Frustrated Fiber Artist

My husband observed something about me recently that I would never have thought of myself. He called me a frustrated artist. He may have something there.

This comment came as part of a general discussion about figuring out your purpose and passion in life. If you’re lucky enough to discover it (not everybody does), what do you do about it? Do you have a cosmic obligation to make that thing the focus of all your energies? Or is that selfish and unreasonable? I know there are people out there in the world who turn their passion into their vocation. But not many.

There are lots of “good works” out there that are necessary for society to function properly, but that would probably never be anybody’s passion. Like garbage collecting. Or publishing a church newsletter. Or dusting (I despise dusting). All important in their own way.

And yet, I see so much wasted potential in myself and in the people around me that it wrings my heart. We focus our energies on “good works” that pay the mortgage and put food on the table. But think of how many Picassos and Elizabeth Zimmermans we’re missing on our planet because people are squandering their time and potential on lesser (if perhaps more lucrative) pursuits.  I can’t help thinking that there would probably be less anger, frustration, depression, stress and violence in our world if we valued and enabled the exercise of people’s passions as “a good day’s work.”

Yeah, I know this is impractical. But it’s frustrating to reach out for fulfillment and have your hand swatted away. And to realize that you’re doing the swatting yourself.

My husband calls me a frustrated artist. And I feel both confused and…recognized. I’ve never thought of myself as an artist at all. And yet, I think I’ve been looking for quiet ways to express myself through the material world my whole life. Knitting, spinning, dancing, blogging –I’ve literally never been without some little artistic safety valve. I simply never recognized it for what it was.

What would my life be like if I could remove the word “frustrated” from this description of myself?


  1. I actually like making newsletters, and desperately want to fix my church’s newsletter. A lot of times it’s a jumbled mess, and I itch to play with it. But I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes…

  2. I think it is truly a rare soul who can just do what they are passionate about without burn out. I studied music in college. I’d been playing for years and years and it was always a stress reliever. When I was studying it full time, I lost a lot of the joy of it. What used to relieve stress became stressful. I think balance is a good thing, and makes the time we do get to spend with our craft/art/hobby more engaging and energized. But, skew it too far toward obligation or too far toward art and then you end up with a problem. Of course, everyone is different and this may not be the case for you at all. I know it is for me!

  3. Everyone who knows me always ask me why I don’t open up a yarn shop. Knitting is my passion and I rarely go for long without knitting something. Now, it would be lovely to have a shop full of ALL THE YARN! But then, it would be my work and bring with it all the frustrations of a work environment. They ask me why I don’t knit for profit. Same thing, and then I am at the mercy of a deadline imposed by someone else. Hey, I impose enough deadlines on myself! So again, I decline. I want my hobby to remain my hobby. I am lucky that right now I do not work out of the home. And with 1 college age and 1 senior high school age, I am not as needed by my kids. I am thinking about getting a part time job to have mad money now that I have time. But I don’t want my work to follow me home. I want to leave work at work and hobbies at home. But I do believe it is better to love the work you do, I just don’t think work must be your passion. JMHO

  4. I am truly lucky that I am passionate about my job. I manage a stables in my community, so often home is work and work is home. I have the care of eight beautiful and amazing horses (without the expense of said money munchers) that I treat as my own. I ride, train, groom, teach, play nurse maid and vet ( unless I truly need the vet), muck stalls and drag huge amounts of manure from the fields, teach riding and take out trails. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, ever. When it’s 100 degrees out, I sweat with my boys, and when its frigid I’m breaking ice on the ground so they don’t fall. I genuinely love my job and am so lucky to do what I love. It is possible, but finding it isn’t always so easy.

  5. You have expressed a lot of what I have been feeling lately. I think there is great wisdom expressed by the other commenters. However, you also have to look at those lucky few who do make knitting/related to knitting endeavours their work and who love it and are able to still enjoy their passion and make it a job. I think in art especially, you have to love what you do or it doesn’t work.

    • Thank you kiwiyarns. I do feel like it has to be possible to devote your energies to the thing you love without spoiling it.

  6. I think about this, too, and often feel confused by it. I have three jobs, all of which I enjoy and work hard at, but I would not call them my passion. In my free time, I would much rather make things and create designs. Maybe to become unfrustrated, we carve a bit more time out for our passions so that we are more fulfilled and possibly in a position later for what we love to become our job?

  7. I constantly work to remind myself that I work to live. What I mean by that is that I don’t want to make work my life, it is there to provide me enough stability to live my life and do those things that I love. I happen to love the work that I do, I work in a library, but it’s also very stressful and so I have my fiber art to go to when I want to relieve the stress. I have been asked before why I don’t sell my things and why I don’t try to support myself as an artist and the fact is that if my art also became my way to provide myself with stability enough to live my life, it would stop feeling like I’m expressing myself and start feeling like I’m working. I also have a deep-rooted fear of other people judging my art, and trying to sell it and make a living on it feels like just asking for trouble. Some people can make it work, but I know that I couldn’t be happy trying to sell my art, because it feels like selling a part of myself.

    You don’t have to be a full-time artist to not be frustrated, you just need to allow yourself the freedom to enjoy and create your art. Maybe for you, you won’t be able to experience that freedom without being a full-time artist who supports herself with her art, or maybe you just need to remember that you work to live and you need to let yourself have the time to enjoy this “hobby” as the most important part of your life, rather than trying to push it lower on your priority list. Either way, remember that you’re not alone in your frustration and struggle!

  8. For me, everyone is an artist. The talent is more or less hidden, the recognition of one’s artistic fiber varies, but we are all artists in our own ways. You have a way with words and with spinning, to me it does fall into the art category. Art is not limited to being a wretched poet or a crazy painter. Now, because we don’t allow ourselves to nurture that art inside of us, I agree we inflict a lot of pain to ourselves.

  9. Making a living off your art is a rare and precious thing in the modern world, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be an artist. If you are still making art, you are an artist. I can’t imagine *not* doing creative, artistic things on a daily basis, even when they make no profit at all. Pretty sure I’d wither and die without creativity.

  10. So many interesting comments are different perspectives on this! I too struggle with the doubts of making a job out of my hobby or not… I have a very demanding job and recently I’ve been told that I do not show enough passion and commitment to my work. And it’s probably true. I guess through all the years of disappointment – all the struggles that come with being a Scientist with no job security, low recognition by the general public, coping with all the self-esteem threatening failures before that one eureka moment – I had to learn to have a more balanced attitude towards my work for the sake of my own mental health. So I often think if turning my hobby into a business would have the same bewildering effect. But I would like to share my passion with other people and show them all the goodness that crafts can bring into their lives, just like it brought to mine. So if I provide only the materials and the knowledge it might boost my own creativity instead of killing it… Or will it?…

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