Shaping Destiny: A Quest for Meaning in Art and Life
by Destiny Allison

CreateSpace, 2012. ISBN 978-1-468-07733-9.
Reviewed by Sharon Lippincott
Posted on 08/29/2012

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Creative Life; Nonfiction: Arts/Crafts

Not until I was several chapters into Destiny Allison's memoir, Shaping Destiny: A Quest for Meaning in Art and Life, did I make the connection between the author's name and the book title. When the lights finally went on, I was awestruck at the depth of the aptness. I could literally feel slippery clay beneath my hands as she described working on her sculptures, and my sense of her inner self slowly changing profoundly deepened. The continual dance between the state of her sculptures, her search for the meaning of words, and her understanding of various elements of her life thrilled me.

Before reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the process of additive sculpture, and I was fascinated by her explanations of the process, from concept through casting.

Sculpture served well as both metaphor and mechanism for her personal transformation from a traditionally female role to that of a self-determining, self-aware professional artist. Her interwoven accounts of the sculpture process and the evolution of her thinking helped me realize that the sculpture process is also an apt metaphor for the writing process, and presumably any creative process. She begins with a concept and builds a structure (armature) to support the further development of that process. Then she layers on the substance, adding layers of meaning and detail. Ultimately she gets down to the final steps of crafting the visible surface. Her concept is subject to change as the project evolves.

This much I followed easily. It corresponds perfectly to the writing process, with the initial outline or intention for the project followed by layers of paragraphs and scenes, each independently constructed. Ultimately, final editing polishes specific words and phrases to a shine, and the message may shape-shift between conception and publication.

Her studio encounters are also meaningful to writers. The tight-knit cluster of kindred spirits working together in her studio served as a sounding board for Allison, and presumably also for each other, much like a writing group, as they challenged each other and hammered out concepts and meanings.

As much as I related to and was inspired by this book, it also strengthened my awareness that there are limits to what we can convey with mere words, primarily due to the lack of shared background. I knew next to nothing about the sculpture process before reading this book. I learned a lot. I would have learned even more if she had included illustrations. I got lost when she began discussing abstract terms like intersecting planes, the symbolism of shapes, and negative space. I feel certain these are meaningful concepts, but as adroit as she is with words, those lofty abstractions did not come through. I am disappointed that I am unable to find pictures anywhere of the early poem sculpture that filled several chapters of the book, shaped her thinking, and put her on the map as a sculptor.

Despite that lack, her skill in describing her process and the passionate enquiry she engaged in to deepen her own understanding and skill are inspiring. In the end, I realized that these insights are highly personal, and we must each work them out for ourselves, in our own way and time. She uses clay. I use words. Others may use paint, musical instruments, acting, or physical activity. The choice of medium matters less than the use of one to discover and express our personal truth. Eventually, some of this truth may be beneficial and inspiring to others, but she seems to be saying that at least in the early stages, the fundamental value is more in the process than the finished product.

Allison did a superb job of pouring her heart and soul onto the page and creating an inspiring volume that bridges sculpture to other creative arts and life in general. Just as I do not share her passion for her specific art genre, but do recognize the value of her process, I also do not share her family background, but found the evolution of her family relationships both heartwarming and encouraging.

In closing, I want to commend Allison on the quality of her book. She chose to self-publish her work on CreateSpace, and it is professional in every respect. The cover is compelling, the layout is elegant and eminently readable, and I didn't notice a single typo or grammatical error. She deserves extra kudos for exhibiting the same professionalism in publishing as she does in her art.

Read an excerpt from this book.

Destiny Allison was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1968. She spent a number of years in Boston, Massachusetts and returned to Santa Fe in 1998. She is an internationally-known, award-winning metal sculptor, and a business woman. Recently she was named business woman of the year in Santa Fe. Her first book, Shaping Destiny: A Quest for Meaning in Art and Life, was published in March, 2012. It is fast becoming a "must-read" for women, artists, and individuals interested in transforming their lives through creative endeavor. Visit her website.

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