Friday, January 11, 2008

Rainy Morning

I'm less than a week into this project and I'm already being told repeatedly that I'm not asking enough for these daily collages. I've raised the price once, from $20 to $45, and still, I hear the same thing.

I take it as a complement, of course, but I am also giving this criticism serious thought, considering the time it takes to complete each work, materials, my long- and short-term goals. I've consulted Cay Lang. I've browsed I'm researching what other artists are asking –and getting– for comparable work.

This is what I know so far:

I want to make collages. One every day for at least the next two months. I want to learn something from the process – about myself, about art, about myself making art. I'm already learning. For instance: I've learned that I need to do some critical thinking about how I price my work!

This project is effecting everything in my life. I go to bed curious, wake up excited. Right now, in this moment, I'm already eager to see tomorrow's collage. I have no idea what it will be.

There are underground shifts in my creative life as well. In the week since I began this project, a long-anticipated much-avoided series of shadow box assemblage pieces has finally seen the light of day. For years I've been collecting materials, in turns feeling urgently and forgetting entirely how much I want to make them. And suddenly, in the last two days, four pieces have emerged. Plus, yesterday I submitted one of my short stories to the first of what I'm sure will be a string of literary magazines.

These may seem like baby steps, but to me, they are huge, and just the beginning.

Years ago, I put on a one-woman show: music, video, slides, spoken word, and a gallery show of my art - all of which I had to price. My goal at that point was to pay off the last of my college debt and to free myself of a stockpile of artwork that discouraged me from making anything new. But I worried that selling beloved pieces too cheap might also dampen my enthusiasm. As I agonized over pricing a favorite collage, an artist friend waved off my worry like a stray mosquito. "Just sell it and make another one," he said. "There's no mystery. It's not magic. Just let it go. And make another one."

I struggled for a long time, trying on numbers like high heel shoes - going as high as I dared, which is actually quite low (and true to the metaphor - I never wear heels). In one night, I sold just about everything. People were literally running to claim their purchases before someone else got to them. It was chaos, and such a rush! Between admission to the show and sales of my art, I netted exactly the outstanding balance on my college loans. Maybe I priced too low, but I felt great. And the new pieces I whipped out to restock for the next show were some of my best works of that time.

Yes, I'd like to sell these collages, but not for so little that it hurts to send them off. Twenty dollars, I realize now, isn't enough. Forty-five feels better. Sixty-five would probably feel good, too. It's more in keeping with what I make as a graphic designer, though on the low end of my hourly spectrum – in other words, still humble. But humble feels right. I'm just getting started at this, after all...

I'm clearly not finished thinking about this, nor have I done enough comparison shopping to have an idea what is truly appropriate to the market. Leave room for your star to rise, Lang suggests, and so I will: No price changes today. Forty-five dollars is it.

The humble truth is that I'm having fun making these daily collages. The process is valuable to me even if I don't sell a one, and I'll keep at it as long as this is true. Also, the thought of a growing stack doesn't bother me. It's a body of work, and that, in and of itself, is a valuable thing. I'd love to see a long row of them, all decked out in mats and frames on a nice clean wall. I want a show, is what I'm saying. At that show, after I've breathed a good deep breath surveying my day-after-day labors, make no mistake about it, the not-humble truth is that I'd like to sell every one of them, for enough money to keep the wind in my sails.

After all, the more I sell, the more I'll have to make another one.

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