Thursday, August 9, 2012

Quiet Time

 Closing Time

In my last post I talked a lot about preferring not to be social and how difficult this can be to put into practice in a world that considers an always available glad hand, winning smile and assertive speech to be hallmarks of a successful and well-adjusted human being. Thanks to the apt and timely recommendation of my good friend Patti of Missouri Bend Studios, I have just spent the past few days in the company of the excellent book by Susan Cain called "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking” and now feel a lot better about myself, not to mention that, when it comes to needing to be alone, I am far from alone.

 Quiet

This book comes into my hands and my life, as so many do, just when I needed its beautiful balance of hard logic and gentle good cheer most, and just when I had not only the time, but the right time to spend time with it. Lately, as the weeks of my being unemployed, yet also reluctant to begin any creative projects that might be abruptly terminated by my becoming employed, have accumulated, I’ve been living a sort of half life, prepared for some routine-changing development to arrive, and meantime unable to fill my hours with anything else that requires my full passion and attention. They do say that everything happens for a reason, and my being unoccupied has certainly been worthwhile in that it gave me the free hands and mind to help Brian with some of the amazing opportunities that have lately come into his artistic life.  If you haven’t been following the progress of the mural he’s working on, check out his facebookpage.  

  Thrift Patience and Focus

My empty hours have also compelled me to put to the test once again the character of my commitment to the life of an artist, and answer the tough questions of what sort of artist and what sort of life exactly, questions you never have time or need to ask when you are actually actively living the life of an artist.  I’ve found that I have done a lot of work in the past two years to get the business side of my creativity established to the point that it no longer demands constant management. I’ve also found that having made many errors of judgment regarding making things for the sole purpose of selling them, I am now content to create only what I feel like creating, and selling only what I am pretty certain somebody out there wants to buy, either because these items have sold well before, or because they have been expressly requested. My days of large boxes of unsold inventory are over. The past was about enthusiastic indiscriminate abundance, playing guessing games to please the buying public, and full disclosure of every aspect of my process and product online. The future is unclear, but as things for me seem to move in cycles of outward and inward focus, times of activity and times of quiet retreat, I already sense that I am on the verge of a period of thrift, patience and focus, and being my own one and only target audience when it comes to my creative output. 

 Not Beyond Reapir

Meantime, in need of pocket change, I happened to visit a very cool camera store recently in an attempt to sell one of my old zoom lenses that I never use. Apparently Pentax equipment is not very popular in this area, and the proprietor declined, but while I had his ear, I inquired whether he could repair my old Pentax K1000, which other less approachable guys at other stores in other cities have firmly declined to attempt, claiming opening him up would do more harm than good. This kind gentleman was happy, even eager, to oblige, and because of his good work, I now have as a working addition to my equipment a camera that I bought 27 years ago, took some of my best photographs with, (including the one that began this blog two years ago,) and retired 6 years ago when the film rewind contraption started to grind to a halt and shred any film in its grasp.  I’m looking forward to feeling this good old weight again, and how it rests on my face and becomes part of my seeing.  I’m not sure how this ties in with the future direction of my photography, but it feels both good and right to have my old friend back. 

 Old Friend

Lately I’ve come to terms with the reality that even in a good economy, photography doesn’t sell well, and that unless you are one of the top ten most famous photographers at work today, you must spend your every waking moment hustling to make a living from it, and hustling only a little less even to count on enough supplementary income to offset the costs of getting the work out there.  Even then it’s a matter of quantity, never one big piece or commission. If you are not the type to get behind a meaningful project that borders on journalistic reporting, or the glossy presentations of commercial photography, there is no money out there to be had for you. My photography and I used to have a wonderful relationship, thrilling as a clandestine affair, requiring no input or feedback from the world outside. I shot film when I felt like it, when I was moved by certain circumstances.  I was not ever in a position where I had to feel bad that I knew about as much about the inner workings of my own camera as I did about the Hubble telescope, because I made no claims to be a professional photographer. I left a cannister with the guy at the camera store, hoping to dodge any technical speak he might try to engage me in, and a few days later I received back an envelope with images that looked a lot like what I saw through the lens. Opening the envelope felt like Christmas morning.  It felt like magic when a shot turned out, because I honestly had no idea how it happened. When I shared my photos, I modestly waved off anyone who kindly but misguidedly suggested “you are so good! You really should do something with these!”

 Slow Meditative Rhythms

Similarily, in 25 years of crocheting for pleasure, I never sold a single item. I gave them to friends and family. Crochetting was an act of solitary enjoyment followed by a gesture of generosity. It had nothing to do with marketing, promotion, cost analyses or inventory control. I did not have to join groups or spin my own yarn to feel legitimate. I never documented what I produced. In all this free time lately, I have also started crocheting again. I have enough old stock to get me through whatever fall markets I choose to attend this season, but last week I bought some alpaca fiber and started a new scarf, not really caring whether it would look good in my Etsy shop or hanging in a tent, whether I could make a profit on the materials and labor, I just missed passing the hours with the slow meditative rhythms of the crochet hook my only guide. It started to feel like not such a bad thing if I hang up the hat of the artist and go back to being someone who simply lists crocheting and photography and writing among their spare time activities, along with crossword puzzles, long walks and reading. I can still be proud of and good at what I do, even if I do it entirely outside of the community of people doing the same things.

 Two Years Ago Today

The conclusion is that so far there is no conclusion. I have been enjoying shooting without a specific project or targeted event goal in mind, and I am enjoying crocheting again with no real agenda. I sketch out timelines and strategies for production for possible future events – perhaps I should fill a tent with photographs of rural scenes and farm animals along with my fiber accessories to grab people’s attention where urban scenes, shadows and cracks have earned admiration but not inspired the opening of wallets? But this feels counter productive, like going back into something that I am already on my way out of, and that I do best to look ahead even if there is nothing yet there.  Unfortunately, part of this turning away involves suspending this blog, established exactly two years ago today to support and document something that seems now to have run its course, and no longer able to pretend otherwise. Thank you everyone who has followed me these past two years. I may be missing from the blogosphere but I can still be reached by other means.  Wishing you all the best in your endeavors.  If you need me, I’ll be in the quiet hours, catching up on my reading.

11 comments:

  1. I am so scared of the word "end" . . .

    Many things change,,many things die,,,and no matter how much I try to get used with the idea,,I miserably fail every time. I make a deep, very deep introspection trying to evoke how it felt in the beginning, when the dreams where newborn and fresh, when the faith and hope were as a little sprout in the misty morning and the wet grass. I look my self at the mirror and see a stranger standing, and wonder where have the old person gone?? Now my life is again stable,,even somehow succesful, for what the most of the people understand for "success". But the price has been high,,very very high. Now that we are at the edge of the summer, I take a pause and summarize the deeds and realize, that a lot of things died, within me and around, for never, never to come back. I look at my notebooks, where I used to write, empty, abandoned, alone, as my hands, my pen, maybe even my mind, became silent and dumb. I go and take pictures, with my recently acquired expensive brand new gear, I go and post them, but it is not the same, they are inert, spiritless, like those Golems from the legends, they walk, but lack of any life . . . And I wonder. . was this what life wanted?? and where is such life going to take me now?? Who knows. . . maybe it is like the very summer, like the seasons of the year, that after the restless twilights and never ending sunny days, have to come to an end and give space to the silent of the autumn nights. Transformation and end Gaby, is all what rumbles in my mind while in those quiet hours you depict. Maybe the time to summarize the things of the summer of our lives has arrived,,while sitting in silence in the living room, wondering over and over again, in what moment the present just slipped away from our hands . . .

    Keep well dear, it has been a lovely ride, hope we can continue it even if in new scenarios, and if you need me,,dont hesitate to drop me a line, you know where to find me as well.

    Hugs.
    Alberto

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  2. I cannot tell you how much you will be missed. I fully understand and even applaud your reasons for suspending this space, but there is also a part of me that will grieve.
    You have my heartfelt wishes for happiness in all your endeavours, and as much sucess (however defined) as you want or need.
    Stay well and be happy.
    Hugs and smiles from across the miles.

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  3. dear Gabriella, understanding you is one thing, missing your posts will be another and i will mis you and your intriguing posts that made me reflect on my own life (and i thank you for doing so) but you can only go your own way and that's what you're doing so go well, you have my respect and love, always,

    you may feel like hanging up your artists hat, but you will not stop being an artist by doing so, because that's what you are and it will shine through in everything you do or think or write or say and even in the quiet hours,
    big hug Renilde

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  4. There were always a fresh breeze coming from this site, full of new ideas, trying new things.
    I am going to miss you, dear Gabriella.
    Wish you all the best..
    Hugs Monika

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  5. Dear Alberto, Sue, Renilde, Monika - you have all made this blog a joy to maintain these past two years. I am so sorry for lately neglecting your posts, you have all been great friends, an inspiration and a blessing to know, even across so many miles, and I appreciate that very much. I know this will not be the end, as Alberto said, such a frightening word, but a transformation. The true connections will survive, my silence does not mean you will be any less in my thoughts and my heart.

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  6. Dearest G,
    One of the biggest lessons i've learned in the last twelve months is that nothing lasts forever. No matter how beautiful, rewarding, inspiring, life giving it is... something is going to change. You don't want it to sometimes. But things evolve. We evolve, and transform. We must!!

    I'm beyond happy to have met you and Mr B and to have experience your work first hand. We'll be catching up soon, I'm sure of it.
    D.

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    1. D - it's all a matter of perspective I suppose. Someone else might look at my life as a series of losses, disappointment, failures - I never do seem to hang on to anything for very long before it changes, or I do, and some sort of letting go has to happen, whether it's my choice or not. Knowing it's for the best - making damn certain by how you perceive and make use of such seemingly negative situations that it IS for the best - is about the only control we can hope to have. Something has to die before something else can grow in its place. I'm focusing on nurturing the new growth, not mourning the old. And oh yes, I too am certain that our association begun here must and will continue above and beyond Blogger! and soon, soon...

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  7. G! What a heartwarming post. I'm so glad you go the Susan Cain book....somehow reading it does make you feel good about yourself, even when you may not have realized you were feeling badly. Somehow that's what our culture does to the quiet introvert...makes us feel lesser, lacking in something when really we are quite full and overflowing, but require the right time and place to allow it to unfold. And in this parallel path we've traveled throughout our lives, especially these last couple years, I've also learned that it's quite okay to stop and change course. Just because you started this blog two years ago and created a lot of amazing posts, making friends all across the continents, does not mean it must continue unabated. You know when it's time for a change and if so, you must honor that....letting life unfold as it will. We'll still be here and will always be connected in lots of ways....I'll look forward to hearing of your life and pursuits in other ways! Cheers, my friend!!

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    1. Dearest Patti - thanks so much for recommending that book, and for being such a good friend in this space and beyond! I have a lot of thinking to do over the next few weeks, basically boiling down to a "what to leave in, what to leave out" process applied to every aspect of my inner and outer life. Much better than going through the motions when things have clearly gone past their expiration date! It's a good thing I'm so accustomed to and comfortable with this sort of transition time. I honestly do believe that chucking stuff out that has outlived its usefulness or relevance for whatever reason is the first step to making room for better things even if you haven't figured out what they are yet! They tend to come on their own once they know the way is clear. All the best to you my friend!

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  8. I couldn´t avoid the feeling of sadness.
    Read your words and see you photos have been part of my days and inspirations. I know It always be on my way, as a sweet gift.
    I wish you all the best, my dear friend.
    Keep in touch.
    Love to you.

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    1. Thank you for your sweet words, dearest Cris. There are other ways to stay in touch - emails and letters and little gifts in the mail. And I always know and feel you are out there as an inspiration and a true friend. Much love to you!

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