When I was a kid, I had a set of children’s red-bound encyclopedia. One volume was “Things to Make and Things To Do,” and I was obsessed with the projects on those pages, projects that involved things you’d have around the house, like popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners (what we would now, annoyingly, refer to as “craft sticks” and “chenille stems”) to make really cool stuff like model airplanes and puppet theaters and, wow, who knows what other marvels! I spent many frustrating hours trying to duplicate the stuff in this book. Because I was a kid and had no particular skills, other than running really fast and avoiding my mother when it was time to have my hair shampooed, the things I made looked nothing like the illustrations in the book, and I usually abandoned them about halfway though, tossing them aside in frustration and disgust at my lack of talent. I wanted to make something, but I didn’t know how to get there.
This is what I hear over and over today: people telling me how they want to make something, they have a deep and abiding need to create–but it just doesn’t work out. They imagine things in their heads, see how fabulous it would be, figure out what they’ll need and how to get started–and then? Then, just like the 10-year-old me who wanted to make a boat so I could float down the creek with my dog, Liebchen (never mind that the creek was never more than about 6” deep), they just can’t get there. Either the glue makes the paper warp, or the seams won’t lie flat or the solder won’t stick or the cover of the journal won’t close (or, in my case, you realize you forgot to ask your dad for nails and a hammer).
We are a people who want instant gratification. We zip around the internet at the speed of clicks, we see tv make-overs where people lose hundreds of pounds and gain new muscle tone right before our eyes, we watch videos go viral and circle the globe in mere hours. Many of us have lost the ability to focus, to dig in, to work and master a skill that will enable us to take the next step to where we want to go, but that’s exactly what we need to do: master the skills. Yes, this involves work. No, work is not a dirty word. Many of us have forgotten the fabulous feeling of mastery, that buzz that comes from finally learning to do something really well, so well that you can do it almost without thought, so well that you can get the results you want over and over. Not every time, sure–there are still going to be glitches. But if you’ve truly learned the skills, you’ve also learned some work-arounds, ways to get around glitches and make things work out anyway. That’s why having that skill set is so important: it frees you up to do the fun stuff without re-inventing the wheel every time you sit down at your work table.
Because it has been very gently suggested that I am, perhaps, just a tiny bit wordy, I’m going to stop here and continue talking about skills next time, on Monday. Because you know I have more to say, right?
MORE RESOURCES FOR MIXED MEDIA ARTISTS