The last few weeks I sculpted the shoulders of potters, carved back mobility in boatbuilders, and loosened weavers’ knotted necks. As a resident instructor at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina I taught yoga, did bodywork, and delivered doses of movement medicine to the various studios.
I lived among sweaty, grimy, & sleep-deprived folks gleefully exposed to torrents of creativity. They endure elaborate pieces crumbling after hours of work. Or worse yet, someone calling their work “cute.” Yeah,the brooding, tempestuous artists gets a bad rap. Are they completely self-absorbed? Given our media climate, I witnessed much to praise and suggest otherwise.
Ingesting the incessant onslaught of infotainment bloats us with anger, confusion, and despair. Pre-packaged mentalities trap us into sedentary rants and wranglings. The artist sees through a warped lens and metabolizes the turmoil as inspiration. They pursue mastery of a medium and summon the courage to express themselves. Artists handcraft their authenticity, refresh my reverence for nature, and reframe my notion of a haircut. Craftspeople enliven the routine by marrying beauty and function. The morning news softens as my hands hug a comforting, elegant mug.
Willingly teetering between breakthrough and breakdown, artists unveil dimensions of the everyday. They often teach to share their talents, mentor, and make a living. Securing a health care plan qualifies as success.
The blacksmithing teaching assistant, Heather Hutton, provides an inspiring example. The economic downturn left her jobless with an empty wallet. She memorialized the moment by casting the wallet in iron. As a monument to unemployed Americans, she will project an image of the American flag onto a collection of donated, empty wallets. She is building a cogent, poignant, and relevant statement in the face of our collective, financial quagmire.
Political, functional, or conceptual, I desperately need my artist friends to question the manufactured and toss pebbles into the mundane. They spelunk the dark recesses of subjectivity, mine for clarity, and extract evocative gems. Diving into self-inquiry actually transcends narcissism.With introspection as the most arduous part of the creative process, art is service.