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Formative work

When I was little, I dreamed of being a professional artist like my father. I had this vision of myself as an artist (ahhtist?) — hair blowing in the wind, heart brimming with inspired, mystical energy that would move me create exclusive masterpieces in my large, brightly lit studio.

While that’s a lovely vision, it really doesn’t jive with my reality as a working artist. Putting food on the table via my craft means working as efficiently as possible. It means being disciplined and working every day (even when I’m not particularly “inspired”). It means balancing creative time with administrative time — and it means doing some degree of production work.

When I started selling my handwork, the mere mention of production work bothered me. I dislike repetition and the idea of assembly line art. “Producing” seemed counter to “creating”.

My dad had a different take. Rather than production work, he viewed it as formative work. He saw value in those little projects, and the way that repetition hones your skills.
As I grow older, I realize how much I agree with him.

Many of my simple designs remain popular — but I still enjoy (and learn from) creating them. Each time I make one, it calls me to focus on shape, color and detail. It challenges me to improve my existing ideas, and to explore new lines that are more graceful or expressive. This study, these skills become the building blocks (and often the inspiration) for my larger/more involved work.

I’d love to tell you that every time I sit down to my workbench, a brand new design masterpiece just leaps off the table — but that’s not how it works. For me, “inspiration” is most often a gradual process that evolves from simple (and consistent) work.

When I was a kid, I imagined that this lifestyle would be far more glamorous than it is. What I could not have imagined, is how much satisfaction I would find in the ‘boring’ parts ;o)


This is a sample of what my worktable looks like right now:

(okay — my worktable isn’t really this tidy, but it *is* piled with masks!).

At any given time, I usually have several masks & crowns in various stages of completion. The ones shown have been sculpted & painted with a base coat; they’re now awaiting finishing details like accent colors, glitter, beadwork & feathers.