Sunday, March 20, 2011

Artistic Endeavors

There are things that you begin doing that you never know have meaning or significance. It seems so simple, but later you look back and see how the mind was really several steps ahead of your comprehension. It's the hindsight phenomenon.

It started pretty simply. In January I was in a craft store and I saw a necklace on one of their displays and thought I'd try making one myself. I bought the beads and chain and then a few weeks later I purchased a set of jewelry-making tools. I stared one evening at these components in front of me and tried to make a simple necklace. The result was a disaster. I had no idea what I was doing. I threw the supplies back in the bag and hid them in a closet and didn't really think of them again. This artistic endeavor was pretty similar to the direction my life was taking. Everything was daunting.

Fast forward now several months and while cleaning and purging my space I stumbled upon that bag. Now that I was faced with three more weeks off work I had time and so even though the first attempt had been unsuccessful I purchased more supplies. I actually bought a lot of beads. It was a pretty large outlay of money for something that I really had no confidence in completing. I still had no idea what I was doing. I browsed through some magazines looking at designs but I couldn't focus on the directions.  So on Sunday I hauled out all my supplies, sat on the floor and spread them all out in front of me. I picked up three rose-colored flower beads and two pink butterflies. I stared at them for a while. And then I just sort of saw what I wanted to do with them. And this time I made it happen. I still really didn't know what I was doing, I just made it work. And then I was on a role. In a few hours I had made four necklaces and I was happy with each one of them. I was amazed. The other surprise - I had spent an afternoon creating and not once had I cried, or thought about all that was going on around me or in my head. I was in the moment, not distracted, but really living and creating, I was even concentrating on something. I was elated when I thought about what I had done.  I sat down a few days later and produced four more as I watched television. And again I didn't really know where I was starting, where I was going or what I was doing, but the end result was the same - four new pieces that I loved.

And so making jewelry became the thing I did when my hands and mind would normally have been idle. It was simply a project to do in the evenings when I needed something besides mindlessly watching television or blindly eating to fill a void. Each night I was making something new and none of them looked the same. I'd layout combinations on the bead board and move them again and again until I was happy with the pattern and arrangement and then I'd string the beads on, attach a clasp and voila - another creation. And at the end of night I'd have one more thing to add to my collection. I found myself searching for beads to match every color in my wardrobe. My affinity for cheap, costume jewelry was no longer a shopping experience, now it was a creative one.

And in the background as I shared and showed off my work, scared each time that I did, people began to tell me I should do more than craft pieces for myself. I couldn't do that. This was a hobby and one that I didn't believe I was really all that good at. I still really had no idea what I was doing. I knew nothing about beading or stringing techniques. I just figured out a way to make it work. For me it was easy and mindless. Every time I would wear something that I made and would get a compliment on it I would be taken by surprise and then shyly say "thank you." And then one time someone asked me where I had purchased it and reluctantly I quietly said "I made it myself." And here a stranger - not one of my friends that would encourage me even if the work was poor - thought that this was something that came from a store. I was blown away.

But, beading was not that impressive to me. A lot of people strung beads. I didn't feel like there was any art or talent involved on my part. If I could make something without really knowing what I was doing anyone could.

So finally I tackled a new project that I'd been contemplating for a while. I took some wire and began bending it into a design. I know that the inspiration was coming from a lot of things that I'd looked at in print and in stores, but again, I was really winging it. And when I was done I had a pendant that encircled a tree. Twisted branches with beads covering them. I looked at it for a long time. I couldn't decide what I thought of it. I took a picture on my cell phone and texted it to three people. I wanted some honest opinions. Would they even know what it was? The response was encouraging, but again these were my friends and I knew that the piece wasn't exactly what I was aiming to create. Well, at least they knew it was a tree So looking at my prototype I tried again. I was a little happier with the result this time and bravely wore this one out in public. I solicited more opinions. And every time I shared a picture of something that I made I was scared beyond belief. I was convinced that I was seeing beauty that no one else would see. But each and every time I would get a positive response. And more and more people kept telling me that I needed to do something more with my craft. I wasn't sure that would happen, but it was nice to hear.

And so I started creating more and making pieces for gifts and I was perfecting my tree. I can't even tell you why I was attracted to this design. I'd never loved trees before. I never really even thought about them. Trees were trees and yet I felt so connected to what I was doing. And as the art evolved so did the therapeutic nature of it. I had created my own version of art therapy for myself without even being aware of it. I was gaining confidence again in my abilities to do something - anything - and do it in a way that people recognized. But still even I couldn't figure out why I was drawn to the tree.

It wasn't until much later when hindsight came into play that I figured out that the mind is a mysterious machine. It makes connections that you aren't even aware that you are seeing until one day it finally hits you what you've been missing.

So here I was creating tree pendants - trees of life - and I had no idea why. So when I made the leap that I was pretty sure I would fail at and I started my jewelry site I did some research to add to the description page and looking back now I'm amazed that I still kept asking why trees,  what is it about this design that keeps me coming back again and again?. When I look now at what I wrote in the description it's so clear why the tree was important to me.
"The tree of life is branched tree illustrating the idea of life's interconnectedness. Some have referred to it as a metaphor for the whimsy of the spirit. Depictions and allusions to the tree of life appear throughout science, religion, philosophy, mythology and art. It's also been described as a cosmic tree, mystic tree or the tree of knowledge."

Life's interconnectedness.

 My mind hadn't made the connection then. The tree was really about my transformation. Art imitating life. My life was changing and so was everything connected to it. I was evolving and so was the tree that represented my life. All of life is connected to what surrounds us and I was depicting this realization with wire and beads long before I let myself soak in the reality of what it meant. I was creating a tree of knowledge that would hopefully in the end lead me to a better understanding of myself, the people that I let near me and the world that surrounds me. And so my art and craft was therapy, but I had also created a touchstone for myself and it was one that was full of hope and growth and knowledge - the tree of life, the tree of my life. Maybe there was hope for a beautiful life after all.

1 comment:

  1. Jen...there is always hope. Your tree is beautiful.