Tuesday, 19 November 2013

On trying to make art that sings

"To make art is to sing with the human voice. To do this you must first learn that the only voice you need is the voice you already have". 

David Bayles and Ted Orland, Art and Fear


I follow avidly the work of Fiona Dempster on her beautiful blog Paper Ponderings. She describes herself as a book and calligraphic artist but her work also includes wonderful prints which seem to demonstrate all the things I would so like to be able to do in my own work. It is the (deceptive, I'm sure) simplicity of her work that particularly attracts me, together with the stunningly controlled execution. 

Every Thursday, she posts a quote that focuses on some aspect of creativity and the creative life. This week, she posted the quote above, of which I have only taken a small part. I did this because I felt that the comments she made herself in response spoke to me even more strongly.

She said: In different ways and in different places, you come across the idea that your voice or your making is precious and special because nobody else in the whole entire world is going to make what you make, in the way that you make it, with the dreams you have dreamt of it, with what you bring to it, with the spirit you imbue in it and the experiences that have wrought it. Nobody else can make your work and that is the gift you bring to the world.

What wonderful, encouraging thoughts and what it says about her own conviction is so inspiring. I will remember it when I seem especially to be struggling and hope perhaps that it will bring me comfort. 

My problem especially is that I feel I have yet to find anything that I can call my voice (though I would so much like to do so) and can only play on in the hope that something good and true develops ... but perhaps that is the case for most people. Finding oneself in an artistic way takes may years of hard work and, I hope, lasts a lifetime.



Between the Lines
Hand stitch on hand-dyed scrim
I don't know whether the small piece above sings or not but it's a favourite piece made a while back so I bring it to you as a part of the long work in progress. 


12 comments:

  1. Sometimes, it's a surprise to find that other people can hear/see your true voice much louder and earlier than you can yourself! I think your work looks very original and creative :)

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    1. Welcome to my blog - you are very kind and encouraging.
      Perhaps you are right that other people can sometimes see where things might be going better than you can yourself - something to do with distance and objectivity, maybe.

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  2. What a magnificent piece! Great quote -- I love Fiona's work, as well. Another quote I love about finding one's voice is ~
    Embrace the process
    Follow your gut instincts
    Do what you feel compelled to do
    That is your voice.

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    1. That quote is wonderful and so empowering and free of pressure. When I'm next faced with a group exhibition theme that appears to limit what I want to do, I will remember what you've said.

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  3. This is an amazing piece. Really beautiful, delicate. Love it.

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    1. Very many thanks - definitely slow art to calm and grow the soul - time to contemplate as I stitch and to hear what it's telling me ...

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  4. I empathise completely. Finding a voice seems to me a bit like the Princess & the Frog analogy - so many frogs to kiss, so little time - and how do you know which frog is the right one for you? Tapestry is so slow and non-commercial, I often wonder if I should experiment with other 'frogs', but nothing else leads me into the 'zone', so I suspect like it or lump it, this is my frog. I'm sure your voice is already speaking, (I agree with your first commenter), you might not know how to label it, but it's there.

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    1. So many frogs to kiss, so little time - how well you have summed up my feelings! The choices are endless and how do I fit it all in?

      So to what you have said, I would also add so many courses, so much advice - and you never know whether a new technique will turn out to be a prince or a frog, whether the idea will sing or bomb.

      Also, I feel time pressure, which is daft in retirement, but I think I'm trying to have a little sample of the alternative life, that I (sensibly?) went away from in my early twenties. I feel impatient to make textile art that has meaning for me and that I feel at ease with.

      Perhaps as I think about it more, that is what I mean when I talk about finding my voice.

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  5. Some times I think we don't listen to our voice, even when it's yelling at us … we need to learn to trust. We are sometimes too unsure of ourselves.
    I hear your voice loud and clear.
    I absolutely love Fiona's response !

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    1. I think this post came across as more of a bleat from my inner self than I intended! Still it has provoked all sorts of very positive responses - thanks very much for yours.

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  6. Thank you for passing this quote along. I shall print it out and keep it near. Sometimes there are too many outside voices nudging their way into our heart - and it can be difficult to let our own voice come through. Your piece is lovely and seems to express 'you' and your heart's desires.

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    1. Yes indeed - those outside voices can be so distracting but sometimes they give just the encouragement and the context needed to do unexpected work. That is the dilemma - knowing which is positive and which should be ignored or set aside.

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