Hey blog friends, I just returned from a week on a beautiful cruise ship with Tim Holtz and about 180 enthusiastic and wonderful crafters. It was an awesome experience and I'll be posting photos and stories over the next few days. Right now, though, I want to talk about the most important things I learned on my trip, and the best way to do it is in a letter to Tim. I'd like to share it with you all as well.
For the record, I've wanted to be an artist since I was a little kid with a shiny box of 64 Crayolas and a dream. Absolutely, it would be an epic understatement to say that I was born with no natural aptitude for drawing (or painting, or coloring, for that matter), but I sure did love doing it, in that fearless, in-the-moment way kids embrace their creative impulses. It was pure joy. Then came that disenchanting, defining moment when an art teacher with too much influence and not nearly enough insight told me I was no good at it. I honestly don't remember if she said it in words or implied it through actions, but it was powerful enough to change my relationship with art-making, draining it of its magic and sending an already neurotic nine-year-old to a whole new level of self-consciousness. After that, I was embarrassed to show my sketches to anyone, and eventually stopped trying to draw at all.
But deep down, I never stopped wishing I were an artist.
I tried again in college with equally ridiculous results (what is with art teachers in small town academia, anyway?). In fact, I was so frustrated with my Painting 101 course that for my final project, I covered a sheet of canvas with the most godawful shade of barf green I could concoct, then glued a few carelessly ripped up pieces of fluorescent pink, lime and orange paper to it, as a "screw you" to my professor. He gave me an "A" and told me I finally "got it."
At that point, I decided that artists are insane.
I'm not telling you this because I want sympathy or encouragement or anything like that. I'm telling you this because I want you to know where my starting point was. I didn't enter papercrafting as an artist. I came in more like a monkey with a paintbrush.
It was just a little over two years ago that I wandered into a craft store and saw a display of cool, intriguingly non-cutesy embellishments alongside some packages of something called "Grungeboard," and while I didn't buy anything that day, the visual stuck in my head. I remembered the name on the packages, though, and that evening did a little internet investigation into this "Tim Holtz" guy. What I saw blew me away! The art was awesome, not like anything I'd seen before. It was dramatic and beguiling and powerful, but somehow felt accessible and-- most intriguingly-- it seemed doable, even for a non-artist like me.
I went back to the store the next day... and again the day after that. I immersed myself in your blog posts, your videos, and as soon as it was released, your Compendium of Curiosities. Little by little, my long-neglected, frighted little creative spirit began to emerge. I learned to ink things and distress things and play with color and composition. Many, many packages of Ranger and Idea-ology and Stampers Anonymous and Tonic products later, through 12 Tags projects and Grungy Mondays and the experience of a lifetime that was Ranger U, I am still inspired by you every day.
What I've learned from you goes far beyond techniques, though. I've learned that what really matters is the process itself, the indescribably gratifying feeling of being completely caught up in the act of making something, when time becomes elastic and the art seems to be creating me-- there's nothing in the world like it. Whatever the finished piece ends up looking like, it truly is all about the journey.
Though the word "artist" sticks in my throat if I try to apply it to myself, I have a great deal of hope that someday I might actually feel comfortable enough to own that adjective, at least a day or two a month. Then again, maybe art isn't in the eye of the beholder, anyway, but instead in the heart of the creator. If making something with my hands transforms me and frees me and impels me to dream a little bigger, well, maybe that's the whole point. I'd probably never have figured that out if I hadn't stumbled upon your products a couple of years back.
Tim, you've been, and continue to be, the most wonderful teacher I could wish for. I've always appreciated your vision and talent and willingness to share your knowledge, but what I saw on the cruise last week was how much heart you put into what you do (along with those long hours and that hard, hard work). Though you never let it show, I'm sure you have days when you're burned out and sick of being "on" all the time. It's got to be exhausting when a couple hundred or so people all want your attention. But, you keep right on smiling while you graciously autograph every apron and pose for every photo. That's classy, my friend. Classy and incredibly generous.
So, from a monkey with a paintbrush to her Jedi-ninja-rockstar art mentor: Thank you! For all you do and who you are. You inspire my creative spirit to play, and give it the tools and information it needs to give form to its vision. I don't think you'll ever fully know how precious that gift is to me.