Leaving yourself behind in your art: Thoughts on what makes art

my art

my imperfect art

I turned over a bowl while making breakfast this morning, a unique piece of pottery beautifully fired, wheel thrown, but without signature or symbol that identified who the artist was.

I am in the process of making plates for our home, plates that we can use every day and that will replace the store-bought-mass-produced ones we currently use. The plates I am creating are not uniform and do not lie neatly upon one another inside the cabinet. There is much I can do to improve upon the process of making plates and I learn more about glaze and clay and patience every time my hands touch clay, but still I am moved by my own work and that must count for something. Perhaps everything.

When I used to paint, I enjoyed the medium of pastel and watercolor, enjoying the hazy, less than perfect lines where colors blended into one another and sometimes mistakes produced results that to my own eye were lovely. I have never been drawn to pen and ink or perfectly renderings of our natural world but instead am pulled to the misty affect of a filter or a bit of the abstract in a line of colorful aspens or a dash or color that is clearly not natural, but that when done well is true and unquestioned.

I love the hands of the artist in the work. I love knowing that someone left behind a piece of themselves when they created the things that have found their way into my home.

When I read, I am drawn to raw honesty and unabashed sharing of personal experience and I find myself cleaving my own heart to the author, though we have never met. I find comfort and an awareness that I am not alone in this thing we call living when I read the words of a man or woman who is able to bleed truth and share themselves in their words. They inspire me to a deeper exploration into my own artful heart.

Setting up home for the first time as a young adult I was a frequent visitor to yard sales and second-hand furniture stores and it was not just because I it was less expensive. My imagination spun tales of the previous owners and I felt warmth from the worn wood of the bureau, vanity or mirror I was overjoyed to find. The hunt, the not knowing what I might find and the discovery of something that sang to my heart made my collection a living experience.

I was working with the extruder at the pottery studio and extruded a long cylinder shape in order to mold a set of oversized mugs and at first I thought I might make six mugs but after cutting the pieces to work on, one of them collapsed inside itself. I fell in love then.

I fell in love with the shape, with the organic curves and irregular lines and I decided to work with it and not make a thing, but instead make art.

There is no purpose to this art, nothing at all aside from making me smile. Nothing at all aside from seeing a bit of me in the form. Nothing at all aside from the unknown outcome. I left myself behind.

I am not impressed or interested with perfection or forms that erase the presence of the artist. Because when the artist trusts in the leaving of him or herself behind, I am invited into their story. I become a part of their story.

The more I trust my own process and work, the more my work invites your trust.

And the more I leave myself behind, the more I find my unique art. My stories are not meant to be perfect end points, they are meant to be an exploration into process.

I believe this is what art is: An exploration into yourself. So leave a bit of yourself behind.

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