my intention

" intention was never to become famous... my intention was to tell my story and to tell the truth..."

Jay-Z in this interview with Andrew Marr*

I find myself asking this question of myself yet again... what is my intention... if you pop in here at all regularly you'll know that I'm always tying myself in knots over this... first of all I'm making bags, then I'm giving that side of things a rest and concentrating on my art, then I'm experimenting again, then all change again...

All this has come about because of a frustrating day attempting to design some new embroidered bags. I thought this would be easy and quick... after many false starts, several total turn-arounds and an emergency dash for more threads, three Kit Kats and gallons of tea, I am sitting staring at... nothing much.

The problem as always with trying to make products to sell is the equation involving labour hours, aesthetics, practicality, saleability and a fair price. What works in terms of cost looks rubbish. To make something really beautiful from the heart would be a work of art, not something to carry groceries in.

I have been seduced into saleable stuff again because a nice lady in a trendy shop in London wants to stock my work... this seems like such an opportunity and one not to be missed, so I've been trying so hard to come up with designs that I like and feel connected with and that I can make over and over again and make a fair profit on.

And yet, and yet... what I am making is not giving me that deep-down rich sense of fulfilment that I crave.

And yet and yet... playing and creating for its own sake won't pay for dinner.

And time is not infinite, Christmas is coming, and I'm getting fat. It's a conundrum. One I don't know the answer to yet. What is my intention? I've a feeling I won't achieve it unless I know for sure.

*I know, you didn't think I was into rap music... well I'm not really, but I'm kind of fascinated by the stories they tell and the way it's a sort of contemporary poetry... this interview is worth a listen... his intelligence and sensitivity is quite something.


ginny said...

hi Sue,
you have described my last 2 days!
i too am trying to create some new work which i hope will be saleable and yet i know that the time i am putting in will not be reunmerated as the items would be too expensive... i stuggle with making for a 'return' or making for creative satisfaction and personal development. i am no help am i?... but i do understand.

sometimes when working on new ideas i spend a lot of time moving fabric and notions about and thinking but very little on actually producing... i realise that it is the way i work...i need to mull it all over (and over!)and this all takes time...
be kind to yourself...
maybe pick some of your existing work which your customer liked and try a few variations and introduce a new colour way for your 'commercial' range and continue to experiment and work on your 'from the heart' creations which will give you the deeper personal satisfaction. (this has been cathartic for me writing this as it is exactly what i need to do too!)
sending you love and clarity for the rest of the week,
ginny x
p.s. kit kats often do help!

Heather said...

sorry to hear you're in a bit of a rut with is hard when you start thinking "what will sell" vs. "What inspires me." I've done the same myself...and its always hard to tell what people will love and what they wont. SO you might as well please yourself, right? I love all your delicate embroidery...I've been making birds today...trying to woo my sewing machine, we have a rocky relationship ;)

Blueberry Park said...

It's that age old creatives conundrum. The difference between what we want to do and what needs to be done. I've found that if pieces have a functional element there is only so much someone will pay for it. 'I can get a cheaper x at y' But it's not about getting a cheaper one, as we all know! Maybe you need a pair of independent eyes on this one. Someone who can look at your things with a commercial objective eye. Maybe you can work to a design for the shop and separate it from it being a purely creative process. That can come later for yourself. Your work is beautiful, whether it be simplified for selling or developed further for your own pleasure and satisfaction. I hope you find an answer that makes you happy x

Jackie said...

Its 11.16 pm
I have been trying to make 'lovely' bags all day.
A nice woman in London doesn't want to stock them in fact I don't have any guarantees so why do I bother?
The 'Real Art' part has withered now too.

Magdalena said...

Dear Sue,

I understand you and have the same conflict. Art takes time and is in a sense priceless, commercially successful items are not that inspiring at times. I find the balance in taking both as a practice. Put my "self" aside and approach making things as a form of practice, selfless practice. Considering the art - I always felt that the folk art was an art closer to something useful, practical and economical, yet expressed the crafter's intention. Go deep! If you are asking all these questions, you are in a good place! Enjoy it.

Frances said...

Hello Sue,

I think that I also understand a bit of your wrestling with what is to be your intention.

Not directly connected, but perhaps of interest to you, may I mention an obituary in the November 1, 2009 New York Times newspaper, written by Roberta Smith. The departed artist is Albert York, and he was/is a real favorite of mine. Somehow, I think that if you find this on line you might find it interesting. If you cannot find, and are still interested, I could send it to you.

Best wishes, dear artist and friend. xo

janet clare said...

can I add my (very personal) thoughts?

Just after I graduated I went to harrods with my children's knitwear collection and they wanted to stock it. Hooray I thought, I was so excited! So, I went with my hand knitted in the UK in 100% wool/ or cotton garments and harrods offered me £10 an item for them. £10 for all that work which was supposed to cover my costs and my profit too.

I had to walk away. Somehow I managed not to cry in front of them.

Don't be seduced by some fancy woman in London, make it work for you.

gallery type shops will often pay more because their customers are intending to buy 'art' and won't be comparing the shop prices to Asdas.

And remember tesco pay about £7 an hour and how much do plumbers charge?! Teenage babysitters watching my tv and eating my chocolate charge £5 an hour...

Designing and creating is a highly skilled profession and should not be undersold. But you knew that and I don't suppose I've helped you with your problem, sorry.

Pipany said...

I have had to think long and hard about this one Sue as you have written what I have battled with for such a long time. I think Ginny's response is closest to where I am at and I intend to try to develop a small, indivisual range which I will charge more for because of the time, etc involved BUT I need to earn and so will continue to work on my other things as well. I may not feel these are as fulfilling creatively sometimes, but they do provide regular income and are based on the things I make for my family, therefore comforting in their familiarity. Not sure that makes sense, but I know what I mean!

Keep going Sue and thank you for providing topics which lie close to many of us xx

Julie Whitmore Pottery said...

Dear Sue,

I attended a party some years back, at a very gifted artist's house. Wandering around in her home I came upon the quote, scrawled across the wall of her studio.

"You better know exactly where you are going, or you are sure to wind up somewhere you don't want to be."
(Will Rogers) Its stuck with me, that quote. It's the same thing as intent, what your struggling with. I don't let the word commercial into my head, because if you think of it, the lady in London liked what she saw of yours, the heartfelt appeal of it. People want to be moved, and Hi-tone shoppers are no exception. Make what your heart tells you.
It probably sounds incredibly corny, but if you find joy in the creating, the customer will find joy in the result. i know i did, when i saw your work for the first time.
And Bravo to Janet!

Pomona said...

I agree that you are pondering on an eternal question, which I think is made particularly difficult now because of the competition from workers in countries with much lower wage rates and costs, and the way that their employers copy the ideas of others. I suspect that it is better to sell direct and sell at the mid to high end of the market if you can, but whether you can do that without compromising your creativity or harming your psyche is another question entirely, and this is probably the nub of your problem. I am not sure of the answer - for me, I had to come to the conclusion that the regular if modest income from relatively boring part-time work could then free me to do what I wanted for the rest of the week and just make things for pleasure. But that doesn't help you at all, and is possibly not going to be a sustainable long-term solution for me!
I do think for many artists and craftspeople it is the teaching and courses that subsidise the creative side of things.
But in the end I think that you have to follow your heart, and do what deep down feels right for you.

Pomona x

cocoa and blankets said...

Hi Sue, well as you know, after one of your earlier posts I have decided to make this my last fair and I am praying that I sell I can make for love...but as you say...extra pennies are nice...I have found that making just a few things quite fulfilling...a small run of one of a kind rather than churning things out like a little factory...however your post has hit a nerve because for the first time in my career, of twenty years, the one truth that I was put on this earth to teach, is becoming less of a truth and more of a maybe the change in weather ans season is making women question their journey ...I dont know...I to you and yours ...H

elizabethm said...

I can't help with this one Sue but am struck by both Pipany's and Julie's replies and my Magdalena's reference to "folk art". I don't think you should be on a treadmill churning things out for not enough money, but making something beautiful and honest, not necessarily high art but none the worse for that, seems to be a good intention. Whatever you do, it must please you first before it can please anyone else. I am not sure I know what my intention is either, but I have become much better since I was ill a few years ago, at doing what gives me pleasure. good luck.

Anonymous said...

I think this happens to us all - the compromise between what we really want to do, and knowing that no way could we sell all those hours and dreams at a profit, no matter what it is we do or make. So I treasure the little stitched linen heart I bought from you even more, because I know it is a part of you, whose blog I love.