Being fearless can be really hard for some folks. I can be shy sometimes and understand completely when some artists say that they have a hard time getting up the nerve to put their artwork "out there." The internet can help in some situations because if there's rejection, it's not face to face and in some respects less personal. Most artists develop a thick skin over the years because art is a hard sell and can be very specific. I visit booths at art festivals and often come away thinking to myself how do they do it. I don't know if I could sit for two days watching a parade of people that smile and walk by. But we learn the hard way, that what makes it all worthwhile, are the few people that stop, chat and buy. For my personality, I prefer to work and concentrate on making, and letting the galleries and shops do the hard work of selling.
But... in order to get to the place of having galleries and shops representing and selling my creations, that also requires some intestinal fortitude. The first time that I sold one of my creations was when I was in college at a small student art festival. I had no concept of how to price my work, and unfortunately I was so excited when people liked what I made, that I priced very, very low. I always thought that there should be a section of classes in the Fine Arts College, that included Business classes, to help us prepare better for the "real" world.
Getting back to intestinal fortitude, when I decided that I wanted to make art my career, I started by thinking about what sorts of shops and galleries might be a good fit for my work. I knew that I didn't want to get into the art festival scene. This was also before the days of Etsy, so online selling was mostly Ebay. We moved to Tampa, Florida in 2002 and we were lucky enough to be relatively close to a few artsy tourist locations. I spent 2002 building up a series of ceramic pieces, setting up my small garage studio and getting to know my way around town. I first joined an art center on St. Pete Beach. As a member, I was able to leave artwork on consignment in the art center's gallery. It was exciting to receive my first check showing me that someone connected with my creations enough to want to have one of my pieces in their home. Then from that first art center, I was invited to be part of an artist co-op on Passe-A-Grille. Again, exciting to have people like my artwork. Every time I made a sale, it gave me reason to continue creating and to continue to come up with new ideas. Then, I found out about a wonderful organization and gallery called Florida CraftArt (formerly Florida Craftsman). It was so very cool to have Florida CraftArt in St. Petersburg, just across the bridge. I loved that FCA sent out invitations to participate in various events and fund-raisers. I became an annual holiday show participant, I donated pieces to the 50th anniversary silent auction. It was a birthday cake with a music box movement and 5 cats on top each holding a gold candle to symbolize the 50th. My cake was purchased and I was told that it brought in $125.00! Christmas after Christmas I would look forward to the Florida Craftsman Holiday Boutique.
Not being a juried gallery artist, the holidays were the one time of the year that I could put my artwork out there in a truly beautiful and well-respected fine craft gallery. But, I wanted more! I submitted on a regular basis to become a gallery artist. Time after time I was rejected. Back in those days a numerical system was used. During one of the jury sessions the response that I received said that I needed to find my artistic voice. I was aghast. Artistic voice! I never thought about my "voice." And that rejection got me to thinking, and rethinking my work and how I could convey a message. It was thanks to the jury that I came up with my thick lipped fish teapots. My voice there was my own view of how I was aging. As my lips thinned and lost collagen, my fish seemed to have lips that got plumper and more youthful. I started to give my fish teapots long titles that carried human insecurities. My thoughts were ranging from how beautiful and colorful so many coral reef fish can be and how they never see how beautiful they are. If they can't see it, does it mean that it doesn't exist. No insecurities because beauty is not an issue. Their colorful bodies often are part of survival and evolution. Once I started realizing and listening to my artistic voice, my next jury submission to Florida Craftsman was one where I had the necessary numbers to become a full time gallery artist. But... isn't there always a but? But, there were already too many whimsical artists so I was rejected, but not on merit. I just had to knock someone off! Not really, just joking. After this round of rejection I gave up. Yes, I concluded that it wasn't in the stars for me with Florida Craftsman. There was nothing that I could do, so I was resolved to be happy that I made the numbers. I continued to participate in the annual Holiday Boutique but did not submit for jurying. Then, after the end of the boutique, I received a phone call from the then gallery manager who told me that I didn't have to rush over to pick up my Holiday Boutique pieces because I made it through the jury process and was now a full time gallery artist! I was jumping and on top of the world. Something that I had wanted for so long, something that I had tried to achieve so many times. Without submitting, when least expected, it happened. I was fearless to a point, gave up, and felt rejected. I continue to be a full-time gallery artist at Florida CraftArt. Being part of the organization makes me want to do better work, keep improving and continue to be fearless!