Sometimes I fill my thoughts with regrets about the choices I have made. Chafing under circumstances and stressors, I wish for paths I could have taken. I spoke to a girl recently whom I discovered worked with someone I considered an icon. My envy of her situation palpable, I gushed over her luck, only to be met with responses sadly akin to many of my own from times past. There was the same hesitancy and careful wording in her speech. The same fear of retribution underscored by frustration and resentment to be caught in the position where the illusions of success ran up against the realities a ruthless experience. Not that much later, news in the ceramic community leaked of yet another apprentice breaking from and citing cruelty in their much more successful, and much more established mentor. Illusions shattered.
So it seems terribly mercenary to sit there and break down a successful artistic practice into a formula for success with a click-baity title. Artists are supposed to be above the machinations of the soulless corporations: lofty and untainted and set apart from the rest of society and it's greedy ulterior motives. But training young artists to be cloudcuckoolanders where the rules of marketing either don't apply or are some hazy unthought of notion is dangerous. The starving artist is romanticized in film, but sad in reality. As are the scores of 20-something BFA/MFA burnouts that finally give up art to pursue a real career. Because we don't treat art like an actual, viable career. It's a passion, a following, a release, a calling with a class on the boring business stuff tacked on the side. But the art I create is only a small fraction of what people are investing in when they buy my piece. It's why an authentic Michelangelo is worth ten times that of a skilled forger. It's the brand: the cult of the personality.
Everything I throw out into the world through letters, social media, images, websites, etc. is building my brand, whether I am intentional about it or not. The power to control how I am perceived is available through these tools- if I know how to be effective. To create a consistent package that people can invest in. That's not what I expected to have to do when I first got into art. But what if there was a way to cut through all the crap and create a method that not only made it easier for people to grasp what I am trying to do, but also had the potential to make my approach to my artistic practice more efficient? I'm on board to take a stab at it!
So, I was talking to a friend of mind about the inevitable post-grad school grapplings with success or lack thereof. The struggle to define a path in the infinite array of possibilities and to even be distinguished amongst the backdrop of millions just like us. I've long since lost track of the hoards of chipper, yet carefully grounded letters I have sent off for grants, scholarships, positions, residencies, etc. attached to exactingly cultivated resumes designed to present my most impressive version of myself. You can see it here (shameless plug and all). There are classes that teach artists professional practice: I've taken them. But artists know we trade heavily on emotion and personality in a way that doesn't translate through times new roman 1.5 spaced on while letter paper. And my friend asked me, "How do we get to be the person everyone wants to have involved?" So I started listing things every successful contemporary ceramic artist that I can immediately identify does:
1. A line you can pitch as a unique, instantly recognizable look.
2. A technique that can be associated with that look. Something accessible enough to build workshops on, but impressive enough to spark interest.
3. A personal narrative that people can see in the work based on a quirk: humor, sensuality, modesty, etc.
4. A theme that translates to the academic and the everyman.
5. Inspiration for others. Your give-back to the community.
And to really cut to the heart: each should be able to be summed up in one uncomplicated (read: 2 clause max) sentence.
It seems so simple. 5 points. 5 sentences. Can it build the total package? That's the hard thing about academia. We dump out everything, the crap included, hoping there is at least one thing worth holding onto amongst a sea of turds. We write and write and write (and write), trying desperately to put words to things that we have made specifically because words have failed us. And there are hands paid to hold ours as we flail around in our turd ocean and pluck the right words as they stream forth. But that lovely, smelly, cocoon is an illusion. And those masses of text and images we use to pin down exactly what it is we are doing are not only never going to be seen, they are fatal in the swipe-left world.
Hello, and welcome to my blog! Feel free to explore the site, pin the images, or contact me! I have a link to a form in the contact page, and am active on social media through @lindseyelsey. Bonus: check out this new video edited by the amazing Kathy Elrick (who does her own thing through @writerelrick) that explores my creative process and the themes in my work. Enjoy!