Why a Maker of Bags?

On Tuesday, I received two requests for an interview which was both a lovely and a strange thing to have happen on the same day. Both included a list of questions and - me being me - I loved that since I'm so very good at thinking and specific questions to think about are icing on the cake. One list contained the question why bags and the other the question what type of creative artist do you describe yourself as. Oh... SUCH good questions. At one time, I embraced the word artist and fought hard to have it applied to what I was doing. I remember lengthy debates over the use of artist, quilt artist, art quilter, or textile artist to describe the work that I and others like me did. While I entirely agree that it is a word that applies, it's also one I rarely use and only for conversational convenience. Two things have happened in the years since those initial debates. The first is that saying I am an artist is almost always followed by a question about the type of painting I do. Often, it will be phrased as do you work with acrylics or oils in an attempt to connect except... I don't paint pictures to put on walls. When I did create textile wall art, I described it as contemporary abstract paintings made out of fabric with the hope that more people could relate, but that was only helpful in a limited way.

The second thing happened when I moved to a small community where the average age is fifty and 30% of the population is over sixty-five. There are a lot of retirees and many of them have taken up new hobbies, painting in particular, and now call themselves artists. I have found that the word becomes meaningless when everybody is one. In her book Make Your Art No Matter What, author Beth Pickins, a licensed therapist who works predominately with artists, describes artists as... people who are profoundly compelled to make their creative work and when they are distanced from their practice, their life quality suffers. It was how she came to differentiate her own creativity from theirs. She could make something, occasionally, and walk away with no ramifications. They could not. A true artist, by Beth's definition, could not stop making. It was part of how they functioned and if they couldn't make, their life would spiral downward. I have been asked... more than once... am I hungry and if not could I please go to my studio and make something. Apparently, I was spiraling. Currently - as in it's always open to change - I refer to myself as a maker and if I'm asked to elaborate, I'll base the depth of my answer on what I know about who is asking. I find most people do not understand when I say I create organically; rarely know what I'm making; work intuitively step-be-step while listening to my inner artist; prefer process over product; am addicted to potential; am not attached to, and often cut up and re-create, my pieces. For them, I simple say I make handbags but even then... a recent discussion went like this... What do you do? I'm an artist. What kind of paintings do you make? I make handbags. Yes, but what kind of artist are you?

In today's video, Finish the Edges, I share that the featured bag is not finished because I haven't decided how to do the handles yet. There's a segment near the end about the different options I'm considering but I know from experience that doesn't mean that any of them will actually become the one. I don't know yet. I'm waiting for packages in the mail, further auditioning, and then we'll see. Generally speaking, I make bags. More specifically, I make art bags... meaning one-at-a-time, one-of-a-kind handbags that can't be reproduced and won't be found anywhere else. To me, one-of-a-kind literally means the only one. Because the business is new, I'm still putting the foundation in place and developing the initial patterns and workshops, which means most of what I'm doing appears less one-of-a-kind and more reproducible but that's not where it will stay. Why bags? I chose bag making because it sits at the intersection between garment construction, quilting, surface design, and organic creativity, all of which I enjoy. I chose bag making because selling handbags is easer than selling wall art although a one-of-a-kind anything is a tough sell at a decent price. Even so, I am a prolific maker and I knew I'd have a lot of samples that would eventually need to go somewhere so I bet on bags. I chose bag making because I believe there is a bigger audience for the patterns and the workshops although the audience for art bags within bag making will be smaller. I can't do anything about that but I can't live without art in my bag making and I love to teach. I chose bag making because for me a bag is simply a shape to fill, no different than a canvas, and the designs I create are deliberately simple for that reason. I find the endless ways of interpreting the same blank canvas both fascinating and challenging. And I love sharing the challenge, creating fellow fabric addicts. I chose bag making because I have an endless supply of scraps, remnants, parts, and pieces that can be turned into something fascinating and one-of-a-kind and I am addicted to potential and wear simple clothing. I can't do the work I want to do making garments I would actually wear. I chose bag making because I wanted a business that had the potential to be viable while nurturing my creativity, because without something to make my life would spiral downward, because I am an artist, even if it's easier to say I'm a maker. Talk soon - Myrna Grateful - yummy questions