Identifying your art

When you think of Alexander Calder your mind turns to those interesting mobiles and balanced sculptures he introduced.  Picasso is branded as always having that unique abstract style.  The list goes on, and on.  Artists find a medium that speaks to them most profoundly, and they find their voice in that area.  Yes, i think every artistic person on earth has dabbled in other forms of art…. a painter does photography, or a weaver loves to dye.  And if i am honest i must tell you i have an “Art” bucket list that i occassionally speak about.  But it is the heart of the artist to keep growing, expanding, testing, experimenting with the skill set, and expression.

I love that constant growth, change, challenge.

With that said, i have also come to a place where i am bothered by something, and I am not sure why.  There is an artist at TAA who I have known for a few years.  She is very skilled at lamp work beading… a process that involves glass rods, mandrels and a super hot torch.  It is a skill i have admired but have not had any desire to do.  Her work is brilliant, with pairing of colors of glass that are sumptuous, trendy, and a signature style that you know is not a knock off of someone else’s patterns and skills.  That is her skill set, and her gifting, and the area of art she has poured her labor, skill and experience into to develop that unique style.

But she showed up on sunday with a small display of hand dyed silk scarves, and long thin snake like felted cords which she called “willows”.  What on earth?  Her silk looked very rudimentary.  It was not shibori… but instead it was tone on tone monotone painted silk on a stretched frame.  For first attempts it was interesting but really?  With the number of wet felted work displayed, and the artists with history with silk here why would you step away from your venue, your skill set and bring a small display of another medium?

What she said next perplexed me even more – “I copied something i saw at another art fair… I loved their work and thought ‘I bet i can do that’.  So here it is… i gave it a go.”  Hmm, deep thought and everything in me wanted to speak out and ask her what she was thinking.  In the painting and fine art world that is called a forgery, a knock off, and while it is flattering that one would wish to copy that work, it is theft.  Art must be original work, hand wrought and one of a kind, genuine.

Do I do that?  Am i guilty of doing several types of art, and not honing my skills on one?  Yes, my shibori has come a long way, and i do seem to have a signature style that i do not see anyone else doing.  And my wire crochet bead embroidery has come a long way also.  But should i hone in on one area, and let the other go?

Almost as if to sense my internal dialog, an old friend and mentor stopped at my booth at TAA, and was so enthusiastic about both my silk and the wire crochet.  I began to ask her about my question and she said she felt that when one work builds on another that is a special blend…. that the pins could easily build on the signature style of the scarf…. and pairing them together might offer a special look.

But what about the idea of copying another person’s original work?  Is that something i do?  No, i try hard not to.  I work carefully at finding inspiration on my own, crafting my thoughts myself, and developing my silk or wire skills on my own with my own signature flare.

I was perplexed that someone with such fine skills with a torch and glass would offer something other than their genre.  Ofcourse that is the same person who does not subscribe to universal pricing, and as she perceives the market changes she changes her price….  I can remember her telling me that she raising her prices just for this event, which is unjust and unfair.

It was in another conversation at TAA that I came to understand the importance of carving your own niche, and becoming known for specific types of work.  The hat makers across from me have done their craft for their lifetime.  Yes, they dabble with other things, but their bread and butter is their hat making –  And that is what people come to them for.  They command a good price for well crafted work that is an art statement and a beautiful piece of work.