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December 22, 2012

An artist label can be placed on many types of people

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The Daily Star

---- — “You are such an artist.”

Sometimes we say that jokingly to friends who may have stepped outside of their box and created something with more flourish than their usual endeavor — a cookie extravagantly decorated, maybe the intricate new children’s tree house in the backyard, or the doodles seen on a notebook on the kitchen counter. 

“Yeah, right,” they scoff. 

Perhaps we are giving a friendly jab at the ribbon-adorned holiday gift, but sometimes we mean it … and they won’t take you seriously.   

“No I mean it,” I said. “This is really good; you should be so proud!” 

I was talking about the creation my friend made out of found objects on her farm — pieces of wood that had dried up in the riverbed, some vintage dishes from a yard sale, an old tire rim. She created this wooden masterpiece that resembled a cowboy, with a bandana around the “neck” and all.

This wasn’t her first work of art out of found lumber. A few months ago, she was almost giddy because someone … actually two or three people … were interested in purchasing one of her pieces at her yard sale. 

“Can you believe someone wanted it?” she asked incredulously. “For a gallery no less!”

The piece is now in a local gallery with a small tag that reads “created by local artist.” 

When she told me about the tag she became a little self-conscious — like she wasn’t worthy of the title.

It just so happens that wasn’t the last piece she contributed to the gallery. It purchased another piece from her to display jewelry — a creative stand with thin, knotted branches extending upward — the perfect setting for pretty necklaces and earrings. 

But still, she refuses to acknowledge she’s an artist. 

“This is just a hobby,” she told me. “I guess some people would call it art, but this is just something I do.”

June, the co-writer of this column, does this too. She is so incredibly crafty. She creates baby shower gifts that other people pay for — diaper castles, cupcakes out of baby clothes and socks. Every year, she creates a wreath for the Cooperstown Art Association Wreath Festival out of found objects. One year she made the wreath out of Scrabble boards, another out of sheet music. And so many people comment on her creativity.

A hobby like this can sometimes be a source income, however small it may be, as we have seen from the myriad people that sell homemade items on the website Etsy.

“You’re so artsy. You should start an online business,” I told her. “I would much prefer to purchase a diaper castle, among other things, for a baby shower than try to make one myself, and I’m sure others would agree.”

But she won’t … or hasn’t yet. I know she really wants to, but something is holding her back. The standard that the title “artist” brings? Perhaps. The fear of rejection? Maybe a little of that too. 

Some people are just a little more comfortable with calling their creative outlet a hobby. They are hobbyists, not artists. That doesn’t mean their product is any less artistic. 

Well, I think they are artists. And I will continue to tell them this and encourage them. And I will smile a little every time I see a tag next to something that says, “created by local artist.” 

Brittany Lesavoy is secretary of ArtsOtsego, the alliance of Otsego County arts organizations, and director of public relations for The Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown. Column ideas may be sent to aroundthearts@gmail.com. ‘Around The Arts’ columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/aroundthearts.