Reluctant Artists Beware!

When people ask me what I do, I say that I do sewing and design. Then I feel a twinge of guiltiness. The critical voice in my head says, ”REALLY. Design? People don’t hire you for that often at all. You are NOT Vera Wang.”

My heart says back, “But that’s what I want to do, and if people hired me more often, I would do it more often.” I design for myself all the time. I use design a lot. I create in my home, in my garden, with cooking, and especially with Sewing. Most of all, I  embellish all over the bulletin boards of my imagination. I think I’m glad I’m not Vera Wang. I’m Carol Reanne Jones.

I’m going to come clean with a few things in this post. This may end up differently than you might expect. If I talk about this, I might get some clarity on what it means to me (and maybe some other people) to be an artist.  REALLY. Artiste?

Who says you’re an artist? It seems like you are more of a skilled technician.


My friends and clients call me an artist. I respect their opinions. I think that one side of designing depends on good technical strategies. The other side of the coin is what speaks to the heart. It uses inspiration and arouses that in others. I sew for the alchemy of it. The science part is just a tool.

You don’t make much money with your art.


Actually, whatever income I have, is from making things for other people. I share my creative talents so they can have magic, beauty, and self expression in their everyday lives. When I’m not making stuff, I am teaching, hoping they will enjoy the gift of sewing for themselves.


Can you support yourself and the lifestyle to which you are accustomed?


Well, not at this point; no. I am looking for the day when I get paid a lot more to play with my art. I could get a time consuming low paying job, but I think that would take away most of my sewing time. I am making peace with myself over not pulling my weight financially in my marriage. My husband appreciates what I do for myself, for others, and for him. Call me a Kept Woman. I learned from a great designer, Kenneth King, that there is a long history of seamstresses being considered as such. Milliners (hat makers) were seen to have even lower morals.

Who are you to not have to go to work every day? Isn’t it irresponsible to give up a paycheck that could make a difference for your family?


Well, I don’t have to bring home a paycheck every week. I can be grateful that we have everything we need and our kids were raised to be kind, productive and well educated. I’ve had a career where I contributed to the betterment of children and families. I work hard, even if it feels like play a lot of the time.

You’re not trained in art and design.


Only if you count the past 50+ years that I have been playing with and researching use of fabrics and construction. I wish I had a photo album of all the projects I’ve made since the beginning. It would be fat and varied.

What about the weeks in a row you did no sewing, like last spring? Or the afternoons you waste shopping?


So I had hand surgery and went on a couple of trips. My imagination was still working all the time. I’ve learned that getting out in the world rejuvenates my work. Julia Cameron (book: The Artist’s Way) recommends taking an Artist’s Date once a week. A shopping trip can give me a feel for current trends, construction techniques, and new ways to combine color.

Aren’t you a little too old to come up with pieces like the cool and trendy things you see online and in the hipster shops?


Seriously? I’m too old to see life through the one lens that shows only what’s cool and trendy. I’ve seen styles come and go long enough to know that style and fashion and beauty all have different definitions. I also know it’s fun to play with a trend when I choose to. I’m surprised at how often I’m drawn to playing with a color or design detail. And the next season, I see it all over the stores.

What makes you so special? You’ve made a few pieces to be proud of. People who don’t sew think there is something unique in it. You’re just lucky sometimes.


Yes, I have been lucky and sometimes I’m unlucky. Isn’t it kind of the point?—To create something for people who cannot or do not want to make it for themselves? I also think there is more operating than just luck. When I can be still in my brain and get in the Creation Zone, I think that inspiration can come through me and into my work. I’ve heard Julia Cameron and other artists talk about this too. If my talent comes from the Source of All Creation, who am I to say “No, I don’t think I want to participate in that?”


Wow! I’m amazed at how easy it is to come up with answers to these jabbing thoughts. To get this back-and-forth out of my head and onto the screen helps me see the answers as more than excuses. A rationale is different and I can use it to guide me. I admire people in my life who do things for no direct monetary reason. Since that is the way I’m put together, I want to see the beauty in creating for the sake of creating.  I want that for myself and anyone else who will tread on this rocky ground.

It strikes me that I am a most fortunate woman. I do not want to waste more energy feeling guilty for that. I can almost imagine what I could come up with when I put that energy towards creatingImage.


13 responses

  1. This post reminds me of the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. She talks about all the excuses “Shadow Artists” make for not creating their art. So glad you are shattering those guilty feelings and striking out all those inner critics! Hooray! You are an artist!

  2. This post was so written for me! Haha, this is how I feel most days. I quit my dayjob beginning of this year because it was so draining and tiring and literally sucking the life out of me. Not that I can really afford to be without a paycheck right now. i have a supportive fiancee but the guilt is also gnawing on me daily. I should be doing this, I should be doing that. Phew. But I feel a more whole person now, more so that I have in a long time. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! And I love the way you ruled them out 😉

  3. I have to assume that so many artists have this conversation with themselves several times a day/hour/minute. What a waste! Congratulations on sending your doubts/guilt/fears packing with perfect answers to their jabbing questions!

  4. Your post sounds like it came out of my head – well the argument between my head and my heart anyway (smiles) I love how you stood strong in the face of doubtful questions. This part in praticular resonated with me: “Isn’t it kind of the point?—To create something for people who cannot or do not want to make it for themselves?” That completely hit home with my own project – and my doubts about hearing people ask ‘what makes this so special’. I send love to those who can’t seem to give it to/find it for themselves…and your statement is just so…well awesome! It is one of my new motivators! Thank you for sharing this! 🙂

    • I don’t feel so strange after hearing that you, along with others go through the same process. I love how you commented on my staying strong, when most of the time I feel far from it. Getting it out in writing helps crystallize my true sense of it. I really appreciate your compassion for people who are still searching for their uniqueness. Maybe that could describe any of us? I’m thrilled to hear your reactions.

  5. Carol, This is hysterical! in the way that the truth often is. Oh, I loved to hear your voices (see, I’m not the only one with multiple voices in my head). I am so glad you are doing this. I feel like a 2nd grader with a friend just like me. It feels good.

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