Wednesday, January 06, 2010

A New Year

So here it is folks… 2010, a fresh, new year filled with infinite possibility! Or at least, that's what I'm supposed to say right? Honestly, I've been feeling some mixed emotions about starting the year. Yesterday I sat down to write my End Of Year Accomplishments List, something I do every year at the advice of the very wise Alyson Stanfield and her Art Marketing Action Newsletter, and it felt OK, but not nearly as good as I had hoped it would make me feel. This year's list doesn't look as good on paper to me as my 2008 list. Parts of my list were strong (listing the press I received for example) but other parts not nearly as much (listing the books I read in 2009… boo.)

But even more difficult for me to do this year seems to be starting my Goal List for 2010. (I still haven't started one and usually I begin in December!) The truth of it is, I've been dreading having to articulate specific goals for the year, even though I know it's important for me to do. In fact, I really haven't wanted to do much of anything (beyond focusing on family and my upcoming wedding this summer) since the end of my holiday business chaos December 20th. I definitely haven't been feeling excited about getting back in the studio again either - despite the long list of commitments that need attention from custom orders to new wholesale accounts, to gallery re-stocks…

I suppose my lack of enthusiasm has been, in part, because I've been so conflicted about the Plastic Body Series. I had sort-of unofficially announced in 2009 that I would no longer be continuing on with the series in 2010 because I wanted to make time to work on other things. I've been feeling a bit trapped in the series and want to feel more fulfilled and excited about my work again. These days, I desire nothing more than some distance from the plastic princess. The new year felt like good timing to expedite this change because 2009 was Barbie's 50th anniversary and 2010 would mark the nearly ten years I've been working on the series. I have many other ideas that need time for exploration (which, as we all know, there is never enough of) so setting an end date for the Plastic Body Series seemed like the only real way I would be able to truly focus on new work. There are many issues in breaking up with Barbie however, not the least of which is: stream of income.

My work gained enough momentum to enable me to quit my part-time job back in the summer of 2008 which allowed me to finally become a full-time studio artist (yay!) however, with that came a whole new set of responsibilities that I hadn't entirely anticipated. For instance, I no longer have "down time" where there are no jewelry projects on my bench. I used to be able to relax (at least a little bit) after completing a big grouping of new work to recharge before starting more one-of-a-kinds because I had an alternate source of income to help out during the down times. Nowadays I must immediately jump right into the next project. Part of that, I know, is the expense of living here in NYC and affording a studio outside of my home (more on that another time) however it's also because I no longer have that part-time job to fall back on for regular paychecks when/if I need a break from my studio work. I fully realize this is THE major trade-off involved in working for yourself (aka: the best job in the world!) yet it's challenging nonetheless, always focusing on making enough in preparation for the next inevitable, eventual famine after the feast. This type of financial planning seems to become particularly challenging when considering a major change in the direction of one's work. I can't be sure my new work will make ends meet, which scares me to no end and keeps me stuck in this cement.

Bringing in money is an issue whether I like it or not. The constant work and no play time for exploration in the studio feels like it's sucking the love out of what I do little by little. But what's the alternative? As much as it sucks to have to work so much and churn out designs on a non-stop basis it would suck more for me if I had to go back to a part-time job.

The other issue in breaking up with Barbie, is that it's hard to leave behind something your "known" for. The Plastic Body Series is fairly established now and I've experienced decent sales, some excellent exhibition opportunities, great representation and lots of press all because people now know the type of work that I do: my Barbie work. It's scary to have to start over in that way and rebuild a reputation for new work. Will people even respond if/when I try to put new work "out there?" Or will I just get… "that's nice, but do you have any new Barbie Jewelry?" Beyond sale-ability, what if my designs aren't actually even any good post-Barbie?! What if I don't ever have another "successful" idea? Maybe I will, maybe I won't, but the "What If's…" shouldn't be what keep me from attempting a change. I know I need this, but it's probably one of the scariest decisions I've had to face in my career thus far.

Despite the hesitation, fear, and uncertainty… it's time. So I've settled on a compromise. Instead of discontinuing the series all together, (which ultimately I cannot afford to chance right now) I've decided to slowly scale back by taking a break from making the one-of-a-kind Barbie works for a while (gallery pieces that are über-labor intensive as well as artistically draining) and continue on with the series only in terms of wholesale accounts, custom orders and my etsy shop. This will hopefully free up all the time spent on gallery work to become "play time" for new ideas.

I think what I need to remain aware of is that I can always go back to Barbie if I want to. No one is telling me I can't. What's that saying… if you love something set if free…? Perhaps after this year my ideas for new Barbie works will be brimming over and I'll simply HAVE to return to the series! Or perhaps I'll decide the new work really isn't as interesting or as personally fulfilling to me as the Plastic Body Series. Or maybe I'll love my new direction, whatever it may be, and I just won't give a damn what other people want/expect anymore. Or maybe, just maybe, other people will love it (and want to buy it) as much or more than my older work. Only time will tell.

Regardless: this year I am promising myself play time. To see where it leads. I know it will be a challenge sticking to this, especially if it means saying no to exhibition opportunities that sound great. I'll have to cross those bridges when I come to them, however I aim to try my best not to get sucked into the Barbie vortex, compromising my number one goal for 2010. OH! there it is…

#1: Make play time for new series of jewelry.
(I guess starting my goal list wasn't so hard after all.)

16 comments:

Grand Purl Baa said...

Well this little old knit nut is looking forward to seeing what comes after Barbie. Reinvention is survival. It is sure to be a big adventure, if nothing else.

Valerie A. Heck said...

I have faith that your new work will be wonderful!

Alyson B. Stanfield said...

Ah, transition. I know what it feels like! I'm so glad you're giving yourself permission to do what you need to do. Whether Barbie is part of that or not doesn't matter.

I wouldn't worry too much about others not catching on to new work. You'll find your audience.

Happy 2010! And happy wedding planning. Enjoy this time!

KMJewelryStudio said...

I have faith that you will do very well! You have a great design sense and wonderful ambition!

Congratulations on your wedding. Enjoy the process of planning. It's one of the biggest events of your life! I got married last year and I took a nice long break from jewelry afterward. I needed a few months to re-coup. (I do have a "real" job, so I was able to do this) But once you get settled and have a chance to rejuvinate yourself- you'll be back in action. Full force! I can't wait to see what ideas you have... and can't wait to see pics of the wedding! Best wishes!

Kevin F Chamberlain ceramic art and pottery blog said...

So this is the time that I do not feel necessarily swamped with attitude towards my goals... If you set a goal, the beginning is the best time to take advantage of your freedom. Guide yourself towards the open doors that you have, good luck and happy new years!

jeanne said...

i have to tell you, i could have written that post ! i know exactly how you feel. i make type key jewelry, and i am soooo bored with it...but..it is my bread and butter..people will ask..but do you have any barbie jewelry...that's just the nature of the business.....just force yourself to make time for new things....good luck !

Ginga Squid said...

Sounds like you need a break to try new things & get some new energy!

Could you continue to carry some more production type Barbie pieces which are less time consuming to make? That way you could still make great sales while experimenting with new stuff?

But sounds like you defo need a break!

Catherine Chandler said...

I think this is an issue that regularly comes up with artists of any field when they become "known" for something. Musicians, actors, painters, jewelers, etc.

You should play with us doing the Ring A Day challenge! It can be out of any material you choose--a string, leather, trash, or a proper metal ring. It helps to get you into the groove of creating something different without committing 10 hours on it per day :)

http://www.flickr.com/groups/rad2010/

Anonymous said...

You've realy worked it all out in this post. Barbie is your part time job now. You can give yourself space to do new work and let your old friend support you. This is a great time for you to move on, even though we all love your Barbie work,what's fresh for you will be exciting for your audience too.:)

Adelaide said...

I've just discovered you and what you do! It's smart and playful, and i must say a breath of fresh air!
As an artist wanting to quit my day job, it was refreshing to read your struggles. why CANT we just play allll the time and still make money... cause crafting in its true essence is kindof playing... right?
Anyway, Cheers to you and 2010! you've inspired me, and im sure whatever comes next will be just as thrilling!

Danielle Miller-Gilliam said...

*sigh* I know EXACTLY how you feel. But I have been stuck in the "bread and butter wholesale work" and have not had time to make "one-of-a-kind artistic exploration work" for 12 years!!!! I am so bored and tired. I have to drag myself into the studio and I dread having to make the same thing again. But that is what is selling so I keep at it. I have been yearning for a change (of somekind) for a while. I was leaning towards going even more commercial, so I could make a better living...which MAY give me more time to do more artistic projects. However, with the economy still in flux I don't know what to do. So indecisive....

I support you in your new venture. I think moving on with new designs while still keeping the door open to Barbie is a good decision right now.

virginie etc... said...

I make jewelry too and I was glad to read this post. thank you for sharing your doubts and thoughts with us. I'm sure people will be very interesting in your new work,, no matter what it is, simply because now they know you and they like your art. but it's true it's not easy to manage with all these questions : have a part time job or not, organize your time and make choices (sometimes have to say no), make money and have fun...
are you french, your name sounds like it ?

jaboopee said...

best of luck with your endeavours...i think thats a great goal to aim for.
its always a terrible dichotomy money-V-creativity
but struggle on we must...
you have a very exciting year ahead...

MJHitchings said...

your work will be amazing no matter what because you are pretty amazing yourself! i can't wait to see what 2010 brings!

Margaux Lange said...

Thanks everyone, your encouragement and enthusiasm for the change is reassuring. Here's to new challenges! :-)

Rebecca Collins said...

Good Luck in your transition. Keep in mind that there is nothing wrong in allowing Barbie to be your commercial day job while you pursue you new creative ideas in a part time fashion. She was probably a part time passion once. Most people have day jobs unless they have a rich sugar daddy. Once your new creative passion demands more and more time, it will eventually become your new paycheck as well. I can relate to your problem very well. For now I am keeping my commercial art studio ( 11 years in) and I spend my off hours making art that nobody even has to like.