Friday, March 4, 2011

The Creation Story -or- How I Came to Be

It was suggested to me I write down how abbydid came to be, how my creative process works, that someone might enjoying reading this.  At the very least, I would benefit from writing it down.  Here goes.

I have always created things.  I think most creative people will tell you they've always felt compelled to make things from an early age.  The earliest I remember was as a 5 year old, writing, illustrating, and stapling together little books of stories.  "The Penny" was an early title that makes hardly any sense now, but at the time I was really pleased with myself.

I also have very clear memories of the under-croft of my bunk bed.  It was configured in an L shape, so that there was space for a little cave underneath, complete with a door just the right size for a child to enter and be ensured some privacy.  I spent hours under there.  It was my secret hideaway, and I recall cutting out dozens of paper butterflies, then hanging them with string from the ceiling of my cavern.  I think any little girl who creates a butterfly garden in her secret hideaway is destined to craft professionally, don't you?  Oh, most definitely.

So fast forward, a gazillion years later.  There have been billions more art projects, some art training, some of the best provided by a dedicated trio of high school art teachers.  But something happens in college.  Faced with the prospect of declaring myself an artist, I freeze up.  I become convinced I am not worthy of this field I idolize.  I am not good enough.  I am not passionate enough.  I am simply not worthy.  My self-deprecation and complete lack of confidence has long been an issue, but never to this degree.  I drop out of my art major.  Going into my photography professor's office to explain I'm quitting is excruciating.  It doesn't help that I've fallen down a muddy hill on the way in, so I'm filthy on top of all the shame and humiliation I already feel.  He does his damnedest to convince me to stay, to convince me I have talent, to convince me this is where I belong.  I am heart broken, but nothing can quell the absolute certainty that I am just not good enough.

My lack of self-confidence was crippling for such a long time.  And so this story is maybe not so much about my creative process as it is about learning I am a worthwhile human being.  I am GOOD at what I do, I am GOOD ENOUGH as a person, and perfection is not the goal.  Fear of failure haunts my family like a curse.  My task has been to shake that curse, to face my fears head on, and to prove to myself just how capable I am.  All of these things are necessary for a happy life and healthy being, but they are intrinsically joined with my creativity as well.  To have the clarity to say this to you, the imaginary audience of the Ethernet, is one of the greatest gifts I've gained.  I understand things so clearly now.  I was in such a fog for so many years.  It's a revelation to me.

And so.  This girl I speak of wanders, lost, through college, trying majors on like hats, not feeling any of them suit, finally realizing she just needs to get the hell out of there, and completes an English degree in a single year.  As luck would have it, I like English very much.  Reading and writing, those are good things, so it works out fairly well.  More aimless wandering occurs after graduation.  The most glorious moments occur when I suddenly fall in love and get married.  That is truly a story all its own, but I'll save that for another day.

I don't know what to do with myself.  I end up quitting my job, saying (I swear to god) I'd like to make dolls. But I don't.  I wander some more.  I eventually have a baby, and he becomes my world.  I am a domestic house cat now, taking care of my gorgeous son, doing little projects on the side, keeping our lives rolling (mostly) merrily along.  But I continue creating all this time.  I trying little projects out.  I experiment.  I decide any housewife worth her salt should know how to sew.  I borrow my mother's Bernina sewing machine, the one she bought when she was pregnant with me.  She shows me how to thread it, sew a straight line, and then I'm on my own.  I play with that thing, look things up on the internet, try out some patterns.  I do make a doll.  My son hates it and kicks it away.  So I try some other things instead.  What I am discovering is the fluid nature of fabric, and the fusion of it with this old, dependable machine, is like magic to me.  I adore the sculptural quality sewing fabric provides.  I begin wondering.

Another baby comes along.  This one is a spitfire of a little girl, diametrically opposed to the quiet, fair-colored son I adore.  This darling is dark, like she's of a different race, and as loud as her brother is quiet.  They are both extraordinary.  As a side note, I realize I'm biased seeing as I am their mother, but two more amazing human beings could not have been placed on this planet.  My focus becomes wholly on keeping these two small people alive.  Enriching their lives, growing them, ensuring they have everything they need and even more that they don't, that becomes my full time job.
Some kids come out as carbon copies, mine, not so much.
I've had old ladies ask if they're both mine.  Silly old ladies.

But then one day I'm watching some DIY show, and this is the confession part of the tale, because I would much rather say I was hit with a lightening bolt of creativity and just inspired to act all on my own.  But I wasn't.  I was fed the little seed of an idea when zoning out in front of the TV.  It was a craft show (big surprise) and on this show they were making a pillow.  It was big, it had a pocket in the front, and in an effort to give it a little personality, this denim thing was given two button eyes.  I got to thinking.  Gears started turning.  I mean, literally, you could almost see the machinery whirring in my head.  I mean, sure, that's nice, but what you could REALLY do with it, what would REALLY be great was if it had arms and legs, and it was soft and snuggly, and it should be a creature with teeth, horns...

Well, if you know me at all, you have some idea of where this is going.  I drew up a pattern, the first I had ever tried, and after much thought of construction, I gave it a go.  I made a few big versions of this creature, a bunch more in a smaller size, and gave them out as Christmas gifts.  I went online and started googling monster names.  Wikipedia gave me a list of mythical creatures.  One of them stuck in my head.

And that was the birth of the Wibbly Woo.
The very first Wibbly Woos - they look so primitive now!
We've come a long way, baby.
Now, I mentioned I married the love of my life a little earlier.  He really is amazing.  I mean, don't tell him I said that, because I really don't like him to think he has the upper hand in this relationship, but I do adore him.  This thoughtful man saw that I was onto something.  He had the confidence I didn't.  I had never had the confidence, and I had never had the perspective of who I am and what I'm capable of.  But he did.

Christmas morning, 2007.  We're in a new house now.  Again, a long story for another time.  But It and I are entwined in very complicated ways, and it has been a tough year for me adjusting to life in it.  Discovering a creative outlet, tentatively exploring what it could bring, those are some of the first glimmers of light we've seen in me in quite awhile.  So what does this dear man do?

He gives me a sewing machine.  And not just any sewing machine.  He has researched it, gone to the store and talked to salesmen, ensured I have the best possible machine we can afford, or really, pretend to afford.  And it is GLORIOUS.  It is a Husqvarna Viking, a Sapphire model.  I name things, so I named her Sappho.  I always sort of dug Sappho, the poet from ancient Greece, and so there we were.  I put the incredible thing on the dining room table and circled it suspiciously for several weeks.  Eventually, I finally turn her on, learn her ways, and get to work.  She's been there ever since, except for when she travels with me, and that room has long since stopped being the dining room.

What my husband did was express to me, with the grandest gift I've ever been given, his complete confidence that I could make things people wanted.  I could share my creations with the world, and they would be loved.  He demonstrated to me with that extraordinary machine he knew I was up to the challenge, that I was worthy of this gift, and that I could take it in directions I hadn't dared dream of before.

And while I felt unworthy and crippled with self-doubt, what was stronger than all that was the desire to not let him down.  I opened my little etsy shop a few weeks later, in late January of 2008.  I was on the front page within 2 days of opening, had my first 2 sales.  My confidence was budding.  I was accepted into Plush Team, an etsy street team of plush artists from around the world, that spring.  I was now part of a guild of talented individuals who supplied unending amounts of support and inspiration.  These people are my family.

I had come home.  And now I'm tearing up a little, because this has been such a journey for me, kittens.  I was so scared and so injured for so very long.  But the more I create, the more I embrace who I am, the closer to my truth I become.  In the grand scheme of things, I'm not saving the world, exactly, I know that.  But I am true to myself, and I bring such joy to my customers.  It is such a privilege they grant me, letting my creations into their lives.  The support I receive from my customers, from my fellow artists, from people passing by my tent at a show, it feeds my soul in such extraordinary ways I never dreamed possible.

My biggest accomplishment since that Christmas morning 3 years ago?  I call myself an artist now.  I am an artist.  I own that, I know what I am, I know it is who I am meant to be.  For the first time in my life, I have an idea that I am an extraordinary person, capable of great things, and I am eager to strive for that each day.  I may be a little crabby along the way, but really, let's take what we can get, shall we?

Thanks for letting me ramble, imaginary reader.  Thank you for letting me send this out into the ethos and set it free.  It's been locked up in my heart for a long time, and it was time to let it out.  Thank you.


Christina Ward said...

Made this cynical old lady tear up. Good on you.

Anonymous said...

Yes, you ARE an artist, and we love you because of it.