Friday, May 22, 2015

Finding Beauty in the Common: How the Little Things are the Big Things

Back when I first started painting, I wandered into the cutest little local art supply store in Bloomington, Indiana (be still my heart), where I was going to college, and took a liking to ceramic paint. When I started doodling in my dorm room sophomore year, I experimented creating with everything from eye shadow to tissue paper. So by the time I actually invested in looking for real art supplies, I was open to pretty much anything.

Looking back, learning to be creative has been a pretty neat process: almost like a child experimentally learns to do something, so art has come into my life. I just tried it one day, presumably the same way I first tried walking or talking or playing soccer- informally, organically- and it stuck. 
Now it's become a way of seeing the world, and being in it: it's turned into creativity, in practice. But in the beginning I just wanted to make creations that were functional yet adorable; that people could both use and decorate with. Painting on housewares seemed to be a good option, so on-and-off (with the exception of my consistently-available Chicago Skyline mugs), I've painted on plates, platters, dishes, and coffee mugs for a while now. 

But recently I've re-visited creating with ceramics. I just love the ideas of bringing mindfully-made, hand-created goods into the home, supporting local creators, and looking at and using art as part of everyday life. Art that is beautiful (paintings and prints) has its own appeal of course- I think beauty serves as much good (and more, in some cases) as function- but art that you actually use and touch and interact with in daily life serves its own interesting purpose too: it forces us into contact with beauty, it makes us interact with something that has soul

And that challenges us to see ourselves and our lives in a different- more special, more sacred, more radiant, and exciting- light.
Art in the everyday can change so much about the quality and depth of life because it helps make us aware and engaged in what beauty is around us. Learning to see the same thing over and over again in a new way is what makes creative, brave living possible: we must be able to live with the satisfaction of seeing beauty in the common, and cease needing the stimulation of constant, new 'highs' that eventually lose their power to make us feel good.

Don't get me wrong: there's nothing wrong with the 'highs' in life. I love them: traveling, seeing new places, meeting new people, traveling (did I mention that?). Often, buying something new offers us that high too: we seek new things we haven't used or been engrossed by yet, and new possessions are subconsciously attractive for that reason. They often fill an emptiness that tells us we want beauty and stimulation and gratification now- but it never lasts for very long.
When we venture into our own minds and begin to see, to get really self-reflective on, what exactly we're often doing when we buy stuff, we see that usually we're just as 'happy' when we stop as when we consume a lot. That is, happiness- that joy we want from just being alive- isn't available through having more things. It's almost silly-simple: there's no way to have enough of what you don't actually need any of.

So there's a fine line: a fine line between seeking the new in order to make life seem interesting and meaningful, and seeking the new because you think life already is, and new highs are more 'supplementary inspirational experiences' than 'monotony avoiders.' I've learned that the high moments are not actually as good as they could be unless we know how to appreciate the little things that happen so often in between them. That's life: those in-between moments. We have to be able to see those parts as valuable, satisfying, and rich as the moments where we're staring at a beautiful sunset or traveling an unseen part of the world.
I think on first mention, to some, it might seem unrealistic: we do often make a distinction between 'vacation' and 'the real world,' or 'work' and 'play.' But when we engage in life creatively, those distinctions start to go away: or, said in another way, we actually begin to see ourselves take the shape of one coherent person, living one coherent, authentic life, not escaping from anything. Beauty isn't 'out there somewhere'- it's in the lens through which we see the world. It comes from our own ability to see it.

It is we who become aware that unless we can be as present for moments at the dinner table as we are when we're hiking through the woods; unless we can be as captivated by a Tuesday night at home as we are exploring a far-off corner of the world; unless what we have here is as amazing as what we could have there- we miss life.

And life's not here to miss. It's here to be here for

The whole thing.
Love this Life dish and Find Beauty dish on etsy.

xoxo

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