Wednesday, September 14, 2011

American Craft Expo Recap, or, Things I Learned at the Show - Part 2

One of the questions I was asked frequently, as I sat in my Emerging Artist booth at the American Craft Expo, was "Where do you get all these papers?". . . Oh flea markets, estate sales, auctions. . . The question was sometimes posed as a remark "You really like to collect!" or "You must have a lot of stuff!". . .Yes, yes to both. I've got quite a collection and yes it is a lot of stuff!

It was interesting to watch and see how different people responded to different elements of my collage work.

Some were drawn to letters, words, or documents that had a certain familiarity to them and they would share with me their stories.

Others were fascinated with the use of ink in the work and would comment on the placement of it within the composition. Many were brought in by the textural aesthetics of a particular element or combination of elements and wonder what the bit or piece within the collage they were viewing had originally been and say that the threads and strings of frayed edges and spines of books were especially appealing to them.

Yes, I would agree, Yes, these were some of my favorite things too, these bits and pieces and scraps, these ink blotches and fragments, they were all very appealing to me as well.

But somewhere in the back of my mind, I could still see them in their original form. Not as they were when they were brand new, off the press sheet music or newly purchased books, but as they were when I found them. Discards of long forgotten lives. Beat up, worn down, time weathered and well, just plain old trash.

The stuff I use in my work is typically the stuff nobody else wants. I don't need to rush to the estate sale and line up at the crack of dawn. No, the books I use are falling out of their covers and the book dealers have long since left the premises, no doubt turning up their noses at the editions that I treasure. Many times an estate dealer will breath a sigh of relief to see what I am purchasing, as they thought they would surely be throwing these things away after the sale.

And so I marveled as person after person proclaimed to me "You need to raise your prices!" and looked at my work time and again throughout the show wondering, as somebody was handing me money, what would compel a person to tell me they were willing to pay an even higher price for something I had made? Did they really look? Didn't they really see what it was they were buying? 

And it was one such remark, said on the last day of the show, after hearing this remark many times over the course of the event, as a man passed through my booth complimenting me on what he saw, parting words said in sincere exclamation, "You need to raise your prices!" that caught my ear just so and I turned my head once again to look.

And I felt a stirring in my heart and heard a whispering in my soul, as I first caught sight of myself in the glass, and then looked beyond to see the collage I had created inside, and heard that voice within. 

God saying to look. Really look and see what it is that they see. 

"You see trash, each bit that went into it as an individual element in its found form, but they see the whole picture."

Profound, that moment felt like one of those scenes from a movie, where all around the activity faded to a far away black and white scene and the noise receded to nothing and all I could hear was the beat of my own heart, and that whisper inside.

"Is there anything here you would have left out? Is there a particular element you wish you had not included? Anything too dirty to be a part of this picture?" No, I shook my head silently. Each element had been carefully selected. Each one, no matter how dirty or worn it had been when I found it, was important to the overall composition. Together these things formed the complete picture, every last bit was important, I wouldn't have left anything out.

And then the picture blurred again and I caught my own eye in the glass.

And I heard it again, I saw it in my eye, felt it in my heart...

"You see your life the same way you see these collage elements. You see the past, certain events and choices, as nothing but trash. You feel ashamed of some and think if only they knew . . .but I see you as a complete picture. There is not a single element that I would remove. Each one is vital to the overall composition of who I created you to be. And each piece has value. You have intrinsic value to me."

"You need to raise your own price, my dear, I paid for you with my life."


  1. Beautiful my dear...I love all the raw string bit hanging rich in texture and stucture...
    wonderful explanation by the way too.

  2. Beautiful post- thank you for stepping out and sharing your intimate insights. Its a good thing that God-our Father- sees us as His precious children, valuable to Him. Thank you!

  3. Awww...what a heartfelt story you told. Yes, we all need to remember that Jesus died for us and we are worth his love.

    Your art draws me in to look and really see the worth in the items you choose. The way you lay them down, and the way this would be trash is put together makes me realize that there is beauty every where, I just need to look.

  4. Amen! He did pay for us with His life and we must treat ourselves as precious. Beautiful post my friend. Very true.

  5. what a profound God well told. raise your price...this is a post I will read again and again. ;)

  6. Amen, sister. The beautiful creation that you have been redeemed into is what we all see...and love!

  7. incredibly beautiful.

  8. that is such a beautiful connection to faith, crystal. it nearly brought me to tears! yes, He does see the whole picture doesn't He? so amazing.

    yes, i will take some pictures of where i hang your work when i finally get them up! then i'll send them your way. :)

  9. Beautiful, I think each of us has his voice inside us but we stuff it down, choke it out, or ignore it. It takes a strong woman to write what you did today I appreciate that you could share it with us.

  10. I love it when God removes the lies we believe about ourselves by giving us his view. Thank you so much for sharing this profound moment. Your openness is a gift to me.

  11. Excellent post Crystal! I need to read this again, thank you.

  12. Absolutely. I've felt just that about my own life with all the trash and dirt and I don't value myself enough... but God does, enough to give all for me. Thank you for this marvelous post.

  13. Powerful moment for you and powerfully shared in this post. These times of inspiration and insight are there to cherish.

  14. Wow.....that's all I can think of to say.....I needed to read this at this time...thank you.

  15. Beautiful work, your materials and compositions are so inspiring.
    ... and very true words you're sharing.
    We tend so much to devalue ourselves, our creativity, with our "inner censor". We should listen far mor often to this confirming inner voice!

  16. Again, I'll comment "inspiring." Even from a secular point of view, we pay for ourselves with our experiences--all the parts of our lives. And it is a struggle worth enduring to learn to appreciate that. I hope you will write more....

  17. I really enjoyed both of your recap posts - very insightful and inspiring. Thank you for sharing such a personal experience with us!

  18. beautiful
    thank you

  19. MotherDana4:06 PM

    Wow, I actually had no idea where this was headed, until suddenly...pow!! What a meaningful post. I got goosebumps and got all verclempt. (no idea if I'm spelling that right haha).

    Thank you, truly, and with much love.

  20. wow. i loved your story, how it wandered from your artwork to God's piece masterpiece. just beautiful. :)