I was visiting our local craft studio last week. I have a gift certificate from my former employer (you can buy their awesome socks here.) I have been wanting to turn my prints into jewelry and I wasn’t sure which jewelry making class to take, so I talked to the teacher in charge of the metals studio. Well, I must have said something annoying because she came out with some harsh opinions, one of which was:
You had better know why you want to make jewelry otherwise you’re just making stuff, and the world doesn’t need more stuff.
Strangely, this made me really want to take a class from her. It also got me thinking. Why make art?
I doubt that I will make lots of money selling my art and I no longer harbor illusions that I will become famous for my art. I’m not even sure I have the time and money necessary to learn another skill well. So why make art?
1. I feel like it’s important to see and express beauty in the world. It’s almost like making a daily gratitude list: the action of doing it changes my thoughts and the way I perceive the world. I love the Bertholt Brecht quote:
Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.
I would argue that it’s both. By reflecting selectively (as we must, or we’re merely recording devices) we can choose what we remember or where our minds rest. We can stop time and record an idea into human consciousness. We have a responsibility to be intentional about that because we are creating our reality and affecting others. Also, what we choose to create informs us about our values so we can shape our futures with greater integrity. Which brings me to my second reason . . .
2. I create art to connect with other people. The reason I walked into that metals studio is that even though I am primarily a printmaker, I feel a strong desire to wear my artwork. I want to wear my artwork because I want people to know something about me when they see me. I want them to know who I am, what I stand for, and what’s important to me. I want to remember it too (it’s so easy to forget!) So making art is a means of self expression, but it’s also a way to connect with others–to find my tribe.
3. The third reason I make art is one I am newly cultivating, but I think it’s an important one. I make art to hold a space in our present culture for art, because it enhances my appreciation for the work of others, and to pass on my skills to others. When my children first began taking violin lessons, this was an idea brought up by the owner of the local strings rental studio. I sort of knew my kids probably wouldn’t become professionals, so I wasn’t sure how much musical training made sense for them. What this man told me was that we give our children music lessons not only so they can perform, but also so they can be part of a generation of informed/appreciative audience members. That made a lot of sense to me. I also came across this idea last weekend at a singing workshop I took. The leader spoke quite eloquently about the music we were learning being an oral tradition, and our responsibility in carrying it forward. I know for a fact that even though I may not be a perfect practitioner of art, music, or math, I can be a conduit of knowledge for the next generation. And that is reason enough for me!
What are your reasons for making art?