Usually I am back in the studio by now, with a full list of orders to complete and my head spinning with plans for the new year, however, this year started out kind of unique with a trip to Florida. Dean had a work conference to attend and was asked if I would be able to join him, so I jumped at the opportunity to tag along. A trip from Vancouver to Florida is a long trip- 9.5 or so hours on the plane with at least 1 lay-over so we figured that while we were already there, we should probably take a look around. The conference was about 5 days in Orlando and then we rented a car and booked some extra time in Miami for the last 3 days. Neither of us had been to Florida and a chance to hang out without the boys is always a bit novel too!
The conference itself was kind of a big deal and overwhelming, to say the least. Dean works for a Youth organization that started in the States 75 years ago and began in Canada a little over 50 years ago. The Canadian version is similar but separate, so attending this every 4 year conference hasn't really happened until recently. Four years ago a handful of Canadian staff went down and this year there were 23 of us (including spouses) while the whole conference numbered 5000 mostly Americans. At least it was a Youth workers conference, because it was for the most part fun and engaging to talk about young people, what matters to them, and how best to mentor them in a confusing and often depressing world. It was challenging to think about the issues that mattered to me when I was growing up and how those will be different for my boys who are just entering their teens. I think the biggest take-a-way was that all kids matter, but kids on the fringe, the marginalized- those kids really need someone who cares about them, loves them for who they are, no matter where they are or where they are at. We all long to belong, to be loved and to feel part of something greater.
There's a lot I'm processing as I think about our 5 days in Orlando. I found myself in tears during some of the sessions. It was easy to get caught up in the moment of 5000 people talking about issues that are concerning me as a mom to a pre-teen/teen or as the spouse of someone who has been working with youth on the fringe for 22 years. The speakers themselves were compelling communicators, and though there were a wack of 'quotable' lines, I felt myself trying to stay a bit grounded in the moment and reality of what it means to be hyped up only to go home and come back down to earth. We all need a calling and need to feel part of a movement that speaks to the heart and soul of what we do, so I totally get that a conference like this is all about communicating a specific vision to those who are part of the organization.
I think this all relates somehow to the work I do in the studio and the larger community I'm part of, but it is taking some time to trickle through my own lens. Working in clay requires a sense of calling, as a material that is time-intensive, labour-intensive, and mostly on the lower end of the value spectrum if we compare it to other forms of art. Clay may be in hot right now- like everyone is doing it, but the commitment to keep on keeping on requires a deeper sense of motivation that moves beyond the logical and into a more spiritual realm. As I think through the next phase of my career as an artist and maker, dreaming about what I want to be doing in 5 or 10 years, I go back and forth between the sense of calling that this is where I should be/what I should be doing with my life and what will be sustainable long-term for myself and my family. There is a push-pull in terms of how best to move forward with this work I've created and how to solve some of the inherent issues that arises out of the work I do. I felt incredibly tired this past year and also kind of alone in my struggle to keep up with the enormous amount of work that came my way. If I'm entirely honest, I would say I'm still sorting through how best to free myself from feeling overwhelmed in this work, to feeling liberated by the work I am doing. I think this takes more than an attitude shift because there are so many fundamental structures within the 'business' of making a living from making that can seriously bog a creative person down.
So before I get back into working with clients and shops, before I start back to the projects left undone or the piles of work that is waiting for me to get started, I wanted to put this out there, mostly for my own self then anyone else. Losing faith in this creative life I have felt so passionately about is part of the process of finding a reason to continue on, it's part of the larger journey of what makes my work and my practice exciting and unique to me. There will be more of these checkpoints along the way. The willingness to dig into the deeper reasons of why I choose to do this work and how it effects a larger community and audience is part of an authentic approach that I have always believed to be integral to creating work that is relevant and inspiring.