Tag: business

feeling like an artist again

This weekend we had an event at the studio.  My business sign went back up and we compensated for the fact that the studio is still in the chaos of change by putting up a tent and selling our wares from the front yard.  This involved both my art, and the art of my roommates – check out their work at Neko-Jin Designs and The Common Shaman.   (Their work is on the right and I can attest to the quality.  The jewelry is powerfully lovely and those pillows are freaking huggable.)

The experience has left me exhausted and in a lot of pain, but for the first time in ages I feel anchored in what I do – I am a maker to my core.  During the first day, Friday, I was able to make 60 wee watercolors and pen and inks. Although, insomnia did help with that glut of drawings.  Yesterday, I made about five slightly larger pen and inks.  Today, I was a poet.

Sitting in the sun with nothing to do other than create and sell art was a joy.

A lot of locals came by, pleased that I am not either dead or moved out of the area.  It let me know how far I have hunkered down during this past two years.  Oh, but the change in my circumstances brings up such optimism.  Life has gotten better.

This time in 2015, I could not move my left arm much at all, I could not throw, I lost nearly all my income for the full year. Surgery on the shoulder in October 2015, then a hysterectomy in February 2016.  But by June of that year, things began to change.

Even now, I am still struggling – my hips need to be replaced, I am in a cauldron of pain – and yet, I am still making art.  Somehow, I have survived all of the crap that came my way.  Even heartbroken, I made art.  Even when I can barely walk,  I am making and selling art.  I am working as hard as I can to keep my house and have been grounding myself in faith that I can do it.  There have been days that I had to dig deeper within for strength than I thought I went, but it worked!

I continue forward with both my regular job and the art that is my vocation.   The first has not dented my passion for the second.

I am so grateful for the friends who saw me through this weekend.  Perhaps I have been whining too much in these blogs, because what I should be shouting from the rooftops is how wonderful life can be when you have friends that have your back.  To be able to rely on people and know that they will be there for me, that is a priceless, beautiful thing.  They set up the tent, set up the products and then tore them down in the evening, three days in a row, all with out a stitch of help from me because I could not move any of those things. What a blessing it is to have people who do not just share your dreams but are willing to put their shoulders into fulfilling them.  This is a case of actions speaking so loudly, all words were drowned out.  Without their kindness, none of this could have been done.

Basically, this is a blog of thanks.  I am grounded in what I do again, which will help all things – the physical struggle, this financial difficulty, my regular job, my art.  If you were here, you would be able to see my smile, hear my loud, outrageous laugh and listen to me sing to my cats about the glories of life.

I have “all will be well and all will be well and all manner of things will be well” tattooed on my arm. Too often, I need the reminder. But, today, I did not read it.  Indeed, I did not even glance at it.  The next few months are going to be very hard, financially and physically, but good friends are teaching me that I can trust in the universe enough to reach out.  I am asking for help and receiving kindness.

This is the miracle of my life.

Because, I am talking about asking for help, I am compelled to say: you can make me $3 closer to being able to sustain myself while I am recuperating from surgery. My end of that deal will be to keep making art, even when I am flat on my ass in bed.

But for now, let not think of what could go wrong.  Instead, let’s sing songs of joy and thanksgiving!

a month

13411862_10208363446235263_2117676587360267764_oIt has been a just over four weeks since everything changed.

Honestly the transformation started nearly eighteen months ago, sped up considerably this time last year, but the past four weeks have accelerated the process to the speed of light.

As i write, i have a job, one that requires 40 hours a week and will pay me regularly, and for that i am on my knees with gratitude. The stress of trying to make it solely through art, alone, with my health suffering for so long, was intolerable. i was breaking down.  It made my art – especially my writing – suffer.

For most of this job search, i was afraid on so many different levels.  i am an artist, an acquired taste, a round ball of strange.  To find a place that can tolerate all that – and the terrible staggering awkwardness that my body often adopts instead of graceful movement – is fantastic.

But this is a blog about the business of art.  And, thankfully, that business continues.  In one month, i have written (and typed in) a notebook full of poetry, done more drawings that i can remember, finished writing a novel, and begun working on a short story that amuses me more than i can express.  i have never written from the POV of a planet before.

Today, as i gallery sit in Southwest Harbor, i feel more centered in my calling than i have since Darwin the dog died.  Going into my studio has been hard, and something for which i have had very little time.  13483087_10208363947087784_3077929633202552197_oAs soon as i could throw again after surgery, my kiln died, so the pottery side of everything has been stalled rather horribly.  i await a paycheck or art sales to get new elements and relays, and then, i will be back up and running after this year and a half long stream of catastrophe.

i imagine i will release a deep sigh as that first kiln begins to click and heat up.  This will be the physical proof of my breaking out of this confining suffering and into a new, (glorious!) stage of life.

Indeed, it gets even better: sometime in early August, i will be teaming up with another artist and potter. He is phenomenally gifted and i am truly honored he wants to work with me. This is an endless source of personal delight, but will alter the flow of my life (and creativity) again.  This change could not be more welcome; it will be wonderful to have the studio being used more frequently. i cannot wait to see what art pours out of its doors.

Honestly, i have begun to realize that this recent journey through the darkness has given me wonderful gifts.  Somewhere underneath all the poetry and daydreams, there lies a core of tempered steel.  It can flex and move without breaking. As long as i remember that this resilience resides inside my core, especially during moments of overwhelm and despair, i think i will be able to survive.13490800_10208368963573193_3510292570587586590_o

Also, i needed to prove to myself, and maybe to the source from which my art flows, that i can actually do the hard work of life.  i have been scared and anxious for so long – to have fate force me up into a standing position, to demand such sacrifice from me, was deeply uncomfortable. Yet, i am standing.  i am slowly, haltingly, moving forward as an artist and as a woman.

Running this business for so long, alone, had left my confidence gutted.  i did not have all the skills that i needed to be successful.  This is not a whine, this is simple truth. i have grown too tired of self-recrimination to give myself a hard time over this anymore.  We all have our abilities, our talents, and i cannot keep hating the fact that there are aspects to running a business – especially finances and marketing – to which i am not equal.

Also, perhaps, i have grown a bit wiser – not many people can survive flawlessly alone.  Why would i think that i am any different?  The condition of lonely solitude had gone on for so long, i forgot that i could reach out and ask for help.  Now, i know i can.  There will be hands to catch me.

So, today, i am simply grateful. i had a wonderful dog, i have had all these years where i was married to making art.  My body is tired but functioning; my mind, likewise.  And here i am, once more, handing poetry and art to you in my open hands.

 

 

stains on my shirt

Usually i take great pains to dress as professionally as i am able during my shifts at these cooperative galleries.  Whether i like it or not, art is a business and i am selling a product.  That i make the work with my blood and sweat makes no difference.  However, today, i am dressed for the sunburn on my back, acquired during last Sunday’s Bucksport Art Festival.  youngmeAs it heals, it has begun to burn and itch, and the softest of shirts was required.  Sadly, as i ate my lunch, i spilled soup on myself so now we have a shirt chosen for comfort with stains down the front.  Of course, i dropped my extra clothes in a puddle coming in, so here i sit, as i am.

Oddly, i feel more at home in this get-up, stains and all, than i did yesterday in the more formal (and still very soft) dress.  Something in me appreciates the rumpled and worn. i have always been comfortable with imperfection, my art celebrates it. My uniform for writing, making pottery and painting, clay stained yoga pants and an old, super-soft t-shirt, feels the most natural to me.

i can remember how hard my mother worked to make me girlish – the lace pantyhose, the frilly polyester dresses, the patent leather shoes, the ongoing war over my hair. (How i hated those damned bangs!) Yet, i could never bend to her will; my natural inclination toward comfort and functionality won. Given my druthers, i would have run around in jeans and t-shirts with my hair in utter disarray in every picture.

Not much has changed since then.  Still, i am at home in what is comfortable, what lets me have freedom movement to work, clothes which demand no other thought.

So, to my customers today, i am pleased to meet you.  Let me talk to you about the art i make and the art of my amazing fellow cooperatives.  i recommend the clam chowder next door, too.

Advice from a hobbit

Business matters must be weighing on me, because my subconscious had a go at it this morning.    In the dream, I had been at an art conference – held at the seediest motel I have ever had in my subconscious – to have Samwise Gamgee burst in and grab me by the shoulders, desperation in his eyes.  He me a pep talk like he would have Frodo, all about believing in myself and I had the strength to get things done. Other than being relatively hobbit-sized myself, and having an ongoing love affair with food, I cannot think that my current situation has much in common with Frodo’s quest to get the one ring into the fires of Mordor.  And yet there was Sam, earnest, filthy and stinking, shouting in my dream that I could do it and that I just had to be strong, patient and believe in myself.

I woke up laughing slightly – honestly, my dream-life can seem so much better than my waking one.

Also, the encouragement came on the heels of taking a day off (truly off, I did nothing but watch movies and drool.  I didn’t even have the strength to make breakfast until 4 pm.)  My body and spirit had rebelled – fluctuating as they do between sickness and health, confidence and despair.  All the money I made on my first good sales day at the studio wound up disappearing in less than 24 hours to bills.  No fewer than twelve people (or the same person twelve times?) have tried to scam me over my laptop – which I finally moved to ebay because I was getting tired of people asking me to send it across country or across the globe without payment so they could test it out.  (FYI, I got an email in which someone asked me to send them all my personal information so they could send me payment, as I was writing this blog, in a communcation through ebay, so oh, well.)  Likewise, I have had to tell more than one person that it does not count if you say the check is in the mail, I have to have it in my hands, in the bank and available for my use.  Don’t offer to pay a few hundred – or thousand – dollars over the asking price, I know you’re not for real.  Moreover, Pay Pal does not hold money, so don’t try to tell me that’s where it is.  And, please, don’t suggest in an outraged text that I’m a scammer because I’m not sending you a computer first and allowing you to pay me at your leisure.

I was seriously beginning to lose faith in people.

And then I woke up with Sam’s voice still echoing in my ears.  It’s a bit of a shift from the last dream like this, with Mary being an Amazon-like warrior shaking me by the shoulders and demanding that I believe in myself.  Same message, different sources. Mary was more outraged at my insecurity, Sam more desperate that I stand up and fight. The end result is that once I got moving today, the scammers didn’t matter, the leanness of my bank account failed to crush me, the endless to-do list became less like a looming cliff and more like a long piece of toilet paper stuck to my shoe, and the fact that I still need to take care of myself doesn’t feel like a punishment.

All will be well – and I love my subconscious.

after the meeting

Yesterday, I met with a great group of artists – setting up the calendar for the new season at Harbor Artisans in Belfast.  Within that cooperative’s walls, we laughed and debated and hammered out the details for 2014.  In fact, we will have a new website soon – I’ll update this with a link when it’s live. So much could pour forth from my fingertips about these artist cooperatives (I am also a member of  ones in Southwest Harbor and Lincolnville) but last night while my eyes were stuck open and I lacked the strength to write, I promised myself I would blog about something different this morning.

The intended topic – realized here – centers around a recurrent anxiety, attacking after events like this.

Last night, I fell to pieces a bit, mostly because of my back. It had reached the level of pain that makes me desperate for distraction. Knowing that the discomfort will pass does nothing to mitigate my desire to soothe myself in the moment. As often happens, words kept bubbling forth from me – I started craving laughter from those around me. Stories dripped from my lips.  By the time we parted ways, I already felt the overwhelming urge to apologize for such selfish consumption of time and word.  Even though I had wanted to go to a party that evening, I couldn’t manage it.  The pain and the sense of social ineptitude made going impossible.

Once home, I washed off the makeup, changed, tucked myself into bed with a heating pad and three cuddling heaps of fur (how the cats loved the warmth!).  Still, I could not find my zen. Waves of anxiety too loud to ignore kept washing over me.  Since I needed to nurse my back, most of the things I would use to distract myself inside my solitude were inaccessible.  So, in the dark, I had no viable alternative other than to sit with the thoughts. Without trying to make it worse, I held each one in my hands. First, the pronounced fear that during the last bit of convivial conversation I was too rowdy and too loud.  Second, the acknowledgment that without a doubt, I complained too much.  Finally, the sad realization that while talking about the last few years, it surely must have sounded like a lot of drama, even though right now I find myself content more than anything else.  Thankfully, I have learned what triggers and influences to avoid – and how to stop fighting the negative emotions that do arise.

This morning, feeling somewhat stronger and more able, I look back at the meeting and the time afterward with more calm.

However, my determination to find out how to vanquish this post-event anxiety has doubled in intensity.

exercising hope

flyingTonight, My eyes won’t even contemplate closing. As always, the stress stems from my wallet. I spent money, in furtherance of the business’ goals – like any relationship, mine to my business requires constant commitment. 

And, yet, this is part of the process of believing in myself. Sometimes I have to risk. Knowing this is part of the work I have to do to be successful barely comforts me. I wish I felt more fierce right now. Then, perhaps, the guilt would let me sleep, even though betting on my future feels like an uncomfortable risk.

painting

studio_starti am filled with gratitude.  Some friends have been helping me with my studio – doing a job i can’t: paint the outside of it.  For four years, it has looked more like a scary garage than a Studio and Showroom because i cannot manage to paint it myself.  A latex allergy keeps me away from most forms of house paint, which frustrates me because before the allergy became crippling, i enjoyed painting quite a lot.  While life as an artist has kept me in food, clothes, clay and art supplies, it has not left me with thousands of extra dollars to pay professional painters.

Now the edifice has transformed!  The front side of the studio has now been painted!  The side facing the road is scheduled to be be done the first week of November (weather permitting)!  i sing and dance with joy!

As they worked, part of me felt a wave of sorrow that i couldn’t be out there helping them help me, but then i realized – this was a fantastic moment for me to allow two lessons to settle into my awareness.

First, no matter how much i attempt to coax myself into believing that i’m totally independent and fierce, i actually depend upon the kindness of others quite a lot.  When i fall into the most lonely places, all i can see is solitude enveloping me and remain blind to the great oceans of friendship in which i swim.  The fact that the kindness of other finds its way to me absolutely thrills me and leaves me ridiculously grateful.studio1

Second, this proved to me that i am still committed to my work no matter how many spasms of anxiety and fear i have been enduring the past two weeks.  Thankfully, the thought “Oh, my God! No one is ever going to buy my art again!  This life of joy and bliss is over!” doesn’t charge through my mind as often as it did in the beginning, but when it does it leaves me limping for a few moments.  The realization that i am just a beginner as far as running a small business goes can also leave me shaken.  Leaps like this prove to my doubts that i am continuing to learn and move forward despite them.

Seeing (from a safe distance) the studio transform into this beautiful bright yellow and blue, looking more like a business than it ever has before, leaves me grinning ear to ear.  One side down, two more to go.

messy redemption

One pattern i have in this life: i am melancholy the last few days of the month.  Most of the bloggingfever 3 alt  i’ve done this September was about being an artist, but i am also trying to run this business and around the 26th, i plan out every dime i’m going to spend for the next month (sometimes projecting out a few months).  In this task, obviously, i cannot expect sales.  So far, and i am knocking on wood here, i have not had too many times when i was completely bereft of people coming to the studio and buying things, or that the galleries i work with didn’t sell anything, but it could happen.  Frankly, i don’t even have to stretch my imagination on that one. i cannot count on income i do not have.  If the cash does not sit happily at hand in the moment i’m planning, it does not go into the plan.  This creates a situation where i might by clay this month, or i might not, it will completely depend on whether or not debts to me are paid or sales are made.  thinking

At the end of every month – when the bills are paid and the mortgage on its way – i feel a vague sense of redemption.  For another thirty or so days, i’ve been able to keep myself a step away from financial apocalypse.  Maybe i bought clay or glaze or a few dinners out with friends.  Maybe not.  But either way, i will continue to have a roof over my head and a chance to make art.

This entire summer was dedicated to changing how i sell my work so that i can take better care of myself. i wrote a new business plan last fall/winter, did cost flow analyses until my eyes crossed.  i charted every single sale i had made since 2009, so i could see what i sold where and when.  Toward that end, i have spent money on different things; i have tried to calculate what pottery is best to make. Each month that goes by, i gain some confidence that things might just be okay.  And i get to continue making art.

contentmentOnly, it’s a messy redemption.  i dance around supplies and house repairs and filling up my car’s tank with gas and getting oil to heat my home.  i live like a priest – food is really my only indulgence – but the lack of an outrageous social life works for me because what i want to do most is make art.

Buying medicines, going out with friends, getting my hair cut, getting new pants to replace the ones that wore through, these are no longer things i can take for granted.  Every single day that i can make art, or that i can spend my time lost in creating a story or poem, i recognize that this life i lead is a gift.  The sacrifices i have made, while they might chafe, have been worth the gift of making art.  This realization doesn’t stop the melancholy from wrapping its boney arms around me for a day or two, muttering about failure into my ear, but it helps me carry the extra load around while i continue working.

So, today, i am awash in uncertainty and exhaustion.  My entire universe feels upended, because even though all the bills are paid, and the mortgage is on its way, there is precious little left over.

All i can do is keep my studio open so that customers may come, (to quote Neil Gaiman) “make good art,” and root myself in the crazy faith that all is well, despite uncertainty, vulnerability and anxiety.

overwhelm

a poem about writingi love making art.  However, the rest of this business that i run can turn on me quickly.  Sometimes even progress feels terrifying.

While i am ecstatic that the poetry collection is finally edited, the thought of publishing it can make my bones tremble.  Likewise, making more money than i ever have at a gallery for a four week period fills me with elation – until i realize i have to throw even more to continue making progress at the same pace. For any of this to work in the long run, i have goals i need to meet and no way to guarantee that my work continues selling. Granted the increased sales mean that i have money for clay and glaze, but throwing and glazing can take a lot out of me.

Many people give me wonderful advice, and if you are an artist, i am sure you have heard similar things. Frankly, you have probably been inundated with similar suggestions no matter what type of business you run: leads to follow up on, places to advertise, the kinds of products you should make instead of the ones you do.  Much of what i have been told was wise and wonderful; if i could do it all i would.  Only, it’s not often possible for me to do ten thousand things in one day.  The work load that i create for myself making my art and running the business surrounding it leaves me constantly overextended.  As long as my health holds out, although that for me is always a relative concept, i can manage.  Adding something new and huge can destabilize the whole system. Last year my entire life got shifted by lightening striking a kiln.  Recuperating from that took nearly nine months.a poem about hope

This week has been one for profound back pain.  Standing, much less throwing or painting, has been a challenge.  Walking to bring in the “Pottery and Art Ahead” signs (200 yards or so both North and South of the Pottery, Art and Writing Studio + Showroom entrance) made me want to cry a little.

Episodes like this always add to the sense of panic. Pain on its own can be daunting.  Also, i suspect being a moody artist makes the whole situation a little more intense. It takes a lot of discipline to keep my heart from failing. i have to go through the list of things that have been done rather than obsessing on my endless to-do list. From that perspective, i have had a good week. Book-keeping and advertisements have been finished.  i have managed to fire three kilns, i have glazed a lot of pottery with more to come Friday.  Much poetry has flowed from my pen and i am excited about my novels – newborn, in progress and finished – in a way i wasn’t a few weeks ago when pottery dominated all of my existence.  Perhaps it is the gift of fall: the recognition that i will soon have more time for writing.  Still the things i need to do and the things i want to do loom over me.

As a result, i spent a lot of time today perched on the edge of overwhelm.  i tried to work through it, but no matter what i got done, i didn’t feel like it was enough.  Except, right before i left the studio, i unloaded the kiln and took out these bowls…

blue, black and white bowls… and now everything seems possible again.  It’s amazing what a few bits of good art can do for the soul.