Knowing things about other people — noticing things and thinking about what you’d like to change about other people’s behavior — that’s easy.  Knowing one’s own self, noticing and fundamentally changing anything about one’s own behavior — that’s really hard.

One cannot change any aspect of one’s own behavior in a deep and comprehensive way without causing a ripple effect that changes everything.  This is why those who change their eating/exercise habits to become healthier and more vibrant do not just change their shape or their cholesterol/blood work numbers: they change who they are.

One of the fascinating things about following the evolution of an artist’s body of work is that you can see the development of ideas; and see, in a holistic way, how the artist changes.  Artists continually shed skins: we may be very true to our muse; but we may also be very fickle to pursuits that no longer make sense to our creative drive.   Online glimpses into studios, galleries, blogs, on-line shops, etsy boutiques — these offer front row seats to see how artists figure things out.

The other day, perusing on-line sites about hand-spun yarns, I found someone selling a beautiful scarf.  It looked beautiful in every way.  I can’t remember if the artist had also raised and sheared the actual alpaca from which the scarf was made; but she had dyed and hand-carded and hand-spun the yarn and then knitted it into a neat and interesting and long scarf, in soft, earthy colors that flowed and harmonized beautifully.  It was a beautiful work of art.   One of a kind.  A labor of love, that showed devotion and skill.  It was for sale for thirty six dollars.   The price stopped me in my tracks, and made me feel sad.  How is it possible that such a glorious work of hand-made art should be priced to compete with WalMart scarves?  What did this price say about the value of hand-crafted work — especially of such fine quality?

For sure, the joy of creating is itself a wonderful reward.  Just as a wholesome, home-cooked meal made with fresh, organic or home-grown ingredients does not aim to compete with a fast-food meal, our lovingly hand-made creations are not intended to complete with the cheap, throw-away, trendy items that can be bought at WalMart.  Unless… unless this is our choice.

One of the things I see on etsy is the de-valuing of hand-crafted work.  I’ll see something that took a day to create, and a lot of time to learn HOW to craft, and it’ll be priced at $18.   And I wonder about the artist: is she joyful in her work?  Does it make sense to her?  This seems like desperation to me.

When and if an artist shifts focus from “competing” to “creating,” everything else changes.  You can read this shift in blogs and in online shops and in the work of the artists whose work you know.  As an expressive arts therapist, I’ve helped people hear and respect their own authentic creative expression.  If we cannot know and respect our own self, then we’re at the mercy of a heartless marketplace.   Work from your own heart, and value your work appropriately.   In a world where some folks are stifled because they are surrounded by too much stuff, the value of a beautiful, finely hand-crafted object may not be known.  This does not negate the value of the work.  Conversely — but along the same theme of “figuring out our art” — we live in a world where some artists play a sort of game to see how much money they can get for their work, that will go to the highest bidder, in which high price alone — and not beauty, or skill or effort — seems to create desirability of the work.  To an artist seeking authentic expression that is not at the mercy of the current marketplace, this reality does not matter either.

Work to know yourself.  Work to change, in fundamental ways, things that are not good, healthful or sustainable about yourself; work to express, in a fundamental way, your unique contribution.  Be happy and courageous, knowing that love, bliss, beauty, usefulness and honesty need not be subject to marketplace rules.

Published in: on April 3, 2012 at 3:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

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