Friday, April 15, 2011

Art, Craft and Creativity

When people ask me what I do, I tell them I'm an artist. (I'm slowly getting used to saying that, to defining myself as an artist instead of as a scientist, but that's a topic for another post.) Ever since I started doing my stained glass work, I've always thought of it as an "art" rather than a "craft". But how do you tell one from the other? What makes a person an "artist" and not a "crafter"??

Each piece I make is unique. Most of the work I do is abstract, and my designs are completely my own. I also try really hard to make every piece me. I would proudly hang any and all of my creations in my own home, and enjoy looking at them. I've always said that my stained glass is different, I don't do the usual stock-pattern "angels and butterflies" that you see at oh so many craft shows. I guess all of these things help me to feel justified in calling my work "art".

But I feel like I'm trapped in the craft world. In an effort to try to sell pieces, I sign up for shows. I've tried to avoid the hardcore "craft shows" and tried to get into events with more of an art focus, but the result is still the same: I find myself spending hours and hours in the studio, churning out lots of small-to-medium suncatchers (each one unique!!) in order to have enough stuff to sell at these shows. For instance, this past week has been spent almost exclusively making lots of recycled bottle glassware to have on hand at tomorrow's Bloomin' Earth eco-fair event. I also stress over my Etsy shop, which I try to keep stocked with my stained glass molecule designs, so I find myself cranking out lots of those as well. (I'm proud of my stained glass molecules, and I've been slowly gaining attention on Etsy with them over the last couple of's so nice to have a unique little niche in that particular community. But sometimes I feel like a factory, constantly cracking out little glass hexagons!)

In the meantime, my head is swirling with new ideas, new things I want to try out to take my art to the next level. I want to make large stained glass panels. (I do make large panels currently, but only on a custom basis. I think the chances of selling a non-custom panel are so slim that I am hesitant to put in the time and effort required to make one, when I could be using that time to make smaller pieces that WILL sell.) I'm super-excited for the glass fusing course I'll be taking this summer, and I will want to incorporate the things I learn there into my art. I want to experiment with some mixed-media and three-dimensional stuff, and do more etching/sandblasting.

But I just don't feel like I have the time to simply stop and be creative. I'm too busy trying to get ready for the next show, and the next show, and then the one after that. But if I stop doing these shows, my already-meager income stream will also stop. (The other day I received an invitation to apply to be a vendor at the Fergus Scottish Festival in August. I got really excited, then asked myself: do I really want to spend the entire summer making celtic knot after celtic knot to prepare for it?? I still haven't answered that question.)

I'm going to have to find some balance somewhere. In a perfect world an artist wouldn't have to make the choice between "being creative" and "making money" but I guess that's what I'm facing.

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