Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Death by Artattack

I don't mind admitting that I'm exhausted. Not only by the relentless last two years that involved writing a 365 page, heavily researched book on 365 completely different topics followed by a mad 4-month dash to create inventory in time for a festival and teaching at a retreat. That was all exhausting, no question. But what I find even more bone-crushingly draining is the suspicion that maybe this sort of artistic life isn't really viable after all.

Working every hour God sends six days a week isn't so bad when it's work that you like, but even people doing work they like need a break sometimes. Even work you like has its demanding, frustrating, annoying moments. And at the end of the day standing behind that work, laid out naked and exposed on a table like a newborn infant, smiling at strangers, hoping they "get it" and connect with your vision, and fall in love and Must. Have. It. and feeling your heart sink as they admire and handle and then ultimately walk away empty-handed, that, my friends, not only takes great courage, but I'm beginning to fear, great stupidity.

A friend who has made a desperate effort to keep her artistic endeavors going but has made no secret about the fact that the struggle may soon prove fatal to her business said, "People tell me to hang in there and not quit but then they don't buy anything. If no one buys anything how can I stay in business?" Heading home with almost nothing to show for my efforts, her words ringing in my ears, I can't help but wonder, does the world really need art the way I need art? Because I need it passionately. I need all kinds. I need art in my clothing, my possessions, my tools, my surroundings, on my walls, in my house, all around me. But maybe I'm alone.

Maybe the world is happy with stock pictures in frames from big chain stores and mass produced clothes and million-of-a-kind possessions. Maybe the world isn't as dedicated as I am to expressing myself in every way possible, part of which is by purchasing real things, things someone made with their hands, not mass produced by machine in a third world country from dubious materials where the laborers got paid $1/day for their work. Yes, maybe that means I don't own as much, but what I own has meaning to me, whether for what it represents about me or the connection I felt the maker express in its creation.

Are you happy, world? Do you feel a deep sense of connectedness with the mass produced? Should artists all hang up their tools and get 9-5 jobs instead of 24-hour-a-day jobs? Should art be allowed to die a dignified, if very lonely death? Because if that's the case I'd rather let it die now while there's still some shred of dignity still clinging to it than watch it get beaten to death over the course of agonzing months only to lie gasping and suffering on the pavement outside the next venue, or the next, or the next when it finally, inevitably dies of a lack of interest.

If you like artists, won't you consider supporting them? There are so many to choose from. Support their vision and their way of life. Most people think artists live a very lackadasical life but the very opposite is true. Yes, they may get supreme satisfaction from their work but it's generally never-ending. It begins the moment their minds engage in the morning and doesn't turn off until they pass out at night. Artist does not equal slacker, quite the opposite. And they can only live off their art if people see value in it and purchase it. End of story.

I'm trying to do my part. I support other artists by purchasing their products for myself and to use in my own work. But there needs to be a collective, concentrated effort if the little artist is going to survive. The next time you need to buy a gift, dare I suggest you check out the work of artists before going to a major chain? Handmade is so much more personal. If you don't know what they like artisan sites like Etsy offer Etsy gift cards so the lucky person can choose for themself.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, please feed the artists; they're starving. Do more than "like" someone's work. Purchase it so they can make more. Or, before you know it, there won't be anymore.


  1. Hear, hear!
    I feel the same way.
    Sending you strength.

  2. I'm sure you know you are not alone in your feelings. So much of the world seems to be hung up on the CHEAPEST thing available. People have sometimes looked at my price and made a counter-offer so low I am shocked. I think about the hours I spent making that thing -- and how little value they perceive in it -- and I'd rather give it away to a person who would appreciate it than sell for that price.

    When I look at my own possessions, I find that the things I love most are the things I made myself. Second are the things made by people I know. I like handmade things, but if they were made by strangers, somehow, they don't mean quite as much. I think there is a clue here for artists. The more people know about you, the closer they feel to having a "relationship" with you, the more they will want and value your work. Your efforts at social media are a step in that direction.

    People also seem to value things made by people who are "famous." Perhaps you could do something scandalous that would bring media attention! That doesn't seem to be your nature, however. Maybe something noble and generous instead (I'm thinking of the company that gives away a pair of shoes for every pair they sell).

    I have told people to "hang in there" -- you don't know what will happen tomorrow, it might be the first day of your meteoric rise to success, but that's really a decision you have to make on your own. In the end, it's not about what price people are willing to pay -- it's about what price YOU are willing to pay.

    1. Well, let's say I'm eternally optimistic that I'm not alone. :^) Love your reply...very insightful. I've actually been thinking along the "noble and generous" lines...I have designed a knitted breast prothesis pattern and I had intended to sell it...but I think instead I'm going to give it away for free. It seems more in keeping. Does that count for noble and generous?

      BTW, I'm going to frame your last paragraph and repeat it to myself every day. Thanks!!

    2. I confess I know nearly nothing about fiber arts or breast prosthesis, but yes, I think that would be generous. At the same time, remember what the airlines tell you about traveling with a child: Put your oxygen mask on first, then help your kid. If your business goes under, you won't be able to help.

      So when you give away that pattern, you might include a note that mentions angora as the most comfortable yarn (?) and that excellent angora yarn is available from: Reindeer Station Farm.

      Best of luck!

  3. Well said! Sorry if this is a duplicate comment. Trying to use phone to multi-task while I'm still at work trying to keep MY art job alive.

  4. LOL!! Love it!! I don't know if angora would be the most comfortable fiber for that purpose, particularly in the summer, but in the winter...it far surpasses wool. It was actually used in WWII to line the uniforms of bomber pilots and U Boat sailers to keep them warm. The Nazi's even had an angora breeding program to provide wool for their troops. A book belonging to Himmler was discovered that detailed the program and had photos of the rabbits in the concentration camps where they were raised: http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/whi/feature/angora/ But anyway, the IDEA is a good one!! Thanks!