In the classic 1990s teen comedy/drama, Empire Records, AJ works at a record store, but in his heart, he is an artist. The store is littered with his art supplies and evidence of his artwork in progress. Some of AJ’s work is abstract, like the random splattering of quarters across the break room floor that had fallen there earlier in the day. When a a teenage boy is caught shoplifting and identifies himself only as Warren Beatty, he is detained in the break room. “Warren” tries repeatedly to pick up a quarter from the floor, only to realize that AJ has superglued them all in place, where they had originally fallen. “Warren” asks in a harsh and annoying tone, “What the hell for?”
AJ’s response is one of confidence. He calmly looks up from his work and says, “I don’t feel that I need to explain my art to you, Warren.” …….and that is that.
Recently, a friend of mine who is a talented paper artist could have used AJ’s advice. She had applied for a large juried craft show and her application was turned down. Now these giant craft shows take only a certain number of artists in each category and this particular show is pretty big! But in spite of logical reasons why they may have turned her down, my friend felt hurt….and was taking the rejection personally. And I worried that in her head, she might be letting in the one dreaded thought that threatens artists and crafters…..that one terrible thought……the thought that….. somehow…..her artwork was not good enough.
Now I want to clarify that my friend’s work is great. There was no way that this disappointment should have shaken her! But when we create things to share with others, we always run the risk of letting how others view us….or at least our perception of how others view us…. affect how we views ourselves.
So I started to think about the times that I have also felt unworthy. I know it is shocking to many of you……but everyone doesn’t always think that my crafty ideas are all that crafty.
Several winters ago, I was on a bender….but not the boozy kind. That winter, I was making fingerless gloves out of old felted wool sweater sleeves. And I was making them for just about everyone I know. They were colorful and funky , with neat embroidery stitching…..and in my opinion, they were so, so cool. “All the cool kids are wearing them,” I kept telling my family, as I gave out pair after pair!
But I was ignoring one critical fact. It was an extremely COLD winter! My sons refused to wear them, saying they were completely impractical. And my scientist husband pointed out that in cold weather, the fingers are typically the coldest part of the body, because they are farthest from the heart. “Would you wear toe-less shoes in winter?” he’d asked. (He was lucky that he wasn’t slapped by a hand clad in a fingerless felted wool glove!)
Now in other situations, fingerless gloves do have a place. My son’s then girlfriend wore her fingerless gloves often, because she is a photographer. But I was mostly sharing my cool accessories with the wrong market in the wrong climate and I was feeling unappreciated! So on principal alone, I wore my own fingerless gloves every day that winter, but I will admit that scraping the ice off of my car windshield in the mornings would almost make me cry. To this day, I am thankful that I avoided frostbite!
Thinking about my feelings back then, I ask myself….. why did I really care? Those gloves WERE cool, so why did I let someone else’s opinion get to me? And why did my friend let some anonymous panel at some suburban craft fair affect her opinion of herself??
So from now on, if I create something and get a reaction from others that is less positive than I’d hope, I am not going to feel upset, or hurt. Instead, I am going to respond with AJ’s words: “I don’t feel that I need to explain my art to you, Warren.”
And I would suggest that you all do the same.
And since our shoplifting kid wasn’t really named Warren anyway, you should feel free to refer to anyone who puts down your work as Warren.
But if you know anyone whose real name IS Warren, please apologize to him from me, for using his name this way. But make sure he also knows not to question my art….cause I’m NOT gonna explain it!
Today is a beautiful spring day. I think I will head out and wear my fingerless felted wool gloves. This is, after all, the perfect weather for them!