An Artist at Work

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After watching this video three times in a row, we (at the Centricity retreat) talked for about an hour about what we learned from June Taylor about art.  If you have time, watch it twice, then post a comment about what jumped out at you about hearing this woman talk about her work.  There’s a lot to be learned here.  (Thanks to John Farkas for the great discussion.)

As a singer-songwriter and recording artist, Andrew has released more than ten records over the past fifteen years. His music has earned him a reputation for writing songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. He has also followed his gifts into the realm of publishing. His books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga.


24 Comments

  1. elijah

    “The way in which I can do the very best is to keep the scale small and to be very intimate and very detailed.”

    I’m reminded by a line from one of Wendall Berry’s essays in Home Economics, “Everything in scale.” I think our capitalistic society often forgets that. I think a lack of scale is very harmful to art.

  2. Laura

    Like her old books about fruits, we have an old book about fruit, the Bible. And like the gardens that speak to her about what is ripe and when to pick the fruit and what side of the tree to pick it from, God has put us here in this huge garden, and as we walk through it, it is our job to look for what He wants us to see and use that for His glory. The more we know about God, the easier this becomes. We learn to use what He gives us with very little waste. We learn that the way is not about more stuff. We learn that teaming up with one or two people to do the tasks He has placed right at our elbows can be even more important than larger-scale missions. We learn how to apply what He teaches us and the experiences He has given us to share the fruit that He has gifted us with that not only nourishes others but also imparts others with the sense that someone cared enough to take the time to make it especially for them and show them how it can compliment even the pig on their plate.

  3. Paul H

    Very, very beautiful an inspiring. (not to mention mouth-watering)
    What I initially observe is, what may seem mundane or ordinary, can certianly be the very beauty of God and until it is showcased or focused upon, so as to see every detail, it may go unnoticed. Taking time to focus on small peices of God’s word or His nature or the fruit of His creation, should stop us in our steps and help us to move into awe of Him. I am speaking of the fruit June uses and of June herself, being one of His creations as well.

  4. Richard

    Wow, so much to comment on… I can see how you spent an hour discussing the video and what June Taylor does. I’ll limit myself to just two things that jumped out at me…

    the first time through, the last line really stuck in my head, “It’s just fruit, eat it and have great memories”. It represents, in a way, the point of the book of Ecclesiastes. We can’t catch the wind, and it is futility to try… but we *can* enjoy life, and experience it to the fullest when we look at it from the right perspective… when we don’t try to do things with it that we shouldn’t do… when we don’t idolize life. Or jam.

    The second time through it struck me how much attention Ms. Taylor pays to the beauty and… detail of her work at every stage. At different points in the video she talks specifics from the plant to the jar.
    -She pays attention and self-consciously notices what is blooming/ripening at the same time, and uses those things together.
    -She examines each piece of fruit, and only uses the very best, with no blemishes on them.
    -As she was cooking some fruit, she points out how beautiful the colors are.
    -Finally, after she has canned the product, she makes a point to say how beautiful the fruit is, and how it really should be packed beautifully as well.

    I really liked how she really pours herself into every step, and how every step rewards her with beauty.

  5. Megan

    Ooohhh…I loved that. It was beautiful to watch. Many thanks to my husband for scooting me on over here to watch.

    Her attitude was great: enjoy making it, and do your best, but don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s just food.

  6. Jacob Tilton

    The first thing I did after watching this was forward it to my music team at church. And then I grabbed a banana.

    There are so many good things to take away from this. Her patience and deliberation with her craft is inspiring and convicting.

    “Nature presents you with goodies.” That’s great. We are most times too busy and disracted to see the presentation. Here is a woman who has heard that calling and has responded in a beautiful way.

    So much of this goes against everything that our American industrial machine preaches at us everyday. Wow.

    And now I want to move out to the country and plant a garden.
    (Man, I gotta start reading some Wendell Berry)

  7. Micah

    “You can’t formulate that into something that is hard and fast, if you do than you standardize, and thats essetional what industry does, it standardizes.”

    Ah, I’m going to go sit under an apple tree and ponder that statment for the next hour.

  8. Nate

    I’ve been thinking about modern medicine all day and how its a business, plain and simple. Money runs it. Physicians work for money. Drugs cost money. Research to do new things costs money. I think when compassionless capitalism starts to shape medicine, there are problems.

    Some people think the answer is for government to pay for it. Thats a costly solution, but it has a very glaring problem. It merely treats a symptom. What happened to doctors who want to be servants, who want to help, who want to aide those suffereing and fight the evil that is disease?

    A future doctor myself, I think that we could take a lesson from her. You cannot mass produce medical care. It doesn’t work. Something is lost when medicine becomes a business. That something is quality. Concern. Compassion. It must go into every patient. This field can only be fixed from the bottom up. The logistics of how to do this I do not know, but I am sure hat it does not center around money.

  9. Tony Heringer

    http://junetaylorjams.com/ has a different stop action short. It combines the themes she explores in this video. What struck me was this woman has a calling, a vocation, not just a job. That’s what I strive for as well — even though I work for a very large global entity that doesn’t stop me from similar experiences in my vocation.

    I also enjoyed her attitude. She is curious about the past and how it’s been done before. Not just “those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it” but I got a sense that she is carrying forward the rich traditions of those artists that preceded her.

    She also is humble — its just jam, eat it; enjoy it. But at the same time she is not just “canning preserves.” She thoughtfully considers each task in the process. It’s not just a catch phrase that love and care go into her products.

    To paraphrase a description of a conductor I once heard on a Father’s Day tribute: “She takes her work seriously, but does not take herself seriously.” That’s pretty cool when the company is named after her.

  10. Breann

    My first reaction to watching this clip was, “Is it worth it?” “Does her jam really taste that much better than jam you could buy at the grocery store?” Then I realized that it’s not only the artist who has to have perceptive taste but also the one who digests the art. In order to receive truth and beauty, one has to be trained to differentiate between what will suffice and what is truly good. So my question is, “How do we teach people to aquire a taste for truth and beauty?”

  11. becky

    What stands out to me is her passion and love for every part of the process. How absorbed she is in it. Thinking about the flavors and textures when the jam is eaten. Mulling them over in her mind. Looking at the colors and what will look beautiful together. Finding out as much as she can about how people have done this in the past. Being open to combinations that are outside of the norm. Doing the work herself. Deciding on packaging that says more about the jams and preserves, and where they have come from, than just what flavor it is. This is her passion.

    And that jam is temporary–it is meant to be consumed. It is beautiful food, but foods purpose is to be eaten. She would be disappointed if noone experienced those flavors and textures and colors that she has poured so much of herself into. The jam is temporary but the memories are permanent.

    I need to make more memories of jam.

  12. Tony Heringer

    “How do we teach people to acquire a taste for truth and beauty?”

    Breann that’s the million dollar question. I guess that’s where the saying “you can lead a horse to water but you can make him drink” came from. I think the teaching will come in experiencing good art versus bad art.

    Thirsty people will drink sand in want of an alternative. The writer of Proverbs is instructive by portraying Wisdom and Folly as two women inviting people to eat and drink. The distinction between the two is the means in which the meal is prepared, how the house is built and how the table is set. Most people today would say the end justifies the means, but the means are just as important from a biblical perspective. I consume far too many things without considering this point. Food is the least of my worries in this context, but it is the most visceral way to make me consider the cost of my consumption (i.e. I can see the results of my poor food choices). 🙂

    Truth and beauty cost us something so many people will take the cheap alternatives because the cost is too much and the results much harder to see in the mirror. In the case of jams, perhaps I’d go with Smuckers or Bama for every day use but for a special meal or as a special gift I’m now thinking June’s product would fit the bill — i.e. be worth the cost.

    Its the same with our art. Our culture is inundated with cheap or commoditized art or art fit for a specific sub-culture (not just Christian, but its ironic that we’ve fallen into that same mode). It takes some effort to find artists who deliver their art with the same personal humility and professional passion (to steal a Jim Collins line) that June has with her work. The artists who work like June, teach people by their art and artistry. In other words it’s the art of living that is the lesson. How would Jesus live? Not what would Jesus live, or drive or paint, sing or preserve?

    That’s what I took from this woman’s testimony about making jelly. Imagine if we all took this approach to our work and by extension our life. As Christians, we are called to do so. It would be a much more winsome approach and would likely cause the action and our reaction that Peter points out in 1 Peter 3:15.

  13. Matthew

    “There’s an intimate knowledge by doing.”

    That stood out to me immediately. It’s good advice for those who grow deaf to the steady call of artistry. Get your hands dirty!

    On second thought/watch, the phrase also sounds like good medicine for anyone who condescendingly erupts “I could do that, what’s the big deal?” when they see something beautifully simple.

  14. Adam

    Unfortunately, I can’t get the video to load, but it sounds great.

    I check out the rabbit room often, and have been listening to the streaming album quite a bit.

    I’m just getting started on a blog of my own: http://www.boundandfree.wordpress.org . Check out my post on Love & Thunder.

    I’m still finding my voice in the blogging world, but I think it is starting out o.k.

    peace.

  15. josh

    What i learned from watching this video: I need to get my hands on some of that jelly!

    And that art is the single most enjoyable way to teach and learn and explore and question and exeperience and touch and feel and smell and taste the things of heaven.

  16. Jock B

    What first jumped out was her passion for what she does and how she noticed everything. She saw it all. I might be tempted to look at a diamond and see its beauty and texture, but beyond that, it casts light. What about the texture of the light that is thrown off that diamond and onto the objects around it. The light crawls across what it hits. Maybe that is a little out there, but it struck me.

    Also the way in which she talked about it and the words used were like she carved them out of an orange peel and you could roll them around in your hand and really feel it.

    And then the jester that also resides in my head exclaimed “WHATEVER YOU DO, PLEASE, PLEASE DON’T CALL IT JELLY!!!!” Sorry Josh, I was thinking of the commercial for that All fruit stuff, not you.

  17. Mike

    I recently read about a conversation a Christian had with an evolutionist.

    On a plane, recently, I sat by a biologist. Actually, he called himself a “systematic,
    evolutionary microbiologist”! He was returning from what seemed to me to be very
    like an Indiana Jones type expedition in the Caribbean. It was, in fact, a research trip
    dedicated to studying various species of plants.
    Now, I admit, I am not a big plant man. Talking about plants, especially rare
    species that the average person does not even know exist, is not my idea of fun. But
    this guy was so excited I could not help but get caught up in his enthusiasm. Far
    from being dry and crusty, this man had fire in his belly and was absolutely thrilled
    with his work.
    He launched into this story about plants that were on the verge of extinction,
    how important they were, what could be done to save them and why we must save
    them. He just could not bear the thought that we had already lost and were now
    losing whole species of plants to extinction. He even pulled out his napkin and drew
    diagrams and charts. I must say, I learned more botany in that stretch of time than I
    had learned in years of schooling.
    When he finished, I leaned over and asked one simple question. “Where,” I
    asked, “did you get your passion for plants?” It caught him off-guard and he looked
    at me like I had a third eye. I said, “I mean, it is not every day that you meet
    someone who has such a deep burden for the welfare of plants. I am just curious as
    to its origin. Did you grow up around botanists? Are your parents botanists? Did
    you just decide one day that you were going to love plants?” He said that he had
    never really thought about it much. And we both said, laughingly, “It probably just
    evolved!”
    But then I pulled out my napkin and drew three interrelated circles, with the
    Father written in one circle and the Son and Spirit in the others. I pointed to the
    circle with the Son’s name in it and said, “I know the origin of your deep passion for
    plants. There is only one human being in the universe who really cares for plants.
    He is delighted in his Father’s creation, burdened for its welfare and preservation.
    He knows the plants by name, every one of them. And I know who you are. You
    are a participant in Jesus Christ’s passion for his Father’s creation.
    “That fire in your belly is not yours. It does not have its origin in you. It comes
    from Jesus Christ. He puts his passion for his Father’s plants in you. He humbly
    shares his delight in them, his burden for their welfare, his desire for their wholeness
    with you through his invisible Spirit. And you are living in it. You go to sleep at
    night, wake up in the morning, and work all day in his concerns and creative ideas.
    There is far more going on in your life than you ever imagined. You are living in
    Jesus’ life, participating in the relationship that Jesus Christ has with his Father in the
    fellowship of the Spirit. You live in the circle of the Triune life of God and you are
    not sure that God even exists!”

    This video reminded me that God likes fruit and “although He’s glad for the fruit, its me that He loves.”

  18. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    “There’s an intimate knowledge by doing.” That jumped out at me as a confirmation of George MacDonald’s writing. He wrote that men have often sought to understand God rather than obey Him (and to trust Him is to obey Him). The only way to enlighten the understanding is to faithe, which expresses itself through love. When we obey God through faith, we are given understanding. We’ve got to step in faith, and keep stepping, in order to have true (and I mean that in the sense of aiming a bow and arrow) understanding.

    It’s just like playing the banjo. A person can read all about it, and become an “expert” on the various methods for learning. But until he sits down to actually DO, his knowledge is merely theoretical and, for all practical intents and purposes, useless.

    I saw the Book of Kells at Trinity College, Dublin quite a few years ago when we were playing in Dublin (I love days off overseas).

  19. Stacy Grubb

    “You can get fruit from two different sides of a tree and it be different.”

    She said at least a dozen things that jumped out at me, but this is the one that stuck the most. This reminds me that my willingness to “faithe” as Ron calls it is the variable that will define the fruit that I will bear.

    Stacy

  20. Lori

    That video is teeming with insight…as are all the comments. Great stuff. Even from the first line “Nature presents you with goodies, and you have to know how to relate to them,” that video is loaded. I gain more each time I watch it.

    I’m curious, Andrew…what were some highlights from your discussion on this at the retreat? (and thanks for bringing the video to our attention!)

  21. Amy F

    Call me a weirdo, but It somehow stuck out that she said “pigs were meant for fruit”…. its like a childrens fairytale about a pig who learns about the magic spell to be turned into a tree just ran through my head.

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