Something amazing happened this past Thursday that reminded me why I've chosen to celebrate imperfection and focus on story in my work.
I had begun to feel self conscious of my vessels (like I usually do) that they were not good enough, that my abilities as a potter are no good, that all of the little footed mugs I've been making are worthless and crappy compared to the work that other people are making in the studio. I was trying hard to get work done while all of this was cranking in the back of my head.
Earlier that day I had decided to go to an event I'd seen a poster for; "Sip & Sketch" at a local coffee shop on the Northside of Cincinnati. I was desperate to find people to go with me. A few friends weren't available, so I asked around at the studio a little bit, also not available. "Ok," I thought, "Well, rejection sucks, but I've at least I got one friend who is gonna show up, so I'm gonna go any way and see who I meet."
I was expecting a crowded coffee shop filled with artists sketching lots of awesome things in multiple types of media all while sipping coffee that was more than likely spiked and listening to some great live hipster band. Nope. What I found was shockingly more beautiful and profound.
I walked in (late) to see my one friend (who had to leave early) sitting and sketching with two other young women, one of which had downs syndrome. I hate to say it, but honestly I was a little shocked and caught off guard. I gave a warm hello to my friend and she introduced me to Kelley* and Abagail*, then I ran back to get a drink. By the time I got back to the table my friend had to leave, and I was able to focus all my attention on getting to know these two lovely women. Kelley explained that she and Abagail have been getting together and sketching at coffee shops and art supply stores once a month for a about a year. Kelley and I talked a lot about our own art work, where we went to art school, what kind of work we are making now...but what I really loved was getting to talk with Abagail and watch her be excited to show me all of her drawings.
Each drawing told a story, and many of them were pictures she drew of past memories. My favorite was one she drew of Christmas morning with her family opening presents by the fireplace. I was mesmerized by that drawing and all of the tender beauty it held with all of the people Abagail held dear in that one precious moment-- one of all our most precious moments as children-- Christmas morning. Most art critics would not bat an eye at that drawing. It didn't follow the rules of composition, space, or shadows. It was 100% two dimensional and flat. But it was one of the most beautiful drawings I have ever looked at, because it was so incredibly powerful. It held Abagail's story, and all the people, pets, and things that she most treasured in her life, which was priceless, profound, and important.
As I gazed at the drawing I thought back to all of the worries and anxieties that had been plaguing me that day; that my art was not good enough, that it was not polished enough or perfect enough. I chuckled a bit to myself and held back the tears I could feel welling up in my eyes. I heard the Creator's voice resounding in my mind, "It's not about being perfect. It's about telling your story."
I hope that next week I can tell you a little more about the story behind my mugs, and why I make them. (Not to mention give a few more photos.) It is a difficult story, but one that is dear to my heart.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of these lovely persons.