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  • Sara Nordling


ball of hand dyed yarn

I am taking a brief break from my designing weaver interviews. There will be more coming, they are just waiting for responses from various weavers, and because, hey, designing weavers are busy...designing and weaving!

During this interval I am taking a short sidetrack to talk about bravery. You hear it said that you can’t be creative unless you aren’t afraid to fail. That failure can take many forms, from a failed project to rejection from a gallery or buyer. But, you also need to be brave and not fear success as well. Because at times I think I fear success almost as much as I fear failure.

After all, failure is something I’m kind of used to doing. What I thought was a great weaving idea turned out to be a “dog” on the loom. I entered a textile into a show and it was rejected. Doesn’t matter if the same work received a “best in show” elsewhere (true story), it can still be rejected. These failures are common, they are a part of being an artist. I’ve gotten comfortable with them. I pick myself up, dust myself off, and carry on. It has gotten to the point where these things are not where I need my bravery. These are the things I can handle.

Where I also need to be brave is with the successes. I have been having some successes lately. For one thing there is this blog. I didn’t know if anyone but a few of my friends would follow my posts; even though I haven’t gone viral, I do have a following! Recently, I got gallery representation from a small, start up gallery in the area. I also got connected with the gift store at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art who agreed to carry my weavings in their store. I will be part of a studio tour and sale in a few weeks. I will be speaking at a guild in Illinois and I am on the docket to teach design at the MAFA Conference in 2019. All are good things. You might wonder what sort of bravery this requires. Let me tell you.

These successes require me to keep up my production and work; find something new to say in both my blog and my work. It sometimes gets too comfortable when slower sales give you the leisure to build up inventory. There is also a fear that I won’t measure up and be able to handle all this. It will make my life busier and more challenging. And somewhere, deep inside me, is the little girl fear that the world will discover me as a pretender and not a “real” artist.

5 balls hand dyed yarn

Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed 700 times. I’ve succeeded in proving 700 ways how not to build a light bulb.” And William Henry Perkins invented aniline dyes (specifically purple) while working on a cure for malaria. The bravery is in the showing up. The bravery is in recognizing what is working and what is not. The bravery is in facing your fears, be they of success or failure, and facing the next challenge. The bravery is in taking a hard look at what you have done and realizing that you sometimes have to change course a bit to pursue what is working, and forgetting those things that aren’t.

In going for your dream you risk bursting that bubble. Then what do you have? Sometimes it is nice to have that dream to fall back on when times get tough. When you go for the dream you may find you fail or that in reality the dream is different than what you thought it would be. Get a new dream? This is possible but when you are afraid to take the risk, that option doesn’t feel very real. Here’s where bravery is needed most. Facing your fears, whatever they may be, however ridiculous they seem to the rest of the world, is what you need to do. What I need to do. Where I need to be brave. I am learning this. I have come far and still have far to go.

So, dear readers, weavers and others, what are your dreams? What are your fears? What is keeping you from being brave and moving ahead? Perhaps together we can find our strength and realize our dreams.

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