Saturday, July 25, 2009

The freedom to not care

It's street fair season in Seattle. Every weekend during the Summer there is a street fair somewhere in the Seattle area. This weekend it's Bellevue's turn to host those braver than I who have chosen the less safe route of creating arts and or crafts for a living. As I strolled through the booths admiring the works in all manner of mediums I was jealous. Until.

I was jealous until I noticed a pattern. Nearly every artist, regardless of medium, had a large amount of safe, salable work. But they also would have a couple pieces that were much grander than the utility pieces. A couple pieces that let you peek at the artist's vision. These were the pieces that always drew my eye. Beautiful oversized teapots with multiple elaborate faux cane handles or a wall hanging made of tiles, some porcelain some raku that formed a kimono. These were accompanied by an army of bowls and mugs. Mirrors with whimsical porcelain frames glazed with multi-colored crystalline glazes the crystal as big as 50 cent pieces surrounded by small reasonably priced plates.

I may be dead wrong here but I don't believe I am. When I am in the studio my thoughts go to my ambitious pieces. The pieces I have never tried before or more often the pieces I have tried but failed at. I only make mugs when I need them or plan to give them as a gift. I only make bowls when I have broken too many at home or someone asks me for one (still have a backlog I need to get to of requested bowls). I never go to the studio thinking about "Will other people buy this piece?" Never. My sole concern is do I like the piece? Am I happy with it? I took this freedom to not care about marketability for granted. I never thought about it until yesterday.

Those of us who do not make art for a living, our livelihood is not tied to the acceptance of our work have a freedom to do whatever the wind whispers in our ear. It doesn't matter who else likes our work. I don't need to produce a stack of bowls with floating blue to go with my gaudy tentacle vases. Suddenly, I am less jealous of those I will see at next week's street fair.

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