28 May 2010

Keep Your Best

"Doing the best in this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment."
~Oprah Winfrey

When I create my jewelry I like to say that it is one-of-a-kind made one-at-a-time. So when people see my jewelry, like the set of 9 pieces that I created for the Bead Star contest, they invariably want it. But they can't always have it. {At least not at that moment.}

This past weekend at the Arts Walk, I could have sold Tiny Dancer's "Icy Rings" about a dozen times over. Same for "Lily at Twilight." And even "The Bee Whisperer."

But I had to tell everyone that they were not for sale.

Now that can sometimes send people over the edge.

"But I want it!" cried one woman.

"When can I buy it?" another asks.

The truth is that once I make something I rarely want to make it again. Maybe that is shooting myself in the foot. Or maybe that is marketing genius.
I have created a culture where people want what I create. That is great. But most of what I create is either custom work for one individual or for potential publication. And that leaves people wanting.

I like the fact that they want what I create. That is very flattering. But I also find it hard to let it go. Does anyone else have that problem?

In 2009 I challenged myself to be published once per month. It took a lot of constant work and stumping my ideas to various publications, but I did it. I was proud of that fact. But that left a lot of what I had to show only in the pages of a magazine.

I have sold a lot of those pieces. And the prestige of having a copy of the magazine where the piece is shown creates interest on its own.

But I haven't parted with everything. And my studio is starting to look like an episode of Clean House {or more precisely, Hoarders.}

I wonder if great Master artists had that problem? Did they feel as if they wouldn't want to let their latest work of art out into the world? Did they ever regret letting them go? Or is it simply that they had a desire to make more, they needed more money for supplies and that overrode their desire to hold onto their art?

I am by no means comparing myself to Master artists. But I think that anyone who creates for a living would have the same feelings. And since I know my readers are a creative lot, I am wondering...Do you?

I recently started following Lori Koop's blog. Lori make amazing pottery. What I love most about it is the idea that words have power and they feature prominently in her work.

{I am pining for a bit of her wall art like this one.}

But what most attracted me to Lori was the fact that if you sign up for her emails she will send you a word of the week. And I am all about words {I am sure that I told you that in another life I was an English teacher. Of 7th graders}.

Lori calls this service UPWoRDS. You can sign up right from her blog {and be entered for a chance to win her pottery!}.

This week's word was FOCUS. {How did she know that is what I am lacking in completely this week. Or this month. Or this year.}

I also appreciate the short but sweet posts {so unlike me!} that she has on her blog about how to be successful at your handmade business. Like asking yourself "would you buy it?" as a way to see if you are on your own unique track, not the boring ~ SAFE ~ track of doing what everyone else is doing.

Just the other day she posted about whether you should KEEP or SELL your best work.

Lori advocates KEEPing it.

She says that by doing so you are making it your best calling card. It should draw attention to all the best that is in you, and be your strongest ambassador. Then when someone's interest is piqued, that is when you hand them your skillfully crafted business card. {Why yes, I would be happy to make something just for you...}

And your best can help you see the worst. It can help you improve and strive to delve deeper into your art, challenging yourself to rise above your best.

But the one point that Lori makes that I like the most is that keeping your best reminds you of why you are an artist and how very good you are. Because there are times when you won't believe it yourself, until you look at your best and know deep in your heart that you are, in fact, a talented artist. Believe it.

And believing that I am doing my best will help me in the next moment that is about to arrive.

Where do you stand on the KEEP vs. SELL argument?
Do you think that it is a good idea to keep some of your best pieces for yourself? Does it make people want your work even more? Or does that just make you unapproachable because you won't let those pieces go?
Have you ever regretted letting one of your best pieces go?
Do you feel that you are doing the best in this moment? If not, what is holding you back?

Do tell!

Check It Out:Move Upword

Enjoy the day!


Lorelei said...

Hmmm. This is an interesting topic for sure! I would say I am the opposite. I actually can let anything go that I create, if it means it will be worn and cherished and loved by the buyer. I hardly ever wear jewelry that I make- I am just more of a small charm on a chain type of girl. Occasionally I'll wear something if I want to show it off to potential customers. I feel bad that I have certain pieces in my collection that I want to sell, but yet feel guilty about selling. Like the necklace that I created for the gallery in Cynthia's book. I still have that, along with the matching bracelet. Not sure if it's kosher to sell it. But then again, I sold every piece that was in Chain Style!! Strange. I'll be chewing on this topic for the day!

Barbara Lewis said...

You've raised some tough questions. My feeling is if you create something that may never be possible to recreate ... like a certain glaze effect for pottery or enamel effect for jewelry ... I advocate keeping it. Otherwise, I let go. A lesson I learned from pottery is to let go of your attachment to your work. Things don't turn out right from the firing, someone in the studio picks something up haphazardly that you've spent days on and breaks a piece off ... the nature of ceramics is that way. For me, I had to learn to let go ... otherwise I would be crying ... still! I apply the same attitude toward my jewelry. We're constantly growing so even if you do keep something that is stupendous now, in a year you might be able to let it go because you've moved on.

Of course if you're using something for promo photos that "brands" your work ... keep it.

Cynthia said...

I do have trouble letting my favorites go. So, I KEEP them and wear them. I figure this: jewelry really doesn't take up that much room, and I love it, and I'll wear it - so I should keep it. I have sold some pieces that I would have rather kept, but I sell a lot to people I know, so once in a while I get to admire my work around another neck. And it's not like it's a 10 foot tall canvas. No matter how much I keep, I'll always have room for it all.

Christine said...

Hi Erin!
Keep or sell? So many times I make a piece specifically for sale, something I wouldn't necessarily wear, just because I *need to sell* some work to support this glass habit of mine. I recently sold a piece, though, that I wish I'd kept. Or raised the price on. It was a beautiful bracelet of the best colorful beads I have made and I loved it. But I sold it and now I wish I hadn't. Sure, I can make another one, but it won't be the same.
I wish my work was as in-demand as some others' work is, but I suppose that will come in time. One thing I have learned though is that I should make things *I* like and want to wear. I am happier, and if it sells, well, that's fine, but otherwise I have beautiful work of my own creation to adorn myself with.

Do I feel I am doing the best in this moment? No. Right now I am feeling like I am floundering around, awash in a sea of ideas and not organized enough to work through them methodically AND balance the rest of my life. It'll come, though. I need patience. And focus would be good too. :)

SummersStudio said...

There are things I make that I never intend to sell. They are personal pieces about process and my life at a particular time. They are my memories, joys, tears, made solid. They may not be my 'best' work, but they are my best treasures. It's an intriguing question you ask. I definitely think you should hold onto the special pieces, at least for a little while, if for no other reason than they are comforting.

Judy said...

I think our work is always evolving and that there will always be another "great" piece. When I make something I like, I keep it for a bit and admire it but then its is time for it to move on.

lunedreams said...

I don't really wear jewelry anymore, although if I think I might be in a place where there will be some exposure I might wear one of my pieces. I would rather someone else wear them, who really wants to wear them. It would be burdensome, and dispiriting for me to keep any of them for myself. I don't feel like they're really completed until someone who loves them wears them. (I do love many of my pieces, I just have no desire to wear them.)

At the moment I feel there is a next step I need to take. I'm currently trying to figure out what that is, and that is the best I can do at the moment. I'm doing what I am able to right now, and I feel fine about that.

EmandaJ said...

Keep or sell? I love to do commission work and sometimes I want to recreate a piece I am proud of -- but I don't (don't know why exctly). I like to wear my pieces and use the comments as an opportunity to 'advertise'. A jewelry artist in Austin (Tall Pam) says you shouldn't leave the house without wearing a piece of your own work -- even to go to the curb with the trash -- you never know when you will get the opportunity to sell your stuff.

The discussion of letting go makes me think of a tidbit learned in graduate shcool about Edgar Degas: He had a very difficult time letting go of his work because he was a perfectionist. He would sell a painting to a friend and then months later see it in the friend's home and say, "I want to make a tiny change to that painting" and then it would be months before the friend would get it back -- after begging and pleading. Also, he had a slew of small wax pieces (tiny dancers?) in his studio that he would continue to change -- when he died his friends had to decide which were ready for the foundry -- he could not make up his mind.

Thanks for the food for thought!

Kristen said...

I am at the point right now that I only make for me or gifts. I am still in the learning stages and each new pattern is a treasure just for me whether it comes from a book, magazine, or I have begged a fellow blogger to make a tutorial they speak to me in such a way I just can't part with it. I know it may sound strange but they become a part of me and I hope a tribute to the designers who inspire me. Besides I have too many t-shirts and blouses that need a special piece of bling!

Craftymoose Crafts said...

Very thought provoking post! I certainly do have trouble letting go of what I consider my best work. One way I've solved this is to create some things only for me/my family's enjoyment and I don't sell anything my husband
"forbids" me to, LOL!
That said, it is only by putting my things online to sell that I have had some wonderful custom orders come my way. I also get some satisfaction of thinking of all the places my creations have gone and the pleasure they have given. Thanks for a great topic!

Leslie @ Bei Mondi said...

I hear ya. I'm trying to force myself to make some of the same items I've made in the past again but its not easy. I agree with Judy, we are evolving and trying new things all the time. We get excited by new ideas and adventures and want to keep going in that direction. Hopefully we only get better and better ;)

Alice said...

I sell my pieces, even if they are the very best I've made. I want people to enjoy them, and let's face it, they will be a great form of advertisement.

Jenners said...

I can't totally relate to this because I don't really create anything but I could see why it would be a struggle. Perhaps you could do just two pieces ... one for you and one to put out in the world to a good home???

Lance said...

Having been the recipient of one of your very custom, very beautiful pieces (for my wife) - I know firsthand what an amazing artist you are!

What you are doing is working well for you...and that's what counts!

Keep on sharing your AWESOME with the world!!

alice said...

Alice from Alice's Beads and Baubles says:
I have a hard time at first letting go of something I feel is really special but I find when I do, I really enjoy seeing it worn by others. You can't admire a necklace on yourself as much as looking at someone else wearing it. Of course if you sell it to someone you may never see again- that can cause heartbreak. One tends to feel their work is really an extention of ourselves- kinda like cutting off our arm or leg. I always say I will re-create something like it for myself and never do. That is part of the reason I sent my Bead soup partner a bracelet I made (as well as the bead soup)because we do not tend to make things for ourselves.

Libby Leuchtman said...

I have many beads of mine that I will always keep. They were made with friends, during a class, or as an serendipitous experiment, and remain quite special. I can never bear to part with them.

Pretty Things said...

Thanks for the blog suggestion -- now I have a new favorite to follow!

stregata said...

Sometimes I make pieces just for me. But most of the work I create is just for the sake of creating. And so, I don't find it too difficult to let it go. After all, it is a journey. I learn something with every piece. Try new techniques. What I may regard to be my best piece today, can be outdone by something I may make next year.

Brandi said...

I have to laugh a little at this because while I was in college as an art major, I constantly went around saying things like "I never want to make money off my art!" Ah, to be 19 and have no concept of bills or food. Silly me.

What got me over it was jewelry, actually. I wasn't sure I wanted to let go of anything I ever made. But then a strange thing happened - people liked what I was doing! And I liked seeing how much they loved the pieces I was making! Talk about an "aha!" moment.

So, now, I don't mind it. There's still a twinge as I send things off to new owners (because most of what I make is one of a kind, too), but if I simply cannot part with one piece, I don't. I keep it and wear it and file it under "advertising".


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