The last few months I have been whining a lot, at least I'm sure that's what it sounded like to some people.
This Jewelry Artisans Community blog carnival gives me a good opportunity to whine some more ;-) No, in fact it gives me the chance to explain what has been on my mind. The topic is "Selling vs creating; do we sacrifice our artistic integrity by selling?"
Spontaneously, my answer to that would be - maybe. It really depends on the person, but also their life circumstances. It's so easy for someone who doesn't really need the money or at least doesn't have to live off what they make with their art to tell someone who does that they are selling out by creating according to trends instead of pulling their designs from the deep of their soul.
Of course this topic doesn't just concern jewelry making. How often have you heard of an artist who had a "bread and butter" line and an "artistic" one? Does that automatically mean that the "bread and butter" pieces are not artistic? Are they crap even if the artist is a good one? If he doesn't need to earn his bread and butter, though, because he was born rich for example, but he's still selling his paintings/sculptures etc., he's selling his artistic integrity with them? Does a piece's price determine its artistic value?
This has always been a topic, probably since the first piece was sold by an artisan or artist, and we could discuss it at length, but this post is about my personal experience.
Who is to "blame" that I even started selling? It was the predecessor of JAC, the Starving Jewelry Artists forum. No matter how I try, I have no idea how I found them and why I even had the guts to participate from the start instead of lurking first. I guess they were just too nice and encouraging, shame on them! ;-)
In fact I opened a shop rather quickly after joining the forum. One offer by the forum was to team up newcomers with seasoned sellers as mentors who would give them tips or answer questions. The second thing my mentor told me was if one design had sold to make it again and put it in my shop - and I thought, no way. I don't even like making a second earring which is funny as the first item I ever sold was a pair of earrings.
The thought of making the same things over and over was terrible to me. The thought of making something just because it was "trendy" was terrible to me. If friends asked me "why are you not making this or that" (usually in a style or technique completely different from mine), I knew they meant well, but it still frustrated me. I tried to understand why some pieces sold and the ones that were so dear my heart didn't. I went back and forth between motivation, outbursts of creativity, and self-doubt. I learned that self-promotion is not my thing. There were times when I said I'd throw my jewelry out of the window, but couldn't bear the thought that no one would pick it up. Self-doubt leads to me being just a tad overdramatic ... :-D
I joined venues and left them eventually, one reason being the direction they were headed to. When DaWanda went down, my German market pretty much went down with it because I wasn't on Etsy anymore and my stubborn genes told me not to go back just for the business. I did okay with my shop and sales groups, though (my expectations weren't high after all) ... and then came Covid (ah, we are getting to the whiny part).
Suddenly there were shipping restrictions to the countries where most of my customers are living. I can't even give gifts anymore. I had packed up a parcel for a charity, but it was already too late to send it. The only options to ship are way too expensive for what I am selling. It has been 5 1/2 months now, and to be honest, I don't see anything changing in the next months, and of course there's the problem with USPS as well now, so even if I could ship to the US, would my parcels arrive and when?
|The way I am feeling about 2020 ...|
What happened now was very interesting to me and not really what I would have expected. At some point all motivation to make jewelry had gone. After more than ten years. So had it been about selling after all? Had this been a wake-up call that I was ready to move on and if so, where to? Was this a sign to give up completely? Should I find the motivation to get back into the German market and how? Was it Covid depression? Would I ever be able to create again? Last but not least, what would I be doing with the things I make? Pile them up neatly? Make something, rip it up and make something new? Hadn't that been one of the reasons that I had opened up a shop, so I wouldn't pile up things? So many questions!
I can't answer all of that ... yet. I'm quite sure Covid depression is a part of it. I have hardly left my place since mid-March, and while I have been kind of prepared for it after turning into a bit of a hermit over the last years, it does leave its traces. At least I already know I'm still able to be creative because I started working on bigger personal projects like the doll outfit or the beaded sneakers.
Does this mean my artistic integrity is back now or had it never gone or hadn't I got any in the first place?
As you see, I have more questions than answers myself, but I'd love to hear your story.