Tag: artist

feeling like an artist again

This weekend we had an event at the studio.  My business sign went back up and we compensated for the fact that the studio is still in the chaos of change by putting up a tent and selling our wares from the front yard.  This involved both my art, and the art of my roommates – check out their work at Neko-Jin Designs and The Common Shaman.   (Their work is on the right and I can attest to the quality.  The jewelry is powerfully lovely and those pillows are freaking huggable.)

The experience has left me exhausted and in a lot of pain, but for the first time in ages I feel anchored in what I do – I am a maker to my core.  During the first day, Friday, I was able to make 60 wee watercolors and pen and inks. Although, insomnia did help with that glut of drawings.  Yesterday, I made about five slightly larger pen and inks.  Today, I was a poet.

Sitting in the sun with nothing to do other than create and sell art was a joy.

A lot of locals came by, pleased that I am not either dead or moved out of the area.  It let me know how far I have hunkered down during this past two years.  Oh, but the change in my circumstances brings up such optimism.  Life has gotten better.

This time in 2015, I could not move my left arm much at all, I could not throw, I lost nearly all my income for the full year. Surgery on the shoulder in October 2015, then a hysterectomy in February 2016.  But by June of that year, things began to change.

Even now, I am still struggling – my hips need to be replaced, I am in a cauldron of pain – and yet, I am still making art.  Somehow, I have survived all of the crap that came my way.  Even heartbroken, I made art.  Even when I can barely walk,  I am making and selling art.  I am working as hard as I can to keep my house and have been grounding myself in faith that I can do it.  There have been days that I had to dig deeper within for strength than I thought I went, but it worked!

I continue forward with both my regular job and the art that is my vocation.   The first has not dented my passion for the second.

I am so grateful for the friends who saw me through this weekend.  Perhaps I have been whining too much in these blogs, because what I should be shouting from the rooftops is how wonderful life can be when you have friends that have your back.  To be able to rely on people and know that they will be there for me, that is a priceless, beautiful thing.  They set up the tent, set up the products and then tore them down in the evening, three days in a row, all with out a stitch of help from me because I could not move any of those things. What a blessing it is to have people who do not just share your dreams but are willing to put their shoulders into fulfilling them.  This is a case of actions speaking so loudly, all words were drowned out.  Without their kindness, none of this could have been done.

Basically, this is a blog of thanks.  I am grounded in what I do again, which will help all things – the physical struggle, this financial difficulty, my regular job, my art.  If you were here, you would be able to see my smile, hear my loud, outrageous laugh and listen to me sing to my cats about the glories of life.

I have “all will be well and all will be well and all manner of things will be well” tattooed on my arm. Too often, I need the reminder. But, today, I did not read it.  Indeed, I did not even glance at it.  The next few months are going to be very hard, financially and physically, but good friends are teaching me that I can trust in the universe enough to reach out.  I am asking for help and receiving kindness.

This is the miracle of my life.

Because, I am talking about asking for help, I am compelled to say: you can make me $3 closer to being able to sustain myself while I am recuperating from surgery. My end of that deal will be to keep making art, even when I am flat on my ass in bed.

But for now, let not think of what could go wrong.  Instead, let’s sing songs of joy and thanksgiving!

poem: shut up

“SHUT UP!”
i can still see her face,
“NO ONE CARES!
YOU ARE A SHITTY ARTIST!
A FOOL IN YOUR SUFFERING!”

The words echo
in the empty room
and i realize:
i don’t care.

Even if they are true,
these brackish, foul waters
taste sweet to me.

They sustain my life.

They give me what i need
to move forward.

Indeed,
the realization
that i can no longer
live for this art alone
fills me with more passion –
more driving, whipping need
to get these words onto paper
and fortify my soul.

So say what you want.

It can’t hurt me more
than losing art.

21 april 2016

poem: the easy one to hate

i am the one,
the easy target for hate.
After all, i am alone:
who would defend me?

Divorced,
without the children
which appear to be
the only coin currency
that gives a woman worth,
leaves me devalued
in the eyes of many.

How often do they see
a smartass,
a sarcastic brat,
and even worse,
someone following her heart
despite external logic
that demands surrender.

This entire existence
seems
ridiculous
to the critic’s eyes.

i am so exhausted,
pain brimming
from every limb,
but i am stubborn enough
to hide it,
to wash off the ashes
and change out the sack cloth,
so i present to the unsuspecting
a fiction of success.

But still, fools call me lazy,
point to my fat
and my awkward gait
to justify their cruelty;
they claim i am crazy
because i do not conform
to what they want me to be.

And i find,
i do not care anymore
if they judge me,
or hate me,
or insult me,
for i have you
the sympathetic,
companion in otherness,
the heart willing to read these words

25 september 2015

poem: the artist’s prayer

Please.
Help me.

i reach out,
my hands grasping
for something
to change
all this stress
and fear
and crushing anxiety
into a solution,
something actionable,
a clear path
toward
temporal salvation.

But all that comes,
filling my hands
to overflowing
like a tap
turned full force,
is art.

So much so,
i could work
every waking moment,
rushing
from pen
to easel
to wheel
to computer
and still not bring it all
into being.

Forget cleaning the house.

All deviations
from this purpose,
from my bliss,
bring on vague pain.
The more i labor
at cross-purposes
to my calling,
the worse it hurts.
Discomfort grows
like mold
until it takes over
everything,
becoming
howling,
dangerous
despair.

So, on my knees,
i pray.
Tears in my eyes,
i beg.
With all the blood
in my veins,
i beat out
supplication:

Help me.
Guide me.
Save me,
for i am so mad
with passion and dream
that i will keep walking,
moving forward,
undeterred
by this glorious
catastrophe.

22 november 2015

the ugly stage

small_4small_7Today is my only day here, in the studio, dedicated to making art, for at least ten days.  i had grand plans – i would throw a huge commission, work with the slab roller to have some small sculptures to fill in the spaces between plates when they are fired, and none of that came true.  Instead, i spent the morning writing – a nebulous bit of prose that i will probably blog fairly soon – and then decided to be kind to my body again. small_6 This is becoming a theme.  Unfortunately, my shoulder (torn rotator cuff) is not getting better without my taking it very easy on that arm, and when i break the rules and do things like throw, or load the car with heavy objects, or try to scrub something, i wind up with days of intense distress and numb fingers.

So, i broke out the next messiest form of art: pastels.  Before i leave for the night, i will be loading a kiln and firing some lovely little garlic plates.

i have not totally wasted the day, no matter how it feels. small_2Still, i am frustrated with my level of productivity.  i don’t seem to be doing anything enough or well.

Yesterday, i did a huge amount of pen and inks while i was at a gallery enjoying the slowness of the day.  Given that i got my first positive response to a job application yesterday, after sending out God knows how many, i found myself drawing with a renewed fervor. i could feel the gun to my head cocking.

i have written about the long goodbye before.  Without doubt, this must be one of the most excruciating devolutions that i’ve ever experienced.  i am going down a steep hill at speed, shedding things as i travel: mysmall_3 house, my studio, my credit rating, my belongings, my sense of self.  For so many years, i have been wildly blessed with the profound knowledge that art is what i’m meant to do – it pours out of me like nothing else – and to have that last illusion stripped from me has been excruciating.  Instead of ripping it off like a band-aid, fate has been slowly twisting it away, molecule by molecule, a closed gallery here, a solitary day in the studio there, a long spell where i could not write because my mind was too chaotic, punctuated with crushing online sales reports. i have moved from a woman confident in her identity as an artist to someone desperately trying not to drown. The blessing of having no attachments, no delusions of self holding me back, does not yet diminish the agony of loss.

small_1When i lost my health, back when i was 28, i saw that as a profound death of self.  Forests were ravaged for the paper needed to work out that loss.  However, in its own way, it was brutal in its speed and efficiency.  My entire life changed on a dime, and kept changing, until i moved up here to Maine and my life began to transform for the better.  Helping, softening the blow, was the fact that marriage gave me some safety.  i had someone who could help pick up the slack, who could keep two people aloft financially.

small_5At the time, i wrote a hundred poems of love and gratitude, knowing what a gift that was.

Now, though the story is different.  There is no one to help around the house.  By the time i am done with a day of work, be it here or sitting in a gallery, i am too exhausted to do anything.  If you read these blogs, you’ll know that they have decreased incredibly in their frequency.  If you paid attention to my artistic output, you would know i have barely fired the kiln in months, and that is not just the shoulder prohibiting me from throwing.  The house i have on the market gives testimony to suffering, obvious to anyone who enters; the kitchen is in danger of becoming an EPA superfund site. Nearly every day, someone gives me advice – many to quit art, but many to pursue this gallery or that store.  Only, I am hoxed by exhaustion, able to follow up on a fraction of those leads.

None of my work, including the art, is getting a quarter of the focus it should because i am constantly struggling to keep my head above water. small_8 This is the heart of the problem when there is not enough strength or energy to meet every obligation: it causes increasing failure.  Like cash, energy is a limited currency – spending it on one thing means it will not be spent on another.  Harsh choices have to be made.  i devolve from someone who thought of herself as an artist, driven by the need to make art, to something different.  The art is still there, struggling, fighting its way out, but i am no longer what i thought i was.  The certainty and sense of purpose has dissolved.

Where there should be confidence and self-reliance, i am flooded with anxiety and depression.  This is a terrible little vortex.  The worse my art sales are, the worse my financial situation gets, the more insecure i feel, the less empowered i am to change things, the more the burdens of health and pain drive me further into despair.  Each part augments the next.  This is not intended as a whine so much as an expression of my current reality.  Moreover, i know deeply that this is my fault.  While i cannot control who buys art, i have made the wrong choices, trusted thsmall_9e wrong people and been generally unwise.

Responsibility falls on my shoulders.  And, whatever solutions there are to be had, will come from me as well. i keep praying, with such wild desperation that i’m sure the Divine is laughing at the melodrama by now, for art to save me. Tremendous and marvelous help has come my way, for which i have written another hundred poems of gratitude, but any lasting fixes will have to be through my own labor – if not through art, then through some other way.

So, i look about me, at this space i will have to leave, at the countless pieces of art i have made, at the words flowing from me and i know this configuration of my life is ending.  It is a goodbye, no matter where i end up or what joys may await me.  i am being taught not to cling to things – especially not how i perceive myself.  This is a lesson which i faced with such resistance, the universe had to treat me like a remedial student.

And, today, all i could feel was gratitude for everything.  These blessings i have experienced were beyond measure.  How many get to enjoy that singular sense of purpose and joy?  I was given this chance to throw myself into creating, day after day, for years on end.  Living in this community has been a wild and amazing blessing.  Finding the quiet and stillness that i have here in Maine transformed me.  So, that is what came out in my pastels – all of the blues became gratitude and dancing.

This thanksgiving is just as tangible and fierce as the drowning.  It keeps me aloft.  Gratitudes have become my own little floaties in the sea of life.  My life might be in the ugly stage, but i know from my art ugliness can lead to great beauty.

 

feeling like an artist

IMG_2515When i make art, i do not necessarily feel like an artist.  i feel like a lucky fool who is getting another chance to do what delights her.  Indeed, during this year of relative hardship, i have had very few moments when i felt like an artist.  Lots where i felt like a mess, or a sales woman, or a failure.  But, few where i felt empowered by what i have created.

This past weekend, i received six of my pieces of art back, professionally framed, and that made my heart soar. Then i put 66 small pen and inks and 10 large ones in mats and bags, which elevated my spirit further.  Saturday, i participated in the Bucksport Art Festival and for the first time this year, got a chance to see a huge amount of people react to my artwork.

And that made me feel like an artist.  More, it made me feel like hope is something more than a delusion.

procrastinating from studying…

i am going to be completely honest. i am writing this blog to avoid studying about Profit Planning for a few more minutes. So far, i have used writing three poems and an essay, updating my website, sprucing up some products on my online store, and posting a few things onto social media as distractions. Every animal in the house has been cuddled to the point of annoyance. i even contemplated doing the dishes, before i decided to procrastinate from that by studying.  i sat down with the book.  Within five minutes, i moved into blogging.

As overwhelming as this subject is for me, these pages about pricing and profits have reminded me of a few things: how badly i have been struggling this past year financially (like nearly every other Maine artist i know,) that maybe there is hope – the book itself mentions that often times people run into issues, it takes a long time for new businesses to show a profit, etc., etc..  What is becoming plain is that a lot of my troubles actually have stemmed from pricing.  So far, I have pegged four major sources for my issues with pricing: dyslexia that has caused a vague hostility toward numbers, a general lack of business savvy, the impulse to reward someone who likes my art or wants to take classes with me by cutting deal, and my own case of imposter syndrome (as described by Neil Gaiman.)

A quick aside: Listening to that commencement speech by Mr. Gaiman for the 600th time reminds me of another reason why this chapter and the small business thought process are all so painful to me.  i am an artist.  By that i mean, i am at my best when i am making art and without the ability to make art, i am really not any good to anyone.  Art saves my sanity, soothes my soul and is as necessary to me as air.  There is even a hierarchy to this.  i could live without pottery.  If i had to, i could never sculpt again.  Take away painting and drawing, and my heart will destabilize pretty quickly.  However, if you prohibit me from writing prose and especially poetry, i will maybe manage to maintain my sanity for two weeks.  Maybe. If i’m lucky. Still, art by its very nature cannot be planned like the production of widgets or thingamabobs. Sometimes art tackles you and tears up your schedule, shakes you by the shoulders and demands to be made.  Also, from the perspective of the person buying it: art is a luxury.  It is something that people buy after they have paid for the essentials of food, shelter and clothes.  To many it is as essential to their spiritual health as any meal, but it is good to know that those buying my work are doing more than just a financial transaction, they spend their money on my work because it has meant something to them.

To this point, making art has been the engine driving my life.  Traditional business plans hang over the body of my art like an ill-fitting suit, and yet, as Mr. Gaiman points out, we are in a time of transition in all the arts.  The modes of dissemination are changing.  The methods of payment have altered, as has the meaning of success. Working up some kind of plan to make money at this art i have to make – even if it has to be wildly flexible and inventive –  falling copyis one way i can see myself surviving.

My old business plan sits like a monolith in the chair across the room, holding in its belly all the work i did on this a couple of years ago. All those wonderful projections that worked so well until May of last year. But then, life happened, catastrophes laid me low and changed the rules.

When i think about how hard things are right now, about the bills that are coming due, about the decisions i want to make and all that that i know will stay consistent no matter what choices come, i start to get wildly stressed out and have nightmares.  How will i manifest the changes that i decide are necessary?  If i have made foolish decisions before, that got compounded by forces i could not control or predict, how will i manage to keep from doing the same again?  ANGST.

And, the only real way to deal with such feelings for me is to make art.  So, perhaps, those last ten pages of reading will wait a little bit longer.  i want to soothe my soul with some ink soaring across the page.

 

mission statements

I am taking a small business class and part of this week’s homework is to write a new mission statement for a new plan.

Only, there are some restrictions.  It was pointed out to me that using the “I” in such professional writing is not the way to go, even if a huge majority of the business is making and selling is your own art and writing.  It sounds egotistical and accentuates the vulnerability of being an I rather than a we.  And, truthfully, there are other people involved: students, apprentices (soon! I hope!), as well as other artists who have memberships to the studio to make their art.  So there is a we.

Now is where we get into process, though.  There are a lot of things I want to say – even though they don’t really apply to the mission statement.  Kind of personal missions, i suppose.  Overwhelming thoughts about the nature of my life that guide me.

At any rate, I thought I could share those here, since they will not be good for the product at hand – but nevertheless are working their way out of me.

So here is Inappropriate Mission Statement Castoff #1:

 

clayOther than air, shelter and food, there is no element more important to life than creativity.  The engine of imagination and dreams transforms every moment.  Creativity is how we solve problems.  Art and writing both challenge and soothe our spirits.  Whenever someone claims to be unable to create, this is a problem of perception: every decision they have ever made, including things as simple as figuring out how to organize their house or what to eat for dinner, most conversations, every story they have ever told, have all been creative acts.

A friend said recently that we artists aren’t here to change to the world, only to sell you a souvenir – but creative and unorthodox thinking certainly does transform the world, and art is a fertile field in which such abilities can grow.  Feeding the engine of art, through making it, selling it and teaching others how to walk the path has been a tremendous honor for asha fenn over these past six years.  The entire focus of asha fenn – as an artist and through her gallery – has been to continue this work.

 

 

Poem: talking about broken hearts

As we talk about broken hearts,
she manages a feat
no one else has:
to diagnose a reason
for my suffering.

She says
i am without guile.

The problem is my personality –
it intimidates.

She insists
i walk through the world
utterly without camouflage,
my need naked to all –
and that such openness
makes people run away.

Yet, it is also the wellspring
from which art comes.

She knows this
because she suffers
from the same intensity.
It might be why
we do the same work.
Definitely, it is why
she has surrendered
the search
for any love
but that of friendship.

All i know
right now,
for myself,
as her words wash over me,
is that i ooze loneliness.

i would give so much
to find comfort
in the arms of the one
i love –
God, how i mourn his absence –
particularly at this moment
when my purpose,
the meaning
that usually drives
my life,
has been letting me starve.

She sells her art.

A month ago,
that would have seemed
like a challenge,
an encouragement,
confirmation that it is possible,
a message
that i must find a way
to sell my own.

Only drenched in today’s exhaustion,
i cannot stir myself into hope.

Perhaps she is right,
and i am without guile.
For i cannot avoid or deny
my unguarded need
and excruciating grief,
they are etched on my face,
scrawled all over my work,
and shout out their existence
through every movement
of my limbs.

Even my usual habit
of prayer has halted,
for i lack the heart to ask
and receive silence
or condemnation.

If only my exhibitionism
of spirit and emotion
had some benefit –
but this nudity seems gratuitous.
It leaves me so very weary
that i cannot decide where to go –
and now,
i have even
run out of words
for this poem.

2014

rosary for the broken artist

+

Christ, I have been drowning.

Invitatory

Desperately, i want to believe that you would not have given me this intense sense of purpose and the awesome bliss i find in creating just for me to demonstrate all the ways i can fail when given such gifts.

Cruciform

So, my Lord, i hold out my heart to you – i ripped myself open so you can see my urgent, naked need.

Weeks

1 – Please, Christ, make me strong

2 – give me wisdom

3 – stoke my courage

4 – bring me inspiration

5 -bestow some confidence

6 – lead me gently

7 – make me able

Invitatory

i pray thus because it is through my work that i honor you best – my weakness and limitations impede much i would do, so i worship as i draw, paint, throw, sculpt and write.  Thankfully communion can always be found in the flow of art.  There, i feel your fierce love.

+

i strive to serve you well, so i beg in the Name of Jesus Christ, please add a few more blessings onto the heap you have already given me.  Please, hear my prayer.  AMEN