In light of the unsettling news this past week of the Ottawa shooting on Parliament hill and the world affairs that are disturbing to us all, I have to ask myself what is the relevance of teaching doll making? What is the relevance of what I do on a day to day basis?
Ottawa is a city that I frequent and love. Part of the reason why I love where I live is its proximity to Ottawa. When I think of Ottawa I think of the diversity of culture that is celebrated. I think of the art, music, and song that flourishes there. I think of the museums, the events, the markets, the food, and last but not least the people. I belong to a doll making group in Ottawa where I have had the honor of becoming friends with some of the kindest warm hearted and talented ladies I know. My daughter in law and stepson live near Ottawa and work in Ottawa.
So what is the relevance of teaching the art of doll making? Most of my life I have worked in the helping professions. Early in my adult life I worked in the health care field where I tried to bring comfort to the elderly and infirm. I then entered the field of education where I taught my students to utilize their strengths to overcome their needs and use all kinds of tricks to get around the things that stood in their path so they could gain and maintain meaningful employment. These are not things that solve the problems of the world or decrease violence but these were purposeful activities that I liked to think had some sort of positive impact on the little part of the world I lived in.
I have recently become a full time doll artist and teach the art of doll making. I am currently teaching an online class on A for Artistic and have just recently had a proposal to teach at the 2015 spring Philadelphia Art Doll and Teddy Bear show accepted (which by the way I find so way cool). So again, I ask what is the relevance of teaching the art of doll making? How meaningful and purposeful is this?
Quite a few years ago I met a woman that made very time intensive and very beautiful dolls and horses out of cloth at a conference. While we were chatting away she shared with me the reason why she created her dolls and horses. She stated, “it gives me something beautiful to think about every day.” Her quote remained with me and comes to my mind often when I think about why I create. It truly does give me something beautiful to think about every day. During high stress periods of my life I would often stop and think about my doll making project. My project gave me something beautiful to think about, something calm and peaceful to focus on. I have always found my doll making and my art very calming and stress reducing.
When I create I enter in a peaceful state of bliss. Some call it the “zone.” It is a state of mind that artists, athletes, martial artists, dancers, musicians share when their entire focus is placed on performing a single activity during one moment in time. During this state one becomes completely immersed in the activity to the point where one becomes completely lost in the act. One becomes at one with the act. The act becomes a form of meditation, much like walking meditation.
About four months ago I left the field of public education and became a full time artist. I create and engage in art every day. I am immersed in my art. I lose track of time. Sometimes I forget to eat. I work during the early hours of the day into the late hours of the night. I laugh more often, smile almost always, and find myself calm and at peace almost all of the time. My heart sings.
Throughout life and as an educator I have learned that one cannot change how others act or behave. To enact change, one can only change oneself. I have no control over world events, over violence, over the behavior of others. All I have control over are my own acts, my own behaviors, my own response to the actions of others. Thich Nhat Hanh, a great spiritual leader and peace activist, teaches that in order to create peace you must create peace within oneself first.
Why do I teach the art of doll making? Is there a purpose? After truly contemplating this question the answer I have is this: I teach others how to engage in an activity that brings me great peace and joy. It brings my mind to a state of calm. It makes my heart sing. If I can share that ability with others so they too can enter a state of bliss and have their heart sing maybe it doesn’t change world events, maybe it doesn’t create world peace. But maybe, just maybe, it brings something positive to the little part of the world I live in.
P.S. P. S., It's not too late to sign up for my online class Bridgette on A for Artistic. You can find out more about it here http://www.aforartistic.com/bridgette-with-marla-l-niederer-cloth-doll-artist.html