The trouble with being an artist, no.1

The idea of being an artist and making a living from what you do is very liberating is it not? You spend your days creating and people pay handsomely to possess your works. Really! I've seen it in movies!

The reality for most is quite different. When I was making dolls about 90% of sales were custom orders. Customers wanted dolls to look like their daughters, movie characters etc. They wanted to choose the colour and type of hair, the clothing style, the fabric, everything. Not a lot of artistic freedom in that. It also meant that for most orders I had to go out of my way to source materials which left me further out of pocket  from the meager wage I received for making the doll.

File:Angelo Trezzini - A Tired Seamstress.jpg

A Tired Seamstress by Angelo Trezzini image source

As my skills progress and change I feel less and less inclined to make things to other people's specifications. The result? An Etsy shop full of creations I love and nobody wants to buy. This year I have made a grand total of $30. What is the answer here? Try to be popular by making what other people like and will buy? Or keep making what I like and accept that I'll never make a living (or even pocket money) from doing this?

Stay tuned - more thoughts to come. I'd love to hear your thoughts :)


Lotus said...

O girl!
You are soooo speaking to my heart! I had tried for about 15 years to get something started. I used to do the craft fair circuit. Good fun, but soooo not worth it! People loved my work, but wouldn't buy anything.
I was lucky when I broke even after the fair.

I've been encouraged by many friends (especially online! lol) to reopen my Etsy shop, but again, it wasn't doing anything. People commented and favorited my shop, but no one bought anything. What do you do? I always (and still do) attributed it to my lack of business sense.

Also, I guess I just don't have the confidence to get out there and market myself. Have you noticed that when an artist is marketing her/his work, that it's more like they are marketing themselves?

Anyway, I look forward to reading more!!!

CurlyPops said...

I know exactly what you mean. I make stuff that I love. Unfortunately it doesn't mean everyone else loves it like I do.
I try to take creative control of custom orders, but that can sometimes be difficult too.
At the moment, online sales and retail sales have all taken a complete nosedive so don't be too hard on yourself!

softearthart said...

I think that "keep on keeping on" is the best strategy.
Sometimes I have a month with no sales, then it will pick up again.
Keep favoring other peoples art that you like, leave a comment as well, On-line selling is all about connecting.
Cheers Marie

Anna Bartlett said...

I know what you mean too. I think the key is to remember that the product itself is just one part of the potential sale. The story (your story) is important, your message is important, promoting it online and offline is important... In the old days (without the internet), people used direct mail, brochures and newspaper advertising to get their messages out. These days we still have to do those processes, just perhaps in more tech savvy ways. It's a drag (honestly - and I've got a marketing degree!), but if you simply think through the methods used by people that you buy from and reinterpret them for your business, that's a start.
I am also a big believer in making purchases and honouring the skills of others that exceed my own. I paint paintings, and I have bought many paintings. I sew clothes, and I have bought a few. You get to experience the whole process from want to receive...
It's the same with fundraising - I know I have to support a cause to be able to convince others to support it.
I don't know if I'm rambling now, but hopefully there's something in this essay you can use!
I do know that commissions can be great, and they can also be a total drag. So best not to do stuff you really don't want to do.
Good luck!

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