The learning curve

Today is truly the first day of the rest of my life. I’m at a turning point. Yesterday was my last day working at the department store where I’d worked for over a year selling brazierres. I really believed that I’d be working there for a very, very long time, while I took online classes embarking upon a new career path. But an opportunity came along that I couldn’t pass up. Now I’m back in the art biz, no more school and no more retail. I’ll be working much longer hours than I was at the department store and making much less money, but I know I’ll be happier. I’m my own boss now and I’ll be doing something I love: art.

It’s scary though. When I’d tried this art business thing before (before I went to work in what I called “The Bra Forest”) I had yet to turn a profit after 2+ years. I can’t seem to think like a “business” person and not like an “artist” person. I have no problem sitting and making beautiful things with my hands. What I have a problem with is turning those things into cash money. I don’t even have a problem letting go of the things I create; I have a problem accepting money for them. I have a problem putting a dollar value on things. I know that this is a problem that many career artists have, especially ones that didn’t earn master’s degrees in art, where they supposedly teach you how to market yourself as an artist.

I want to just sit and make things hour after hour and let somebody else do all the rest. But I’d have to pay them, wouldn’t I. For instance, I don’t know how to take good photos… yet. I don’t know how to sell my wares on the internet… yet. I don’t know anything about making a website… yet. I don’t even know how to put my own “stamp” on the style of this blog, rather than use a pre-made template. I don’t speak HTML or CSS… yet. I don’t know good bookkeeping or all I need to know for tax purposes… yet. I’m willing to learn, even eager, and I hope to use this blog to share what I learn as I learn it. But, people, it’s probably going to be a very, very big learning curve.


12 responses

  1. Sometimes I think the person writing this blog isn’t the same one with all the beautiful artwork! Your work is fabulous. Your photos are gorgeous! I get it though. I am the same way. I just want to make things and not have to worry about the selling part.
    It is the bane of my existence. Glad to know I am not alone!


  2. Oh my gosh, I totally relate to every word you said! Having said that, congratulations on your new adventure! Your booth is absolutely beautiful-what an investment! Where is your new booth located? I wish you the best! -Marlene Brady


  3. My booth is located nowhere at the moment. It’s in boxes in storage. I was doing art shows before and plan to again, but I missed the deadlines for most 2011 shows. Once I know what shows I’ll be doing and when, I’ll put up a page on my blog with venues and dates. Thanks, Marlene!


  4. I have been on all sides of the counter and classroom. There are tons of resourses. I would suggest reading the Crafts Report. I am also on a learning curve. I have had to change my life due to my health. The change meant I had to retire from a very public art admin. position, add high stress, high pressure, little to no professional support. It’s all good, I am in my studio 24/7 if I wish. I But everything you mentioned I, also, have yet to do…selling, converting art into dollars. I would love to share the journey w/ you….well, I guess I already do thanks to your blog. 🙂


  5. Thanks, Billi. Part of sharing means listening as well as writing, so I will also always be listening and I really appreciate all comments. I subscribed to The Crafts Report before and should renew my subscription.


  6. I know of know one who actually likes marketing their art, but it’s worth it Deb! Think of it this way: you could spend 40 hours/week selling lingerie at the mall like you were – OR – you could spend a couple hours/day marketing your art work. In other words, trade the day job you had for a new day job – marketing your art work. The best part of the new day job is it takes much less time than the old day job, which gives you more time to do what you love!!


  7. For twenty-five years I played with clay and loved the interaction with my customers. Over the years I developed personal relationships with so many of those customers that I now feel like a member of their families. Three years ago I was diagnosed with rhuematoid arthritis after two years of middle of the night visits to the ER. My career was taken from me and at 51 I was a woman without a creative outlet. A two year stint as an elementary school library assistant was a godsend. I was able to be creative in displaying new books and introducing new authors to students. Although my customers were much younger I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them. Budget cuts and politics have put me back at home with a studio, clay, ideas, and time on my hands. For twenty-five years I was proud of what I did. In the last three years I have discovered so many artists so much more talented than me. It’s difficult to start over again. You, however, are an amazing artist and should be sharing your gorgeous creations with the public. I wish you the very best of luck as you begin yet another chapter of your life.


  8. I admire you for your honesty and bravery. I too am learning to build a website, take pictures etc. Sometimes I am frozen with anxiety, I make my beads and then there they sit, now what. By putting it out there and moving forward I am working through those moments. I know you will too. Your work is wonderful! Thanks for sharing.


  9. Thank you, Kim! Yes, as a working artist trying make a living we have to wear a LOT of different hats, don’t we? It can be really scary, daunting, difficult, or even just downright boring and tedious sometimes. But the good news is: we aren’t working for someone else, we’re doing what WE want to do the way WE want to do it. And, to me, that makes it all worth it in the end. Best of luck to you!


  10. I know exactly where you are coming from – I could have written the same words. I create and need to create and learn all the time. Selling and marketing……..And yet there are people very successfully selling and marketing and speaking a language I don’t understand. I have done 9 years of retail work, one in an interior design store and for some of the remainder I have displayed my work in our shop. Even having it right there under my nose did not make me a good sales person at selling my “babies”. I could sell anything else – because there was no mental attachment. This is despite not minding parting with work. Now, without the shop I have to develop some marketing strategy and know full well, that it will trap me into repeatedly re-creating successful projects. It also means I have to streamline production. it’s a big hurdle to jump.
    go easy on yourself and do it one step at a time.


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