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What’s in a Name?

May 19, 2010

Reflections of the Columbia Gorge Art Festival…..

I’ve sold my work at the annual Columbia Gorge Art Festival for at least ten years and always have fun because of the people.  The Corbett Education Foundation volunteers treat the artists as family.  Student helpers who gain community service points help us unload and set up.  A cadre of BBQ chefs bring us burgers and hot dogs & sometimes entertain us!

Many of the participating artists have been here just as long, making it also a yearly reunion of long time friends and acquaintance.  We catch up on our families, show off our newest work and share business information.  Where’s the next show, which galleries are taking on new artists, marketing tips, nurturing those who need a boost, discuss interesting techniques, and general brain-storming of new ideas.

One topic this year was name calling.  Oh I don’t mean badmouthing, I mean what we title ourselves….artist, artisan, artiste, craftsman… And what about subtitles …woodworker, painter, potter, photographer … glassist.  Yes…glassist, Cynthia morgan’s term.  I like it and am trying it on for size as a subtitle instead of glass-worker, fuser or kiln-former.

Cindy Cossu calls herself an artist now, but felt she didn’t deserve the title until she had a few shows under her belt.  People who purchased her work bolstered her confidence beyond the admiration of friends and family.  “As I gained confidence, I grew into the title”.

Many of the artists, when asked ‘what do you call yourself’’, immediately responded “I’m an artist”.  When asked how long they’ve held that title, typical answers were “all my life” and reminisced a childhood experience about making and giving or selling their art to relatives and friends.

Lisa Rose Musselwhite has always been an artist.  Jim Stocker (his page isn’t quite ready, so keep checking back to see his fabulous raku and jewelry) told of designing and building sand candles when he was 13.

Dave Palomino, also a musician, said that others called him an artist before he did, but “eventually I began to believe in myself and believe them”.

My experience is a little of both Cindy’s and Dave’s.  I remember my face redden when I heard someone refer to me as an artist because I didn’t feel I filled those shoes.  I wasn’t qualified because I didn’t go to art school.  I was creative yes, but an artist?  I was in my thirties when I felt comfortable with the mantle and have run with it ever since.

I’ve played with all kinds of media including fiber, clay, glass, cement, oils, acrylics, watercolors, pastels, ink, dyes and more.

My high school teachers encouraged me to travel a creative path when they purchased my tie-dyed macrame’ belts almost 4 decades ago.

I’ve screenprinted, monoprinted, painted, beaded, torched, and airbrushed since then. Living my childhood dream life as an artist, and for close to fifteen years as a ‘glassist’.

What do you call yourself …and why?  Have you always felt that way or did it take time?  I appreciate time to answer and your courage in answering, I really want to know!

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9 Responses to “What’s in a Name?”

  1. Dee Kemp Sybrandt Says:

    After 6 years i now refer to myself as a glass artist, or I will say that I specialize in fused glass. I like ‘glassist”-might have to try that one! You can check out some of my things on Facebook at Bead-dee-lady. Love your work!

  2. Margot Says:

    Like you it has taken me awhile. When people used to admire my pendants I would humbly say, “Thank you. I make them.” Now I proudly say, “Thank you. It is one of my pieces. I am a glass artist.” I always have a business card handy too. In the past I didn’t feel I could wear the title artist because I assumed anyone could do what I did. But I have come to realize this is not true.


  3. Linda – I loved your post on “names”. I consider myself an artist now. But it took years. In fact, I am like you – no formal training, all self taught. But one day I needed to find a creative outlet and bought a few brushes and paint colors. My early work left something to be desired. And I copied patterns and other peoples ideas because I didn’t have the confidence to try on my own. I have proudly called myself an artist for about 10 years. I have finally found “home”.


  4. About 5 years ago I finally reached the point where I would call myself an artist without feeling unworthy of the moniker. Just this past weekend, someone of great metalsmithing talent asked me if I was a metalsmith and I responded yes. I work in 2 mediums now and I feel comfortable using Cynthia’s term Glassist and now Metalsmith. I think it takes time, but I’m comfortable in my artist’s skin.

    Thanks for sharing all the great pictures of your work Linda. You are a wonderful & talented Glassist!


  5. I love hearing your paths to confidence and which ‘mantle’ you wear, thank you for sharing! Hope everyone will click on each person’s name to see their beautiful work!! You’re ALL welcome to join the conversation!! Share your journey and your talents.

  6. David Says:

    Hi Linda,
    I guess I think of myself as being very creative more so than an artist. I have been called both many times so maybe there is some truth to it. I think that I suppressed my creativity growing up. I don’t know, maybe I thought at the time that it was not cool.
    I embrace it all now though.
    Good seeing you at the Gorge show. I am a fan…


  7. I love the title ‘fiber artist’ because I think it allows room to grow into weaving or spinning or knitting; right now I crochet. lovely post! I look forward to learning together in the Flying Lessons e-course. -Robin


  8. Thanks for your comment Robin! I’m looking forward to the e-course, too; & it’ll be fun ‘flying’ with friends!

  9. Toni Says:

    Excellent post, Linda. I think I’ve called myself an artist for a long time – don’t know that I’ve ever really believed it, thinking myself a fraud whenever I do. It probably stems from the fact that I tend to be a perfectionist and if what I create isn’t perfect, then how can I be an artist? Something to think about, I guess.


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