Tomorrow I will give my first intentional speech in decades. I’ve been stressing, planning, writing, editing, and preparing pieces to show, but it may all go out the window when I walk into the gallery tomorrow. I had to chuck my original plan, as my practice run was eight minutes longer than my half hour slot. I thought that I could cut ten minutes of hemming and umming out, but that seems unlikely. If anything, I’ll probably stammer and sweat more, rather than less.
I’ll be starting off with my name — with which I have a complicated relationship — and then moving on to how roses started me off on this art journey two years ago. I hope that my story will show the audience that anyone could learn to do what I do. This is not to say that I haven’t put in hard work and study, but it is to say that I want to invite people in. I want to remind them that none of us is born good at what we do, and I want them to know that the stumbles and the journey are evidence of our hard work and growth. Wherever we are planted, we can find a way to blossom.
My confidence rose
My epiphany with the roses gave me hope that this artform held so much more for me.
Sometimes it just takes one spark of light or life or inspiration to open up a world of possibilities. For me, it was a moment when, as happens from time to time, I had a tiny wave of dizziness and was momentarily confused. I looked at what I was doing… I had a tray of flowers that I had been putting into the oven— no… I was taking them out of the oven… Wait… WHY HAD I PUT FLOWERS IN THE OVEN?! Oh… Right. They’re clay. They’re fine. They’re clay, and I made them. Wait…
I MADE THEM?! WOW!
Yeah. In those couple of seconds, I saw my work almost like a stranger might have. I didn’t have my filter of self-loathing to prevent me from seeing that I had made something lovely. That verisimilitude and moment of shock made me feel like I could become good at this and that it was worth trying. The rest of the last two years’ worth of polymer clay work has been built on that — little moments of, “Hey… I think that I could do this…” I’m happy to keep building on it that way for years to come. Getting accepted for this show, getting asked to speak, getting the encouragement of my peers… It’s all little bit on little bit.
Petal by petal, leaf by leaf, it grew into a garden.
Ever since I started having significant chronic pain in 2001, I’ve had to slow down more than my temperament would prefer. It has taken me from a C. S. Lewis style of hiker to a J. R. R. Tolkein style of hiker (h/t to the guys at the Saga Thing podcast for that reminder) and has helped/forced me to notice more of the little things down at my feet. I go more slowly and take more breaks, spending more of my time in gardens and woods looking at the tiny details. Insects, fungi, fallen leaves and branches, the less-showy flowers… All the small things come through to me in a beautiful intimacy that I missed when I could tromp and run everywhere. Those are the things that I’ve come to love most about nature in the last 18 years. There’s a whole universe of the small.
This love that I’ve found for the tiny, overlooked, and ephemeral bits of the natural world propels me to explore how I can use them in my growing artistic expression — to let all of this inspire me and to use my art to remind others just how special the teensy details can be.