Selling Babies

(assuming, of course, that your art is your baby)

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What do the above pieces have in common? They still live with me.

I’ve never really thought of myself as sentimentalist. Sure, I sometimes sob at tearjerker chickflicks or cracking good animation or sublimely elegant algorithms or wonderful UX or hardware that really IS “plug and play” or somebody just being nice for no good reason or incredible art. And maybe I succumb to leaky optics over certain scents or songs or baby animals but…

OK, I’m as sentimental as it gets.

My creative side, however, is about as sentimental as a rock. A cold, hard, cash-on-the-barrelhead, businesslike rock.

My creative side has been paid to birth (not kidding) more than 9,200 articles, books, videos, websites, photographs, web copy, wireframes, information architectures, marketing strategies, and whatnot. I can churn out whatever you want, whenever you want it, and I’m very good at it.

The folk who pay me for that stuff can do whatever the heck they want to do with it. Edit it, cut it down, throw it out: All I’ll do is smile.

Same goes for my production glasswork. Once it leaves my hands you’re welcome to wash it in the dishwasher. Toss rocks at it. Use it as a hockey puck. Break it up and make mosaics. It’s glass, guys. I can always melt it down and make another one, right?

So would someone please explain why that NEVER works with my heartwork, i.e., the stuff in the slideshow? Why I always want to give the poor buyer the third degree, and feel just awful about the whole thing?

Will they light it properly? Install it out of the way of flying baseballs and careless vacuum cleaner-wielding madpeople? Set my baby in a beautiful place of great honor? Tenderly feather-dust it or maybe even lightly, gently, wipe it down every year or two? Send me pictures at the holidays?

Will they (sniff, sniff) give it a good home?

Oh, brrrrrother.

I swear, I’d have an easier time selling kittens to shifty-eyed men driving trucks with big signs: “INHUMANE ANIMAL TESTING & TORTURE LABS INC.”

Queries about buying my heartwork generally go like this:

“Ms. Morgan, I’d like to ask about your piece ——?”
(Me, growling) What about it?

“Is it for sale?”
Why do you want to know?

“Uhm, well, I’d like to buy it.”
“Really? You’re kidding, right?”

And then the conversation rapidly goes downhill….

A steely-eyed art guru–whose opinion I probably respect more than anyone else in the art business–once told me my marketing tactics needed more work than the art itself, which was nice.

I’ve partially solved this problem by giving heartwork away to friends and relatives–my mother has a whole houseful–while retaining unlimited visitation rights. It reduces the number of items in my home requiring dusting, AND the number succumbing to furry miscreants. Generally, the pieces that survive in my home are either firmly nailed to the wall or too big to knock over, as below:

lola-sculpturedanger

Not that I don’t display heartwork in galleries and art shows and museums, or even sell it–I do. But I keep my favorite pieces. I occasionally send them out to play with other sculptures in a show, then welcome them back home.

I’m just abysmally awful about actually marketing heartwork, and I suspect that is on purpose. (Ironic, considering what I do for a living)

Part of the problem is I’m sculpting in glass, and it’s expensive. A fairly prestigious local art fair once asked me to exhibit Gussie (above, more formally known as “Currents Breaking”) in a supposedly not-for-sale area, but to leave a price with the show manager in case someone inquired. So I did.

The first night of the show, she called, “You know, I could have sold your piece at least three times today, we had that many inquiries, but you’re pricing yourself WAY out of the market. If you’d drop the price to maybe $XXX, I could sell it like THAT!”

I chuckled, told her that the materials and kiln rental for Gussie cost about twice that much, but I did appreciate the offer.

That’s obviously part of the problem with glass, and with glass artists: That inevitable, and very visible, sticker shock that happens when someone sees your piece, falls in love with it. And then they see the price tag, and it’s maybe fifty times higher than the $19.95 they thought it would be because, after all, it’s only glass, right?

Do we price competitively? Do we price based on some obscure formulae involving overhead, labor rates and the position of the moon? Do we simply price it the way it should be priced and say, “You know what? This is the price. If you can’t afford it, that’s OK, you’re welcome to look until they take the show down…”

…and then get a dayjob so we can buy groceries and pay the rent?

I keep waiting for my flinty-eyed creative self to take over, don its professional hat and sell my babies to people with slippery fingers, baseball bats, and no taste. Without flinching. For it to remind me: IT’S ONLY GLASS, CYNTHIA.

ONLY GLASS.

GET OVER YOURSELF.

FOR HEAVENS SAKE.

So far that hasn’t happened, which makes me suspect I’m not really an artist. Real artists feel about their work the way I feel about writing, i.e., it’s how they make a living, so out the door it goes.

Whatever else I’m doing with sculpture…it apparently ain’t art.

Maybe it’s a hobby. Yeah. I can live with that. Takes the whole pressure-of-selling-thing right off.

Yeah.

Puzzled by the old comments on a brand new post? That’s because this is a rewrite of a post I wrote in 2008, on the old blog. I’d decided to move (thousands of) old posts to the new blog. If I spruce up an imported post at all, it causes “hey, Cynthia wrote a NEW article” notices to be sent to blog subscribers. The WordPress folk puzzled through why I can’t turn off the bloody notices, finally said, “yeah, it does that,” and gave up.

When I accidentally sent out 20 such notices in a single day, I gave up, too. I decided instead to space these things out.

I couldn’t resist fixing some typos…and then found that–on some posts–I had a lot more to say. So this isn’t really a NEW post, per se, but it’s newish, and I decided to leave the comments just as they were. So apologies if this seems sorta familiar.

2015-11-07T16:18:39+00:00

7 Comments

  1. marilyn root February 22, 2015 at 9:49 am - Reply

    So true
    Can’t imagine selling the more time consuming goodies
    But …vowed not to buy any more reds or purples and guess what things sold at last open studios;)

  2. carenashford October 2, 2014 at 10:44 pm - Reply

    thanks, it new to me as a new follower…..:)

  3. Peter Cummings August 2, 2008 at 4:29 pm - Reply

    As an engraver I ‘ve put inscriptions and names on various glass pieces. They can mean a lot to folk and I feel priviliged. Carving people and particularly faces takes a lot of time and attatchment.To build a character becomes personal as you put a lot of yourself into it. I tell myself now they are created they have a life of their own. If I talk to anyone I show them to I ask what they see, then discover they usually have a life, sometimes very different to one I saw, but thats OK.
    Peter.

  4. cynthia August 1, 2008 at 7:55 am - Reply

    Once I put about a thousand small, hand-cut pieces of glass into a sort of mosaic thing, “grouted” it with powdered glass, fired it, ground it down, then laboriously carved out the edges and slumped it. Really loved the result, gave it to my sister for Christmas.

    Few months later she says “We really love the fruit bowl you gave me,” and yup, when I visit the house they’re just taking it out of the dishwasher to refill with fruit. I winced (and thanked the kilngods for a good annealing schedule), but mostly was amused.

    OTOH, somebody mislighted one of my bas-relief pieces and I couldn’t sleep most of the night. Hmmmm. Must be that personal investment thing. 😉

  5. Milly Frances July 31, 2008 at 6:46 am - Reply

    I’m terrible, especially if the people I’m selling it to don’t display my work in the way they said they were going to – eg I recently made three fused features for an outdoor table (you kindly helped me with firing schedules for these, Cynthia) and they told me they were going to be up-lit. As a consequence I chose colours that needed – you guessed – to be up-lit… and they still haven’t installed the lights. Nor did they tell me about the orange dining chair covers. Argh!
    I guess the secret is not to go and see them once they’re in, although I want/need photos in situ for my portfolio.
    It’s difficult not to care, otherwise we wouldn’t be making unique, individual work to the best of our creative ability, we’d be mass-producing…
    On the other hand, I’ve made work for clients that I didn’t like that much, and have never had a problem saying ‘goodbye’ to it, so maybe it’s more about degrees of artistic engagement?
    It’s an interesting debate, thanks for raising it.

  6. The Gecko July 28, 2008 at 11:10 am - Reply

    No, I don’t think it’s a female nesting thing. I get the same way – over some works, but not others.

    I think there is a personal investment issue. Many things we do “are just glass”; pretty ideas, interesting concepts, hey that might look cool kinds of things. Other items are much more deeply personal, maybe not as they start out, but as the work progresses or obsesses, as the case may be. We get more into creating that just perfect detail, the little flip here, the placement of a certain bubble there. These things get under the skin, usually as more and more time and attention goes into them.

    Then the finished product actually pleases us and we see the result of the investment – that’s when it gets difficult to think about what happens next.

    I think taking a moment to contemplate the Venus de Milo might help. Imagine what Andros, son if Menidis, would think today. Would he be devastated at the lose of Venus’s arms and the pitted nature of her perfect surface? Or would he be awed that she survived and was displayed at the Lourve?

    I just hope that the owner of my art treats it with the dignity they think it deserves. The rest is up to time…….

  7. chaniarts July 28, 2008 at 10:21 am - Reply

    my wife has this problem with things i make (and her own ceramics). almost everything i make goes on display in my own house before it departs to be gifted and/or sold. i, on the other hand, lose interest once it’s done and i’m on to the next piece, so i have no sentimentality for them.

    is it a female nesting thing?

Comments welcome! (thanks)

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