Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Trying to Fit in (a.k.a. longest whiniest blog posting ever)

Hello dear blog readers (if there are any left after my many hiatuses lately... and there might not be any after this long long posting)

I know that I desert you way too often, saying things in a briefer version on my Facebook "fan" page (is there another word for that?  it sounds kind of conceited honestly!)  There are times, however, that what I have to say just doesn't fit into a sound-bite kind of status and this is one of them...

Firstly, I survived Bead and Button.  I think that my thoughts on that show merit a separate entry, so watch for that.  I still have a lot to digest about the show... positive stuff, but it really needs some additional pondering and wrapping my head around an anomaly of a show.  Have I piqued your interest?  Hopefully, I'll really take the time to talk about it because it really needs some introspection and sometimes thinking "out loud" here on the blog is a way for me to do that.

(have there been way too many things in quotation marks in those paragraphs???  Probably....and too many things in parenthesis too!)

Back to what I intended to talk about today... fitting in.  (and this is the longest blog posting EVER, so I might bore the 2 of you who read this anyways!!)

I don't usually talk family stuff here, but I will for a moment... not anything huge, but to build bit of context around this topic.

I had a discussion a few years ago with one of my kids about how we have to choose whether we want to fit in or not... that sometimes we can make a conscious decision to be a part of the crowd OR we can go our own direction and face the consequences, good or bad.  This was mostly a conversation about clothing... how what we wear can directly influence what people think of us and that it's something we can easily choose to change if we want to, where other things are not as easily changeable.  (I'm leaving out all the particulars... it was a long long long conversation and I'm not going to air their personal stuff here... just the big points)  In the end, he was adamant that it's more important to be your own person and face any negative consequences.  I, on the other hand, continued to hold the opinion of... make "adjustments" to find a way to make your life easier without totally selling out.... and that's the difference in our personalities.  I'm not a "rock the boat" person and he TOTALLY is.  I love how brave he is.... but I don't think I'm ever going to be that bold.

I'm definitely an individual, but I do find myself occasionally making compromises about certain aesthetic things when I feel it will help me to fit in a little more because it makes my life easier.

For instance, I noticed that I looked WAY too subdivision mom when around other artists out of our area.  I wasn't going to get tattoos to fit in, but I have always loved trying things with my hair and thought that would be a way to do that.  Although I would have liked to dye my hair totally purple as a way to fit in with the art crowd... I knew that fitting into the suburban world in a conservative area, that was going to be a total UN-fit in thing to do, and thus, it would put my kids in a weird place.  I needed some sort of adjustment in BOTH worlds, so I compromised with a purple streak, which was easily changeable if the kids felt uncomfortable... and they both said it was acceptable (I'm pretty sure they just shrugged, but no one spoke out, so I'm interpreting that verbally for them) and thus, I caused no drama for myself, but got a bit of what I wanted in both worlds... art and home.

SO.... what does this have to do with my art itself???  (because that's what this blog is about after all.)  It has to do with me making decisions about adjusting my aesthetic for the benefit of business, which, for me, is more difficult emotionally than deciding what color to dye my hair.

The quandry:  I can look at the Bead and Button show catalog, where I really want to teach, but have been turned down several times now, and immediately see that there is a commonality in most of their beadwork classes and that I don't fit into that mold....  color scheme.  Although the designs are very different, the materials choice is often VERY similar across the board... the designers who are teaching on the circuit use a lot of matte metallic or metallic seed beads and crystals.  When I looked at the course catalog, there were absolutely NO bright colors... no whimsy at all.

First things first.... I've got to say that I LOVE matte-metallic/metallic beads and crystals (AND the artists that use them).  They're YUMMY and they fit into these artist's work really really well.  My work, on the other hand, has always been about COLOR.... and it doesn't fit into that world of sophisticated color palettes that is Bead and Button classes.  When creating things, I love big bright and bold.... which metalics are not.  I love whimsy and pattern and that is also not what is being offered at these venues.

I want to get hired to teach... and I'm not being accepted, so I'm having to make a decision, like my son, whether to make compromises to fit in, hoping that it will make my life easier financially because I might have more opportunities to make money teaching and selling OR to stick to my guns like he would JUST to stay true to myself.

All this said, even if I make the changes, I still might not be accepted.... my rejection might have nothing to do with my materials choices... it might just be that there is a very limited customer base for my work or that it's just not up to par or on the same level as these other instructors (that is hard to swallow, but it's a real possibility)

(this is the longest blog posting ever.... sorry if you're nodding off... I just feel the need to expound on what I've been making quips about on Facebook... to show why I'm having such difficulty in what I've been working on lately)

I came home from a successful show at Bead and Button, where my success was primarily through my glasswork... which had not happened at my booth since the late 90s when I didn't have beadwork kits at my booth.  What did that mean???  I had to really look at it honestly (and that's the future blog posting).  At the same time, I'm thinking about what to send Bead and Button for my class proposals/application for the 2013 show because those applications are due at the end of July.

A lot rides on being accepted to teach, finances in particular.   If I'm not able to sell kits at the Meet the Teacher night, which is the night BEFORE the sales floor opens, when instructors can sell kits to people who aren't in their classes, the time,  according to my customers, that they spend a lot of their money on beadwork kits, I truly believe it will continue to have a negative effect on my own kit sales and my choice whether to remain a vendor or not.  (yes... I said it out loud again.  Meet the Teachers HURTS my beadwork kit sales at the show... enough that I might not remain a vendor in 2014 if I can't add additional sales/income to that show by becoming faculty in addition to selling on the show floor in 2013 first.)  This sounds totally whiny... but it's a business decision.  I can't continue to do a show that isn't as profitable as it should be with the outlay of expenses involved.  The decision is just wrapped up in a big bow of emotional junk, which is why I sound whinier than I wish I did.

SO, trying to rein myself in.... how have I dealt with this decision???  For the last week, I've tried to "fit in" color-wise.  I've worked on a piece that is completely void of color in fact.  I even eliminated black and white from my choices for color palette because they can easily be turned whimsical.  I've worked completely in silver and grey to try to convey my same aesthetic, but without color.  It has been HARD.  It has bordered on painful.  It has been emotional.  I know it doesn't seem like beadwork could be emotional, but this has because it's all tied up in the context of fitting in or not and that's tied to how my work is valued by others (it's SO complicated... selling a part of yourself.)

It's beautiful, in my opinion.  It's sophisticated and definitely wearable... but is it "Sylviebeads?"  no.  It's SYLVIE, meaning, in my own "real life" where I wear more subdued colors...but I don't create for my fashion sensibilities, I create for my emotional self... and color is what makes me ME and makes me happy when creating.

Here's a picture of what I made (still in process... I'm missing a couple of petals at the point of this photo and to be honest... it's all I can do to finish it.  It took me forever to finish one more petal (not because it's complicated, but because I was bored with the color)  I was even bored with the photograph!  I played with the Hipstamatic app to make it more interesting photography-wise!

Pretty and unfinished.... it will be a major miracle if I get the threads woven in  before the weekend because that's my least favorite part... and if I'm procrastinating making a petal, I KNOW I'll put off weaving the stupid threads in.  Once it's finished... I know I'll wear it all the time, which is what's so funny.... but that's how I roll.  I'm a constant contradiction in what I like to wear and what I like to make.  I've been wearing lots of grey lately and this will look great with it.... IF I get the threads woven in.

Where does this leave things after this LONG LONG posting about my dilemma of fitting in vs. being myself?

I'm submitting half of my existing projects to Bead and Button this year in a completely different color palette than what I see as "me."   At least this way, if I'm rejected again, I can take that off the checklist of possible reasons why.  It doesn't mean that I'm totally selling out... there is still my design aesthetic in the project itself, as well as my own color sensibilities... because I am completely capable of creating pieces that are sophisticated in color palette (I offer kits in those sorts of colors in almost every project just so that students who hate brights will have a choice... they aren't ME, but they're mine.  Does that make sense?)   THAT is the adjustment I'm making to try to fit in to the crowd that I WANT to be in.... which is a bit different than my son's situation.  He wants to stand out, be an individual  ALL the time, at any price.

Me?  I want to be me AND pay the bills.... that is the BIG difference.
(After all...  clothes for teenage boys who want to be individuals in the fashion world have to be paid for.)

QUICK NOTE:  After receiving comments and messages on FB, it's important for me to add, I'm not going to totally change what I do.  I won't give up who I am and my aesthetic just because of this application to teach.  I'm still going to make my stuff in ME colors... this is just about me being stubborn trying to make myself work in colors that aren't ME for the application.  Does that make sense?  If I asked my son what to do, he would say "NO WAY!" but I'm being reasonable and responsible..... But No worries... I'm not going to give up my artistic sense to fit in permanently with everyone all the time.  I just need to get hired, so I need the people who might not be looking at my work because of color to look at the design itself.  My customers know who I am and if they see me on the course list, they would KNOW that everything I do comes in brights.  (and I'm DYING to make that bracelet in green and purple!)  I just have to suffer through making these samples in neutrals first.  (and I'm glad everyone likes the silver.... it IS pretty and will look great with my outfit)


Kate Richbourg said...

What a thoughtful post.
As instructors we all grapple with finding the class of the moment and trying to find our niche.

I really applaud you for working outside your comfort zone and mixing things up a bit.

Your new piece is lovely, as is all your work! I think what students respond to is the heart and soul that instructors bring to their work, the curb appeal of the piece and partly to what techniques are "hot." (No pun intended from this metalworker.)

I love your sense of color. The wire ring that I bought from you at B&B is so charming. It is my new fav accessory and so many people comment on it. I say go all out, Sylvie! Create some awesome classes using your amazing components like your flowers and headpins. Throw in some wirework. Mix it up with seed beads. You are the main attraction in your carnival of color.

Offer a subdued "elegant" palette, but also let your color flag fly. You are a color expert. Let that show in your work and your designs.

Sorry for the long winded reply. But dang, girl. You are super talented and I can't WAIT to see what your dedication to your art turns out next. xoxoxo

Sara Oehler said...

Hi Sylvie,

First, I must say your work is beautiful, with or without color.

Second, I caution you to keep an open mind. Being colorful isn't the only aspect that I think of when I think of your art. I also think that it is creative, thoughtful and well made.

Finally, could you add a pop of one color to the design that you submit. Mixing the mostly silver seed beads with a bright, fun color. The softer, muted colors should calm the bright color down. It is a nice way to compromise between the two. Then, offer color kits that are in full color for students to buy in class and at Meet the Teachers.


Sylvie said...

Kate, I never would have thought of designing a wire-work-ish class from my stuff. Good thinking! I'll ponder this.

I'm glad you love your ring. That might be a fun class, but would it be way too easy???

Janet said...

Sylvie - I totally get where you come from. I work in the public school system teaching the children of those suburban mamas. I have my tattoo in a place that does not show, unless I want it to. No one person has only there "public" face we all face the same dilemma - changing who we are based on who we are with and where we are. We fit in like chameleons. I love your work, colorful whimsical Sylvie and the silver/grey piece is gorgeous! I am not one of your "good" customers meaning I don't support you financially, but I am a big fan. Be whoever you are at the moment, remembering that your kids need to eat. Not much helpful advice from me, but just a reminder that you are worthy and you are loved.

Kim said...

Reading that post was slightly painful. I have lived that post everyday for the last 20 years. Because I alone am responsible for my support, I have to make sure there is money coming in. I feel like I am a fairly creative person and working creatively makes me happiest.

But, what I make the most money doing is the black and white, left brain stuff. Can I do it well? Yes. Do I like doing it? Not that much.

I have to work hard to find a balance between the two. Both are necessary. That is the way it is.

And, weirdly enough, I can get so caught up in that left brain work, that I drudge along doing it until I realize I feel horrible because I have not done anything fulfilling in ages. It can grab on to you and drag you down. But, you can't let go of it completely.


It is a crime that we cannot make a living doing what we want and need to do, like a super overpaid baseball player. But, perhaps there is a reason for this stretching you are doing right now.

Personally, I have learned to be grateful for the boring but steady work because I would be in trouble without it.

I have no doubt that you will find your way. God has it all planned out for you.

Reader #3

rosebud101 said...

Hang in there, Sylvie! "Wubs" you!