Art and money doesn't seem to go together does it! Eli Trier decided it was time to have a honest discussion around the topic with everyday creatives. Below is the article I contributed to the e-mail series that took place in August 2017.
I can still remember the day that I gave my autonomy away as a creative; the exact conversation.
I can see myself clearly, twenty-five years old, sitting in my studio near Hammersmith in London. I made handmade ceramics that I sold to departments stores and galleries nationally. The phone rang and it was my main buyer and it went like this,
Buyer, ‘I’ve been thinking, why don't you put sheep on your ceramics?’
Me, ’But I don't do sheep.’
Buyer, ‘Well if you don't, I will find someone else who does’.
Off course I said yes to the sheep … and the cats … and the dogs. I did well and worked full-time in my business.
Now that conversation changed everything for me. This is when my fundamental beliefs around making money as a creative changed and I began being driven by fear of rejection and financial insecurity. I could create for others but not for myself as I looked outside for direction and acceptance.
Eventually discontent set in, I felt on a production line and my own needs for self-expression kept calling. Instead of paying attention to those nudges I stepped sideways into children's book illustration. I got an agent and worked full-time illustrating and made a living from it too. All was good, but again the discontent set in with the same feelings of being on a production line.
I stepped sideways.
Jump forward and I'm working two part-time jobs in arts project management, running creativity workshops, delivering training and mentoring all at the same time and in between freelancing as a designer. It was brilliant, I made money and supported myself. After fourteen years facilitating other peoples creativity I felt burnt-out. Art repulsed me and I left.
In my head the discontent was caused by the creative industries, but in reality it was the giving away of my creativity to others without giving to myself at the same time.
The calling do my own artwork kept persisting and I got a studio. Did I do my own artwork? No, off course not. My pattern of avoidance and fear was now too ingrained. I stepped sideways and used the studio to write my essays as I retrained to get a 'proper job' and keep art-making as my hobby. This is where I am today.
I have made £1400.00 from my creativity so far this year. £25.00 from an art print and the rest from workshops and film editing. Considering I've not been actively looking for work it's been a bonus.
Last year I finally started creating for myself, working through the blocks and getting the creative habit by committing to the #the100dayproject on Instagram. It was a start and at last I felt more comfortable calling myself an artist.
Would I like to make money from my art-making again? Yes, I would and I can feel the inner promptings pushing me to do so. In fact it’s getting very difficult to ignore.
What's stopping me is that belief that my self generated work is not saleable or good enough caused by that one telephone conversation twenty-five years ago; my fear has been running the show but now I am calling it out and asking:
• Is this belief helpful?
• Does it move me towards or away from where I want to be?
• How would I be without this thought? Now be that.
You may be thinking that I am feeling sorry for myself about that nasty buyer, but I'm not. I have had the most diverse and amazing career and it might be because of him. All those experiences I can now draw upon to help me move forward into a new phase of my art-making where I will NOT be stepping sideways.