Friday, August 29, 2014

The Story Behind an Artist

Nowadays it seems like a huge part of being an artist is "telling your story", which is an excellent idea in concept, but it tends to mean you see a lot of highly staged photos, hipster-style videos and lots of instagram pictures as artists try to convey to you just how exactly inspiration comes about and then is used to create art.

I feel artists sharing their inspiration is a lot more complicated then it even comes across. I admit I have my own business facebook, twitter and instagram pages (and of course this blog!) but I sometimes find it hard to convey all the backstory to how my pieces are created. I could take a picture of a twig and say that nature inspired a piece or a building and say that architecture did, but there is so much more involved than merely that.(Not that we don't find inspiration everywhere, as most jewelers are always on the lookout for something to spark creativity)

One of the toughest parts of being an artist is balancing the need to create my own individual style, with the desire to achieve things at a higher technical level than the masses are capable of, yet still balance that with styles customers can wrap their heads around so they are interested in purchasing.  Combine that with the need to make things affordable to the right person and there are a lot of variables.

My current display alone took hours of research and planning.  We took years of outdoor art show experience to try and determine how to make a display withstand a lot of weather variables yet still be something that could pack up quickly and be relatively compact and light.  Then I needed to figure out a look that represented me, or at least something that would give my work a little "pop" and stand out.

My jewelry creation involves an equal amount, if not even more thought and planning.  There have been some many ideas that were on the drawing board that never made it to fruition.  Some artists make things simply because they like to exercise their technical skill, others like to make what's trendy or popular to turn a profit, while other still have a greater artistic vision and like to create a cohesive collection.

I have to admit I struggle all the time with wanting to find a balance between all that.  I have no desire to be a starving artist who only creates things to stretch the boundaries of my skill level or to astound others, to create pieces all the time so abstract, or pricey that they're tough to sell. At the same time, I don't just want to supply meaningless "popular" pieces simply because they are the years hottest trend.

Add to that, most artists don't work with a huge team of people to brainstorm and bounce ideas off of.  So often I'm throwing ideas at my husband whose responses typically border on "it's jewelry" or "meh."  (Before I make him sound like a scrooge though, I must explain that he helps me at every show, and his carpentry skills have been beyond helpful!  He just has no interest in the art of jewelry design) That being said, an artists life can be a relatively solitary one for the most part so we do miss the benefits of frequent teamwork and brainstorming.  Of course, that also means on the flipside we miss the struggles of office politics, which isn't a bad thing. .

I will say I still don't have everything down to a perfect science.  Each day of creation and planning is a struggle to balance my own unique identity and my vision with the desire to actually sell jewelry and please others.  Each piece I create involves a small internal battle with whether I've invested enough time and effort, if it shows enough technical finesse, with whether it still could be created profitably and will be attractive to buyers. Add to that the decisions I must make how to sell my work, where to display it and how to market it.

Artists approach each day weighing the pros and cons of every little decision, every little hammer or brush stroke, every word typed on a keyboard, and analyzing every customer interaction. Our stories do indeed have plenty of pretty pictures, highlights, drama and humor, but when we "tell or story" we hope you realize that in the interest of not bogging you down with all the details we're doing a lot of editing of that story.  Unfortunately, sometimes by trying to entertain you with our stories or just giving you pretty pictures and not telling you every last detail, you miss the value of our work.  There really are truly hours upon hours of work that go into what we do.  Most artists are always "on the job" and rarely do we ever get to clock out. Even if we manage to carve out vacation time, our minds spend half of it searching for inspiration, analyzing our environments for things to use in our work, and already planning our next steps for when vacation is over.

To those of you who love art, design and craft for it's very essence and love the thought of handmade, I thank you profusely!  While the story of an artist can be complicated and detailed, a story can't exist without an audience. So thank you for listening, learning,watching, buying and appreciating.

If you yourself are an artist, what's your story?  Feel free to share in the comments. 

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