30 September 2010

I am a Working Artist

{Print of an original acrylic and ink illustration by creativethrusday on Etsy
who embodies exactly where I want to go with my own art!}

"I am an artist… I am here to live out loud."
~ Emile Zola

You may remember my post here where I indicated that I was joining a group called the Working Artist Initiative (WAI). We are a pilot program from the International Arts Movement (IAM) out of New York City.

So what does New York City have to do with dinky ol' Stevens Point, WI (population 25,294)?

I think that the biggest commonality is that artists can be found in every conceivable place on earth. Just because a city has the highest concentration of people or the largest and best known art galleries doesn't mean that art doesn't exist elsewhere.

The premise behind this group is simple: artists of all disciplines can come together to offer support and direction and encourage each other to create a body of work for the simple sake of making art. There is no requirement to be shown in a gallery or make a heap of cash from selling your art at the end {although those things are nice perks to having a body of work}. We exist to share our struggles, celebrate our triumphs and push on through with a plan of our own making.

Our group will meet every other week for 32 weeks. We each had to develop a plan with REAL action steps {this is the hardest part for me} to show acheivable, accountable results {I have already been told that I need actual milestones that need to be reached. Ugh.}. To keep me honest, I have decided that I will be blogging once per week on my progress. That way you can all see what this process is like for my art. Maybe it will inspire you to set up a plan for your own creative expression or form a group like this of your own.

In our WAI we currently have the following participants:

Rainy - painting
Chuck - photography
Ryan - portrait drawing
Lois - painting
Karen - dream interpretation
Jay - songwriting
Kristin - pottery (she isn't officially in yet, but I am working on it! ;-)
and me - jewelry

We commit to a minimum of 5 hours per week to actually creating art. Each time we meet we will have a series of readings which we will discuss. Then one of our members will offer up their art for review and critique by the others. I volunteered to go first on Monday, October 11th {what was I thinking?}. And there will also be monthly outings or experiences curated by each member in turn that could be as simple as going to someone's house to sing songs to more elaborate excursions like driving to local art galleries or exhibits.

Here is my 32 week goal:
  • To develop a line of jewelry {or jewelry components} that are each unique and handmade but can be easily created. Packaging, pricing, marketing and selling this jewelry through multiple outlets will be part of this plan.

Here is my outcome:
  • Create and sell 50 pieces of this jewelry line by the end of the program.
Here are some initial action steps I am taking:
  • Determine what I do best that can be translated into this project

  • Research if there are similar offerings in the marketplace

  • Read any resources that might help me

  • Develop the prototypes in at least three different media

  • Market research the prototypes to see how they are received in the different media

  • Determine if additional tools, materials, training are required

Sorry to be so vague, but I don't want to give away all the information that I am using for this to be a road map. This is more of a suggestion of some of the things that are occurring in my plan. My action steps are supposed to have actual projected deadline dates. Let's just say that all of these things are slated to happen in the month of October-ish. There will be more concrete action steps/dates once I can get through these.

Truth be told, my action steps are lacking a bit. If you know me at all, then you know that goals and I are not friends. I am a shiftless soul who flits in and out of daily life. I don't carry around a planner {although I have calendars up in various places} and writing down goals is something I abhor. Still, when I have set goals for myself, I am surprised that I actually do them. But this is larger than anything I have every attempted, so maybe that is why I need to put it out there. So you can all help keep me on track ;-)

I think that a lot of the potential success of a group like WAI will be in the support network, the accountability and the envisioning of a goal that you want to achieve.

I thought that you might be interested in this short paragraph which was one of the readings that we discussed this week detailing how contemporary fantasy author Peter Brett wrote his first novel:

While you were busy checking out possible candidates for a Missed Connection post and listening to your podcasts, 36-year-old Brooklyn writer Peter Brett wrote a novel while commuting on the F train. Feeling like an underachiever yet? He wrote the novel, his first, entirely on his Smartphone. Now the "dark, demonic fantasy," titled The Warded Man, is sitting pretty in bookstores. The Daily News reports that Brett worked in medical publishing, and for the two years it took him to finish the 400-page novel, the F was his muse on his daily commute to and from the Fort Hamilton Parkway stop and Times Square. He told the paper, "I trained myself that at 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. every day when I got on the train, that was my writing time. I had about 45 minutes each way, and everyone who takes the F knows that 45 minutes can turn into an hour and a half." Now a full-time writer, he combats writer's block by taking rides on the train.

We discussed what this says about discipline for artists.

My thoughts are that there really should be no excuses and that you can find the time even if it is on the daily commute. As working artists it is essential to commit to a time and keep at it. And to make it a priority to make art every day. Sometimes that means just thinking about it and doodling. Or writing about it as I am doing now. It is really easy to fall into the trap that there are other things that take your focus away from your creative time. And if a best-selling novel can be written on a Smartphone on the F train, then there is no reason to believe that I can't create this line of jewelry in my spaces in-between.

So...What do you think?

  • Where in your daytime can you carve out time to be creative? Can you get creative with creating that time from the spaces in-between?

  • In what ways do you lack the discipline and focus needed to be creative?

  • What would help you acheive your goals?

  • Do you cringe when it comes to setting goals? or are you the sort that never met a goal you couldn't make?

  • Do you have a far-out goal that you would like to make manifest?

  • What do you think I should do for my curated monthly event with this group?

Do tell!

Enjoy the day!


Michelle said...

blogger just ate my comment....ugghhh!

Erin, the way you describe yourself--I think we were twins separated at birth! I'm not fond of goals because I think that they are all fluid...although maybe this ties to my procastination tendancies!

Carving out time to create--for fun....hmmm. Between the 12-13 hour work days..then an hour to cook and eat dinner at night. THis is followed by 3-4 hours of work in the evening--either creating for the shop classes, ordering and/or website updates/emails. Mowing and laundry and cleaining on the weekends--ok really only Sunday because I do work on Monday (my other day "off").

I did sneek about 8 hours last month just to play and it felt great--still felt guilty about it...but came out with something fun!

I look forward to seeing how your goals are met and exceeded!

Bead Happy!

Davinia said...

Whew!!! I'm breathless just reading all that you hope to achieve. What a fabulous group you have joined and what a wonderful way to help you develop your line of jewelry. I'm hopeless at setting goals, it's that old "best made plans..." it seems no matter how well I plan just a simple thing like my day, it never goes to plan.
Actually now that I think of it I don't have any goals. Is that pitiful? I just seem to bumble along through life.
Maybe a tour of your studio for your monthly curated event. It's always interesting to see how and where people spend their creative time.

Alice said...

A very diverse group of artists. It actually sounds like a lot of fun. We have nothing like this in our town of just under 3,000. Our county has a group of artists that get together monthly, but they are (forgive me) old ladies and I just can't relate to them. They meet, have show and tell, have refreshments.

Goals are difficult for me too. Normally it's something very vague and unstructured. In my first year of making jewelry my only goal (ouside of making jewelry) was to take at least one class. Second year - design and order business cards. Third year, a website. I know having goals is a good thing, but sometimes it causes you to stick to a path which might lead no where. Imagine the paths that one might be missing by having strict goals. That's my theory anyway.

I do try to do something with my biz each day, whether it is marketing, creating, paperwork, learning....I guess that is my goal.

The paragraph about Peter Brett was very enlightening, and reminds us that we can be creative anytime and anywhere. No more excuses!

SummersStudio said...

Wow, this is fantastic. I do what I do full time. When I made the decision to leave the traditional work world I had to set goals or I would have just spent my entire day escaping in novels, petrified that I would not be able to pursue my creative life sucessfully. The biggest stumbling block for me has been the 'sucess' part. I was tripping over my own insecurity and using definitions that were not internally designed.

I come from a project management background (huge medical research grants) and found myself using the familiar. Goal setting, milestones, etc, just as you are doing. What suprised me was that this actually opened up my creativity because I had a framework to live in. I've been criticised/questioned by artist friends for taking this approach as it is too commercial. But it works for me.

This is actually a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Obviously, I could talk forever about this. I wish you every sucess in this endeavor and will definitely be looking foward to hearing about your journey!

Pretty Things said...

I love that print, and favorited the shop so I can watch that series grow!

As for creating, I'm having a really hard time right now with contractors in my house (they're knocking out a wall in the room where I work as I write this) and it's all driving me to tears. My husband and I are going to shove a table into my office to make a make-shift space, but being how I am, this will probably cramp my style and expression.

Brandi Hussey said...

Erin, I agree 110%! I firmly believe that everyone can be creative, and that if you love something, you should do it regularly (if not every day). The hard part isn't creating; the hard part is getting to the point where you create. The hard part is having discipline.

I have this friend who wants to be a writer pretty desperately... but she doesn't write for herself regularly or at all. She doesn't blog, doesn't carry a notebook, doesn't do much to further this goal of hers. She and I are usually pretty in sync, but this part of her mystifies me. We've had talks about it ("How can you be a writer if you don't write?"), but it's always excuses. I don't know if it's fear; I've read her work and it's good. I think it's more of a "I'm waiting for the perfect time before I start".

Honestly, I don't think there ever IS a perfect time - just start already. Pick a goal and work towards it, and if you change your mind later, that's fine, too.

I'm with SummersStudio - I do what I love for a living, so I'm familiar with my own processes - creating process, procrastination process, etc. Goals are good because I'm pretty goal-oriented. I don't really have a problem setting them because I'm willing to adjust them as needed, which I think people forget sometimes. It's okay to change your mind!

It's also so easy to give excuses (and I'm SO good at making them), but that's something I have to let go of. I have to set goals, I have to prioritize, and I have to create - this is my life, not just a job, and it's what I bring to the table. I see goals and action plans and priorities as part of that package, and I'm loving the general plan you've shared today! Bravo!

Riki Schumacher said...

Oh I love this Erin, what a wonderful and inspiring goal. I'm guessing we all have "the time" in us, somewhere, somehow, like how Peter carved out the time. My father used to say everything was about discipline, or lack of it. As I get older, and hopefully wiser, I really get that. Without it, I accomplish very little. With it, I accomplish a ton. Whenever I get into a pattern, and stick to it, much is done, less stress happens, and better results appear.

So, am I in a routine, reducing stress these days? Nope! I have fallen out. I have allowed this laptop to replace work for many hours of the day. I have to discipline myself to use creative hours my head has for jewelry, and time left over for the web! Anyone else allowing the computer to get in the way of creating? I have no excuse to be knocking things out, except for a new baby dog, but no excuse.

Your post brings much to light. I wish you and your group the best of luck, and I'm going to bet each of you reaches your goals, because of the support team in place, and the deadlines. We're just artists, we need more discipline in our lives to accomplish more I'm guessing! Hugs, Riki

Erin S said...

Your goals are awesome, Erin!

My excuse is that I work full time, then walk the dog and exercise, then make dinner, then am too exhausted to do anything but fall asleep in front of the TV. The truth is I waste a ton of time during my work day (even when I am really busy) that I could be giving to jewelry design. If I could get more organized and commit to a schedule where I surf the web much less and give 1-2 hours a day to jewelry, I could get so much done.

That SHOULD be my goal. Will I do it? Habitual laziness is tough to beat. We'll see.

Erin S. (the other Erin)

lunedreams said...

Big congrats on this Erin! It sounds like the first step out of your soul-draining day job! And acquiring another thinking style to put in your toolbox-I am sure you will amaze yourself! Often a big undertaking like that needs structure and human support, esp. when some aspects of it don't come naturally to you (like the concrete goal setting.) Borrow it if you need to! I can already see you flying away from your day job as a new vista opens! I LOATHE goal-setting myself, and any kind of "have-to" (like that goal you just wrote down) sends me into a hyperventilating panic. I like having ALL my options open, and being able to say NO if a task feels emotionally beyond me.

My favorite creative time is in my car on my lunch hour. For some reason I don't feel the usual trepidation or intimidation in there. I wish I could make all my jewelry then/there but for complicated projects it's obviously not practical. I make wire components then or sometimes do simple knotting. I should try to distill what it is about that context that frees me and try to recreate it at my house. Or trade my Yaris for a van conversion. (Maybe it's just that the car doesn't have the "this is where you work" connotation.)

I struggle continually with wanting to create pieces more regularly, but I honestly don't feel capable of making art every single day. I have to get away from it, and I have cyclical mood issues that make it impossible for me to work sometimes. Fear of failure is a much bigger problem for me than discipline--every time I start a piece I'm afraid it will end in frustration, or I'll be left with something that didn't at all capture what I had in my head and the "baby" will remain unborn (terrible feeling). I need to let this go and just start throwing sh!t together and not worry about it. It feels a little lonely sometimes too.

Thanks for another great post! I look forward to your weekly blogging about this! I think it will be a powerful and positive experience for you!

Steven H said...

This sounds like a great group you put together, very diverse. As you guys get more familiar with each other you should all try to collaborate into one project - that would be amazing!

I'm also glad to see you have some goals laid out. I think you are well on your way to doing great things, just keep it up and stay focused.

Thanks for sharing,

Unknown said...

Really wonderful post! Your always full of Everythingness! I would like to meet some Artisans in my area..and may look into doing just that. One person I know of is quite professional so that may not be possible..but you are always quite encouraging.

I am about (always saying that!! grrr) yes about to continue into my glass. The weather has been an obstacle and its alot of blah blah decided not to get the portable AC etc etc maybe should of. Wanting to scream now lol. So in these next few weeks we shall start and lock ourselves away to doing that. Maybe in spring a bldg in the back.

Your group sounds Sublime! You are really an Inspiration.

Jannie Funster said...

Erin, Erin, Erin! You are just as awesome as always. But how could I expect anything less from you?? You keep forging ahead, making plans, acting, DOING.

You so rock.

What an amazing project you have going on. (a little jealous I'm not in Steven's Point, WI to be the resident songwriting artist, but I'm sure Jay is doing a fine job.) :) :)

now what questions did you ask...? Oh yes...

* Where in your daytime can you carve out time to be creative? Can you get creative with creating that time from the spaces in-between?

when the child is at school. (I am spoiled.)

* In what ways do you lack the discipline and focus needed to be creative?

I forget to stick to my list and dabble in various things each day. I let blogging and all its varied joys take more time that guitar and lyric work.

* What would help you acheive your goals?

sticking to my list. Actually, making a REAL list, not relying on the mental one I put together in the car on the way home from dropping her to school in the morning.

* Do you cringe when it comes to setting goals? or are you the sort that never met a goal you couldn't make?

I cringe a bit at the thought of "failing" at my goals, so I need to let those nonsensical thoughts fly to the wind.

* Do you have a far-out goal that you would like to make manifest?

Yep -- having a song in a hit movie.

* What do you think I should do for my curated monthly event with this group?

I think you should costume yourself in the colors of your beads -- make a palette for each meeting and have them write stories and weave their next art around your color / feel of your bead theme.


Hopemore Studio said...

Such a surreal experience but definitely one that seems worth the risk. It is a risk isn't it...setting goals then trying to meet them because you have shared them with others who want to see you succeed.

I struggle daily with goal setting, taking time to create, and when I do actually make something then comes the internal turmoil of doubt wondering if what I have made is worth putting 'out there'.

My creative time tends to be late at night, after the family is settled in, because this is the only time I feel is genuinely my own though it may not be the best time for me creatively. I definitely lack disciple, I find it much easier to surf other's creative blogs or magazines over creating my own work (got to curb that)...I will follow that comment with a resounding YES I cringe when I have to set goals. I am so fearful of setting goals I really have no idea what my direction is.

As far as what you should create to be curated... it's hard to make a suggestion. You have made this leap, you are taking risks, push yourself and see what happens I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Thank you for sharing this experience!! I'm looking forward to hearing more about your progress.


Cindy said...

Hi Erin,
Your new group sounds really fantastic...what a concept. Does anyone know the other, and will you meet in person? What is so good about it are those concrete goals and timelines. That is always so hard for me....to really stick with firm dates and deadlines. I carve out time to be creative at night...I can really relate to all of the roadblocks you mention here. But the excerpt about Peter Britt is fascinating...he wrote a book on his smart phone??! Now if he can tackle that while commuting, it sure makes one feel that anything is possible! Thanks for sharing that story with us.
I'm looking forward to following along...I just know you will find success with this group!

Alexandra said...

UGH> I just left this long comment. and then it said 503 error service unavailable. Ugh.

What I wanted to say was that I LOVE how you always ask for our input.

I love how you do it.

It doesn't feel cheesy. If you go to some
blogs, and they pose a question, it kind of seems like they just want a comment.

But I get the strong feeling that you really value our input: You are sincere that way.
I love that you do that.

And my 2 cents here: the time is never right to do anything. You just have to do it.

I love the idea of being so involved in what you do, makes me feel like a cheerleader to you.

So,thank you for that.

Christine said...

Oh Erin. This post is near and dear to my heart. I am struggling with focus right now, even as the ideas and designs come pouring out of me, I can't get myself together enough to make them manifest.

But I do try to create in the spaces of time in between everything else I have to do. It's tough for me, though. Goals? I haz 'em, definitely. But I lose track of them at times, and often set them too high, or allow myself to get distracted....OOh! Shiny!....wait, where was I? :)

My far-out goal? A book. A shop. A place for people who insist they are NOT artists to come and realize that they are.

Pie in the sky? Yes. But I love those goals anyway.

Have a beautiful day, Erin!

Rebecca said...

Wow Erin, I am so impressed by your goals! I am surprised to see you say that you are a flitful soul, you seem very organised here, in a very good way! I will be so interested to follow your journey here - it seems like you have enough of the road mapped out so that you can wander off from it but still find your way back! Best wishes for your new creative group.

Unknown said...

Well that's pretty cool! How nice to be able to use other artists as a sounding board so to speak. :)

Jennifer Jangles said...

Erin, I can't wait to follow your journey. Your line will be fabulous.

I am a notebook junkie and I love a good to do list. I even have monthly meetings with myself at a coffee shop to regroup. I probably need to "flit" more.

Keep us posted,
Jennifer Jangles


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