Sunday, March 28, 2010

Find A Mentor: Look Everywhere

Before I started writing this blog entry, I looked up the word “Mentor.” Here it is:

mentor |ˈmenˌtôr; -tər|


an experienced and trusted adviser : he was her friend and mentor until his death in 1915.

an experienced person in a company, college, or school who trains and counsels new employees or students.

verb [ trans. ]

to advise or train (someone, esp. a younger colleague).

Well, I don’t know about you, but I was shocked. For me, a mentor is so much more than a mere advisor. I mean, to me, a mentor is the person you’ve been secretly, passionately admiring with all your heart for quite some time, the person you’ve been modeling yourself after, the person you want to BE when you grow up. At one point, this person, this “teacher or advisor” turns to you and says something, some little teeny complimentary thing about what you’re doing, and well, you basically float off the ground for a full week. You start thinking that maybe, just maybe you can really make your way as an artist. You feel deep gratitude. You are energized.

I have been lucky to have a whole slew of wonderful teachers. In fact, I think no matter how old I get, I am a Student. (Note the capital letter.) I operate on the assumption that I will always have something to learn; that nearly everyone has something to teach me. And so, along the way, I have discovered so many, many mentors. In fact, I collect them. And I try to keep their wonderful words and moments of encouragement close, just to keep me going. How someone held a piece of mine in her hands, gave a small smile and offhandedly said, “They all have such a distinctive feel.” How someone else, upon looking at a few new pieces, shook his head in disbelief, chuckled quietly and said: “Just keep doing what you’re doing. Keep going.”

I also have a collection of clay artists out there that I’ve never even met. And even still, I think of them as mentors. I know this is nonsense. (Remember: I read the definition of mentor.) But really, I feel like they are. I peer into their websites. I click through images online at their galleries. I feel the hair on the back of my neck raise up and I think: I love what she does. I love the looks of that sculpture. I love the humor of it. I love the glaze. The shape. The story. I want to make stuff like that. If these artists add words or comments describing the process, oh, so much the better for me. I lap it up. I drink it in. I love it. Some people surf porn. I surf clay. And to all the artists and galleries out there with websites, I must say: Thank you. Thank you for mentoring me. I bow down to your greatness. I am inspired.

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