Thursday, July 15, 2021

Bastille Day, my personal day of creative independence

(Above:  The back of the cargo van filled with things headed to Bill Mishoe's auction.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Yesterday was Bastille Day, a independence celebration for all of France but also for me!  Twenty years ago on Bastille Day, I finally admitted my hidden desire to "be and artist when I grow up".  I was forty-two years old at the time and running Mouse House, my custom picture framing business (est. 1987).  There were fourteen on payroll (including my husband and me); eight were full-time enjoying covered health insurance, a week paid vacation, and a retirement plan.  Business was still growing at about 11% a year.  I worked fourteen to sixteen hours a day, seven days a week, fifty weeks a year.  Basically,  I was working myself to death.  On that fateful July day, I made a life-changing decision to forcibly down-size the business, get a studio, and transform myself into a professional studio artist despite the fact that I had no prior background in fine arts or crafts.  It was a scary gamble, and there were plenty of times when I thought I'd made the worst decision of my life.  Twenty years later, I am an artist living a creative existence I couldn't fully imagine at the start of this adventure.  Every year, I celebrate Bastille Day and look both backwards and forwards.

(Above:  Celebrating Bastille Day at the Blue Marlin!) 

This year, Steve and I decided to celebrate Bastille Day with dinner at a local restaurant, The Blue Marlin.  We talked some about 2001 but we talked more about the coming twenty years ... or at least the next couple of months!  Why concentrate on the future?  Well ... change is happening again and we've been preparing for it.  I have three very, very large projects for a hotel that is currently under construction.  The work needs to be stored until it can be installed.  Looking around Mouse House, it only made sense to sort through a back room in which I store things bought at Bill Mishoe's auction for various art ideas.  I had to face the fact that I'm passed the phase during which I rusted vintage garments and other fabric.  I don't really need to keep boxes of rusted saw blades and chains.  I don't need several cast iron pots with lids.  I also don't need five tree stumps once used as "natural pedestals" for an early "sacred circle" installation or several tubs of wooden finials and knob for 3D found object sculptures.  The collection of antique and vintage papers was way out of control too.  For several days, I sorted, fondly remembered the inspiration, and hauled things to the cargo van.  It was bittersweet to unload it all at Bill Mishoe's auction ... but I did it!  I did it with excited anticipation for the next twenty years.

(Above:  One of the many mountains of scrap metal at Mid-Carolina Steel and Recycling.)

No one ever said that being a flea market and/or antique dealer was an easy life.  I sweat buckets loading and unloading my cargo van but not as much as I sweat while recycling the scrap metal! Emotionally, I told myself that I had to clear a space so that new work could happen.  There's an adage that filled my mind:  Every ending is a new beginning.  Although I can always return to any of my old ways of working, I've created space for whatever is going to happen next ... even beyond the hotel projects!

(Above:  An early architectural piece made for my very first solo show which was at Spartanburg Day School, January - February 2004.)

During the late afternoon, I couldn't help but notice an older piece pinned to foam-centered board.  It seemed to be calling to me, asking to be transformed, saying it was ready for "a new life".  I unpinned it and saw that the reverse side was now more pleasing to me than the front had ever been!

(Above:  The reverse side of the old architectural piece.)

Back in 2003 when I stitched this thing, I used peach colored moire instead of batting.  It looked good with the black chiffon over it.  For the reverse, I had a piece of faux dupioni white silk.  Apparently, I used bobbins filled randomly with tan, pale green, brown, and black thread.  Quickly, I cut the piece into three 20" x 14" sections, machine stitched my name in the lower right corners, cut mats, and put them in clear, cellophane bags with $50 price tags on the reverse. There's enough scrap for a dozen greeting cards.  It felt productive and fun to find a new outlook on the back of an old piece!

(Above:  Three Architectural Sketches.)

Finally, I'd like to share a little more about Bastille Day.  CLICK HERE for a published essay called My Mentor.  I wrote it eleven years ago about Stephen Chesley, a self supporting impressionistic landscape painter who is still my mentor.  Yet, the essay is really about my artistic beginning, about my first Bastille Day and the early days of "being an artist when I grow up".  When conducting a HOT workshop, I always say that my introduction will come as the last part of the experience ... because, of course ... I'm not fond of lofty introductions and generally prefer to do most things backwards.  Yet, it is also because the final statement is exactly how I want to leave each workshop!  So ... here's to Bastille Day and the continuing adventures of being the artist I've become! 


jhoddick said...

Congratulations on your ability to get through your past and welcome the future...
-Jill, a fellow collector

funwithfibers said...

Your piece is very inspiring. I am returning to making art quilts after about 20 years and so much about art quilting has changed - including me. I now look at my vast stash of fabric (some over 30 years old now) and realize that my inspiration isn't coming from them. I need to do what you did and purge! And then move on to new processes, new inspirations, and new art quilts.

bookwraps by said...

I love how you can let go and move on!

Martha Ginn said...

It is inspiring to think about all that cleaning out, purging, and moving on. We can all benefit from thinking more like this. Good luck going forward!

Ann Scott said...

This is such a good read. I love moving things out - it's so liberating for me. Congratulations and I look forward to reading and seeing what you share in the future. I really enjoyed reading "My Mentor" post too. Best to you as you go do the work.