In my previous entrepreneurial post this week, I talked about selling doll patterns that I’ve created. I have patterns that I am working on that are not ready for release yet. I had put them on a back-burner while I was working on the art workshops I wanted to teach. Everything is flipped around due to circumstances beyond my control, so it’s all doll patterns a-go-go here in my world right now!
I have five separate monster doll patterns; Harold, Cubby, Clarence, Ginger and Beady. Each single Monster Doll patter is priced at 4€ each ($4.35 USD). I’m not selling a physical product. The Monster Doll patterns are download only! You will need an email account to receive your purchased patterns.
Included in the price of the Monster Pattern is an additional 26 page PDF with more detailed, step-by-step instructions and photographs. Because many people around the world right now are social distancing and/or are under isolate-at-home orders, I have included additional ideas and information for materials usage if the Basic Fabric, Notions and Supplies listed for each doll pattern are not immediately available for the purchaser. The PDF Monster Doll instructions will be sent via email to everyone purchasing a Monster Doll pattern.
For those who wish to use this pattern with school aged children, you’ll find it quite easy to do so. Children 10 and older can work more independently with this pattern, while younger children will require more direction and assistance by an adult. There are multiple instructional possibilities that could be utilized with the Monster Doll patterns. At the very minimum, creating a Monster Doll could be part of a child’s on-going visual arts instruction. These Monster Doll patterns can also be utilized to instruct children about recycling and up-cycling of the materials they already have at home. It can also be used as a means of teaching critical thinking for students, especially when substitutions for the listed materials needs to be made. The finished Monster Dolls could be used as a writing prompt for puppet shows or fictional stories with illustrations.
Easy Peasy Doll Pattern:
I’m also offering my Easy Peasy Doll Pattern. It’s 2€ ($2.17 USD) This pattern is also download only!
The Easy Peasy Doll Pattern is four pages with pattern and instructions. The construction methods of the Easy Peasy Dolls are similar to the Monster Dolls.
If you wish to purchase any of the Monster Doll or Easy Peasy Doll patterns, please contact me via email at Katiekinsman.firstname.lastname@example.org or via Facebook Messenger (Katie Kinsman) or by Instagram DM. I will give you the payment details at that time. You will receive your patterns and directions files via email. They can then be printed out and used.
All of the patterns for sale are for individual use only and not intended for resale.
Many years ago, when I was in university studying art, I took a series of illustration courses that I loved. I remember getting the syllabus and list of required tools and supplies and among the board, pencils, markers, etc., was listed “Library Card”. I thought this was kind of odd. The instructor explained that a great deal of the illustrators job is doing research for their work. A good illustrator needed to know where and how to find visual references that can aide them in creating the illustrations that they will be paid to create. It had never occurred to me that an illustrator would have to do research for their work. I was very young, and not at all even remotely experienced as an illustrator or graphic designer. Needless to say, I learned a great deal during my four years in art school. The least of which was ‘get a library card so you can do research’.
There is a distinct similarity between my recent entrepreneurial endeavors and that first day of illustration class, however, no one has handed me a list of required tools, supplies and materials to help me with my business. No, that is not true. I have had immense amounts of help from Työbileet and their fantastic staff. It’s because of them, and what they’ve taught me that I can recognize the challenges and potential problems getting my business up and running, while at the same time, making sure that I’m designing a business that is a reflection of who I am as a person and how I want to be as an artist and art teacher in the greater world.
I have a notebook that I map out my website posts in. I jot down notes about what I want to write about, when I want to post new artwork for sale, and ideas about where I want to take the website in the future, as a vehicle for my business as an artist and art teacher. Keeping this notebook and jotting down these notes has helped me to have some good aha moments regarding a project I’m working on for my business. Some of these aha moments have been arrived at after I’ve done some online research into questions like, ‘Is anyone else doing this?‘ and ‘Is there a market for this?‘ Even more important for me, “What is the context in which I wish to present this work?”
There are other things in the notebook that are kind of at odd ends. Questions that I haven’t been able to answer, but which require additional research to help me make the right decisions for myself and my business.
Showing My Artwork:
I want to be showing my artwork more, both locally and regionally. My artwork doesn’t neatly fit into any one specific category. I make dolls, but they aren’t toys. I work in three dimensional mixed media, utilizing textile and fiber art. Some of the most logical venues, after some inquiry are just not open to me (Read: “They are in no way, shape, or form interested in showing or selling my work.”)
Part of me would think that language would be a barrier to finding these places and making the types of contacts, but it’s not. I read Finnish a lot better than I speak it, so I found many places to show artwork, but…it’s not the kind of place that would show my personal artwork.
I’m not in any way throwing up my hands and saying, “FINE!” I just need to keep looking and keep asking, and looking and asking. Hopefully without becoming an annoying bit of baggage in the bargain. And the benefit of all the looking and asking is, my Finnish will hopefully get better!
Teaching Art and Doll Making:
Recently, I was offered the opportunity to teach two art workshops at a local educational venue. I worked with the super cool staff and created two courses that we felt would be attractive to their students. Neither class received enough students, so each of the art workshops had to be cancelled. I was bummed-out about it, as I was so looking forward to teaching the workshops.
I’m an art teacher and I’ve got loads, heaps and bucket-fulls of lessons that I can teach. Since moving here, I’ve been concentrating on designing and creating art workshops and seminars for teenagers and adults. It’s been a lot of fun for me, because I love researching, designing and implementing art curriculum. I feel like I have so much to offer, but no place in which to offer it to anyone, which can be kind of depressing.
While thinking about what I could have done to make the art workshops that got cancelled more attractive to potential students, the thought struck me that I was trying to make myself fit into an educational institutions preconceived idea of what an art workshop or seminar is. I was making myself dependent upon a larger institution granting me an opportunity to teach art, instead of giving myself the go-ahead to teach art on my own, outside of that larger, more established institution. That sounds weird, doesn’t it?
When looked at from a different angle, I can teach art workshops and seminars to whomever I wish — well, to whomever wants to have me teach them, and I can decide on things like pricing for the workshop, and the venue, and the materials and techniques taught. That sudden revelation made it clear that I have other options. I just need to sort them out and see what I can make of them.
While it would still be super-nice to teach in one of these established educational institutions, I’m not going to sit on a log and cry and whine and moan because they’re not offering to have me teach in them. I will need to find my own way on this front, and that’s a good thing in the long run.
Let me first say, I don’t want to sell my artwork on Etsy. I’ve tried it in the past and it did not work for me. I think I made five sales total, and three of them were to people I knew. Etsy can be a great venue for lot of creators. It’s a ready made market place for crying-out-loud! What’s not to love about that?
Etsy’s not for me. I feel as if my artwork is lost on the platform. My work would just be one more handmade doll in a veritable sea of handmade dolls. I also don’t feel like my work belongs there because it’s not what sells on Etsy. I struggle to put it into the correct words, but my dolls, my artwork, they exist in this weird outer ether of not quite being Art (with that all-important capital A) and not quite “Craft” (in parenthesis, and with a capital C), and for these reasons, I don’t feel my work is right for Etsy.
I’d been trying to ignore the idea of putting my work on Etsy for quite a while, hoping that it would just go away and leave me alone. I decided to do some research in the hopes that I could make a decision that was good for me and my artwork and I found this site online. It’s worth the read and it did help me to make up my mind about Etsy for the foreseeable future.
Wow. I don’t belong in an Art gallery or on Etsy. So, where do I belong? Well, for right now, I belong on my own website, showing my own artwork and selling my own artwork. This feels right, so I won’t be changing it any time soon.
So as you can see, out of the three odd-ends, two are still more or less still at odd ends, with the third being fairly settled for the time being. There’s still a lot more work to do regarding teaching and showing my work, and while it would be so fantastically amazing if suddenly I got a teaching job or a local/regional gallery or association of artists would say, “Come! Be with us! Show your work here! Come to our meetings! There will be coffee and cake!” (“Tulkaa! Ole kanssamme! Näytä työsi täällä! Tule kokouksiin! Tulee kahvia ja kakkua!“) Because in any meeting in Finland, there is coffee, sometimes cake, or buns, or cookies, but always coffee. But it’s not a perfect world, and that’s just not going to happen, and that’s okay.
PS: I do have a card for the local library, so…I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.
I recently read a blog post by an artist named Salley Mavor regarding how she feels about creating patterns and instructions for people other than her self to purchase and use. You can read the post ‘To Teach or Not to Teach’ here. It was interesting to read about how an artist, who works in the same realm as I do, hand sewing, embroidery, doll creation, thinks about their own original art creation and the creation of patterns and instructions of their original work for sale to others.
Before I go any further, I should note that I have owned a copy of her book Wee Felt Folk in the past. I think it’s a lovely book with clear, easy to follow patterns and instructions for creating incredibly sweet, tiny dolls. I made a few dolls from the book and while they were a lot of fun to make, I found myself more interested in creating my own original artwork and art dolls.
One of the many reasons that I found Mavor’s post so interesting is that I have been working on a project that would at least partially encompass patterns and instructions for doll creation that I may offer for sale. Some of the points that Mavor makes struck a chord within me and made me think that maybe I didn’t want to make and sell patterns and instructions for doll making. This made me feel as though perhaps I had wasted the time that I had already spent planning, writing and creating patterns for my project.
There were three points that Mavor asserts that she feels negatively affect her feelings towards creating patterns and instructions for sale.
Salley Mavor, in addition to being an artist, is also an accomplished illustrator. She creates intricate embroidered illustrations using a variety of different embroidery techniques as well as her own original compositions that are just brimming with amazing details. Her work is enchanting, sweet and elegant all at the same time. The longer you look at them, the more little surprises you find within them, which makes them all the more fabulous!
Mavor speaks about how there have been people wanting to know if she would ever create patterns for some of her illustrations. Which on the face of it sounds like a huge compliment, but is in fact more complicated than that. Mavor states that she feels creating patterns for some of her larger illustrations and pieces of art would stifle her own artistic creativity, because she would constantly be thinking about how to create instructions for other people, instead of being within the moment of creation, actually making the art.
What makes this complicated is that would people ever ask a painter or a sculptor for instructions on how to re-create their original artistic creation? Did anyone ask Picasso for instructions on how to re-create Guernica? Was Rodin asked for instructions about how to re-create The Kiss? This is a weird double standard that artists who work with textile and fiber arts, and something that within a consumer economy, where everything is for sale, customers think that they should be able to get that pattern and those instructions, because, you know, it’s just sewing and embroidery, right? It’s not like…you know, Art of anything. It’s just craft…right? (Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox of sarcasm now.)
Another point that Mavor makes is that she wants to keep some of her own creative secrets for herself. She has her methods of construction and creation that she has honed over decades of artistic practice. Why give that away? In addition, what she does and how she does it may not be something that can necessarily be ‘taught’ via a set of instructions and a few pattern pieces.
I know that I have ways of holding the pieces of felt that I’m sewing together that work for me. Doing it the way that I do it has simply evolved over my own decades of artistic practice. At this point, I don’t need to always create a pattern either. Sometimes I just sit down and start cutting. That’s efficacy and it’s earned by years of dedicated work within an artistic medium(s). That cannot be conveyed through a set of patterns and instructions, unless the purchaser is someone who already has a fair amount of knowledge, skill and ability under their own belt. So, I get that point. I like the idea of keeping some of my magic for myself as well.
Salley Mavor has published a book of patterns and instructions, Wee Felt Folk. She took one of the simpler elements (the dolls) within her own artwork and broke down the construction into easy to replicate steps, complete with patterns. She hoped that people who purchase the book would put their own creative spin on the dolls — alter them so that they are more an expression of the person who is utilizing the patterns and instructions, rather than just an attempt to copy exactly what Mavor creates herself as an artist. As stated previously, I’ve worked with her patterns. I chose to create my own dolls instead, because…I’m an artist too. I want to make my own create visions, not the visions of someone else.
Mavor speaks about being a bit of an outsider within the greater world of Art (with that capitol A). She’s expressed that she doesn’t even really fit with current trends within sewing and embroidery movements, which are much more modern than her personal style of needlework. There is also the resurgence of needleworkers who create patterns and kits for people who want to follow someone else’s creative vision, instead of creating their own unique pieces of work. And that’s fine, but it should be noted that when you create something using someone else’s pattern and instructions, without making any type of creative alterations yourself, you are creating a craft, not a piece of original artwork.
The weird space that I feel as though I tread is not considered Art and not considered craft, simply because I utilize tools, materials and techniques that are not considered by the wider world as a form of Art — with that capitol A — and is somehow less than a painting or sculpture. I’m not bemoaning this; it just seems to be the way that people other than those who work within the same creative realm think when they look at my work.
I can see my own thoughts regarding my artwork reflected in what Mavor writes. There are two big differences between the two of us though. 1) I’m a very, very, very small art creator by comparison and 2) I’m an art teacher.
I truly enjoy teaching people how to create artwork, especially their own artwork. This may mean that they begin their work by utilizing a pattern or technique that I have demonstrated or supplied, but their end product should be, will be, their own. Mavor stated that teaching people how to create using her techniques is not something that she is interested in. And she totally has the right to say that. She doesn’t owe anyone anything, period.
As an art teacher, I have learned how to give the student enough information to get them started, to allow them to get comfortable with the entire creative process, so that when it comes to the point within the creative process in which the student needs to take that leap and put themselves into their artwork, they are brave enough to be unique and add themselves into their artwork. Teaching art is not something everyone can do or wants to do. I love being there when the art begins to happen. When the confidence is built. When the students tries out an idea, and another idea and another idea. I love the planning, creation and implementation of art lessons. I think the biggest part of why I love it so much, is that I want to share with my students this amazing thing that makes me so incredibly happy and I want them to be able to experience it as well.
So, I am going to continue working on my plans for patterns and instructions…and the other things I want to go along with it as well.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.
We all have things that have been said about us, perhaps to us, that for whatever reason, stick to the inside of our minds like mice in a glue trap, and never, ever go away. Ever. These are the kinds of things that bubble-up when you find yourself asked to describe yourself. When cornered like this, whether in person, or while filling out a form, I inevitably, I describe myself exclusively in the most negative terms. Loud and obnoxious are my typical go-to’s, with ‘has control issues’ in rapid succession. These reactions are so natural, so unquestionable to me, that when friends ask me why I’m saying these things about myself, or inquire as to whether or not I’m being self deprecating, I have no answer other than, ‘but… I’m being truthful. These things describe who I really am‘.
But, am I being truthful?
I’ve been teasing apart the phrase, “Katie has control issues” for some time now. Recently, it’s surfaced by way of my most recent artwork.
My Thought Process:
Wanting to have a level of control over your own body and immediate surroundings is not something that is out of the ordinary for an individual. During your lifetime, you experience periods of control to a greater and lesser extent. Children have far less control than the adults who care for them. The elderly have less control as they age. Those who have mental and physical conditions that require differing levels of interventions, lack complete control over themselves. Society and culture exert a level of control upon the people within them as well. Religion can control the actions of the adherents. Good grief! Paying taxes is a form of governmental control. Humans spend a great deal of their lives being under the control, with various degrees of stress or anxiety attached to that control, for a large part of their lives. It’s no wonder that as an individual would want to exert as much personal control over their lives as possible, even if that control can be detrimental to the person exerting it.
When I started looking at the phrase “Katie has control issues“, I discovered that it can be interpreted in different ways, depending upon the context in which the phrase it uttered, and by whom it is uttered. I should note that this phrase was said to my face, by people in positions of authority over me, by way of familial relationship. When I was a young person (under 18), I interpreted this phrase to mean, “Katie has no self control” or “Katie is out of control“. This personal interpretation dove-tailed nicely with my inability to lose weight and be more like my female peers. I just thought, oh well. I cannot control my eating. There must be something wrong with me. I have no impulse control. Okay. I’ve got ‘control issues’.
These beliefs were internalized, along with being loud and obnoxious and that was simply that. I could file that away, and pull it out when the situation required the information. I know who I am. I am loud, obnoxious and lacking in any sort of control.
It wasn’t until fairly recently (the past five years or so) that my interpretation has been called into question by people around me. I mentioned in one conversation with the friend, “Oh, I’ve always been told I have control issues…so, yeah…you know…I can’t control myself…” or something to that effect. My friend was a bit incredulous. She said she didn’t think I had control issues. She said I had issues with being controlled by others. Those who stated I had issues, simply did not like the fact that I resisted their attempts to control me.
What my friend pointed out, is that I simply did not like having anyone, even someone within my family attempting to control me. No one likes being told what to do, when to do it, how to do it, all of the time. I’m sure you’ve had a job where this came into play, and how did it make you feel? I began to get rubbed raw as an art teacher in the public school when I felt as if my action and agency were being squashed by administrators who felt as though with no experience in the arts or as an art teacher, they knew how to teach visual arts to children better than I did. For me personally, the levels of personal and professional control I felt was being unreasonably exerted upon me were crushing, and I had to leave. I needed space. I needed a change. I needed to find a place in which I was much more in control that I felt I had been in the past.
Prior to moving to Finland, the place in which I felt the most centered, the most myself, the most in control, was within my own artwork. It served as my therapy and helped me from completely shattering into a billions of gooey bits. I could reign in those erroneous beliefs about myself. I could bring them to heel and have some control over them when I was making art. It should be noted that I still feel this way when creating art while living in Finland.
Teaching art, the act of teaching to children and adults is where I feel the most myself while I’m interacting with people. Making art myself is where I am deliriously, completely and totally myself while I’m alone. Both of these activities have varying levels of control embedded within them. Regarding teaching art, it’s more like a controlled chaos, which I find invigorating from a creative standpoint, as I like seeing what happens when ‘this’ smushes up against ‘that’ and something completely new is made. It’s a little chaotic and messy, but beautiful. And as strange as it may seem, I feel a greater level of control within it.
My most recent artwork, the creation of an extended series of tiny felt dolls that I call, Little Ladies has brought to the surface the ideas and beliefs about control that I have as an adult, and where they came from during my childhood. As a child, I found so much happiness within dollhouses and miniatures. I don’t remember a time in which I wasn’t fascinated by miniature things, especially dolls. I could create perfect little displays within these dollhouses. I could make it anything that I wanted it to be. Looking back as an adult, I see what I was doing and why.
I know that I will struggle with the glue trapped mice of external control mechanisms placed in my head for the rest of my life. Some days, they win, some days they don’t. The difference is that I know what they are and why they are there, and for me, that helps to give me back the control I need.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next Tuesday.
As a Generation X’er, I thought adding Janet Jackson’s Control (1986) was appropriate.
I have begun working locally, teaching art workshops. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed creating art with the wonderful people who have attended one of my workshops! I have an up-coming workshop at Jyvälän Settlementti, teaching a one-day workshop in which the participants will create their own, unique worry dolls, inspired by the Mayan people of Guatemala.
If you live in the Jyväskylä and are interested, contact Jyvälän Settlementti at +041.217.202, or you can visit their website, at www.jyvala.fi. They have a lot of interesting courses to choose from!
(Warning: There is a derogatory term used in the fifth paragraph of this post. It is used as a means of detailing cruel things that have been said to me by people wishing to cause me emotional harm.)
I have absolutely no problem personally calling myself an Artist (Yes, with a capital A). Yet making that same declaration to the world makes me hesitate. I find it incredibly frustrating that I understand something about myself so profoundly as to make it part of the bedrock of my personal identity, yet feel as though the way in which I am perceived by society is in direct opposition of that. I’ve examined this puzzle from so many different angles over the past few weeks. I’ve rummaged though my own personal experiences to see if they could help me in an effort to better understand what I believe about art and craft. I think I’m on the right track to some sort of solution I’ll be okay with, but as always, time will tell. So allow me to ramble on. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_284RNK8eCo)
I had two courses at the university in which student culture and society were examined more closely. I learned that there are functions of individual cultures and societies that their members are not entirely aware of until such time as they are outside that home culture and society for a length of time. In one course, we talked about the cultural lenses we all use when we are learning about or experiencing another culture or society first hand.
The culture and society in which we are each born and raised make indelible marks on who we are and how we intellectually and emotionally interpret all others who are on the outside of our culture and society. Urie Bronfenbrenners Ecological Systems Theory has always made sense to me.
Those cultural lenses with which I see myself and my world were poured and cured without my being consciously aware it. It started at a very young age and began to gel while I was in middle school and then solidify when I was in high school. I think that I simply interpreted accepted my cultures established societal norms as ‘knowing where I fit in the pecking order’ or something like that. I had begun to know who I was, and what I was about, and more painfully, that who and what I was did not fit within the narrow constraints of what my culture and society valued.
I was not physically attractive. I was not pretty. I was not thin. I was interested in subjects and activities that didn’t seem to have a whole lot of value to the people around me. I was too loud. I was too obnoxious. I was too opinionated. I was too weird. I was too dramatic. I was histrionic. And there were people around me that let me know how ill-fitting I was. Sometimes not always in the kindest way or the nicest terms. I was the fat kid. I was a ‘dog’. I was called ‘art fag’.
These experiences were internalized. As much as I dislike having to admit it, but these words, these ideas, these beliefs, all foisted upon me by people who had no vested interest in me as a person, still affect me to this day. These beliefs make me hesitate. They are the chorus voices that tell me that every single person that I meet thinks I’m fat, ugly, stupid and weird.
(I would like to note here that I did in fact have friends when I was a child. I had very good friends that somehow managed to keep me from being alone. I am forever grateful to these friends, many of whom are still in my life today. They saved me and taught me how important friendship is.)
What does this have to do with being an artist or a crafter?
Those cultural lenses that I’ve mentioned? Those are how I interpret the difference between artist and crafter. Real artists paint pictures or create sculptures. Real Art it displayed in museums. Real Art is oil paint and marble and graphite. Real Art has grand, important subject matter. Real Art is expensive.
While this is true for some Art, it’s not how I feel about Art. It is the culture and society speaking over my own personal ideals regarding Art.
The art that I create is made from what I can afford. Recycled materials. Second hand materials. I sew. I embroider. I crochet. I paint. I draw. I sculpt. My sculptures are made of cardboard, newspaper, bamboo skewers and glue. I create patterns and bring them into the physical world through layers of news print and glue and plaster and endless sanding. My sculptures are doll like. They have moving parts. They are colorful. They look like toys.
Add to this the fact that I am a public school art teacher. Again, my culture and society steps in with stunningly ignorant phrases like, “Those who can’t, teach.” followed by assumptions that I am somehow not intelligent enough or talented enough to be a a ‘Real Artist’, because I apparently teach finger painting to small children all day, and after all, how smart or talented does one really need to be to do that?
According to the my society and culture, the artwork that I create is not valid within the narrow, predetermined definition of ‘Art’ that has been engraved in stone by my own culture and society. My artwork is considered craft. And this is a hard thing for me to shake. By all my own calculations, there are some pieces that I spend well over a hundred hours creating. I use the same sorts of tools, techniques and materials that are contained in ‘Real Art’, yet my artwork is still considered craft by the culture and society in which I was raised. There is still a part of me, who calls herself an artist, that believes that BS is true, that I’m just a crafter.
Now, I understand that there may be people reading this who don’t understand why this is such a big deal for me. Artist or crafter, they can be seen as interchangeable to some people. Some people may see no distinction between the two at all. For me, it’s all about the perception of the people, the society, the culture around me. I can call myself an artist. I can present myself as an artist, but that by no means guarantees my acceptance as an artist. I want my personal identity to match what is perceived by the world around me. I suppose I require a certain level of validation by the art gate-keepers, which is kind of a twisted way of thinking about being an artist.
But when viewed through the personal experiences that I have detailed above, you may be able to see how knotted-up my perceptions about myself and how I am perceived by the people around me have shaped my thinking, and why I can’t seem to figure out this artist or crafter thing more easily.
I had a conversation with an instructor of mine way back in art school about the differences between art and craft. He saw them as separate and distinct entities, that may come close to one another, but that they didn’t necessarily overlap. I told him that I saw it differently. That craftsmanship was part and parcel of art. Creating art and doing it well. Knowing your materials, having experience with the tools and the techniques was incredibly important to the creation of original works of art, whether it was painting, drawing, sculpting, etc. I still believe that.
I truly believe that creativity and art creation is for everyone, regardless of skill or ability level. For some people, crafting and following a set of steps to create something is as valid a personal experience as any painter or sculptor in my book. You are engaged with yourself and your materials. You are creating. That is a very good thing.
Okay. Now what?
For me, I think that getting to the point in which my internal definitions of who and what I am matches, or at least comes somewhat close, may be a longer road that I’d originally thought. And while there is part of me that thinks that wanting to have my internal beliefs and external world line up a bit better is just really not needed, there must be something to it for me if it bothers me as much as it does.
The cultural lenses that I view myself and my world though don’t seem to work the same way here in Finland. The assumptions that I have about how art and craft (or teaching or teaching art) are viewed aren’t the same as the Finnish mindset, which is refreshing for me, but also make me hesitate. In my experience with the people I have worked with here in Finland, from my entrepreneurial mentors, to students, workshop participants, and those who have graciously offered me public spaces in which to show my artwork, has been so much more positive for me. I don’t feel as though they have ulterior motives. I don’t feel like I have to keep a sharp look out for some weird, mean or strange thing they try to do to me. Which is one of the reasons I’d started to become aware of all the mental and emotional baggage my cultural lenses were making me think was there…when it wasn’t.
At this point, if you are still reading, believe me, I commend you for being able to slog it through to the end of this rather rambling post. I’m not sure how I’m going to fix this for myself. I don’t know if I truly need to fix anything. Adjustments may be enough. Perhaps just knowing that I have this weird artist or crafter problem banging around my head is enough, and it will become just another voice that sometimes I need to periodically check in with. To help me with this, I’m going to go and make some more art.
Here are some interesting YouTube Videos that you might find interesting as they pertain to the Art or Craft conundrum:
I’ve created doll patterns in the past with the intensions of selling them. The creation of the pattern itself seems to relatively easy for me to do. Writing the initial instructions is a little more difficult, mostly because I want to make sure that I’m telling the reader everything they should know. I want the people who buy my patterns to be able to have a good time using the pattern, perhaps learn a new thing or two, and creating something that they will truly enjoy.
These are the same considerations that I take into account when I’m teaching students in the art education classroom. I strive to create an art experience for my students in which they will have opportunities to learn, grow as well as being able to express themselves and have a good time doing it.
I would assume to have all the requisite mental and physical tools to design and write fairly good patterns and sets of instructions then, right? I looked over the patterns that I’d designed and written in the past few years and couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something lacking in them. There was some essential element that was missing, but I had no idea what it was.
I mentally chewed on this idea for a few weeks. I didn’t see any huge difference between the types of patterns or templates that I created for student use in my classroom. I had to break down the the actions that my students would take in the classroom and the user of one of my patterns and instructions.
What I discovered is that there are two big differences between teaching students in a classroom setting and selling a pattern to a customer:
I’m not present as a teacher to guide the user of one of my patterns, so that they can have a fulfilling creative experience.
I want users of my pattern to make their own art, not an exact copy of mine, and it’s impossible to guarantee that.
Those two differences, combined with my personal beliefs about creativity and art creation, are the biggest mental obstacles that I have when it comes to creating moderately good patterns.
Teaching art in the public school is a contact sport:
I love teaching children art. Seeing my students create their artwork is amazing. I love being there to see them have those ‘ah-ha!‘ moments, where a concept or technique just suddenly comes together for them and you can see their world get a little bigger. Being an art teacher akin to teaching children how to discover who they are as humans. I’m so grateful for all of the years that I have been privileged to work with students.
The student and I are both present in the same space, at the same time, working together, getting and giving feedback, while they are creating their artwork. Because of this, I’m there to guide them as much or as little as they require.
I never liked having students copy my art lesson examples. I felt as though it was as if they were going through the motions of creating art. Using the tools, materials and the techniques, but not infusing their artwork with their own choices of composition, color, or subject. Not showing themselves reflected within their artwork.
“The teacher drew a panda, so I will draw a panda. I will make my work look like hers, because hers is good.”
Creating art is more than simply using the tools, materials and technique. That’s more exercise than a unique creation of artwork. For art to have life, to have meaning, requires the presence of the human creating the artwork in its creation. Growth takes place because the creator is different after the experience of creating; the finished artwork is a physical reminder of the mental and emotional growth that has taken place within the creator, and imbues the artwork with the importance of that growth.
I never wanted my students to make their artwork look like mine. I wanted them to take the lesson, the art experience that I was presenting to them, and make it their own. I wanted them to put their own unique mark on it.
I think that where I get mentally stuck is that I feel as though the patterns that I create must offer to the user every, single, solitary, solution to an infinite number of questions and problems. To be frank, I tend to have mental plans A-ZZZ ready in my head, juuuuust in case I need them, for many possible scenarios. I’ve done it as long as I can remember. In the art classroom it makes me a very flexible art teacher that can adapt quickly, allowing me to work with the students to help them create the artwork they want to create.
“Yeah. We’re all working on huge Sonia Delaunay-inspired mixed media pieces, but I want you to use the colors you like, and the shapes you like, and the composition you find the most personally satisfying. Use the tools or don’t use them. It’s up to you. Don’t want to use the oil pastels? Here, pick some paint colors. I want to see your artwork.”
My lessons are simply a blank pattern, that the students finish in their own unique way. Once I had mentally sorted this out, my problems creating patterns for other people to use became clear. The pattern is just a starting point. Once you learn how the pattern works, you can then begin to alter the pattern to suit your own specific creative needs.
My art is mine. I am the audience.
As a practicing artist, I’m constantly creating my own patterns for my work. There are times in which I don’t feel as though I require a pattern and just kind of ‘wing it’, but that’s the benefit of about three decades+ of accumulated professional efficacy at work. I put myself into every piece that I create.
No one tells me how to create my artwork. I research materials and techniques. I create test pieces to make sure that I have a construction method or technique well in hand before I start a new piece of art. I never listen to advice from non-artists/creators that begins with, “You know, you should make…” I know that this advice is meant well, but more often than not, the person offering it doesn’t know why I make art. And that’s okay.
I think there is also a part of me that thinks that if I create patterns for other people to use, that in some way, I’m giving away my own ‘magic’ for free. That there will be someone out there, who takes my ideas, my methods and techniques, and calls them their own and that somehow I’m materially damaged because of that. It’s completely irrational, but I thought it should be noted, as it is something that crosses my mind as regards the creation of patterns to sell.
So…what do I do?
I need to go through the mental block, or around it, or maybe under it:
With all of the above, swirling around in my mind, I thought I would try and create a simple pattern for a doll that people could download for free. In the download, you’ll get a pattern, a list of tools and materials and some very basic directions that show the user how to create an articulated doll using recycled materials (carton board, cardboard, magazines) as well as easy to find tools and materials like scissors, glue sticks, pencils, buttons, pipe cleaners and wire, and other things that you may have around the house, like fabric, felt and yarn.
Here’s the thing, I don’t show you how to create a face, or clothing or hair. I suggest materials, but how they are to be used is up to the person using the pattern. Some people may want to only use colored paper and markers to complete their doll. Other people may want to use wiggly eyes for the face, and add a lot of texture with things like beads or beans glued to the cardboard surface of the doll. While other people may want to paint fabric and then wrap each individual doll piece, and using small pieces of wood to put the doll together instead of buttons and pipe cleaners. There may be people who want to use a copier to increase the size of the pattern, while there may be others that want to make the wrists and ankles moveable.
The thing that scares me, and makes me feel like the user of one of my patterns will not be happy with the pattern, instructions or the art they create, is that I’m not there to guide them. I have no part in the users creative process beyond making a pattern available to them. If they don’t like the pattern, they could tell everyone they know that they think I stink and am a bad pattern maker and everyone on the planet should avoid me, my artwork and my patterns at all cost.
Whatever the user of this pattern does with it, I hope it is a unique expression of who they are and that they have a very good time creating their own artwork.
(I will have a Finnish language version of this pattern added very soon. I am having a native speaker go over the Finnish before I post it.)