Why Not All Art Is For Sale

It’s hard to quantify what crafting means to me. In the simplest terms, it’s an opportunity to not be in front of the computer. I work in software design, which means I spend 90 percent of my waking hours in front of a glowing screen. My personal artwork is also digital, so for a large amount of my free time, I’m in the same position.

Crafting is a creative outlet that allows me to not think about the consequences of my work. It’s art for art’s sake. Sometimes I will see an artistic project online and have a spark of inspiration. I’ll run to Micheal’s and pick up brand new paints, glue, and glitter. Then I’m up all night with supplies spread out across the kitchen table. My husband can attest to this, especially when he sometimes finds it all still there in the morning.

It doesn’t matter what kind of craft I make. It’s all about having fun and creating like a kid again. This process has allowed me to stay inspired, even in the wake of my waning interest in my illustration work.

I have what some may call “creative burnout.” I worked hard for years, developing my skills in digital illustration. I hoped to sell my work as prints and on various products. The pressure to self-promote and produce consistent and fresh pieces quickly became overwhelming. I suddenly found myself unable to create anything anymore, unsure what I ever enjoyed about the process in the first place.

Crafting has allowed me an outlet for visual creativity without the pressure, though, it has not come easily.

There is a concept in society today, especially among us ambitious folk, that all actions and hours of the day must be productive. That everything we do has to have a practical purpose; towards a business, financial, or health-related goal. I’m not sure when this idea began, but it seems most prevalent among those currently in their early and mid-30s.

Contrary to the media depictions of millennial adults, we are not lazily waiting for our trophies just because we showed up. Among my peer group are some of the hardest working, most driven folks I have ever met. However, there is also a strong feeling of stress and anxiety over how much we are accomplishing and how fast. For many of us, the statistics never seem high enough; our goals never ambitious enough. It’s a new sort of mid-life crisis.

I’ve often felt guilty in the past for spending my evening hours doing things that are not propelling me towards some real future goal. A lot of my fears revolve around the feeling that I am running out of time. I understand time as a precious resource, easily squandered. Crafting was no exception, and I’ve had to fight hard to allow myself the time for pure creativity without a goal.

This pressure to do the best we can with every single moment given to us has created a generation of stressed out, overworked, and anxious individuals. It’s our jobs to push back and allow for self-care. For me, things like sewing or scrapbooking are a chance to reconnect with who I am.

It’s hard to say where this pressure to be perfect comes from, but I can point to the internet as a significant factor. The string of grassroots, self-help gurus that are starting to populate youtube channels around the world have grown exponentially over the last decade. The technology available has empowered many, many people to create ambitious lifestyle tutorials, showing us all how we can be healthier, wealthier, all while living independently on permanent road trips in our converted VW vans.

Making peace with my need to craft has been a significant milestone in understanding myself and how these anxieties have affected me as well. What I’ve realized is that there is value in letting go of self-expectation and allowing your hands to move across paper or clay or canvas. It has the potential to open up new ways of thinking and unique solutions to problems that might be plaguing you.

More then anything, it’s a reminder to live here, in this moment and not some magical place in the future where you are “successful.” Nothing is worth doing if you find it void of meaning, but the meaning does not have to come from a place of constant improvement. Sometimes it’s more important just to be.

The Other Thoughts

“What is not included controls us.” – Rodney Smith

This quote from Rodney Smith’s book Awakening: A Paradigm Shift of the Heart struck a chord with me this morning. But what does it mean?

To me, it speaks of those thoughts in our mind that we choose to omit; pieces of our daily experience that may be unpleasant or imperfect. These are the things that bubble to the surface but don’t match the view we’ve chosen to create of ourselves; the person we want to present to the world. Human beings are amazing at labeling negative and positive traits, and this talent extends to editing our daily thoughts.

What would be the benefit of our brains automatically labeling this kind of information? It’s all about the survival of you, that is, your ego mind.

Smith’s book is all about learning to understand the true nature of reality, which extends beyond the idea of self (Ego) and includes a whole rainbow of perspectives and feelings, good or bad. Using Buddhist terminology, it’s about distinguishing Form from the Formless whole.

We live in a world of Form. Our brains like to name things all around us as solid objects, including ourselves. It then categorizes the entirety of the world as either good, bad, desirable, or repulsive. You can begin to understand the usefulness of this trait when going out into the wild. We don’t have time to take in the entirety of what makes up a lion when moving, vulnerable, across the savannah. All our brains have time for is lion, teeth, fast, bad, and RUN.

Beyond just living and breathing, however, this trait has evolved to also work against us and our true natures. We tend to create a shining vision of ourselves to present to the world. This vision includes all of the best traits. Every single one of our thoughts is used to bolster the idea of “us.” Our thoughts are broken down into solid nuggets and assigned the labels true or untrue about ourselves and the world.

Problems begin to appear when those bad thoughts, the supposed untrue parts of ourselves, get pushed aside, buried, and unacknowledged. They are far from sight, but they still exist.

The book gives a great example of this problem. Let’s say you consider yourself to be a kind, generous person no matter what. Recently, a neighbor has started asking for your help regularly. You oblige every time they ask. Soon, you begin to feel somewhat annoyed whenever they call because deep down, you think they might be taking advantage of your generosity. But, you ignore those feelings, because you know you are a helpful person and should not feel annoyed. Right?

Finally, the neighbor calls again, and you burst out that they are taking advantage of you, and you can’t help them anymore. Too bad that this time, they were only calling to offer some fresh tomatoes from their garden.

The point is, those negative thoughts we all have, the ideas that don’t fit who we think we are still live somewhere inside. All thoughts require acknowledgment, and by blocking off and pretending these parts of ourselves don’t exist, we create a sort of subconscious shadow version of our preferred personality. If we don’t express these feelings, they tend to express themselves, and at inappropriate times.

What this quote is telling us, is that the moment we include ALL of ourselves; good, bad, “untrue” or otherwise, and we begin to see ourselves as part of a whole, even outside of our thoughts. Then the power struggle we’ve created in our minds is over. What is not included controls us, what is included becomes apart of the whole, and conflict naturally disappears.

Moving perspective from Form to Formless first includes this realization about ourselves. It requires a hard look at who we think we are and forgiveness, acceptance, and making peace with all aspects, good or bad, that make up the complex human mind.