Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Fearful horses

So I made these knife rests for a friend who lives in Kentucky. I haven’t sent them yet even though they have been completed since last summer. Why? Because of fear. What if she doesn’t like them? I rarely share my work and every time someone buys one of my pieces I am surprised. So in honour of sharing and responsibility here they are.

So why the lack of confidence? I have had some wonderful art teachers, including one who has encouraged me ever since high school (many moons ago!) But I have also had some really bad ones whose criticism made me fearful of producing work for these teachers. And even though I have continued to produce art all my life, I have never considered myself an artist.

And this is why art education done well is so important. Confidence is such a fragile thing and so is the belief in one’s vision. I am sad when I see elementary teachers muck up art assignments by telling students what they want as product rather than just teaching the method and then allowing students to create. Done well, art, drama and physical movement can be incorporated into every area of the curriculum.

And this brings me back to Sue Waters' blog about commenting. And while this is a cliche the old adage “If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all,” really holds true. While many people have been blogging for a long time those of us who are new to the experience are still in that fragile, tentative stage of sharing and may be easily dissuaded from sharing by a negative experience. Feedback is crucial for growth to occur, but learning how to give feedback that is timely, reflective, positive and thought provoking is a skill that constantly needs to be developed and improved. So do I believe commenting counts? You betcha!


  1. Hi Karen:

    Thanks so much for sharing your artworks! I think they're lovely, and, like the person who commented on flickr, want to know how they're used. I honestly have never seen knife rests before, though I've seen spoon rests--little plates or bowls that you put your spoon on after stirring something, when you want to stir again.

    I completely agree with you about confidence and commenting on things you put out to the public. I started my own blog just for the sake of being able to reflect on my teaching, and I didn't publicize it at all (I teach philosophy at the University of British Columbia). Then, when one of my students found the blog and started emailing me about it, giving me comments on what I was saying, I kind of freaked out. I was really nervous to engage in a conversation for the first time about what I had written. It turned out to be a great conversation, a great introduction to putting things out in public.

    Slowly, I've been able to have the courage to publicize my blog more by building a twitter network and putting my posts out through that, as well as joining a mooc (etmooc--are you part of that too?) that has brought more readers to my blog and more conversations. I'm finally getting to the point where I really enjoy having people comment on my blog, and the conversations that ensue.

    But if my first one or two or three experiences with it had been bad, my confidence would have dropped and I probably wouldn't have continued.

    You're right that giving feedback that is "timely, reflective, positive and thought provoking" is crucial, and skill that comes with practice. I'm still working on that. Many of my comments are along the lines of this one--saying that I appreciate something that one says, and have a similar experience. I hope those sorts of comments are helpful, at least for the purpose of letting people know there are others out there who are reading, and who appreciate what is being said!

  2. Okay, silly me...of course you're in etmooc! I just noticed the name of your blog!

  3. Not silly! I make mistakes like this all the time. And I appreciate your feedback which I did find thoughtful and reflective. So much of our self image is on the line when we share that I can see why only those with a strong sense of self are able to share fully immediately, while those of us who are "fearful" about the process uncurl slowly. I am new to this process and I expect I am beginning to embrace this experience because I am still cradled in a safe "etmooc" womb. I'm not so sure I'd be able to share if it wasn't for this environment.

    As for the knife rests, they are common in Europe. You rest your knife on it between courses so your table clothe doesn't get dirty. And thanks for letting me know about the Flickr comment. I hadn't even checked.