Reflections: On Being The Artist

My last Monday at Spindleworks! Spindleworkers have taught me to celebrate, not to compare. At school, at other jobs I've had, competition is seen as part of the pathway to success. There can only be one school president, a handful of magna cum laude graduates, one NCAA champion. Congratulations come from being the best, not just from being.

Spindleworks celebrates being. Being, as represented through paint and pencil, fiber and ceramics, uncountable mixed medias. The message from the artist mentors is simple: make whatever you are inspired to make. You can make anything. Put whatever is inside yourself on your page, or your pottery, or your plank of wood. Don't worry about what other people are doing--you are here for you, for your artwork, for your vision.

And everyone makes such beautiful, interesting, revealing works of art. All different, all vibrant, a reflection of the diversity within these blue walls.

Angela's needlepoint is colorful, vibrant, mobile.

The lack of competition does not mean that the artists do not want to be better, because they do. There is a constant desire to learn more, try more, sell more, make more--than yourself. Not than your neighbor, or the other artist who weaves, or than the artist mentors. Just yourself.

In celebrating each self, the work that each artist does, focus is shifted from being the best to doing one's best. Taking agency over one's own work, finding pride in one's own work, in the admiration of others. Instead of putting each other down or feeling afraid of the accomplishments of others, artists are encouraged to relish in the wonderful work of their peers, to support each other, and to be autonomous art-makers.

Nancy B. loves to show me her finished work. "Melelody," she'll say, "Look!" I'll respond by telling her what I like, what I notice in her intricate drawings. Today I remarked, "This work is amazing!" She replied, "I am amazing!"

Nancy with a recent work of intricate beauty.

Just like everyone, Spindleworkers don't always know what to do. No one has endless creativity or patience or self-esteem. But the determination of this place, of the people here, to support individuality and art-making and each person's work, is a message that will stay with me.

I've been working out in the pottery studio, trying to learn a few skills. On Friday Diane, who is a pottery master, was observing my color experiments. Offhand, I asked her, "What do you think?" She replied, "You tell me. You're the artist."

Spindleworks has taught me a million things, like it does for most people who walk in these doors. One of the most important: I am the artist.

Diane, Kim D. and Kelly enjoying work in the clay studio!