Why I Create

When it comes to this blog, I prefer not to discuss my private life, museums and ceramics are far more interesting in my opinion, but I'll admit that between some ongoing personal frustrations and the daft state of current events, I've been feeling a bit down lately. That said, I'm going to change up the topic to remind myself of the importance of making art.

For the most part, The Fanciful Lobster is a "show and tell" blog: I show you the objects that I make, and tell you about the process used to create them. Today, however, I'm going to tell you why I make the things I do. I don't consider this an artist's statement, this isn't going to be especially theoretical, but it's got plenty of pictures, so there you go.

I'm not telling you how I made this, because I've already done that. I want to tell you why I made it.
On the basic social level, I suppose one reason I make art is to gain approval. As a friend of mine recently pointed out in an article he'd read, American society generally doesn't encourage art-making beyond the childhood years unless you're considered to have sufficient talent. Throughout my life, I've been regarded as one of those possessing such skill, and since my ego enjoys a boost now and then, I create knowing that a good deal of my peers will appreciate the work I do (and in the case of my coloring books, I exploit their own desire for the creative mundane). This was particularly true when I was younger, but even as an adult I enjoy getting the attention. Hell, I probably wouldn't be writing this blog if I didn't.

Of course, there's more to the social approval than the selfish ego-stroking. I enjoy seeing other people be happy, and one way I can do that is through my work. I always enjoy giving away my stuff during the holidays in particular because I like seeing the joy I can bring by surprising someone with a mug or a print. I get a bit of a rush from it.

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And of course, a card.
Happiness-spreading and social approval aside, however, I predominantly make work for myself. I've got the necessity of productivity thoroughly ingrained in my consciousness, and I'm generally at my most relaxed when I'm working on a project (this is why I can never commit to T.V. shows; I'm too busy working to pay attention). Idle hands are the devil's workshop, so the saying goes, and while I'm not inclined to do evil when I'm doing nothing, I do like being preoccupied.

Yet it isn't just about relaxing or feeling productive. Life is a pretty amazing experience when you stop to think about it. Whether you're watching the psychedelic colors of a New Mexico sunset, listening to the sound of an orchestra tuning up before a concert, learning about some mind-blowing scientific discovery, or even falling in love, it's a marvelous sensory and emotional experience. Working in an art museum, I get to see beauty every day, so I'm particularly fortunate, but even the most seemingly mundane of rituals, from watching kittens play to washing your face in the morning, can be remarkable when when stop to ponder them. There's a lot of beauty in the world to be sure, and it is immensely inspiring. I've been particularly fortunate when it comes to experiencing the good side of life, as my career choice has enabled me to live everywhere from the Grand Tetons to the shores of Lake Champlain.

One of many day-hikes I took while living in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
When I lived in Dallas I loved to visit the botanical gardens.
Sunset time at Lake Champlain. During the summers I'd ride my bike down here at least a couple of times a week.
But there's a darkness as well, and it can be overwhelming. Like a lot of people, the recent shooting at Orlando left me deeply disturbed, not only for the horror of the act itself and the hatred toward the LBGT community it signified, but because it is only one of countless acts of violence that occur daily in this world. Go online or read the newspaper and you'll find some new atrocity about a domestic homicide, rape, or other abuse. Not to mention the shameful exploitation of the Earth and its resources. This admittedly sounds bleak, but sometimes I wonder if humanity is a virus that the Earth is attempting to eradicate through a fever of rising temperatures. I immensely enjoy life, but can also leave me feeling guilty, saddened, and frustrated. Humanity is capable of accomplishing marvelous things, but it is equally talented in destruction.

Charcoal: the prefect medium for expressing darker emotions.
For me, making art is a way of channeling that frustration into something positive. Not so much in its content, but through the process. It's definitely one of the reasons why I gravitate toward physically intense techniques such as pottery or printmaking. The act of pulling prints through a press or making a pot takes that emotional static and transforms it into a physical force that enables me to create. At the same time, it enables me to reflect on the beautiful parts of life, whether I'm mixing colors that recall that sunset I observed, or drawing dinosaurs I visited in a natural history museum. Making art allows me to take the joy and sorrow of life and transform those experiences into objects that bring contentment through the process of making them and, if I'm lucky, enjoyment to others as well.

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Of course I fully well know that dinosaur mugs and linocuts aren't going to save the world, but ultimately I know I'm happiest when I'm making art. If I can make a whimsical pot that brings a smile to another's face, or pull a print that reminds someone of a good memory, I must be doing something right.

So, long story short, the world is still daft, but at least we have a triceratops mug now:


  1. Woodbury,

    I have thought Art to be Expression. There are gray days and there are blue days. It can be detailed and representational or it can be abstract and emotional. Many people sit in front of Televisions for hours. And these type of electronic boxes assist them in laughing, crying, and just to plain vent. Artists for the most part are different. They see the news and the social sciences and they have a reaction to it: The Artistic Reaction.



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