By Angie Widner – 12/14/11
At the precipice, debating with my fears, go for it or hold back? Allow fear to consume me and convince me to turn back? Don’t I know my own skills and abilities better than this? Don’t I know the tools and equipment I have at my disposal are good and designed for the job at hand? Don’t I know that there’s a guidance system (God, Divine-source, common sense, unconscious knowing or whatever it is) that will preserve me and maybe even allow for something extraordinary? Aren’t the benefits of going forward more rewarding than holding back? Is my comfort zone ready to expand? How real are the cautions and warnings underlying the fear? All these questions flash before me as I ponder the shift awaiting me.
Fear… it can prevent us from going forward, hinder our progress or even get us hurt because our focus was distracted by that fear. Certain fears are obvious and understandable and can even serve us well. Other fears grab us in most unexpected and subtle ways including: fear of not being in control, fear of not being good enough, fear of getting emotionally hurt, fear of rejection, fear of the unknown, fear of leaving our comfort zone, fear of fear. No matter what kind of fear, empowerment, freedom and life-enjoyment come from looking into the face and source of your fears then taking a deep breath and LETTING GO.
Evaluate the relevance of the fear welling up inside you. Is it a clear warning of physical danger? Is it a tape playing in your head of the “rumored” fear (placed there by society, family, mainstream media or even your own experience)? Surprisingly, the tapes play incessantly driving us to give up for fear of the unknown. This disempowerment can be emotionally and psychologically devastating.
Taking on certain adventure sports for the first time in my mid-40s, I’ve learned fear has encompassed more of my life than I had believed. Through these experiences, I’ve faced fears that were legitimate but often exaggerated. Whether I endeavor to scale the face of a mountain from a rope or birth a creative project, the nature of how fear works through me is surprisingly similar, as is the exhilaration of letting go of that fear.
In facing and pushing past the exaggerated fears faced in these adventure sports, I’ve come to realize I have also held, “unknowingly”, to a significant level of the subtle fears in my everyday life. Fears of criticism, unworthiness, lost control, and more have hindered my progress in my creative life and have pushed me into pursuing “safe” and unfulfilling alternatives.
Whether it is roped-in at the top of a summit stepping backwards into a rappel, careening down a rocky hillside on a mountain bike or embracing the inner-critic who prevents me from producing something creative, there is great joy and freedom in letting go of the fear. Trusting my skills, trusting my equipment/tools, trusting survivor instincts, trusting in the Divine Source (God). Empowerment lies in this trust. Freedom comes from this letting go and giving into this trust.
Certainly, there must be a balance allowing recognition of rational fears that should inform us of when a situation requires limits on forward movement. I have no problem getting off my mountain bike and walking an extra steep/rocky descent because my current skill level isn’t up to the par of that task. But sometimes, I recognize that the level of that rational fear is just turned up a notch too high and this is one opportunity to push myself to the next level.
Interestingly, the more I attempt to hold tight and control my bike down bumpy descents, the more I fight the skis as they turn on the snow, the more I seize-up with fear on the climbing ascent or descent, the more likely I am to prevent my equipment/skills/God from giving me the best experience (and may even open the possibility of getting myself or my partner hurt). If I loosen my grip as the bike glides over the rocky trail, the suspension in the bike “takes” the bump and keeps me upright rather than planted into the ground. The exhilaration of reaching the blustery summit overlooking miles of beauty and knowing you, God and your equipment allowed for this feat is truly empowering and soul-lifting. Feeling your bike move you over terrain you would have considered impossible to navigate months before is loads of fun and boost your self-confidence in all aspects of your life.
Facing the fears of these adventure sports has caused me to question the rationality of other fears holding me back in other parts of my life. Those subtle fears governing whether I allow a creative project to see the light of day, what career paths I’ve taken or should refuse or what relationships I’ve avoided or hung onto. Each life choice made under the influence of fear is bound to be limited forward-progress, harmful to self and others around you, and certainly limited life joy.
Recognize the source of your fears and let go of those that don’t serve you. Embrace the freedom and exhilaration of finding courage to step outside of your comfort zone and into new realms. Enjoy life to the fullest!
October 18, 2015 3:15 am • SUZANNE ADAMS-OCKRASSA Sun Staff Reporter
Tom Williams is an artist who can make metal soar. The Williams resident owns Twisted Horn Forge and is a co-owner of The Gallery in Williams. He turns sheets of metal into ravens and petroglyphs and discarded air tanks into bells and drums through the magic of blacksmithing, welding and a computer-assisted cutting machine.
He even turned a gas tank into a planet. The Mars Kaleidisphere on display at Lowell Observatory was a collaboration between Williams, John Rogers and Mike Frankel. Williams worked on the shell of the Kaleidisphere, which was originally a gas tank.
Williams’ collaborators weren’t sure the tank would work for the project, especially since Williams almost lost an eyebrow cutting it open. He had filled the tank with water in order to push out the remaining gas vapors, but didn’t quite get all of them.
“There was still some left in the tank,” he said. The cutting torch ignited the vapor with a whoosh of flame. Williams was able to rid the tank of the rest of the vapor by refilling it with water and letting it sit.
Williams studied the features of the red planet closely in order to recreate them on the outside of the sphere. He then hammered in the features by hand. Rogers and Frankel worked on the kaleidoscope part of the sphere, pulling photos from the Hubble telescope and combining it with their skills in glass and machinery.
Williams’ latest works center on ravens. It started with a customer requesting one of his bells with a raven added to it. The bell was easy enough -- Williams makes hundreds of them out of old air cylinders -- but the bird was another story.
Williams studied ravens from every angle by downloading photos from birding and naturalist websites. The body of the bird is cut, formed and welded from sheet metal. Then Williams designed a pattern for each feather and used a CNC machine - computer numerical control -- to cut out more than 2,000 feathers in various shapes and sizes. Each feather was then individually attached to the life-sized bird.
His current raven projects include a raven coiling a basket made out of rebar and a sculpture of a raven and the sun.
Williams got into metalworking while he was living in California.
“I was a mountain bike patroller for the national and state park system,” he said.
He loved mountain biking, and like most enthusiasts was looking for a way to create his own custom accessories. He joined up with a friend, who is a steel fabricator for the movie industry, to open a mobile bike repair shop.
He was so amazed at the variety of items his friend could make with a bit of metal and a few welds that Williams decided to take a welding class and become a certified welder.
About six months ago, he moved to Arizona and took up residence in Flagstaff, but job prospects for welders were slim with low pay; instead, he became a bus mechanic for Flagstaff Unified School District.
While working at the school district, he stopped by a recycled art show.
“I was looking at some of the items and thought ‘I could do that,’” he said.
He started saving and asking others at the shop to save bits of scrap metal for him. He saved used horseshoes and welded them together to create wine racks, cactuses and other items.
“But that’s just sticking things together,” he said. Williams wanted to do more, so he started taking blacksmithing classes at Pieh Tool in Camp Verde.
This allowed him to expand his skills and creativity into making items like his raven sculptures, drums, and flowers for his Shoeguaro cactus sculptures made from mule shoes from the Grand Canyon. Nearly everything he uses to create his artworks are recycled or upcycled from other materials.
Williams is a graduate of the Coconino Center for the Arts’ ArtBox Institute. The program helps artists of all kinds learn how to set up a business plan, calculate sales tax, market themselves and their artwork, and show their work.
Williams said the program was a big help in creating his websites, setting up and operating the gallery, and marketing his art.
He entered his first art show, the Recycled Art Exhibition in Flagstaff, in 2011 and won the Elegance award. The next year he entered again and won Best in Show for one of his Shoeguaro pieces. Last year, he won Best in Show at the Coconino Center for the Arts It’s Elemental Art Show for a piece called “Resonance.”
The piece features a bell hanging from a tree branch with panels of petroglyphs on both sides and a bowl of water filled with stones below it. On his website, Williams describes how the hum of the bell is like ripples in a pond. He compares the ripples to life, where most of us start our lives in one spot then move outward as we grow.
In 2011, Williams and his wife, Kris, together with a number of other artists, opened a co-op gallery in downtown Williams on Route 66. The artists featured in the gallery take turns operating it.
A number of people told Williams the gallery wouldn’t make it and he conceded it looked a little strange among all of the more touristy-type shops. But they stuck together through the first year, and then in March of the following year, two more galleries opened and more of the touristy-type shops started carrying more art.
The reporter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (928)556-2253.
In Finding Flow, Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi writes, “The quality of experience [is] a function of the relationship between challenges and skills. Optimal experience, or flow, occurs when both variables are high.” When you address big challenges with high skill levels, feats of creative genius are possible.
This is true for any field. Even within the rigid structure of mathematics—my husband is a mathematician, and he tells me this is true—there’s room for divergent thinking that leads to new discoveries and innovative ways to think about old problems.
Last week, I was scheduled to teach a workshop. Two of the four students were a mystery in terms of their creative experience. In preparation, I needed to remember what it was like not to be confident of my creative skills.
Though I have my doubts from day to day, in a general sense, I know that I have a relatively high capacity for creative action. I think this is true for many of us. But when the subject comes up in conversation, there are people who claim they’re not creative.
I muse about what separates the creatives from the self-described “non-creatives.” Some personal archeology was called for: why do I consider myself creative?
My senior year at Ball State, I finally took a “real” art class from ceramicist Marvin Reichle. One of the things that stayed with me from the class was his admonition to “Do it 29 times.” Anyone who’s taken a class from me has heard me say this, probably 29 times. (Reichle picked up this advice from Sister Corita Kent, an artist and educator.)
Reichle opened my eyes to the possibilities of visual art, but by that time I was sure it was too late to go down that path. I was a writer, had always been a writer, and would always be only a writer. In hindsight, 30-odd years later, I realize it wasn’t too late. In fact, it was just the beginning; it was precisely the right time to start contemplating a creative life beyond the one I had initially thought possible.
Maybe our personal definition of “creative” is the most important criteria. Is a great cook creative? A scientist? An administrator? And what if your work defies categorization?
Here’s what I believe: high skill levels brought to bear on interesting problems get our creative juices flowing, regardless of whether our brains and our lives fit into neat little boxes of competency. Sometimes we’re good at or interested in multiple disciplines that don’t neatly overlap. I vote for celebrating those fabulously rich cross-disciplinary pollinations and the resulting discovery of new ways of thinking about the world.
Darcy Falk is a writer and visual artist working in Flagstaff, Arizona. See more of her work at darcyfalk.com