Art has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. Trying out different medias, going to galleries, studying it at school, it’s never lost its enchantment for me. It takes me to magical places you can’t find any other way. It brings beauty and respite into what is often a harsh and colorless world.
My own journey began when I was a young child. I’d save up my allowance to buy sketch pads and colored pencils or pastels. I loved the idea of putting color on paper and having something beautiful happen. But it didn’t work out that way. It turned out I didn’t have “talent”. My older sister did, and comparing myself to her held me back from trying for a long time. It wasn’t until a photography class in college that I realized I didn’t have to be able to draw well in order to pursue the arts.
Over the next decade or so I worked in an office like most people, but at home I had my “crafts”. There was never a time I wasn’t trying out new things. Needlework, rubber stamping, air brushing, stenciling, sewing. There was always something going on in my craft room. It was my safe space; my haven.
Things came together for me in 1997 when I was working on a project and needed pretty beads with 2mm holes in them. That’s a big hole and not generally commercially available.
A woman in the bead store showed me a handful of beautiful, colorful enamel beads and said the magic words “I can show you how to make these.” Life was never the same after that. After her two-hour class I ran right out and bought a torch and supplies. My poor husband, having no idea what he was letting himself in for, suggested I get a business license so we could write off some of the expense. As a result, I did my first craft show selling enamel bead jewelry exactly one month after I took that class. I made $265 and said “This is it! This is what I want to do!”. I’ve never looked back.
From there I moved on to learning to work with silver clay and expanded my enameling repertoire. I took workshops, experimented, and kept learning. That hasn’t changed. I still experiment and take workshops today. Metal and enamels have never stopped having things to teach me.
The other half of the equation was teaching. It’s something I started doing very early on. Only a couple years after I started making beads. It’s not just a way to earn a living for me, it’s a calling. I simply can’t NOT teach! I get a tremendous amount of joy and satisfaction from empowering others on their own journey. Of seeing someone who tells me “I’m not creative” or “I’m not talented” find a measure of success and absolutely light up with it. My student’s successes are my successes.
There’s this pervasive, mistaken belief that one must have “talent” in order to engage in artistic pursuits. After my own experiences combined with 20+ years teaching arts to adults, I can tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. Art is for everyone at every level. Practicing an art form, any art form, can be a form of meditation. It doesn’t have to have an end goal or finished product. Just the act of applying color to a page, or changing the shape of clay, can get you out of your own head for a while. The activity itself can calm the mind and bring its own joy and contentment.
I love encouraging my students to play and explore; to try and fail and make mistakes and find hidden successes they weren’t expecting. When you let go of a “finished product”, and embrace the process, it’s very freeing. That’s where the magic happens.