Many years ago, when I was in university studying art, I took a series of illustration courses that I loved. I remember getting the syllabus and list of required tools and supplies and among the board, pencils, markers, etc., was listed “Library Card”. I thought this was kind of odd. The instructor explained that a great deal of the illustrators job is doing research for their work. A good illustrator needed to know where and how to find visual references that can aide them in creating the illustrations that they will be paid to create. It had never occurred to me that an illustrator would have to do research for their work. I was very young, and not at all even remotely experienced as an illustrator or graphic designer. Needless to say, I learned a great deal during my four years in art school. The least of which was ‘get a library card so you can do research’.
There is a distinct similarity between my recent entrepreneurial endeavors and that first day of illustration class, however, no one has handed me a list of required tools, supplies and materials to help me with my business. No, that is not true. I have had immense amounts of help from Työbileet and their fantastic staff. It’s because of them, and what they’ve taught me that I can recognize the challenges and potential problems getting my business up and running, while at the same time, making sure that I’m designing a business that is a reflection of who I am as a person and how I want to be as an artist and art teacher in the greater world.
I have a notebook that I map out my website posts in. I jot down notes about what I want to write about, when I want to post new artwork for sale, and ideas about where I want to take the website in the future, as a vehicle for my business as an artist and art teacher. Keeping this notebook and jotting down these notes has helped me to have some good aha moments regarding a project I’m working on for my business. Some of these aha moments have been arrived at after I’ve done some online research into questions like, ‘Is anyone else doing this?‘ and ‘Is there a market for this?‘ Even more important for me, “What is the context in which I wish to present this work?”
There are other things in the notebook that are kind of at odd ends. Questions that I haven’t been able to answer, but which require additional research to help me make the right decisions for myself and my business.
Showing My Artwork:
I want to be showing my artwork more, both locally and regionally. My artwork doesn’t neatly fit into any one specific category. I make dolls, but they aren’t toys. I work in three dimensional mixed media, utilizing textile and fiber art. Some of the most logical venues, after some inquiry are just not open to me (Read: “They are in no way, shape, or form interested in showing or selling my work.”)
Part of me would think that language would be a barrier to finding these places and making the types of contacts, but it’s not. I read Finnish a lot better than I speak it, so I found many places to show artwork, but…it’s not the kind of place that would show my personal artwork.
I’m not in any way throwing up my hands and saying, “FINE!” I just need to keep looking and keep asking, and looking and asking. Hopefully without becoming an annoying bit of baggage in the bargain. And the benefit of all the looking and asking is, my Finnish will hopefully get better!
Teaching Art and Doll Making:
Recently, I was offered the opportunity to teach two art workshops at a local educational venue. I worked with the super cool staff and created two courses that we felt would be attractive to their students. Neither class received enough students, so each of the art workshops had to be cancelled. I was bummed-out about it, as I was so looking forward to teaching the workshops.
I’m an art teacher and I’ve got loads, heaps and bucket-fulls of lessons that I can teach. Since moving here, I’ve been concentrating on designing and creating art workshops and seminars for teenagers and adults. It’s been a lot of fun for me, because I love researching, designing and implementing art curriculum. I feel like I have so much to offer, but no place in which to offer it to anyone, which can be kind of depressing.
While thinking about what I could have done to make the art workshops that got cancelled more attractive to potential students, the thought struck me that I was trying to make myself fit into an educational institutions preconceived idea of what an art workshop or seminar is. I was making myself dependent upon a larger institution granting me an opportunity to teach art, instead of giving myself the go-ahead to teach art on my own, outside of that larger, more established institution. That sounds weird, doesn’t it?
When looked at from a different angle, I can teach art workshops and seminars to whomever I wish — well, to whomever wants to have me teach them, and I can decide on things like pricing for the workshop, and the venue, and the materials and techniques taught. That sudden revelation made it clear that I have other options. I just need to sort them out and see what I can make of them.
While it would still be super-nice to teach in one of these established educational institutions, I’m not going to sit on a log and cry and whine and moan because they’re not offering to have me teach in them. I will need to find my own way on this front, and that’s a good thing in the long run.
Let me first say, I don’t want to sell my artwork on Etsy. I’ve tried it in the past and it did not work for me. I think I made five sales total, and three of them were to people I knew. Etsy can be a great venue for lot of creators. It’s a ready made market place for crying-out-loud! What’s not to love about that?
Etsy’s not for me. I feel as if my artwork is lost on the platform. My work would just be one more handmade doll in a veritable sea of handmade dolls. I also don’t feel like my work belongs there because it’s not what sells on Etsy. I struggle to put it into the correct words, but my dolls, my artwork, they exist in this weird outer ether of not quite being Art (with that all-important capital A) and not quite “Craft” (in parenthesis, and with a capital C), and for these reasons, I don’t feel my work is right for Etsy.
I’d been trying to ignore the idea of putting my work on Etsy for quite a while, hoping that it would just go away and leave me alone. I decided to do some research in the hopes that I could make a decision that was good for me and my artwork and I found this site online. It’s worth the read and it did help me to make up my mind about Etsy for the foreseeable future.
Wow. I don’t belong in an Art gallery or on Etsy. So, where do I belong? Well, for right now, I belong on my own website, showing my own artwork and selling my own artwork. This feels right, so I won’t be changing it any time soon.
So as you can see, out of the three odd-ends, two are still more or less still at odd ends, with the third being fairly settled for the time being. There’s still a lot more work to do regarding teaching and showing my work, and while it would be so fantastically amazing if suddenly I got a teaching job or a local/regional gallery or association of artists would say, “Come! Be with us! Show your work here! Come to our meetings! There will be coffee and cake!” (“Tulkaa! Ole kanssamme! Näytä työsi täällä! Tule kokouksiin! Tulee kahvia ja kakkua!“) Because in any meeting in Finland, there is coffee, sometimes cake, or buns, or cookies, but always coffee. But it’s not a perfect world, and that’s just not going to happen, and that’s okay.
PS: I do have a card for the local library, so…I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.