Asheville, North Carolina,
October 18
Super Hero
Artwork for banner adapted from "Mister X," by William P. Marks, Vortex Comics • Blog Title from "Serenity" by Joss Whedon _________________________ A fiber artist making wool felt garments and local wool fleece and yarns on the side, Previously, I have been all these things: • architecture office manager • department store clerk • restaurant: waitress, bartender & barback, cashier, busboy, dishwasher, prep cook, line cook, manager • architecture student • engineering draftsman • graphic designer • advertising art director • magazine publisher • fanzine: publisher, editor, writer, photographer, designer • garage band manager • web designer & programmer • database (FM pro) developer • software trainer • non-profit organization staff member • ad salesman • fiber artist: weaver, spinner, tapestry weaver, dyer, feltmaker • reader • writer • sailor • runner • drinker, toker • big sister • oldest child • wife (2x) • swinging divorcee


MARCH 24, 2011 11:57PM

Situation Normal: All Fucked Up

Rate: 18 Flag

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.  

Sound familiar?

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.  

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you are truly growing
don't mind the other artist, you are just sensitive, it will pass
good to hear you, ardee. when i hired an assistant whose photographic art skills surpassed mine, there was a measure of envy. yep. but i have found that my graphic art is influencing her to an extent, and her textural starknesses are rubbing off on me too. our happiest times are in collaboration, although these must be limited and spaced for time to deal with the clash. there is no harm done, but it feels like thrust and parry, how we combine on a single job.

my feeling is to say, "do it" use the influence in some way, either toward or away, but allow it to seep into the work. you may find some really good stuff.

best wishes on your business venture, on your art, and on your ability to juggle it all.
Kathy, that's what I keep telling myself. I hope you're right.
I'll tell you the mantra I use. Master the fundamentals while stretching your mind every chance you get. As time goes by, you'll need plenty of both the creative and the mundane to succeed. Be honest with yourself. Try as much as you can to not let how others perceive your work affect you, one way or the other. Take what you need from all your mentors and competitors, leave the rest. Buck up and good luck.
Diana, thanks for the good thoughts. That thrust and parry is hard for me to do without feeling it as conflict. But then, everything is more stressful than staying in the studio alone! I admire your ability to collaborate, and really appreciate your input.

whirlwind, good advice, true to your name. I'll have to think on what you've written to take it in. In a way, I am starting over, so I'm seeing everything in new ways. Thanks.
It does sound familiar. It is part of a process and you feel and this is part of being an artist -- or any creative type. You would not be where you are at this stage of the process if you were not riding an upward arc. We all take something from others and they from us as well. It is a collective experience. Working in solitude has its charms, but lacking the friction, the mutual exposure, is not one of them.

It sounds quite hopeful to me. Trust me on this. We can be too comfortable. Rated
You know, Van Gogh was often infatuated with the style of other artists, from Japanese prints to pointillism, he tried them all. He never thought of it as being dishonest to himself, but rather as another mirror. Try everything, apologize for nothing.

And if this is fucked up, I'd take this any day. Being challenged is all part of the game. Half of the great Beatle songs were John and Paul challenging one another. I'm an expert on "fucked up" and trust me this ain't it.
AJ, I like your idea of art as a collective experience. And I'm glad you're hopeful! No, I agree that being uncomfortable was the original idea, I'm just complaining about the bumpy ride.

Harry, interesting point about Van Gogh. And you're right, this isn't seriously-bad fucked up, this is just day-to-day, normal fucked up.
excellent piece, ardee. i haven't had to deal with that stuff since i sold my last business a decade ago. and i mostly don't miss it. but some days ... hah. maybe that's why i joined this place?? a revelation, did i just experience a revelation? ;-P
Welcome back, Ardee; beautiful piece. R
Femme, you have been in the same place? It sounds like you made it out alive. :) I get OS realizations all the time - it's cheaper than therapy.

Thoth, welcome back yourself! You have been missed, bad boy. Glad to see you.
I did a post recently and used this quote:

"In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it."

It seems to apply here too. Growing pains, that's all Ardee. You are exactly where life wants you to be. Enjoy!
challenges are good.
rising above them is better.
conquering them is best.
LMAO about going to all those "meetings." The gallery town where I had my studio was run my the "wealthy." For many, their shops etc. were just "hobbies." I was one of the few who actually made a living from what he did. At first I spoke up and was happy to do so, but it was obvious they couldn't have cared less especially if it was something critical (which it often was). And then they always wanted money money money for this and for that (and always advertising, blah). I just stopped attending all that non-sense and concentrated on running my own business instead of running everyone else's business like they were.

Don't be afraid about being "influenced" by other artists. It's just how it works. It's how all artists grow. But be ready for other people to copy YOU and your business. Trust me, it will happen. Retail (which is what gallery/studios are) is cut-throat. After thirteen years, I could never get used to it.

Here's what you're finding out: always re-invent yourself if you want to survive. And remember: diversify or die. Not bad lessons for life let alone how to run a business.
Thanks, seer, that's a very encouraging thought!

Gabby that sounds like a variation on "be careful what you wish for." I think I got it.

Brian, I may be stuck in your first line right now, but I'm hoping to move down the list.

Gary, imagine those rich gallery owners as all post-menopausal women with a territory to defend. Now you have the fiber community. On the subject of creating a community dye kitchen: "Nooooo, we don't want a lot of studios teaching dyeing, there won't be enough to fill my classes. Noooooooo, we'll dilute it" - 'It' being whatever she thought was at risk. Never mind that the existing pool of fiber people is shrinking and she doesn't teach the basics.
Oops, sorry, I was venting.

You have some great advice for me, and I'm listening. Diversify or die is a good way to look at it. And it seems that you all are unanimous about allowing myself to be influenced. Scary stuff. Well, back to work.
This is a growth spurt! Congratulations!
I really appreciate the honesty of this piece. An artist, running gallery with your own work and that of other artists, is a dynamic I had not thought about before. Practical, yes, but as dianaani and Harry state, it perhaps will also yield less tangible benefits. Thanks for the behind-the-curtain look.
I know you weren't asking, but...

You have given me so much for thought.
There is craft and art in every endeavor. You never need doubt.

All crafts-persons and all artists associate, share, criticize, get jealous, and learn from each other. Picasso was a born artist, but he learned what set him apart by grasping primitive African art. The Beatles worshiped Elvis.

I'm starting to babble...

You will undoubtedly feel schizo. Business has its own imperatives (read Peter Drucker). But you seem to have been born to art and business, since, well...there you are, with passion! You are becoming a new "artist" who juggles the yin and yang of business (time and money) with art (soul and beauty).

Integrity rules all.
SNAFU is normal
but beware of
Hi all - today is my day off, so I have a few minutes to answer.
Thanks Deborah!
Smithery, Thanks for your comment. Though when you get right down to it, group dynamics are probably similar in different groups. I';m thinking we should stick to making things and leave every one else alone.

Ash, I really love your comment, especially the babbling. I doubt things will get FUBAR, don't worry.
I loved your last paragraph just goes to show that anyone who is passionate about her/his craft is bound to end up in a leadership role at some point or another...and the fact that you don't especially like that part of it (politics, etc - I hear you!! we are in the same boat in a diff context) means people need you in that role...I love your bio! Thanks for supporting WI Ardee!