity and artistic talents and lack of sufficient hours in the day!

  18. Kristen,

    Congratulations on Tactile Architecture! It feels great, doesn’t it? I have a piece in that exhibit, too.

    I so identify with what you said about path. I had a lot of trouble finding mine, with too many interests, so many options, it can be overwhelming. I hope the answers I found will help you.

    For me, this question is the central point: How can you choose a path if you don’t know where you want to go? I worked this out by writing about where I wanted to be in 5 years. I chose just to look at my creative life, because it seemed more manageable, more doable, and like a great central focus for my whole life anyway. I defined my concept of success very specifically. Great detail is appropriate here because the more specific you are, the more satisfying the results will be. This doesn’t mean that you must be married to this vision forever. It should be fluid, changeable, flexible.

    Once I had a clear 5 year vision, determining my path turned out to be the easy part. Once I knew where I wanted to be, I researched how others who had achieved similar success. From that, I was able to write up a 5 year plan, with goals and actions steps all along the way. I have been following that plan for 10 months now, and things are going far better than I anticipated.

    I encourage you to try this because it has been wonderful for me. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions. quiltrobin@comcast.net

  19. Boy Kristin, it feels like you had taken the words right out of my head and into your blog post. It’s something I have been struggling with for the last few months.

    I know I want to be creative and inspire but what direction and how to do it is the impossible question. You seem to be on the right track though……walking yourself (instead of steamrollng ahead) thru the process to find out which way you need to go.

    BTW, congrats on the Tactile Architecture exhibit!

  20. OMG your post hit home with me and i also just stumbled on your site for the first time. you took the words out of my head – i’ve been struggling with this same topic and i don’t have the answers either but i do know that in time everything does seem to work out just as it is supposed to. i’m trying to enjoy the process and be open to whatever happens but there is always that little part that feels money is the validation – even though i own my company and don’t need the money!!!

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