The Unanswered Question

The most prevalent question I have ever received as an artist is: "How did you make this?"

The most distressing variant of this question came early one morning in a telephone call from a stranger who had seen my sculpture at a local museum. "My boyfriend and I would like to know how you make your sculptures, because we would like to make some, just like them, so we could sell them!"

The first question is usually well-meant, or made with the embarrassment of not knowing how to talk to an artist about her work. It reveals several things about the general public. First, they may have had, generally little, or no, experience manipulating art material in their public education. Nor, any art appreciation courses.

Second, I believe it reveals a particularly American obsession with manufacturing and process, as opposed to a ready acquaintance with the artistic vocabulary of ideas that might be more readily found in European cultures who have a strong tradition of art exposure and education.

It represents a material point of view, rather than a spiritual communication. If I launch into a description of the process for these folks, they seem impressed with the amount of labor, which they believe determines the price of the work.  Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't, but that's my secret!

Many times, the way something is made becomes a non-memory, as when one creates in a state of emotion, such as after September 11, 2001. The residue of feeling resonates, and methods are irrelevant: the work just flows.

As an artist, how would you have answered these questions?