The Tough Make Art

The Tough Make Art

Elsa Mora Paper Sculpture

When the world doesn't seem bright and orderly, you might need to create your own world. Settle your inner turmoil by putting your hands to work. 

Elsa Mora

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been stressed out. As I write this, the United States has just elected a new president after the most tumultuous election season in memory. And it’s not as if the election has brought closure. Friendships are ending over politics. Families are breaking apart. Hate crimes are surging. People are taking to the streets. The country feels more polarized, less civilized, than it has in decades.

Like a lot of us, I’m looking for ways to cope with the discord, to feel hopeful again. I’m returning to the basics: eating well, exercising, trying to sleep, spending time with loved ones. But I’m also doubling down (as the pundits would say) on art.

I used to make more art, but, paradoxically, my job is something of a disincentive. Every day, I see so much wonderful, polished, expert work that I hesitate to try it myself. And maybe it’s not just me. It’s easy to settle into being a spectator, rather than a participant – to assume that only some people are meant to make.

But, my friends, everyone is creative. If you’re human, you’re creative. And this is a time to prize process over product. This is a time to focus on craft as a verb, not a noun. Put aside the messages of our linear, ruthlessly efficient bottom-line culture. And know that tapping into your creativity is immensely healing. It’s one of the joys, one of the fundamentals, of being alive.

“When we’re scared,” psychotherapist Satya Doyle Byock says, “the imagination contracts.” The antidote is to “make art, make music, write, get your imagination moving.” Which means silencing the editor within: “Do not judge anything you want to do or that wants to come through you. Your creative self will help you heal and will almost certainly help to move your community forward.”

So today I’m going to declutter my neglected studio – a tidy space calms the mind – and I’m going to start making something. I don’t know what, but I know it will be made with community in mind. I’m thinking about the man at the Black Lives Matter demonstration in Charlotte who offered free hugs to protesters and the police – many of whom took him up on it. I’m thinking about Michael Strand and his efforts to bring people of divergent views together around pottery. At this point in history, we all need to be social-practice artists; we all need to use our creativity to connect, to soothe, to awaken, to find common ground, and to lobby for kindness in our country.

As the brilliant Toni Morrison wrote after the 2004 election, “This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear.” Art, she wrote, “is how civilizations heal.” Art, my fellow Americans, is essential.

In this issue: You’ll find a poster kicking off the celebration of the 75th anniversary of our publisher, the American Craft Council; it’s the first in a series of nine. Beginning with the April/May issue, we’ll be highlighting important events in the history of craft, decade by decade, starting with the 1940s. The posters are our way of thanking you, our readers and members, for your support. It continues to be crucial as we seek to remind people of the value of the imagination.

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