Alana O'Neill - Pots

Arts Access Victoria presents The Museum of Us

Labelling herself as someone who likes to craft, rather than as a person who Creates Art, is Alana's way of keeping her little bits of joy safe from the world.

Photograph of a plant pot. It has been painted dark green, with a three pronged shape in light green.

About the work

When I tell people about something that I am making, I am always careful to tell them that I am doing craft, not Art. I have always done creative things – writing, drawing, collaging, painting – without thinking of myself as a Creative.

Part of this is probably the result of my inherent imposter syndrome. Every Assigned Female at Birth (AFAB) person I know, and many Assigned Male at Birth (AMAB) people, have experienced this syndrome, and it has been very deeply ingrained in me through the experience of living with undiagnosed ADHD for most of my adult life. However, this is also a conscious and careful choice that I make when presenting myself to the world.

Labelling myself as someone who likes to craft, rather than as a person who Creates Art, is my way of keeping my little bits of joy safe from the world.

When you are an Artist, your Art must be meaningful. It must be about something, and for an audience. And, if you really care about it, your art should be marketable. Murray Bookchin is reported to have said that the first thing that capitalism does is to destroy the dreams of children.

Children’s dreams are dampened by adults who tell them that they need to develop a marketable skill in order to survive.These adults are not wrong. In Melbourne, an Artist is seen to be successful when they don’t have to hold down a second job.

I started painting pots in lockdown to keep myself busy, and to beautify the space that I now inhabited for most of the day. I make things that I like, and I make them because I enjoy the process of making them.

When I showed my work to others, they would frequently tell me that I ‘could make a lot of money selling those’. The thought makes me cringe.

Having ADHD means that I am motivated by play, interest, novelty, competition, and urgency. As soon as something becomes a task that I should do, especially if it is not new and interesting, it becomes an almost impossible chore.

This means that I can read for hours about a new regenerative agriculture method that I have just found out about, but writing about the same topic for an assignment is an unbearable slog.

Turning my fun crafts – the things that I do to bring joy and beauty into my own life – into a chore, is a soul-sapping prospect.

I want a future in which I don’t have to protect my creative outlets with an uncelebrated and unthreatening label. I want people with disabilities to be able to live supported and beautiful lives just for themselves.

I want us to be able to create crafts, and art, and Art, just for the delight of it. Under capitalism, our creativity is drained away and subsumed by the sludgy, grubby process of scraping a living. But our future doesn’t have to be this way.

We can choose to live for joy.

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