Posted on 6 Comments

Shifting Focus

Snow Queen headdress – 2012

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that my beads have really been calling to me. I’d love to listen, but I never seem to have the time or resources to really explore this. That’s why I’m stepping back from commissions right now; I really want to clear out some time to follow my muse.

While I do enjoy the type of work that I’ve been doing, it feels like I have fallen into a cycle of creating easier, smaller, “safer” stuff — either because that’s all that I’ve got time for, or because I know that it will sell. That last bit may sound shallow, but let’s get real — I’m blessed to be able to do what I love for a living, but it IS still work. This is how the bills get paid, so I often feel pressured to create the smaller “bread and butter” items that satisfy my creditors, rather than the  time intensive pieces that satisfy my soul.

Amber necklace – 2001

For a frame of reference, the headdress above is probably one of the most elaborate pieces that I’ve completed in the past several months. It’s lovely, and I’m quite proud of it; however, it’s still not a huge time investment compared to my beaded pieces. It probably took twice as much time for me to create the necklace at the left — which is still not that elaborate in the realm of beadwork! In both cases, the significant creation time requires a greater price tag than most of my work. While they’ll certainly sell eventually (in fact, the necklace already has) I typically do not sell pieces like these every day. Thus you can see how I’ve fallen into this cycle of creating more “bread and butter” work, and less of the deeper work that really fuels me creatively.

I’d really like to change that in the year ahead, but I’m not entirely sure how to do that. The cold hard truth is that no matter how loudly my muse calls, my responsibilities remain. So how do I create this shift in focus? Do I take out loans (not really an option), pray for a generous benefactor, or simply take a huge leap of faith?

For several years now, I’ve been sketching very elaborate designs which would incorporate several of the skills that I’ve developed over the last 20 odd years, and also challenge me to develop new ones. While I used to fantasize about having the time to work on these ideas, now I am feeling like I need to. Part of this drive is simply my creative force aching to stretch and grow, and part of it is the need to go deeper and develop greater patience and focus (qualities I am seeing the need for in other areas of my life). I can see and feel this goal very clearly, but I can’t yet see how to actualize it. Any suggestions?

6 thoughts on “Shifting Focus

  1. The classic Artist’s dilemma. Just ideas that popped into mind, as I’m not on that path so can’t speak to it professionally. Time management is essential to all endeavors. You could actually schedule or set time goals. 2 days a week for working on your passion pieces and 3 days for the bread and butter (which are also gorgeous, btw!!). We have a world where we do need to pay attention to the mundane. You might also explore having a manager for your more elaborate pieces, to see about gallery showings and other art shows and think about marketing to theater folk etc… So as your desire branches, you also have a business plan to rely on. Business plans don’t have to be as boring as they sound!

  2. Andrea, You put into words what has been going thru my mind the last 6 months. My inventory is now so low, I feel I have to spend significant time restocking – which means all those bread and butter things that I know will sell and pay the bills. Sounds well, boring! But when I think of all the ideas for new designs and the techniques I want to learn, that is exciting. I made myself a promise that I would make the time to explore some new things this year. I want to set aside time each month for this, but will I?

    I normally work solo. I have never been into group crafting or beading. But….what about a partner/buddy that would make me be accountable? Someone to share ideas with, share my passion and excitement about what I create. Hmmmmmm. Something to ponder.

  3. The sad fact is, if you’re supporting yourself with your art and not just doing it to make fun money, you NEED to keep making the boring bread and butter stuff. After all, that beautiful beaded necklace took TEN years to sell. I have beaded creations I adore that have been in my inventory for almost as long. The average person can’t or won’t pay what detailed beadwork is worth 🙁 You have to wait for that extraordinary person who wants it so badly and has the money to make it their own.

    I think Michele has the right idea. Sit down and figure out how much time you have to spend on bread and butter to keep your store stocked, and then figure out how much extra time you can allot to creation, and use that to work on your dream projects.

  4. I am reminded of a woman I met a few years ago at a going out of business sale. She was closing her fused glass jewelry business, not because she wasn’t selling pieces but because she became successful and then lost the joy of her art because it became repetitive, etc. She sold every darn thing and went into real estate!

    Artists do need to stretch and grow, evolve their work and spirit of creativity. I like the idea put forward to carve out some hard scheduled time for your soul-feeding, while plugging along with the work that keep the beer in yer belly ;P

  5. I agree about the time management advice. Perhaps you could design your easily sellable items during an 8 hour “day job” spot, and work on your passion pieces in your free time? That proportion can always shift later, depending upon your financial state that month.

  6. Thank you all for your replies! I really appreciate it 🙂

    I shared this post with a couple of the creative communities that I belong to, and their replies were pretty consistent with the ones here. While each person had their own phrasing or focus, there were recurring themes of planning, focus and discipline. I do intend to explore these themes and find ways to apply them to these goals.

    A business plan is a good start, and I agree that this does not have to be boring. I’ve often thought that it would be a great tool for goal setting, and for reflecting on progress. Guess I need to get on that!

    And Ann, I like the idea of having a crafting buddy that you check in with and kinda hold each other accountable. Do you ever come out for any of the EtsyRAIN gatherings?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.