A big part of why I do this is out of resistance, pushing back on how American society defines ‘work’ and ‘art’ and creating my own narrative around those words.
Our sense of work is centered around things like productivity, competition, working long hours, taking work home, and of course making the most money and profiting while most likely taking advantage of others in the process. These are topics that I think endlessly about and my answers are what show in how I run my business.
I had returned home from Spain with an eclectic resume, lots of new experiences, and a future ahead of me that I really had no idea what is was going to look like. I had gone there to figure out my life and I returned with just more things to think about and still feeling pretty lost.
I knew I had to approach my thinking towards work in a different way. One my first thoughts was how our days are broken up. You have 8 hours of sleep, 8 hours for personal life stuff, and then 8 hours of work. That meant that a third of our life is spent at work and that’s where my thinking began to shift. I couldn’t be unhappy everyday for a third of my life. I had to do something that at least brought me a small bit of joy.
After I decided to try jewelry for a year, my next thought was about competition. At the beginning I thought to myself, “why would I pursue this if there are so many other amazing artists and jewelers out there?” I came across a quote—I wish I could remember from who—that defined competition as a need, rather than an ambition. I stopped seeing everyone else around me as competition and realized that people just really love and appreciate art, especially in New Mexico, and it gave my work so much more importance. I never set out to ‘outdo’ someone else, I approached this from the viewpoint that art IS actually very necessary to the human experience and that it’s meant to bring others joy. This was a crucial thought to have at the start of this journey because there are many amazing jewelers out there whose work and expertise supersede my craft but I didn’t fall into the negative self-talk. I felt like my eyes were opened to their sense of detail and it would make me realize what artists are capable of doing. Like I didn’t think that an artist could push themselves into certain levels of craft until I saw it with my own eyes.
Which brings me to pushing back on how others define ‘art.’ There’s this strange negativity around the words ‘art’ and ‘artist,’ almost as if being one is a luxury or that you’re too lazy to work in the real world, or that you’re pretentious for considering yourself an artist. There were societal views I had to mentally overcome and eventually I’ve learned to reclaim these words and define what they mean to me.
My dad had this customer who moved out here (briefly) from the Midwest. He purchased 12 acres and had my dad build a house for him and his wife. At some point in the conversation, the guy said he wanted to remove all the trees and cover the entire property in concrete. Can you imagine how horrifying that would’ve been? There were two things that came up for me when my dad told me this story. First was how distant we’ve become to appreciating beauty. We’re so deep in technology and the industrial age that we’re becoming cold inside. Can you imagine a world without flowers, or color, or birds singing in the morning, or the brilliant sunsets? The second thought was about reclaiming art and how important it is to make it and share it with the world because to me, a successful piece of art makes us feel again. We connect, we experience emotions, we feel something inside and that’s what art is all about.
While many will define art as luxury, that’s not what it’s about. It’s about viewing it, appreciating it, getting inspired by it, owning it because it makes you happy and you like to look at it. This might sound like luxury but it’s actually an act of resistance. You’re pushing back on what society is telling you to do which is work, work, work, rush, rush, rush, and to bury yourself in productivity. Productivity doesn’t make room for feelings, it’s all about turning human beings into machines. But Art is how we push back on that and take things slow, notice details, and enjoy and absorb and learn and feel human.
The other part of why I do this is tied to my family history, specifically to my grandmothers. One of my grandmothers worked in factories or was a cleaning lady in hospitals. She was happy and found ways to be creative through cooking but she came to the US to make a better life for her children. It’s the typical immigrant story, and through my jewelry I try to honor her. I push myself to make these well-researched, thought-provoking, thoughtful, statement earrings because I know that she would’ve wanted nothing more for me. She worked hard to get me to where I am today even if she isn’t here to see it.
My other grandmother was a pianist but once she married, she didn’t really pursue piano as a career. It was the era of the Suburban Housewife and when I was growing up, it always made her sad that she didn’t continue with it. Can you imagine having talent in something and you just have to leave it all behind? I know that this is a story we’ve all heard many times before and it still exists today. I believe that if more women explore their talents and set those boundaries and create for themselves, even if it’s a pastime, I think we’d finally hear what women have to say. I think there would be this “democratization of storytelling,” as Rebecca Solnit said in one of her interviews. We create art not to just tell our own story, but the stories that want and need to be told.
Now my main reason is my daughter. I want her to see her mother happily creating. I make pieces as if I'm telling her the story of my collection and I want her to feel and absorb every step of my process and how it makes me to become a better mother/person. I also want her to feel like she's a part of something. She, without a doubt, inspires me to be more confident and expressive and daring and I've made pieces I would've never considered in the past just because I suddenly feel compelled to explore new realms of the creative process. I want her to look back and feel a connection to my work. Even if she doesn't pursue creativity, I have it on record that she gave me a tremendous sense of purpose. I love her so deeply and I want to make her proud.
Why do you do what you do? Are there words that you want to reclaim? Do you do this out of dedication/in honor of someone? What motivates your work?
This is the final prompt for this series. Thank you so much for reading along and participating.
As always, you can use the same title I've used for your blog post, email newsletter, or caption for social media. This content is designed to encourage 'community over competition' and I'd love to read your response to these prompts. You can send me a link or forward me your email newsletter to my email, firstname.lastname@example.org. I will share my favorites on IG stories and/or right here on my website.