Chickens and eggs

Oh Re: Craft & Relic, I’m very disappointed in you.

So when this show was pitched to me by the original second in command (they’re on their third one of those, btw. They’ve also changed their layout twice and raised their fees twice. Portentious, or merely noteworthy? For me, it’s starting to sound like people in way over their heads and scrambling. But what do I know.) it was pitched as a fine junk meets fine craft meets fine art arrangement. Which sounded AWESOME. And everyone I tell that to says it sounds awesome. And my neighbors 3 Wren Street, the pickers that I was back to back with for most of the times I’ve done the show,  and I found such sales mojo in that idea. People asked me “Where do you find all this stuff?” and I would turn and point to them, and people would ask them “What do you do with this kind of stuff?” and they would turn and point to me. It was wonderfully symbiotic and profitable for both of us.

The first couple of shows there was a good mix of the aforementioned species of vendor. Fewer fine artists than crafters or junkers but that was ok. It was still a category well represented. And I did alright there. Not bangarang by any means, but certainly worth going and worth committing early to the next date, even though it was a lower profit show because thanks to travel costs it was as expensive to do as Lakeview. But I had total faith in the vision of uniting under one roof all of the Things.

There are two main ways of running a show, broadly speaking. You can be strict about what sorts of vendors you have, trusting that the vibe you create will draw the crowd you want for the kind of event you want to have. And it will. It won’t pay off as quickly, and you have to do a lot more legwork, but if you build it, they will come. Or, you can just let a sort of Darwinism rule and the kinds of vendors who apply to your show will naturally slant towards whatever the crowd that’s handy wants, because that’s who does well there and keeps coming back. But you end up with more of a flea market than an art/craft show. Which is exactly what’s happened with Re:Craft & Relic. I was one of four fine artists this go around. There were few fine crafters (fine craft includes things like jewelry and body products/home products too), and everybody else was either a junker or people who quite clearly were doing the least amount of work possible for their products. So your event starts looking like a Hobby Lobby or a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store crossed with a flea market. The average demographic of your crowd starts moving towards older women and moms who are not looking to spend any more than $20 on anything. And the natural result is that the actual makers who can’t compete with people who aren’t making a damn thing stop doing your show.

So. Here we are, RC&R. I had me some real talk with your number 2, and it was not reassuring. She told me you never billed yourself as a fine arts venue, which isn’t entirely true, but isn’t entirely false either. She also gave me the, “Well, that’s what this area wants” kind of thing. Which is true, but doesn’t have to affect the show if you’re willing to put in the time. Franklin is a very churchy, conservative area. But Milwaukee is right next door, and Wisconsinites are extremely willing to drive to get to things, unlike Chicagoans. Traffic and parking in a city this size makes everyone want to stay within a few El stops of their homes, but Milwaukee and its environs is totally different. You can get a city crowd to come to BFE in Wisconsin, and they did at first. When they were actually trying.

Bottom line is, if this isn’t my crowd anymore, it’s not my crowd and that’s just something I have to deal with. But the total lack of discrimination when it comes to who they’re allowing to vend there is disappointing in the extreme. I would never in a million years knock a good flea market. If this were turning into one then I don’t belong there as a vendor but I would part with no regrets. That’s not what’s happening though. What’s happening is what happened to ren faire and so many other solid shows. They’re going profit over content, not being picky if the “handmade” is done in China, but still billing themselves as a show that promotes unique handmade goods. Those that are actually making such things are left to struggle to get their prices with people who are definitely not. And the majority of the crowd really doesn’t know the difference. All they see is something priced at $20 versus something priced at $40. Those who know and appreciate the difference stop coming to the show because there’s nothing they want. And so it goes.

Part of me thought it was too tasty a concept to work in the long run. I guess my skepticism was well warranted. Though it was groovy while it lasted. I’m still on the fence as to whether to give it one more go in November. I had been doing fine there right up until this time around. Though the vendor profile has changed rather abruptly.

But this kind of thing, in case anyone was curious, is why all of us makers of things are always hollerin’ shit like “buy local” and “pay the artists” from the rooftops. Because resellers will infiltrate the best of shows, and it’s important to know the difference between something someone made and something someone bought wholesale.

If you believe in handmade, walk your talk. Don’t patronize the shows that let a buncha mass produced crapola pass as art. Don’t be lied to. Support the arts by going to the shows that support the artists (slash crafters, slash fine junkers, slash upcyclers, slash insert word for not made in China here.)

 

High points of a social species

When my dad first got diagnosed with cancer I was 23-ish. Dad and I have a difficult, complicated relationship. I can say we love each other, but we definitely don’t like each other. Still, there was no hesitation, and Mom didn’t have to ask. I told my various employers I was taking a leave, and canceled all my show plans for the rest of my season so I could stay in Chicago and do whatever I could. My bosses completely understood. I expected that. They were groovy dudes on the whole. My friends in my immediate circle knew what was up of course, because they were nearby. But this was before everyone had cell phones. Before Livejournal and Facebook. Internet was a thing, but it was a thing campgrounds didn’t have. Most of us still used calling cards and pay phones, and getting information spread around was a matter of weeks, not hours. Unless you’re a rennie.

There’s a saying. “Telephone, telegraph, tell a rennie”. Within days all of Bristol faire knew what was up. What shocked the crap outta me was how much they cared. I got a rose from a guy I could not stand, who was none too fond of me either, with a message of support. I was baffled, and asked him wtf. He told me, without the patented swagger and sarcasm that made him insufferable, that his mother had died recently of cancer. That he understood where I was at, and was there for me if I needed to talk to someone who got it. That blew me away completely. It was only one of many flowers, letters and messages of love and support that came from all corners of my home show.
Two months later I was at the faire in North Carolina, visiting friends and just getting some space from all the drama at home before digging in for a winter of slinging coffee at a bookstore and worrying. I ran into the owner of the faire there, who was not a big fan of yours truly. We had clashed on several occasions over petty shit, because I have a stubborn streak wider than the Amazon and rabid dislike for mansplaining. My policy was to avoid him at all costs (a policy I have instituted for all members of management staff in general, no matter what it is they’re managing, because I am sassy as hell and that tends to go over badly). I nodded, briefly, hoping to just scamper away unnoticed, when he stopped me. He said he was so sorry to hear about my dad, and if there was anything he could do to help, to please let him know. He said, and I remember this vividly, because his face was so sincere and he looked me right in the eyes when he said it (not something this man tended to do when speaking to me), he said, “We’re family here. Always remember that.” I couldn’t really do anything but mumble a “thank you”, because I was so totally about to cry.

Years later, I’m hunkered down in a strangers house in Shreveport, and a century storm has just taken out the city I was living in. At the time, CNN was telling us that something like 85% of the city of New Orleans was under water. Much later we would come to understand that they weren’t making a distinction between two inches of standing water in the street, and neighborhoods flooded to the rooftops (which, thanks by the way, assholes).
We thought we had lost everything. I had evacuated with 4 days worth of clothing, dog food, and a coffee pot. Because we thought we’d be right back.
Within days I was fielding tons of phone calls. My nearest and dearest peeps, of course, but also people who I barely knew had gotten a hold of my number and were calling to make sure we were ok. People I had outright animosity towards, who were only too happy on an average day to tell everybody what a bitch I was, were calling to make sure I had gotten out. Boxes full of things started arriving. Underwear, socks, yarn and needles (so I could knit and keep my hands busy), coffee, booze, dog treats, gift cards to Wal-Mart, little wads of cash rolled up in t-shirts and folded between packets of incense and other little comfort items rennies tend to use to make our mobile life more homey, books. Care packages from every show where anyone who vaguely knew me might be at. My tribe, even the members who hated my salty guts, pulled together for me right then.

I am actually tearing up as I write this. Because it never fails to humble and awe me (and I’m actually emo AF, though I try not to do it in front of people). I’m nothing special. I’m not a rock star or a pillar of the rennie community. I was just another traveler. Just a booth monkey with a few friends, a few enemies, a trailer and a dog. I was pretty antisocial, to be honest. I worked six days a week, so who had the time, but really that just gave me a convenient excuse. I’m not a big joiner. I’m awkward and uncomfortable in social situations. But somehow this group of people, some of whom had what I thought was the barest, most incidental of connections to me, stepped up in a big way when shit hit the fan.
That is what community is all about.
That’s why I threw $50 in the hat to get Pendragon’s booth rebuilt. Not because I’m friends with the owner or involved in her life. But because Jeffery Segal said it simply and accurately. We’re all family here. And you help your family.

Year End Blog: Salutations, thank yous, Things!

Hello, and a merry Whatever Holiday You Celebrate If Any. This is my end of year ramble, which is not going to be about all the shows I did this year, because mostly I did the same ones but for a couple. I can sum those two up thusly; Bucktown,ugh. Not remotely worth the pain in my ass. Chicago Art Girls, holyshityay!

Finally it seems I’m finding the shows, the audience, the mojo, that I need to find. We makers of things all do. We need to not just find our audience, but also find our shows/galleries/wherever the rad people come to experience what you make and hopefully let you make a living making. Making a living making is more than just selling the work. It’s also the connections and the community that you find while you’re at it. The importance of that can’t be remotely overstated. So, THANK YOU. You are so freakin’ beautiful and weird and awesome that I can’t even. There’s no doing this without you and I treasure your presence and participation. Those of my friends and rennie peeps who were among the first to follow the Facebook page, fellow artist/sans/makers, and those of you who just hopped on at the last show, or however you found your way here, you’re all in my black little heart and I love you. Like, for real.

2016 has been…challenging. To say the least. I am, like everyone, dealing with that as best I can. But speaking from a strictly shows and art life place, this season has been wonderful. I haven’t done the numbers yet, so I don’t know if I mean that in a financial sense, but this job isn’t exclusively about paying rent. This year stands out for having many bigger pieces finding homes, and many of those homes being with people who have bought from me before. I have collectors y’all!! That tells me something important. It tells me I’m connecting with people. I’ve talked before about how art is a desire driven purchase. It serves no practical purpose, and there’s no good reason to budget for it from a cost/benefit standpoint. We’re not looking at psychological stuff. Pure nuts and bolts I’m talkin’. So when people are spending on something with no purpose other than to be looked at, it’s speaking loudly and insistently to something rooted in their guts and souls. And that’s an artist’s freakin’ JOB. I am doing my job! And I appear to be doing it passably well. I probably can’t properly articulate how exciting that is for me. I have never comfortably referred to myself as an artist, because I never really thought of myself as one. That whole imposter thing is a thing. So for me, it’s beyond dope that I feel like I’m doing the job of making art. You did that! Give yourselves a cookie, because you made someones day.

In the coming season I want to build on that momentum and sense of growing community. That’s going to mean exploring new venues. New shows, always and of course, but also open studios and funky spaces of all sorts that support the artists. If all goes well you’ll find me right back at the shows you found me at this year. Glenwood, Lakeview, Edgewater, Craft and Relic, and Art Girls. Because those all continue to rock. Not Bucktown. Yes, that one turned out ok in the end, but the vibe was wrong for me, and I’m learning to trust my gut when it says “nope”. I hope to extend a tentacle into Logan Square this time around, so that should be interesting. Indiana will wait til next year because of family stuff, but it’s on the radar. There are some events in Milwaukee I’m eyeballing too.

And, Patreon. Is going. To happen! In the coming months, in addition to making All of the Things, I will be shooting video and giving a serious think on rewards (exclusive blogs! live chats! dinners! classes! art!) and whatnot for the various patron levels, so that I can make this happen. If you, oh hive mind, have any suggestions on such things I welcome your input. I don’t know what someone who pays me whatever, say $5 a month, to make art would like to have access to, so I’m open to ideas.

The opportunity this vehicle gives artists to connect with people all over the world is incredible. And the opportunity it gives people of modest means to be part of supporting the arts is mind blowingly awesome. I love tipping buskers. My dollar isn’t much in this day and age, but it’s not the only dollar in the hat. The hat contains many dollars from many people like me who want to be some part of that artist’s success. Patreon is the hat for people whose art doesn’t translate to a busking sort of situation, or a busker who wants a way bigger stage. A global hat to pass, with the opportunity for real interaction between artist and patrons. I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to that, but I have no idea what I’m doing in general, so I’ma just do it and see what happens.

Thank you thank you for being here my lovelies. 🙂

Here’s to a safe and sane (or insane in a really great way) years end.

 

 

My focus needs more focus

Does everything fall apart at 40, or am I just having a challenging year?

I’m going on day five of mild tachycardia. If you’re all, “WTF is that”, it’s when your heart rate revs up for no real reason. It’s basically an electrical malfunction, often hereditary, almost always harmless, though it can be very scary and can sometimes make you pass out. I’ve had it since I was a teenager, and it’s connected to my anxiety disorder. It usually manifests suddenly when I randomly compress my diaphragm in the wrong way. My heart starts beating so hard and fast that you can see it swelling my chest and neck. It’s creepy. It can last anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes (once for an hour, THAT was fun) and leaves me somewhat dizzy and tired. After Katrina I was having it two or three times a week and had a full cardiac workup, because damn. And the government handed us all a bunch of “Here, go somewhere else for awhile” cash (thanks FEMA!) so I could. They’re like, “You’re basically ok. Reduce your stress”. I don’t know about you, but I love it when people who don’t have an anxiety disorder tell you to reduce your stress.

Since I started training in fightsports, I almost never get it anymore. Apparently punching the crap out of things is cathartic. When I do it’s much milder than it used to be and lasts less time. Till four days ago. Every time I bend over, crouch, lean, sit or take a deep breath, my heart stutters, beating harder and faster for a few seconds. All. Day. Long. The reason I didn’t get to go visit my dead peeps on Dia de los Muertos is because I was at urgent care getting an EKG. I’m not used to more than an hour of it, let alone three days at that point. The upshot is, not dying. The downside is, I’m still having this, I don’t get a halter monitor (to record the “event” as they call it, which makes it sound like a Prince concert or something but I can tell you from personal experience is nowhere near as entertaining or sexy) til Monday because Medicaid, and in the meantime, I’m having a hell of a time focusing on the work I should be doing for the show that’s a week away, and the three after that.

This is just the latest in the line of weird medical crapola that has comprised my year thus far and done its best to tank my productivity. In April I had kidney stones that sent me to the ER, which led to weeks of discomfort and doctors visits, and a followup with the Worlds Most Sexist Urologist, which was triggering in ways I didn’t expect but should have. Ever had a cystoscopy? I don’t recommend it. Especially when the a-hole neglects to give you a local. But I bet he billed Medicaid for one. Just a hunch.

Earlier in the year, I totally had finger cancer. Ok, it was a really weird, blistery rash all over my hands that my mom’s no nonsense dermatologist who was nice enough to take a gander at it said was caused by stress. Guess what his advice was? You guessed it. “Reduce your stress”. Sigh.

Hypochondria is such a huge slice of my paranoia pie that this is been trying AF. My brain misunderstands reality a lot. It’s part of the wacky wiring that makes me so very entertaining. So my body is kind of sacred space for me. It possesses a solidity that nothing else does. Unlike that bunch of cats that aren’t really in my closet or the trumpets I hear in the background when the checker at Whole Foods is asking me if I want to keep or donate my bag credits. When most people hear the term “hypochondriac” they get dismissive. Like someone is making up illnesses for attention (which is a real condition, it’s called Munchausen’s, and you can totally Google it). People who have hypochondria aren’t doing that though. We are honest to FSM convinced we’re dying like, all the time, and it can be really terrifying (which ups your stress level, which leads to more weird shit going wrong with your body…). We’re also often ashamed of feeling that way, and hesitant to seek medical attention because we’re afraid both that we’re right, and that we’ll be totally dismissed by doctors. For example, I never tell a doctor I have an anxiety disorder, because when I do, they stop listening to me. I will often not tell them I have MDD either, because they all want to put me on SSRIs. Been there, done that, tried to kill myself. Kthnxbye. But I digress.

All this takes a hell of a toll on your energy and productivity. Making art takes energy and focus. Anyone who tells you it doesn’t is lying, or is one of those people you sometimes get at art shows who is all, “Oh, my 8th grader makes dioramas!”. I’m always like, “Great! Does she want a job?”. I’m a rennie. Rennies never shy away from putting children to work.

It’s tempting to say “Take some time off”, but I don’t know of one full time self employed person who can even afford that. Now take their finances down six more pegs if they’re an artist. In any case, I will focus through the (I’m convinced) impending heart attack and finger cancer and (probably) kidney disease, and I will get work done. Not as much as I’d like to and not as fast as I need to, but I’ma do this. I guess the point of this ramble is that. That I’ma do this. So can you, through whatever challenges are taking a poop in your Cheerios this year. But I felt the need to say it out loud. They say that you’re more likely to accomplish things you state your intention to accomplish. I have no idea if that’s true, but why not? I intend to accomplish Things! There. That should do it.

 

Imposter Syndrome

A friend asked me a question in a letter not too long ago. One that I’ve asked myself a million times, and I’m sure every artist/san/crafter asks themselves too. “Are my friends just being nice?”

Over the course of the last two shows I’ve had several friends drop many dollars in my shop and walk away with multiple pieces each. It’s wonderful and humbling and makes me all verklempt. After the last such multiple piece purchase I turned to my bestie and said, “Man, maybe I don’t totally suck at this?”

It’s interesting that validation from strangers is easier to accept, but validation from loved ones brings up this kind of insecurity. Do we think, what, that we’re tricking people, and strangers are ok to trick? Or strangers have worse taste than our friends, who of course wouldn’t want the shabby products of our hamfisted attempts at creation if they weren’t just being nice? Why do we think that way? I’m not saying you should go around thinking you’re all brilliant and Aaahtist-ing all over people, because ego like that is gross. But can we at least go around trusting our loved ones judgement? We don’t have to agree with it. We should learn to give it the same weight as our own in this case though, even when it conflicts with ours. Maybe their perception here is right and yours is completely whack. It can happen. You could be…wrong. You might NOT suck!

Ok, if you can’t accept that at least accept your potential whack-ness of perception.

While we’re at it, accepting things that is, lets get something straight. Loving you is a perfectly valid reason to support what you’re doing. You are the work, the work is you. Art is an expression of the self. So supporting you is supporting the work, whether the work is something they’re totally into or not. If someone loves you enough to buy a piece of art they think is hideous or that just doesn’t speak to them, you’ve done something right in one of the most important relationships in your life. Someone values you and your path a lot. “Take the doughnut”*, as my new favorite book on living a creative life advises. Go you!

But lets get pragmatic, because love is lovely but I’m a cynic. Unless your friends are very wealthy people, nobody is buying art just to be nice. The scale of being nice is a very short one and your friends are probably on a tight financial leash like most everybody else. Your broke ass peeps will maybe spend a fiver on being nice. Maybe a ten or even, possibly, in a good week, a twenty. Additionally, whatever they buy from you has to go somewhere. Nobody spends money on something they’re gonna bin. So in addition to parting with funds, they need to negotiate for space with all the other things in their home. I don’t know about y’all, but I have neither money nor space in any great supply. Most people just don’t. And when they budget enough of both for your work, that’s more than loving you. That’s a sincere appreciation for the work you’re doing and a desire driven impulse to support it with their filthy lucre. Which is awesome.

But either way, the question of if your friends are sincerely loving your work, or just loving you? They are of equal value here. They both say good things about you and what you’re doing. Take the doughnut.

 

 

*In Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art of Asking, she tells a story relating to this subject. I won’t go into a lengthy explanation here. You can get the whole thing by reading it if you like (and I recommend you do because it’s a great book). Short version; the “doughnut” in question becomes a metaphor for help and/or validation in whatever form it comes. Just accepting that help without making it into a “Do I deserve/am I allowed” kind of thing. You deserve it. It’s allowed. The art police isn’t coming for you for impersonating an artist. You are one. No papers necessary. Take the doughnut.

Here, have an update

Hi y’all!

Those of you who keep up with me on social media may have noticed that I’m a busy monkey lately. Usually I do the bulk of my production over the winter, but this year Life Things made that not happen as well as I’d have liked, so I used the huge lag between my spring show and my late summer ones to make up the difference. And man, have I done that. I’ve got a serious amount of stock ready for these next two months of shows. Before you get too impressed with me, remember that I’ve got a rennie crafter’s ideas of time and workload management, and that this is my full time job. I have way more time than many artists do to art with, and was taught the valuable skill of working even when I’m not feeling it. Inspiration is a thing, and sometimes you don’t have it. But when you’re trying to make a living you have to not let that stop you. There’s lots you can do even when the muse is taking a smoke break. Fortunately, I work well under pressure, and my muse has been on board with me these last couple of months, so I’ve been frankenjunking like a boss.

You’ve probably noticed all the flowers hereabouts, which is a bit of a sidestep from my usual. My meditations lately have focused on the transitory nature of the states of being we experience. Things like depression, happiness, anger, contentment, and what it actually means to embody an emotional state, both physiologically, (like what all those fancy neurotransmitters are really doing in there) and experientially. What’s more symbolic of how brief our lives and experiences are than flowers, says me. Moths and butterflies are often used symbolically to represent transition and change, too. Hard core monks meditate in charnel houses next to decomposing bodies to really come to grips with the brief nature of our existence. While most of my materials are decomposing, an actual carcass is too Dada even for me. Also, stanky. So flowers it is. You’re welcome.

Plus, you know, they’re pretty. I like pretty things. Not everything I find attractive is dead, you know. I have layers, people.

So, shows! You can find them all listed to the left of my Facebook page under the “events” tab. You can also say, “Madam! Prithee, put me on your mailing list, for I am lazy and wish all pertinent information to be delivered directly to my device.” and then give me your e-addy and I totally will. (Ok, “prithee” is recognized by spellcheck, but “experientially” and “charnal” are not? WTF spellcheck??) But I’ll be back at Glenwood and Lakeview, and also Edgewater, though they haven’t notified me yet, they cashed my check like two months ago so I’d better have a booth number. And new this year I’ll be in Bucktown, which everyone has been telling me since I started this party that I should check out, so I’m optimistic. August and September are the time to see me this year, unless you’re in the Milwaukee area, in which case come on out to Re:Craft and Relic in November so we can hang. I’ve also applied to my first Chicago Art Girls show in December. If you’re all “wtf is Chicago Art Girls”, they’re a loosely organized bunch of women artists that promote and support each other, throw a holiday shindig once a year, and kindly let a few non members apply to their hootnanny. I have a lot of shows in common with several of these ladies and I deeply dig each and every one of them. I just wish they didn’t all live in like West Town or whatever. Those of you who don’t live in a city the size of a small country just don’t understand how difficult it is to get with people that live in farther flung neighborhoods of the county. It’s actually easier and faster to get to Wisconsin. But I digress. I won’t know about that one til September, so stay tuned for updates on that score, and the rest of the holiday shenanigans, as the November and December shows don’t tend to put their calls out for a while yet.

Speaking of which, I will not be back at Late Late this year, for any of you who attend that one. That crowd way wasn’t into my glittery shenanigans. A few FB peeps came out like the awesome, supportive rock stars you are, but on the whole I was clearly not what that crowd was looking for. Eh, live and learn.

A new Thing I’m trying this year at shows is pay what you want artist trading cards. I’ve made up a buncha tiny art that anyone can afford because you can pay or trade whatever you want for it (No children or pets please!). You can pay a quarter, a dollar, a flower, a c-note, a cupcake, a hug, produce, sandwiches, your own tiny art, or just say “thanks” and we’re square. If you don’t at least say “thanks”, I will think you’re kind of rude, because damn, where are your manners, but you can still have some art. The point is that you pay what you want, and if you want to pay with being kind of rude, I accept. I’m  gonna judge you, but I accept. It’s always been my jam to be accessible. This way, even if you’re homeless, you can afford art. Because they’re not “free”, you still participate in a fair exchange, even if your part is just shaking my hand. I dig this because I’m a control freak (no really, just ask my shop monkeys), and it’s a great exercise in not controlling, just accepting. Whatever your payment will be is exactly enough (As long as it’s not alive! I really can’t stress enough how much I don’t want a pet hamster or a five year old.).

Also! The knits are going away forever, so what’s left is going to be on super sale at the shows where they’ll let me have more than my juried medium. Some shows are picky about that, but others, like Glenwood, are pretty laid back about having more than one kind of thing in your shop, so long as you’re still making all the things. So hats, scarves and tubes made with super sexy, really kick ass fiber are going for less than cost of materials, even. I just need them outta my way. And, while not on super sale because they’re already pretty much at cost, the mini shrines are also going away, so what I’ve got is all that’s gonna be, and if you’ve been eyeing one, now is the time to commit. I still have a decent number left, so they’ll probably still be around next season, but I’ve decided I’m not even going to take custom orders on them anymore, so git em now before they’re gone.

Is that it? Hm. Yeah, I think that’s it. You know all of the things for now.

I hope everyone is having a fabulous summer so far. It’s all too brief in this godforsaken latitude, so enjoy it while it’s here. I know I am.

I do not think it means what you think it means

As I further contemplate joining Patreon, I get really excited about what things like Patreon mean for the relationship between consumer and maker. I don’t know why any one else makes art, but I make it to tell stories, to have somewhere to put the manic energy that’s always lived in my hands, and to reflect an idea or state of mind. Stories are by their nature meant to be shared. Even if the story I tell with objects isn’t the one you’re hearing, as long as you’re hearing a story or getting an idea or emotion, I’ve done my job. And that’s awesome.

Music and literature in particular have often depended on middlemen to reach the consumer. Sometimes that’s a really useful relationship. Indie record labels and small publishing houses are wonderful things. But the big dogs are not wonderful a lot of the time. Those relationships can be really unbalanced to the detriment of the maker, with an overabundance of middlemen, higher prices for the finished product, a homogenization of the art, and not as much going to the artist as you might like. It’s really satisfying to me to buy or trade for art at the shows I do. I’m right there in the act of supporting the maker. I feel the same when I drop something in the hat of a performer. I’m helping them live their life so they can make art. And that’s awesome.

So this article I posted yesterday morning. Maria Popova interviews Amanda Palmer and they talk about this very thing. Art, the consumer, the relationship between the creator and the fan base. Palmer talks about a supporter on Patreon who withdrew their patronage because they didn’t want the money they spent on art to be spent on diapers. (For those of you who aren’t fans or don’t pay attention to such things, Palmer and husband Neil Gaiman have recently spawned.)

This brings up a very interesting issue. When you pay your plumber for routing out your drain, you understand, if you think about it at all, that he puts that money in the bank and then pays for his life expenses with it. Rent, food, kids school supplies. You do the same with your paycheck for whatever work you do. As far as art goes, when you buy a CD or book at the store, wherever that money goes, someone is paying bills with it, going on vacation with it, doing Life Things with it. But it’s at a remove. You don’t think about what your plumber does at home anymore than you’d want your boss wondering what you’re spending your paycheck on.

Patreon is different. The artists blog and post and share their lives with the patrons, creating an exchange that allows for the patronage relationship to work. Patronage is very different from buying a CD at the store, or art at a show. It’s far more personal and what you get for your money is sometimes less tangible. So Gladys knows that Palmer just supported her chosen political candidate and she knows that she pays Palmer $5 a month to make art. “Wait a minute? Is that MY money she just gave to that Socialist hippie????” Well, no. Gladys, you paid a wage to someone to make work, which you got your fair share of in whatever way Patreon has set up that you agreed to. You got what you paid for. Your $5, that is, Palmer’s paycheck, went into her bank account to pay for Life Things. Sometimes that’s going to facilitate making more art. But sometimes it’s for diapers and sometimes it’s for things you don’t necessarily agree with.

It leads to a lot of pondering about expectations, and why artists would be expected to somehow live differently than plumbers. I’d love for my art to completely support my life. That means that when someone buys my art, they’re directly supporting my life with this paycheck they’ve just given me in exchange for my work. My whole, entire, mundane detail filled life. Which involves buying more supplies and making more art, but it also entails having my oil changed and paying for my dog’s vet bills, paying my tax accountant and spending a weekend hiking at Devils Lake with my partner. If they don’t like that I have a dog with vet bills or sometimes need a vacation and don’t want to pay for that, it’s their choice. But are they so picky about the guy at the bakery, or the lady who dry cleans their shirts? Why, or why not?

But think about that. When I have enough of a customer base to actually consider Patreon, it’s going to create a different sort of consumer/maker relationship. Anyone who chooses to support it will be paying me a salary to just be here and make stuff. Such is the nature of patronage. It’s maybe just a dollar a month. But that dollar will get you access, rather than concrete objects. Workshops, blogs, bits and bobs. It’ll be different than buying something from me online or at a show. Though part of that access will probably be first dibs on new stuff. Can I then, with that dollar and many others, go and get a tattoo, for example, without pissing anybody off? Can I even fulfill a consumer/maker relationship at a higher level than what you’d put in a tip jar? Because visual artists on Patreon send their higher dollar patrons some great shit, let me tell you. Limited edition prints and whatnot, that only patrons get. But I don’t have prints. I’m a 3D girl. What do I send someone insane enough to put more than a buck in my hat?

The answer is, I don’t know. There’s a reason I don’t have “artist” on my business cards, but instead put “mad scientist” on them. Because this is all an experiment. I don’t know how many of you or anyone else are willing to get on board with me and see where it goes, but I’m totally willing to fling myself out into the void to find out.