There’s crafting…and then there’s actual art-making. Those who know me, and know this blog, will attest that my creative output always encompasses the former. What’s the difference? Crafting, by my definition, is a process towards making something that involves rules, instructions, templates, patterns, and recipes. In other words, someone else tells you the basics of what to do, and your creativity comes into play in choosing the particulars.
Don’t get me wrong — I LOVE crafting of all kinds and consider it a fabulous vehicle for creativity. There are millions of things to craft, and I want to do almost all of them.
But….then there is art. Art-making is rule-less, or perhaps we could say, unruly. Making art is making something — a painting, a quiche, a bowl, a collage, a page for a special someone’s 40th-birthday book — with no template. The materials are yours to manifest. You don’t know how it will turn out. You don’t have anything or anyone to tell you when you are “done.”
At any given moment, I’m knee-deep in at least 4 halfway-done crafting projects…and that feels just right to me. No reason to finish one before starting another. The sense of satisfaction when I finally finish something is fabulous — it often feels like I’ve been working on it for years even if I haven’t touched it for months! Then along came an invitation a few weeks ago to participate in a time-treasured ritual: The Birthday Book. Perhaps you have been involved in such a thing in the past? An album of “pages” created for someone for their birthday — often a milestone birthday — that gives participants the chance to show their love “creatively.” This, as I saw it, was an opportunity to make some Art.
Instructions were loose. Deadlines were even looser. The only requirement was to love up this special woman turning 40. Consider it done, I remember thinking. And then ….time passed. Craft projects were started and some were finished. I couldn’t think of an idea. No pages coming out of this house. And then, 2 days before the final final, last-extension deadline, I declared it an evening for art-making and pulled out everything colorful and supply-like that’s not already packed up in a box. And without a plan in place, away we went.
And, in the unencumbered, unruly process of making something that I didn’t have a recipe or instructions for, I relaxed and let it come to me. And I realized something important — making art is not easy, and moreover, it’s a muscle, like anything else. To let my mind go free and allow the page to come together and tell me when it was finished felt novel, curious, and exciting. We finished our pages, and set them on the counter to dry. And as I lied in bed that night, allowing myself to become sleepy, I felt truly, wonderful — a different wonderful than after I’ve finished a craft project. I felt like I had expressed something — something about myself — that I didn’t know was there. And I remember thinking, “wow. I never do that.” Not only did I get to fully celebrate this beloved 40-year-old woman who I hold dear, I got to enjoy the rare experience of free art. My brain loved it. My heart loved it. I slept well. A new family ritual, indeed.