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.)
(I guess starting my goal list wasn't so hard after all.)