In My Ashes, I Am Forged

It’s been too long coming, but it has come. The realization that I feared my art, thus the reason for not creating. There are circumstances beyond my control that contributed to stepping away from the art…and I no longer felt the solace that it had given me in the past during times of difficulty. For the first time in my life, I feared being alone with myself – which is the paramount requirement for making art, and yet turned away form the very people who could nurture and encourage and empower me. I walked away from my tribe because I no longer felt I belonged – and because I walked away, I did, in fact, no longer belong.

It’s a paradox, being an artist. Full of excitement of the beginning, love of the process,  the letting go. Then there’s the self-doubt, the beast that is always lurking, knowing the weakness, and waiting for the chance to exploit it. It is a constant struggle to keep this thing at bay, but it found an opening and ripped through, leaving me in a heap. There are not many things worse for a person’s sense of well-being than feeding the monster. But feed it I did, and fed it well…and it is an insatiable thing.

In short, I lost my direction, or in hindsight, I HAD no direction. Because of this, I began to self-destruct, and sabotaged myself at nearly every opportunity. I didn’t deserve the accomplishments and achievements, so set out to ensure there were no more. I wasn’t satisfied with my work, but couldn’t, or wouldn’t, sit down with myself or others and figure out why. This went beyond the cliche’ that to be satisfied meant stagnation – this was psychological immolation.

I lost my passion, and feared I’d never regain it, and so that vicious circle began. No passion meant no satisfaction with my work, which led to the lethargy, which killed the passion. Oh, there were hints of where I should be going, but instead, I set out to stifle my Nature – that of making things.

So I stopped.

And lost myself.

Lori Corbett amercian avocet

Sweetly Sleeping ~ American AvocetLori Corbett

All this time, there were whisperings and rememberances…from an American avocet I made and a comment from a dear friend and fellow artist, Dan Burgette, who told me there was a femininity in that bird that I should embrace. Though there were flaws in the bird, there was a “something” that I had never, until that piece, achieved, and haven’t achieved since. It is clear now that it was because I was denying a style that wanted to emerge that conflicted with what I thought I should be producing, and couldn’t. It was this denial – no, betrayal – of what was inside that began the disconnect.

It wasn’t until I took this photo and saw it out of my camera that the path became clear, and the flame I thought had long since died was still smoldering…waiting for my breath. It not so much the subject of the photo, but the feeling of the photo. The enormity of the world around such a tiny creature, yet it’s serene, and comfortable in the world. My work lacked serenity…and femininity.

cliff swallow

Photo by

This is what I am meant to do.

Taking commissions was also a contributing factor in the stifling, in a way – do this bird, in this pose, in this setting. I feared the work, because I was not comfortable with the work – and dreaded producing something that, though the customer liked it, I felt was mediocre.

I have stopped taking commissions, and returned others – and not without much deserved bad blood. There needs to be time for the nurturing of this, and it needs to be done with pieces done for me…I think the rest will take care of itself.

I am excited to get back into the studio, and make it again the haven it once was. My demons are still with me, and it will not be an easy Journey, but I am ready to rejoin my people, if they’ll still have me.

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9 Responses to “In My Ashes, I Am Forged”

  1. Wow! Know that your people never left,
    but were always lurking just around the corner.
    Now – back to the studio with you – tools in hand!

  2. Hooray! The prodiGAL has returned – though methinks she never left. Welcome back to the starting line that is also the finishing point. Sounds like you have come full circle girl – now relax and enjoy.

  3. I had no idea that you had gotten so far from your work. You have been an inspiration to many of us aspiring carvers and you should know your successes are deserved – as are your flaming crashes, we all get what we have to have to grow if we can make it through the wreckage. The soul of the artist is different from others, it is more open and more out there on display, Be Strong. Grow and lead others.

    Also I miss your tales hilarious tales of shop disasters!!!

  4. Thanks, guys. It’s been very painful, but eye-opening. Full-circle is spot-on…I am literally starting over, both with the art and with my relationships with the community.

    On the other hand, there was a conceit, I suppose, that I would be missed and – truth me told – for the most part, I wasn’t. This isn’t a complaint, but a truth shown to me by the photo…the bird is tiny compared to the world, yet totally at ease with itself and its place. It can’t be anything other than what it is. For the first time in my 51 years, I placed more importance on what I thought I SHOULD be, instead of what I AM. And perhaps the distancing was what was needed to regain that sense of self and independence.

    There’s a dichotomy I’ve struggled with my whole life…that reaching out to others was a weakness, yet if somebody reached out to me, I was there and willing. “Being there” also went missing, lately.

    I am not an easy person 🙂

  5. Now I know what you related to me about having a family crisis.

    I know that I am just a stranger to you but feel I have known you for a long time because I have gotten so much out of your numerous articles and your wonderful book.

    Join the crowd. I am so critical of the carvings that I think I just hack out that at times I am ashamed to show them. When I get up the courage people tell me how good they look. Being a perfectionist stinks.

    You have no idea how much schleps like me rely on your knowledge and experience.

    As one of the greatest statesman, Winston Churchill said, “Never, Never, Never Give Up”.

    Still and always a loyal fan and welcome back. Now as my mother used to say, “Time to Get To Work”. I am struggling with texturing feathers. I have tried everything including praying.


  6. I hear you loud and clear, Jim…we are our own worst critics. That in itself is not a bad thing because it keeps us striving to be better. But it can get out of control. I’ve always considered self-doubt the check to arrogance…which is very different from taking pride in your work. But let self-doubt run amok and you have you have paralysis.

    LOL on your feather texturing efforts…sometimes praying is the only option…been there, SO done that. “Oh please, oh, please, oh, please.” 🙂
    Keep at it…the only way to approve is to keep at it. And, as a very wise friend told me…ALLOW yourself to make mistakes. Sometimes your biggest breakthroughs are because you stepped out of your comfort zone and tried something out of your ordinary.

  7. I meant IMPROVE, not APPROVE…LOL. Stupid typing fingers 🙂

  8. Well, here WE are once again. I am glad to see that you have made the full circle. For in what we believe it is the beginning as well as the end. I am glad for you little sis. I wish that I had the eloquence to express the journey that we travel in writing as well, as you do. As you know I have been legally blind for nearly a year, and have not carved a bird or anything else. However this past year I have learned more about myself, my art and where it is going. Spending time making a couple of bases, mixing paint, mixing paint and moving it here and there, looking for an end result. Now, get to your safe haven and create something.

    Love ya,

  9. Steve OBrien says:

    Thanks for sharing how you feel and your truth….that is huge medicine….you remind me of the little wren…hopping from branch to branch arriving at the next adventure…and singing there beautiful songs…that touch our hearts.

    I know for me that when ever I come to a fork in the path…the best action I can take is to go out into nature…and just Be…I get most of what I need from the tree’s , Rocks , rivers , winged ones , four legged ones…for they are always there to nurture my soul.

    Something that could assist you on your path is to carry an agate with you as it can help us stay grounded.

    Once again thanks for sharing from the heart.

    If there is anyway that I might support or be there for you on this journey just let me know.

    May your heart hear the eagle song….

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