Today Fiberista, I am going to share with you how to become a better artist without dedicating hours of time honing your craft. Don’t get me wrong, I think we all need to spend time honing our craft regardless of where we our in our journey to make art. But there is one toxic habit that will lessen the value of your work, cause unbearable stress, and yes, has the potential to kill your work all together.
That is comparing your work to others.
Fiberista…I have been there. When I started my yarn biz, I was soooo jealous of those already successful. I even wrote a post last week about how I wished so much to be a real live artist. Heck, I was even in a job that wanted me to create designs based on comparisons, to the point of potentially causing copyright infringement. It is human nature to compare your value as an artist against other artists. We would be great artist if there where no competition. Right?
Here’s the thing….it does not have to be this way. There is a way to grow your work, find ease and happiness, and foster good supportive vibes in your art community all at once. Fiberista it is all about one key mindset shift, and these 6 actions that will make your competition irrelevant and free you up to grow your work.
1. Go get this book. I know it is basically a marketing book. But the premise is about finding your path which is exactly what every artist does.
Hands down this book was a game changer for me. In a nutshell rather than fighting against competition (think shark infested red ocean), follow your heart into uncharted territory… blue oceans. For example, how did Cirque Du Soliel set themselves apart from a classic circus? They marketed unique features that set them apart. High end music and set, no animals, top notch athletic performers, international feel.
2. Stop comparing your work to others. If you are comparing your work to someone else’s then they are leading no matter what. Seriously. If they are the bench mark by which you are judging your work then your work will always revolve around their work even if you think your work is better than theirs. The fix? Understand that your ideas are good enough. Put the blinders on and look at your work objectively. As artists, we all have a decerning eye for beauty. Some things we love so much our heart sings. What in your art is working? What is not? Don’t be afraid to try things that might not work, just keep going until you just KNOW it is right.
3. Honor what is unique about you. We are all different. What is your back story? How does it influence you work? Even if you think it is mundane, write it down. Because it is unique, and that in and of itself is great. For example, I grew up in a very vanilla suburb of a very vanilla town in Alabama. My dad was an engineer. My mother was a designer, but did not pursue that career until she was done raising her kids. It is the juxtaposition of my quirkiness to that community that inspired me to move away from my hometown. If your art is your voice in visual form, what you have to say is rooted in where you come from and how that affects your beliefs. Being from the South influences my work. Being single most of my life influences my work. Being an ex GenXer influences my work. None of those things singly makes me unique. But none of those things singly influences my work. Collectively those things are unique and influences my work as such. Does that make sense? So yeah take time to reflect on what makes you you. Like really take time…on a regular basis.
4. Pushing through the emotions that bubble up. Here’s the thing, the times I have found myself crazy jealous of someone’s fiber, it was never really about what they were doing. It was about what I was not doing. What I was not doing was facing my own hurts by blaming someone else’s success. Their success was actually shining a light on my lack of confidence because of these hurts. Hey, I get it. Finding confidence in yourself is not always as easy as it sounds. Issues will bubble up. These too can be related to old hurts from the past. When they bubble up you are being called to work through them. Maybe you have seen them before, often lifetime hurts come up to be healed a little at a time throughout a lifetime. This is also where art heals. Art journal or write about the ugly feelings. Rip the page out and burn it. Diffuse lemon and spruce essential oils to “clean out” the negative feelings from your limbic system. Talk it out with a trusted friend, or mental health professional. Just remember these feelings are not bottomless. Each time you listen to the hard feelings, finding your center again gets easier. These scars become part of your story and make you stronger.
5. Honor everyone’s unique visual language. This is the whole reason I started the Fiber Art Collective Facebook group. It is to honor everyone’s path and unique voice. I will link the collective below. In a nutshell, I have a strict no snark rule. And encourage others to share their work. I am in such awe at the different types of work in there. There are also so many different cultures represented as it is truly an international group. So you see Fiberista, once you find your unique path, you will realize that those whose you thought were your competitors are really your allies. You will be able to see their unique process as well. You may also have the ability to inspire others on their own paths. Creativity can be viral. One word of encouragement can spark confidence in others to keep going. Because everyone deserves to love what they are making. And the key to that is following their heart. Your simple inspiration can be the ripple effect of artists encouraging other artists.
6. Keep going. The thing about using a blue ocean strategy for your art is it opens up the possibility to continue to grow, and improve. It is about a journey with your work as you add life experiences to your influences. Keep working through the hard stuff making your resolve stronger. Keep building community by encouraging others.
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Ages ago in Birmingham, my friend Robin and I would do a weekly craft night at her house. I had just started to knit and was making a garter stitch scarf that was, of course, way too wide. She was a cross-stitcher who loved tackling large complex patterns. Others would join us from time to time, doing all kinds of different crafts. There was a gallery owner that would hand paint light switch plates for her shop. Another artist would show up with a hammer and ceramic tiles to crush for mosaics. Some would doodle, others just showed up to hang out and chat. We were all part of a community of art peeps, attended the gallery opening, took community classes to learn new things, went to concerts and gathering. This was part of my group of creative friends.
I loved making. I was a graphic designer by day, and that art-love seeped into my activities in my spare time. I took classes in raku, batik, mosaics, metal jewelry, stained glass, knitting, paper making. Oh how I love to learn to make the stuff. I wanted to be an artist. I mean I always saw myself as an artist, but despite all the classes I took, and all the creative things I made, I was nothing more than an art enthusiast. I had nothing to show for all those classes. Nothing significant. Maybe some trinkets, but nothing I would stand back and really consider a work of art. I was not understanding how to leap from my creative urges to even considering showing in a gallery…or even so much as a gallery shop.
Robin, being the awesome friend that she was, said just one simple sentence that changed my life forever:
“Just pick something and stick with it.”
OMG…she was so right. And it was so simple. How could I build a body of work as an artist if my focus was so split? Where is my cohesive style if I am in 5 different mediums. Even looking back at the first paragraph of this post, I notice the two women who I remember, I remember because of their work. Vero hand painted found objects with a distinctive whimsical style. Ally made colorful folk art mosaics with quirky humorous themes. In the fiber art world, I can look at some pattern designer’s work and know exactly who designed them. Who couldn’t spot Nora Gaughan’s unusual sweater shapes or Rosemary Hill’s gorgeous lace shawls. Each of their styles were developed over time. Obsessed with making the same thing over and over with tweaks that made a piece unique, then slowly shifting their work in a new direction for new pieces.
So, from that moment on I picked knitting. Knitting that expanded into spinning and dyeing as I worked to find unique colors and textures for my work. Other fiber arts like weaving and felting that grew out of new ways to use my hand made fibers and yarns. It has been a slow slow slow process that is approaching 20 years. I still like to play in other mediums. Lately it has been ceramics and art journaling (art journalling actually feeds the fiber art). But I get it. Making art takes consistency.
So, does this sound familiar? I know most people who read this blog are usually creative peeps. Maybe you are okay with the status quo, taking classes in new mediums and savoring the process of learning new techniques for making cool stuff. I get it. I still love learning new art stuff, too. And it is okay to enjoy dabbling all kinds of creativity. But, do you find yourself a little jealous of artists who are making art? Do you think…”I could do that”, yet find you still lacking a body of work that represents you as an artist? Do you find yourself saying “I don’t have time”, “I’m overwhelmed”, “I can’t.” These were the same things I said to myself all those years ago. Before Robin pointed out the obvious. Before I became obsessed with knitting and all things fiber art. Back then I YEARNED to make art too. I knew I could. And so did Robin.
Chick pea, I would hate for you to find yourself at the end of your time on this planet having not fulfilled your dream of being an artist instead of a dabbler. So, today, I am sharing with you what I consider the 7 vital steps in actually reaching that goal of making real art and becoming the artist you are.
1. Let’s just call ourselves artists already.I wrote and article on this right here. In a nutshell, don’t wait until you pull together the work/get into a gallery/make the first sale to call yourself an artist. Start today. You are an artist. Go ahead say it, write it on a post it note. Own it.
2. Find your obsession. Like Robin said, pick one thing. Well, that one thing you pick will need to be something you love so much you could easily become obsessed. Making art is filled with project shame, frustrations, pushing through and making a lot of the same thing. Make sure you pick something you love. You can change paths if it is absolutely the wrong thing, but it is so much easier to just really be mindful about what you pick. Seriously. Pick something good. Pick something so good you will make time in your busy schedule to prioritize it.
3. Work through the technical to get to the art. You are gonna need to get the technical glitches worked out. Doing this requires making a lot of the same or similar things. Just this week my clay studio buddy bitched at me for making the same mugs over and over again. I ignored her, despite her judgement. I was not throwing pots for anyone else’s entertainment. I know what I need to do to elevate my work to where I want it to be. Art can get technical and boring.
4. View your early work and mistakes with compassion and a sense of humor.How hilarious is that ill-fitting sweater? Who doesn’t make their first hand knit scarf WAY too wide? My first mugs were super large and heavy, but perfect for my weight-lifting father-in-law. The next mugs were then way too small… like for-children small. Mistakes are where the best growth opportunities happen. Failure in a project does not equal failure as an artist. Get a good giggle, figure out what went wrong and try again. The only way to fail as an artist is when you give up or don’t try.
5. Make more of what is working. Walk into any of the dozens of art galleries in the Asheville River District, and there is always a congruency in their body of work. They are not all over the place with product. You can see a distinctive style and visual language. My clay teacher, Caroline, referred to it as exploring an idea completely. It is also the backbone of developing a style.
6. Get curious.Once you start making a lot of the same thing, it is natural for curiosity to come into play. You are in the muscle memory of your work, giving your brain space to wander instead of focus so intently. This will lead to shifting what you are doing. This is how you grow your work. This is where new lines emerge.
7. Its not about the stuff, its about the personal growth.Okay maybe it is a little bit about stuff. But, as opposed to dabbling and just making stuff, being an artist is about finding your voice. It is pushing through what is not working, trusting your judgement as to what is right for your work. It is being brave enough to face your own doubts, and every now and then the doubts of others, to create something you feel is right in your heart. Being an artist is a little like finding yourself. It takes a bit of courage, a whole lot of introspection, and a lot of tenacity. But you are aiming to find what makes your heart sing. That alone is so healing. Especially as you integrate what makes your heart sing with your identity as an artist.
So, if you are overwhelmed with the thought of being an artist, Fiberesta, Start with picking something and doing the work. It is a magical time, finding your visual language. And, so worth the time and effort to get in touch with what makes your heart sing.
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So how have I used these books?
I have used them to create many of these blog posts and classes you read on this website. I use these references, translating classic theories and techniques into new ways to work with current tools, trends, and fibers. Knitting, crochet, weaving and felting have not really changed that much over the generations. But knitting/crochet/weaving/felting are just techniques. What has changed is the voice of the artist/crafter, styles, trends. The tools have also changed somewhat, but not enough to impact each craft as a whole.
You may have found my blog via my weaving videos on YouTube. I have built a basic art weaving class around the most popular one. Check it out:
It is 20+ easy to digest lessons to take your art weaving further creatively. Catch it now at it’s current price (with lifetime access, including future updates). This year I will be updating and adding to the lessons.
Check this out. My prototype for a new art weaving header is finished.
This is an idea I had festering in my head for a while and I finally put my nose to the grindstone and made her. This is really just a kind of test. I have a series of these ladies to make. Next step is to weave the dress.
So right now I am in art weaving mode. Time to warp the loom and get down to weaving a little different from how I have been, but with so many of my art weaving techniques folded into the not so free form piece.
As I was surfing through all of my posts looking for something to write about, I realized I had quite a collection of art weaving related posts. Maybe it because I have art weaving on my mind with the new prototype. So today, I am giving you the comprehensive guide to all my weaving related stuff, including some of the vlogmas posts from December that talk about my weaving.
I’ll keep you posted on the vlog with progress on my girl’s art weaving dress.
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I have to admit, I am so happy to be back on the blog after my post vlogmas hiatus. After taking 3 weeks to recharge and reorganize, I have to admit I am so freaking happy to start a new year. In 2017, I found my creative groove and I don’t think I have ever been so productive when it came to art. I have since kind of fizzled out a little, but lord knows I am ready to be back in that creative space. I came across my art journal from most of last year and holy smokes, I don’t think I have ever made such a wonderful art filled book. Here are two journal flips I did.
Last fall I made my fauxdori, and proceeded to use this collection of journals to track my projects and work. And you know what….my art mojo dried up since then.
Outside of my wall dolls, there was really not much happening. Avoiding the clay studio, Not much in the way of fiber happening either outside of a boring but much needed sweater, and a stash buster blanket. All the essential oils in the world could not break this slump. But I have been doing this long enough to know that creativity ebbs and flows. For the most part it is best to just roll with the waves. But I also think we are not always at the mercy of our slumps. I have written about this so much. (like here, here and here).
So yeah…once again, I am aware of how much my creativity flourishes when I art journal. And for me what that looks like is ONE BOOK. One books that I carry with me always with all my ideas and notes and day to day stuff.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a HUGE fan of little notebooks. OMG squared Moleskins, dotted Leuchtterms, even handmade journals. I love love love them all. I have a collection of them. And I have been using two focused goal planners (this and this) to work on my business. I love the idea of bullet journaling, but honestly…as many times as I tried to do a bullet journal…it just does not stick.
What works for me is one book, A5 (5.5″ x 8″), preferably watercolor paper with lots of squared paper sheets I can glue in. Lots of inks, watercolors, ephemera, washi tape, envelopes, and my favorite pens. Just leafing through my old journal brings me back to all the inspirations and creative energy. I have placed it on my drafting table to inspire me further this week. I am grateful for this resource of my own inspirations. And it is not even that I make beautiful master piecing in my journal. It is a collection of doodles, and color and random stuff. But as a whole it becomes a work of art. It is a collection of notes and ideas, even the mundane stuff like my meal plan for the week becomes part of my art, reminding me that inspirations can come from anywhere.
So I suppose it is time for a new art journal challenge. I do this every now and then when I find myself falling off the journaling wagon (and in this case, the art mojo wagon). So, this time, I am going to aim for 21 days. I will post to Instagram and Pinterest. I also will post at least 3 flips on YouTube. Alright! I am gonna give myself 3 days to prepare, so starting Saturday I am doing it.
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