This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She's blogged since 2002 about the business side--and the spiritual inside--of art. She says, "I share my experiences so you won't have to make ALL the same mistakes I did...." For ten years, Luann also wrote a column ("Craft Matters") for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She's a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.
Look for the little, hidden reasons you’re not feeling inspired.
Everything is good here in California. The weather is lovely, my public studio gets a small but steady stream of folks passing by and dropping in. My audience here is growing slowly but surely. I have enough lines of work to have different work in several area galleries. And my work is unique enough to be welcomed in many places.
I haven’t been inspired to get any new fiber work made.
Fiber collage, fiber wall hangings, framed fiber pieces, with my handmade artifact embellishments, are where my art all started. Most of these pieces are pricier than my small sculptures and jewelry. I don’t sell as many. But when I do, my bank account gets healthy fast. And the smaller, more affordable fiber works are steady sellers, too.
So why do I keep putting off making more??
I’ve learned that sometimes, when we procrastinate endlessly, there can be very small obstacles holding us back.
Sometimes it’s as simple as figuring out that first next action step. Sometimes it’s a critical supply or tool we’re missing.
A missing tool…. Aha! A few months ago, I realized both of my industrial sewing machines weren’t working. Both got bumped and bruised in the shipping across the country, and both got overheated as they sat in storage while we searched for a place to live once we got here.
In the scurry of moving, unpacking, setting up, and life, I’d been putting off getting them fixed. So I found a local shop that repairs sewing machines, and took them in for service.
But months passed, and no word from the shop. This is where I learned I have to check my phone messages EVERY DAY. (Smart phones don’t have helpful blink red lights that alert me to a phone message.) A part was on order, and it would take more time.
But when six months had passed, and still no results, I finally stopped in to talk with the owner. It turns out he has no experience with this brand, though he did his best. (He loves my work, and wanted to be of service.) He reluctantly referred me down the road to someone who does service this brand. (They actually complement each other’s services, so no hard feelings.
The other shop did the repairs in two days, and now I have both sewing machines in working order.
And still I couldn’t make myself get down to work.
What was the next obstacle?
This one took me awhile to figure out. And when I did, I realized that, unlike the sewing machine issue, it might help YOU, too.
I already had too much finished work hanging (literally!) around.
Rather than store my work, I keep all of it on display in my public studio. The walls are filled with fiber pieces. I have a print bin that holds framed work, too, and it’s full.
Every day when I see them, I would unconsciously think, “Why spend time making more? I don’t even have a place to exhibit what I have!”
This tiny little unconscious thought was holding me back. And when a solution showed itself, I jumped at it.
A jewelry-making friend is now renting a space twice as large as mine, at another artist enclave, a converted warehouse just outside of town. It has many advantages my space doesn’t have: Cheaper rents. A gallery space. Even a part-time sales agent who can meet with prospective clients when the artists aren’t there. It sponsors a monthly meet-and-greet event. And local businesses are seeing it as a great place to purchase art for their buildings.
It’s farther way. It doesn’t have the serendipity of the drop-in customer, which makes my studio space so magical and satisfying. It doesn’t have a built-in local community: Neighbors, a coffee shop, and other flora and fauna that have become our home-away-from home.
It felt like an either/or situation. And as tempting as the new opportunity was, I’m not ready to make that choice.
Until my friend realized a) she needs a little bit more money to justify the rent, as reasonable as it is. And b) she has no need of the large wall space in the display area.
And so she made an offer I couldn’t refuse:
For a modest fee, she offered me the walls in her space for my work.
Within a month or two, I can hang my larger fiber pieces in her space, keeping a few to show my visitors the bigger work I can do. I can participate in the gallery there, too. I’ll have an extra monthly event to market my work.
And I can keep my current studio for myself, creating a sacred, healing, magical space for building those precious connections that are now almost famous for their synchronistic wonder.
Most important of all, I will have empty wall space to fill.
Rather than a constant reminder I am starting over here with my customer base, I will have that itch to fill up my space. And once I get started, I will once again be in the habit of sewing regularly.
Win. Win. Win!!
Now I’d love to hear from YOU.
Does this happen to you, too? Does a backlog of work subtly but surely wear down your heart?
How have you dealt with it? And can you share your solutions with us?
And if this column gives you an idea, share that, too!
P.S. I just got a commission for a small fiber piece, and that is helping, too!