I was recently discussing the difficulty in pricing completed art projects. There are probably as many methods of pricing art as there are artists. Some involve cost of materials and time spent. Others multiply costs by a number, hoping to cover everything and make some profit. Some use size, such as the size of the canvas or the finished weaving, and tweak from there. It’s also suggested to look at comparable projects by other artists, but what if your work isn’t like someone else’s?
If I were to price my art per hour, would I start with the dream of the idea? Would I include the time spent designing, in the case of a paper art piece, which sometimes takes weeks? Even when it comes to an embroidery piece, which is usually much more fluid as I stitch, I find tracking hours is actually counterintuitive to the Flow.
Value for a creator, I was reminded, is not monetary, and it goes against the creative process to put a dollar value on something that is priceless. You put part of yourself in your art, and that value is incalculable. It doesn’t, and can’t, translate. So much more goes into a piece of art than just time and materials. How do you quantify your soul?
For now, I have developed a baseline price for my work, and then adjust based on what I've added or embellished. I would love to hear from other artists on this subject and how they go about pricing their work.
The pressure to post constantly on social media, to be in others' feeds, to stay 'relevant' is the antithesis of being in the flow as an artist. It is no different than the pressure to keep adding new 'products' to your online shop. We check out visits, our insights, our stats, our comments, our likes. We react, adjust, ramp up the posts, and constantly check to see just how much we're being seen. It can be as crushing to creativity as feeling the scarcity of time. In the flow, however, there is always enough...enough time, enough space, enough skill.
The thing is, when we succumb to that pressure, when we create only to list and sell, we step out of the flow. It becomes about production rather than creativity. I fell into that trap a few years ago and was so unhappy, even as I made things and sold them. It was only when I was able to step away and create the art I wanted to make, the art that came to me in my dreams, that I found real happiness as an artist.
I'm not suggesting that artists leave social media. I still post across the sites. However, I've found a way to do that, while still leaving myself the time and space to be me. To be the real, authentic artist that I am, and to always put the art and the process first. I always want to honor each step and to take my time in letting the piece tell its story. And, I think that is reflected in my art.
So, normally, on a day where I feel unwell and exhaused, I would have taken a nap and 'done nothing' and then felt like I had accomplished nothing all day. And, this week, that thought again crossed my mind. This time, however, I stopped myself and sat with the feeling for a bit. I've been doing that exercise a lot of late, sort of a trauma rehab going on here. So, when I began to have that 'lack of accomplishing' feeling, I decided to reframe that to: 'I have had a relaxing day'. I'm not on a hamster wheel of productivity. I need to be true to myself, my process, my art, and my needs/desires.
Reframing thoughts is a process. Like meditation, it is being in the moment, acknowledging the feeling, understanding where it comes from, and then redirecting gently away from negative self-talk or previously unacknowledged triggers. Think of it as placing a rock in a stream, to gently redirect the flow. 'Not accomplishing anything' becomes relaxing, renewing, being. Bringing those reactions to the surface, like a splinter, allows you to see them, feel them, and then pull them out. You can replace them with healthier, more conscious ways of being in the world. And, because we are constantly reacting to new situations, and possibly acquiring new triggers/splinters, it is work that never ends. It is part the shadow work so many speak of.
As artists and creators, living an authentic life affords us the foundation we need to create. Art is the story, but authenticity is the strong frame upon which that art sits. The negative, self-admonishing thoughts will come, but you can gently redirect them toward being true to yourself and caring for yourself as much as you care about your art.
Within 24 hours, two separate artists posted on IG about negative experiences they’d just had. One was sharing how someone in their life was questioning them on just how long they would continue creating a particular kind of art. Clearly, this was done to diminish them and make them feel less than. The second instance was someone whose photos were used but not credited. I then saw a post on FB about aspiring authors and illustrators, telling them not to publish if their work was not ‘perfect’.
Having been part of creative communities for decades, I have seen some amazing support and sharing of ideas, but I have also seen some truly destructive forces at work. Even at my age, I will never understand putting so much effort into tearing down someone else’s dreams, rather than pursuing your own. On the other hand, maybe I do understand.
In each case, someone who felt no light within themselves was threatened by the light in someone else. I have experienced this in my own life far too many times. The very thing that attracts someone to you, your light and creativity, becomes the thing that threatens them most. So, they seek to dampen your light. Brene Brown calls these ‘candle blower outers’ and that really hits the nail on the head.
I have found so many creative people on IG, feeling a real sense of community with artists and artisans who share not only what they have made but how they have made it. They offer work in progress pictures, tutorials, and advice on how to begin creating jewelry, macrame, weaving, embroidery, painted art, pottery, and more. I have learned so much and felt so much a part of a larger creative energy. I want that for everyone.
If you are an aspiring artist of any kind, do not let anyone tear down your dreams. Do not allow anyone to blow out your light. See those efforts for what they are, a lack felt by the person who is then trying to diminish you. Publish that book, frame that painting, throw that pot, weave that fiber, sew that dress, create that pattern, carve that wood, and share your work to inspire others. We all grow as we create. We all get better at what we do, by doing. Those in the shadow of your light have a choice to light their own candle or to stay in the dark. You don’t ever have to let them diminish you.
This is one of those days that I feel deep in my bones, even as deep as my DNA. The reawakening. The possibilities. You can even hear the difference in the birds' songs if you listen closely enough. The world shifts on the Spring Equinox, and I'm ready for the new growth coming my way.
Two of the most overwhelmingly emotional days for me each year are the Spring and Autumn equinox. Both hold immense power for me, along with deep and abiding history. I feel them approaching. I feel them as the wheel turns. And, the changes they bring always offer profound endings and beginnings for me. They are connected to my childhood in ways I cannot put into words. They flow into the future with me, guiding me toward the best life I can live. They are the loom upon which I weave my life.
These two days are not simply dates on a calendar. They are markers, touchstones, and golden rings to be honored and cherished, even as the wheel clicks forward.
Sometimes, as an artist, you create a work of art that is so deeply personal and so wildly soulful, that you simply cannot offer it for sale. Such was the case for me this week, when I finished my paper art piece, Weaving the Night.
We are inspired to create and share our art with the world. We love the idea of a piece speaking so deeply to someone that they purchase it, and it becomes a part of their story, too. Just as my books enter the world of readers and take on lives of their own, my art does the same thing.
Yet, there is art that hold such power in our own lives that we simply cannot let itgo. 'Weaving the Night' is that for me. It is a piece of my soul story come to life, and it clearly speaks to others based on the reactions I've received. It holds deeper meaning for me, and the story it tells will continue to weave its way through my art and my life.
As you create art to sell, remember to create art for yourself. You'll know when you create it, that it's meant to live with you. Feel no obligation to give or sell that piece. Give it a place of honor near you, visit it often, and keep the story going.
As I often do, I dreamed this scene and then created it, including the miniature weaving. It was a challenge, because when I started it, I had not even started my first full-size weaving. I also wanted to play with lighting in this scene, the way moonlight turns everything shades of gray and that the weaver (honoring The Weaver in her spiderweb dress) and her work are brighter than the rest of the room. There is a light that shines softly through the window when turned on, to mimic actual moonlight, but I wanted that effect even when viewed during the day. So, I had to learn as I went along, and I couldn't be more pleased with how it turned out. I also soldered for the first time, so another thing I've learned to do.
I use paper scraps for my miniatures, and even the wraps on the yarn are cut from embroidery floss wraps. It gave me great pleasure to see even the smallest scraps become bobbins, shuttles, and loom frame supports. Leftover bits of floss from weaving were wound around bobbins and shuttles as well. Nothing goes to waste. I'm sharing the process below, in a slideshow, if you're interested in how these scenes evolve. I hope you'll feel the magic woven through each and every piece.
I often create from ideas that come to me in dreams. I've written before that I see myself making a paper art scene, or a moss embroidery, and I often see myself doing something new. To the point that I overcome obstacles while dreaming and later can create it without those waking struggles.
For 'Weaving the Night' (a project I am just finishing up), I dreamt that I wove a miniature version of the scene outside the window within the scene I ultimately created, but weaving that in reality proved quite a challenge. It took several prototypes for miniature looms to finally have something workable. I also had to settle for tabby stitch, rather than anything fancier. But, in the end, it worked beautifully, to the point that I can't wait to weave in miniature again. I also saw threads from each element of the scene to the weaving itself, connecting everything. I decided it didn't need those in the end. The power of the piece and the connections speak for themselves.
My sister-of-the-heart reminded me, when I finally accepted the changes I would have to make in order to succeed, that I was exercising my artistic freedom...a magical expression that served the vision in my head. I decided the priority and, it turned out, there was something more important than the weaving itself. That the vision came to be, even if not exactly as I'd dreamt it.
Imagination is a freedom that is belongs to the artist. To paraphrase Brene Brown: A crafter fits in; an artist belongs. Belongs to the dream and the vision. Belongs to the creation. Belongs to the tapestry. Belongs to the weaving...perhaps to an even greater extent than I realized before, because I'm finding my own way, as an art witch in the mist of manifestation.
When you leave the world of outside employment, it takes awhile to shed that mindset. Being an artist full-time (and even part-time), we are often still framed as producing commodities. We're 'Sellers' on Etsy and other marketplaces. We list 'products' for sale. And, so, even though I live in the flow these days, I was surprised just how much this post by The Cryptonaturalist resonated with me this week. I saw it twice, once on IG and once on FB, and felt it was something I was supposed to be paying attention to. You know that feeling when you read a meme or post and feel kind of called out? Yeah, that feeling.
We struggle at first to identify as artists, because it feels arrogant and because of imposter syndrome. Once we gain comfort with that, however, what we create is then art, right? He's right, that our artistic endeavors should not be framed as products. They are blood, sweat, tears, sleepless nights, cries of joy, floaty hearts of love, and utter fulfillment when pronounced 'finished'. They are no less a part of us than a book when the author writes 'the end' and, for what it's worth, books are not products either.
Commodifying everything has led to this idea. Yet, this lessens the value of all that has gone into what we've created and where it comes from. Art is soul work. It is the tapping into the Oran Mor. It's slow, and it's magical. We've become so used to a consumer culture, and yet it's artists of all kinds who got many of us through lockdowns during the pandemic.
When you purchase art, it's because it speaks to you. You connect with it on some visceral level, as it did to the artist. It's a conversation that continues, when you then share that piece with others. It's so much more than a product; it's a work of heart.
I sat down with my first loom last week and began a journey decades in the making. If you've ever wanted to weave, don't be like me and let that simmer on the backburner so long. If you've ever wanted to try anything, read on. Lessons learned at my loom apply to a larger context as well...
Welcome to The Enchanted Wren by Barb Lieberman! I believe art is magic, bringing something entirely new into being, and magic is an art as unique as the practitioner. The world needs everyone's unique art and magic. We should follow what speaks to us, create what calls to us, and support one another in those pursuits. I also feel art can create change, and I hope we can do all that together.
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