The semester that was:
It was in retrospect a good semester. It was messy and difficult and occasionally tearful. There was lots of feeling adrift and wondering how/why I got there in the first place. I found one of my hard limits, and crystallized where priorities stand for me. I think I have managed to exit with a better sense of me, where I'm headed in my work, and looking at a better balanced picture of how what I do fits into who I am.
So what happened/ what I learned:
I need balance. I need my life outside of school. When I was in undergrad, I lived in the studio. My friends (with the exception of my husband-then boyfriend) were artists. While I don't regret that time, it will not and doesn't work for me now. Being solely focused on art and the field makes me less productive and happy. I fall down the rabbit hole and lose perspective on life and what is important to me. Making work and being in the field I am in, and being involved in the what's going on in the world in relation to craft academics and current craft work is important to me. But it's not all that is important to me. I need the time for relationships and friends and living life outside of the bubble of school. This time not only grounds me, but it gives me the perspective on the daily frustrations and problems so that I don't get lost in and dragged down by them. It helps me be a better person, a happier person, and a more productive and better artist.
I also need a constant outlet or part of my brain to be devoted to my school work while I'm here. I lost that over the summer and I feel like it took a while to get back. Not that I wasn't thinking about my work, but it was in the really wide view of why do I make things, and why do I create rather than the specific, or even object-related aspect of it. I think I wind up tackling those huge questions when I feel lost as then I avoid the immediate issues at hand while still feeling like I'm "making progress". By sidestepping what I want to be making for me and tackling the intangibles, I'm not forced to come up with an actionable answer or decisions. By having deadlines and a schedule for working I avoid that to a large extent. Not all the way, but it helps me remember to not get lost in the clouds and to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
It's okay that I don't know. And it's okay to make mistakes. This is hard, and harder than it seems like it should be. Somehow I feel that since I've been out of school and chosen to come back, it translates into "Must always know what I'm doing." I came in with a set of goals, and some of those have been discarded, some have changed, others I'm working towards. But I feel the yoke of having "been out" around my neck, and perhaps because of having lived with the restriction of creating saleable creative work, I have a "can't fail" mode. Even in my experiments, I fight the feeling that all attempts need to result in something that I can turn into a product. One of the reasons I let me work take such a turn when I came in was to break that mode, and it has mostly worked. It came back somewhat this semester when I had forms and didn't know where I was headed with them. The luxury that I have now to let pieces sit until they resolve or solve themselves in my head is just that- a luxury. I worried that I was getting too used to that.
There was a lot of not knowing this semester, being uncertain of what my work is about, developing the fledgling ideas around that, the uncertainty of the future and what it maight hold once I leave here. That tends to get me spun around and unable to tell up from down and worrying that I need to know where I'm going before I can begin the journey. Especially when it is a journey I feel like is a gift to me rather than something I earned and consequently mine to steer. But that isn't the case, or more accurately, it can't be the case. If I wait until I know it will be too late. If I don't take the chance it will pass and I won't ever know if it would've been good for me or not. I'm trying to remember that.
I am human. I can't do it all. And that is okay. This semester was the first time that I really bit off more than I could handle. I know I tend to complicate things and make them hard on myself. If it's too easy I don't think that it's worth doing. I know that isn't actually true, but I have to remind myself of that constantly. It feels like if it is easy, then I should be able to figure it out without needing to pay for the education. I feel like I get stretched thin a lot, and I feel that some of it is for good reasons, and most of it I recognize when I commit to things. I have a limited time here at school. Since I've been out and working for so long in many ways this is like a surprise gift of time and freedom that I feel like I need to make the most out of. I have a pretty decent hang-up about money and self-reliance. I don't like needing people to support me. I know that this is completely unrealistic. However, going from earning a living (not a big one, but one nonetheless) to being a full time student has done a good job of feeling like I have an expectation to live up to. I know that the actual expectation is for me to get the degree. Period. That's it. The expectation in my head is a lot higher. That expectation is more along the lines of getting a reprieve. That this sacrifice is being made for me, and if I don't have a clear road map and am taking all the opportunities and creating things that are clearly in line with furthering my career then I have failed. Which does a neat job of excising a lot of the experimentation and leaving me feeling like I am looking at a path littered with landmines. As if I spend time on experimenting and it goes nowhere I have wasted time.
I am learning to explain myself better. Not just in crits, which is certainly true; but in life. I am learning to explain my outlook on my education to people not predisposed to understand it intuitively. I am learning to justify myself. As I explained during the semester, I have thrown many of the limitations placed on me when I am working aside while I am enrolled. I haven't managed to throw them all off, and I think that there are still a few to go, but by and large they have been cast off. This isn't permanent however. Once I graduate and begin working for a living again with me art, many of those will come back into play. But this is the time when I don't need to have them. When I can develop the vocabulary and do the exploring that will result in tweaking those limitations to create sell able interesting work. That will help me not be just another jeweler out there, that give me the chance to be great not just good. Now is the time for me to get it wrong, to lean too far one way or another. (Which is much easier when said than to accept when I'm doing it) I don't know what post-MFA life will look like. I do still want to teach. I'm rethinking my ideas of teaching and the future of craft education. I am also 99% certain that I do not want to do shows again. I don't believe that what is out there fits in for me. I would rather spend my time coming up with a solution that is better than the existing ones than shoehorn myself somewhere that I don't think can last. I'm interested in selling my designs to be produced, but I don't know how feasible this is. I want to figure out how technology can help us move forward and not get left behind in the sales area.
I learned that people think what I do is important. And that makes a huge difference to me. I know that what I do makes me happy, and that there is a large part of me that needs to make in order to be me and feel fulfilled. Making equalizes me and gives me an outlet when words fail and I don't know how else to get something across. However, I always thought that is was tolerated and looked upon as that thing I do. Not something that makes a difference in the world and to people on a real daily level. But it does. And that knowledge gives me a much stronger belief in myself and my work. Which helps to get through semesters like this one intact.