Gold-toned polymer clay floral cuff bracelet sitting on a stone.Gold-toned polymer clay floral cuff bracelet sitting on a stone.

Does it Take Creativity to Live With a Disability?

This question was brought up in an exchange I had with a fellow team member on “Handmade is Better.”  Does it take creativity to live with a disability?

I asked people to look at my website and give me feedback.  At that time my front page read “Song Sense – Jewelry Made With Ability.”  I received the following review:

Louise: ““created with ability”?? One does not badmouth one’s competition in that manner. I don’t know about anybody else, but that’s a major turn-off for me.

That obviously was not what I meant at all.  But I understood the confusion and took that tagline down right away.  And then a rash of comments commenced!  No one quite understanding her sensitivity to the words.  This went on for about an hour and a half.  I asked Louise to join the conversation because I could not speak for her.  Here’s her response, and my question: Does it take creativity to live with a disability?

Louise: “You really want me to chime in here, okay. It never occurred to me that you were disabled when I saw your tagline. Why? Because I agree with Vera: your About page is where you talk about your life’s struggles, not your tagline. The “created with ability” smacked to me of stating clearly that you felt that other jewelry makers did not have much ability to make jewelry, and you did. Also, I won’t like any tagline that clearly indicates that you have a disability,  – because then you are playing the sympathy card – buy my jewelry because I’m disabled. You guilt them into buying your jewelry, or else they feel coerced into buying it. Your jewelry needs to stand on its own. People need to buy a piece of your jewelry because they like the piece, not because they feel sorry for you, or because they think you’re courageous for doing what you do in spite your disability. If they buy it because they like it, they’ll wear it. If they buy it because of your disability, will it actually be worn or will be thrown in the back of the drawer and forgotten about? Sell your jewelry, not your disability.

I was upset by her reply.  I felt attacked. But I tried to keep retaliation out of my reply back to her.  I understand that this is probably Louise’s way of projecting on to me her own insecurities.  So keeping that in mind, I tried to answer MY questions inspired by her words.  How does the fact that I have a disability affect the success of my store?  Does my disability impact my creations? Do I just want sympathy?

Here’s my response to Louise.  Please tell me what you think?: Kathleen Traylor “Louise, my tagline was meant to try to drive people to my About page. To want to know more about me. I think knowing the person who is creating the jewelry makes it more personal. That’s one of the reasons people buy handcrafted as opposed to commercial jewelry. When I buy from Etsy, knowing something about the person that made the product, or a personal creation story makes that product more treasured to me. Not playing on sympathy, but on my strengths, I am a creative person. I’ve had to create alternative ways for me to get things done all my life! I am an actress. And when there wasn’t accessibility to me on the stage, I created a theatre that would offer it, for myself and others like me! I figured out how to snow ski, roller skate, rappel, dance, raise a child alone, and hold down a job. With no legs, a heart defect, a spinal defect, hip and pelvis malformation, and missing fingers.  All with my creative skills! The same skills I put into my jewelry creations. And with the same passion I put into my jewelry creations! And I think prospective buyers might want to know about that!

Do you agree that it takes creativity to live with a disability? Share why (or why not!) in the comments!

In the meantime, I’m trying out this tagline: “No Dis in this Ability!”  Updated 12/26/17:  Changed to “Seven Fingers Zero Toes”

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