Thursday, February 8, 2007

Fairy Tales

Once upon a time there was an artist. This artist made the most beautiful work. She would spend hours in her studio, never tiring of the process, and never lacking for inspiration. And as each piece was finished, magically, a buyer would appear, ready to pay whatever price was asked, in order to acquire the just finished work. Occasionally, magazines or books would contact the artist, begging her to share a bit about her work in their publications. Museums wanted to have her work in their exhibits. Needless to say, she lived happily ever after.

Okay, the fairy tale is over. The real life of a working artist once in awhile touches on some of the magic above. But more often, it is work. There are orders to be filled, or inventory to create for shows. Materials, packaging supplies, and more need to be ordered. Finished work needs to be packed and shipped. Receipts need to be tracked. Books need to be kept up to date. Sales tax payments need to be made. Inspiration sometimes goes into hiding, and doing one more whatever is threatens to send you over the proverbial edge. Applications for shows, photography, submissions for articles or books, designing a booth display, and so many other tasks are on the list of things to do. Besides spending time in the studio, you are an entrepreneur, running a business.

You need capital. You need to be able to sell your work and promote your business. You need to be organized enough to keep track of the paperwork and financial record keeping. You need to figure out how you are going to package that amazing piece, and will it be able to survive a trip across country in a box?

Why would anyone want to take all this on? Well, for one thing, most people are not thinking about all these other responsibilities. The transition may sneak up on them. Some are in denial. They don't want to acknowledge the business side of being a working artist.....and they may be the ones most rapidly doomed to failure.

Or, some, like me, realized they were not so well suited to working for someone else. And working hard to make this business work, with all the inherent risks and sacrifices, are well worth the trade-offs. I actually like a lot of the business side of it all. I get satisfaction in seeing the efforts on this area get results.

And, I love the fact that every day, or very nearly everyday, I am in my studio. I wake up with ideas of things I want to explore, and can't wait to get my hands on the clay. Or I wake up with a list of projects I need to tackle on the business side, and I am ready to dig in. I get satisfaction in seeing the small but necessary improvements in my work over time. It is never ending work, but I am not planning when I can take my next mental health day!

It is hard work. But the rewards are inumerable. Nothing beats that first sale. Or the first time your work appears in an article or book. This past year I had three shows use pictures of my work in their promotional advertising. Talk about affirmation! I was floored and ecstatic. But each success is just a moment. It does not stop the need or the desire to get back to work. Back in the studio, or back to the paperwork. I have only been at this for three years, so I am still on the learning curve. I hope that by sharing some of my experiences, and some of what I have learned, it may help light the path for those of you hoping to explore this unfamiliar terrain.

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