JOURNEY INTO A HAND-SHAPED LIFE

Here is an article about my journey as an artist.Wrote it for a magazine last year.

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Artists are commonly thought of as courageous people. This, despite many of them harboring serious fears about what each day and sometimes what each moment holds in store. Pushing themselves through this endless tunnel of fears and doubts to follow their heart’s calling is a daily ritual. They encourage themselves from moment to moment by reminding themselves that only deep within their own fear lies the gem of courage.

As someone working towards practicing and perfecting her craft, I am only following in the footsteps of countless artists, both reputed and unsung, who have walked these same twisted paths before me. I spend hours every day working in the small corner at home that I call my art space. Often when I am creating jewelry, I lose track of time completely and enter into a trance. The satisfaction of doing what I love with intense concentration, slowly settles the fears in my subconscious mind.

“When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us… we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.” ~ Steven Pressfield

Facing challenges, fears, and tears with creativity has become a way of life for me. Moreover, along with my own fears, I also have to deal with the apprehensions of my dear ones who worry that I’ve chosen the road less travelled. But I am glad that irrespective of these constraints, I walk this path.

I have always loved to sketch and paint, and craft beautiful things with my hands. But my journey as a full time professional artist began quite recently, in 2009. I have no professional degree in the arts. My qualifications are in the field of Environment – I have a Masters degree in Environmental Studies and have worked for some years in the field of wildlife conservation. During this period, my profession as well as my curiosity took me into the diverse forests of the Terai region, the mountains of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and to the NorthEastern states of Meghalaya, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Nagaland. My work was centered around the forests, rivers, and communities and tribes in these regions.

Being quite the romantic, I have felt the mystical spirits of the forests touch my creative self deep within. Donyi Polo, the animist religion of the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh, has particularly had a profound impact on me. According to this religion, there is no separation between the spiritual and the physical. Souls and spirits exist in every natural phenomenon. This strong belief emanates from the wisdom of the indigenous people who have been consulting the spirits of the forests and rivers since time immemorial for the prosperity of their community. It is beautiful to see that, like me, they too admire the Oneness of all living creatures. They believe the spirits reside not just within man but also in the trees, the moss and stones, the land, the rivers, and the mighty mountains.

I was left in awe of the natural ingenuity of the children and adults, the relationship between the forests and the people, the women working hard in the fields by day and then creating beautiful handicrafts during the long and quiet evenings, and people happily choosing to live a slow and peaceful life. All these varied experiences gradually became inspirations for me and gave birth to my creative talents. Slowing down to feel, touch, smell, and sense everything more subtly, my sense of observation has widened tremendously because of this time spent in the midst of Nature.

I also spend a lot of time honing my skills of observation. Noticing the unseen in what we see and also small details and details of details. I can spend hours on a photograph, motif, painting, flower, trunk of a tree, simply to understand their color, sound, smell and texture.

I don’t just live in my head. I try to use all the gifts that are there. Fingers are for painting, hands for crafting, eyes for observing, Ears for listening and body for movement. We are a gift to ourselves and the world. Our body and soul are here to develop skills that help understand the world and self. Communication evolves when our understanding of ourselves evolves.

I craft pieces that are unique, alive, and communicative. As an avid recycler, I love to use natural, used, discarded, forgotten, everyday materials to fashion into attractive and honest pieces. When we make something wonderful out of a cast off, we save its energy making a little less clutter. To turn a piece around, rework it, make it totally your own, infuse more energy, value, and magic into it is quite a challenge. The art of recycling is not solely for saving the planet from the insurmountable waste we generate; it is a way of life.
It’s an obligation I have consciously chosen to observe in every area of my life; to try and find the best ways to communicate ideas that weaken the differences and separation in our hearts. My oath is to keep learning, to honor the old ways, and to walk my chosen path with dignity and courage.

Creativity takes courage. But instead, it is often taken for granted and boxed up within most of us, just like we take air, water, or food for granted. Most of us live our whole lives inside safe compartments. This safety comforts us so much that we get busier and busier hammering more nails trying to close off every small chink that we find, turning it into a never-ending process. To make ourselves feel even more safe, we then build bigger boxes around our existing boxes. This soon becomes the story of our lives. Dreams, fairytales, wishes, aspirations, and connections now seem to us to be only for ‘creative’ or ‘talented’ people. We forget that we are all born as creative beings. And that it is up to us to figure out what we can do with this creativity or talent!

To me, Art is the union of intention, creation, and expression. It is a medicine, a healing potion that I create for myself and for others. Seen from another perspective, Art is the no-man’s land between the safety of our comfort zones and the yawning edge of the abyss – where a single step, depending on whether it is taken with faith or not, could either help me grow wings OR take me down the hole.

“I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things, you can’t see from the center – Kurt Vonnegut”

Taking this leap of faith can be an intimidating process, especially when we’re still seeking the appreciation and approval of others to alleviate our self-doubts. But when I look into myself and see a deep commitment to doing what I love, I am unafraid. I do what I do because it is for my soul, for my inner self. Art does not have to be measured only by how well it sells. It is also recognized by the substance and truth it contains within itself. Truth is always self-evident.

I am grateful to the creative spirit for leading me into the spiral path within. There is no other pleasure as big as excavating the undiscovered I have inside.
Through their constant experimentation and pushing of boundaries, the artists of our world have added tremendous beauty and meaning to our lives. On a bleak day, a beautiful work of art can so easily make us smile with happiness or provide us with insights over issues that affect all of us. And for this alone, they have had the encouragement and support of billions of people.

Being witness to this, I live in the full faith that my art will play a similar role in your life and in the lives of those you choose to gift my work to. That is my vision and my fervent hope.
“You’ll be bothered from time to time by storms, fog, and snow. When you are, think of those who went through it before you, and say to yourself, “What they could do, I can do.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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2 thoughts on “JOURNEY INTO A HAND-SHAPED LIFE

  1. Dear Pankhuri,
    Lots of thanks to you. After so many days i had such an inspiring or say such an soulful article to read. I must say after Ayn Rand , its your writting that i find so soulful and something to relate to….GO go girl…go high and touch the sky and that too with your feet all grounded.

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