Why? A (mini) Existential Crisis
I've been doing applications to enter some of my work in shows recently, and I don't know about other people, but this often puts me in a kind of (mini) existential crisis.
"Why?" Good question - I shall make an honest attempt to answer it for you.
It makes me wonder why I am making, why I feel the need to share it, and to what end. I mean - is it really important that others see what I make? If it is, why? Am I looking for validation? Do I need to feel there's a larger purpose behind this incredibly strong drive I have to create and all the time, energy, and (let's be honest) money I spend on it? Do I need to feel that others accept and approve of my work and by extension - me? Am I just an arrogant and incredibly needy egomaniac? Oh my god - if a quilt is made in a studio and no one sees it, does it even really exist?!
These and other questions and ideas flit around in my brain like attacking birds when I'm putting my work out there, and frankly, I find them irritating to say the least. But sadly, they still arise And they are in my brain right now, so I'm sharing them with you. While most of them aren't worth the space they try to occupy, some of them perhaps do beg an answer. Or at least an exploration...
Is it really important that others see what I make? I think I can answer that one. No. And - Maybe.
No, it doesn't really matter if others see it. They're simply designs and ideas that are coming through me from the infinitely creative universe. In a way, (pardon me people - I'm gonna be spiritual here today) I feel lucky to have a way to express the energy that moves me so strongly to create something, and to feel the joy of making. It's rather (to state the obvious) addictive, in fact. It's so exciting to see something become from an idea in my head that it doesn't really matter if no one else sees it.
Yet - I still want to share. Now I'm going to say something, and hopefully this is true and I'm not just blowing smoke up yours and my (figurative) skirts, but because I get so much joy from making, I'm hoping that joy transfers to the object itself and brings some of it to others.
I know that it can happen to me - I feel the joy of life, of beauty, of creativity when I see what other people are making, doing, creating. Heck - it may even make me glad to be a human being at times. The energy of it...the aliveness - it can help us catch a glimpse of something so much bigger than ourselves. Or - it may simply make me laugh, or smile or feel good. It MAY even make me think about deep things! And what I love about art (and yes dammit, quilts ARE ART!) is that there always seems to be something that does that for every single person. So I want to share my work because maybe it can bring some of that to others.
I really get inspired when I see what fellow artists are doing, even if it isn't something I ever actually want to do myself. I follow all sorts of artists and makers - home design, cooking and cookie decorating and woodworking and music and dancing! All that creativity feeds my own, and I deeply appreciate their sharing of their work, so - you know - quid pro quo (in a positive way, for once!)
As to the question of WHY I make...
Making, creating and sharing - it makes me feel all those things I mentioned up there too. And I feel like my work is communicating all those things to others as well. That's pretty big.
Sometimes it also makes me mightily (and I'm definitely under-playing the adverb there) frustrated and angry - it makes me face those demons that tell me I'm not worthy, not talented, don't matter. I made a decision years ago to stop working when too much negativity creeps in. I really don't want that kind of energy going into my art (or out into the world for that matter). Most of the time in the moment, I don't want to stop because dammit, I'm gonna make it happen! But since I've told myself I can't work from a negative place, it forces me either to put it into perspective, to be present and calm OR to just realize I need a break, or I'm tired, and there are many other things for me to do in my life that are important as well. Again, don't mean to get too into spiritual mumbo-jumbo, but I am (mostly) completely present when I'm creating. I feel the joy of being, I'm not thinking, I'm just focused on the moment and that, my friends, is no small thing.
A little aside here, but it's somewhat relevant; I may take it out before I publish but -- I realized after taking up quilting that creating was also what I loved about teaching. Because when I was teaching - all aspects of the job - I was very present, and for me, teaching was an infinite connection to creativity in every way. And - at the risk of being immodest - it's one of the reasons why I was a successful teacher. For me, it used everything I had, and more - stuff that came from the creative universe, and I loved the creative energy that flowed through not only me, but my students.as well - Talk about Joy! Now retired, I am still lucky enough to get that from making quilts. (Among doing other things, which - you're welcome - I'm not going to enumerate here.)
And hey - making has some (a little, anyway) practicality to it - I mean, quilts do make great gifts. (One cannot make assumptions about it, however, but we'll save that for another blog). It feels good to be able to give something I made to people who matter to me. They know I spend a lot of time, thought and energy on what I make, so it means something to them. It's lovely to give something tangible to someone who's going through a tough time for whatever reasons - it can give some comfort or let them know I see them and I care. There's also the celebration of milestones. And last, there is the "just because" reason - it's totally valid.
Plus - I love a challenge and get bored easily. I really dig making things hard on myself, creatively. Many of the ideas I get are, to say the least, things I really have no idea how to make happen, so I can say in all honesty that quilting may help slow down my possible (but hopefully not inevitable) slide into dementia as I age by keeping my brain so actively engaged in problem solving that sometimes it hurts from using it so much! I'm not saying it's the only thing that helps, I'm just saying that it can't hurt.
Is it an ego thing?
Well, in all honesty I cannot totally rule that out. I mean, who doesn't like others to love their stuff? Not to be weird, but I absolutely LOVE what I make - the majority of it, anyway. It inspires me, brings me joy and satisfaction and excitement and energy and presence, so I guess part of me believes it just MIGHT do that for someone else, as well. But hell - it's enough if it just makes someone smile, really.
I try to keep this WAY in perspective, though. It's not about me, Carrie the maker. It's about sharing the things that come through me with others. And I totally get that there's so much out there and art IS in fact, subjective. So if it gets in a show, Fabulous! If it doesn't - Fabulous too! I still got what I needed from it, of that I'm certain. But yeah - I like validation. But here's the thing to remember - it may never happen from the outside, only from the inside. That, my friends, is totally enough.
Larger purpose? No idea. Well, maybe I do.
We're all on a journey here, and we get to share it with all the people who are on earth at the same time we are, at least collectively. As I've said, making is actually as much a spiritual journey as much as any other part of my existence, so yeah, that's a pretty large purpose. Big enough for me, anyway.
Ahh Hah - there it is -- JUSTIFICATION! And with that, my (mini) existential crisis dissolves. Excellent. Glad I could help (me). ;)
***Just to clarify - this blog is (mostly) tongue-in-cheek, meant to be read in the spirit in which it was written, which is (mostly) humorous. It's my attempt to not take myself or anything else too seriously. Cause in the end, all we really need is love. Not the kind we get, the kind we give. My quilts are a small part of the love I send out there. (Uh oh - there's that spirituality again - sorry not sorry.) Sending much love to you all, sometimes in the form of quilts. For real.***
I love to watch the sunrises and sunsets. This leads to having many, many photos of the sky and trees, etc. Just thought I'd share a couple - talk about ART!