Robin's Post on Selling Your Work

I know that most of you who read here are already members of the BJP but for those who aren't I'd like to add a link to robin atkin's blog, beadlust. She's written an honest and sensitive post about her feelings about selling her work and has requested feedback from some of us who also sell our work.
I first have to say that I've never had to make a living by selling my work...I've always had a "day job" that supported both me and my beadwork. However, I have been selling my work since 1988...first my digital art and then my beaded jewelry when I started beading. And unlike many beaders who start out beading as a hobby and then gradually get into the artistic aspects of it, I came to beadwork as an artist who had a background in other mediums and beads just became another medium for making art to me.
But in 1998, when I was laid off from my job as a graphic designer and couldn't find another comparable job in our small coastal community, I thought I'd see if I could make at least a partial living from my jewelry. By 2000 I had work in 8 oregon galleries and was averaging several hundred dollars a month...not a lot, but I thought it was a good beginning. And then the GW Bush years began and my sales began to drop and a couple of my galleries closed and it went downhill from there.
So, I began to consider doing the kind of production work that robin is talking about in order to boost my sales but I realized fairly soon that it just wasn't for me. Not only was it boring to me to do virtually the same pieces over and over, but they weren't even selling...so I took another look at our situation and got a parttime job at our visual arts center which brought in a small but steady paycheck each month and went back to just making what I want to make. Now and then I get worried about money and make a few smaller, cheaper things to put into my etsy shop, but I find that even the less expensive work isn't selling....so I go back again to making what I want to make....the kind of things that no one else is doing....that are just from me....and they are their own reward, as robin says. And mostly I'm satisfied...but now and then, when I see some of my friends who are able to do production work making a good living at it, I feel a bit sad that my work isn't valued in the same way theirs is...and then I remember van gogh and it reminds me that whether my work sells or not has little to do with it's true value...and that even if I never sold another piece, I'd still keep on making it because it's what gets me up in the morning and keeps me on a more or less even keel through some pretty steep ups and downs and finally, that it's just what I have to do because I'm an artist and I make things...


Robin said...

Bobbi ~ You've written a wonderful and honest post about this topic which rounds out some of the things I alluded to in a really good way. I'm proud of you for sticking to what you want to do and am grateful for the inspiration it has offered me along the way. Our art is healing, rewarding, fun and personally satisfying... That's what is important! Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Robin A.

Camilla La Mer-Art Dolls said...

Thanks Bobbi! i particularly relate to your final comment "because I'm an artist and I make things." I am constantly exploring this topic. I like that you have been able to sell your work and still feel connected to it with the knowing that you will continue to create whether it is selling or not. I have one friend who created giant multiple pieces and then production line small pieces...all with the idea of making money. She had a beautiful studio and no interest in creating again when they didn't produce the income she wanted...To me, this feels tragically sad.

beadbabe49 said...

same to you robin...sometimes I'll be thinking of a certain topic and a day or two later you'll write about it...serendipitous!

oh camilla, that is so sad! One of the best parts of making art is being surprised by the unexpected turn a piece can take...it sounds like she was so focused on money, she never got to experience the fun!

Magpie Sue said...

Thanks, bobbi, for expressing so accurately what is also true for me. I've never quite been able to put it that clearly - even to myself. I'm going to save your words so I can refer back to them whenever I need to.

The Lone Beader said...

Interesting to read your experiences! I posted mine today, too!

Pursuing Art... said...

Dearest Bobbi...I swung by last evening to catch up with you. I read your post and bailed out...needing to think about what I wanted to say before I opened my mouth.

First, I hope you know it is not you or your beautiful art! Our economy is a mess!!! Art is a luxury...so I think selling art right now and of late would be very difficult. The dollar is weak, credit is difficult, stocks are down, food and fuel have been sky high, and real estate is going backwards. We are all cautious and hesitant to spend right now not knowing what the future holds. Those of us that love art, have less to spend on it.

Most important...is that you said that even if you never sold another piece, you'd still keep on making it because it is what gets you up in the morning and it's just what you have to do because you are an artist and you make things! THAT is the most important thing...that you do it for YOU first. I don't sell my work, but I do know that everything I am and everything I love to do is in creating. It is my passion that drives me, heals me, allows me to escape, and play. It might not be beautiful to all, but it represents my heart and soul, my hands work, my vision, and hope and faith.

Art can heal. Hopefully in the not so distant future, with time, we will all recover from this mess and life will be well again for all.

Don't take it personally Bobbi...and don't give up. Hold on. Hopefully, we will start climbing out of the hole soon. Keep doing what you love, what represents your heart and soul, your hands work, your vision, hope and faith, and what you do best...even if it's only for you right now! The true value is all about you, the journey, and what you gain.

Bead on my friend...xo ~Lisa

beadbabe49 said...

thanks sue, diana and lisa...I know there are times when we see others as more successful than ourselves, whether finaicially or artistically or personally and I don't believe there are many people whose egos are strong enough to brush past those times...I also know that we all (at least the folks I'm reading) get past that...count their blessings, or take a class or get together with friends and we're back on an even keel again.

So lisa, I do appreciate your kind words and support very, very much...but I blogged this post, not to be reassured, but so that other artists would know that we all (mostly, anyway!) feel that way at times and it's not wrong, or silly...it's just human.

and it usually passes too...in part because of friends like you and your heartfelt support.

Hélène H said...

Nice post, Bobbi.

I think in order to sell a lot all the time, you have to be good also at the art of marketing. People's tastes change often and it is not easy to be always in tune with them.

I really like your approach.

With love.

beadbabe49 said...

I think you're absolutely right, helene...the artists I know who actually make a living either are excellent salespeople for their own work (and I admire that, but cannot emulate it) or they have dealers who are great at marketing their work (and I haven't had much luck lately in that area either...)

freebird said...


I will add that I am not a salesperson; my sister is. Once when I bought some "vintage" beads (to us bead workers) with which to make some rosaries she said "oh, and make sure when you are selling them (which I didn't plan on) that you say the beads are pre-Vatican II! That's the difference a salesperson can make and the thought would never have crossed my mind. Now I can't forget her "slogan".

Chris said...

Thanks for this post. I've been pondering my direction for a while now. I'm happy with the progress I'm making but I can feel something new coming, I just can't quite visualize it yet.