“I’m not going to limit myself just because people won’t accept the fact that I can do something else.”― Dolly Parton
I love that quote. I started to think of it this week when a friend who was visiting my studio remarked that I have “so much going on” and that I should just pick one art media. ~Maybe. That does seem logical. Even the head of the ceramics department at the University of Regina would agree with my friend as he said the same thing to me 24 years ago. Well his words were harsher, “You’ll never have a career in the arts if you don’t focus.” I did focus. I focused on ceramics. Loved it. (Ended up as a potter for 15 years.) But I also enjoyed the painting classes and photography classes I took along with my major. Looking around my studio it seems I never was able to focus on one thing, to fit into one media. I have a painting easel, canvases, a sewing dress form, a potter’s wheel and kiln, a sewing machine, a grinder, sheets of glass, beads by the pound and a jewellery bench….
While I was a “potter” by definition, I enjoyed slab work which led me to take courses in architectural ceramics–and make fireplace mantles. I also loved raku and for many years was a “production raku potter”. But slowly jewellery eeked into my life. First I started to make raku fired beads. Then I learned new ways to string them and new ways to finish necklaces and brooches. Soon my pottery booth at shows was split between hand-built raku sculptures and raku jewellery.
Enter Metal Clay. After working with 50lbs of ceramic clay at a time, teeny tiny amounts of metal clay was an interesting change. Making my own findings and jewellery in metal clay to compliment my raku beads became my new passion. As many of my readers know I started and ran a magazine devoted to metal clay jewellery. I was an artist in search of such a resource and with none available, I started the magazine. Metal clay still holds my attention 7 years later, and I have a large part of my studio set up for making jewellery. I also have a few sewing machines and shelves of fabric in my studio. I merged the two studio spaces this summer during my “60 Day Studio Challenge”. This is what my friend was passing a comment about…How could I work on two such different things? Didn’t I need to focus? Her questions made me wonder, “Am I less of an artist due to this perceived lack of focus?”. For me one media seamlessly flows into another.
The artists I would like to question are those who make the same things…for decades. I know several potters from when I was a ceramics major…who are still using the same glazes and making the same forms. How is it possible not to go crazy doing that? I don’t see having a single focus as being an asset for an artist.
Here’s a sample of my “lack of focus”. I love sunsets and I have painted and photographed them for years. On the left is one of my first oil paintings. I completed it while in the army in Northern Ontario. The trees against a sunset or the Northern lights were so inspiring. 25 years later, I explored those images again in my jewellery-this time in metal clay and polymer clay. (Photo on right by Howard C. Davis)
Are you an “unfocused” artist? Do you work in several different arts? I truly feel that new experiences and different ways to express our ideas makes us better artists!
Jeannette Froese LeBlanc is an editor at Cre8tiveFire.com and a jewellery artist. When she is not heralding the wonders of jewellery making or chasing her kids, she rearranges her tools and materials in her studio…hoping someday to slow down long enough to get back to her own jewellery line.