Becoming Your Own Resource

Stack of collected readings.

The other night I sat down to bind a new artist book. I had an idea of what I wanted to make but realized that I hadn’t ever been taught the exact structure I needed. So, I pulled out the gigantic box in which I keep all of the books I’ve ever made, and started looking. Sooner than I thought I would, I found a book that was similar to what I was trying to do. A couple hours later, my new book was complete – new structure and all. “Huh,” I thought, “maybe graduate school is working.”

Obviously I’ve thought that graduate school was ‘working’ the whole time I’ve been in it, but there was something really fantastic about the moment when I realized I had the tools to teach myself what I needed to know, to do what I needed to do. It’s like graduate school is, in one way, about building an arsenal of information for yourself. It is a way to improve your technical knowledge, gain professional practice, and develop your artistic voice. And at some point you recognize that you’ve got a lot at your disposable to help you continue improving and growing into the world.

My gigantic box of books.

In my home, I have six 1” binders full of readings I’ve collected over the past year and a half. That’s six binders worth of primary source material to look to for papers and reference. The binders are full of art theory, technical instruction, and professional practices material. Ask me to write a grant, or look up the qualities of a certain kind of fiber or pulp, and I’ve got what I need, already in my possession — not to mention the giant plastic tub full of books and the portfolios full of handmade paper.

Those facts make me feel great and independent and like I’ll be ready when this last educational boundary between me and the, I’m just going to say it, real world, is gone.

And on that note, all of a sudden that end is in sight. It seems like every semester moves more quickly along than the one before. Man, year two is going to be over so soon – and then there’s thesis year and then that’s that. So, there’s one more thing I think I should add to this post. Not only have I collected information over the last 18 months, but I’ve truly collected people. My student colleagues are and, I predict, will continue to be, some of the best resources I’ve got. For everything I’ve named in this post so far — technical knowledge, artistic voice, professional practice — my peers are there.

It’s about building an arsenal. My arsenal, it’s starting to feel substantial. I look forward to watching it grow even more over the next year and then braving the world with all of it in hand.