Self-Reliance throws me for a Loop

 This is the second installment of Answering Questions, an ongoing (I think!) conversation with artist and friend, Bridgette Guerzon Mills, and it took me TWO WEEKS to work through these last two questions! (read the first installment here.)



4. Through the years I have learned that you have experience in so many things from tech to art making to gardening to living with nature - where does this trait stem from? Is it inherently a Canadian self-reliance thing or something taught to you from a parent or something that is just you?

5. How does the above influence your creative process/ art making?


"This first question gave me pause."

That's what I wrote over a week ago. I've been pondering my answer ever since, throwing me into retrospection and memories. Of my Dad, and to some degree my Mom, but mostly my Dad. You see, he was the person I most looked up to, tried to emulate and was sure that my "Can Do" attitude MUST have come from him. He changed careers mid-life, from successful engineer poised to take over the company he worked for to going back to school to become a teacher. This is one of my most important Family Stories with the message that You Can Change Your Life. It is perhaps one of my guiding lights.But upon reflection, it had more to do with a midlife crisis and less to do with Self-Reliance. In fact, he probably put my Mom in more of a pickle than himself as he commuted at night 2 hours each way to get his degree. And moving us out of our newly built home in small town Quebec into an apartment in the city suburbs. That is love, my friends! But self-reliance? Not so much. 

You know how you hear stories from adult comedians about making people laugh at an early age and knowing, right then, that THIS is what they wanted to do? Well, similarly, I have those memories too, only with coming up with solutions to questions asked, far beyond my years. I knew that I loved being the "Font of Knowledge". People paid attention. People (finally) listened to me. I became a sponge. I read reference books for kicks. By the time I was 12 I knew most species (by latin name!) of forageable, edible weeds. And general weird random facts. So much so, my husband to this day, asks ME before googling something. Perhaps that's where it came from?  I'm not really sure.  Also. Canadians are no more self-reliant than any other folk though RURAL people have to be as it could be a life or death situation being in the backwoods, hours sometimes days away (in the middle of a snowstorm for example) from help coming. One of those. Maybe. And that might be the worst answer to a question. Ever.

What I DO know is that this I Can Figure This Out mindset has been a necessity for my art practice.Going to the art store isn't always doable if it's over an hour away, using different materials because I didn't have access to the right materials. Collecting things "because you never know when it might come in handy" was key to my foray into assemblage, a natural evolution if McGyvering is a significant part of your life!  


Living in the middle of nowhere really makes one innovative in figuring out stuff. Though not always in the best way. There are many things I've plowed through, inelegantly, trying to come up with solutions. Wire work comes to mind. As the internet gathered speed and reliability, I was finally able to take an online class from Keith Lobue and really hone those rough skills. I do cringe seeing some of those early pieces. But hey! you are where you are because of where you've been. Right? 

And because I live in a rural area, I can literally walk out my front door into the woods and walk for hours without coming across another human being. Quiet and solitude are my daily companions and a necessary part of my creation process. I am surrounded by Nature. I can't imagine a life without it. 


Don't forget to go read my questions, and Bri's answers, over on her blog.

And if you've enjoyed our conversation Between Artists, let me/us know, would ya? We're thinking this may become a monthly Thing! 


4 comments

  1. Nice to read about your history and where the traits come from...

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  2. Thanks Cliff! I'd never really thought about it until Bridgette asked. And then it was like a memory tsunami!

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  3. So fun to be introduced thanks to Bridgette’s questions. Definitely enjoyable!

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  4. Thanks so much for visiting and reading, Ruth!

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