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Archive for December 13th, 2010

One Artful Act a Day

Monday, December 13th, 2010

veganneckwarmer800FishColorJoy, this blog, started as a big dream of mine. I hoped it would bring a way to share thoughts on artfulness with my world.

I had spent over 30 years thinking I was not an artist. After all, I did not draw or paint canvases. I thought those things defined the word “artist.”

After spending over 30 years being creative in three dimensions, decorative art, costuming myself and performance, I was informed by someone I cared about, that I truly was an artist. I lived creatively every day! Somehow that label had to come from outside of me.

Me?

At first, I had a hard time grasping this new idea. I joined some Polymer Clay guilds (at the time New York and Chicago were the closest communities) and received their newsletters. The file folder where I kept those newsletters, I labeled “I am an Artist.” The repetition helped me internalize what was already true.

picnictableWhat an odd world we live in! We garden, but we say we are not artful. We make the best soup within 50 miles but we can not see the creativity in it. We build safe and friendly spaces where folks gather and nurture one another. We raise a child as mindfully as possible. We clothe/costume ourselves with flair. We dance, we sing, we help another person smile.

In my brother’s case, he has his wife help him decorate his beard with battery-operated Christmas lights to work an overtime shift on the holiday. These examples and more are artful expressions. I dare call them art, and I would boldly state that those who do such things are artists.

nairobibottlecappursesmEmotional Labor as Art

I am not alone in this thought. The well-regarded author/marketing expert, Seth Godin, talks about something called “Emotional Labor.” This is when we do work which extends ourselves, which is not necessarily easy. This may take place at work or it may be in our personal lives.

When the yarn shop employee distracts a toddler long enough for Mommy to find the knitting needles she needs in peace, this is emotional labor (even if it is pleasant). A nursing home worker notices a patient upset because they think someone is spying on them, and helps them feel safer, is also emotional labor. Workers in school and community center offices calming down children with conflicts, again, exhibit the same.

march7snowmanMr. Godin calls the result of this emotional labor, art. I tend to agree. It may not be visual art, but one might call it performance art or life art. It is definitely a creation, not the status quo.

The ColorJoy Credo

When I started my blog, I subtitled it “Art as an Everyday Attitude.” Many people wanted to label me a “Renaissance Woman,” and then distance themselves from me in the same breath!

They would tell me how talented I was, and how they were not creative at all. That put a distance between us that made me feel uncomfortable.

I find the “I’m not creative, period” statement rather hard to believe. Even a person who loves order will embellish a cubicle workspace with things they love: golf, family photos, classic cars, something. It is in our inner being to express ourselves, to be different than others in at least a small way.

altu veggie comboFood can be Art

Yes, I have worked in many performance and visual arts. However, I maintain that my friend Altu who owns Altu’s Ethiopian Cuisine in East Lansing, is an artist with food and with relationship.

I think there are other food artists who do not believe they are engaging in an artform. Why would you put these several ingredients together and then flavor them with these spices or herbs? It’s a creative choice which nobody will answer the same way.

Start Small: One Small Act a Day

For over 6 years I taught computer software classes. I worked in a different classroom every day, in many different cities. I might teach Word one day, Access another, HTML coding, Excel, you name it. The travel took a lot of time on top of the teaching. I sometimes had very little energy and time to sit still at night.

hidinglhI was shriveling as a creative being when I did not sew or knit or sing or dance. It started to make me feel smaller inside. After a soul searching, I decided that I must express at least one creative act every day.

Some days I could replace the buttons on my new suit with buttons I liked better. Some days I could go to an art gallery in another city after work. Some days I might just rubber stamp the outside of the envelope I used to pay my electric bill. I might consider dinner a creative expression, or a different way to tie back my hair.

ColorJoyful World!

I think that many others are where I was in 1991, thinking that art fits in frames which hang on the wall. The plan behind ColorJoy was to start opening others’ minds about art in nonstandard expressions.

Maybe if I say “Art as an Everyday Attitude,” you may give yourself credit for an artful meal. You might understand that calming down your nephew was emotional labor, and thus could be called art. The choice of flowers to plant in one pot on the back porch, the way you wore bright socks to peek out of the business trousers at work… all of those things, perhaps, might make you an artist?

Give yourself credit, OK? I already see it in you.

Photos: Anna-Marie styling my One-Day Neckwarmer in her own fine way; a picnic lunch I put together for friend Cynthia and I this summer, purse made with Fanta Grape bottlecaps which I purchased in Nairobi, Kenya;  Melting neighborhood snowman from March 2010;  veggie combo from Altu’s Ethiopian Cuisine; me holding up a felt wall piece made with my mother during The Fabric of Friendship performance art experience, 2000; fingernail-polish-embellished Palm device I gifted to my friend Altu.