It’s such an ethereal word, authenticity. I find that the full scope of its meaning is often really unknown to most of us. I mean think about it, what’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word? For many, it’s a synonym for truth or genuine. And at its core authenticity is about being true and genuine. But there’s so much more, especially for the artist. Let’s expand on the meaning of the word and see how it relates to our love of creating.
- Truthfulness of origin. When we scan the vast wonderland of the handmade universe, from print makers to jewelry designers, there is a terrible trend of needless copying. I say needless because it just isn’t necessary. Of course, there is nothing wrong with being inspired by someone else. But when we lift and copy the work of others, authenticity disappears. This following statement isn’t meant as a slight, just a true observation of the human experience: there are very few new or fresh creative ideas. Almost everyone is inspired by someone. Sometimes the true genius is to take a previous idea and to make it better or as they say on those combative singing shows, to make it your own. What makes this a path of creativity authentic is when we take the time to acknowledge what or who inspires us.
- Being being faithful to internal ideals. I think this one is the easiest for handmakers. Most of us start with the idea that to make by hand is a privilege, a gift. We’ve fully embraced the concept that there is something intrinsically human about making real and tangible objects de art. Some of us swear that no matter how successful we become, we will never ‘sell out’ and head down the path of mass production. First of all, yeah to the intentions of success! You have to have that in order to get through the growing pains, disappointments and setbacks of starting a successful handmade enterprise. However, have you thought about what you will do if you actually do become successful? How far do you want to go or maybe how far do you want to grow? We need to know the answer to these questions now, right at the beginning. This will determine the path we take and whether or not we will stick to our initial ideals, holding authenticity up as a guiding light.
- Truthfulness of devotion. Being authentic in this sense means that we follow through with our goals and dreams. You may conceive the perfect handmade project, source the materials, sketch some ideas and so forth. One of the biggest areas where we can shoot ourselves in the feet, is when we just don’t follow through. Well, don’t give up! If you’ve gone this far, take the path a few steps forward. If we are devoted to our art, to our designs, success will come. Even if you don’t sell a ton of your creations, to know that you tried your best is a triumph of authenticity.
Now you may be thinking, after reading my mellifluous diatribe: What in the name of cheesecake is he talking about?!? Authenticity doesn’t mean any of those things to me! I have my own definition of authenticity. Good for you, because that’s the LAB Assignment for this week: Tell us in the comments below how you define authenticity. Feel free to comment on an reply that resonates with you. Be kind, as you folks always are, and I promise to respond as well.