Water off a duck’s back

If you want to make a living off your creativity, there are lessons you’ve got to master. The most important one I learned was how to not take things personally.

Art is subjective. Completely. The entire concept of “art” lives in the minds of humanity and nowhere else. It’s not oxygen, or water, or sunlight or food. It’s an idea. Sometimes people share the same idea, sometimes they don’t. Some people think art must make a statement and anything that doesn’t contain a message or purpose isn’t art. Some people think everything has the potential to be art if looked at the right way. Some people think anything made with creativity is art. Some people think if it’s not painting or sculpture, or some other classic medium, it’s not art. Some people think if you haven’t been to art school, you’re not making art. Some people think if a thing has a use, like a handbag or a bowl, it’s not art, but craft, and craft is not art because art has no purpose other than to be looked at. Some people think art and craft are inextricably intertwined and cannot be separated.

I’m not making a distinction between good and bad art, which is also subjective, btw, just “art” and “not art”.

I happen to think if I hang a saw blade on my wall because I think it’s pretty to look at, it’s art. But it’s also a saw blade, and if I need it, I can return it to its original purpose. But I like things that serve multiple functions.

My point is, not everyone is going to get into your stuff. I’ve had people argue vehemently that I’m not an artist, because what I make doesn’t say anything. I’ve also had people argue vehemently that I am an artist because I make stuff with my hands and my imagination and all it has to do is make someone glad to look at it for it to be art. I’ve watched people get insulted and bitchy because a customer came into their shop and didn’t consider what they were selling to be worth spending money on because they didn’t get into it. I’d like to point out that that happens in every field of sales, from toasters to cars, but only artists get butt hurt about it.

What I’ve come to understand is that you can make whatever you make, and some people will love it and some people won’t give a damn. And that’s their choice. If you want a safer profession go be a plumber. Everybody poops. You’ll never be out of work and no one will doubt whether or not you plumb. No one will argue that you’re not a plumber because they can’t agree on the definition of “pipe”, and your union guarantees a certain wage, even if you’re not a particularly skilled plumber.

Art is a shifty idea. A profession that flows and ebbs and changes depending on what angle the light hits it. You’ve got to move with it, or you’ll be miserable. If a show organizer doesn’t like your stuff, apply to another show. If a customer doesn’t think what you make is art, smile and tell them to have a nice day. Maybe they’ll think your neighbor makes art and buy something from them, an attitude which helps you strengthen your concept of “community”. Supporting the arts doesn’t just mean supporting you personally as an artist. It means an entire hoard of people doing endless different variations on endless different themes, all of whom need to pay their bills. Maybe your neighbors unappreciative audience will be your next paying customer. It works like that.

I will happily pay “art prices” for folk art, a thing which most people consider primitive. Contrary-wise, I’m left completely cold by most of the major names in painting from Titian to Caravaggio to Vermeer. It’s not that I don’t think they have talent. I just wouldn’t pay money for their work. “Whaaat? But they’re great artists!” Technically, yes. But emotionally they do nothing for me.  It’s. All. Subjective.

And since it’s all subjective, I can’t see the purpose in getting emotionally involved in those who don’t perceive my work as something worth spending money on. Of course I want to make a sale. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about taking that lack of a sale personally. That someone doesn’t get into your stuff is not an attack on your character or ability necessarily. It’s just their opinion. Which they are as equally entitled to as you are. Now, if they’re being a douche about it, that’s a different story. There’s no need to be discourteous to a person because you don’t dig on their art. Walking into a shop and saying “Well this is crap” is not the same as politely looking around and leaving when you don’t dig on what you see. It’s also not an insult when someone finds your prices beyond their budget. I can’t afford to buy art. I mostly make my own home decor because I’m broke. I totally get it when someone looks at my price tag and says, “It’s a bit more than I can afford”. Which is different than someone saying “You want how much?”.

But I’m not talking about rudeness. By all means get cranky about the rude. Rude people ruin everybody’s moment. But don’t waste your time getting cranky about people who don’t share your vision. If you’re skilled at what you do, no matter what that is, there will be plenty of people who do share it. Hopefully people with hundred dollar bills burning holes in their wallets. But even if not. An appreciative browser is sometimes as nice to have around as a buyer. Good feedback does its job feeding your soul, even if it isn’t paying your bills.

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The problem with consistency

There are artists out there who know what they’re doing. I’m not one of them. I didn’t go to art school, nobody taught me what I do. I just follow my squid brain wherever it feels like going. Which is why I have so many different kinds of things in my Etsy shop. I also, incidentally, don’t call myself an artist. Other people call me an artist, and that’s totally cool. But that’s not the job title I give myself.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaCornejaNegra

See? I have crafty ADD. Which is fine by me. I get bored, for one thing. And for another, while most people who make stuff make one kind of thing, I don’t know what kind of thing I may want to make yet. I’ve found the shadowboxes to be fun but time consuming, jewelry and hair pieces to be cool looking but ultimately they don’t really move, and knits, though I love them and will always make them, a good way to starve to death. I’m still testing the waters to see what I can make that people will want to buy. I guess some folks just make stuff to make stuff, and that’s perfectly fine. But I cut my teeth at renaissance faires and no matter what the crafters call themselves, they’re there to make a living, not a statement.

A few days ago I contacted the show organizer to make sure the wind chimes and glitter skull could be on my table. Juried shows sometimes have a “no shit we haven’t seen” policy. It makes sense. You don’t want too much overlap with other crafters. So she gets back to me wanting to know “where I’m going” with my stuff. She wants consistency.

Yeah, I don’t really have any. That’s the difference between people who make stuff and people who try and organize people who make stuff, I guess. One’s yelling “Squirrel!” and scampering off into the woods,  while the other is telling you to stay on the marked path.

She’s not cool with the skull. She says because she doesn’t see how it fits. Whaddaya mean? It’s covered in glitter isn’t it? I don’t see how it doesn’t, but I’m looking at the Mexi-tchotchy-junk shop randomness as a theme, and she’s looking for some kind of message, I suppose. I wish I was a painter for this reason alone. Sure, you can paint whatever, but it’s still painting, which is consistent. I’ve got hats and scarves, religious-ish shadow boxes, recycled jewelry and barrettes, suspended junk sculptures (heh, pretentious, no?) and glittery dead stuff. I had a customer at a market I did ask me incredulously, “You make all of this?”. Yep. I sure do. It’s a mixed blessing to have many directions. Sure, your table looks really interesting, but those cat herders who like everyone to have white tents (I’m sorry, does anyone else see the irony in requiring a uniform appearance from a bunch of artists?) don’t really groove on your “anything goes” vibe.

So who knows if the skull will fly. I’ll be seriously disappointed if it doesn’t. I think it’s a really strong piece and I’ve got a good shot at selling it if I have it out. The price isn’t unreasonable, and even my mom, who bless her heart is very supportive but really doesn’t get my aesthetic, thinks it looks cool as hell.

Where am I going? I don’t know. Wherever I feel like going. Who cares? I have to say, it’s a let down to find that even in a creative sort of “profession”, people still want you to have recognizable boundaries. Er, I work in matter? Isn’t that recognizable? Frustrating. Very frustrating.

Endangered birds and creepy junk

My vacation was great, thanks for asking!

I saw cranes. All 15 species, in fact. And I went spelunking for junk at my favorite local shops. Found some great silverware that got turned into this today…

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And? I found another baby head!

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This one is even creepier than Pubert! Guess I need another bird cage. Not sure where I’m going to find one at this late date, but I’ll check The Best Junk Shop in the Universe. If they don’t have one, I’ll just have to let this guy wait till a later date. I don’t have to put baby heads in bird cages. But I want to. Lots. They look great there.

T- minus one week till Art in the Park. It’s being held at the Wilder Mansion in Elmhurst, IL on the 4th and 5th of May. If you’re in the neighborhood, come on out and say hi!

So…much…glitter

She’s done! My little nanny goat has a new life!

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I’m so freakin’ happy with her, I hardly want to sell her. But seriously, if you’d seen my room you’d know I got nowhere to put another skull. Anyways…I’m really pleased with how she came out. So pleased that I think I’m going to sell her as is rather than attach her to Pubert’s body like I had originally planned, and do a bunch more. Providing the show does well, that is. Skulls ain’t cheap. Even little ones.

Make no mistake, this was an epic pain in the ass. The glue I use stinks something fierce. Which means I have about ten minutes to get things glued before I need to depart and get some air, lest I give myself a brain tumor. And the glitter takes all day to dry, so I can only do one section at a time or risk drip-age. I may experiment with hot glue simply because bone is porous. Hot glue, in general, is a terrible idea for securing anything other than fabric to fabric. Like with hair flowers. You can safely hot glue those guys. But anything heavy or non-porous simply won’t hold. Glass isn’t porous, but hot glue would let me get this whole thing done faster, and with no toxic fumes, so experimentation is worth it. We shall see. I won’t use anything that won’t hold up to some mild abuse. Nothing I make is meant to be beaten up, but it should survive some vigorous manhandling or I won’t sell it. Stupid integrity.

I also got this done today…

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What is it? I don’t know. I’m calling it a suspended junk sculpture. It reminds me of those bottle trees, or dream catchers. It’s got mojo bone written all over it. I like it. Nobody else has to.

And that’s my secret. I make stuff I like. Sure I’d rather sell it all, but if it ends up occupying space in my house, I’m cool with that. Especially my goat skull.

I’d send you to Etsy to look at them, but fact is I’m on vacation as of the end of this post. My sweetie and I are heading up to Baraboo, Wisconsin for a long weekend that was originally to contain some trail running in Devil’s Lake state park, but given the crap weather conditions, will probably contain a great deal of wine. Yay wine!

Have a great weekend, y’all. See ya Monday!

Fake it till ya make it

I’ve poured every last dime into this upcoming show. Why? Because this is going to be my life.

I suck at straight jobs. It’s a fact. If getting fired was an Olympic event, I would medal. I’m too, um, quirky (yeah, that’s it) for your average straight job. I have threatened employers with creative torture on many occasions, and those I didn’t were the ones that didn’t mind my inappropriate sense of humor and potty mouth. And weren’t douche bags. Saints that they were, I still eventually got bored or fed up with something that had nothing to do with my immediate supervisor, and said or did something that got me canned. The fact is that I have a very low tolerance for politics and bullshit, and a dislike for being told what to do. So being in business for myself is pretty much the only option.

I’ve been flying under the radar for a hot minute, but the kind of volume that pays the bills demands I get all official. Or, ya know, open a bordello. In any case, all this getting official business is time consuming and expensive. But hopefully worth it.

They say that presentation is everything. My mom used to work for a major educational film company, and part of her job was doing these conventions. She’s chock full of useful suggestions. Like this one.

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I ordered 250 very nice paper bags in three sizes, and had stickers printed up with my shop name and logo (which the incomparable Shadow Angelina, photographer and all around fabulous broad whose website you can visit at, http://www.drowningwoman.net, made for me), Etsy page and “website” (really just this blog, I’m not cool enough to have a website yet), because while people will lose or throw away business cards, they often save good paper bags for later use, and they’ll be reminded of my shop when they go to reuse it. Mom calls it free advertising. I would argue that it cost me $150 bucks between the sticker people and the bag people.

But she’s got a point. There is a reason big business spends all kinds of money putting its name everywhere there might be the remotest chance your eyes might wander across it. Because it works. So, did I need to order nice bags rather than recycle bags from the grocery? No. Did I need to then put fancy stickers on them? Not really. But everyone will tell you that a little polish goes a long way in the retail biz.

Hey, at least it looks like I know what I’m doing.

Corpse abuse

After much searching and disappointment, I finally found myself a nice goat skull a little while ago. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to get a complete skull of any kind for a reasonable price. Ok, cheap. Because I’m broke.

Hey, if I ever start doing really well, I won’t quibble over price tags. But at the moment, I think $80 for a farm animal skull is extortion. An exotic, sure. But a goat? Please. So it took some searching, but I found one.

A nice one too. With lower mandible intact.

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It was a little stinky when I got it. It happens. When you beetle clean critter parts, it’s a good idea to give them a hydrogen peroxide bath afterwards. Yes, it kills bacteria, but it also gets anything the beetles left behind, including random dead larva hiding out in the sinus cavity. They didn’t do the peroxide thing, because some people don’t like the bright white look of a peroxide soaked skull. Unfortunately, sometimes this means that if you didn’t leave it in with the bugs long enough, sometimes a little bit of gunk gets left behind.  No big deal though. It’s still cold as balls up here, and with the heater still running 24-7 in my house, it was only a matter of a week or so near a register to desiccate whatever was smelly and render the skull perfectly workable.

Oh, don’t gross out. It’ll happen to you someday too. Everything rots. Get used to it. It’s not like there was leftover brain matter or anything. Probably just some bone marrow.

I’ve been gluing the broken glass to it for the last week, and the lower mandible is already glittered up.

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I just finished the last of the glass on the skull not 20 minutes ago. Next it gets glitter, then milagros, and possibly butterflies coming out of the eye sockets. I haven’t decided yet. I have a thing with butterflies coming out of eye sockets, actually. In either case, by this time next week, this sucker is going to be ready for a Dia de los Muertos party. Yes, I will post pictures for all five of my readers to enjoy.

I’m loving the way it’s coming out. And I now have a cheap source for skulls thorough this awesome taxidermist I found on Ebay. I think there’s gonna be a lot more of these glittery skulls in my future.

The joys of research

Card readers. Did I ever suspect this would be such a pain? Nope. But I don’t know why I’m surprised. You get any sort of financial institution involved and things become instantly complicated. Ah, such is life. But, I still need a card reader. I’d be shooting myself in the foot if I didn’t take plastic.

When I first started doing renaissance faires, neither of my bosses took plastic. And that was fine. It didn’t hurt our sales a bit. My one boss figured everyone had at least $50 in their pockets, and most of his items came in under that. He was right. But ten years down the line and their lack of credit card taking ability did start to impact their bottom line. One of them eventually got on the band wagon. His sales did improve. Everywhere but Texas, interestingly enough. Apparently Texans still carry cash. In any case, the economy has changed, as well as the way people think about and spend money.  And people have always been willing to part with more when it’s in an abstract form like a credit card. A thing I’m counting on.

Ok ladies and gentleman of my readership (all five of you) does anyone have anything to say about card readers? I’ve looked at Square, Intuit, PayPal, and the one my bank’s financial partner Moneris offers. Moneris is probably off the table. They want a contract. I don’t. It’s pretty cut and dried there.

I’ve read pros and cons to the aforementioned, plus many, many more. It all boils down to each one having its problems. I’ve seen a lot more Squares around than anything else, but that could just be because they’re the only ones with mass advertising going on, so of course they’re the ones everybody thinks of when they need a card reader.

I want ease of use. I’m a Luddite at heart. I’ve always had an instinctive distrust for most forms of technology, and consequently, can’t wrap my brain around the use of much of it. So it’s got to be somewhat idiot proof. And I’m running this business on the change I find in my couch cushions, so there can’t be any sneaky fees, or withholding of my money for vague purposes.

Oh Internet Peoples, what say you? Anyone? Bueller?