I’m not sure exactly when it started. My creative spirit was waning. I remember I was in Colorado in the summer of 2016 at the annual stone carving symposium that I have attended many times before. For some reason the sculptures I was working on just didn’t feel right to me. I was having trouble finding my creative “flow”, something that has often come easily to me while there. I came home from Colorado feeling a bit lost. I was uncertain about what I wanted to create that fall and feeling very uninspired.
After the first of the following year I was still uncertain and full of doubt. I hadn’t been making much art and what I was working on didn’t really satisfy me. I began questioning myself and my role as an artist. What was I doing and why was I doing it? Who is this for and do they even care? I just did not feel inspired. Going to my studio felt like a chore. I would make excuses not to go, find reasons to be too busy. If I didn’t make art then I wouldn’t have to feel the doubt and uncertainty. I wouldn’t have to try and figure out how to move past this.
During that same period a change in ownership occurred at my studio. There was a lot of concern about the future of the building. No one knew what plans or goals the new owners had in mind. And I didn’t know how I would fit into whatever those plans may be. There were so many questions and not a lot of answers. I was fortunate to be paying a monthly rent that was well under market. How long could that possibly last? For many months I didn’t know if or when I would be offered a new lease and, if I was, whether I would be able to afford it. This contributed greatly to my lack of desire to be in that space.
The whole situation was making me sad. I used to love spending time in my studio. It was a place in which I would feel such pleasure and peace. I had been in that studio for over seven years. Now all I wanted was to do anything else but go there to make art. Instead of inspiration and joy I felt stress and frustration. Nothing artistic was interesting me, no matter how hard I tried.
I have always had a desire to learn. It’s one of the reasons I love art; there are so many new processes and materials to discover. So, during this time as a way to appease my interest in learning something new I started studying Spanish. Between that, working at my office job, managing my household and fulfilling other obligations and interests there wasn’t much time left for art. I didn’t completely stop, however, I was just doing it in fits and starts usually at home since I was feeling so uncomfortable at my studio. I was creating smaller artworks with paper, collages mostly. It was fun but I didn’t feel very passionate about it.
I also started making paper beads using a simple tool designed for children. It’s very methodical; the kind of art making that I am most drawn to. There was a lot repetition – some would say tedium - and that was very soothing to me. I could calm my mind while focusing on one, simple task repeatedly. It helped that I had a lot of recycled paper with which to work. I gave myself a new project: make as many beads as would fill a small box I had obtained that had previously held postcards. I would keep making beads until the box was full and then I would figure out what I was going to do next. It took most of a year but I completed that project making over 1,900 beads.
All the while, the uncertainty at my studio with regards to its ownership was still on-going. Eventually I met with the new owners at their request. They said they wanted to get to know me, but I honestly felt like it was solely for the purpose of sizing me up. That this was their chance to see if I was going to fit into whatever the new vision was that they had for the building. The meeting felt like I was interviewing for the job of “tenant”. I spoke with them about my motivation as an artist and what inspires me but I did not feel like they understood. I do not make art with the goal of making a living from it – I have my office job for that. I got the feeling that they were only interested in tenants who were businesses not people, like me, who were there to make art for art’s sake. There was no mention of when or if they were intending to offer me a new lease.
After that, I did not have a positive feeling about my future in the building which was disheartening. It seemed inevitable that eventually I was going to have to move out, a terribly overwhelming thought. I had accumulated a lot during my time in that studio. All of my art materials and tools, completed art, works-in-progress – there was more than a decade-worth of the kinds of things that artists tend to have. If I were to leave, how was I going to get it all out and where would it go? These were questions that I did not want to figure out how to answer.
Finally, about six months later I was given a lease offer that I decided to reject as the terms were not feasible for me. It was time for me to go. I just didn’t belong there anymore. After throwing out a considerable amount of unnecessary and unwanted items, I put the rest of my equipment and supplies in storage and began to make art solely in the small work area that I had set up at home. Within this space I set out to rediscover my passion for creating and to, hopefully, feel inspired again. Because of the size restrictions and limitations on the type of work I could produce at home I began to explore new ways of making art.
One thing that had recently caught my attention was a form of art called quilling (paper filigree). I had never seen nor heard of this before and I decided that I wanted to learn how do it. I bought a how-to book and a bunch of supplies online and was ready to get to it. But then I learned about a class being offered at the Crucible in Oakland on cartonería (paper mache sculpture). I knew next to nothing about this craft except for having seen some of it in shops while vacationing in Mexico. This seemed like another interesting way for me to make art with paper and so I signed myself up. Surely this new direction would help pull me out of my creative funk.
I loved my class at the Crucible and, after it was over, I decided to keep going with that kind of art. The quilling how-to book and supplies would have to stay on the shelf for the time being. Over the course of many months, quite slowly, I made a handful of paper mache sculptures. It was fun and very satisfying. My creative spark was beginning to reignite. When the time came to paint the sculptures, however, I realized that I did not know how to paint. I tried using some books I’d checked out from the library but they weren’t very helpful. I needed some hands-on instruction on the basics. I enrolled in a local community class to help me get started. And it worked! It was exactly the kick-start that I needed to get going. With that, I had a base of information from which to draw and was able to get to work experimenting with this new, to me, medium. I began painting my sculptures as well as making small studies to try out different abstract designs. I took inspiration from the cartoneria sculptures that had come before me. My designs contained a lot of detail and there was a certain amount of tediousness and repetition in their creation which I really enjoyed. It felt great to just get lost in the process.
It took a lot of time, 13 months since I attended the first class at the Crucible, but in the end I had half a dozen completed sculptures. Though that is not many in number, the fact that I was able to complete them made me very happy and satisfied. It was the first time in a long while that I felt so good about my creations.
Now that I was feeling excited and inspired again about art, I felt ready to look for a studio outside of my home. Somewhere that would allow me to stretch out and expand. A place in which to get away and lose myself in art making. I was quickly able to find such a space and moved in this past February. I am exploring new processes including finally teaching myself quilling and making new art. It’s the most productive I have been in years. and it feels great! I’ve also updated my art portfolio with some recent work. You can see images of my cartoneria sculptures and painted glass bottles. It feels so good to be excited about art!