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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Personal Myths and Wearing Art

"One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art". This is a quote by Oscar Wilde that I've known for about 15 years, but only two weeks ago decided to put as a handwritten headline in my booth for shows. Having just returned from the American Craft Exposition in Evanston, Illinois, I am struck by the many familiar and consistent comments I hear at my shows. These comments all have to do with how we as women view ourselves and how I have learned NOT to view myself, but rather as Oscar says - either being or wearing a work of art.

When customers come up to my booth, I sometimes hear gasps, often hear comments like "I've never seen anything like these!", and often get lots of questions like "Are these really purses?" or "Is that really a pin?". But then, when they really start looking at my work, the comments get personal and I hear things like, "Oh, you have to be tall to wear those neckpieces", or "I'm too tall to wear that neckpiece", or "My chest is too small to wear that", or "My chest is too large to wear that" or "I don't go anywhere to wear that" or "I wish I could wear that". Now, I realize that sometimes these comments are just ways for people to tell me that they don't want to buy my work and are moving on, but often, they REALLY like the jewelry or purse and spend a bit of time looking at everything in my booth.

I have decided that all of these comments are myths we create about ourselves and have imbedded into our identities. Maybe it's something our mother told us or something we just prefer to believe because it's an excuse to not try very hard to look nice. One of my best collectors is a petite woman (5'1" or 5'2") who wears statement neckpieces and bracelets. Another is tall and very thin. Another is extremely full-figured. They all look terrific in my jewelry and purses and they carry it well because they have the self-confidence and interest to wear art. What they also have is the courage to change and the courage to try on new things.

I see too many women who look dumpy and unhappy because they wear baggy, shapeless, or uninteresting clothes with a little tiny silver chain with a heart on it. Sometimes, spurred on by friends, they try on one of my less showy neckpieces with a silver spiral, faux stone, and silver stick on steel cable that is sophisticated and artistic in an understated way, and they find they look and FEEL terrific! Then if they buy it, they go off feeling so good about themselves. They had the courage to try on something they wouldn't normally try on and the courage to change.

When I know I look good, I also feel good. That's why even though I live and have my studio out in the woods of New Hampshire, I wear a neckpiece and/or cool earrings every day as well as put on makeup and spend time on my hair so that I'll feel good while I'm working.

The point is, being a work of art or wearing a work of art is not for others, it's for YOU.