Saturday, April 30, 2016

Sorting out the out of sorts

"There's so many depressions all plowed in your brain
Trace 'em too far and they'll drive you insane
You're twisted so tight now, you hardly can talk
Get out in the daylight and go for a walk."

I'm feeling out of sorts.

I know, what else is new, right? Isn't that the underlying theme of so many of my posts?

Each out of sorts is different though, and writing here is one way of sorting them out.

So what's bothering me at the moment?

I seem to have doubled back to that creative crossroads where I've cooled my jets too many times before.

I could say my bead sales are plodding but that would be a half truth. In the past 10 days I've had two sizeable sales and one custom order, the three of which totaled north of $700. I've had at least one sale a day on Facebook in the last week, but that is out of an average of 10 listings per day. It's not great but it's not naught.

Sales are only one barometer of artistic success though, and not really the most important one. Despite all the validation I get, all the messages about how beautiful my beads are, it comes down to this - I'm not happy with them.

Oh sure, I might look at one bead out of a day's kiln haul and think, that one really is pretty. And usually, that isn't even the one that sells, or the one that attracts compliments.

There are also a lot of my beads that I have no strong feelings about. They're OK. They may be basic or something I've made many times over. My custom order, for example, is 45 simple green donut beads with pixie dust.

Shimmery, yes. Artistry, adequate. Skill, competent. Creativity, debatable.

A friend of mine, an assemblage artist who owns a little consignment shop, says that the public doesn't look at my beads with the harsh critical eye that I do. Where I see flaws, they see only beauty. But dammit, I see the figurative rough edges. I see sloppiness. I see dots that aren't perfectly round. I see seed bubbles that you might call quirks but I might call imperfections. I see uneveness that you might say gives the bead character but I might say gives the bead a fail.

I'm not a perfectionist. I'm more a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-ist. Funny, I just as I typed this I got this Facebook comment on a bead set.

"They're perfect! Darn my lack of funds right now!!!"

Only the thing is, they're not perfect. There is yellow showing through the pink dot on one of the blue beads. I noticed that when I posted the set this morning. I remind myself, credit to Walt Disney, don't shoot for perfection, shoot for magic. Then I think, screw perfection, screw magic, screw excellence and superiority. How about some garden-variety quality, some conventional merit?

An attribute of the work of artists I admire, isn't perfection, but precision. I make organic beads because people like them and buy them, but I'm drawn to symmetry and balance, to meticulous execution and mastery of detail. I scrutinize beads before I buy them. Yes, these are handmade works of art and I'm not looking for machine-made uniformity. I like some abstraction very much, I like harmonious asymmetry, but I'm all about some of the little things that elude me. Beautifully centered bubble dots. Pristine clarity. Impeccable shaping. Faultless technical accomplishment.

Work of some of the artists I admire. Not my photos, but they are my beads, I paid for them.

Iveta Linde, Jasminka Milovanovic, Kateřina Sojková, Kim Snider, Lorna Prime, Michal Silberberg, Mindy Macgregor, Shani Barrett, Tera Belinsky-Yoder, Angelika Kaufman.

Fortunately for me, art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, and viewed through the lenses of the bead buying public, some of my beads are perfect enough to pay for.

But is pefect enough good enough? Do I work too fast, are my hands too unsteady, do I just not have the talent, the gift, the adeptness to meet the standard I set for myself? Setting aside what I call artistry for a minute and thinking strictly about technical capability, I'm not sure I do.

I honestly question how long I will work at this. And then I go out in the garage studio to put away a glass purchase (which is rare for me these days) and as I handle and rearrange the dusty glass, I feel my love for the medium. I pull some rods, colors I've forgotten about, and feel a flicker of excitement about lighting the torch and melting them, making something. I'm dreading the looming summer heat, I'm awash in inventory, and I wonder why I'm impelled to make more beads when I'm not sure what to do with all the ones on hand.

But I'm not ready to quit, not yet. So I'll just keep trying to improve my expertise. Who knows, maybe I'll fall into my niche yet, achieve a new level of proficiency, have a brainstorm, experience a stroke of genius, or make peace with the paranmeters of my prowess, whatever those may happen to be.

What else needs sorting? Money. Money and my funny relationship with it.

I've cut way back on buying other artist's beads. I still look, but most of the ones I like are the ones everyone else likes too, and the prices daunt me. I don't need them anyway. In most cases I already have several pieces of the artist's work in my collection, and I've stopped rationalizing that I could make jewelry with them, to sell. First off, I rarely do, second off, there are better jewelry designers than me hawking their lovely wares, and third off, I have a hard time parting with most of the pieces I own. Once in a while I make a necklace for myself or to give as a gift. Maybe someday when my torching days are truly behind me, I'll make jewelry again and even try to sell some.

I've also cut way back on buying everything beadmaking-related. I've ordered glass a couple of times when there were really good sales, forgetting that I don't need any more glass. Ever. I've been selling a little of my stash in fact, but it's a lot more work to ship glass than beads and I only do it when I have bubble wrap, boxes, peanuts, etc. on hand. I might as well sell most of the out-of-production colors that are worth something since I can't do them any kind of justice and don't even especially love them.

Moveover, I've stopped buying tools. I didn't even replace my beloved tungsten tweezers after breaking my second pair. I make do with cheap tweezers and get by. I've stopped buying shards, murrini, dichro stringer because I decided my beads are more authentic if I make my own. So I blow my own shards, make my own simple murrini and pull my own encased stringer. No more presses or rollers do I buy, I only use a limited number of the ones I own. I should probably sell the rest, or try using them more often. I used to say, I'd sell them but I'm not motivated because I don't need the money.

Except I could use the money. I've been holding in a steady state for a long time now. Since I stopped working, by which I mean for a third party with a regular paycheck and incentive compensation, I've continued to pay the bills we designated as mine: electricity, gas, water, phone, internet, security system, cable, all of our home and car insurance, housekeeper, most of the vet bills. I pay for some of our groceries and an occasional meal out and some travel expenses. I get my hair and nails done approximately once a month and a monthly massage.

August 1 will mark 5 years since my last company paycheck. My little bead business has paid its own way and more or less kept pace with the bills, but I started with a cushion but that has been diminishing, largely because I have funded my kids' IRA's every year and put money in my own IRA and 401K too.

So far I haven't dipped into my 401K or the modest estate I inherited from my mom and dad. If I had my druthers, I'd keep all that money intact and hopefully growing, as a legacy for my children. My dad liked to say, "I came into the world with nothing and I intend to leave it the same way." Contrarily, I'd like to die (some day well into the future) with more money than I have today. But I'm doubtful that I can make that happen. When I start to collect Social Security I should be able to stretch my cash flow further, but while Neil still is working the tax bite makes delaying it seem prudent.

I wouldn't say I'm deprived, I wouldn't say I'm indulged. I do have some really bad habits, like recreational shopping. I go to T.J.Maxx or Ross without needing anything specific and I find things that I like and buy. I have boatloads of jewelry I don't wear, some I bought but have never worn. Most days I don't put on any jewelry, because most days the only time I leave the house is to go to the post office or grocery store. I've written about my stockpiling before, the shoes and purses and watches and sweaters and t-shirts and socks, stowed in my closet, proof against a rainy day or possibly a dry-goods shortage.

I don't do serious damage though. I drive a 2008 CRV and plan to drive it until it gives up the ghost. I figure my next new car will be my last car. Still, I feel like a ridiculous conspicuos consumer. I have so much stuff and if I think about it, it oppresses me.

On the flip side, there are things I'd really like to have, like a new iPad, and if I'm getting one, I want the 12.9 inch Pro with 256GB. Even that is only $1,100. Plus tax. Plus a new case. Only I can't quite pull the trigger and buy it. My dinosaur iPad 2 is finicky but still works. And those new hiking boots, in my Amazon cart, $160 with tax? I really do need them. I just can't seem to drop the dime so far.

I've made some stupid wasteful purchases in the past few years, noteably a MacBook Pro that I tried to love but never got comfortable with, and cost 5 times as much as the all-in-one PC I caved and bought and use daily. And the Nikon 1 mirrorless DSLR that I bought specifically to take bead photos, oblivious to the fact that there is no macro lens for the Nikon 1. I compounded that stupidity by buying a Nikkor macro lens and an adapter, but the auto settings on the Nikon 1 don't work with the adapter and I still can't get a good closeup. So instead I use my Sony point-and-shoot for bead pictures. I thought, at least I can use the Nikon 1 for vacation photo taking, but who wants to schelp a camera when the iPhone is so slim and convenient and multi-purpose.

I should sell all that isht, along with some of the new-with-tags purses and shoes in my closet. I'm not sure why I don't. I'm not broke enough yet.

The last thing to sort today is this very thing. Writing. Writing and first world problems. I want my blog to be meaningful. I want my words to matter. I've been reading about Blogher conferences and who knew, you can submit a post or posts you wrote to be considered for Voices of the Year 2016. All it takes is filling out an email form with a link. So simple - if you have written anything noteworthy.

Then there are other venues, like The Huffington Post, which publishes blog posts from various bloggers on a range of topics. Listen to Your Mother is a series of events that feature live readings by writers/bloggers on the general topic of motherhood, from any perspective. Like mini Ted Talks about mothering or being mothered. I know about this because some of the bloggers I follow have participated and it's fun to watch their videos, see their faces, hear their voices.

I don't promote my blog. With rare exceptions I don't share my posts on Facebook. I'm not sure I have any regular readers and I get very few comments. I've always said that's OK with me. I'm writing for myself. My blog is a mix of journal, memoir, travelogue, with lots of ranting about beads and Facebook and self-esteem and the demons of my past. I've got lots more of the last in me and I'll get to them eventually.

On the positive side, I think I write well. I think I am funny and amusing and entertaining and all that jazz. It's the substance that I'm unsure about. I'm probably a day or a few years late to this party, but I feel like I want to get there anyway. I put a lot of effort into each of my posts, even if it's just for my own reading pleasure. I'm ready to share, but not quite certain enough to promote it to my 1,010 (whoa) Facebook friends. I mean, I barely know most of them.

I'd like to write more thoughtful posts, to be more authentic, to explore a bigger picture. I'd like to write more posts period. I love to write, yet I've written an average of two post per month, last year and this year. I have more to say. It's mostly a matter of booking the time. Which means unbooking something else. Like recreational trips to T.J.Maxx. Seriously shopping is a time sucker for me. Even grocery shopping. It goes back to that dime. It takes me forever to make a decision to buy something and half the time I do it by telling myself, you can always return it. And sometimes I do, which sucks more time, since as long as I'm there, I might as well look around, in case there's something else I need that I don't know I need.

In the meantime, those Vasques are still sitting in my Amazon shopping cart. But I got these brooding musings out, and I'm banking on that being a baby step toward being better sorted.

Well, don't you go thinkin' and thinkin' and thinkin' and
Thinkin' so much 'til you're stranded behind
Don't you go thinkin' and thinkin' and thinkin' and
Thinkin' so much 'til you're losin' your mind

There's so many depressions all plowed in your brain
Trace 'em too far and they'll drive you insane
You're twisted so tight now, you hardly can talk
Get out in the daylight and go for a walk

All the tension inside has gone through to your face
You're flashin' your madness all over the place
You stand in the hallway and try to explain
I look in your eyes, I see shackles and chains

You're chasin' some notion you've misunderstood
You're tryin' so hard, can't you tell it's no good?
You analyzed everything into a 'No'
You're falling apart, you got nothing to show

No, don't you go thinkin' and thinkin' and thinkin' and
Thinkin' so much 'til you're stranded behind
Don't you go thinkin' and thinkin' and thinkin' and
Thinkin' so much 'til you're losin' your mind.

(Steve Forbert)

1 comment:

Cathie said...

Just so you know someone is following you from afar (but you probably know it from your wise host!) and yes, you do write well! Please carry on, I enjoy reading you, even though I just can't imagine why you never got comfortable with the MacBook Pro that I could not live or work without! Goes to show...

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz