Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Failure...Bad For The Heart, Good For Your Art

My challenge to myself this semester was to try several new projects using materials and methods I've not had prior experience with. I strongly feel the best way to keep myself not only inspired and fresh but also to grow as an artist is to push myself out of my comfort zone.

One of the things I've never done was work with clay. I had an idea to make some sort of light shade or lamp cover out of ceramic with an abstract cutout design. It looked really neat in my head so I decided to give it a shot.

One of the many things about creating art is that often, you find you don't have the skills to bring to life whatever was birthed in your imagination. And this definitely happened with my light shade!! I quickly realized the clay I bought wasn't the right consistency to create a solid, ceramic-type object but as I don't have access to a kiln, I was limited by what material I could cook in a standard home oven. The project I had in my head was a very large-scale installation style piece but I decided to try and make a tiny version for the sake of practicality.


The clay is a flesh-toned waxy material that feels kind of gross, a combination of Silly Putty and Play-Doh~
 I've got my wire mesh to fortify the panels~
 Using a rolling pin, I start flattening the skin. I mean clay. Honestly, I kept hearing the phrase "It puts the lotion in its skin" a lot while working on this...
 Rolling it out over the wire mesh and trimming the excess clay off, I start using a knife to cut shapes into and through the clay layer and aluminum mesh.
 It's a tedious and time consuming task, and I'm getting frustrated because I don't have a curved blade that would allow for finer detail and swirling shapes, which is how I initially pictured the cutout design. At least I had the foresight to put foam core under the knife so as not to carve my kitchen table!
 The first two sides carved and baked and the adhesive drying...canned goods make good weights and braces for projects! I left the first panel in the oven much longer than suggested because it turns out this particular kind of clay doesn't bake to a perfectly solid material. It stays somewhat malleable, which was not at all what needed to happen, nor what I was expecting.
 All four sides are done and glued together, but it is just looking worse and worse! I think that if the panels were significantly thicker, this might have gone better, but perhaps not even then. The panels are bendy and not very sturdy, and certainly won't form a reasonably square shape, preferring to sag and bend at their own imaginary whims.
The description on the box of clay made it sound like it would bake to a semi-translucent material, which I had chosen to enhance the glow of light it would allow through, but that's not how it turned out, so I decided to paint the box in an attempt to make it look less frightening and more purposeful.
 Then, because it was still super ugly, I threw some beads on it. When in doubt, Bedazzle!
 The beads do little,'s still saggy and crooked and lumpy and quite sad looking!
 And so finally, I set it up in the dark with a candle in the middle, and it does the something cool I was hoping for....
 The shadows thrown from the cutout shapes look pretty neat, in my opinion.

If using a sturdier clay and being able to properly kiln-bake it, I think this project would have come out awesome. And if I was able to make it on a large scale and install bulbs or many candles in it or behind it, I think it would look amazing.

So while my test-dummy of a light shade came out pretty lame-o for the most part, I guess the fact that it's 90% Fail means that I now know 10% more than I did about working with clay and how to proceed the next time around!

This is obviously a fitting lesson for not only creating Art but all life situations in general. Mistakes are usually our greatest learning experiences. If we were successful the first time around in all our pursuits, we'd be very boring people without much depth.

This of course, means I am a very deep and fascinating individual....*wry laugh*

Friday, May 1, 2015

That Time People Enjoyed Getting Offended...

A couple days I ago, I brought up a topic on Facebook and shared my opinion on an issue, knowing it would be unpopular but deciding it was important to share anyways. In an effort to show how tolerant they were, several people attacked my opinion by saying I was ignorant, selfish, mean, and numerous other statements to that effect. A few people even dragged their vitriol against God into the feed for no apparent relevant reason other than to continue abusing my belief system and/or the belief system of the author of the blog I posted.

At no point did I state that anyone was a bad person, stupid, ignorant, worthless, shameful, or any other negative assessment. I said that I thought someone had a mental illness. This specific opinion, by the way, is shared by thousands of licensed psychiatrists recognized by the APA and has garnered much discussion and back-and-forth consideration over the last several decades, a fact (among many other facts) that I am aware of after spending 12 years working with well over a thousand people diagnosed with every mental illness you can think of (and several you didn't know even existed) as well as doing my own research on the subject. 

I didn't say my opinion was an established fact, but my opinion IS backed up by facts, research and other mental health professionals. MANY issues in the mental health field are contradictory and this is why so much on-going discussion and research is necessary for crucial issues in flux.

I find it very sad that several people took my statement of believing someone had a mental illness as some sort of defamation or cruel assessment of that person's value and worth as a human being. It seems more appropriate to ask why there are people who still have such a negative connotation of mental illness and complete misunderstanding of what having one entails.

It was mentioned by a few people that I can't know someone else's feelings and that they are entitled to their feelings, and that feelings are the only thing that should matter, but the truth is, mental illness is often defined by the fact that someone's feelings lie to them. Depression tells you that you are worthless and the world is better off without you. Anxiety tells you that nothing is ok and all the bad things your brain conjures up will come true. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder tells you that if you do not complete certain rituals, someone you love will die or the world will end and it will be your fault. Schizophrenia tells you, clear as day, that you should probably cut and burn yourself and that men with uzis are going to get you. Most mental illnesses carry the component of the brain creating and believing false thoughts that create feelings based on inaccuracies.

You cannot reasonably say that a person whose brain is telling them these lies is the best one to make an accurate assessment of what they need and how they should proceed with treating these conditions. Their opinion MATTERS and everyone has the right to decide how much or what kind of help they want, but to claim that a sick brain in the throes of instability can make the best decision for itself is absurd.

I don't care that people disagree with my statements or opinions. I DO care that people seem to go out of their way to find offense where offense is not intended and attack me personally. 

Saying someone has a mental illness is not attacking them or condemning them. Saying someone is stupid, arrogant, mean, and all the other nonsense that was said to me was an attack. I may not always says things “RIGHT” or “PROPERLY” but I was given a brain and a personality that works the way it does for a reason, and I will not be quiet about my opinions to keep anyone feeling more comfortable in the little box of their choosing, nor does anyone have the right to expect such a thing. I share my opinions out loud or in writing for the simple fact that I know other people feel the way that I do about many things and cannot find a way to speak about them, and my ability and comfort in doing so helps them in some way. Any additional benefit of getting people to think outside their comfort zone is just a bonus. 

I do what I do, I say what I say, and I think what I think. I'm not asking for, nor do I require, an apology, a blessing, or permission from anyone.