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The Love of the Craft
At the final session of an online course I took on Turkish illumination techniques, one of the students asked the instructor Ayesha Gamiet, “When you were a beginner, what kept you from getting frustrated and quitting when you looked at advanced and inspirational work?“
Ayesha’s reply: “The love of the craft.”
It reminded me of how much trouble I got in with my fellow students when I was in my very first beginning metalsmithing class way (way way) back when. For that first quarter of college, I lived much farther away from College of the Art’s downtown GSU campus. Whether to sit in rush hour traffic or work late in the metals studio every day was a total no-brainer.
Armed with an economy saw frame (the only kind available back then) and some cheap 2/0 saw blades (all I could afford), I sawed my heart out every day. Tons of techniques later, I confess sawing is not my favorite thing to do, but at that point it was all I knew how to do, and it was mesmerizing! I was so taken by the improbable fact that brass and copper sheet could be cut to my will with a blade so small I could barely see the teeth. The more I did it, the more I loved doing it, and the better I got at it.
That’s when I got into trouble with the other beginning students. They complained to our professor that I was raising the bar too high for them to compete since they didn’t have the same amount of free time. First of all, how utterly and pathetically bitchy. Second, “free” was relative since being in the studio for 2 hours then driving after rush hour got me home only 45 minutes later than if I’d left after classes and sat in the parking lot known as I-75 for 2 hours.
Ah, the thrill of being an art student – be good, but not too good, and for goodness sake, don’t be passionate about what you do because that is sooooooo pre-postmodern. Fortunately, I’d been trained by high school bullies not to expect much solidarity, so, while my expectations for metalsmithing were super high, my expectations for lifelong college besties was low.
Being passionate is being rebellious! And if you’ve been a reader for long or looked at any of my work, you’ll know I’m both in equal measures. I could have slugged through practicing because you’re supposed to like a bored child taking piano lessons, because it’s required, because someone thought putting in 10,000 hours at something sounded like a good sound bite. Instead my passion and love of the craft kept me doing it, not because I told myself I should but because I loved it so much I couldn’t stop.
Imagine if you removed the ‘shoulds’ and the guilt from something you want to do. Imagine skipping the critical voice in your head that says you should already be good at something the instant you learn it. Imagine if you didn’t put pressure on yourself to turn out a perfect finished piece while learning a new technique because you’ve got a show coming up or a gift you need to make for someone. Imagine if you allowed yourself to get good at something just because you love doing the process.
When the world feels upside down, it can feel a little nuts and even self-indulgent to think about making art, but if we creators have learned anything in the last two years, it’s that making art during these times is vital. For artists, not being creative is crazy making, and when the world is upside down, what it doesn’t need is more crazy people.