|looking up from inside a tipi... my photo 2011|
I have so many ideas, it seems ridiculous at times. I wonder how I will manage July and August (ie: no time to myself). I get serious withdrawal when I'm not stitching. Last summer, I learned to feel satisfied by all the photography I was collecting for future work. Maybe I'll do a lot more off-line journalling. Journalling is always good therapy. 20 minutes every morning is like mental cobweb dusting and keeps me clearly on a visible path for the rest of the day.
Having all this week of down time has really forced me to step back and assess. Bottom line: I love love love to make my art. I am equally fulfilled by the reactions that people have to my work, and selling them is easy when I see how cherished my babies will be in their new homes. I suppose it's like being a surrogate. It's certainly been an incredible journey to this point.
Since I began, my art has consistently sold. Each successive show, my prices are set higher. The last show at Gardenscape was double the prices from last year. I have nothing left. It all sold. I have since had some very serious discussions with various people. I'm scared to bump it up a notch, but then again, I didn't think my last set of work would sell because I assumed the prices were too high. I was wrong. The advice all around was, "double it! Double your prices!" Part of me thinks that's ridiculously selfish. I suppose there's a hint of, 'am I really worth it?' underlying all that as well. It's a strange dichotomy.
Two people really laid it out for me from a different perspective I had not considered. One man from the provincial craft council told me, "If you want to make a living at your art, then you HAVE to set the prices accordingly." (But am I worth it?) Then last week, a wonderful painter in my class named Elizabeth looked at me over the top of her glasses and waved her finger at me as she talked (can you picture that? It was serious discussion time... ). She asked the question, "What do you want to be doing years from now?" My answer was to sew & get paid for it! (Total pie-in-the-sky.) So she said what he said, "Then you need to make sure that you can support yourself from your art and become totally self sufficient." She is right. This is now my full time job. I thought I was flying pulling in $5000 last year. I'm not flying though. "You can't support yourself on that kind of a wage!" she said.
Then she said something else - and I really understood, because in the big scheme of things, it's not about me. It's about all of us. "When you price your work that low, what does that say to the artisans who are setting their prices to make a living from their work? You are undercutting them and doing them a dis-service to their livelihood." I get that so clearly, however I don't know if I would classify my work at their level. Right? That's a big leap. She corrected me, "But you ARE at that level. What is holding you back? You've taken chances and proven that people still buy your work. You ARE that good, and you have this momentum. You should use it."
I do get it. There are incredible quilt artists in our guild who sell small works for $25 or $30. (hehe - you know who you are!) I have told them, "but you are practically giving your work away - it's worth so much more!". The truth may be that they have the same self worth issues as the rest of us. Likewise, it breaks my heart so see crocheted handmade lacework being sold by their makers for 10 cents at garage sales while wood working goes for hundreds. It's women. It's money. It's our shitty sense of self worth. It's all that rolled into one, and honestly, women kind of suck at this, don't we!?
*** Did you know that the woman who purchased my most expensive piece felt sick about it and asked me if I wanted more money?? *** These are strange growing pains indeed, and completely unfamiliar territory for me.
Okay... I don't know how to end this post. Money is such a horrible topic for me, yet my career is my deepest source of joy. I was planning to journal privately about this on my own, in my head... but I thought we all deserve to crack this topic open and talk about it. So... what say you?