I have a business creating high-end jewelry. It’s starting to gain traction. I’ve been in a couple juried shows, and local jewellers are starting to carry my stock. The only problem is, I’ve hit a wall creatively. I can barely bring myself to go into my workshop or do the work that I used to be most passionate about. I used to get totally absorbed in the process, losing track of time. Now I just feel stuck and anxious. I’ve started going to a zen center for meditation and also to a Buddhist talk every week.
While that is all really helpful on a personal level, it does nothing to help me where I need it most right now — DOING and taking ACTION (ANY action) with my business.I had someone tell me recently that they don’t think making jewelry (as a business) is what I really want to do. Maybe. But is it that simple, or is it that it’s what I really want to do right NOW, but I can’t help but think ahead to the inevitable time when it’s no longer what I want to do, so why even do it at all??
I’m highly suspicious of action for action’s sake. I suspect it’s mainly a smokescreen to cover the extreme doubt and resultant paralysis. Just any old action might help the paralysis, but it might not do anything good for your business. No, I actually think it would be better to spend some time back at the basics.
Why did you get into jewellery design? What feeling did you have then? Then explore how to create and recreate that feeling. What does it require? How can you control it, explore it, experience it? And then, and only then, will you really see what you need to be doing with your business. When you talk about being passionate about your craft, it sounds like art, not a business. The two are not the same. Making money from art is a different process than making art. That’s where a lot of artists run into trouble, because they start to blend together. Well, see it’s a different skill set… a different art, if you will.
If you want to do art, you can do art. But if you want to get paid for it, you need to learn a new skillset. However, you can’t pollute the impulse of the first too much with the impulses of the second. Plus, few people are really as passionate about building business or selling as they are about their art. So they get pretty down about that, because it doesn’t come as easily and organically as their art does. I find this happens when people learn about marketing. Trying to make something people will buy and all the pre-judgement that comes with it really messes with the creative impulse. Try looking at your business and your art as separate processes that you get satisfaction from.
- You like creating jewelry. You like making the idea in your head real. And to that end, you’ve developed skills to do that better and better.
- You like getting your jewelry into the hands of people who appreciate it as a work of art, and an expression of who they are as an individual — So… why do you get satisfaction from that, and what skills can you/do you want to develop to get better at it?
- You like getting paid for your skills/jewelry because it is an affirmation of you and your chosen art. — so, is this as valuable to you as 1&2, and what skills do you need/want to pick up to get better at it? Presumably, only inasmuch as it doesn’t interfere with 1&2
Each of these layers is predicated on the layer that comes before it. Money is not why you make art. But being paid for your work by people who find your work a joy to wear, that’s added layers of satisfaction. But to get that satisfaction, first, you have to be able to create joyfully, independent of how others value your work. It takes practice to make these layers separate and distinct, which it why I usually advise people to keep art as a sideline until this practice is mastered.
It’s very easy to kill a passion by putting ‘business’ pressure on it. As an artist, your creative expression is going to grow and change, and sometimes that expression isn’t going to be a hit economically. That’s always been an issue for artists, and always will be. It’s therefore crucial to keep your creative interests buffered from your business interests. Every artist tackles that differently, but they all have to do it.
Got any other questions for me? Email me to get your question included in a future column.