It's been over a year since I sold any work. I let all the listings expire in my Etsy shop, and I withdrew the inventory I had at our local arts center. It felt good not to have to be in production mode, or to have to photograph, describe and list items, or to have to track orders or wrap and send them out. I relished having the studio dedicated to a more "pure" end: art for art's sake. The decision to close down the commercial side of my studio was a turning point for sure.
The feelings that come with making something for the sole purpose of selling it - that it somehow corrupts the other work and therefore isn't something I should do because maybe I won't be taken seriously- are feelings I've struggled with my entire creative career. Drives. ME. NUTS.
Truth to tell, I miss a lot of what was involved. I especially miss the confirmation I felt when someone was actually willing to part with their money to purchase something I had done. I miss wrapping the work in a special way with ribbons and hangtags, including a special thank you gift, and imagining the happiness of the person who got to unwrap my effort. Designing the "look" and all the peripheral items was pure joy. And it was lovely to have some extra money to spend on things for the studio.
Yesterday I received an order I had made from Bookhou Designs on Etsy. I've long lusted after their wares, and treated myself to a small cross-body bag and pouch in the black triangle design they handprint on heavy canvas. It came wrapped in simple brown paper, tied up with off-white twill tape that held a small card with my name handwritten on it:
Simple. Special. Perfect.
Beautiful creative work by artists - sold with confidence and without apology. Beautifully wrapped and personalized, a pure and soul-filled offering.
What is it about that that touches me so? That triggers the yearning to present my work for sale again? That makes me want to dive head first into surface design, and accessory design, and tinkering with beads and wire? How could that possibly work with what I present on my website - the work that I present in galleries and exhibitions? Can the two work together? I don't know... maybe?
What I do know for sure is that I enjoy making functional work just as much as I need to make work that isn't. Yesterday, before the package arrived, I made a sleeve for my MacBook Air out of a placemat I had found on sale at Target. Just two seams, a bit of sashiko inspired stitching, a teensy fabric scrap, a vintage button - and it was finished:
Simple. Special. Perfect.
For me, anyway. (I especially love the wonky stitches that I purposely didn't "un-wonk".)
Making it satisfied my desire to surround myself with things that bring me joy; to replace a mass-produced, soul-less item with something that I treasure precisely because of it's soul. The items from Bookhou have that same sense of soul. You just know that it was made by artists who love what they do and who love sharing their work. And who are supporting themselves doing what they love.
Maybe I just need to admit - and accept once and for all - that the Gemini in me is insisting that I recognize both sides of my creative self.
Fact: Making both non-functional work and the functional work allows me to express my spirit in different ways.
Fact: I enjoy making work that people simply look at as well as work they use.
Fact: I enjoy having someone want to pay for something I've done.
Fact: I need to figure out how to present for sale - with confidence and no apology - nonfunctional and functional work together - so that it reads as an inviting, cohesive whole.
Maybe the answer lies in that confusion. Maybe I really need to consider having my non-functional work intentionally inspire my functional work and visa-versa. I can definitely "see" my non-functional work when I look at the computer sleeve. Maybe I can find the balance between the two ways of working by adjusting the boundaries a bit so it's easier to "see" the common threads.
Maybe they can't be presented together. Maybe they can.
Maybe I just need give the co-inspiration idea a try. I'll let you know what happens.
: : Karen Anne