I haven't been around much lately, and it seems like I missed the latest upset or three so I guess it's ok. We all come to the whispering wall and hold up our joys, fears and frustrations and we hope for understanding. Sometimes the wall yells back at us instead. Sounds about right. I'm not getting much understanding in the real world either, so I'll risk a try here.
The startup ordeal is nearly over, and other than a few last orders for inventory items, the hard work is done. The gallery's been open 6 weeks. Now the workday schedule kicks in, something I haven't had to deal with since the last time I owned a business, 20 years ago. OK, so I'm keeping gallery hours, no big deal, but that's not the only change. I am now questioning who I am, what my work is worth, if I can safely continue as an artist.
I had no idea that representing other people's work would create so much emotion and doubt. I'm not that competitive a person, just another insecure artist. But when a new, up-and-coming felt artist contacted me and wanted to put pieces in the gallery for consignment, I gulped, felt incredibly threatened and then thought, 'hey, even if she's better than me, I'll make a commission on her sales too.' So now her work is hanging next to mine, and I've realized that I would never have gone in the direction she did, and the gallery is better for having her work in it. Patting my back here. Practical to the end.
But. As I start to work on my new designs for the spring, I am pulled towards her influence, like metal filings to a magnet. I have to admit, I've spent time peering at her details and trying to suss out her techniques. Well, it was just me and the empty gallery, right? and I was curious. Now I want to play with new shiny ideas and can't. Just can't. Every new idea is a reaction AWAY from what she does, so it's not even really my work anymore.
I don't trust my instincts, and am just going through the motions in the studio. I'm becoming more of a gallery owner than an artist and wondering if that isn't a good thing, a beneficial development, maybe that's the way it's supposed to go. But not feeling great about it.
The other thing that has happened, in the midst of my self-doubt, I have become a person of standing in the fiber community. My opinion counts for something or other as a Gallery Owner. I swear, I didn't intend for that to happen - self-effacing, mousy little artist here. The only reason it was me that got the title was that I had the funding. And I know how to run a business. Otherwise, I am NOT the most knowledgeable about fiber. But I can make the hard decisions. And I get to deliver the bad news when someone's work is too amateurish or badly finished or some other fiber faux pas. I'm always apologetic. I know how they feel. I'm giving myself the same let-down speech. Not good enough for the gallery yet.
Come to think of it, I liked it better when I could slink around in my pjs for a week and sulk and talk to no one. You never have to compare yourself to anyone else if you only sell at craft shows a few times a year. You can sit at the back of the room at a Handmade in America meeting and no one cares what you think.
In fact, I didn't think much about anything else when I worked in the studio at home; I just focused on my own designs. I didn't have to have a rationale, or a mission, or a marketing strategy or a market projection that involved the whole fiber world. I now have opinions about the future of the fiber arts, and god help them, there are people who will listen to me!
Because now I'm in the realm of inter-group politics. Now I go to meetings so that I can represent the gallery, and keep my tongue tightly clamped between my teeth while I want to strangle everyone in the room. Guilds and non-profits. All-day meetings. Turf wars. Territories. Grudges. Dust-ups.
In other words, life is going just about right for me too. I'm being challenged, challenged, challenged to be more than I am, to rise above my own limitations and to deal with other people that I don't necessarily like. Do I wish I had never opened the gallery? Some days, hell, yeah. But... Insert peppy positive thought here. Or a sour, cynical whine. They both work for me.