Monday, March 29, 2010

WITHOUT A NET


The Merry Goth

ReDeco

HooplaZuma!


When you look up "entrepreneur" in the dictionary, there should be a picture of someone in shock, blood draining from her face, who is none-the-less smiling and saying, "Why of course. I'd love to." Or at least that's the story for this particular entrepreneur.

Last year, my friend Anne Picard, the fashion tech at work (and a working artist) curated an exhibition called, "High Fibre Cafe" at a high-end, prestigious gallery - When she asked me to submit work, I was less than enthusiastic. It was September, hell month on the job. Although I work steadily, after the day job eats a fifty hour chunk of the week, I can only accomplish so much, let alone find time to make new pieces for a show. But Anne persisted and eventually I put in work I had on hand.

Two good pieces that sat gathering virtual dust in my Etsy shop for ages (at direct sale prices) - sold at retail prices.

Consequently, The Moorings Gallery invited me to be one of their artists this May to December season. I was thrilled. While Etsy has provided me with wonderful contacts in the beading world and great suppliers, I had the sneaking sensation that directing potential buyers to my shop was like ushering a customer into a twenty mile square mall in which there were five hundred direct competitors. Without the time to tweet, blog, and ceaselessly promote (let alone the time to produce new work quickly enough), Etsy was not the place for me. In a good gallery, I figured, my work could speak for itself.

So I worked - weekends, evenings, holidays, vacation days, producing more work in anticipation of the new season at the Gallery.

I'd beaded all winter, only to find that The Moorings hosts exhibitions almost once a month - and those shows have themes. Themes. I'd been making work willy-nilly, following my imagination but doing wildly varying work. Suddenly it was apparent that I would have to present coherent pieces that fit the themes. Which meant, I wasn't exactly prepared and now had deadlines looming. Just as this mixed blessing was developing, another gallery, about to open in April, asked me submit work.

I figured out color themes for two exhibitions - silvery grays and blues for one, and for The Moorings, "Quest for Colour," I went with vivid, bright shades. I began to seriously eat up vacation days and for the one hundredth time over the last few years, I realized that I could not do what I loved and hang onto the security of my full-time job. I thought about the current economy. And then I blocked the thought. I handed in my notice for the end of August - and then my computer fried to death when a transformer blew out during a storm. All my pictures gone. All the adjustments to my logo, my business card, everything...

I didn't give up. I spent every cent I'd set aside having a new computer build. I took more vacation days to work. I slogged away on presentation and display. With Etsy, I could simply post work and arrange the pictures in a pleasing way. With a static, real-life presentation, every piece had to work with the one next to it. I thought even harder than usual about what my customers might be wearing with my jewelry. I was stress-monster, but stress just pushes an entrepreneur to try harder. Every problem is a challenge. Every failure is a lesson.

And if all this effort fails...if I have a bad season with the galleries, I'll be back at the drawing board again figuring out the next change in direction. Doing what I love is no longer an option. And soon, it has to pay the bills.

Am I scared? Damn right. That only means I have a grip on reality. But more than being scared - I'm excited. I used to be good at jumping off cliffs and landing, more or less, on my feet. And it's time to start practicing bravery again. Wish me luck?

Above are some of the pieces for The Moorings Gallery's exhibition, "Quest for Colour." And a shout out to that Beadygirl, Tera Belinsky-Yoder, for the gorgeous focal in "HooplaZuma" and the bright lamp work beads in "Merry Widow." Jennifer Jennings, thank you for the great lamp work disks.

8 comments:

Leinaala Mitchell said...

Linda, thank you for sharing your experiences with the always terrifying yet heady times of change, I needed to hear it. Leinaala

NEDbeads said...

An incredible act of bravery already. I wish you all the success you can handle, and every good thing you can get. What amazing creations, I am so jealous that I can't come and see the gallery in person!

LLJones said...

Thank you both so much. It's a pretty scary-good time right now. And I'm actively beating down negative thoughts. Listened to a great interview with a Buddhist lady the other day. The talk was about not accepting your negative thoughts (and consequently letting them pull up disastrous memories & emotions that beat you into the ground).
Rather, she said, you should treat the mind & it's negative thoughts like children who need an alternative answer - i.e. More positive viewpoints, reality checks, and some of your good memories. The interview couldn't have come at a better time!

lauren abrams said...

Linda, I've spent most of my adult life jumping from those cliffs, doing art to pay the bills and somehow they always got paid...feat or famine, I wouldn't have had it any other way.

That said, it's nice to have a breather now with a husband who supports us both. But the experience of working in art for a living has taught me much, so if and when you need a shoulder, I'm your girl....

LLJones said...

Hi Lauren. Yeah - I know you have! And I also know that worrying about money isn't a whole lot of fun. But I've had a long period of security and it's made me timid. I still question my sanity from time to time -but I'll take you up on that shoulder if the time comes. And thanks.

beadbabe49 said...

You go, linda!

and when it gets scary, ask yourself, "if not now, when?"

I've seen too many folks grimly hang onto jobs for "security" and by the time they retired, they didn't know how to enjoy anything any more!

LLJones said...

BB! Amen. I got to the point where I realized "if not now" it was going to be when I keeled over at the desk.
Lord! I am SO looking forward to it - even on the wobbly-knees days!

Cristina said...

Wow...lovely and amazing work!!