Friday, June 8, 2012

Artsy Fartsy Guest Jennifer Miller on W's in Progress

Today is Artsy Fartsy Friday, and I'm delighted to welcome renaissance woman-in-progress Jennifer Miller, who is writing about creativity in many forms, including the creation of a complete Self. Thanks, Jennifer!  ~ Sheila

On Being a W.I.P.

by Jennifer Miller


When Sheila invited me to write a post for Artsy Fartsy Friday, my first thought was "great!" but my second thought was "umm…okaaay?" The problem wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to say (puh-lease!). The problem was that I’m a creative dabbler. Yes, I have a jewelry business--but I also write, design clothing, play with a camera now and then, and fill notebooks and spreadsheets with ideas for patents, products, sketches, ad copy, logos, etcetera, etcetera, you get the idea. My point is that I’m not an expert in any one area. I am, like all of my endeavors, a work-in-progress. Or, as I sometimes prefer to think of it, a woman-in-progress.

To be honest, I’m rather delighted to still be a W.I.P. at forty years old. Sure, it would have been nice to have solidified a writing career by now (oh, six-figure book deal, where art thou?); but in my earlier decades I didn’t appreciate all of the educational nuances that dabbling offers a creative soul. Now I do. Mini life lessons are neatly encapsulated in every facet of my day, and especially in every experiment with jewelry! 


Polymer clay, for example, is a fascinatingly simple medium. Tactile, forgiving, low-maintenance--it won’t dry out in the air and if you screw up you can just blend it back into a blob and start over. But it’s also extremely receptive to energy and touch. Gently kneading it with warm hands relaxes it and allows it to open up to your ideas of how it should stretch and conform. Mashing it together seals in air pockets of resistance that bubble out during the baking process as warts and pock marks--undeniable proof that creative force must be channeled with grace and tenderness.

Summer Sampler
Crocheted wire

And as any potter will tell you, clay holds the imprint of you. Capital ‘Y’ you, that is. On good days my work is smooth, my fingerprints swept away with a deft touch as I allow the clay to speak for itself in its elegant simplicity. On bad days, I try to wrangle beauty out of it and end up marring my pieces with overly worked ‘natural’ flaws that fool no-one, least of all me. Yet, as I mentioned, clay is forgiving. If I recognize my own creative angst before I throw the dreadful piece into the oven, it allows me to start over. To re-blend. To warm it up with a softer touch. To coax it back into the lovely amorphous blob that will surprise me with veins of hidden color that I hadn’t expected and could never have planned.

Wrapped wire rings

Working with wire teaches me to make instinctive, sure decisions with a nearly omniscient connection between the metal and my psyche. Sounds grandiose, doesn’t it? Especially when you look at my aesthetically simple choices--yet my process is what it is. I have to know my wire--know its gauge, its resistance, its composition, its hardness & malleability--but I also have to stop thinking and just feel the wire as if it was an electrically charged extension of my hands and tools. Unlike clay, the wire doesn’t want to conform. It isn’t willingly receptive to my design ideas. But it is an excellent team player. It cooperates beautifully when I ask it to bend here or twist there, as long as I don’t ask it to do what it is unwilling to do. In writing terms, if clay is the fantastic plot and its colors the clever characters, wire is the compositional structure, the gritty truths of spelling and grammar that can be bent (just a little) out of shape but that will make your whole story a kinked and twisted mess if you work against it.

Shell necklaces

Hmm. I came back to writing again. It seems that making jewelry truly is a part of my process. After all, I am a W.I.P.. A work-in-progress. A writer-in-progress. And most proudly, a woman-in-progress.


Jennifer's Links:


Jennifer is an artsy, vegetarian, physics-loving single mother from Wilmington, NC who says y’all as often as possible but never quite mastered the whole batting-your-eyes-while-sipping-sweet-tea thing. Coffee and self-deprecating humor are more her style.


Wondering where to hide the body? Come back on Mysterious Monday and find out how I solved that problem with the help of a friend! ~ Sheila


  1. What a beautiful description of the process! Thanks for sharing your view on your work Jennifer. :)

    1. Thank you, Jill! Sometimes I do read too much into the significance of things, but then again, mindfulness does make me pay attention to what's going on around me. ;)

  2. Being a W.I.P. is awesome. I wouldn't have it any other way!!

    1. You know it! So what do you like to do for creative dabbling? :)

  3. We love your work! Think we are all a W.I.P., just a matter of realizing it and embracing it.

    1. Agreed! And we love Blue Moon - I hope you'll come again!

    2. Well said! Embracing the fact that we CAN evolve/grow/change/learn automatically releases the pent-up fears that we aren't good enough or successful enough. So empowering for all P.I.P.'s! (People-in-Process!) ;)

      Thank you for the lovely compliment! I love y'all, too!