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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Miscellaneous Ramblings

I really haven't blogged much since finishing the dog show, and on top of that, managed to delete several posts and the lovely comments I had received with them. Geeeez. Sorry about that folks!

Today I'm just in one of those moods. Feeling the need to vent about some things I guess.

For starters, custom orders. I am happy to do custom orders. But I need to fit them in with everything else I have to do, and there is a downside to doing them. I am not a machine, and I say this, not to be snotty, or unappreciative of the orders I receive, but to try to explain. I am an artist. I don't pump out mass-produced items. I don't use molds. Everything I create is one at a time, and one of a kind and begins with a lump of clay. Some people value that, some people don't. I'm also human, so I have my ups and downs. There are times I am tired, don't feel well, have too much on my plate and I'm stressed, or depressed, etc. Sad to say, the mood I'm in, or being sick can adversely effect my ability to create my art, but it's a fact. Just like writers get writer's block, there are times an artist is blocked too - which makes it difficult to get all those custom orders done! I know many people don't understand this and feel that when they order something from a "professional artist" the piece should be pumped out immediately, and unfortunately, that's not always possible! I know I'm not the only artist who goes through this, as I have artist friends as well, and it's sometimes a struggle to complete work in the time frame given, etc. I have never missed a deadline, but man sometimes it's hard!

Also the maybe not so funny thing is, I've noticed when I have forced myself to make things when in a not so positive mood in the past, the work takes on my mood! So if I'm grumpy when I'm working, I can easily end up with a grumpy looking dog, etc. LOL If I'm depressed, at times the finished piece takes on a forlorn look. It always makes me laugh when those things sell because I have to wonder if the person buying them is feeling what I was feeling when I created them! But it's not a good thing when I'm working on a custom order. LOL

So I hope people who custom order things from artists will try to understand the process and realize that we can't always work as fast as they may like, etc. As a working artist I've gotten better at being creative on demand, but there are still times when that is a struggle.

Another thing that I have to admit frustrates me is people who write to me asking me to tell them how to sculpt my creations. I have no formal art training. I taught myself to sculpt through MANY hours of trial and error over the past 20 YEARS. There were a few books along the way that helped a little bit, but there was nothing available to teach me how to do exactly what I wanted to do, especially when it comes to the dog art. But I really wanted to learn, so I dove in, and started. The first things I made were a far sight from what I create these days, and there were many many times that I threw clay across the room in frustration, or worked on something for hours just to ball it up and throw it away because I just could not get it to turn out right.

So it is rather frustrating to me that people think I can teach them to do what I learned to do the hard way, over a long period of time, in a few paragraphs in an email! I can give a few guidelines to help someone get started, but no way can I sit and type out full instructions on how to sculpt something! I also have to say that it's rather unethical to ask an artist to teach you how to create THEIR designs, so that you can turn around and profit from their hard work! Not only that, but the inference that my time is of no value, and I should spend it giving away what I have learned is rather annoying if I'm being blunt. I used to do how-to projects for magazines and I did a book for Design Originals, and I was paid quite nicely for my designs and how-to instructions. So when people feel I should spend a few hours of my time giving them that info for nothing, well it gets a little old. If people feel that is arrogant on my part, well I'm not really sorry because I must say I feel it's rather rude on THEIR part. This is my occupation, how I earn my living. If an artist chooses to teach their art, or sell published instructions, that's one thing. They are being compensated for what they're giving away.

Now please don't get me wrong because I am happy to help with general advice when I can. If someone asks me a question about baking the clay, or how not to get fingerprints all over their work, or what can they use for eyes for their characters, etc., I am more than happy to help out. I think the polymer clay community is one of the most sharing and caring there is. I've also had the same experience with the needle felting community. That is not what I am talking about. I'm talking about when someone asks me to tell them, step by step, how to create one of my designs and feels that I OWE it to them to do so!

Where does one draw the line between trying to help a fellow clay aficionado get started, and having someone take up your valuable time expecting you to make everything easier for them because they don't want to put the time in to learning that you did?? Definitely becoming a bit of a pet peeve of mine. In the past, I have spent hours typing out all sorts of information in answer to someone's questions, only to never receive even a thank you or even acknowledgement of my efforts in return. That was time I could have put towards my own PAID work, and it's frustrating to me to say the least!

See what I mean? This little Yorkie looks a bit grumpy doesn't it? LOL Still cute though if I do say so myself! (and I DO!)


cathy said...

Hey Ginny as a former yorkie breeder, these little guys can naturally have a grumpy attitude at times. LOL
I swear, I think sometimes you are in my head. I used to do lots of custom orders & there are advantages to them. Sometimes they give me great ideas for a new product. BUT, they are a total pain in the butt to do, take much longer than normal orers & it's often hard to make something you have no inteest in making. Not to mention all the reasons you stated. I now tell my helpers at my shows to please don't tell the customers I do custom orders & even though it's still on my current site that I do them; I'm getting ready to move my site & it will NOT be on the new site.
Also I totally agree with you on the instructions (hope I wasn't being a pain when I asked about the speckled effect on the dog a few weeks ago). I used to write detailed instructions & rarely got so much as a thank you. Now if I can give a short answer (I often get questions about what pens I use) I will. Still rarely a thank you but I want to give back to the clay community as it's been so giving to me.
What do you say to the people who want long detailed directions?

Ginny Baker said...

Hi Cathy!

Good to see you again. Oh I know what you mean about those Yorkies. I've known a few that thought they were 10 ft. tall and bulletproof! LOL

I think most of us artists have had to deal with those custom orders, and I definitely have a love/hate relationship with them! On the one hand, it's wonderful to have someone value and appreciate your work enough to want you to create something special just for them, but on the other, they can sometimes be difficult and frustrating to do. They often take us out of our comfort zone, which in some ways can be a good thing, but in others, it's definitely a struggle. So I do value the custom orders I receive and I'm happy to do them, but I can't always pump things out as quickly as people would like me to you know what I mean? Even if we really want to do the order, it doesn't mean everything we do always comes so easily to us. And then you have no way of knowing whether the person will be pleased with the order until you've completed it, and if they're not, that involves more work and changes that aren't always easy to make, and so on. So they can definitely be a frustrating challenge, and sometimes unfortunately they take however long they take to complete, and it's hard to get people to understand that sometimes. I do limit how many I take on.

Oh and I'm glad you brought up the question about the speckled effect on the dog! That's exactly the kind of question I am very happy to answer! You didn't ask me how to sculpt the dog, LOL, just how to get that effect on its coat. Quite a different thing! It's the people that expect me to give them detailed instructions on how to sculpt the entire piece that frustrate me.

And yup to take your precious time to answer someone's questions in great detail and then not even receive a simple thank you is quite frustrating as well. I feel the same way you do, in that I am happy to answer simple questions, as many clay artists were helpful to me in that way when I started. But when I wanted to learn to sculpt dogs, I didn't choose an artist I admired and email them asking them to tell me exactly how to sculpt the way they do!!! I worked it out by trial and error on my own.

I was particularly frustrated by a person who kept emailing me recently asking how to do a particular ornament of mine. I was in the middle of getting ready for the dog show, already quite overwhelmed with work, and very limited on time, and I explained this to this person. I did not have time to sit down and write out a detailed tutorial! So I gave them a few simple suggestions on how they could go about trying to sculpt this item, but that was all I could do. Bear in mind also that I told this person hey I SELL these! Do people really think it's okay to ask someone to tell them exactly how to make an original design they earn money from? I don't mind if people are inspired by my work and want to emulate it. That's how I learned to sculpt myself. I looked at tons of photos and tried to figure it all out. So I told this to this person, that hey I am really busy and so on, and they just emailed me with more questions! ARRRRRRRGHHHHH! I always try to be polite but after awhile I do lose patience. I just did not reply to the last email. But I am beginning to consider writing up some tutorials and saying oh if you'd like the answers to your questions you can purchase them in this lesson! Why should we be expected to give our hard work away for free???

cathy said...

Great idea about the tutorial. You should go for it. As small bizers we are suppossed to be developing mulple streams of income. I think I will do this myself next time I'm asked for detailed instructions.
I did have a love/hate relationship with custom orders but it's definitely leaning towards hate anymore & I'd rather not do them (but usually still do when asked). I think the couple of years I did wedding cake toppers turned me off to custom orders.

Ginny Baker said...

Sorry I wasn't able to respond sooner Cathy - was finishing up a custom order. LOL It's funny how it can take me what feels like forever to get in to the right mindset to do an order, but once I'm there, I'm able to pump out the piece in no time flat. I know people just don't understand the mental preparation it takes sometimes though and that's where problems crop up. I have an order I need to get done, and the customer is being perfectly lovely to deal with, but I just cannot for the life of me get myself in to the necessary mindset to do her order. :oP And I can't begin to figure out why either. And it sucks because I do not want to let her down, but I just cannot force myself to create when I feel like this! And how do you explain that to a customer who just wants her order you know? Very frustrating! I know I will get it together soon - just hope it's soon enough to suit HER. :oP

Oh doing wedding cake toppers would send me clear over the edge! LOL I live in Las Vegas - wedding chapel capital of the US, so it could be quite a lucrative thing to do, but I just don't have the patience!

Yeah I think we both should make up some printed tutorials, and then next time we're sent a list of detailed questions or request for sculpting lessons, we can direct them to the tutorials - for a fair price! I mean why not? Only fair.