I’ve been hearing it a lot lately. Artist friends of mine complain, and rightly so, that art supplies are too costly. I agree. Friends who want to simply try their hand at some kind of art or creativity have the same complaint. The don’t want to, or can’t afford to, invest in something they’re not sure of. I hear you, and I agree. If funding was unlimited, I’d have far more hobbies and crafts than I already do, as there are several more creative Muses calling my name. As for me, I’ve figuratively kicked myself until I’m metaphorically as black and bruised as a storm laden sky, because I didn’t have the balls to claim my Dad’s art supplies, much less acknowledge the talent he gave me, when he died 28 years ago.
To be sure, there is a lot to invest in. I could have an entire house full of art supplies and still go off in search of more. However, art and creativity, are also among those things you can do almost for free. It really only takes some scrap paper and pencil to write or draw. There are all kinds of "found objects" that can be turned into lovely bits of art. Back in the "old days," women use to turn worn out, retired clothing into beautiful quilts - they didn't go to the store to buy new fabric just to cut it up. I don't really need my Dad's old supplies to paint. All I need is my bucket of gesso and some of my dye inks and my fingers.
Last year when I was in Florida, my great niece Madison (four years old at the time) and I were waiting for the rest of the Black Clan to show up for lunch. We wandered down a path to a small pond to watch the birds. The birds got bored with us and drifted off, whereupon my great niece also became bored. To amuse, her, I began picking up long willow branches and wove one into a princes tiara for her. She was fascinated. We spent another half hour picking up more branches and making necklaces for my Mom and my Aunt Irene. They wouldn't have sold for a nickel at any craft fair, but it kept us occupied and amused for what could have otherwise been a boring hour. Plus, I had a chance to teach Madison that fun can be found in something as plain as a stick.
Almost twelve years ago, on a trip out to Mt. Rainier, I stumbled on to some of my favorite sculptures in the entire world. There have been times I've wanted to make the return trip, not as much to see the mountain, but to see what's new among the Spirits of Iron in Dan Klennert's yard. Dan creates bigger than life sculptures out of stuff that rusts - old machine parts, car parts, horseshoes, you name it - any scrap metal will do, and even some driftwood. His yard is a wild and wildly ethereal mix of all kinds of rusty critters. It's a place of magic. In the vernacular of the day, it's just freakin' cool! Dan has a few acres of land and a big old barn for his workshop, and a big old pile that some might see as a heap of rusting junk. But from that junk rise dinosaurs and horses and fish and giraffes and... I'm telling you, it should be on everyone's "Things to See in the Northwest" list. My point is, Dan takes stuff that people can't wait to get rid of and turns it into stuff that people want to have. That, my friends, is art at its finest! We should all take a lesson from Dan.
Me? I've been collecting old, worn out pairs of jeans. I've threatened to smother Steve in his sleep if he ever tries to throw away his holey jeans again (I pulled them out of the trash last time!). They're going to be turned into an art quilt soon. Watch this space...