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...