Last week I received a commission to make another Birdies pendant. The original was made about seven years ago before I knew, and felt comfortable using, patinas, when I was just getting excited about riveting and cut metal designs and when experimentation was more important than the end result. This last one is still the case in everything except my commission work. A lot happened in those seven years. For one, I went back to school for jewelry (and sculpture and creative writing — why choose?). So I probably should have assumed I would be able to improve upon the original. Somehow, it was still a surprise.
Maybe part of it was having already made it once. There wasn’t the usual anxiety that it wouldn’t turn out like it was in my head. (A piece, in fact never — or rarely — turns out like it is in the artist’s head. This fact has been noted as a contributing factor to Artist Anxiety and that one Dark-Night-of-the-Soul that features prominently in every major project.) There was just a sort of blissful focus on technique and the how of it. And realizing I had improved my skills over the years — priceless!
When the customer ordered one — I was wearing the old one and she ordered it on the spot — she mentioned that she loved birds. I admitted that I, too, love birds. This is a half-truth. I love birds. They are one of my obsessions. Along with trees. And fantasy books with strong and spunky female protagonists. And windows.
I had a poetry teacher who talked a great deal about obsessions. In fact, she may have been obsessed with obsessions. She urged us to gather our obsessions, whatever they were, and write about them. Unwittingly, I had already done this. How could I not? I loved trees, their look, their color, everything. So I made them. I loved birds, their lightness, their delicacy, and I made them, too. Maybe her point was that if we wrote about what we couldn’t let go of, then we just might spark our passion and our work would be the better for it.
Ever since that class I’ve thought about what images and ideas I repeat over and over again. I think most — if not all — artists and people in any kind of creative field (that is to say everyone) must have these things rolling around in their brains. And I’m always interested to find out what other people obsess about in their creative lives. If nothing else, our obsessions are a great way to garner inspiration for the next project.
And, for me, that starts next week with my summer intensive Advanced Technical Carving class! I’ve already started coming up with ideas… birds… probably birds….
Enjoy your artistic obsessions!