02 April 2014

A garage sale...

Ok, it's been a while... I promised posts, I didn't promise consistency.  Life has been busy, 40 hours in an office a week, visiting my father every day, trying to get in creative time, AND doing all the other stuff that must be done... you know, grocery shopping, laundry, vacuuming up the dog hair dust bunnies before they come to life, and watching The Walking Dead.  Not to mention that winter is just freaking killing my soul because it just will not let go.

But, enough with the excuses... let's chat.

What's your work worth?

Don't make faces at the computer screen like that.  It's a pretty simple question, right?  But it really isn't, is it?  Every time I show someone at work something I've done I get the "why are you working here" thing.  Let's look at that...

A couple of weeks ago I woke with this very clear "vision" of a painting swimming around in my head. (Happens to you too, right?)  I honestly had no intention of painting, I was busy creating little art dolls that just were not turning out to be what I wanted, but the painting just was not leaving my head.  It obviously needed to be brought into the world.  So I decided I'd put a couple of the things I was doing off and paint.

Interestingly enough, later in the same morning that I had woken with that in my head the University issued a juried call for employee art.  It seems that our hospital recognizes the role of art creating an environment that works to improve health.  Now, very often I don't notice the obvious, I want to, but all too often they just slip right past me, but this one did seem pretty clear.  A week later the painting on the canvas looked very much like the painting I had seen in my head and I liked it.  It's called "Flowers for Kate".

As I do with a whole bunch of my art I took it into my day job to share.  Again I got the "why are you working here" comments, and then someone said, "I'd love to see your house, I bet it is just full of your work!"

You and I have had this conversation, at least we have if you read my other blog, so you know I don't have my creations everywhere in my home. I never have.  You can find all sorts of them in lots of other homes, and you might find some in total stranger's homes (I often leave it somewhere to be found), but you don't see much of it in my home.  It's always interesting to me that everyone thinks my house must be just full of it.

 So, I explained to her that, while I have tons of stuff that both of my children have done, I have little of my own.  The majority of my work (what isn't given away or left to be found) gets tossed into a small dresser I have just outside my studio door.  It goes in, the drawer closes and I go back to playing.  Often I've made the comment that my kids will be able to build a magnificent bonfire with it when I move on.

Someone that had over heard it said, "You should have a yard sale!"

A yard sale.  Hmm.


While I am pretty confident that this person really didn't mean anything negative by the comment, I had to wonder if they realized that they had just equated my work, a week worth of applying layers and layers of paint to a plain canvas to create the vision I had seen in my head, with junk you no longer want and have decided to unload on other folks for pennies in a yard sale.

It's taken me about a hundred and three years to finally come to believe that my work is coming into what I want it to be.  I struggle with self doubt every minute that I am making something, but I like what I am doing right now.  Really like it.  Love the bold colors and the way it's all been coming together.  I see "me" in it, and that is very exciting.  So my initial reaction to the comment was "what the hell"?

This person stuttered something to the effect of, "I didn't mean it like that". Of course they didn't, but once something is said, it's out there.  And once we hear it, there is an impact.  And, once stuck in my head the whispers started.  You know the ones... the ones that hint that you don't know what you are doing, that no one is going to like the stuff you've done.  Mine go sort of like this... "why in the world did you put a pink background in that painting, I mean seriously?" "Geeze, really?  A big ass black pot in the middle of it... really?"  "You know, it just sucks, you can't paint, what are you thinking, why bother?"

I don't sell very much of my work.  Why?  Mostly because I am unwilling to sell a piece that I have invested money for a canvas and supplies, invested anywhere from 20 to 40 or more hours into creating, for less than the price that the canvas cost in the first place. 

Every day I go into an office where I spend eight or more hours managing a very large program. I work here to provide myself with an income that takes care of the bills and provides me with benefits.  When I come home, if there is laundry to be done, errands to be run, groceries to be fetched, chores accomplished, it is all on my shoulders.  I also spend time every day with my father, as well as try to get in some time with my daughter and from time to time get out with the girls from work.  Once everything else is done, I creep into my little studio and I spend time creating. 

One is the work I do to pay the bills, the other is the work I do because it is what I am meant to do. 

Which is worth more?  Outwardly, I get paid to go into the office for all those hours each week.  I get three weeks of paid vacation, a bunch of official holidays, insurance and benefits.  But, to me, worth isn't just about monetary gain.  Worth, in my way of measuring it, is growing, developing, learning, being the best possible version of me that I can be every day.  That does not require perfection, it simply requires persistence.  For me, my art is an expression of that growth, the learning, the persistence... there is truly a piece of me in each and every item I make. 

So, if I value my work, if I am asked to sell a piece of it, how much is it worth?  Shouldn't it be worth at least minimum wage?  Or the wages I earn for my day job?  More?  Less?  Garage sale prices?

It's an age old dilemma... how do you determine the worth of your work?


Snap said...

I don't believe I've ever charged for my "art" work. I have charged for some crochet, but mostly just for buying the yarn. I give the art work away and plan on any "yarning" to happen just in time for birthdays or holidays. Wonder why we do these things to ourselves???!!!

ACreativeDream June Crawford said...

Good question Snap. I often get, "ohhhhh, I love that, I want to buy it". I'll figure up a fair price to me, based on supplies and time involved (figuring minimum wage generally), and when I give the person a price I most often get, "Oh, I didn't think it would be that much."

People don't often realize the amount of work that goes into something, whether it be crocheting or painting or sculpting...and it's more than just the work, it's the creativity, the planning, the producing.

I know the last time someone told me they didn't expect a painting to be priced so high I explained that it was the amount of time it took times minimum wage... then I asked if they'd be willing to work for less than that. Apparently, they wouldn't... but also didn't want to spend $100.00 on a painting.

Carol- Beads and Birds said...

Well..I can identify with this situation as I used to sell years ago at private shows. These were fiber items I created and did fairly well at the time. I can honestly say that at the time, we were pretty hard up for money so I took that into consideration in pricing. Money in my pocket was the goal. Plus, I never had any goal to make my living creating. It's easier to put pricing right out there so people know the value you put on your work. Buyers frequently make comments that are just ignorant and you can't let them get to you. Besides, the person you mentioned would probably not see the value in a Picasso. When I was working, I would have gladly paid the value of your art. You need to test the waters. Look for a little shop to place your work in. But then that opens up a whole lot of legal questions. ie: I had work in a consignment shop and when they did inventory, I received a tax bill from the county for inventory. And what do you do if an item is stolen. Lots of things to think about when you sell your art.

jinxxxygirl said...

I think (oh boy) that what someone charges for their work depends alot on what their goal is....... like what Carol mentioned .... I have never sold any of my artwork..... whoops gotta take that back.... Ms Eileen over there at the Artful Crafter purchased some small prints of one of my pieces.... and i do have some images over there on Zazzle though i've really only sold to family and friends off of Zazzle.... I think they are too expensive.. then add shipping and oh my!
My monetary goal for my artwork is just to cover what i spent making it.... the cost of the canvas , paint, etc..... perhaps a little over to have some pocket change..... but really i don't look to support myself with my artwork... i just look to support my art habit.... :) I like the thought of my artwork out there in the world making people smile ......

So i don't know June..... Figuring out the cost of the supplies is easy but how much do you charge for your talent and your time? I think you have to look at what the market will bear too....

My hubby thought it was strange that a company would want to put my image in their book but not want to pay me for that privilege... me i was just happy my artwork was out there in the world... :)Hugs! deb