I had a whole long post about this. And I mean loooong. I decided to delete and start over because I was doing too much dancing around the topic. It was hitting a bit too close to home. Over the past couple of weeks I have had the blessing of meeting new people and invariably the topic of work comes up. Either indirectly or directly the other party in the conversation learns that I know how to put two pieces of fabric together. And lately these strangers have all used a word to describe me that I would have never ever in a million years used: Artist.
At first the word made me feel uncomfortable. I don’t know why, but being labeled something as well revered as an artist really made me feed defensive. I would correct them: I am not artist you see… I merely sew fabrics together. And as the conversation would go on and on, my counterpart would point out to me over and over again where the word Artist fits into my description of myself. Now why in the world would l not want to be labeled an artist? Why would I shy away from being called something so respectable? And is the word artist really respectable? Does the word have a negative connotation? I don’t think so… I mean besides the whole starving artist thing I mean there’s nothing wrong with being an artist.
The Dictionary Defines an Artist as: 1.a person who produces works in any of the arts that are primarily subject to aesthetic criteria. 2. a person who practices one of the fine arts, especially a painter or sculptor. 3. a person whose trade or profession requires a knowledge of design, drawing, painting, etc.:a commercial artist. 4. a person who works in one of the performing arts, as an actor, musician, or singer; a public performer: a mime artist; an artist of the dance. 5. a person whose work exhibits exceptional skill. 6. a person who is expert at trickery or deceit: He's an artist with cards. 7. Obsolete. an artisan.
I guess in my profession I need to know about design and color and what not. And most importantly I fall under #5- A person whose work exhibits exceptional skill. So in other words, to admit to being an artist is to admit that I am skilled in something. To label myself as an artist would be to label myself as knowledgable and capable.
Now we all know that I have mental health problems (like, literally) and one of the things my psychiatrist recently told my family is that there is no pill he can give me that would overcome my lack of self esteem. That I would have to work on that myself and that would have to come from within. Taking a step back, to only identify as working in retail means that I’m not being boastful and I’m not identifying as skillful. Ya know, talking myself down.
I know that from being here in the store, sewing has this connotation of being something that you do out of need, that there is an implied poverty. That you sew things to save money. That you don’t waste any part of anything. You cut up shirts to use as rags. Make sure to pop those buttons off there! We can use them somewhere! Don’t throw out your scraps or pieces of thread or ribbon! We can use that somewhere! You never know when that little piece of something will come in handy! And I personally think that as long as we identify with being ‘scrappy’ and not wasteful, we will never be able to see ourselves as the artists we are. We will never see beyond being thrifty.
As I sit here, trying not to have a panic attack as I come to terms with thinking of myself in a brighter and broader light, I challenge you to also think of your sewing as something that is artful and beautiful. To see yourself as something more than a spinster touting the words ‘waste not, want not!’ everywhere you go. While I’m not suggesting that you go home and throw out all your beloved scraps and start fresh, maybe it’s time to go through that sewing room and let go of a few pieces that you’re only keeping because you feel guilty about tossing them. And let your art shine through!
Have something to add?? Have a different perspective? Questions? Make sure to drop them in the comments below!