I am obsessed with labels.
For the last decade, I've identified as a publicist. I've been in a media relations role, working for museums and cultural institutions for nearly all of my professional career. I am a publicist.
Five years ago I became a wife. Three years ago, I became a mom. And then two years ago, I became a mom again. So now I am a wife, mother and publicist. I've had that figured out for a while.
I've dabbled in art all my life. My mom makes art and has been painting and doing pottery for as long as I can remember, but she does not call herself an artist. She's made probably a hundred different, very unusual and artfully constructed ceramic pieces and paintings, combined, but she does not say she's an artist. She considers it a hobby, and as a SAHM with no pressing financial need, that's all her art-making has ever been to her. When I was young, she always made art available to me. I was enrolled in pottery classes and private painting classes in elementary school, but that gave way to sports throughout my high school years. I wonder now why I gave up all the art because I certainly enjoyed it. I guess because being on a varsity sports team looks better on college applications when the goal is NOT to go to art school. Is art school an Asian parent's worst nightmare, or what? Apparently. But we'll get back to this later.
So I didn't practice art for a while. With one year left in undergrad, with a major in Communication Studies (so fucking nondescript and predictable), I decided on a whim to study abroad in Florence, Italy where I enrolled in drawing classes and jewelry design -- for the fun of it. Really, I was not going to Italy to really learn anything, I was going to party and enjoy life. The strange thing is that I still did not fully realize at the time that to me, enjoying life meant creating art.
After that summer, I came back for my final undergrad year and took an Art 101 class to fill credits. It was there that I learned I'm a pretty horrendous painter, and I'm also pretty awful at drawing. Surprisingly, later that year, I was contacted by Mikimoto, the luxury pearl jeweler, informing me that my final jewelry design project from my class in Florence was chosen as a finalist in a Mikimoto design competition, and they sent me a pretty significant cash prize, thus acquiring rights to the design. All I cared about was the cash -- I had racked up some pretty big credit card bills as a student. Didn't we all?
Anyway, THAT still didn't strike me as the universe telling me I was meant to do art. There I was, not having any idea what I wanted to do when I graduated -- and I still refused to see the signs.
This comes back to the idea of Asian immigrant parents and outside expectations. Being surrounded by doctors, lawyers and engineers growing up, I never saw being an artist as a viable career path. I didn't even know that graphic design, the corporate version of art making, was a real thing so forget about that. I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW PEOPLE WENT TO ART SCHOOL. A creative career wasn't an option. This idea was so ingrained in my psyche that I dismissed the Mikimoto scholarship as a fluke. Can you imagine?
Omg, I just found this in the Xanga archives, from 2006, when I realized that Mikimoto actually produced the design years later. Here 'tis:
So anyway, I did the only thing I knew to do. I took an acceptable, corporate-type position in the most corporate type of visual arts setting that exists. That, friends, is being a museum publicist.
It is only now, in my (cough cough) late (cough) thirties, that I find myself feeling like I know what I'm supposed to do. It's what I do for fun, and it's what I've always done for fun, I just didn't fully recognize that. It's what keeps me up at night with ideas and images in my head. It's what I want to build my business doing. Finally, I can say it. I am an artist.
A fiber artist.
And the funny thing about that is that Instagram made me do it. I've never had a problem using #fiberart on my wall hanging posts, but suddenly I realized that I can also use #fiberartist -- and that was a weird realization. Like, what?! Can I really say that? Am I really?
It's still feels funny to say, and I think it will take me a while to say it out loud and in conversation, but this is my first step in getting there. I'm not only a #maker, #crafter, wife-mom-publicist...I am an artist.