Selling and creating

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.

Here's what other JAC members have to say about this, please stop by :-)

My Bijou Life
Jewelry Art by Dawn


  1. I had to giggle about your remark that you don’t even like to make a second earring, because I am the same. My earring designs will probably remain fairly simple for that reason.

    It’s hard to tell how much Covid-depression affects creativity, but I know it likely affects all of us to some degree. As you will read on my post about this subject, I felt that I needed to potential for someone to buy my stuff, because I like to make pieces that don’t necessarily fit my personal style. Hence my return to Etsy.

    As to selling out, if someone can make a living with their art, then more power to them. Will their art be affected? Probably to some degree, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

    1. I don't have a personal style the way you do, but don't mind to wear anything with my shirts and jeans, so that's not my problem, but I don't even get to wear much jewelry now that I'm not going anywhere.
      Covid has changed so much that I feel I think a LOT about where I stand with my creative ventures and where I want or am able to go. That puts a big damper on my creativity which is difficult as it has been such a big part of my life for years.

  2. Cat, I don't know if my comments will be helpful, but let me start by saying you are one of the most creative people I have ever known. The other is my friend Mindy who can literally make something out of nothing. She and her husband were once stranded in the middle of nowhere when their car broke down. This was before the days of cell phones and when they realized they were going to be spending the night in their car, Mindy started thinking about how they might make a meal out of the groceries they had with them (a steak and some corn on the cob). She gathered some wood, managed to get a small fire going and cooked the steak and corn using one of the hubcaps from the car as a grill. Honestly, she is one amazing woman and so are you.

    I get how discouraging artistic journey can be, but you must promise you'll never quit (take a break sure, but no quitting!). I too have had these feeling of doubt and wondered why I continue and for what reasons. One time, I was so upset about all the time I spend making jewelry and the lack of sales that I ripped the earrings from my ears and threw them in a garbage can as I was walking down the street. I feel kind of bad about that now, as I imagine those earrings ended up in a landfill never to be enjoyed by me or anyone else again. But, in a way it made me feel good too - like sort of liberating in some perverse way.

    Sooooo, what am I going with all this rambling? I'm not really sure, except I wanted to let you know that I think all of us struggle with the questions you have been asking yourself and that Covid has added another layer of anxiety to our lives. It just basically sucks how things are right now, but my hope is that we'll be able to hang in there and find that eventually life will be good and right again.

    Hang in there, my dear friend.

    1. I love the story of your friend Mindy!
      It also reminds me of a scene in Richard Powell's book "Pioneer, Go Home" from 1959 in which they used hubcabs to make a pot. Haven't read that one in a while.

      I like the story of the earrings, too. Never thought you could be that impulsive!
      I think this is not so much about selling at the moment, though. On another occasion I mentioned that I felt as if I was creating in a vacuum. I keep staring at the parcel for charity that is packed up, but that I can't send. I promised friends gifts that I can't send.
      We probably got too used to anything being possible globally.

      I don't think I could ever give up being creative completely, but at the moment it's like trying to find the right path. Which will hopefully lead me to a finished doll outfit next ...

      Thank you for the encouraging and sweet words, my friend <3

    2. Cat, is your vacuum a feeling of what's the point of bothering at all? If so, I think that's another thing many of us experience. I'm not sure there is an answer to that question except that for many creating gives a sense of purpose, an outlet, peace of mind and just overall satisfaction at accomplishing something. Humans need to have something to do with both their minds and their hands. If what they create is useful in the sense that it can perform some sort of task, that's a bonus. But, I think something that simply sits on a shelf to be displayed is also useful as it brings pleasure to our eyes and our minds. Glad you enjoyed the Mindy story - I could go on about Mindy and her creativity/resourcefulness all day long. Plus, no one can make me laugh the way Mindy can!

    3. I don't get that satisfaction at all from jewelry at the moment or maybe I'm even stuck in a stage before that. It's not about not having vague ideas (my ideas are usually vague at first), but not feeling the urge at all to act.
      It wouldn't even be displayed, it goes into a drawer, so it just doesn't seem worth the effort.

      That's probably why I'm more drawn to the bigger projects now which actually are on display but don't give me that rather instant gratification, though, that I need sometimes.
      Even those only get displayed for myself, however. It is a weird and sometimes discouraging feeling, and it makes me wonder if other artisans and artists feel the same and how they deal with it.

      Here's to Mindy! :-D