A friend on Twitter recently asked "How do you know when to put yourself/your work out there (more)?" and this post is for her because for so long I couldn't call myself an artist and I couldn't share my art because of that nasty Inner Critic that was always telling me I 'wasn't good enough'...'didn't have the training'...'it's not perfect' ....and on and on and on. That voice in my head that told me I couldn't/shouldn't put my work out in the world was much harsher than any real outer world rejection I would eventually receive.
More than 25 years ago I made these two pieces: 'Birth of the New World Lies within Us' and 'My First Forty' - spending over one year on 'My First Forty' which is 30x30 - painstakingly planning, drafting, stitching, and painting the story of my life only to hang it on my own wall. My children have asked me not to sell either of these pieces and I'm happy to know they will be treasured by them when I am gone some day. But, I now look at them and wonder that I couldn't call myself an artist when I made them.
Mostly I kept making because I couldn't not make. I felt compelled to keep stitching and painting and trying new things and nine years ago in 2012 - after my children were grown and gone - I finally decided to let myself own it and BE the artist that I was. I took a part time job to pay the bills and moved to Western Mass into an old house with room to have a studio and I started the first of many false starts trying to make work that someone might want to buy (because all of my friends had my artwork hanging on their walls already and I only had so much storage space.) But, I still didn't really think of myself as a fine artist so I started out as a crafter with a business called Frisky Furnishings, opening an Etsy shop and refinishing old cast off furniture. Below are some of the chairs I made along the way. I signed up for craft fairs where I rarely sold enough to pay the booth fee - sometimes sitting all weekend without a single sale. I joined a co-op furnishings store where once a week I drove an hour and a half each way to sit and not sell my work. But, people came by and appreciated what I was doing and told me my work was beautiful and once in awhile the sun came out and someone bought something and it was good.
The schlepping of furniture got to be too much and so I veered off again and made fabric wearables - necklaces and belts and bags - eventually venturing into a partnership with another artist and we became 'Frisky Mamas' making one of a kind handmade bags. They were 'ooohhhed' and 'ahhhhed' over at craft fairs and local markets but also didn't sell well and we eventually packed it in, me feeling all over again like a failure. During all of this time, I was embroidering and painting too and once in awhile feeling brave enough to exhibit my work.
And then in 2014, I created my first two brain pieces and fell in love with what I was doing and poured myself into it all over again. I reclaimed my own name as an artist, ditching the Frisky Furnishings name and social media handles and that website too, and made a decision to be unapologetically myself and do what I wanted to do and make what I loved to make and here I am, embroidering brains pretty much everyday. It was the BEST decision I ever made and I finally found my audience - those people who love my work AND want to buy it. I still have a lot of work that doesn't sell and that's OK because I'm very happy doing what I'm doing and connecting with the people I'm connecting with. I rarely submit my work to show at exhibitions and only do in person art shows once or twice a year (in non-covid times). I do post my work on social media every single day and try to keep my website up to date and my online Shop full of brains from the little Brilliant Brain enamel pins that anyone can afford to the big hand embroidered original pieces that often don't sell as originals but frequently do sell as prints.
It's still an adventure and my Inner Critic still visits me nearly every day. It's a fight to ward off her voice and to own myself as an artist but its a fight worth having and so we go the rounds. These days she is critical of the fact that I call myself a Neuro Artist because how dare I since I'm 'not a scientist' and I 'don't really know enough about brains' and my work 'isn't anatomically correct' but I'm learning to tell her to go stuff herself and I take great pleasure in the neuroscientists and neurologists and neurosurgeons who love my work and tell me that - nearly every day.
I'm telling my friend all of this because I don't want her to waste another friggin' day thinking she's not good enough or her art is not art or listening to her Inner Critic. I wasted too much time getting here and taking all the wrong roads because I was scared to really just follow my passion. I'm done with that now and here I am. Some folks will love what I do, and some won't and that's OK.
Now I just have to remember this as I move into the next phase of my life and give up the part time job and do this full time which is happening really SOON. Stay tuned and please follow me at the social links below. Every time someone likes a piece online it helps me tell that Inner Critic to shut up and shove off. :)
Chronicling my adventures as a Neuro Artist. I love to make work centered on our magnificent brains and learn about how it all works in the process..