An ode to champions, cheerleaders, and enablers

This blog post has been sitting in my drafts folder for years, just a kernel of an idea and a title. But now, with R recovering from surgery, it seems like the perfect time to write it, because I am acutely aware of how much I miss having my partner in crime around and involved in my creative process. In fact, I just had the biggest false start on a project that I’ve ever had. There were hammers and chisels involved in an attempt to chip three days’ worth of work off my substrate, and in the end I just cut the whole offending section off. Was it simply a coincidence that this happened at exactly the same time that R was out of commission and unable to question me and act as my sober second thought? Could be, but I don’t think so.

Anyway, let’s start from the beginning…

All throughout my life, I’ve been fortunate to have lots of people around me who believed in me and supported me no matter what. But I have found that creating takes a special kind of supportive community, compared to, say, the type of support I got when playing sports, practicing music, or working to ace that test or nail that essay. This is almost surely not a universal truth, but it is the case for me. The work of creating—of baring one’s soul, of taking that leap of faith time and time again—takes a special kind of champion. And I’ve got lots of them. 

The brilliant Wendy MacNaughton illustrates the recipe for greatness

The illustration above actually sums it up pretty perfectly for me (not that I have reached greatness, of course, but you know what I mean). It has resonated with me completely since the first time I saw it, years ago, before I was even fully immersed in this path. I would perhaps add one more circle to the diagram: the Cheering Section. You know, that host of supportive family members and friends who feed you or show up to events or just say “yay!” when you need it. I am very blessed to have an unwavering—and at times rowdy—crowd behind me, enabling me and cheering me on…and sometimes doing their best to embarrass little ol’ introverted me by causing a scene (but only “because they love me”). 

Of course there’s the role of Uncompromising Colleague (several, in fact), who bring that critical eye along with the support that can only come from shared experience. Same with Solid Mentors, who have always tended to come into my life at just the right time to push me one step further but who have thankfully not spoon-fed me. 

But the focus of this blog post is of course the Generous, Whip-Smart Wife. I cannot tell you how fortunate I am to have R as my number one champion, cheerleader, and oftentimes co-conspirator. Having spoken to a number of my Uncompromising Colleagues, I know that the role she plays is pretty special. 

Of course there’s the obvious: walking the dog when I lose track of time in the studio, bringing me fancy drinks for motivation, telling me she’s proud of me, helping out at events, making sure I saw that rusty piece of metal or that chunk of rock or whatever on the street over there, and talking about my art to other people.

But it’s more than that, and that’s what sets her apart. She is fully invested, to the point where sometimes she uses the pronoun “we” when talking about my mosaic work. Not in a claiming-credit-for-my-art / horning-in-on-my-act sort of way, but just in a walking-right-beside-me-through-this-process-and-being-willing-to-do-anything-to-help-me-succeed sort of way. 

I often use her as a sounding board (because of that whip-smart quality) and I always value her input, even if I end up ignoring it. And when I do ignore it, she respects my decision and usually later admits that it’s a good thing I listened to my gut and not to her. 

She is the good influence who is always pushing me toward the abstract and away from my on-the-nose comfort zone. Sometimes her input even completely changes the trajectory of a mosaic. Some examples that readily spring to mind are Dialogue, Fossil of the Day, and The Paths Most Travelled. Those three mosaics would be radically different (and weaker) had it not been for her input. In fact, she was so invested in Dialogue (for a variety of reasons, including the fact that she made a pivotal suggestion) that two years later she’s still mad at me for selling “her” mosaic.  

Can you imagine “Dialogue” and “The Paths Most Travelled” with mosaic cluttering the background? What about “Fossil of the Day” with the lines running vertically instead of horizontally? Yeah, me neither. Thank goodness for R’s good influence!

She is also the undisputed title queen in our household. I always look forward to the (almost) ritual of finishing a piece and then having a brainstorming session with her, usually with a celebratory drink in hand. She pushes me, making me dig deeper, until we come to the essence of the piece and then, eventually, its name. 

But perhaps what I value most is her big ol’ academic brain. I love it when she ‘reads’ my mosaics, interprets them from her brainiac literary perspective, and just generally says really smart things about them. She 100% understands and respects my artistic intent and product, but she sees things in them from a broader cultural / smarty pants perspective that I’ve never considered. I find it fascinating and it helps me understand my own work better and place it in a bigger context. 

So yes, I make the art. I do the substrate-building and the chopping and the sticking and the blogging. But please please never think that this is a one-woman endeavour: behind all of this is a Generous, Whip-Smart Wife without whom my art wouldn’t have nearly as much depth or be nearly as well thought-out. I am a lucky gal and I know it. 

Oh, and she’s also the world’s best travelling companion and humours me with detours and stops to see mosaics.

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