Sirus Monkey is the artist around here, so I was a little surprised when the Artistic Cartel meeting at the Artful Phoenix here in North Attleboro had a couple meetings about writing artist's statements. "But I don't need an artists statement," I insisted. "I'm not an artist, I just make sock monkeys, and more often than not, they get drooled on." I'm pretty certain that if it's getting drooled on, it's not really art.
Making something that gets drooled on or cuddled wasn't enough for me to get off the hook for writing the artist's statement thought. I was also supposed to come up with a biography too, which slipped my mind.
Now that I'm thinking about the bio, I think I should put something like "I spent most of my working time scaring temps at my day job with my blood splattered lab coat, I turned to making cuddly toys as a way to relax and take my mind off the gallons of blood at the day job" or something like that.
See? Totally NOT an artist. For the record, I don't scare the temps anymore. I have a different job which entails mostly me dancing funny to cheesy pop music while taking readings on samples. No more dealing with blood.
There was still the artist statement to write, and I was pretty sure that having to spend the afternoon at MIT running samples on one of their machines wasn't going to get me out of doing my homework. Blast. So there I was rushing to write the artist statement while eating dinner and waiting for the 5:40pm train to Providence, desperately in need of guidance from the amazing Ninja Muse, who came up with the idea that "sock monkeys are art you can cuddle".
There was no Ninja Muse online though (from what I could see, don't forget I was in South Station at the time), so I gritted my teeth and tried to think of what to say about art that isn't really art. I googled, but the suggestions were for people who, you know, make art. Art that starts with a blank slate that they fill. I start with something already made, already designed, I don't have much choice in the colors, etc. Sure, sometimes when I see certain socks they say "make me a..." but I couldn't exactly say "I get excited in the sock department of Target..." because even I admit that's really weird.Then there was the trap of the cliches. I make each monkey with love, I make them to be cherished, blah. Gag. All things that everyone has already used. I needed something else. Something less old and tired sounding. I gave up on the suggestions and just started writing the same way I talk about the monkeys. If it didn't come out well, it was just a first draft. A few edits later, and I think I have an acceptable artist's statement, even if I'm still not convinced that sock monkeys count as art.
A sock monkey saved my life. In 2008, an industrial accident left me in the hospital for nearly a week. The whole time I had Eli and Sirus, my two sock monkeys there with me. They never complained and never stopped smiling no matter how scary it was at three am when morphine induced nightmares would make me squeeze them. I had my sock monkeys, eventually everything would be okay.
Later, when I was physically recovered, I made my first sock monkey to help the rest of me recover. I feverently put all of my energies into making sock monkeys, always looking for a way to make them more cuddly, more adorable, and most importantly, more smile inducing. Instead of dwelling on the many ways that things had broken, I spent that time dreaming up new monkeys to make, new ways of making each one not only a unique work and better than the last. It was crucial that each monkey not only looked good, but was durable so it could withstand years of being hugged and brought along on adventures. My sock monkeys are art that can (and should) be cuddled.
Now, I've moved behond just making sock monkeys using the traditional sock monkey pattern and have developed my own, ever-evolving pattern and style. I'm constantly creating new sock animals, including lions, zebras, elephants, and teddy bears. Monkeyville began as a safe haven for me and true to that beginning, numerous sock monkeys (and other animals) have gone to help charities. My current project is creating monkeys for Operation Sock Monkey, a volunteer organization that partners with other organizations, such as Clowns Without Borders to bring a bit of happiness to children who greatly need it. The sock monkeys have already saved me, now I can help them save other people.
So, that's it I think. It needs a lot of polish and a bit of rework, but it's done. I guess I can officially start calling myself a sock monkey artist now. If anyone has any thoughts or notices any spelling errors, please let me know. I did write most of this while waiting for the train or on the train home.