On the darkest of days, when I feel inadequate, unloved and unworthy, I remember whose daughter I am and I straighten my crown.-
From the early breaking dawn of my artistic existence there has always been a constant and that has been the deep quest for community. To me, community in a doll making context means a circle of people who realize that there is enough success to go around. They lift up others and see the gems in me even when I can’t see them myself. As a young creator I failed home economics. I remember being in fourth grade and having my art teacher tell me, “great job, Picasso” when I muddied my watercolors on construction paper. Ten years ago when I began doll making those fledgling heart wounds of being not good enough surfaced ever so boldly. It is in these times of radical self-doubt that without even realizing it even the slowest movements in the forward direction is giving us the permission to take one more step. By putting one foot in front of the other we are building our creative chops and more importantly, we are learning the art of seeking.
As my work evolved, I became more aware of my surroundings. I heard whispers of a show in Michigan akin to a fine art show for Halloween artists, it was called Ghoultide Gathering. I went to the show and I was completely enveloped by the energy that each artist brought. This was the first time I saw doll makers making a living at their art. Scott Smith was producing the show. He had hand selected the best in each genre, making a wonderfully curated show and something much more, he was creating a community. Scott is a very humble artist and I am not sure he would take credit for fostering so many careers through this show but from the outside looking in, that’s exactly what was happening. After several years Ghoultide Gathering had become an artistic incubator of sorts. If you are asked to be part of the show it’s much like Scott Smith giving you a nod of approval. Which, I might add, negates the home economics teacher, the art teachers, and all other critics. When I asked Scott what he thought about the importance of finding a group of like-minded people to lift up your work he said, “Through creating an art show such as Ghoultide Gathering, we feel we've also created somewhat of a community. A gathering place for inspiration and appreciation. The effects can be felt by the artists and patrons alike. All are inspired by the amount of creativity on display and regardless if we can take home the art or not, everyone leaves with a better understanding and deeper appreciation of the commitment and efforts involved with being an artist.”
Years had passed and I had begun making many connections via social media through my work. My Prim Pumpkin’s had a following all of their own that reached out of my little home studio in Battle Creek, MI. I had put in the work and learned my craft on a day to day basis and while doing that work, one day I opened my email to receive an invitation to Ghoultide Gathering. You can’t even believe the joy I felt. I called my longtime friend and dollmaker, Joyce Stahl and we has a little phone celebration! The little tribes that we form as we gather our joy are integral for our art to evolve. I can tell you with all honesty that with the vote of confidence that came with being welcomed into this group, I could feel a physical raising of the bar in the work I was producing. This community made me feel part of something that gave me goosebumps! “Scott creates such a magical environment for us and a philosophy of inclusion I don’t think we could ask for a better mentor or friend to the artists. He makes me feel protected and appreciated and I feel the same for my artists’ friends. There is a great truth to the fact that we are only as
successful as our fellow artists are, and I always try to remember and take to heart that fact.” Said Laurie Hardin from Monkey Cat’s studio who is a 9-year veteran of the Ghoultide tribe. In talking with Laurie, we share so much of the same feelings about wanting to reach out to other artists for help but not wanting to be a bother. The feeling of welcome that I have experienced with this community far over reaches the initial awkwardness. If you work by yourself in a home studio like I do, part of the creative unfurling is talking to others from your community and stretching your wings a bit. The moments of clarity I’ve had while chatting with another artistic beings is astounding! Laurie said this about her growth in the Ghoultide community “My phone relationships grew, as well as exchanging emails with artists I was less familiar with. I also realized the importance in responding and encouraging others stepping into our arena just as I had been embraced years earlier. What was once a group of relationships I would classify as acquaintances has grown and deepened each year. I feel very comfortable calling a group of artists I chat with routinely about issues involving paint, canvases, armatures, suppliers, asking for critiques of new work or sometimes just to talk to another living human being besides my spouse.”
I’ll bet Scott Smith never realized so many years ago how important this community would be to us. He has created a circle of artists who elevate each other, a circle of enchantment that is pure Halloween magic, and a community that has changed my life.