Thoughts On Transparency, Discomfort And Transition.

I decided to reinstate the journal, a thing I feel mildly uncomfortable with. Though in the last year I have decided to do a lot of things that make me uncomfortable. Discomfort is where growth happens as I have discovered. Perhaps it is discomfort that is the seed to sprout change. My journey with discomfort lead me to go back to school at nearly 40 years old. Returning to school after 16 years forced me to confront old traumas and insecurities that have rooted down. It also forced me to look at my ego, which was humbled and rattled by being a beginner again after years of running a somewhat successful studio.

In going to graduate school my intention was splintered in a few directions, I felt my interests in weaving and textiles expanding toward the exploration of objects, furniture, and the merging of craft and design. I wanted to make things that could hold people, things people might cherish and things that might elevate the textile and highlight it’s materiality. I am very good at dreaming up obstacles, thoroughly scaring myself and talking myself into a state of true anxiety. As a professional worrier with a side hustle in skepticism, I decided to lean into the things that scare me, the things that feel the most uncomfortable and the most unattainable. I mean, what else am I gonna do with my life? Sit at home and watch TV? Naw, I don’t even own one.

In 2016 my personal life took a hit and I found myself at the bottom of despair and grief, the following year my business took a bit of a financial nose dive and I found myself in the depths of a different kind of despair though equally as debilitating. I had truly been capsized and found myself treading water in every part of my life. Overcome with grief and a tremendous sense of loneliness, I cocooned myself, insulated by the support of a few very close friends and began what was a 3 year process of reevaluating my life, my business, my goals, desires and pretty much everything in between. Confronting your own darkness and the skeletons inside your own closet is deeply unsettling, it’s painful drudgery. I dislike mucking around in my baggage and the sludgy mud puddles in the recesses of my being. However, for me it was absolutely necessary to finding myself again. Can I get an “Amen!” for therapy!

September of 2018, I picked up and moved my life to Detroit Michigan and started my MFA in 3D Design at Cranbrook Academy of Art. My life had been changed a few years earlier by spending time at A-Z West with Andrea Zittel inside her weaving studio. Talks over tea, numerous emails and visits to this special place and the way of life there changed my life and perspective in ways that set a course I could not have imagined. It was there in the desert, under the vastness of clear sky, dry heat and an eclectic mix of lovely people that I found myself confronting some of my deepest and most buried traumas and new directions for the future. In considering the pursuit of a masters degree, it was wise and kind words from Andrea that helped me find clarity in myself, woman to woman advice that has been a gift I will be forever grateful for and hope to pay forward someday.

I arrived at Cranbrook with pure excitement and a sense of true astonishment to be allowed to be there. I come from blue collar people, alcoholics, criminals. I understood the privilege and the luxury of higher education, it is a privilege and luxury I have worked hard for but still feel guilt around. Studio Herron despite being my studio practice is also a brand and a business, one in which I make a living from, albeit a very modest one. I began my degree work, threw myself into 16 hour days of research, making and also working for Studio Herron. My professors encouraged me to pause Studio Herron while in school, an idea that sounded like asking me to give up a child for a few years. Academia, is a world different than the one I live in, and I am not entirely sure it’s for me. Yet I am here, deep in it. My dreams and goals are entwined with my studio and business I’ve been building for 10 years. I invested my life savings in it, took personal risks for it, learned some hard lessons, sloughed off my pride more than a few times, lost a few relationships during its early years, and I think that I have become a better, more mature and thoughtful person as a result of it all. Studio Herron has grown me up, it has devastated me and held me up again. It has shown me real love, real integrity and also the more brutal sides of humanity. Through it all, my hope and mission is to build something strong, something honest and better than myself, nothing is on hold while I work on my degree, but rather very much running parallel. I guess, you would not ask a parent not to be a partner and work a job while raising a child, and I feel the same way about the choices I have made for my business and education. Sometimes you have to juggle and do it as best you can. There is one thing I know how to do very well, and that is work, I am always up for throwing myself wholeheartedly at a thing. It’s relaxation and going with the flow that I have to learn to cultivate. My feelings about craft, globalism, capitalism and technology are the same but now supported through a new kind of community at school, where actions, conversations, wild ideas are things I am held accountable to back up and expected not only to speculate on but take some action toward. Those are expectations I can get down with.

This year I hired Aubrey to work at Studio Herron, it’s the best decision I have ever made. She volunteered her time last summer to help me prepare new work for an exhibition, we agreed on a work trade, something I learned at A-Z West, though she never took me up on any of the trade. She has been working with me off and on ever since and I finally decided that in order to grow no ship can sail alone. It is the first time I have handed things off to someone else, which is a new kind of uncomfortable for me, but an absolutely necessary one. Teaching Aubrey the day-to-day ins and outs of Studio Herron has helped me articulate not only a job description for her, but also for myself. New roles have been born, new goals, new direction and the beginning to the kind of community I have been thinking and dreaming about for a long while. I like working side by side with Aubrey. I like her ideas and talking with her, she is a super talented artist and craftsperson. I realize now more than ever how important it is to build a home out of this business, a community, a sense of purpose, and truth. Real truth not built on greed or capitalist goals, but sturdy beauty, real things, real people.

In order to be better, to steer the Studio Herron ship better I found that I needed more tools in my tool box. I am not sure, even still, if Cranbrook was the right choice to gain those tools but I sure have learned a whole lot about myself and what I am capable of. I have often felt that because I am a female, because I work in craft and design, I need to work harder, know everything I possibly can, hold degrees that legitimize my knowledge and skills and as one can imagine that gets exhausting. My plans for Studio Herron’s future encompass expanding the studio to include an atelier style store, a home for my work and the work of others. I have realized that as much as I love the world of collectible design, and I really do, that I want more autonomy and control over my work and my output. I also don’t think I fit there, or maybe it’s that blue collar guilt sneaking up on me again. I also want to build a community and a place that supports myself and others through design and craft. I have a lot of ideas about this, I have been brainstorming for nearly a year now on this new vision and a plan is slowly evolving. I am turning 40 years old soon, okay in 8 months, that’s not soon but it feels soon. I want to put down some roots, make a home both for my business and myself, I want others to feel welcomed into that home. Bring snacks and bring a friend, the more the merrier.

Dee ClementsComment