TITLE: On Chicken Farming
DATE: 8/17/2004 07:11:00 AM
"If I didn't start painting, I would have raised chickens."
- Anna Mary Robinson "Grandma" Moses (1860-1961)
If I didn't make art or work with artists, I don't think I would have raised chickens.
In fact, I'm positive I would have gone into a field with more apparent paths and more defined opportunities: marketing, public relations, law, maybe even teaching.
Somewhere along the line though I decided making things was my chief talent. And some time since then I have learned that guiding others in HOW to make and sell their artwork was my even higher calling.
I spent all of last week following that call. I traveled to New Hampshire to assist an artist (and dear friend) with her sales and demo booth at a top outdoor craft fair. While I say I traveled to New Hampshire to help her, this wasn't my main motivation. I really went to LEARN from her.
The trip up to the show each morning was a rather long and windy drive. Along the way we stopped for coffee, we broke for wild turkeys, we even pulled to the side of the road to watch the funny, fluffy pet chickens in someone's side yard. The drive back was always shorter because we were exhausted, all our energy given to potential buyers who entered the booth:
"Please feel free to touch!"
"We're the touchy-feely booth, you're welcome to pick things up."
"Those earrings are IN-CRED-IBLE on you... Would you like to see them in another color?"
While trying to sell lower priced items to the craft fair crowd, we also were trying to elevate her higher priced work—exquisite wall hangings with intricate layers of stitching, contrasting textures, colorful trade beads, and handmade artifacts.
Straddling both extremes we combed through each person who entered the booth, searching for visual clues. Who would buy the wall hangings? Who simply wanted to pick up an inexpensive pair of earrings for their granddaughter. Quickly I began to understand that the women with the handmade leather and embroidery purses were her IDEAL CUSTOMERS, while the older women with no jewelry and clean, white Keds were just browsing and... to be quite frank... taking up booth space. It's not that we were unappreciative of admiration from these women. It is simply that we had to be cautious with WHOM we chose to invest our time and energy over the week-long event.
All of this is simply to say that SELLING ARTWORK IS A HARD JOB. And selling your own work is the hardest job of all. You must balance your time and energy with your ego and pride. Who wouldn't be exhausted after a day of sales under these grueling conditions?
So, perhaps I have chosen this as MY career path. Perhaps my artist-friend chose an artist lifestyle as HER path. But choosing the road doesn't prepare you for how it will be paved or all the bumps you will encounter along the way. I suppose though that for both of us, like Grandma Moses, if we didn't follow this road we would have simply led less ambitious lives with modest goals and clearer boundaries.
Carefully avoiding the pointless question of "what if", I can't help but accept that there was no other life for me or my friend. These are OUR realized talents. These are the tools we were born with or we learned to develop over time. Raising chickens has never been a realistic option for us because these are the paths we were meant to travel down and the gifts we were intended to share with others.
I feel lucky to have learned that and even luckier still to be able to sit back and watch a friend slowly discover that about herself with each sale, each new collector, and each thrilling gasp of praise given for her work at a show. It is truly a priviledge to see someone carving out their own path and finding success in their own way, on their own terms. Maybe it doesn't always happen according to the timeline you envisioned. But if you keep building, continue to bring passion into your studio, and constantly spy new roads around old obstacles... you will get there.
Thanks Luann for letting me be witness to your incredible perseverance. :)
DATE:8/17/2004 09:16:00 AM
"HOW to make and sell their artwork was my even higher calling." What a great concept for a blog!! This one will be a hit as soon as you have developed it a bit more! Can't wait.
AUTHOR: Luann Udell
DATE:8/17/2004 04:09:00 PM
Oh, Alisha, I'm just about to write how much I learned from YOU in MY blog! LOL!
I'm so honored to be featured in your very first blog entry, and wish you continued success with this venture.
with love, awe and respect,