a different path

An overgrown path at beautiful Wollerton Old Hall in Shropshire, taken a couple of years ago. We have visited this magical garden many times, but on this occasion the path had been edged with giant catmint... as you can see it was planted too close to the edge and had grown right across the soft old bricks, making it impossible to navigate. Hopefully you'll see why I chose the photo to illustrate this post...

I have been doing a lot of thinking, and the end result is that I have decided not to take a stall at any craft fairs this autumn. I have many ideas for new things to sell, lots of bags made up, and several bolts of fabrics ready to make new bags. But there is a big BUT... to pursue this path at this time would require a lot of time spent at the sewing machine, whizzing and whirring and getting a headache under the anglepoise lamp. The result would be lots of pretty things to offer for sale. But it would also, I have realised, be yet another thing that would hijack my true creative process and prevent me from following my plan to experiment with drawing, painting and fabric samples and developing my own significant, original art work. There is a definite clash between the two strands of work that I haven't yet been able to fuse together.

It is interesting how things, thoughts and actions lead us to other paths and beginnings and then may themselves become dormant or redundant...

The year I started this blog, I had a very strong need to rejoin the art and craft community after many years 'out', and my initial route in was through making shopping bags in pretty cotton fabrics - I saw a gap in the market, at least here in the north-west of England, and became energised by using my creative talents in this way. Five years ago I had a similar experience with hand-made cards, and interestingly, with both of these initiatives I have found myself trailing off for the same reason: although my ideas and products are good, I find that other people can make beautiful items as ethical, desirable, and well-made as mine and sell them for less.

In addition, the cards and bags have shown me that I don't enjoy long periods of repetitive work - I feel like I'm in my own personal sweatshop hell. I've no objection to working slowly on something with the radio on, but too much machining, folding and sticking, making hundreds of something, I find soul-destroying.

But more than that, I feel the need to quiet my inner entrepreneur, the bossy voice inside that is always having bright ideas about publicity and doing little sums on scraps of paper, turning every creative domestic endeavour into a shiny business plan. In truth, I frequently find this voice very alluring, but it completely drowns out the quiet, thoughtful voice that also speaks to me about experiments, questions, painting, drawing, poetry, shape, line and form, that travels with no particular destination in mind. This voice is soft and shy and quickly retreats when the other voice starts shouting.

But, I don't want it to be bullied anymore. I want to be brave and go forward in a different way, to resist the temptation to browse craft books or Flickr and funnel my creative energy into a watered-down version of what others are doing. I have this notion that I'll 'stamp my own personality' on basic shared ideas like bags or hanging hearts, but really I think all that happens is my own creative personality isn't fed and so wastes away.

This way is much harder, of course, for lots of reasons. I might sit in front of an empty piece of paper or cloth and not know what to do. I might have less to show here on the blog. It means I won't have very much income from my work, and that I may not receive as much affirmation for my work through sales and positive feedback. Yet, I suspect that ultimately this path may lead me to a place where I actually need less affirmation because I know that what I am doing is good.

Another path at Wollerton in a different part of the garden. Intriguing, inviting, leading to somewhere new...


Gigibird said...

I am glad you have had these thoughts – I do think that large scale production stifles creativity.
Of course there are many who may disagree with me but knowing you in the way I do I don’t think it’s you.

Diva Kreszl said...

Go where your heart leads you! I too got into the commercial end a few years back and I found that it took the joy right out of my work. Now I work solely for myself, for gifts and even donate my work to worthy causes. There's not much of an audience this way but I do get more pleasure from the creative process.

arlee said...

OMG this is SO familiar--you sound like me a year ago.
GO WITH YOUR GUT. Do what your poet/artist/dreamer side says--to hell with the business bitch, if you'll pardon my french :}
Believe me, you will be MUCH happier!

Frances said...

Sue, you have show us beautiful paths in your photos, and with your words eloquently shown another path that you are choosing.

Let your artistry, imagination, talent, curiousity travel as you wish. You might well be aware of all those other paths that others have traveled. (Perhaps keeping the walkways quite clear from the continued traffic.)

How great to know that a path is there for you, just for you.

It has been a pleasure to read you post this evening. In the closing hour of the shop, a customer whom I recognize, came by to pick up a scarf we had held for her. In chatting with her about a variety of things, and admiring her tiny handbag (a Japanese crafted gem) she mentioned her hand-quilting project ... done mostly while on a bus. She showed me the most recent joinings of rectangles and squares ... all sorts of fabrics ... with various provenances. It was delightful to see something totally different from anything I'd seen before. All stitching done by hand. On a bus.

Love these unique paths. ox

Phyllis said...

Hello! Don't ask me how I discovered your blog but here I am visiting you.

This post is beautiful. I think everything you say is so true. Like you, I need to create in one form or another. Once you start creating for the sole purpose of making money, it seems to take some of the joy out of the process.

Lovely pictures!

Oh funny - my word verification is "nouse" ha ha!

Gilly said...

Go for it! I'm so proud of you whatever you do!

Let the creativity flow!!

Raggy said...

I have just found your blog and your last post is so inspirational. A few years ago I went down the path of creating items for commercial reasons. I was so frustrated at producing multiple items for sale. I finally gave up and turned to recycling vintage supplies so that others could use them in their own creative way. This left me time for my own creativity to develop in my felt work. I enjoy challenges but in a creative way and get so much more pleasure giving away my felt work to family and friends. It is the only path to take in my view. Good Luck.
Sandie at Rag Rescue

Chrissie said...

1. The Road Not Taken - Robert Frost

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Your movingly honest post reminded me so much of one of my favourite poems. Good luck on your journey!

Ashbee said...

You have to be true to yourself. I recognise the treadmill trap. Follow your heart...you do know best! Good luck - I'm looking forward to future posts...it's always a pleasure to visit

Jo said...

Gorgeous pictures and wise words, as always. I know as soon my entrepreneurial side kicks in (and it did a couple of nights ago), the creative part of me gets shoved rudely to one side. I can't seem to marry those two sides to my personality at all.

Jackie said...

This is such an interesting and thought provoking post.
Quite the opposite of my latest in its ethos!
I have to agree with you about stifling creativity with mass production, but the truth is, I enjoy each and every piece I make and use each one as a small adventure in design. Of course it can get tedious at times and a break would be good, but the need for income keeps me driven as well as the enjoyment.
I hope every summer to have time to work on deeper more extended and meaningful works, but the gap between Christmases seems to have narrowed.
I know you have chosen the right path. I look forward to seeing your new work in the fullness of time.

Hollace said...

Wow, Sue! You said it just right, the dilemma of artists/craftsmen trying to stay fresh and seeking and yet "productive" or "income-producing". I guess it's a question of goal. I think the truly creative (not crafting) person doesn't want to do the same thing over and over.The repetition is stifling, as you stated so well.

Can you take a class in some new-to-you art form or find a support group to help you stay on this new path. You'll have to beware of self-doubts and those "winter moments" when your spirit is just building nutrients for the creative burst.

Can't wait to hear more...

silverpebble said...

It was fascinating to read both this and your post back in April. This feel right for you and so IS the best path. If you felt you were diluting your creativity before then this new route must feel very exciting and liberating. If the images in the April post were a taster of your new direction then it'll be exciting for us too! Those paintings (?) are vibrant and beautiful. Are these available as prints or are they fabric designs? Either way they are seriously desirable.

cocoa and blankets said...

You have really struck a chord with me today, I have been pondering doing fairs and selling my creations but I have lost all enjoyment in the creative process preparing for the next fair, so it will be my last and I will still create but for those I love leaving me with the pleasure of making and most of all the pleasure of giving...I have been pondering on this for a while and your post have helped me to make this decision, so here is hoping that I will sell lots of this stock ! I have often found your posts thought provoking and more often than that helpful in lifes journey...thank you my friend....

Anonymous said...

Thank you - I was on the cusp of the production trap you describe. I now know which way I am going :)

elizabethm said...

Fascinating, difficult.

Heloise said...

What very wise words. May your creativity go from strength to strength.

Linda said...

Do you see the woman in the first photo? The hinges are her eyes.

Sue said...

A huge thank you to all of you for your wonderfully perceptive, inspirational and encouraging comments. It really is so helpful to find that many others are experiencing similar thoughts and challenges. I've tried to reply to as many as I can but those with 'no-reply' addresses can be tricky to reach. If that's you and you haven't had a reply (and would have liked one), please change your settings!