For several years I had been really struggling to find a fulfilling, creative outlet in my life. Emphasis on 'fulfilling'! I think this is something a lot of us search for, but perhaps just don’t know where to start. For me, I’d grown up sketching and this was often what I would return to every few years. But that content feeling at creating something never seemed to last. My pens and paper would end up packed away in the cupboard and I’d be back at square one again.
It took a big shake up in my life to reveal the right creative path for me.
My husband and I took a "grown-up gap year" in 2014-15 and spent much of it in the US. I go on about it a lot (ask my friends, I'm sure it's annoying!), but you cannot underestimate how putting your life on hold and doing something out of the ordinary for a year affects you! That year gave us the freedom to discover what makes us happy and it put a lot of things into perspective.
I started weaving during the gap year, in mid-2015-I'd bought a creative journal and was working my way through the daily challenges listed in it. I never actually made it to the end of the journal, but I do feel that starting the entire exercise was instrumental to finding my creative path! Plus, it was fun and got me into a habit of thinking creatively every day! The journal highly encouraged experimenting with different mediums, so I taught myself to weave (poorly made) baskets and that led to branch weaving. We did a lot of traveling in the US and I found inspiration in the desert and mountain landscapes we visited. That inspiration has stuck with me to this day and is often evident in the colors I use and the organic landscapes I weave.
Returning home to Australia, it felt like everything around us was the same, but we had changed. Our emphasis was so much more on the life part of the work-life balance! For me, I think I really wanted to continue weaving as a way to hang on to that new outlook on life we had. So, I found and took a tapestry weaving course with a teacher who taught us the rules and then encouraged us to break them. I absolutely loved it! I think it only took a few weeks to feel like I was finally on the right creative path, and probably not so subconsciously, it was my way of staying connected to the experiences on our “gap year”. Weaving was my right fit and I was so content in the process and exploring working with different fibers.
On a side note, a few years ago, I read that happiness is an emotion; contentedness is a state of being. Increasingly more often, this rings true for me in life and in weaving!
Fast forward 6 months into 2016 and as enamored, no let’s say obsessed (still am! I weave most days), as I was with weaving I still struggled with having confidence in my ability. I had my husband, my family and friends telling me they loved my work… But there’s always that voice in the back of your mind wondering if they are just saying that because they feel they have to. I’ve spoken to a number of friends with creative pursuits about how we seem to have trouble believing something good about ourselves when it’s coming from those closest to us. For some reason, we automatically want to place more trust in the opinions of strangers when it comes to validation for something you’ve made with your own hands. Learning to place importance in my loved ones’ feedback has been a big lesson this year!
What has helped a lot for me confidence-wise recently, was developing my own artistic style. I’d spent (spend…? Hello, rabbit hole that is Instagram!) a lot of time looking at what other weavers (and artists working in other mediums) were doing and worrying that my work wasn’t up to scratch and didn’t look the same. It still takes a lot to see all those images of amazing work created by such talented people and to keep believing in myself and my own creative journey. Comparison is not your friend at the best of times, and especially not when you still feel like you’re stumbling around figuring out a new medium and learning on the go!
Through participating in an Instagram weaving challenge, I discovered the way I like to weave and developed a style in which I find a lot of joy. And I’m coming to terms with it being ok to do what works for me rather than what works best for others. Sure, there’s still those doubts that like to creep in – I’m very much my own worst critic and I’ve struggled with simply just liking myself my whole life, so the confidence easily takes a knock. Giving recognition to that fact, and to still produce work that that I am happy with and that I feel is a reflection of my inner-self, has been huge and something that has only come about just recently.
Being a part of a creative community like CYL also has had an immense impact. It’s cemented for me that community isn't about competition. It grounds you (in the best sense) and it raises you up at the same time. Everyone is so supportive of one another and I think having that "we're all in this together" mentality enables us all to empathize with each other during the lows and celebrate each other’s wins; to dream bigger and be inspired to strive for our own creative excellence.
As 2016 came to an end, I still felt like I’m learning a lot about my craft. I hope that doesn’t change! It’s not all smooth sailing, and there’s definitely a lot of mistakes made along the way. But I already feel that weaving has taught me a lot and seen me grow as a person. And I’m content in the fact that my creative path is the clearest it’s ever been.