Wednesday, August 25, 2010

When Words Are All You Have

This is the story I wrote recently for my friend, Jenny Doh. It was part of her Art Saves project on her site.

Words from today...about the words of yesterday...empowering tomorrow.

I make my living as an artist, but until this medium walked into my life (OK rode in on a horse) I had never made anything with my hands before. I make my living sewing, but I don't know how to sew. I never took an art workshop in my life ... but I was in love with art books and dreamed of paintbrushes in tin cans on windowsills. Problem was I couldn't paint. I thought I couldn’t be an artist because I couldn't draw. That is until the day I first put layers of paper and fabric together and changed my world.

Empowering with Words
In my twenties and even into my thirties I was a professional singer. A songbird is a storyteller with lyrics. When I retired from the road I put pencil to paper and wrote a novel ... definitely a storyteller in an obvious way there. And when I first began to do the work that is now my signature style, words were a part of it ... and still are. So the thread of storytelling continues through my life. This time I am singing with mixed-media at the top of my lungs. Words. Always words. Everything I do they are a part of it.

So when I began to send “my girls” out the door of Lipstick Ranch and into the world, women began to send me their own words ... telling me how they read the piece of my art they owned before they walked out the door to a job they hated or before they went to chemo. They told me how the words I wrote on my work were their saving grace in a day without laughter, in a house where they were powerless. I was humbled and prayed I would always put my best self into my words and that they would continue to make a difference, continue to empower women.

Tears & Anger
Then one day in 2002, completely out of the blue, my husband of 21 years announced he wanted a divorce and that he was in love with a girl 25 years younger than me that he had known for two weeks. All righty then. It was a marriage whose better days had come and gone and I had often thought that it should end ... BUT no woman wants the man she has been with for half her life to leave her for a girl who was 4 when they got married. I was so angry. Quite sure I could have spit nails. But when I get angry I don't spit nails ... I cry. It’s just what I do. The girls I breathe life into in my work are perfectly capable of said spitting, but I am a crier. Everything came to a halt as I cried from morning to night ... pacing, angry woman, sometimes little girl lost ... but always crying. Then I got angry that I was crying so much. Problem was I cry when I get angry. Needless to say my work came to a halt, walking my dogs became a chore, everything changed.

But three weeks into this shift in my life a friend of mine called me. It was midnight ... she had had an epiphany ... and probably a couple of vodkas, but nonetheless. My phone rang and she said very emphatically, “KC! Go in your studio and read your own work!” Excuse me? I know what my works says. What the heck good was that gonna' do? She insisted, saying, “No, I mean really read it. Take it in like you've never seen the words before. Please.” She loved me, but she was also sick and tired of the crying. I could hear the begging in her voice.

Women from the Past
So I hung up the phone and went into my studio. There they were ... the women from the past ... all over my walls. I didn’t need to walk from piece to piece and read the words. I had written them. I knew them by heart. What I needed to do was listen to them. Shhhhh. Listen. So I closed my eyes and heard their words ... this time speak to me. “My hands are strong, my back is strong, but most importantly my heart is strong,” “If a girl wants to be a legend, she should go ahead and be one,” and “I may look like a girl still, but it was the women in me who made it over the mountains.”

I had sent hundreds of pieces out into the world. Pieces that had inspired and empowered the women who owned them. But now they were giving it right back to me. I walked out of that room, never shed another tear, and have never looked back. Words sent out ... coming back home.

Full Circle.


Robin said...

Beautifully said KC! You have inspired so many of us who admire your work.


Lovey said...

You've inspired my life forever!

Bohemian said...

What a beautiful Testimony... it touched my Heart, almost made ME cry *and I don't cry often* and made me laugh like crazy at the comment about your Friend and her possible Vodka induced epiphany that was actually spot on and got you over the hump and back to Center!

Like you I never had any Artistic training and yet the Artist in me HAS to create... so I don't allow my lack of training inhibit me from creating. I love your Art, it inspires and your storytelling is inspiring as well! And we could all use a dose of that... inspiration + imagination works wonders and feeds the

Dawn... The Bohemian

Colleen - the AmAzINg Mrs. B said...

I will always be grateful for finding my way inot your classes - and like the others, my art will never be the same.. ;-D

Dorthe said...

Dear KC,
I read your story ,and felt very touched,-I`m an angry cryer,too.
It takes power,to live from the true words, of life wisdom----so fantastic that you got able,to do that.
You are truly a fantastic person,inspirering many,many people ,incluted me.Your art pieces on my wall, is a dayli joy,and beauty, --thanks dear KC.
You for sure, shows ,that Art saves.
Love and hugs, Dorthe

The English Romantic said...

I too share some of your experiences and they have made me stronger yet sometimes more vunerable, a strange combination.
I find such joy in my work and have developed my strengths whilst creating for other people.
Thanks for sharing your story.
XOX Angela.

Anonymous said...

Yes, KC, that's exactly what happens! It comes back to you tenfold! When we send it "out there", we often have NO IDEA how it affecting the lives of those to whom it's either given or to those who purchase it. Joy! It often brings joy to the sad. It also brings inspiration. How many other gifts are sent out with our art we'll never, ever know! But sometimes we DO hear and it makes the Biblical verse about not hiding our gifts under a bushel give us a nudge, doesn't it!

The Charm House said...

KC, Just wanted to say thank you for your wonderful CD's on Collage Camp. I also have a story as you do. I became very ill 20 years ago and art became my therapy. It's funny because when I graduated from High School I wanted to go to art school but my parents insisted that I take my talents and become an architectural engineer. I basically stay at home most of the time, but because of creating I am very happy and very satisfied. I love buying CD's from artist to watch, choosing to watch them over most TV. My mother sewed for a living and I have also enjoyed using sewing in my art. I think God gives many of us the gift so that we can use it to encourage others. I use verses and scripture in most of my work. It makes me feel good to see someone happy when they have a piece of mine! You are a very special lady.... Keep using your God given gift to encourage those that need it!
Have a blessed and wonderful day!

Rhonda said...

My eyes are filled with tears of love for all women who've been through a lot. WOW, best thing I've read in a while.

I wish I could share with others like this.

You and your art touch my heart, KC.

Dotti said...

Oh My...was all I could say after reading your story. I have a divorce in my rear view mirror. And, there was a period of grief. But now it is lovingly referred to , I might add, as my 'other' life. It caused me to grow...lots. I wouldn't have become the now and present me without it...and I am liking the renewed me! Hugs...dotti from Nevada...where many of your girls came to be!

Candy said...

Words truly are mightier than the sword. Thankful for an artist that can put feelings into words. Thankful for friends and even a shot of vodka to shake off the dust from a fall in the dirt.
WOW! Blessings ;-)

Anna Rosa Designs said...

Oh KC,
What an adored, caring, sharing person you are!
Thank you for sharing your experience with us*
Happy creating,