Saturday, April 13, 2013
Selling my work
I sold a piece of my work yesterday. An old friend contacted me last week and said he would like to buy a piece of my work. He looked at the pieces posted in the tabbed pages at the top of this blog and chose one he liked and arranged to come out to the studio to pick it up. He brought his friend, an artist, to see the studio and it was a lovely interchange. At one point he asked, "When you sell a piece, do you miss it, or are you just happy to have the money?" I laughed a little at the question and answered that I am happy to have the money. Which is true, but not really the entire answer to his question.
I actually love selling my work. The saddest thing in my studio is the stack of unsold work upstairs in the storage space. Selling a piece of artwork is the most affirming thing I know. Better than having it published, better than getting into a big show. It means someone else has connected to it in a way that means they will pay for it and make it part of their life and surroundings. That is hugely, HUGELY gratifying. And selling something that is a personal favorite of mine, is the best. I don't have as much anxiety about whether the new owner will really like it or whether I have sold him something with serious flaws that he will recognize down the road.
And the other part—will I miss the piece of artwork? Oddly, not really. For one thing, I photograph everything I do and make sure I have good photos. I can always go back to them if I need an image or want to show a sampling of what I have done to someone. But more than that, by the time I finish something it has given me all that I needed from it. Sometimes what I needed was a big, tangled messy challenge. Sometimes it is discovery. Sometimes it is finding out what does not work. It always provides the problem-solving part of the design, the pleasure and sensual joy of choosing the fabrics and seeing how they play together, the solitary, contemplative parts of pinning up pieces and choosing the best combinations and beginning to see the piece coming together. There is a wonderful smell of hot fabric, being ironed. There is the hypnotic hum of the sewing machine. There is a process of talking to oneself. "Damn, I should have used a fabric with more contrast here. No, this is probably OK.... No it isn't OK. Damn." Then resignation and the task of picking out stitches and replacing the bad with better. And you know you made the right decision, even if you did have to pick out those tight little stitches. That's a good feeling. And then it is finished and I sit and look—for a long time. Sometimes what I thought was finished really isn't and back it goes to the table for something more—or less. Then I am happy, and the work is ready for someone else to enjoy in a different way.
And the money, the other other part. That's a sticky part for a lot of artists. I know some people who just can't bring themselves to ask for money for their work. And some, who maybe are too focused on the money, making "sale-able" a priority that overrides their other aspirations for their work. For me it is a largely unemotional issue. Making art, while it is good and satisfying work, is still work and I have a belief that most work should be paid. That is not to say I would never give a gift of my work or donate it to something I believe in. But giving art as a gift is a different experience than selling it. When it is sold you know the person receiving it sees value in the work and has chosen, for themselves, something they truly desire. And that money is something I always translate, in my mind, into more materials, more freedom to work at art instead of something else, and a greater ability to continue to do what I so love doing. Or, when things are really good, I can use that money to buy a piece of art from another artist. I would much rather have someone else's artwork on my walls than my own. Really, that is the best.
Having my friend come out to the studio was a good excuse to clean it up, after some weeks of heavy-duty art-making. It looked good enough that I took some new photos and replaced some of the ones in the "my studio" tab above. Now that I have been working there for a couple of years it looks more like a real working studio than my earlier photos of pristine tables and storage bins. I hope you will enjoy seeing where I work.
If you'd like to read some of the wonderful comments that added so much to this post, you can read the original post here.