The process of making something is really a very powerful experience. My nephew once folded 365 origami swans for his girlfriend on their one year anniversary. He was in high school. When I was in high school I watched, and sometimes helped, my dad rebuild an authentic Chinese Junk in our front yard while my mom focused on the interior design of the boat. Together, all these many, many years later, the stories of that process are high on the list of favorites for our family.
Making something by hand teaches discipline. It teaches perseverance and fortitude. It is therapy at times and it is sometimes, maybe, even the source of our migraine. There are countless reasons to value the lessons learned by experiencing the process of making. Among them, and in the case of this Whale Project, is for the purpose of communication and awareness. Of course, I could have spent my summer in my private studio making something that I could sell and make money from or get some kind of rock star attention over, but why would I do that when I could spend my summer in the learning environment of the Gallery at OC teaching others to communicate in one of the oldest languages alive today? The students are so inspiring to me. They remind me of how exciting it is to start a project with all the potential we can imagine for the end product. They remind me of how frustrating it gets when things don’t always go as expected. The big sigh that follows the realization that something needs to be done over to get it right always tells me they are being challenged – in a good way, I hope. And then the adrenaline rush to the finish in the 11th hour. By choosing to teach the process of making, I get to share these emotions that are part of the package and teach young artists what it means to feel this way. I get to teach them that just when they feel like they’ve had enough, there comes that wave of energy that revs them up and keeps them going. And in the end, they have made something that tells a story. They have learned a powerful and inspiring language they can take with them anywhere they go.
Yes, the process of making is where much of the value of art lives. My art students don’t leave my class knowing how to draw or how to sculpt. Well, okay… maybe they do, but more importantly, they leave my class knowing how to see and how to express themselves. They gain an “I can do” attitude instead of the opposite. What part of life doesn’t improve with an “I can do” attitude?! The making process is about art. In fact, it is about everything.