Monday, May 16, 2016

Revelations, Inspirations and an Altered Art Bag

It was a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning. The only sounds were those of bicycle tires over gravel and songbirds chatting away in the trees above. Green buds, just forming, were the most beautiful shade of spring green.

My good friend J and I were riding our bikes on the local bike path, catching up and talking about life. J has known me for many, many years, so I felt comfortable sharing a revelation I'd had recently about my life's passion.

"You know how some people are just really focused on one thing?" I asked. "It's where their passion lies, it's what they're most interested in and they make it a priority in their life," I said. For my friend, it's fitness and health. As long as I've known her she's been a workout diva, a runner, a fitness instructor and always prioritizes exercise and healthy eating in her life.

I on the other hand, enjoy exercise because of how it makes me feel. If I could take it in pill form, I likely would. "I finally realized, after all these years what my "thing" is." I waited, part of me worried that she would be surprised when I told her what my revelation was.

"It's creativity," I said.

"Yeah, of course it is," J responded. "You've always been creative. Who else paints their car purple and draws flowers on it?" she asked, referring to my groovy Ford Festiva that had undergone a major overhaul when I inherited it from my parents. I laughed. Inside I was glowing. She knew! She accepted it like it was a cold, hard fact!

If you're anything like me, you sometimes struggle with calling yourself "an artist." Saying you're "creative," or "crafty," or "enjoy painting/sewing/making, etc." is easier than labeling yourself as the "A-word."

Of course, nothing pleases us more than someone else referring to us as artists. Especially if that person is an artist or judge or curator. What could be more validating?

J and I went on to talk about other things. I told her how I've been struggling lately with making without a purpose or goal in mind. I dislike clutter so it's hard for me to make things without them having homes. What will I do with all of the pieces after their finished? Store them for years (shiver, shiver).

I told her that I needed race dates. As a marathon runner and avid racer, J schedules races for herself to stay motivated and to have a goal to work toward.

"Maybe I need to enter competitions or try to take part in art shows or other things to stay motivated and have deadlines," I said as we pedaled along. I told her about STRUT! a fashion show held annually in Burlington, VT. I had contemplated applying to be a designer (upcycled fashion of course) earlier this year. But then life got in the way, as it often does. The deadline is quickly approaching in mid-June and I told J that I didn't have enough time to get pieces done to photograph and send in with the application.

"Yes, you do," she said. "You can do it. That's your race date."

Oh no. What had I done?! I tried to get out of it, tried a few other excuses, but J held firm. "You're going to do a great job. And I'll be here to cheer you on."

My stomach felt tight with dread. I would have broken out in a cold sweat but the air rushing past me was too cool for that. But underneath that layer of fear was something else: a glow of excitement. Maybe I could do it. Maybe I just need to break the big goal (three pieces ready to photograph in four weeks/five complete outfits done by September) down into smaller sections.

That afternoon, I looked over some sketches I'd done. I went through the reclaimed fabric and clothes that I've set aside for upcycling. And I started to feel that glow of excitement growing bigger and bigger.

What about you? Do you feel uncomfortable referring to yourself as an artist, or have you in the past? What tips would you give to others to help make this mental leap?

Maybe this bag will end up in the show ...

Altered art/upcycled canvas bag

Bag before:


  1. Hey Joy,

    Definitely apply to Strut! Your bag looks beautiful mix of materials. It will make your creativity flourish!

    Have a lovely day,

    1. Thanks so much, Mariana, I appreciate your stopping by and the encouragement to apply. I'm in the throes of sewing issues (machine broke down, inspiration has fled) but am still going to send in my application ~ four weeks left! Thanks again for taking the time to comment. :)