Each Christmas, I ask my niblings (pl. niece + nephews) to choose their favourite X and I woodburn it for them to make an ornament. Last year it was their favourite bird, the year before it was their favourite mammal. This year, I requested they choose their favourite insect. (What kind of aunt would I be if I didn’t encourage a love of bugs??)
This may be the last year for this particular mini-tradition, since everyone loves a triptych. But at least on the Aunt end of things, it’s something I have really enjoyed doing. Each critter they request is a fun challenge. And I like the time it gives me both to consider the nibling in question, and to spend time with whatever critter they requested. A macaw, a highland cow, a rhinocerous beetle. And so far so good. I’ve been able to woodburn each one to a recognizable level. As far as I know, the nephew who requested the macaw didn’t confuse his with the cow, or vice versa. 😉
When I share pictures of the ornaments on social media, people often seem to like them, but it’s frequently expressed in comments like “It would be so wonderful to be an artist!” or “I wish I had natural talent like you!”
Y’all. I can’t express this quickly enough or loudly enough. I do not have natural talent. Art was consistently one of my two lowest grades in school (the other was gym). I usually got a “C”, and each one of them was a little kick in the soul teeth. My high school art teacher took me aside one day to make extra sure I got the message. Once we were out in the hallway, she said, “Your art is not very good, because you don’t have natural talent like the other girls. You should probably pursue something else.”
For the record, I give that attitude an “F”.
I have come to believe something about “natural talent”. And that is that it is mostly bunk.
I am able to make lots and lots and lots of things. But that’s not because I’m a magical snowflake of maker-ing. Or that my brain came with some special sauce on it that someone else’s lacks. It’s because I make things. All the time. From breakfast to a tatty old tshirt upcycled into underpants. Make all the things!
Many people who identify as artists or makers or creators were told early or often that they were those things. And that goes a really long way towards their ability to believe in themselves. The inverse, unfortunately, is also true.
Most people are told in ways big and small and often all the things they are Not. And so they stop believing in themselves before they’ve even begun. They are not an artist, they are not a musician, they are not a computer person, they are not good with X, Y, Z.
It is not helpful.
Because you Are. You are.
It’s not that simple of course. There are a few “Nots” that diehard makers like us must allow ourselves…
You are not done learning.
You are not going to see all the times your works don’t turn out the way you’d like as anything other than… times your works don’t turn out the way you’d like. They are not referendums of your skill, or predictors of your potential. They are called your “works” because you work on them. (Otherwise they would be your “dones”.)
You are Not done trying.
You are not going to let discouragements settle in your soul.
You are not going to give up that easily.