After trying to make it as a metalsmith or an artist for something over 20 years – I give up. Most people give up sooner, but I am very stubborn.
My timing is odd, since I was just featured in Professional Artist Magazine and will have work in another magazine next quarter.
I’m not quitting art, but I am quitting trying to make money from it. People love my art, they connect and laugh when they see Our Ladies of Perpetual Housework. They are moved, a select few people, when they see some of my grief work, such as the medal, The Society of Mothers of Dead Babies. Both of those reactions mean a lot to me. That’s what it’s about, that’s part of why I make art and why I like to display it in libraries, where people are anyway, where they don’t have to make a special trip to see it.
For more than 20 years, I have taught art making at art centers all over the midwest, including the Indianapolis Art Center, Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago, Hinsdale Center for the Arts*, UIC’s Center Studios*, Expressions Graphics, the Oak Park Art League and so many more. *I’ve been at this so long some of those places no longer exist.
Most recently, I taught art at a cancer patient and caregiver support center for two years. I’ve also taught art workshops at libraries, done interactive art experiences at libraries and conferences and led Girl Scouts painting murals, one of those murals is in the collection at Chicago’s international hostel.
I’ve done lots of amazing stuff and tried and tried and tried different ways to make a decent living from art related activities, while also being true to myself and my art and also raising children.
And now, I give up. I am mostly not teaching art right now. I’m writing about craft and art as a paid freelance writer. I’m making my art and I have a new project, but it seems a little odd to tell you about it in the context of this post, doesn’t it? Or maybe not. I’m being real here, and not in an Instagram-faux-vulnerability way.
Why am I telling you this? Why am I posting this on my blog, which is supposed to be a non-stop string of success stories and encouragement to you to keep going in your creativity?
I don’t know. Maybe it’s because when I gave up on trying to make money from art, I also gave up on the pretending, the constant effort to look successful. It’s exhausting, and I just want to tell you the truth, where I stand and what I’m doing now.
Where I stand is that art is important and I will keep making the art that must be made. I will keep up my studio practice. I will not post on Instagram about it, I’ll just do it.
Where I stand is that I’m frustrated with systems that pay everyone but the artist.
Where I stand is that I’m tired.
Where I stand is that I know, I believe that some people can make a living with their art, but I don’t seem to be one of those people.
Will I be able to maintain my commitment to my studio practice, if there’s no hope of earning money? How will I present myself to the world?
I don’t know. But I’ll blog about my progress and let you know.
Yup. I am in the transitioning phase, myself. Moving somewhat more slowly than I’d like, but moving nonetheless towards that point of making what I want and not worrying anymore about money. Want to hear something really ironic? This is the first time that I’ve been super comfortable with calling myself an artist, now that I’m just plain making it and no longer making an income!
Thanks Cyndi! I always appreciate your comments! Congrats on being comfortable calling yourself an artist, that’s really big.
Wow! This hit a chord for me. I get such satisfaction from creating, finding my way through a concept to completion. I taught quilting at shops. The pay I got didn’t cover gas, materials for samples or time spent. I ended that gig.
I have made items to sell at a boutique/consignment shop. What I earn doesn’t cover much more than my fabrics–but the owner has many suggestions as to what we all should make ( to help her cover costs).
I, too, am at the Y in the road to make what I want that gives me enjoyment and satisfies my need to create.
Thank you for writing your post. I am sure there are many artists on this trip.
Thanks for your words of encouragement and taking the time to comment, I really appreciate it! I hope you continue making for yourself!
I hear ya! Making money seems to actually interfere with the artistic muse for me. It’s as if I make my best work when I make it just for me, assuming that it will never sell. And then that work may be the easiest to sell. I think I somehow degrade work to sell by trying to keep the price affordable. I’ve declared 2018 as my “dream work” year, where I move upward toward the pie-in-the-sky work that I’ve been only dreaming of while I try to “grow the business.”
Ah, that’s a wonderful plan Vickie! And I know exactly what you mean about trying to design work for sale. It’s such a paradox and so difficult to carry it out…
I hope you have a wonderful year! I’ll be watching!
Thanks for your comment!
Years ago, a fellow creative got suspicious of all the “roaring success” stories out there about artists/fine craftspeople, and did a little investigative digging. What she found out was jaw-dropping. Very few people could be financially successful without a crew of people working for them, including with the actual production of the work. (So, more “small factory” rather than “personally handmade”.) Most people who were “doing well” either a) had inherited wealth; b) a spouse who made a lot of money; or c) they had a gig on the side, like flipping houses.
At first this was discouraging to me. (“I’ll never be successful!”) But eventually, it gave me hope, and empowered me. And it was the first time I saw the truth of what Anne Lamotte now says: “Never compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.”
I still fall prey to “making a sure seller” (which then never sells, go figure) and second-guess my pricing, and freak out with finding gallery representation.
But then I find my way back to the place where I make the work that means something powerful to me, that’s beautiful to me, and I am restored to myself.
I’m glad you’ve shared this, it takes courage, an open heart, and an inquiring mind to go beyond what we want to believe, and what is, and do the work anyway.
Can I just say amen…