The Process is My Pedestal
Sabrina Owens, Division 3, College senior #ws17e-s1d3

I thought long and hard about the question, “What do you do differently?” I have been thinking about it for several years: It is a question they ask you constantly at art school, encouraging you to be that next Picasso or Polluck. They want you to start thinking about ways to make yourself stand out from the pack, to innovate and create something new. It is a question I have agonized over as well, constantly looking over my own work, trying to find the similarities, that one trait that makes it a cohesive body of work, that reflects that inner voice my peers seemed to have found and I had not. Maggie is a humanitarian; Emily focuses on the female form and anatomy; Kayla plays with negative space, weaving, and form making, all with wire; What the heck does Sabrina do? Is there even anything that Sabrina does, that sets her apart from the rest? What makes Sabrina, the individual? It is a lot of pressure, trying to become that next Polluck, and until recently, this pressure and stress has made me blind to the answers before me.

After some thought, thanks to the help of several faculty, I decided upon a satisfactory answer, one that may not be the answer, but an answer all the same that holds truth and validity to me as a person and as an artist. I believe that the thing that sets me apart from my peers, and that connects my art together (across media and application), is that I need the process to thrive. Process, creation, and divinity are all important aspects of my work and person.

Process and the act of making, in-progress documentation, discovering and learning things about the materials, techniques and piece as I make it, is something I thrive on. The more process and time I am given to let that process grow and flow, the better satisfied I am in my results. There is no real beforehand concept or feel most of the time, but rather, the piece gains a meaning after its creation, when the process is finished. While to some this may seem lazy, or not formal enough of a principle, are there any real rules to being an artist? They teach us all the “rules” specifically to break them!

In my metalsmithing, I am drawn to forging, forming, and the making of vessels and vessel-shapes. These all take time and intense concentration, something I think that benefits me on a personal level as well. There is a long, ingrained progression: The hammering, the annealing, the quenching, starting over and repeating in this rhythmic pattern that somehow brings to life a form I created out of an ingot of metal. The ingots themselves are important, as I make them myself: I measure and smelt the metal, I water cast it to the desired circumference, and I then roll and hammer it down to the desired gauge and size to create the form. There’s also the decoration, the finish, and the shaping that all come to me as I create. I am one with the process. It is all a part of my goal to express the divinity of creation, another thing that seems to link my works together in a very subtle way.

In my painting, something new for me but something I have taken to, it is the same. There is a need to be extremely active and involved in the process of the making. A sort of divine intervention: While the materials have their own traits, personalities, and rules, I come in with my intentions and desires, and work together with it, each of us with an independent spirit somehow combining if for a short while to make a piece. My current processes involve decalcomania and blowing ink, each taking something from me in the making, whether it’s my hands folding or pressing the paper, or my breath pushing the ink. While I have a hand in what happens to the media, they also have minds of their own. This dance and conversation creates a sort of cosmogony that gives uniqueness to my work. It helps develop my voice, and I think it also helps me cope with real world situations in a way. With these processes, there is an element of chance that I cannot control, and it’s something I need to accept and work with. So in a way, my work and process also helps teach me valuable lessons as well!

I learn about the materials I work with as if they are people, and we are having a conversation. Each experiment is a new discussion, where they are telling me something new about themselves, whether it is a new mark making when I hit the hammer a certain way, or a color interaction when two inks overlap and mix, and so on. Better understanding of the material means there is more you can do with that material. You can begin to push the material past its limitations and conventions, and that is where the real innovation and revolutionary ideas come from. This process, this idea of creation and divinity, these are all things that make my work and I different. There is a spiritual need in my work, and in myself. It is here, as I experiment with the materials, learn about the materials, and allow the materials to teach me, we both reach a freedom that could lead to the potential of a breakthrough, something that will make me shine among other artists.

I am also very sketchbook centered. Ideas, research, sketches, pictures, notes, influences, and more, are all contained in the scrapbooks that are my sketchbooks. My sketchbooks are almost as important as my work, because they document the process. The write the story that is the journey of a specific piece or production line. When displaying my work at school, I also display my sketchbooks, feeling they add a certain necessity to my work, acknowledging the work that went into the piece, the ideas and research, the tests, and the ideas. Many of my peers do not use sketchbooks as heavily as I do, if at all, and it is something I have even been told sets me apart from the rest. It is something I take pride in, and I always make sure that I have a sketchbook of some sort with me always.

Even as I type this out, new ideas and revelations about myself and my work unfold: There is even a process to discovering the meaning and purpose of my process. It is all one big journey that I feel is my personal responsibility to immerse myself in, the thing that makes me different. The thing that makes me different is that my work and I are intertwined, totally and completely. When I sell, or give a work, I am truly giving a part of myself, my thoughts, my actions, maybe even my body. This, I feel, is all influenced by my natural basis in pagan spirituality. Even among this group set I am different, as I am eclectic, with no real path to guide my studies. In my spiritual practice, my mundane life, my therapy, my everything, I am rooted in process. I give myself to the process. I am the process. It is like a process-inception. Everything depends upon one another, creating my own personal cosmogony and ecosystem. A microcosm of ideas and self.

Everyone does something different than the way someone else does it, even if it is only a little. Even if it seems indistinguishable, or unimpressionable, there is an importance to it. There is a purpose and process. And my process just happens to be the process itself, and whatever process necessary—and that jives with me personally—to reach my goal. Even if that goal is undefined, it will take me where I need to be. For me, it is all about the journey—the goal is just the prize at the end. The real worth comes from the knowledge I accumulate on my path to the goal.

If it were not for process, I would not have even been able to answer this question adequately. Process has led to the conclusions I have made, the observations I have witnessed. Process has helped me understand the purpose and meaning of my work. Process has lead me to understand that I need process. The process is so very important to me as a person, and that is what I personally feel sets me apart. That is what I feel I do differently from others. That is not to say that makes me better, more successful, or so unique that I am the most unique. I do not believe that at all. I do believe, however, believe it does set me apart, and that it is a tool in helping me understand my purpose, and why I do things the way I do them. With this, this is what I believe I do differently from others, in my peer group and in general, as an artist, and as a person.
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