Sunday, September 26, 2010

Building a Body of Work

We fall in love first with the pure act of creation. From there we chose a medium, such as clay, paint, metalwork. The pieces we make for sale are a consequence of an inner exploration, and that’s the most fulfilling context for creation. If you follow this path, what you create is a legacy that is distinctively your own, as Jonathan Fields so aptly describes. What you get if you don’t follow this path is a frustrating, jealousy producing, creative dead end of finding objects that others have made and trying to make them. In this world there is a great deal of finger pointing and reading endless marketing tips, and seeing other creatives as competition. The most threatening people of all in this world are the ones who are successful. Frankly, it’s not a satisfying place to be, and if you are a creative person stuck in this world, get out now! Put your time and energy into building a body of work!

A body of work is a clear, recognizable  path that you are taking with your artistic exploration and creations. To build a body of work,  just pick one thing that you like to make that you can make well. Make that with one invariable quality, and several variable qualities. Your same quality might be same subject matter, size, color, or utilitarian function. For example, I made these casseroles last year:



Here are some variations:

I also took the casserole shape in this direction and developed Keepsake Boxes, which is a smaller version of my casserole form, without handles.

A body of work is a path that you forge. You end up in uncharted territory, making things that aren’t like other people’s work. You begin to respect and even like other creative people, and recognize those who have also forged their own path. The challenge now is to continue to progress, to continuously move forward.

Werner Erhard once said, “Any idiot can walk a path when shown one. But out here, there is no path. The path is made by your walking.”

That’s what I’m talking about!


  1. Thanks for sharing this insight on building a body of work. I can look back on my own work, not as an artist, and can see the common thread throughout, can see the things that I do well, and have repeated in various versions to overcome challenges for my customers and my team.

    As always, your work is beautiful, totally love the smaller keepsake boxes and the fanciful lids you make for them!

  2. This is a great post - we get so distracted by the work of others sometimes and forget our inner voice and direction. It's wonderful and important to surround yourself with crafty, creative, successful artists, it motivates and inspires but we also have to progress on our own path. Thank you for reminding me!

  3. great post lee and so true what you say. i have found it takes courage to forge through in the beginning and the more you make of something, albeit different each time the stronger it gets and the more momentum and confidence you (it) seems to have. great way to grow, build a body of work and make something that is collecible too.

  4. Wonderful post and thought provoking. I do sometimes wonder if I'm creating for me or for an audience....hopefully a bit of both.

  5. I love the way you've expressed this, Lee. I find the more I listen to my inner voice or intuition, the more it lets me know where to go with my art. I guess it's true in general, in life. You really must look inside regularly.

  6. Interesting topic, Lee! I think the most relevant artists are doing work that is original. That said, it's very difficult - carrying all of art history on our backs. In my opinion, an audience should not even be considered because it only adds another layer of judgement, which can crush innovation.

    I like Picasso's methods- bodies of work were created as ongoing experiments. He never really repeated himself.

    At the same time there are artists who continue to work with what they know, like Bonnard painting his own backyard over and over. Yet he originated striking and modern color combinations in the way that he used paint and composition.

  7. This was a wonderful post and I second everything that has been said already. If I can add anything in my own words, it would that now and then it is so nice, and a bit of a relief, to see that someone else has the words to describe my own experience, but which I could not quite explain. Thank you very much for this.

  8. wise words! " The path is made by your walking! "