Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit

With Good Intentions

4 Comments

More often than not, when someone makes a suggestion or recommendation to you it is with good intentions.  This happens frequently in the art world.  Friends, family, gallery owners, customers and collectors, they all want to share with you their opinion, offer a suggestion, or make a recommendation.

When we start out in our art businesses we are like sponges; absorbing everything we can, taking it all in, listening, and learning.  Then we gather the courage to approach a gallery to sell our work or apply to a show.  Yes!  And if we are fortunate our work is accepted into the gallery or into the show.

So now we’re happily selling and a suggestion comes along; “Have you thought about making polka-dot widgets? I think they’d sell really well.” “I think you should check out the Twiddly Fest.  It is great and people sell a lot.”

Hmm, okay, that isn’t something that I normally make or a show I’ve thought about doing but maybe I’ll try it. 

So now you’ve made 30 polka dot widgets and after three months not a single one has sold.  Or you try the Twiddly Fest and you question whether the other work is handcrafted or imported and wonder why everyone is buying the $5 and $10 blippities.  Your work is nice, people have said so, but then they look at your prices and put it back on the table.

Good Intentions.  What happened?

Swept up by the excitement of our work being purchased and being encouraged by people with an interest in our work we often take some steps that aren’t true to our nature.  It is all part of the learning process and part of gaining self-confidence.  Internally we question the suggestion or recommendation and yet sometimes we convince ourselves to give it a go even though we still feel a little unsure about it.

Believe me I’ve been there, done that.

When artist friends who are starting out are faced with these situations I recommend the following:

  • Walk the show if at all possible.  See for yourself firsthand if your work fits in (quality, price point, etc.) 
  • If you can’t walk the show, ask someone who has done the show what their impressions were.  Ask about the promoter’s organization, layout, support, marketing and who the people are that come to this show.  Doing a show is more than just how much someone sold.
  • The same applies to a store or gallery that someone might recommend.  Visit the store first.  You’re ultra modern work may not fit in with the country decor.
  • Make a sample of the suggested item to see if it can be constructed and/or if it really is what the person envisioned. 
  • Or make a few pieces to sell on a trial basis.  If they do sell well you can always make more.  If they don’t sell you now have all these widgets in your inventory with no place to go.
  • Begin to learn the market you are trying to target with your work.  Think demographics (male/female, age, income, city/suburban/rural and so forth.)  A general idea is better than no idea.
  • Go with your gut feeling.  You can graciously thank the person for their suggestion or recommendation and tell them you’ll consider it.  And you should think about it even if for only a short period of time.  You’ll know if it feels right.

That last one isn’t always easy.  It can take some time to get there because we want to see our work sell.  We want to make money.  We want people to enjoy our work.  But if you don’t truly enjoy making it yourself all the best intentions won’t matter.

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4 thoughts on “With Good Intentions

  1. Hi Amy, Wonderful post! What great advice to artists just starting out. It is truly a challenge to find that comfortable balance between creating work to sell and creating work that expresses our spirit. I sort of did it backwards – sell first, find voice second. There was a lesson in that however. I discovered what I didn’t want to do which then led me to what really resonated with me. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to say in my work. Perhaps that is an ongoing journey though because we change and evolve as human beings so therefore our expression, “our voice” will change and evolve as well. -Karen

  2. You make a good point, Karen, regarding the “order” of the process. I’ve heard of artists who won’t sell their work until they’ve perfected the process, technique, or found their “voice.” And then there are the rest of us who jump in with both feet and try a little bit of everything until we find our “voice.” I don’t think one way is any better than the other. Sometimes you don’t know what that “voice” is until you’ve tried a few different media or different forms within a particular medium. I think it is fun to experiment and play around with different techniques. That keeps you creative and motivated. What is important is knowing that almost all of us experience this same situation. If we didn’t keep growing as artists I think we’d stagnate.

  3. Hi,
    I just love your art dolls and all the things you make. I don’t care for jewelry too much, so I make home decor like coasters, fan pulls and things like that which are useful, but I’m not feeling real creative now with that. It’s more what will be marketable, instead of creative, so I am putting that on the back burner and try some mixed media, and maybe go back into my life and do things from that. Only I will know what they are about, and they are bound to be nuts. Thanks again for sharing,
    Patti

  4. Hi Patti,

    I understand how you feel. I’ve dealt with and continue to deal with similar feelings about my functional art (bottle stoppers, card cases, etc.) It is hard to find the balance between having to make those items that are your “bread and butter” and those items that speak to your spirit. One thing I’m trying to work on is finding ways to take techniques or designs that speak to my spirit and incorporate them into my “bread and butter” pieces. That way I might be able to meld the best of both worlds.

    It is also important though to play with your art. Sometimes working in another medium will refuel your other art.

    Good luck!

    Amy

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