Friday, November 19, 2010

Hope and Defiance


I don't journal, and I don't draw. I wish I did, but it's never caught on for me. I doodle sometimes, and I carry a notebook always, so I can jot down random thoughts that seem like they might want to go somewhere later. I would love to create those beautiful art journals and sketch books I imagine all "real" artists to have. I even beat myself up over my failings at this, telling myself I can't be a real artist if I don't do these things. Absurd, I know. But don't we all have these illogical confidence meltdowns now and then?

I sat at the torch the other day, notebook open to this dumb little doodle, and the words practically flew out of the pencil on their own. (I always use pencil. I just happen to like it.) I'm not sure if Hope and Defiance are the best way to approach a day of creative endeavor, but there they were. The Hope is obvious, I guess. I was certainly hoping I would make something that someone would want to buy. Thoughts of going out and getting a job have been going through my head recently, and they aren't happy thoughts. I am embarrassed by my lack of a resume, not to mention my lack of education or formal training of any sort. Despite a long and varied list of jobs, I have no solid, provable skills I can market. At a particularly low point the other day, I told Rick that if I can't make this bead thing work anymore, then I deserve to be punished. And to me, the worst thing I can think of would be to work at Walmart.

That's where Defiance stood up and cleared its throat, reminding me that I am a Miles Girl, after all, and we Miles Girls do not crumple and cringe when things get challenging. We get tough, and we get to work. So I sat my self down and made some beads, determined to disprove the childhood message that I would never make my way in the world as an artist. Too impractical. Too competitive. Too uncertain... My parents weren't consciously trying to squash my creative nature. They just wanted to be sure I could make a living in the big, mean world. I can't believe I'm still battling that particular demon. I've already proven that I can too make a living making beads. I hesitate these days to call myself an artist, but I have to believe that somehow I can keep doing what I do best, with heart and soul and a bit of brain, and continue to make my way in the world as me.

But Defiance gets tired, and Hope forgets who it is sometimes. After posting two new batches of beads this week, and watching them sit there, sit there, sit there, I spent a good part of yesterday afternoon looking online for jobs in Taos. There was nothing. Truly nothing for me. And so, feeling like I needed a good flogging, I opened the Walmart website and began filling out an application. No resume required. No degree even wanted. I've seen the people who work there. They all appear to be beaten down, unhappy drones. I was sure I would fit in nicely. 

Fortunately, Defiance came around again, after a bit of a rest, bringing up the little fact that we don't even shop at Walmart. Haven't for years. We do not support their crush-kill-destroy business philosophy, choosing instead to shop at small local businesses whenever possible, and online as much as necessary. We do not go to Walmart. But I was beginning to imagine myself as some sort of Gloria Steinem, infiltrating the Playboy Club. Imagine all the great blogging material I'd come up with. And Hope joined in and said maybe it wouldn't be so bad. It might even be kind of fun to take on the task of making people happy at Walmart. I reminded Hope that it probably wouldn't last long. I'd likely be found out. Someone in management would discover my blog, or determine me to be too happy, and therefore unfit for service. And then I'd be fired from Walmart, which would be the greatest failure, and blessing, I could ever imagine...

All this was going on in my head while I mindlessly clicked away at the application. And then I got to the "references" section. It took me about two seconds to realize there is not one single person I could put down there. Not one person I would want to admit to that I was actually asking for a job at Walmart. In that instant, I snapped out of it, came back to my sensible senses, and killed that browser window. And when I clicked over to my email... a miracle... I had sold some beads while I was lost in Walmart Hell. By the time I went to bed last night, I had reeled in about a month's worth of Walmart wages. And so, I took this to mean that God does indeed still want to make beads with me. A sign when I most needed it. 

Maybe I just had to prove what I'm willing to do to keep this ship from sinking. I had to be willing to cheerfully take on the worst thing I could imagine happening. It's almost biblical in tone... Artist comes to the very end of her rope, and just as she's about to fall into the abyss, lost for all eternity, she is scooped up by giggling angels and set gently back in her studio. Those angels are named Hope and Defiance. I will love them forever. And maybe they'll even teach me how to draw someday.

~~~~~~~~~
Hope and Defiance Audio Version:

Friday, November 19, 2010

11 comments:

Paula said...

Oh Kim....this is incredible. Thank you. I think we all feel this way at times. I read so much of me in that. No marketable skills....what would I put on my resume? Chief cook and bottle washer? Really good, wifey-poo for almost 25 years? Supported her husband in all his endeavors? Wow...I...am....an....artist. And I don't even have a sketch journal.

Kim Miles said...

Yes, Paula, you most definitely ARE an artist, all the way to your bones. I'm so happy we're in the same town!

Merikay said...

Love it! For me it's McDonalds. When I get down about sales I sometimes say "I could make more at McDonalds." Oh but at what cost!

I try not to measure myself by dollar amount. If I had wanted to b self supporting I would have had to change my art or done better at marketing.

I remind myself often that during my children's college years the art paid for 3/4 of their expenses, living away from home and without loans.

Later I aimed at making enough each month to pay the mortgage payment, which in the California housing market is no small amount.

Now I aim at the $950 per month health insurance premium. (that is for an HMO for only myself!) Most months I make it, some I don't, but money is not my measure anymore.

What I love most is the joyful emails I get from my customers after they have received their animal sculpture.

Your beads are beautiful. Keep making them. Food will come.

Anonymous said...

Well, some people can, indeed, flourish in hell - the Bible is full of those stories; but alas, I am not one of those so sainted - either; however, there is a walmartshoppers blog that someone is doing very well with. So, even today some people can transcend bad taste and ugliness into humor. Look at cakewrecks blog, too. John and Jen whomever are doing very well with their witty commentary of very bad, ignorant products. So, whether it is beautiful beads or ugly blobs of icing, there is the right forum for it all. Thank you, God. And thank you, Kim for your beautiful beads. Luv, Norine

Paula said...

Yay Kim... I'm so thankful we're in the same town also.... Let's get it started!

Deb said...

Sometime you have to let it go to make it fly. Works for me.

Zoe Nelson said...

I always knew I wasn't the only one that struggled with this. This post sounded like you were inside my head. PLEASE DO NOT GO TO WORK AT WALMART! I tried something similar a few years ago - at a big-box drug store - and it was horrible. Standing on concrete floors all day (not ALLOWED to sit down) ruined my knees and I had to deal with fellow employees who relied on the cash register/computer to tell them how much change to give a customer. And, God forbid, don't give them a penny after the register had calculated the change! The boggling minds were rampant. I hated it.

You just keep on with your ol' defiant self. You're doing the right thing for your soul and that's what matters most. The money will follow. Trust it. I'm trying to.

Joan Tucker said...

So very very wonderful; one of your skills, is so clearly that you can write and also be very funny..Best of luck and may Hope and Defiance rule...
Joan T

Sue said...

Kim, your blog today was priceless. Courage and Confidence are two of my favorite words. Be courageous and confident...it will support your Hope and Defiance. My other advice would be to amp up the marketing. Lots of new people need to know about your beautiful work.

MJ said...

You cannot doubt your artistic soul...you've been making & selling beads & such for how many years? Your work has been featured in the top bead art magazines. How many people subscribe to your blog? These things are signs of your success. Hang on to them as well as your family & friends...we'll get you through those black times.

Levonne said...

Well Kim, another beautifully written post. You are a bead maker but you are a writer too. Keep doing both as you are great at them.