Many years ago, when I first began to create flame-worked glass beads and jewelry, I worried that as a new artist, I didn’t have a ‘style’.
I could not yet show a body of work about which, when seen, someone might say, “Oh, I know that artist!” I didn’t yet have a collection of pieces with an identity or a discernible similarity in each piece. A cohesiveness.
I needn’t have worried. I’ve since learned that acquiring an artistic style of your own is a natural evolution.
I spent some of my growing-up years on a ranch in the Upper Halfway area of the Peace country in British Columbia, Canada. I wasn’t really crazy about being there at the time, yet there were things about it that I loved.
We lived on 2400 acres of pristine land that sat next to the long and winding Halfway River. There was a natural spring of water that bubbled – happily, it seemed to me – up out of the ground on a hill above our house, even in the dead of winter! Like some great amazing life force.
Some days I would sneak away with my battery-operated radio – yes, I am 100 – on the back of Brumby, a gentle gelding who was happiest when his nose was pointed toward the barn. Until then, he could only muster a plod, or if he was feeling magnanimous, a resentful trot.
I would find a pretty spot, tie Brumby to a close bush and lay listening to the birds and the music on the transistor radio, watching the treetops move with the drifting clouds. Plotting and daydreaming.
The countryside in the wilds of British Columbia are compelling and beautiful. The colors of the earth are always changing. There is a distinct perfume to each of the seasons.
The heady sweet scent of fuchsia-colored rose hips in the Summer and the acrid smell of the undergrowth in the Fall… The new sap running through the birch in the Spring and somewhere, always a faint smell of smoke hanging in the dense icy air of Winter.
All of these elements have somehow carved their way into my bones, and no matter how far I travel, or how many years pass, they will forever be a part of me.
In time, the basic process of bead making became second nature. I found that as I relaxed, my own unique style began to emerge. The simple things that brought me joy began to show up in the jewelry.
I used rods of glass in the subdued earth colors you might find in nature… rich ochres, sage greens, the tender, robin-egg-colored blues. I designed using texture and movement, petal and leaf curved line, always including a dark hue to play amidst the lights.
While living in the Middle East, I took a small silversmithing class. The teacher was a Silversmith Master who had designed jewelry for some of the wealthiest Qatar Sheiks. He told us stories of rooms built solely for the purpose of holding row upon row of cufflinks.
I enjoyed the class and began to take great satisfaction in the construction of my own, organic style clasps that mimicked the curved petals that I love to design in the glass.
The act of hand fabricating the closure lent another layer of crafting to each piece. I love that added element and recognize that learning to expand my skills thus has helped to make my work even more recognizable.
In my opinion, it’s not necessary to struggle with finding ‘our style’ as it lies within each of us as unique and as hard to abandon as our own fingerprint. As someone else recently pointed out, each of us has a style as unique as our own handwriting!
Our style is simply an outward expression of those things that interest us, bring a smile, tweak our curiosity or add joy to our day. The struggle, if there is one, may be to freely and fearlessly express ourselves without any editing.
Maybe it is not so easy, but once we learn to do that, we’ll quickly see our own unique fingerprint of work, identifiable and unmistakably ours.
Paulo Coelho in The Alchemist says it this way…
“You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it is better to listen to what it has to say.”
What is your artistic talent? Have you found difficulty expressing your individual, unique style? What are some strategies you have used to bring out your style? Have they worked? Please share your thoughts and experiences below.