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.
Posted by Terry Grant at 10:26 AM
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I couldn't have said it better -- no, I couldn't have said it as well -- myself. You have expressed exactly how I feel about selling my work, particularly work I love.ReplyDelete
and of course, the benefit of being forced to tidy up one's space can't be overrated.
Congrats on the sale and thanks for putting into words my thoughts, exactly.
Ditto what June said -- you said it better than I ever could. I'm sending off two quilts to a regional show this week and my fingers are crossed that they don't come back (but not as in they get lost in transit).Delete
I love your studio and the sneak peaks you give when you do work. When I started blogging, I found yours at the time that you were constructing your studio. I loved the whole process. After saving up for the past couple of years I have almost completed my work space. Nothing fancy, but it will be perfect for me.ReplyDelete
Terry - You do have a way with words, you have written a concise and thorough presentation about the subject. I am honored to have your work in the Thomas Contemporary Quilt Collection and hope that the pieces I love are among your "favorites". Although that is a bit like admitting there are favorites among one's children. So much of your work "speaks" to me, I wish I could have more to enjoy. Love, DelReplyDelete
Del, you have chosen some of my most, MOST favorite pieces. I love knowing where they live now.Delete
Oh I SO agree on every point. By the time I get that sleeve on the back I am done, done, done, and itching to move on to whatever it is I've been thinking of since about the middle of the last project. I love selling things, have never missed a single thing- like you, I am finished with whatever needed my attentions and a nice check sure makes the efforts worthwhile. The bulk of every check I get is for pieces from other artists, my own little pay-it-forward.ReplyDelete
I enjoyed the article. However, I also just enjoy looking at your work. I usually post when I finish something. No one is forced to look. I tell enough about the piece that only those interested will take a gander. I wish you would post more so that I would know when to check out your blog.
Congrats on the sale! and I completely agree...ReplyDelete
Thanks, Terry. You've eloquently expressed how I feel about selling my work. I find it very affirming that someone loves my work enough to buy it. A couple of times, I've even sold a quilt on the installment plan. I find that even more flattering--that someone who doesn't have the ready cash is willing to budget for several months to buy one of my quilts.ReplyDelete
Wonderful post, Terry! My sentiments exactly. And I enjoyed have a look at your studio. Thanks.ReplyDelete
Lovely article! Your studio space is gorgeous. I am glad to hear that over time it turned from stacks of bins into an art-making space. I just moved and I am still in the stacks of bins and piles of boxes stage.ReplyDelete
I, too, sold a piece to an old friend yesterday. But she bought it from a gallery where our fiber arts group is having a show. So I love this post. You captured how I feel perfectly. Thank you.ReplyDelete
You said it like me. I feel the same about selling my work. My problem is i don't ask enough for it especially if it is a friend who is buying it. I end up donating a lot of my work just to get it out of the closet I store it in.ReplyDelete
Wonderful writing. And I know how you feel. For me it's different - I sell my dyed fabric, normally with the injunction to "send a picture of how you use it." But I have only seen a few. What's exciting is when a customer's work wins at a show. Now I have to go post something on MY blog!ReplyDelete
I so agree with your wonderful post about the process of making ones art and also of letting it go into the worlds where people who you never ever meet are touched by your art. so many of us love process and problem solving and then getting on to the next "what if"projects.ReplyDelete
It is really affirming to have a stranger drawn in to look closer, ask questions,and make a purchase.
and if given a small amount of time beforehand, a quick swifer through the studio is no bad!
Brava! I don't know if you labored over your words or if they came in a stream of consciousness thing, but you hit all the nails on the head. It gives me peace to know that other artists feel as I do; by the time I'm done (really done after putting two more beads in that empty spot), I am generally so ready to let someone else enjoy it. Let's face it, if you work on one piece at a time, as I usually do, you know the piece and do not need to see it to remember it. Thank you!ReplyDelete
Well said, Terry. However, sometimes I need a little time after completion to become ready to let a piece go. Sort of wanting it on my own wall a while. But the real joy is in the making, and knowing someone wants to have it for their own is very affirming.ReplyDelete
I couldn't agree more, Terry. Thank you for putting it into words. I just sold an older piece to a customer who had been buying small things, like pillows, from me for several years. It was such an affirmation that she wanted to hang one of my quilts in her home. I often have people at shows ask me how I can bear to part with quilts that I've worked so hard on, but I have good photos taken and the reality is once they're finished it's time to move on to the next challenge!ReplyDelete
Yes, you've expressed it wonderfully! I feel much the same way when I sell a piece. I'm also always surprisingly pleased when I come across a sold piece at someone's place maybe years later. The artwork usually looks fresh and intriguing to me so the distance of time is good.ReplyDelete
I've got to improve my photo records though. I take lots of photos but don't organize them well.