Make the Effort to Make the Connection

This weekend we went to Dallas. Theoretically, it was a birthday trip; my birthday was last week, and I’m still trying to figure out a way to celebrate that doesn’t involve doing the same things I do every day, i.e., working. I love to work, and I never have found much of anything I’d rather do than that. So most birthdays are spent doing the same things I do most of the rest of the time. This time, I decided we’d spend the weekend in Dallas looking at clothes (for making soulwear, what I call my altered garments) shopping for shoes at my favorite Nordstrom’s Rack (Born sandals for $8.99!), people watching, walking around in the huge malls. There are a couple of really big malls in Dallas, and in Texas this summer, walking around indoors is about the only walking you’re going to do unless you get up at the crack of dawn. Saturday our vehicle thermometer consistently reported 109. So: mall-walking isn’t just for seniors this summer.

Anyway, as I was making reservations, I got a newsletter from jewelry artist Christi Friesen listing her Texas workshops. Turned out she was going to be teaching in Southlake (between Dallas and Ft. Worth) this weekend.

I first met Christi when I interviewed her for a profile for Belle Armoire Jewelry. She was a delight–funny, engaging, informative–a great interview. And what we in Texas refer to as “a hoot”–a little outrageous and really, really funny. Last year on our big tour of art retreats, we were in Milwaukee for Bead&Button, and we got to meet Christi in person. We didn’t get to spend much time with her because, man, she is one incredibly busy person: teaching, vending, writing, squeezing in studio time. That weekend she had a ton of back-to-back classes and a booth, too. And she was even more delightful in person than she had been on the phone.

So–when I saw we were going to be in roughly the same place this past weekend, I sent her a note. Through lots of juggling and Googling, we arranged to meet in the lounge of the Grand Hyatt Hotel at DFW. Sure, it was out of the way. Sure, she had to schlepp her many, many pieces of luggage onto a shuttle and into another terminal. Sure, it required coordination. But you know what? It was way, way worth the effort to meet up, and I heartily recommend you do it whenever you can.

Some of us are lucky enough to have a community of creative people–an artists’ co-op, maybe a cooperative gallery or a regular community artwalk. For many of us, though, there’s not a lot of local community. We may spend almost all our creative time in isolation–not just the time we’re working, but all the rest of the time, too. Our colleagues at day job don’t get what we do. Our neighbors are more interested in talking about beetle infestation and watering restrictions. Our family members have their own idiosyncratic interests.

Sure, you can form friendships online with like-minded people, people you can ask about gesso or Dremel parts or sales on Copic markers; but an online friendship isn’t the ame as being able to sit down and talk in person with someone about work and money, classes and art retreats, self-publishing vs. working with a publisher, like we did at the Hyatt. Having a relaxed, in-person conversation with someone who gets it, who faces the same issues and has maybe figured out a way of dealing with those that you hadn’t yet thought of, or who has a contact that would be perfect for what you’re trying to do–those are the things that you can’t always plan. We didn’t have an agenda when we met–we just wanted to hang out for an hour or so and visit. But we both came away with idea for things for the future. Even better, I came away with a renewed sense that, no matter how isolated I feel in the middle of the West Texas desert, there are other people out there, from Maine to Tehachapi to Ireland to Argentina, who are thinking about time management and studio time, deadlines and travel, art and community. Making time to meet up and talk is worth whatever it takes to make it happen.

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