Mar 10, 2013

Musings Of A 'Group' Member

A Canadian fibre artist and fellow blogger , Arlee, posed a question on her blog yesterday that jostled similar issues that have been swimming around in my head for the last 5 days ... which has severely hampered my creativity, btw ... and which prompted me to write (or rant is probably a better word) about some of the things that trouble me.

First; some background; I feel lucky and special and priveledged to belong to a very talented group of international fibre artists ... Connections Fibre Artists.
A few, smart women, and a couple of lovely gentleman, formed a small group in 1999 as the result of the need to reach beyond the life inside a guild where sometimes new, fresh ideas are stifled. 
Their motto became;

'We hope to combine our experience with experimentation to create original stitched surfaces, to be motivated to continue to develop and widen the boundaries of stitchery, expressing our individual ideas and feelings in the process.'

This group has been hanging fibre art in galleries and museums ever since ... sometimes up to 3 times a year ... now entering our 14th year ! They have been very successful in bringing fibre art to an acceptance as 'art' when, in the past, 'craft' was the only category allotted them.

Now the present; Recently I am finding that 'professionalism' is hampering our 'group business' ... and that is a wonderful thing, on one hand, but recently the 'who, what, why, when and where' arose for me. 
Who ? ... is going to do the work necessary for another successful show if everyone is too busy ?
What ? ... we have never had an 'executive' and have operated quite simply, so, we have relied on voluntary work by our members.
Why ? ... some are just too darned busy to assist in the 'business' of a group such as ours.  
Where ? ... do we get the necessary assistance for various committees that work out the kinks of any new show ?
When ? ... is it time to revert to a group with an executive ? ... mandatory executive terms on specific committees for everyone, eventually ? 

There is always a 'core' group in any association ... they are the 'worker bees' that quietly carry on, through thick & thin ... which brings to mind a poem that I read 30 years ago and that still resounds in my head and heart today.

Something To Think About
ARE YOU AN ACTIVE MEMBER ... the kind that would be missed?
OR ARE YOU JUST CONTENT ... that your name is on the list.

DO YOU ATTEND MEETINGS ... and mingle with the flock

OR DO YOU STAY AT HOME ... and criticize and knock.

DO YOU TAKE AN ACTIVE PART ... to help the work along
OR ARE YOU JUST SATISFIED TO BE ... the kind that "Just Belongs"?
DO YOU EVER GO TO VISIT ... a member who is sick
OR JUST LEAVE THE WORK TO A FEW ... and talk about the clique.
THERE’S QUITE A PROGRAM SCHEDULED ... that I’m sure you heard about
AND WE’LL APPRECIATE IT IF YOU ... will come and help us out.
SO COME TO MEETINGS OFTEN ... and help with hand and heart
DON’T BE JUST A MEMBER ... but take an active part.
THINK IT OVER MEMBER ... you know right from wrong
ARE YOU AN ACTIVE MEMBER ... or do you "Just Belong"?

ps. of course this doesn't apply to members who cannot be a physical presence 

I fully understand the 'security' of belonging to a group and of the financial commitment that comes with that. But I am at a loss when members can't commit to the 'business' of a group ... where is the security then ?
How do you convince them that everyone must play a part ?

I rarely have the nerve to say 'I am a professional artist'.
But I have had successful sales of art work (whether it be oils, watercolours, pen & ink or fibre) since I was 17 years old, with my work owned by many people, in many countries. 
I am not famous, nor do I have to make a living at it but I am comfortable with what I accomplish.
I have had many sales of my work in many shows. 
I have several solo shows under my belt. 
I have been a teacher of fibre art.
I have illustrated a text book, when I was 20 yrs. old, for the University of Guelph. 
And this year I find myself lined up to be a part of 4 shows this year alone (not all with the my fibre group) starting at the end of this month !
And, I am busy with the committee that gets Threadworks 2013 launched next month ! I am pleased to say that I have been involved (in some capacity or another) with Threadworks since it's very first show in 1987 !. I am busy, too !!!
Our gentleman member reminded us that if you ever need help ... 'ask a busy woman'. Ain't that the truth !

I will be 65 years of age this month !  I am a wife, a mother of 4, a grandmother to 9 1/2 (only 5 in this older photo), an artist, a sister, an aunt, a best friend, a keeper/researcher of the family history, a house-sitter and a shoulder to lean on when life deals a crappy blow to friends and family ! 
Yeah, go ahead and tell me I am not busy, too ! 
I deal every moment of the day with the disabilities and pain that Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis has left me with over the last 54 yrs ... and I don't let artificial knuckles, 2 artificial knees and an artificial hip keep me from trying as hard as I can.
.... so, please excuse me when if I have a quizzical look on my face when you start to tell me how busy you are or how professional you are ... step out of your 'me' world for a moment and take a good look around you, at the rest of us ! We're all busy ... we all have lives !

Ok, I admit it ... I didn't need to blow my own horn so loudly but I think I needed to vent and write down and verify my existence as a viable artist ... and a complete, dyed-in-the-wool group member who doesn't  ... 'just belong' ! 
I belong !  I do !   I encourage !   I suggest !   I take responsibility ! 
I may not do everything according to Hoyle ... but I do my very best, every time.
Yup, it worked !
Thank you readers for listening to this old woman ;) I love reading your blogs !
Ain't life grand ?


  1. Wow, a great and though provoking post, Sharon! I don't understand members who don't participate except by being a member. Because i've been guilty of this as well, i've left groups because i realized i couldn't do anything with or for them, or left groups because there was a core that had total control with no room for new ideas and left groups because i frankly couldn't afford them. Finding the right one can become a chore and a lot of time spent and energy wasted, but OH when you do find the right one, what a blessing.

  2. Thank you for reading this arlee ... I crossed my fingers once I hit the 'publish' button hoping that this post would be insightful ... not just another b****in' session.
    You are right about cores and in the past I have bemoaned the fact that they exist ... but then I realized, good or bad, they get the work done.
    This is a fantastic group and I am so glad to be a part of it !

  3. Your words (both of you) hit the spot and also help me realise where I am with all of this. I am doing something, and I hope it helps at the community level and with my own satisfaction in life. I have felt myself at the same various positions you mention Arlee, with respect to different groups. Right now I am comfortable with my own involvements in the groups I belong to, though maybe that isn't quite honest. I am constantly (almost) re-evaluating how it fits with my life and hope I wont look back and say I gave my own work priority over my home life. There is no right answer, we have to find the one that fits us, individually. I also don't think we can compare each other's circumstances, there are many factors coming into play and we surely don't know everything about each other... certainly not what is going on in a colleagues head. Perhaps making comparisons is even dangerous to oneself as it doesn't do anything to make one feel better to feel bitter if some folks are less active. I am finding more and more that I want to be be content in my own skin. And hopefully that will bring out the best in me - and perhaps I can wish it to bring something good out in others too.
    Now I hit send and cross everything.

  4. Excellent post Sharron! Everyone is busy at some point, or infirm sometimes and that is understandable. But to never post or comment is to be separate from the group. Why be there? I am here to see, feel, learn and share. To keep me on my lazy toes with my own art work. Very well put. Very well.