Hey Creative Friend, let me tell you about an artist date I had with Bisa Butler and the Broom Jumpers, and the five lessons I learned.
Let’s start from the beginning. Prior to my artist date, I was stressed, overwhelmed, and burned out with work, family, and volunteering for the various causes I support. I wasn’t exercising as much and wasn’t eating that well.
I’m in charge of an exhibition we’ve been planning for a year and in the last couple of weeks, activities for that exhibition ramped up. In addition to that, I have an invitational show I’m part of that I’m preparing to speak at. Moreover, I’m creating a new series of artworks. Everything was happening at the same time. I knew I needed to take a step back and get myself together.
Art has a way of doing that. It’s the “creative cure”.
Art calms, reduces the stress, and provides an outlet for expression. So, I decided to immerse myself in someone else’s art. I planned and went on an artist date. If you haven’t heard of artist dates, then you haven’t read Julia Cameron’s book – The Artist Way. . It’s a good book. Pick up a copy.
Previously, I’d seen a notice about an upcoming event with Bisa Butler somewhere on the internet. Bisa Butler is a talented fiber artist whose recent gallery opening had people flying in from overseas, and long lines of people waiting on the street to get into the show. She’s been making a lot of waves in the art community recently. She’s elevating the profile of fiber art, which is so wonderful. She even got commissioned to create the cover of one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential women.
When I saw her upcoming event at Mount Holyoke College, I toyed with the idea of driving up to attend. However, I didn’t make any plans to do so. It wasn’t until I started feeling very stressed from all the work that I was doing, that I decided I needed self-care. So, a few days before the event, I decided to make the trip up to Mount Holyoke College Art Museum to hang out with Bisa Butler.
Usually, when I’m going on a long road trip, I say a prayer when I sit in the car before I start driving. I often pray to God for protection, and safe travels. This time, I didn’t say my usual long prayer for protection. I said a short prayer which went something like this: Father, let this align with the plan you had for me before I was born. Short and sweet!
I was exhausted. I needed a break. I had no energy. I couldn’t say a long prayer.
I went to the event with my youngest son, whom I wanted to spend more time with. Although, it was a long trip, it was a very relaxing time for me. Knowing how much press Bisa Butler has been receiving in recent months, it was no surprise that there were more people at the event than the museum had originally expected.
The talk had to be moved from the gallery to another auditorium.
I very much enjoyed listening to Bisa Butler speak. As I listened to her talk, I made a deeper connection with her work. After the talk, I got to ask her a question. I was so excited to get the chance to do so.
I asked her when she knew her life was going to revolve around art. She said she’d always known since she was a child.
Best of all, after the event my son and I got a surprising invitation to have dinner with Bisa. I dined with Bisa, the curators of the show, and a few others. It ended up being a late night event and a great one at that. It wasn’t what I’d planned or expected. But it all worked out better than I could ever have planned or prayed for.
I couldn’t believe how it all played out. It turned out just the way it was supposed to work out and it was beautiful. I made great connections. I got exactly what I needed for me to become calm again, relax, and recharge my batteries.
Here are the lessons, I learned from hanging out with Bisa Butler.
Lessons From Hanging Out with Bisa Butler
1. Finding Your Voice Takes Time
Bisa talked about how in art school, she looked at other people’s work and wondered how they already had a unique style while she didn’t have one. She took us through the different stages her art had evolved before she developed her current style.
What I noticed is that although you can see earlier aspects of her style in her current work, her overall style has completely changed. And the other thing of interest to me is that it’s been more than 20 years since she switched from painting to working in fiber art. And guess what, it’s taken the world just as long to know her and appreciate her talent.
2. The Path to Going Pro is Not Straight Forward
While Bisa was growing her art skills, developing her voice, and exhibiting her works, she was also working as a teacher. She taught at the same high school she went to for seventeen years while she was growing her art career. It wasn’t until she no longer had enough time to work on her blossoming art career, did she make the decision to stop teaching.
3. Attention to Detail is Attractive
Bisa says she spends between 100 to 300 hours on each piece of work she creates. When you look closely at her works you’ll understand why she needs so much time to complete each piece. Her attention to detail is impeccable. I noticed two things which make her work stand out from other fiber art works.
One, she uses busy prints as her background, which goes against the traditional way of thinking in art quilting. This adds an extra level of interest to her work and the story she’s telling with her works.
Two, she cleverly uses light and shadow to create the illusion of 3-dimension. With the help of sheer fabrics, she carefully creates details such as creases in clothing, where the light reflects on a pair of shoes, and the shadow under a chin, for examples. When you look at the work as a whole, you can’t help but feel that what you’re looking at is a real representation of life.
4. The Power of Your Personal Story Cannot be Overestimated
Your personal story is powerful. It’s what makes you unique. This is a lesson I teach in my course, The Clarity to Create. When you hear Bisa speak, you feel the power of her story. It gives meaning and value to her work. It gives you context and lets you know how steeped in history her work is. Her story transforms her work from beautiful images to cultural icons.
5. Self-Care is not a Luxury. It’s a Necessity
You can’t put a price on self-care. You can always create new artworks. But you can’t create a new You. Take care of the YOU you’ve got.
Go out and see art. Follow Bisa Butler on social media, if you’re not already doing so.