For as long as I can remember, the one thing that held me back from doing what I wanted to do with my life, to be an artist, was the idea of needing to be able to do things in a conventional way. This has always held me back because I've never had the financial means, or college education that can make being an artist as a profession a little easier. I always looked at the reasons why I thought I couldn't, or shouldn't do it... lack of safety, security, stability, etc... and I let that stop me for most of my life. Then there came a day in 2018 when it occurred to me that this idea that I always have to play by the rules, color inside the lines, and fit some specific model of what it means to do things in the "right" way to be successful was utter bullshit that served only to create a barrier between me and happiness. Isn't being an artist being someone who lives a little outside of the box of convention anyway?
Before I reached that moment of clarity, I found myself in a strange place in life. In many ways I was the happiest, safest, and most loved I had ever been after getting married and creating a home with my beautiful wife Alissa, and our two dogs. Yet, underneath the surface I was not happy with myself. I lacked the purpose and satisfaction I had always been searching for, and had never found working dead end jobs. Jobs that assaulted the sensitive nervous system of a born introvert. It was around this time that I started to come to terms with the fact that the panic attacks and depression I was experiencing were a direct result of the work environments I always found myself in. It was clear something needed to change, but I simply couldn't see a way out.
In the middle of this confusing time, Alissa and I took a little getaway to Bozeman, Montana in April 2018. This trip changed everything for me. We walked into the gallery and studio of a local potter one morning after getting coffee, and immediately I felt something shift in me. I began to take in every detail of this little space. The artist had a funky, artsy, mountain man style which immediately caught my eye. He was rocking selvedge Levis 501's and some Blundstone chelsea boots with a t-shirt and an apron. He was standing at his work bench, working some clay. At his feet was a loyal, happy weimaraner. I remember thinking, this is it. This is what I want to be doing with my life. Though I hadn't settled on my medium of creating, I had nailed down exactly how I wanted my life to look and feel... alone in my own artist's studio creating art, with a dog or two chillin' nearby.
This feeling stuck with me in my bones. I took it home, and carried it around. I couldn't shake how right the thought of being an artist, allowing myself to create, felt in my body. Especially after 37 years of nothing feeling that way, always being unsettled, unsatisfied, and never quite fitting anywhere. I had, of course, always been an artist when I looked back and took inventory of my life in this moment. That passion and desire to create was always inside me, and has taken many shapes over the years. I found myself drawn to other artists, to creative process and various mediums, but never could admit to myself that this interest was speaking to the thing I had been searching for, my purpose.
Staring down the barrel of daily panic attacks that were worsening in severity, and overall declining health, I made the decision to call it quits on the job I was working at the time. At this critical moment, I was so grateful to have the support of my wife who allowed me to take the time and space I needed to regain my center and explore what life might look like for me going forward. I knew I had the choice to keep working the same type of jobs that had been so detrimental to me in the past, or to choose something different... happiness. I chose happiness, though I didn't even know yet what that would look like, I knew that there was no going back.
Over the months prior to this turning point I had started expressing my interest in silversmithing to my wife. It had been a growing interest over many years that started with a silver thunderbird ring of my Dad's that I always loved growing up. I remember he kept it in a drawer in my parents bedroom. I used sneak in, look at it and try it on. I was drawn deeply to silver and turquoise; I had found my medium. It shouldn't have surprised me that I would want to make jewelry since I started doing that as a child. It started with friendship bracelets and making hemp jewelry, then various forms of beading off and on for years. Jewelry has always been a key element in personal style for me, it's the little unique details of a one of a kind piece of jewelry that can't be mimicked or overlooked in creating an artful personal expression of style.
About a week after I quit my job in May of 2018, Alissa came across a workshop at a local artist co-op and gallery on silver casting with tufa stone that was being taught by a Diné artist from New Mexico. This was a jaw drop moment of synchronicity. This was an opportunity I couldn't pass up, and I didn't, thanks to the encouragement of my wife. I used every last dime of my last paycheck to sign up for that workshop, and the rest is history. I was in love. That weekend workshop was all I needed to jump start my creative gears. I opened a credit card with a $300 limit (which was all I could qualify for at the time), and I maxed it out buying everything I could from the very basic list of tools and books I thought I would need to start making jewelry.
Along with some of my Grandpa's old tools, I used this very rudimentary set of tools to begin teaching myself to cut, shape, solder, and set stones in sterling silver. It's been a wild ride from starting with nothing but a hope and dream, to where I find myself today... which is somewhere in the middle of this mountain I am climbing. Everyday is still an adventure, the learning and growing continues as I try to carve my own path creating the life I want. An unconventional life, a life that is itself, art.