Robin Atkins posed an interesting question on her blog, Beadlust
, the other day. The subject was "selling our art." Specifically, she said "What do you think? Is the real payoff the creative process? How do you deal emotionally with a disappointing sales experience or being rejected by a gallery or for a show?"
I have to confess to a split personality on this issue.
My earliest experience with crafting was from the point of view of making things to sell. I was 16 and I made stuffed animals from a pattern using scraps I begged from family and neighbors, stuffing them with anything and everything from Easter grass to old nylon stockings - being totally unaware that such a thing as polyfil even existed. I sold them for $5 each. Whatever I made was with the view toward selling it, which calls for a certain discipline of mind. You can't take anything personally. You find the thing to make which will sell, whether it's art or not. And you can never underestimate the taste of the general public.
I've done quite a few craft fairs since then. Once I sold nearly everything on my table because 1. my wares were relatively inexpensive (I was a last minute addition to a high-end craft fair), 2. they were well made, and 3. they were general in nature (good choice for any age/gender group). They were Japanese style hand-bound blank books. I mass-produced them in my kitchen.
At another fair, I brought out all my 'art' jewelry as well as a few books. I sold almost nothing that day. The woman sharing my booth made incredible, detailed wooden jigsaw puzzles and sold not a one. Across from us was a woman selling time out dolls.
I can't bring myself to post a picture of one here because I think they're unbelieveably AWFUL and disturbing on more than one level. If you don't know what they are, the link will take you to the Google search and you can see for yourself. Anyway, back then they were the New Thing, and this woman did thousands of dollars of business that day. Art Vs Commerce. You can't take it personally.
I made wholesale earrings for a gift shop - they were simple rectangles of polymer clay, decoupaged with bits of gift wrap paper and a bead or two glued on, coated with Future floor polish. Not art by any means, but the money I made bought the groceries more than once.
I can't speak to the experience of being turned down by a show or a gallery - I've been lucky there. And luck most certainly does play its part in this.
When we make art, though, when something inside cries to be made and you invest all of yourself in the creation of it - there's a whole other mindset that takes over. An emotional attachment to the piece and a deep sense of pride enters the scene and it is VERY hard not to take it personally when it sits there, seemingly unwanted. You have to remind yourself when you offer this piece for sale that it may take a long time for it to come to the attention of the Right Person, one who can see what you saw (and perhaps more), who understands and honors your work by valuing it (almost as highly as you do) by paying your price. When they find you, though, that's the total cherry on top.
I still make both - commercial pieces and art pieces - one is just to make money, the other is for personal satisfaction. When there's a slow-down in the the economy, art will suffer. I've had art pieces AND commercial pieces in my Etsy shop for almost two years! I don't take it personally - it simply means they haven't been seen yet by that Right Person. When you understand just how many jewelry makers/beaders/doll makers there are selling on the internet, in galleries and at craft shows, you realize how fierce your competition is - and how important it is to develop your own unique, recognizable style.
I believe if you make art for its own sake, the reward is within you.