Saturday, April 20, 2013
Appreciating Passion for Creativity in Artisans
Whether it is browsing through Chicago street fairs, small towns across America or little family run shops along the Texas/Mexico border I have always enjoyed viewing the creative skill that goes into the crafts of pottery, tapestries, figurines and the like. Possibly because I have zero artistic talent I am often awestruck with the artistry and painstakingly detail found in many art crafts. At art fairs there is opportunity to speak with the artist and hear his or her story of their passion concerning the creative process. When in a store and the crafts are on the shelf one can only wonder about the artisan who did the creating of the craft piece.
What would we hear if we could hear the stories of the artisans being the pieces of arts and crafts in store shelves or street fairs? Travis Whitehead, a newspaper reporter in the Brownsville and Harlingen, Texas area, who I have had the pleasure to know over the past number of years, has used his creativity and storytelling skills to bring to life the stories of artisans. These stories can be found in his first book, Artisans of Michoacan – By Their Hands. (Click on the title to learn how to purchase a copy).
The Artisans he focused in on are from the state of Michoacan in Mexico. He spent years of travel to that area of Mexico getting to know the local artisans interviewing them to hear their stories of their lives and why they followed the career path of being an artisan. He delves into the variety of crafts that can be found throughout that region of Mexico. Some of the craft covered are pottery, weavings of cloth and baskets, lacquer ware, metal crafts and musical instruments. My favorite story came at the end of the book. Since one of my passions is guitars it came to no surprise to me that a story of a guitar maker in the town of Paracho was the most important in my view. Travis showcases the story of Carlos Pina who had been hand making guitars in this small town for the past 43 years. Pina’s pride in making a quality handmade guitar rings throughout the interview. His story shows how his one son is following in the footsteps of his father, as the father Carlos teaches his son the artistic trade of guitar making.
Reading the many stories I saw commonalities come through each of the stories that we all can learn and grow in our own career paths. Each person whether their craft was pottery or weaving had a personal passion for what they were doing. There is no sign that they were weaving simply to just get by. Obviously for them it was their bread and butter economically but they show a deep personal interest in their artistic craft. Because of this personal passion they had a positive sense of pride in their workmanship. Also in most of the stories I saw a desire not to stay stagnant but to continually improve and learn how to do their craft better. This mindset relates well to lifelong learning. It is easy to get into a rut in any kind of work if there is no desire to improve or continue to grow. I saw the growing and improving mindset in each of the stories of the artisans Travis interviewed.
Travis by using his artistic talent of capturing the hearts and passion of the artisans’ stories helps each of us appreciate the work that goes into the arts and crafts we see in stores that sell handmade crafts. By hearing their stories we also can reflect on the artistry of our own callings as teachers, nurses, engineers, or customer services representatives. Do we carry an attitude of passion and continual growth into our daily work? How can we keep improving in the work we have been called on to do?
Reflection: Next time you are at a craft store or street market take some time to explore some of the handmade crafts. Imagine the stories behind the craft piece you are looking at. Think over your occupation and write down three ways you can improve and learn more to improve your work.