The other, related thing that struck me, was how vital it is for creatives to meet up with other creatives.
And as a lifelong introvert with extremely flakey creative self-confidence, that was quite a realisation. But it’s true, finding your tribe, discovering people who think like you, understand you and know what you’re feeling, is massively liberating.
For years I was just too shy about my stitching to show it to anyone, but once I did, and once I then found an artistic community to be part of, everything changed and I was eventually able to start being me.
For a great many of the people we talk to in the gallery who've stopped making art, it was because they had no one to encourage them. They weren’t taken seriously, or they just didn’t have the support network of people around them who understood them, or didn’t know anyone who could help point them in the right direction to progress.
It takes courage to express yourself and very few of us are strong enough to stand up against the crowd alone without support, without having creative friends on-side to cheer you on.
ways to help...
Taking the first steps to finding other creatives doesn’t have to be as daunting as walking into a gallery might sound. These days there are lots of ways to find people to support and encourage you.
Perhaps the softest way is by searching online for people doing the same or similar creative things. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are full of arty types and a bit of browsing will bring you to people you feel comfortable with. And then of course there are the bloggers… (hello!).
For me, this online community is one of the greatest joys of modern life. To be able to see the work of other artists around the globe is simply marvellous. To be able to have real time conversations with them is something that never ceases to amaze and delight me. I guess that having been born in the pre-internet world this connection will always be truly wonderful in my eyes.
But wonderful though online connection is, having flesh and blood contacts and being part of a ‘real life’ community of arty people is equally valuable - perhaps more so.
Here you do have to be a tiny bit braver and raise your head above the parapet, but there are friendly people out there ready and waiting to welcome you. Whether it’s a knitting and nattering club, an embroiderers’ guild, a painting club, life-drawing group, local artists’ network, one-off workshops, quilting circles or whatever, if you look, you’ll find them. And the joy of finding your own tribe is indescribable.
Your creative community gives you friendship, encouragement, inspiration, advice, technical assistance, reassurance and feedback and the occasional kick up the proverbial. And what’s more, you give the same back to the group.
So, if by any chance you're someone who's been suppressing your creativity, I hope you’ll be brave and take a few steps to get back into practice. If you’re feeling all alone in the creative world, please don’t, wave at the people doing things you like the look of and I’m sure they’ll respond. And if they don't, shout louder!
And for those of us already happily ensconced in our own creative community, let's remember to keep a lookout for other people who would like to join in, maybe they're a little shy to ask, but we know there’s plenty of room for everyone and in the end we all benefit.