Friday, September 11, 2015

Why DO We Sell Our Art?

by Sherri Stokey
Micro macrame bracelet by Sherri Stokey.

"Why is selling your finished product important?"  This question was tossed my way recently by a student working on an economics project and it stumped me for a bit.  Why do I feel the need to sell my handmade pieces?  Why do any of us want to sell our art?  I think I speak for the majority of jewelry and jewelry component makers when I say it isn't for the money.  The reality for most of us is that a full-time minimum wage job would likely be more profitable.  What, then, could persuade us to put the results of our blood, sweat and tears out there for the world to judge (and hopefully buy)?

There are things which obviously contribute to the decision to sell.  I really love macrame and I practice my craft almost every day.  It's how I relax and I thoroughly enjoy experimenting with color and texture and pattern.  I'm curious and one thing leads to another.  Before I know it, I have three or four new pieces in the space of a week.  Even culling out the ones I deem unworthy of sale, I am still left with a steadily building inventory of micro macrame jewelry pieces - more than I can possibly wear.  Selling some pieces not only frees up space, but the resulting income allows me to purchase more beads and more colors of cord and do more experimenting.  That's a definite win-win for someone like me who wants to have all the beads and all the cord!

Practicality aside, further soul-searching revealed something that surprised me.  My answer to the student was "It gives me a feeling of "success" to think someone else thought enough of my work to purchase it."  If you take that a bit further, my reason for selling actually boils down to fulfilling an emotional need for approval.  Go figure!  

Micro macrame bracelet by Sherri Stokey of Knot Just Macrame.

I pride myself on not caring what people think of every little thing I do or say or how I look.  It's taken me years to get to the point in my life where I can say that with some degree of honesty.  I won't claim to be 100% there, but I'm certainly closer to it than I was when I was younger.  The trite saying "with age comes wisdom" isn't far off the mark.  Maybe it's just a matter of having seen more and having been through more that lets you start to prioritize better and figure out what really matters in the overall scheme of things.

Why, then, this need for validation when it comes to my art?  Why is there such an emotional connection to selling my "finished product"?  I did a little research and I found this: on a deep emotional level, feeling approval makes us feel more secure with who we are.  Hmm.  This is starting to make some sense to me.  I have a real problem with confidence.  I don't call what I do "art" (unless I go back and correct it for the purposes of this article) and I don't think of myself as an "artist".  I can apply those labels to others, but not myself.  But I can recognize the beauty of the pieces I make and take credit for the creation. So while I admit that for now I am still seeking validation, I will continue to work toward my goal of feeling good about who I am apart from my craft. And when I do reach that point, I will continue to sell just to share my joy with the world!

What about  you?  Care to share why you decided to sell (or not to sell) your art?

Colors of Autumn micro macrame bracelets by Sherri Stokey.


Cheryl Coville said...

You are an artist, Sherri, whether you say it or not. I love your work. I really like what you had to say in this essay. It sums up how I feel. In my case, I buy my raw materials, have the fun of creating, and turn the money from sales over to my favourite charity. And that makes me very happy.

sandysewin said...

I used to think I needed to sell my work. It seemed like the proper business model: make stuff, sell it, make money.

However, about a year ago I realized that I could make money teaching, and I am SO much happier without the stress of having to sell products. In fact, it was a huge relief to realize that I could focus on my teaching and not production work. I tend to do complicated and detailed work that would have to sell for WAY too much for most folks, so teaching it instead is just perfect!

I suppose, though, I get the same satisfaction and validation you mention when someone buys one of my classes, or makes their own project from something I've taught. :-)

Anonymous said...

If you substituted polymer clay beads for macrame this article could be about me.

Donna Sharp Geurin said...

Sherri, Yes you are, without a doubt, an artist. This is a great post and really gives me something to think about. Thank you.

BluMoon said...

I have njoyed reading your post and can relate to it.
I sell very little these days but I do enjoy the idea that someone may get pleasure oout of wearing some of the jewellery I have created, yes it is a validation of worth but also the cash allows us to experiment perhaps try a new skill. I am not good at the selling side of things I have to admit, when I sold through my own web site life was easy but things have moved on over the years with social media and such, the time it all takes I would never get anything made and I tend to lose all inspiration! So I learn new things to add to my enjoyment of creating artist endevour. We are all artists in our own way it doesn't have to be great art!

Anonymous said...

Yes, all this is so true. I sell to buy and learn and experiment. I love doing what I do. I can tell that you do also. I am a firm believer that people who must "work" at jobs they may or may not enjoy, they need some skill set that provides pleasure, the pure joy of creating. And if you can sell what you create, yes, it does give you confidence to experiment, to try new skills and satisfaction that you have done these things. This is satisfaction you might not get from bringing home a paycheck. And it is SUCH FUN!

Neena Shilvock said...

Sherri your micro macrame is so beautiful, everytime I look at it I want to learn how to do it - it's just the lack of time to practice yet another technique that keeps me from doing so.
I sell because I need the space - if I didn't I'd drown in jewellery and though I love it so, that's not my preferred way to die! I also feel the need for others to admire what I've made and put their money where their mouth is - like you, perhaps a deep seated need to be admired and loved and looked up to. Until I started making jewellery 4 years ago, I was very shy and retiring, but now I feel as if I am growing out of my chrysalis - I can fly!

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