If you can’t walk, then crawl — an artist teaches me a lesson

In 2011, I wrote my little heart out for the Kentucky Arts Council — it was and is something I am glad to do. However, I took a break for the holidays and found it hard to get back into the habit. I felt out of ideas and overburdened with a lack of wherewithal. There are so many blogs out there, a good portion of them deal with arts topics and people are just inundated with information in general. I thought, “Why try so hard for my agency’s blog to sit unread in the Internet ether?” As a result, I decided to extend my definition of “holidays” to include the great Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday celebration.

I was in the artists’ business workshop we held at the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea on Jan.12, still with no inspiration, dreading the upcoming deadline and resigning myself to failure when potter Mathew Gaddie presented an artist testimonial. He inspired the piece of my brain that writes blogs to pack up the pity party and send the obnoxious guests home.


Mathew Gaddie carafes

These bourbon shot carafes make MUCH better party guests anyway.


The title page of his presentation included the start of the MLK quote, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl….” The timeliness (considering the upcoming holiday) was coincidental, but no less effective on the audience of fledgling artists and me.

Basically, Mathew started as a day-time plumber who fired pots in a barely-functioning kiln relegated to a corner of his girlfriend’s garage. Today he is a full-time artist with his own wood-fired kiln, studio and gallery. Many people would say he is “there,” he “has arrived” or he “made it.” He would not say that, and the incredible part is that Mathew fully admits that his journey is not a straight line, and he sees no true end point. “There” changes everyday. He isn’t blazing a trail, clearing a path or leaving breadcrumbs. He’s just stomping straight through the wilderness. Don’t even try; you won’t be able to follow him — he is already gone. He confesses to “gambling on himself” more than once.


Mathew Gaddie vessel

This is Mathew’s 401k. There’s a little more to it than filling out forms and setting up an automatic withdrawl.


Mathew’s lesson was brilliant and simple for the New Year, and it illustrates the completion of MLK’s quote, “…but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” All artists (and arts organizations for that matter) have different resources, challenges and opportunities. We can and should get together from time to time in solidarity, find overlaps and share tips. Mathew is no lone wolf — far from it. He regularly fires with friends and associates, and he looks to Laura Ross as a mentor. But attempts at replication and jealous comparisons are a waste of time. Quitting because you don’t have someone else’s resources or fortune means you didn’t really want it. The journey is yours, and you just have to advance any way you can. 2012 is time to start crawling, walking, running and maybe even flying.

Sarah Schmitt, arts access director

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One thought on “If you can’t walk, then crawl — an artist teaches me a lesson

  1. I’ve also found inspiration from MLK. There are always reasons to do something else, but sometimes I find it impossible. Another source of inspiration for me is, strangely, the U.S. Marines. They did a really effective ad in the late 80’s or in the 90’s, which basically said a Marine does more before you wake up than you do all day. When I think about that, I get it going right away. Probably because I believe it and it bothers me to be lazy when others are making things happen.

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