Thursday, August 28, 2008

It's Stress Free Thursday!!! WOO HOO!!!!!!

And time to continue our "lesson" about creativity and finding your voice as a glass beadmaker (or any artist really).

*** if you're not a beadmaker or don't care about my creative process, you can just go ahead and hit "back" now because this is LONG... much longer than I intended!!!!!! But it's my blog and I can talk endlessly if I want to!!!***

When we left our beadmakers yesterday they were tying their creativity to what sells (which isn't really being creative is it??)

Well, this way of thinking comes from CENTURIES of glass beadmaking. Years ago, glass beads were currency, made in Italy (and other places) to trade for goods, land, slaves, other things of value. Beads were money. You can't get any closer to "making beads that sell" than that. When the "secrets" of making glass beads migrated out of Italy, specifically to the U.S. it really caused some shifts in attitudes. U.S. beadmakers were making ART for art's sake. They weren't creating things specifically to sell. They were just drawn to making art out of this "new to us" medium.

By the early 90s there were around 100 known glass beadmakers in the US. (We know this because of the creation of the Society of Glassbeadmakers and its early membership. See ISGB.ORG for more info on that). My point is that these people were not making beads because they had seen other beads sell. They were being creative and making their own thing. Most of them hadn't even seen each other's beads until the first big showing of glass beads that took place in Arizona in 1992 or 1993 (?).

I'm not saying these people weren't selling their work, but none of them were making things PURELY because they sold. They lived in vans, traveling across the country, worked as waitresses, etc. while they sold their work. They were what we think of when we think "starving artist!" They had that DRIVE that pushed them to create, no matter what the financial benefit was.

As THEY began to teach, some of their techniques flowed to other people and became part of their "bag of tricks" and I was one of those people. I started making glass beads in 1995. My intention in taking classes wasn't to sell beads. It was just to make something cool. I did walk away from all the classes I took with wonderful techniques and I'm sure that I was inspired by the work of the people that I took classes from. BUT I never went into a class thinking "I'm going to learn step by step how to make a bead that sells." I don't think anyone back then took classes with that aim. We weren't looking at the instructors saying, "oooh, they're getting rich as a beadmaker. I think I'll quit my job and do that too!!" Hardly.

So, when did things change? I think it started when American handmade glass beads started appearing in publications either in books like Cindy Jenkins "You Can Make Glass Beads" or in articles in magazines or even (as was in my case) advertisements in magazines. Pretty soon after I had advertised, I started seeing lots of beads with the very same structure and aesthetic as my beads. There were DEFINITELY mermaids being made out of glass before I did, but they each had their own look. When I began advertising, suddenly I saw beads that had flowers EXACTLY where mine did (which made me laugh because my flowers were strategically placed to hide the fact that the hands I was making were UGLY! LOL)

So, suddenly there were people who were looking at BEADS for inspiration. Not coming up with something they had inspiration to make themselves, but something they saw out there that already existed. And thus began the "inbred" beads, which took us back centuries, back to Italian beads, where the beads that made "money", the traditional beads were the coveted beads.

I started teaching and had people wanting to know how to make beads that sold. How to make MY beads that sold (and they weren't shy about asking, so I knew exactly what they were after when they signed up for my class). I even had someone come up to me at a show I was doing in California wanting to know step by step how to become a profitable beadmaker. He wanted the "secret" because he had calculated how much time it took to make a bead, subtracted the overhead and materials and discovered that he could make twice as much making beads as he could at his Silicon Valley job. (and for the record, I was doing well at making beads, supporting our family, but not doing THAT well... quit your Silicon Valley Job well!!)

My point is that he was going to become an "artist" just for the money and that made me start to question, was someone like this an ARTIST or just a beadmaker. (ouch! that stepped on some toes I know!!!) And was I becoming "just a beadmaker" since I was doing so much production work... making beads that I knew would sell. (the answer to this is "yes" BUT at least I was looking at my own beads for inspiration and not trying to produce someone else's successful beads.)

This was about the same time that e-bay came on the scene and suddenly everyone shopping for glass beads had one place they could go to find them, no matter where they lived. This was WONDERFUL for those of us who made beads. I didn't have to fly to California to a bead show every weekend (because that's usually where they were). I could stay at home and sell my beads and spend more time in the studio and with my family.

The problem was that those people that only wanted to make beads that SOLD had easy access to images of beads that sold for the most on e-bay. Suddenly there was a "bead du jour." Whatever beads sold for the most one week, you would see TONS of the next week. This trend continues today and has REALLY stymied creativity. Beads inspired by money-making beads.

Sure, there are LOTS of mediums of craft where people don't design something themselves. They follow a pattern (knitting comes to mind immediately). To me (and I'm gonna get hate mail for this if it ever gets out that I said it), this isn't ART. There's a huge debate of art vs. craft that goes on and I'm not trying to start that. I'm just saying that things that are inspired by our minds, things that we CREATE are what can be called ART. There's emotion and feeling behind them... not just making something that you liked that someone else sold.

I can say this from personal experience, just looking at my beads that are "production" beads. Sure, the first ones were inspired and the creativity was definitely flowing, but at some point, it just became "making" and the emotion is lost. It's still FUN and I think I'm still making things of beauty (hopefully), but it's not ART to me at that point. Art is in the eye of the beholder (beadholder) and I'm sure that there are some people who have my production beads who still see them as art. It's my own opinion about my work though.. the pieces that are inspired and those that aren't.

That's why the picture on my homepage right now ( is NOT a mermaid. It's one of the last pieces I made before taking my hiatus. I'm SO proud of that piece. It was a turning place for me and is FULL of emotion. I can look at it and know exactly what was going on in my mind, in my life right then. I tend to make things that represent what I'm looking for in life. I don't usually see it until later when I can look back at my life with some clarity, but my subconscious definitely comes into the studio with me... pulling my emotions out...even the ones that I don't want to admit that I'm having.

The face on that vessel (on my homepage) is so serene... there is all kinds of craziness in pattern going on around her, but she seems content with where she is. That was what I wanted back then... peace in the middle of the chaos. (What's funny, is that's where I think I am personally right now.)

I'm excited to see what my subconscious has in store for me when I get back in my studio!! Just having the "aha" moment that I had in those last sentences (which I hadn't thought of until about 5 minutes ago) is a part of art. I'm in a completely different place mentally today... so what creative journey will that take me on???!! WOW! That excites me!!! Sure, there will definitely be "production" beads... ones I don't see as art. But I'm excited to see what the me I've become over the past 2 years has in store for the world of glass beads.

SO back to the topic... how does someone who started down the path as a "maker" of beads turn into a CREATOR of beads. That will have to wait till tomorrow (or later) because I'm out of time for today.

SEE? I told you I could go on and on forever about this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

tiny blah blah blah...

Coffee today - same old same old. Starbucks Cinnamon Dolce Latte (3 pumps of syrup, stirred, with whip) and I'm going to get a second one SOON! I'm dragging today!!!

Music - Jason Mraz. I LOVE him. His lyrics are full of play-on-words that make you think and make you laugh and his melodies just make you feel good. Love love love me some Jason Mraz. (which is why I'm excited about going to his concert in November!!!!!!)

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