Monday, April 25, 2011

On Definition of Self...

ARTIST - a person who produces works in any of the arts that are primarily subject to aesthetic criteria; a person whose work exhibits exceptional skill.

This weekend I had the chance to travel up to Raleigh and visit the Handmade Market. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. It truly was inspiring to see so many artists who had worked so hard to present themselves and their work to the audience. I came home with a few goodies for my mom and my sisters (all jewelry, ironically enough) and visited Ornamentea to stock up on a few things for myself.

While I was at the Market, I had the opportunity to meet an artist whose work I have admired for some time. She was kind enough to pause a little for a chat right in the middle of her show. We talked about beads and giving back and I had one of my pieces on hand that she tried on. Her next question was about price and work time and I knew I'd said something wrong when her brow wrinkled up....
"Marcie, you should be paying yourself more for your time."

(One of my first blog headers from way back)

I've thought a lot about what she said and even about why I find it so difficult to price my work. Every time that I come to that little Etsy bar where it says "price", I panic.
What if it doesn't sell? What if people don't pick me because of the price?
But, that's really not the question I should be asking.
I should ask...Why is it so hard for me to price my work when I'm the only one who knows what goes into it?

Much thanks to Brandi Girl, who hit the nail on the head with her pricing guide, I now know that it's because of how I define myself and what I do. I see myself as a beader or a beadweaver, but I would never call myself an "artist".
Mostly because I don't "feel" like an artist. But, what is an artist?
If I believe what it says above..."a person whose work exhibits exceptional skill"...then I have to reevaluate my work.

It is true that I'm self-taught, but I've figured out a lot about beads in the past few years and every piece that I create is thought through, designed, planned and executed with that knowledge.
Here are a few of the things that I've learned from a lot of trail and error: 

1. I Don't use cabochons in bead embroidery.
This is truly an anti-embroidery statement that could probably get me thrown in bead embroidery prison.
But, I don't use cabs, ever.
For example, my Desert Safari Pendant. The focal in this pendant is bone. It's a flat piece with three holes running down the center and six smaller holes around the side. It's secured to the backing with a little E600 and the tiny beads that I wove into the small holes along the side. The glue AND the beads hold it in place and by not beading up the side of bead, you can see the whole thing the way it was meant to be enjoyed.
If you visit my shop, all of my embroidered pieces have beads as focal points. I add a dab of glue, and then take my thread up and through the bead to secure it to the backing. The result? None of the stone is hidden under beads and you can truly enjoy the beauty of the stone all the way to the edge.

2. Always create a picot with a large bead, small bead, large bead formula.
I've explained that one here if you want more info. But, basically, it prevents wonky picots that lay on top of each other instead of giving you a nice even raised edge like the one you can see below.

3. You can bead embroider anything.
I had seen pendants and brooches and cuffs when I first started bead embroidering, but before I ever began making the bobby pins I did a little internet search to see if anyone was making anything similar. I didn't find anything, so when I created my first set of bobby pins, I was so excited to see the finished product. 

And it was a logical leap that I jumped from pins to bands...

...and straight on to bangles.

You truly are limited only by your imagination.

4. I am in charge of my medium, it doesn't control me.
I was shocked to read a recent post by one of my team members who lamented that beadwoven jewelry was out and only in style if you were forty-something!
I definitely did not get the memo and I disagree.
I was surprised to see at the Handmade Market that no one was working with beads. Big beads, yes, but honestly, I didn't see one seed bead in the whole building and yet, I walked around all day wearing this and got a lot of compliments on it. 

It's not the bead that's out of style, if anything, it's the traditional way of weaving them together and as an artist, it's my job to constantly push the boundaries by creating pieces that use traditional methods to make modern statements.

So, what's my point?
ARTIST: a person whose work exhibits exceptional skill.

I'm starting to see my work in a different light and I'm making strides toward keeping better account of the time, materials and energy involved in a piece (not to mention time spent taking photos, packing and shipping pieces).
And if that means that my prices must go up a little, then so be it.
At least I know it will be calculated and not arbitrary and that it will be artist-quality work from someone who values the time and energy that she puts into everything she creates.
I also plan to continue working on tutorials, because knowledge hoarded really doesn't do anyone any good.

I highly recommend that you read Brandi's guide to pricing EVEN if you don't sell your work. I think it's just as important for a buyer of handmade to understand where their money is going and how it will support the artist.

Thanks for your time and for taking a moment to really think about all of the ARTISTS that make up the handmade market.
Oh, and I encourage you, if you have an artist in mind whose work you've admired for some time...I suggest sending them a convo or an e-mail and letting them know, I know that the sentiment will not go unnoticed.
Enjoy your Monday!


  1. The perfect post for me this morning. I also hit the panic button when trying to price my creations. A few weeks ago I put some of my beaded beads into my shop and had such a hard time with the pricing. All my beads take time... I am a slow, careful beader that looks for perfection every time. After much soul searching I came to the conclusion that if people think they are over-priced, so be it, but I will not sell myself short and devalue my work.

    I've just arrived back from a lovely vacation and really did have a good chat with myself. My work takes time, takes skill and I'm proud of it :0)

  2. Nice post, Marcie. Brandi's e-book is very thoughtful and a fresh approach to valuing your work. I think pricing is the very most difficult thing you can do as an artist. Actually, maybe calling yourself an artist is the most difficult. I struggle with both of these all of the time.

  3. I have yet to read this, but I am hearing that there are those out there having epiphanies when they do! Bravo, Miss Marcie! You are truly worthy of the title ARTIST and I am glad that you are ready to put on that nametag with the rest of us! (P.S. It took me a long time to recognize this in myself as well!) Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this I need to go out and get that download, stat!
    Enjoy the day!

  4. Don't question the depths of your talent. You have got it! I have seen your work. I own some. Even your treasuries on Etsy have the mark of an artist. Talent!

  5. We've discussed pricing before so you know where I stand on the matter ;-) You need to listen to that artist from Raleigh, she knows what she's talking about!

    I'm glad to see that you are re-evaluating your work and VALUING your work. What would it take for you to call yourself an artist? What is stopping you from doing so now? In my eyes, you are an artist through and through, amiga...not 'just' a beader.


  6. First, let me just say thank you for the kind blog mention! I'm so glad that my little ebook is helping people in some way, shape, or form. Artists need to hear that what they make is valuable, so I appreciate any help getting the word out!

    Second, let me just say that the question you need to be asking yourself isn't, "What if no one wants this?" The answer to that is yep, someone does, you just need to find them. The question that matters is "Am I paying myself enough for the work I do?"

    Your work is fabulous, seriously. I'm a new visitor to your site, but I already love your style. The detail and the quality you put in clearly shows the amount of time it takes you to create! It's always so hard to walk that line between fair compensation and what your market will pay for. I love that you're taking time to make sure your Selling Equation is as balanced and fair to you as it can be.

    And if there wasn't a single beadweaver in the building, that says to me you've got lots of room to create your own niche. :)

  7. I'm with you...I often feel like nothing I make is really all that original and no one's going to want it. But, I love Brandi's comment that we have to find the folks that are going to want our goods. I guess I don't think enough about it that way.
    Cheers to appreciating ourselves and our work a little bit more!!

  8. I just found your blog and I loved your post. You are an artist - your work is gorgeous - believe in yourself!

  9. A great post and beautiful pieces. I love Wilmington. Been bead shopping there too.

  10. What a great post! Thank you for the inspiration and great ideas. It's so hard putting a price on your own work, or at least for me. I always worry that nobody will like my stuff.

    I have to add that for me, you are that artist that I admire! Your work is always inspiring and original :)

    By the way, I posted my Margie and Me reveal yesterday, but now I realize I might have posted too early... Sorry!

  11. All I can say is that you should know by now that the inspirations and creations of yours are truly from an artistic eye and yes yes yes you are an artist! I also agree that it isn't the beads that are out of style it's the "same old" that is. I have learned from you to look at the beads so much differently and when I wear them I do receive many compliments so I am with you there (although I am in the 40 something crowd I do not act like it!) You do sell yourself short and I am glad you are taking a new approach!