Monday, January 21, 2008

the internal struggle between art and commerce

new coffee creeps, originally uploaded by nervousonion.

up until a few years ago, i had never sewn a stitch save for the occasional loose or unattached shirt button. needle and thread was something you used when you NEEDED to, not when you wanted too. everything changed one day in our local mom & pop bookstore when my wife suggested i buy a book on making cute little critters from socks (i'm going to guess that anybody that would take time from their day to read this particular blog knows the one of which i speak). it was fun. i was like "lookit me!!! i took old socks and made this lil dude! i'll name him abe!"

fast forward a few years, and something that i did while i watched tv has become something i dedicated the little area at the top of the stairs to. stabbing my finger by hand has been replaced by the possibility of stabbing my finger repeatedly with a machine. a cute little bag of socks is now a precarious tower of rubbermaid bins. this is all fine. i accept it as the natural progression of a hobby. but...then two things happened.

i bought. a postal scale.
and i started to mass produce.

up until recently, everything i made was unique. each lil guy was his own lil unique dude with his own quirks. i gave them names and histories and tales of debauchery. i would get emotionally involved. talk to them. apologize to them for making their eyes crooked. we woul d laugh and play and drink mojitos and play dominos and push eachother on the swings!!

this month, i started to make coffee cuffs. i made a couple. they made me smile. so i made more. last week i made like 20 of them. to some of you that may not seem like much, but to me that's like walmart sweatshop fast! i started an assembly line. i have a collection of coffee cups set aside to use as dressforms. i have piles of cuffs in different states of construction. all this is great, except that i noticed that these guys don't push me on the swings. oh man. this is almost business-like.

so, now i have the dilemma. what is more important to me? do i want to embrace the efficient machine of henry ford or do i want to the unique individuality of big daddy ed roth? is there a place for both?

i'm babbling.
my swing stopped and i need a push.


orangefishy said...

This is exactly what I am struggling with right now as I sew an army of little felt tripod monsters...

Do these ones still like to listen to opera... do they still collect deer figurines and want to be postal workers when they grow up? Do they still have a story when there is a pile of 10 of them and another 15 already cut out and waiting to be sewn?

But then again, am I willing to let them loose their stories so that I don't have to work monday through friday nine to five anymore? Maybe they loose their stories but we gain ours?

Net said...

Do both... Create the unique lil guys that love you and let them have all their own babies that look just like them.

When a mass produced car rolls off the assembly line, it has a whole long heritage of high-end formula one one-off engineering tweaks and innovations. (Maybe I should have gone with an analogy that I knew about instead of the automobile industry).

Do both, and you'll still have someone to push you on the swing, and maybe even be able to get a bigger swing one day.

weirdbuglady said...

It's all about doing what you love. I'm sure you can find room in your heart to take on some new little guys, as well as a bunch of their friends, for sale.

So far I just don't have the energy to make repeats of my monsters so they're all a bit different.

Phil Barbato said...

Man, I know exactly how you feel. Hate the daily job, dream of making your art full time.

I think orangefishy hit it on the head: "am I willing to let them loose their stories so that I don't have to work monday through friday nine to five anymore?"

Hell yes. someone just show me the way.

mayabella said...

I agree with all. Do both. If a design sells make tons! And inbetween create new creatures. If one of those is popular make tons. and so on... sounds like a great deal to me. :)

Ms Frapcious said...

someone once asked me if i was afraid of success; i guess he assumed I hadn't had any. More likely he didn't feel he had any. Do what feels right for you. Originals or hundreds: both have the potential to ditch the 9-5.

Beeper Bebe said...

Yeah. I think it is all about doing what is your passion. I actually started turning down all manner of consignment request from shops around the country and requests for custom creatures about 6 months ago...simply because I find it too grueling to make what someone else wants me to make. I want to sew what I want to sew when I want to sew it. So there. If I feel like making 2 dozen stuffed bunnies--so be it--but if I only want to make a OOAK little chicken with a dress and pillbox hat--I want to be able to do that too, when I feel like it. Of course, I also have a day job that I have no intention of leaving right now or in the immediate future (because I like it, and they are paying for my masters)--so I do not pressure myself to make more than I want to anymore. I do mass produce some items for craft fairs--but at the end of the day, I only do what I want to do. That's mty artistic perogative--and it is yours too.

jenni said...

I think there's room for both assembly line production and one-of-a-kind inspirational designs, but I'm with you on the struggle between making a bunch of the same and just letting the muse take me wherever, whenever. I suppose it's really about how you want to spend you waking hours. And the coffee cuffs are really awesome!

Claire said...

There is a place for both. I don't know what I could possibly add to what's already been said. I stuggle with this too- seems like balance is always a problem for artists.
When it starts to feel draining, stop. Switch gears. Do something unsaleable. (if only for a little bit) Rebel against yourself.
Or at least that's what Twyla Tharp has been saying in that book of hers.

Claire said...

Oh, rats! I forgot to say this:
Thank you for posting your thoughts! It's so great to see a bit of the struggle as well as the finished work here.

robyn fabsits said...

I totally relate. I too started making duplicates of plush for about a year and I got burned out big time. I now make one of a kinds. If I do sell them I price them a little higher. I figure if it doesn't sell I'd rather keep it and feel creatively energized with each new piece than to start dreading my work. I came to the conclusion I don't care about the money anymore. It took a long time to decide that.

'Cuz I Felt Like It! said...

I totally loved reading made me wheels start turnin!


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