Get together

basket by sylvia lehman

This post was inspired by the crafty social Tara attended last week at Hello Bluebird. It got me thinking about the importance of getting together.

My mother-in-law Sylvia Eisenbise Lehman is a basket-maker and paper artist. She’s part of a little informal group self-dubbed ‘Art Study Group‘ with friends Sandy Gilpin and Pam Cummings.

They get together once a month to have lunch, chat and talk about inspiration, their craft and just about anything else.

Every month they choose a challenge for each other. One month the challenge may be to create something relating to spring or it might be to paint with watercolors or create a work that represents ‘light and dark’ or the theme is cold.

Each monthly meeting is different but one thing is in common: they’re all trying something new together. Their journeys of creation are different and while their finished works may be all over the map, their shared experience builds upon itself.  They all share how they approached the challenge from the previous month, any setbacks or problem-solving they faced and then determine what the next month will bring.

The camaraderie is the most important part of the monthly get together. Giving and receiving criticism (in all its forms) is an important part of developing as a maker.

Why do they do this? Sometimes being a maker can be a very solitary profession. They each spend many hours creating alone in the studio. And since creating in a vacuum is a terrible thing, they set aside time in their schedules to openly talk about each other’s work: reviewing, critiquing, sharing triumphs and failures. You need peers to help with your struggles and to share in your triumphs. It helps reinforce your identity and individuality as an artist while making you feel like part of a larger network/community.

It’s the same idea for a knitting group, a Guild, or an online community (like, say, Handmade in PA –  shameless plug). You can go far by yourself. But with the help of others you can take your work even further by trouble-shooting out loud, networking or asking advice. The group you choose or become active in does not need to even be in the same craft you work because many creative decisions overlap many mediums.

So get together with friends or complete crafting strangers and talk about your work. It’s also a great way to hone how you talk about your work with potential customers.

Thanks again for your time!

7 thoughts on “Get together

  1. Thanks, Nick, for telling the little secret of three exemplary artisans – they HELP each other! Community is one of the biggest benefits of membership in a chapter of the PA Guild of Craftsmen; I am partial to the Yellow Breeches Chapter, myself. Feedback and critique are essential to artistic development; friendship and support are essential to a well-developed life.

  2. This is such a good idea. I know that Alyson Stanfield talks about joining or founding such groups as well. It’s great to see that even established artists try to find ways to push themselves and try new things.

  3. Great idea!

    I wish I could belong to such a group! For the time being, it’s gonna be virtual/online meetings.

    And I just love Pam’s gingko leaves cups!!!


  4. Great idea! Camaraderie is so important to keep one from feeling isolated. And such beautiful work. I’m particularly fond of the ceramic cups!

  5. A friend and myself would love to start up a group of altered/mixed media artists in our area. The biggest problem seems to be finding folks who are really serious about exhibiting, promoting and selling their art. We have met some really great folks by attending various groups that are already formed but most of these folks just create for a hobby. Any suggestions ?

    1. You only need a few people to make this work. Maybe you should look first at discussing and growing things online. Setup a Meetup page or FB group or yahoo group and start from there. Build in in-person meetings knowing that if all else fails your friend will show up and you two can catch up.

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