Liberating Pieces of Me

Sometime last summer a couple dear friends came for a visit.  We were experiencing sweltering heat outside.  To tell you the truth, it didn’t feel much better indoors.  So, we soothed ourselves by sitting in front of the fan and clinging onto our glasses of ice water, which were sweating nearly as much as we were.  Somewhat alleviated, we began to share about our lives.  We talked about where we had come from and what our hopes were for the future.

During my time to share, my brow furrowed as I became lost and a little confused by my own thought process.  Then I interrupted myself with the bold declaration, “I’m an artist!”

What I meant by that was that I am not an academic.  I was frustrated that had spent the past two and a half years in graduate studies.  Even the one semester ahead of me felt like too much.

The conversation moved to other places, and after awhile my friends left, our hearts each a little lighter from sharing burdens with one another.  I reached for my journal and let the ink take record of my wondering mind.  Why had I spent the past three years in academia if the truth was that I was an artist?

After many frustrated lines, I figured out that really I am both.  I am an artist.  I am an academic.  The interruption from my artist self was a declaration of the oppressed.  The artist desired her own liberation.  She was oppressed by too much time with books and not enough time creating.  And, the salvation of my whole self was at stake.  It was on her shoulders to raise her voice: “I am here.  I am you.  You are an artist.”

A few days later, I drove to the local craft store and picked up a sketchbook, pencils and some water colors.  After a few weeks went by, I decided to refinish my table.  (I sanded it with three different types of sand paper–all by hand–and covered it with polyurethane.)   And, then I decided I would take up book-binding.  I was inspired by a friend to try non-adhesive book-binding.

So far, I’ve made five journals.  I’ve given away all but one of them as gifts.  I have found I really enjoy being able to create something that is both beautiful and functional.  I’m delighted to think of these journals–with hand-folded pages, hand-stacked signatures and hand-woven bindings–holding the precious thoughts of my loved ones.

It’s been a joy, too, to learn to listen to myself.  When I begin to feel too academic, I add some creative processes to my life.  When I begin to feel too artsy, I pick up a book.

Balance is beautiful.  It has been my salvation.

For your pleasure, here are some photos of my creative process:

Covering book boards.

Boards and signatures waiting to be bound.

Punching holes into the boards.

Thread, needles and a square knot.

Beginnings of binding.

Double Coptic stitches.

The completed journal.


One Response to “Liberating Pieces of Me”

  1. This post really speaks to me. I also work in an academic setting, but feel a strong urge to express myself artistically. Alas, it is very difficult to make a living as an artist in our society, and it can be difficult to nourish one’s inner artist in the midst of life’s daily demands. Thank you so much for sharing your lovely journals and your thoughts on the need to express oneself artistically.

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