Working as an artist during COVID times


I thought I'd share a bit of what all this has been like as an artist/artisan/self-employed person. Not for any purpose other than that it helps to share our experiences - and if the internet is all we have now, might as well use it for #realtalk.

I think naturally artists are optimistic people. Broad strokes, I know. But, we hang a lot of our hopes on this system: make something, get it into the world, hope to sell it. Repeat. Little fragments of our expressions, out into the world again and again. We have systems we've built: sales avenues we've developed, and customers we have engaged over years of work. We make and create, with the expectation that we will be able to do it repeatedly. 

And, sidebar, we engage in creative work not because it's so lucrative, but because it's a way of life. I have shared before that I believe all humans are fundamentally creative, but professional artists and artisans have built and patterned their livelihood around creativity - learning to channel it into a saleable product, artwork, jewelry, whatever. It's how we survive and thrive. Both in making and in generating our income, we keep going.

Through all of this pandemic, our creativity is not going away. For me, it's sparking up more than ever: this new situation, with unprecedented problems, begging for clever solutions. But here's the catch - these problems are mounting up daily, with every *necessary* delay, closure and cancellation. So many unknowns.

And the result? So many of my creative impulses are stifled, back-burnered, added to a list of things to revisit, because of all this uncertainty and the issues it brings. Paperwork. Finances. Time. Child care. So there's a break in the circuit, and for me, that has been a tough thing.

Delving into the business stuff: When we moved to Netherlands at the end of February, I had approx. 4 months of work ahead of me (wholesale orders from shops, and custom orders). This was a first. I had never before been in such a secure position, business wise. I felt so proud, and grateful! Heck I almost bought a new laptop (I didn't). But I did purchase all the supplies needed for the work (also important to note - I think this is pretty universal - that artists get paid when the work is done and delivered).
Anyway. Not sure if you remember, but COVID happened. Temporary and ongoing closures of shops meant delays of all of my orders. Some orders have been postponed indefinitely. Some are cancelled. I don't know whether to finish production on orders or not, in case they are modified or cancelled. Leaving projects and orders unfinished is difficult! It's another 'break in the circuit' where you can't check an item off the list, and you're not sure when you will be able to. Starting new things (exercising creativity), feels impractical and like the wrong allocation of time and materials. 

Let me be clear here: I get it, 110%. Stores have so much riding on their sales - a much higher overhead with rent, staff, stock, and so on. Who could have predicted this crazy time? (I mean besides those senators in the US who sold all their stocks in January)

The point is only this: to share where I am at, and many artists like me. I have bottomless appreciation for my stores who carry my work. I love and deeply appreciate my own customers who have SHOWED. UP. for me and many other artists across the board. All of you are facing challenges with this crisis as well, so my gratitude for your purchases and support is pretty much boundless.

I'll end this all off on that theme - gratitude.
I'm grateful for health.
I'm incredibly grateful for everyone who learned to use Zoom AND the mute mic function.
I am so thankful for my shops and retail partners, who continue make maneuvers and adjustments to keep kicking ass and getting the work of hundreds of artists into your homes and lives. 
I'm thankful for bonus time at home with my 2 year old and husband (my dog too but he's always around). Thankful for a partner who takes his share (half, duh) of childcare so we can both work.
And, I'm grateful for anyone who is still reading to the end of this long and effusive bit of writing - I truly thank you for your interest and time reading this! My sincere hope is that you are staying well, safe & looking forward to things getting better. 

Maybe we can agree to lean in to our impractical creative impulses - even when other things are overwhelmingly unfinished. Let's make & create, process & share. I really think it helps.

With love!

 - Amber


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