Friday, October 17, 2008

Getting Started as an Artisan

This blog will be a journal of my journey as I transform myself from computer geek, and management consultant into an artisan. I'm not entirely certain which mediums this expression will take, but to start with I'm going to be pursuing expertise in sculpting wood, clay, and metals. I guess my thinking is that I'm pursuing the profession of craftsman, and artisan, rather than say artist. I'm most interested in making useful things that don't collect dust. For example, a tea pot that would actually get used, rather than just sit on a glass shelf and look beautiful. I might make some things that are purely artistic, but that is not very motivating for me really.

My latest management consulting gig ended July 31st, and this time though I'm going to attempt to be through with it. I'm not sure what happened, but in these last few years all the joy and fun I've derived from my work was just missing. The long commutes and being separated from my family most of the time has really worn me down, and put many stresses on my marriage. I never really planned to end up in the career I did, but it took me 25 years to get there, and now I'm pretty much walking away from it.

Financially, my wife and I both worked full time in good careers from about 1985 until our second son was born in 2002, when we decided that daycare didn't seem enough like raising your own children to us and so my wife decided to change jobs to be a full time mother. Our two boys are now just turned 6 and 8, so while still needing the nurturing of their mother -- they also need to have their father around more than a few hours at bedtime and weekends. My wife and I discussed our options, and since both our boys are now in school it would be a good time for me to become the stay at home dad who makes things, and she can return to the work world and bring home the paycheck for awhile.

My artistic journey started in my youth and has expressed itself in many different forms throughout my life. I'm a perfectionist, but I've gotten over it enough to know that imperfection is quintessential in personalizing artistic expression. You might like to know also that I was raised on a cattle ranch, and I trained horses as a hobby. Growing up on the farm I worked with my father and his friends on mechanical contraptions and repairing our farm equipment. I also became adept at taxidermy in high school due the tutelage of very skilled biology teacher. I left the farm for University, and never really found my way back to a rural lifestyle. I've always pined for it though. There was something comforting in walking out your back door and being "on the job" every day. Moving to the city I explored different forms of artistic expression, from classical ballet, to traditional studio arts. To my amazement, I discovered I was actually pretty good at those things that I had previously thought I had no talent in whatsoever. It stands to reason since my mother is artistic, and her mother was artistic that some of their talent would get passed down to me. Beyond that, I'm a technologist, which means that I geek out on everything technical, which there is actually quite a bit of in the arts.

I met my wife at the University, we married in her senior year, and she is a city girl. Her only requirement for our first house was that it be close to a major bus line. Yikes! But, we found a good compromise house next to a large park (cue music: "gimme land, lot's of land..."). We owned that house for 5 years, and were lucky to sell it for much more that what we paid for it. This let us get into our next house, where we still are situated. It is rustic, yet not rural. We are in a tight knit community with about 2 acres which I (and my neighbors) leave wild. So, while I still pine for a ranch, and livestock, I don't relish all the work it takes to run that kind of operation.

I'm not really sure what I'm doing yet, so if anyone reading this makes a living as an artisan, then I would love to discuss how that works for you. I'm beginning by making connections into the arts community in my locality, and finding out who teaches courses, makes, and exhibits what I plan to do. I've also signed up for some courses at the local arts institute to meet more people in the arts community here, bone up on some rusty skills, and learn some new ones. The first two that start at the end of the month are a welding refresher course, and an all level potting class. These are both skills I have done extensively, but it's been ten years since I've welded anything or tossed a pot. I also need to slowly build my workshop, so getting connected to local artisans is also important to finding the best deals on used equipment and tools.

One idea I've had would be to connect my love of gaming, fantasy, and things medieval into my craftsmanship. I thought I would begin by designing a medieval chess set with the pieces made from porcelain, and the board made with inlaid walnut and oak. I've also researched quite a few other public domain ancient games sets that could be made very artistically.


Gary Rith Pottery Blog said...

Ah ha!

Kelly said...

Thank you for following my blog! I was so glad to come over to yours and read your entries. So much of it resonated with me, since I have recently begun to do the same. I left a great job in Banking and Finance to stay home with my daughters, and of late have begun to pursue the arts too. I am excited for you, since I know you are going to enjoy yourself!