Artistic Setbacks

Is it possible to write an article about artistic setbacks when in the middle of one?  Is it simply a matter of showing up at the page, or jewelry bench or wherever you make your art?  According to everything I’ve learned from Julia Cameron, it is.

I had a serious setback last week.  I’m trying really hard to keep it from turning into a true U-turn, or worse….a complete roadblock.

Here’s what happened.  I’ve been focusing a lot of my attention on making shawl pins.  I’ve been focusing on this because there are two yarn shop owners who are interested in seeing my work.  This is a good thing.  I’ve also been experimenting with some new techniques and creating pins that are different from work I’ve done in the past.  I’ve shown them to a few people and mostly met with good results.

Then this thing happened.  I showed them to a friend who I thought was in my artistic corner.  That is to say that I thought she was one of the people who was “safe” to show new work, work that I wasn’t so sure of, and get encouragement and support.  She asked me what I would charge for one of these pieces.  I told her that it depended on the piece, but anywhere from $15 to $30, depending on the materials and the amount of work.

Her response was an incredulous, “Really?  You mean there are people who would spend that much?”

Now, I’m not sure how, exactly, that was meant.  She could have been commenting on the state of the economy, or the state of our society.  However, as an artist (and an insecure one at that), I took it personally.  My internal translation was “You mean there are people who would spend that much money on a worthless piece of crap like that?”

The fact is I have spent that much money, and much more, on handmade items, whether jewelry or hand-dyed fiber or yarn or other craft items.  People have spent that much on pieces that I have created, and not blinked an eye.  So why did this hit me so hard?

I don’t know.

Maybe because these pieces are a departure from work I’ve done in the past, work that has sold well.  Maybe because I’m unsure about them.  Maybe because the reviews have been mixed.  Maybe my vitamin D level was low that day.  Maybe I was tired and particularly sensitive.  Maybe because I’m insecure as an artist and given the opportunity I will always assume that people mean the worst.


It doesn’t matter.

What I do know is that when in the throes of an artistic setback, it’s crucially important to show up.  My inclination is to run away and hide from The Work.  I can find a million things to do other than sit down in the studio and make things.  I can clean (as I did this weekend), I can get really social and need to connect with the immediate world, or I can just hole up and read or watch TV.  But the important thing is to show up and Do The Work.  No Matter What.

And so I did.  Here is what I did today:

I made a bracelet

see more shots at my shop Double Spiral Designs.

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2 comments to Artistic Setbacks

  • Flame

    It’s the economy, not your artistry. As one who has never had the kind of disposable income that allows me to buy custom jewelry and no experience in the world of fiber, I have no idea of its value or worth. I’m truly sorry my surprise at jewelry prices caused you a setback. It’s my own financial angst at work, and not at all a reflection of your skill as an artist.

  • Tim

    When inspiration comes, follow……