Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Why the Block?

There are times when I feel like the worst wire artist on the planet. I look at the work of other artists and I get an inferiority complex. I really would like to do the beautiful coiling that some do or the intricate spiraling work. I would love to do perfect, incredibly intricate, mirror image earrings. I'd like to weave more. I'd like to do everything that I see others doing. But, then I'd like natural brunette hair and green eyes. I'd like longer legs and perfect teeth, too.

I started this entry weeks ago when I was in a creative crisis. I have tried and tried to put what I felt into words. I have erased far more than you will read here. Even now, I feel like I'm rambling- even though I have a good idea what I want to say, just not how to say it. I guess that's why they call it a creative crisis.

The Block

The block manifests itself in many confidence crushing ways. Artists pull their hair in turmoil when the block comes screaming in. Just as we have endearing names for our muse, we have not so nice names for "the block". We all recognize the block and talk about how miserable it is but, how did we get it and why?

Having gone through a recent crisis, I gained a little insight through much frustration and soul searching. I think I have identified the main culprits, for me at least, that summon the block.


Sometimes, I want to capture in my own work what I love so much in the work of others. It is the language of a piece that draws me in. It has to "speak" to me at some level. I want to speak back in the same language. When I try, I fail miserably. The more I try, the more I feel the block coming on. I get tongue tied. I don't want to mimic others, I want to communicate.

We all bring our own history with us to present to the world our own story. It is easiest to understand this concept when viewing paintings and painterly voices. However, we, as wire or bead artists, are just as unique and singular. We all tell our stories piece by piece. I bring to life, with my artistic voice, my view of the world. I am an open book. All one needs to do to understand me in my world is to study my work.

I have been making wire jewelry for a long time now. I try new ways of doing things. I learn new styles and new techniques. I'm even pretty good at most that I try. But, they aren't me any more than brunette hair and green eyes are. I walk my own walk. I talk my own talk. As my hands and mind speak with my wire, the conversation is smooth, friendly, relaxing, satisfying, rewarding and often times even challenging. It is productive. When I try to speak a language that I don't have the words for I get into trouble with the Block.

What I have come to realize and have to remind myself of is that I need always to speak in my own artistic language. Every artist has one. Every one is unique.


I am guaranteed a visit by the Block when I am sick to death of my own voice. After all, you can only hear your favorite CD so many times in a row. Sometimes... I just bore me. I'm desperate to hear something different- to SAY something different; to change the channel. The more I reach for something new, the more solid the block becomes. I try to reinvent the wheel. I rage that there HAS to be something new to SAY; to DO. These are the times that try my artistic soul! These are also the times when I search for new and interesting stories; new visions in jewelry and techniques. The block then comes when I can't find a way to translate what I find into my own language.

If I am making any sense at all and if you can relate in any way, then you may understand that these two dilemmas go hand in hand, and are, in fact, circular. So which comes first? Do I get bored and then lost in a chorus of voices? Or, does the world of possibilities make me feel boring? I don't really know. But, I rarely have one without the other.

For many years, I tried to avoid looking at what other people were doing. I didn't want to be influenced by others. I think that that was good for me. It allowed me time to develop my own voice. Now that I am more secure as an artist, I feel more confident about incorporating new things into my work. What I need to do is to remember is to have faith that my hands will guide me in creating a new vocabulary for myself. My voice will be strengthened rather than being lost, refreshing rather than boring.

Rereading this again and again, I wonder should I even post such a ramble. On some level, though, I'm sure that many artists can relate even if I have great difficulty putting a finer point on it. It seems, I could sum it all up quite nicely and just say, as someone more eloquent and succinct than myself has said, "To thine own self be true." While that seems evident, it doesn't quite explain the angst in arriving at it or the turmoil when forgetting it. 

(No, I'm not having a block. I'm just reflecting on the last horrible one that I had :) )


  1. When I've finally developed a voice as distinct as yours I hope to have such dilemmas. Being artistic is never easy but I figure as long as I have both ears I haven't gone too far. But on the serious side if you don't challenge your voice you'll never grow. This kind of conversation with yourself is part of building that voice.
    Love your voice!

  2. What Lois said!

    I haven't had your dilemma happen to me yet, but then I have only been doing this for two years and have not reached the creative and technically correct level that you have so there are still many things in my head that I want to try. I am, also, trying to see if I have a vision or voice with my jewelry like you describe. If I do they are being silent most of the time! I think I am beginning to lean more toward free-form, organic creations, but am not sure. I guess my goal right now is to explore that further while still maintaining some sense of being technically correct from the design sense. I have tumbled and polished many rocks I have found and those lend themselves more to the primitive pieces than what you would do for gemstones.

    I have painted, though, for longer than that and find that I do have weeks where there just isn't anything calling me to paint. Then, out of the blue, I hear my muse whispering and, once I get started in the planning of a painting the muse starts shouting I get very excited. I am starting a painting this morning of my two grandchildren and I am at the excited stage. Whether it sees the light of day or not, it still has fanned the flames of creativity and energy!

    You absolutely should use this blog to journal your thoughts. I find that in doing that, we all organize our thoughts into their proper slots in our brains and it fosters those who read your blog to think about the same things. After all, the word blog is short for "Web Log" and it should foster continued deep thinking to follow the blogs of others and include in our own.

    You go, girl! You also rock!

  3. Lois, thank you very much, your comments mean a lot to me. :) I wish I could say that I have complete confidence all the time, but like most people, I don't. This entry has really helped me put into words how that self doubt feels and why- so, yeah, it really does help the inner voice. It feels strange to blog so personal, but it was helpful to me, as is your feedback. :)

  4. Tela Dear, Thank you for this heartfelt message. It speaks to me on so many levels...the block, the voices, the doubts and the desire to be as good as so many artists I see out there. No easy answers. Some days, I find, I have to put the wire down. I pick up old magazines, scissors and a glue stick. I try to collage my feelings or just play. Sometimes, we/I over think too much and the joy goes out of creation. The reminder to play and have fun brings me back to a lighter state. I will probably never reach the skill level I desire or see in others yet, I plan to keep growing, learning, challenging myself and yes playing. Thanks for being out there and sharing.

  5. Hi again, Susan! I have no doubt that you will develop your own jewelry voice before too long. It sounds like you are already gravitating towards what speaks to you in your work. :) Having experience with painting must really help you in designing with color and balance. The technical skills are just a means to an end and no technique is write or wrong. It's how you use them.

    I tried painting and did a few that I kept, too, but I have no real talent or drive for it. I envy your skills. :)

    I have avoided doing too many blog entries like this because I didn't think anyone would want to read my self indulgent stream of consciousness. But, maybe what you say is right and I should explore some of these kinds of issues some more.

    Thanks :)

  6. Hi Christine :) Thank you so much for sharing that. Yes, keeping the fun in it is vitally important. It's the first thing out the window when the block strikes.

    Don't doubt your abilities, Christine, your work is beautiful! ((Hugs))

  7. Tela, I know what you mean about reinventing the wheel! This usually happen when I find myself making the same kinds of "safe pieces" because I know I can do them and they'll turn out ok ( and I won't look like an idiot for posting something terrible! :)Then I try something completely new and I either fail at it( it never comes out looking like what's in my head) or I hit the block too.

    I think its important to be influenced by other artists ( to know what can be done)but not to measure ourselves by them. Measure yourself by your own length of wire and see how far you've come :) I find when people copy other's work. they are telling themselves that thier own ideas/vision are not important enough to be translated into something beautiful. You have an amazing artistic voice and I'd like to see and hear more of it!---Dearrings

  8. Hi D :) I saw the post you left at Mary's blog while I was working on this. I was wondering what you would make of this :)

    I was trying to avoid the issue of copying because that's not really what I was trying to describe. I love to look at everybody's work. I love trying new things and tying to incorporate them into my own work with my own take on it. It usually isn't a problem unless I happen to hit the brick wall. Then, nothing goes right!

    I've gotten to a point where I don't mind my comfortable zone. I think my skills have finally given me a broad enough pallet to work with. But, there are those times when I get bored with myself. There are certain things that I know I won't try just because I'm not drawn to them, but I may change my mind next week, who knows?

    Thank you for your thoughts, D. :)

  9. Tela, Awesome post!! I love to look at the work of others, and often this expands my mind to the possibilities that wire offers and I'm grateful for that.

    But than too many voices go off in my head and I forget myself and am drowned out by the beauty I see in others and lose confidence that I could ever be so creative, or clever or do such complex looking work.

    Your post could be on my blog because it's so angsty!! I try not to share all my angsty thoughts and feelings because I fear to bore or overwhelm my readers, but I could have written this.

    It's also a little bit embarrassing to show oneself in the middle of ones confusion and muddle. It's like being undressed, while everyone else is appropriately covered up:)

    Too bad we can't share a cup of tea with each other:)

  10. As long as you both promise to be dressed I'll bring the biscuits!! ha ha ha


    I am no where near as experienced or talented as you but I do know exactly what you are saying. The harder you try to impose something new on your muse the harder she fights beack! - Mine certainly does!! The problem with me is instead of recognising that when SHE wants to take ME there she will, Being a control freak I keep on trying!!! Usually it results in four or five half finished, partially botched pieces being left on my bench, alot of wasted time/wire and a step deeper into the 'block'
    It's very strange because when my muse decides I should make a piece (the Schnauzer, for instance) it just flows. Yet when I decide I would quite like to make something, without first consulting her it just isn't going to happen. 'We' are both control freaks, I hate to go with someone else's flow!!! Maybe laid back, easy going, less controlling people never get a block as a result of this??? That's my theory anyway. Sorry if I have bored you to tears! ha ha ha

    Thanks for sharing, it's good to know (in a warped sort of way!) it's not just me!!

    Glenda x

  11. If you two ever do share a cup of tea, may I come too??

  12. Mary, I am sooo glad you liked it. It was exactly like you say- I felt naked. BRRRR! My finger wavered over the post button for so long.

    Yeah, angst and I are well acquainted. I love the title of your blog. I feel that way a lot. I'm my own worst enemy. LOL!

    I know what you mean about the tea :)

  13. Glenda! Tea, biscuits and clothing- gotcha!

    It totally isn't just you. I think anyone passionate about the work they do has the same problems. It comes with the territory, I guess.

    Yes, I LOVE it when the must smiles and I seem to work blindfolded. And then there is the flip side! ARGGHHHH!

    You absolutely did not bore me! :)

  14. Christine, you are more than welcome! Glenda has the biscuits and you can bring cut flowers. I just think flowers are lovely between friends. :)

  15. oh yes! I know this demon all too well! And yes, looking at everyone else's work can bring it on all too easily. Often I find the best way out it to look at or make other kinds of crafty stuff. It is amazing how inspiring it can be trying to translate a well used idea/theme in another medium back to wire. It often spawns a whole range of new ideas.

    Hope the block is gone soon!!!

  16. I'm so glad you could relate! I mean, I'm not GLAD that it happens to you, too, but glad that I have good company. :) I know what you mean about looking at other things. I often find great inspiration in traditional silversmithed pieces.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts and comments.