I’m this mom who loves making art and loves making crafts and who one day decided she was an artist. Seriously, one day I looked in the mirror and declared myself a painter. I said, “Self, from now on you will introduce yourself as an artist.” So, I did. I became an artist with one bold move. I don’t have a degree in art. I don’t have much formal training in art beyond a couple of college courses I took a lifetime ago. There are a lot of people in the art world who would call me a crafter. I don’t blame them really because they probably have studied art for years and struggled to find jobs and really put in the time to earn the title of artist. Not to mention, I do use a lot of craft supplies in my art making. I mean, scrapbook paper and even alcohol inks are things you purchase in a craft store. Fine art stores don’t even sell alcohol inks, at least not any that I have visited online.
There are so many rules around being an artist. I find this more than a little curious. I thought artists were rule breakers, deep thinkers and mad scientists, all rolled into one. Instead, I see a lot of people spending their time trying to define people or list them on some sort of invisible hierarchy. They say, “I am this, but you are not.” Usually they just want to make sure you know that they are superior to you. I say let them feel superior. Who cares, right? They place people on lists claiming who is real and who isn’t based on their perception of skills or talents or even fame. As if that defines who anyone is or what they are capable of doing. Anyway, while they are busy defining things, you and I can keep practicing our crafts or “arts and crafts” because in the big scheme of things actually doing something is more impressive than categorizing it.
In the world of creativity there are many lines drawn in the sand. People are categorized by the mediums they work in, by the style they work in, whether they are professional artists or amateurs and, of course, whether or not they are crafters or fine artists. I don’t know where I fit into all of these labels and structures. Am I an artist making crafts or a crafter making art? Am I an “outside” artist because I lack formal training? I have no idea how to describe myself. What’s so great about a one-dimensional category invented by a culture that loves to narrow people, professions, and even things down so finely that they barely exist at all anyway?
I don’t really fit into one category or another very neatly. I don’t really fit into anything very neatly, but do any of us? I don’t think so. We all have many talents and interests that make up who we are as people. We are human beings who sometimes love and hate the exact same thing at the exact same time and who can both dance and make pasta well. We like sky diving and gardening and can work in an office all day and then go home and milk our goats. I find myself constantly shrugging off the idea that I have to be exceptional at only one thing. That I am only one thing. That’s just not true. It’s not true of any of the people I know and that is just the plain truth.
Everything I read about how to succeed in art, and even in blogging, says to find your niche and do that one thing over and over again until you master it. Write about one topic. Paint everything one way until the cows come home. “Strive to be one-dimensional!” all of the experts yell. You are never supposed to mix family with art and art with chickens and marriage with a visit to the dentist. According to all of the Internet business gurus, if you mix things together too much people just won’t understand who you are. People will be confused. People will lose interest!
I don’t know about you, but I find that kind of insulting. People are smarter than that. People know you are more than one thing because they are more than one thing too. Sometimes the dentist visit impacts your art, sometimes art impacts your crafts. Sometimes art and family collide. It says so right there in my tagline. Sometimes people want to know who you are as a real person. They want to know you share similar fears or like similar foods or dream similar dreams. They want to know it is OK to feel two seemingly opposing emotions at the same time or that smart people change their minds too or that your marriage isn’t perfect even though you can paint a gladiolus flower so beautifully it makes some people cry (that hasn’t happened to me yet, but I am keeping my dream alive that someday it will). They want to know you don’t always use the correct punctuation or have a small obsession with creating run-on sentences because that’s the way you talk when you get excited. They want to know the multifaceted you.
So, I guess I am just saying I don’t want to be defined as just an artist or just a crafter or just a mother or just someone with way too many formally stray animals roaming around her living room. I want people to say this is a real person, with a real life and she is an artist and a crafter and a spaghetti maker who sometimes fixes things with screw drivers…badly. She has strengths and flaws and weaknesses and triumphs. She has good days and bad days and celebrations and grief. I don’t want to be a niche or just one thing. I’d rather be alive, experimenting and failing, and winning while, hopefully, being interesting. I am committed to being a real person. This is my life. I make art. I make crafts. I mingle them together and make big, sloppy messes and sometimes I talk about my chickens. My life is whole. My “brand” is my whole life. It doesn’t fit into a niche. It doesn’t fit into a box. It can’t be categorized, labeled and put on a shelf.