Joyce Scott does not consider herself a glass artist. She is an artist who works with glass.
Joyce works in glass thru another artist – a flame worker. She sits by, says, “I want a woman , well endowed, just the torso, I’ll add the other parts in beadwork later.” Then she directs the creation with comments like, “Don’t do that. What if you just kind of let go?” And memorably, “I am an African American Woman – that butt is not big enough.”
During her lectures and presentations, these are the quotes that made it to my notebook.
“There are no mistakes, only opportunity.”
“This is your opportunity to do what YOU want.”
“Be fearless in the studio.”
“I know that’s stupid, but I’m doing it.” I nod in agreement – so much of creativity is a journey with some really really incredibly stupid first steps. Yet there is no journey at all without daring to be ridiculous, uncool, and unwise.
“For your collectors to walk the journey with you, you have to make new work.”
“If you don’t know how to do it, learn how to do it.”
“You should be attracted to your weaknesses, usually we run from weaknesses.”
Joyce maintained that anything we are terrible at we must learn to do. I talked to her for a long time about how to approach galleries, how to get the foot in the door. I believed there was a secret password, some shortcut to entry. She said, no, just call and do what they tell you .
I went home, picked up the phone and called the Metropolitan Museum of Art gift shop. I said I was an artist, I wanted to talk to someone about getting my work for sale in their stores. They asked me which of five phone numbers I would like, or would I like the address for product development? I dove for that address. It was like a lifeline, I would send them stuff, never hear back, and be safely a failure, deal over! Easy! Simple! And exactly what I expected. An escape!
I hung up with my address in hand and could see my entire past of gallery soliciting attempts. I was looking for a way to fail. I was hunting, desperate, for a way out of the pressure of being evaluated, treated like garbage, and essentially having the door hit me in the metaphorical butt with every rejection.
And I found myself with a pile of barriers I had erected for myself. I am terrible on the phone. I will not get anywhere doing this. I am a failure and here is the proof, one call and a gallery owner has sent me whimpering to the dog house. I am not worth their time, these people sell Remington bronze originals, I am not in this league. I have orders, I don’t have time for this, I am too pressured to be creative, I have to feed my tortoises!
I learned from Joyce Scott that it may be hard, but I can still do it anyway. I may even suck at it, but I can do it anyway. My excuses are just that. They are only solid barriers if I believe in them.