What are the best ways to become a better artist?
Some things are easy to see: Classes. Workshops. Mentorship. And, of course, putting out a body of work.
However, there’s one thing that’s made an outstanding difference in the quality of the pieces I create (I’m a jeweler). Something that doesn’t get the recognition that it deserves.
It’s travel/ living abroad.
And here’s why:
I Learned Where Cultural Barriers Are Drawn
Since I started traveling, one of the surprising things I’ve noticed is just how much is similar between countries. In many ways, at their core, people are people.
That said, there are also many differences as well.
It’s a very interesting feeling, to find something familiar in a foreign land… and then to realize that it came from that foreign land.
Have you ever wondered how many of the companies in your home town actually started in other countries?
There are probably more than you think.
Seeing the things that are distinctly of one culture outside of their natural environment has allowed me to recognize where the lines are, what’s allowed to be borrowed as inspiration, and what’s crossing the lines into appropriation.
This keeps my work both ethical and diversely inspired.
My Idea of Beautiful Expanded
Beauty is in the eye of…
You finished that sentence didn’t you?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That phrase is so common because it’s absolutely, irrefutably true.
It’s amazing to live in Japan to see how wonderful they find simplicity, and have a comparison of life in India and their love of intricacy.
With the two cultures distinctly separate, these ideals of beauty have no place in each other’s lands.
However, having walked through the stories and atmosphere of both countries, I can pull pieces from them both and marry them in a way they couldn’t otherwise coexist.
I Found An Appreciation I Had Lost
You never know what you have until you’ve lost it.
Another cliche that survives because it’s way too true.
I’d found that I’d taken things for granted. Beautiful, inspirational and moving things. The things I’d grown up with.
Somehow, I never really saw my country until I’d gotten away from it. But once I had, my feelings for Nepal grew in a way I’d never expected. With a different context, I could see the many things that brought me pride and remember those qualities that instilled peace or joy within me.
My regained infatuation with my home has led to unique pieces that tell a story of my past and my people.
It Diversified My Toolkit
Human beings have been around a really long time.
Almost nothing new ever comes along, really. Innovations are usually just the combination of two old things in a way that isn’t known to have been seen before.
When you expose yourself to different cultures, countries and continents, you can pick up a lot of building blocks to work with.
These include technical skills with different kinds of material usage as well as perceptive skills — just seeing things differently.
One thing that’s been truly powerful:
Design that transcends borders speaks to people and connects them.
In the example of bringing Japanese and Indian design together, you have to wonder how the two cultures would react to seeing it.
It Gave Me More Stories to Tell
One of the most impactful things I’ve collected in my journey are stories.
There are always people with amazing stories no matter where you go, and something about travel makes me more likely to root them out. If you haven’t had the experience of leaving your home country yet, do it and you’ll see what I mean.
Somehow you’re bolder in a strange land, and people are (not always, but often) much more open to you.
Here’s why this is important:
Jewelry-making is just another form of story telling. And if your eyes are open as you collect people’s thoughts and perspectives and histories, the creative muse just doesn’t sleep (and might not let you sleep either)
The emotion and soul in those narratives truly shine through the designs and the gems of the pieces that inspire them.
Travel and change of place impart new vigour to the mind.
When you ask people how to become a better Jeweler, ‘travel’ isn’t likely to be on the list of answers people give. Yet somehow, leaving places I’ve known to find strange lands and unfamiliar faces has done just that.
Travel makes you a better person, which will always translate into whatever work you do. If you want to get better in whatever arts you practice in your life, book the next flight you can and see what’s out there.
How about you? What places have you traveled to and learned from — or where would you love to travel to? I’d love to know; Share in the comments below!
- Admiring the Konigssee photo by Simon Migaj (@simonmigaj) on Unsplash, Travel pictures, https://unsplash.com/photos/Yui5vfKHuzs, Unsplash