I don’t know about your experience, but they didn’t really teach us much in the way of professional practice in art school. I’m astounded by people who seem to innately grasp all of the facets of a well-honed marketing machine for their art. I’ve read around it ad-nauseum, taken notes, beta-tested, re-tested and refined further still, but it still all seems so cumbersome. Like what it must be like learning to drive a mech-suit in science fiction films. We are soft bodies inside some kind of apparatus with lots of moving parts.
Neckpiece with matching hoops and cuff; early iterations of bread and butter lines.
Even after all the labor involved in designing and making, you still have to document, inventory, price and post to social media and blogs, send an e-newsletter blast, rework your booth display, physically pack it in and out and then man the event. Before that, you paid for the privilege of being there in the first place, or you paid for the web store that you are now left to drive traffic toward, or you work with a gallerist who always has their own ideas for your work, which you then consign. You need many of these to create a livelihood, with returns that seasonally ebb and flow like like sap from the sugar bush, to be boiled down to a small, but sweet, profit.
Then there’s taxes, health insurance and, with luck, an hourly wage – forget retiring. You practically have to have a degree just to know what all goes into making it all fly, so it’s no wonder there’s often skepticism around the asking price. To devalue handwork now, we must also be devaluing a shared history of cottage industry, folk medicine and lore. If the average person ever wrestled with carving wood, forging steel, weaving baskets, or stitching stories together; they would easily recognize the preciousness of something handmade.
Copper neckpiece and hoop set; too theatrical and heavy for anyone but me, it seems.
Committing to this line of inquiry is kind of like signing on to never be off the clock. There’s no way to shut off the flow of thoughts and inspiration that funnels into these things. Even if I’m not physically at work producing a piece right at the moment, it’s a constant murmur in the back of my mind. Sometimes it feels like there’s a web stretched out across my space, capturing little insights as they flutter by. Or I’m a sea anemone rooted to site, filter feeding on whatever the constant flow of news-feed brings in. All these bits and pieces are then put together to form the semblance of a whole.