Sunday, April 25, 2010

BEADWORKERS: SEVEN DEADLY SINS - SIN #2

Envy and the dangers of competition

If human beings were not competitive, the Olympics would have packed up its' togas and doused its' torches hundreds of years ago. To greater and lesser degrees, the urge to compete is bred in the bone and often produces improvements - whether it is faster runners, or Jim Dyson persisting until he achieves his perfect vacuum cleaner. Many of us thrive on a challenge, a deadline - on pushing ourselves to another level. Nothing wrong with that.

However, we live in a society in which competition, walking hand-in-hand with the need for that drug, recognition, often crosses a line lethal to creativity.

Think about it.

There is a virtual Renaissance going on in the beading world. In 1985, I made my living doing beadwork. There wasn't, to my knowledge, a single book readily available on the subject that wasn't related to North American Native beadwork. I had virtually no competition. In 2010, my fellow beadworkers number in the hundreds or thousands - and thanks to the Internet, I see new and original work on a daily basis.
It's a potluck feast of inspiration.


After consuming this daily feast, is there anyone out there who has not had days of indigestion? Days when they suspected their contribution to the potluck was boiled eggs sitting next to foie gras? Is there anyone out there who, once in a while, has not felt more bludgeoned and overwhelmed than inspired by the feast?

To the Hanging Judge who lives in my over-crowded mind, who is quick to whisper poisonous thoughts about my place (or lack of it) in the hierarchy of bead artists, I have the following answers...

Envy is toxic. Admiration is motivating. And I can choose which attitude to take. So shut up.

If someone is more skilled than me, they have worked harder or longer at the craft. So, I'll keep working.

Competition helps push me - whether I win or not. Winning is a great bonus, but it only lasts a moment. I will remember I started this because the process is gives me joy.

I didn't win (or my pattern wasn't accepted etc.). That doesn't mean I won't be accepted next time,
I will not base my self-worth on whether my work is accepted.

I will embrace my community of fellow-artisans and share freely with them. They are my support system.

I will suspend work when envy creeps in and the joy goes away. My Muse needs the odd day off and there are five loads of laundry in the closet.

Finally - I do this because it engages me, because I love to learn more, because I love the community of creators, and so when the going gets rough, I will persist. One bead at a time.

What does your Hanging Judge tell you? And what is your answer?

**On a related note, I recommend this entry on Mikki Ferrugiaro's blog: The Beaded Carpet
and an entry of Smadar Grossman's at Smadar's Treasures .
There is also a book no artist or artisan should be without: Art & Fear: Observations on the perils (and rewards) of artmaking - David Bayles & Ted Orlando, Capra Press1993.

21 comments:

Mary T Designs said...

I am just a beginner and I find so much inspiration in the work and words of others. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

LLJones said...

Most welcome Mary T.

lauren abrams said...

Linda, you are so right on....I wrestle with that daily....and "Art and Fear" is my bible...
There will always be artists greater and lesser than we are...I try hard to not let that make me too despairing or too smug. Hard to do, worth the doing.
LOVE your site
Lauren

LLJones said...

Lauren, I think quotes from "Art & Fear" ought to be cross-stitched and hung on studio walls everywhere. It's intimidating to make art, craft... A wonderful book on writing once talked about how writers react to critique. He said all writers ask for honest opinion - but when the opinion is critical, it's like being told your baby's head is too big. It's your BABY! So most of are a big fat bundle of neurosis from time to time. So many cute babies out there.

Mikki said...

Linda, I love your Hanging Judge concept and I need to get a copy of Art & Fear. I know where all my fear comes from and I've come a long way in my battle with it but I still have a ways to go. Thankyou for the encouragement!

Linda Teddlie Minton said...

Excellent commentary ... thank you so much!

Ruthie said...

Great reminder!

Enchanted Beads said...

At my age I am less competitive and I enjoy admiring younger artists who come up with beautiful, innovative work. Meanwhile I get inspired by the talents springing before my eyes.

I love what you said, Linda. I think we all share your thoughts.
Your post is definitely claryfing the deepest feelings of an artist.

Christine's Beadworks said...

Great article, the fear of "not being worthy" has kept many from entering contests. My philosophy is go for it, seek out the contests that inspire you to do you best work and you will have won regardless of any other outcome.

Smadar's Treasure said...

Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom, Linda! I need to find the book you mentioned..

Gale said...

Well said and a good reminder to us all. I bead for pleasure, but that "Hanging Judge" still interferes quite often. Your words are a great reminder to chose the right path to shut the judge up!

Marcia DeCoster said...

Wonderfully said, thank you so much for sharing. Rationally I am very clear that the judging of one contest does not make me more or less of a bead artist, I just have to struggle with the irrational for a few days before the rational returns. I do however celebrate all of the wonderful artists whose work was accepted.

Robyn K. said...

I just found your blog this morning while perusing Etsy. I have enjoyed reading each article and found each one to be extremely well written. You have expressed many thoughts and feelings of myself as well as many beaders I have spoken with in my area.

I can't wait to read about the next "deadly sins" and see the corresponding beadwork. Thank you for sharing your beautiful and creative work as well as your well thought out text.

LLJones said...

Thank you all, for reading and adding your thoughts.
Marcia, I believe we all struggle with the irrational when we're disappointed...or even when we're uninspired. This "sin" was prompted by the Bead Dreams contest - but it's an every day sort of sin, too...
The moments when nothing is working and you see some vision of perfection in someone else's work...

MAKUstudio said...

What an inspiring post! Thank you for sharing! Rejection is difficult. But, yes, it does help us grow. I love what I do and most of the time am my own worst critic.

Summer said...

Hello--I read this when you first posted it, but I'm just now commenting.

Great post. My favorite beadweavers make me go "ahhh!" and "siggghh" at the same time. I am floored by their awe-inspiring work, but there is definitely a tinge of jealousy there. I embrace it though, because that means there's room to grow--it's exciting that if I keep at it, I'll be there someday. The healthy spirit of competition is the car I'll drive to get there.

I joined EBW because I saw the glorious work of its members and was envious, wanting to be a part of it all..I am a strong supporter of the idea that to get better, you have to be with people that are better than you. And in this case, joining EBW totally worked. The feeling that "I can't put this piece up next to so-and-so's work!" has pushed me farther than I ever could have gotten with no competition.

I'd like to check out Art & Fear, thanks for the recommendation.

Erin

SuzyQ said...

I need to pick up that book too, thank you for the recommendation!

You are so right about fear, envy and hindrance to creativity. I'm constantly battling that inner voice that says "MIne is not good enough" which leads me into gloomy ruts of no beading at all. It's a huge struggle for every artist I know.

A source of great inspiration I have found is the film "The Impressionists". From not getting into "The Salon" and having their work scorned by fellow artists, to pursuing their inner voice even in the face of starvation, there is a message in this film for every person who struggles with their art. I highly recommend it. (It's available on NetFlix too)

catherine todd said...

The world surely is made by artists, just like YOU! Well and perfectly said. I could never put it into words. Gracias, amiga! CatherineTodd2@gmail.com

catherine todd said...

Thanks for the note about the film "The Impressionists." I found it on Netflix and can't wait for it to arrive! And here I thought I was the only one...

catherine todd said...

Another thought: I'm not competitive anymore, since the world truly IS "made by artists." I see all of us up in heaven, painting away, creating away, each with their own colors and styles and each one adding to the myriad of blooms we call a flower garden. While humans might always try to pick "best in show," God loves all of creation, down to the smallest sparrow and the lilies in the field. And so do I. A myriad of rainbows, says I.

Jackie said...

This is a wonderful article and one that every artist and craftster should read at least once a year! The process is the happiness, the outcome hopefully a little extra blessing. Winning is COOL, but you're right, only lasts for a moment. Very good article! Thank you. And by the way, your beadwork is just magnificent! Really wonderful. ~Jackie