For the past three years, I’ve been on a nice, long time-out from my business. During that time, Jack and I bought a home, sold a home, and moved from the middle of Minnesota to the middle of Mexico. But more importantly, the break gave me time to forge a new creative identity. I needed time to get from what I was to what I wanted to be.
Our move to Mexico went pretty well. I was able to purchase our home in Chapala, we sold our Minnesota home without a hitch and we navigated the immigration maze to become permanent residents here in Mexico. We enjoy our community and a wonderful year-round climate. We’ve had our ups and downs, but life is pretty darn good.
And my transition to a new creative identity? Let’s just say that it has been a bumpy ride.
Old Creative Identity
For twenty years, the vast majority of my creative efforts went into my business. When I met people, I identified myself as a business owner or an entrepreneur. I wrote books, published patterns, designed stencils, manufactured rubbing plates, taught classes and sold (quite literally) tons of paint.
Don’t get me wrong… I did a HUGE amount of creative work –– in service to my business. Almost everything had to fit through the “marketing” filter. Is this something I can sell? Can I turn this into a class? Is this something the average quilter/crafter/creator can do? What is my cost of goods? What’s the profit margin? Does it make sense for the business?
Anyone who has turned their art, hobby, or creative passion into a business understands exactly what I’m talking about. When you go into business, you stop being a quilter and become a quilt shop owner. You stop being a knitter and become a yarn shop owner. No matter what you were when you started, you stop “doing” the thing you love, and start doing everything to support the business.
I had, unintentionally, stopped being a creative person. I had become a person who supported other people’s creative work. The creative work wasn’t for me. It was for everyone else. Ouch!
New Creative Identity
When we moved to Mexico, I knew I wanted a change. (And not just in scenery.) I wanted to be able to say I am an Artist. I wanted to say it without feeling like a fake.
It wasn’t easy. I didn’t have good “artist” habits. I didn’t have an overriding “passion” that drove my art. Frankly, I just wanted to make stuff that made me happy. I wasn’t even mildly convinced that was enough for me to call myself an Artist with a capital A.
But I learned. I learned a lot. Little by little, I found a routine. With ample time on my hands, I indulged in hours of “what if” design time. I allowed myself to create small samples — to try things out before diving into a big project. Month by month, I learned to play without feeling like I should be doing something “productive.”
I found a set of materials and developed a set of techniques that allowed me to create beautiful stitched paintings that made me happy. I could finally embrace the creative identity of Artist.
True Creative Identity
As much as I felt good about becoming an artist, something was missing. To help me figure things out, I signed up for a Creative Focus Workshop with Jessica Abel.
At some point in the workshop, I made a comment about being torn between making art and teaching. Jessica was wise enough to tell me that it wasn’t realistic to focus on both.To be a professional artist, I needed that to be my One Thing. If I wanted to teach, then I needed to make teaching my One Thing. If I tried to do both, I was not likely to be happy with either one.
What? I can’t do it all??? Well, no. I really couldn’t do it all. I had just spent 20 years proving that to myself.
As I continued to work on my art, I sat with a few questions. What makes me happy? When do I feel most alive? Who are my people? What feeds my soul? What pulls it all together?
I am an Artist Who Loves to Teach
Oddly enough, the Covid pandemic and the need to be physically distanced from other people provided a very clear answer. I need my art, but I also need connection. Making art brings me joy, but sharing my art brings even more joy. Quite simply, I need to teach.
There’s a part of me that thinks it shouldn’t have taken me three years to find this eight-word sentence. I am an artist who loves to teach.
But you know what? It was the greatest gift I could possibly give myself.
I needed time to get to let go of my Business Owner identity. I needed time to grow into my Artist identity. And I needed yet more time to figure out what, if anything, was missing.
And now that I know my true creative identity, it’s time to get started. I am an artist who loves to teach. I’m starting now. I hope you’ll join me soon.
Thanks for reading
Your attention is the greatest gift you can give to a writer. I appreciate the invitation to be a small part of your creative world.
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