Treat Your Art Like Work — In a Good Way!


Art is work. If you’ve ever doubted that, take a look at the output from masters like Georgia O’Keefe, Andy Warhol, the Davids (Byrne and Bowie), Vincent Van Gogh, or Frida Kahlo.

What did they all have in common? The worked really hard, each creating thousands of paintings, sketches, songs, photographs, prints, or recordings. Look at the master, Pablo Picasso, who created an estimated 50,000 pieces of art: 1,885 paintings; 1,228 sculptures; 2,880 ceramics, roughly 12,000 ceramics, roughly 12,000 drawings, many thousands of prints, and numerous tapestries and rugs.

And they had to impose on themselves a discipline that lots of folks get from having a “real” job.

Ha! Making art is a real job! Even if lots of us don’t make a living at it.

Finding time, Making time, Making art

As I said in a recent post, wire weaving is time-consuming, no doubt! It’s really challenging to find time. In my case, I work as a self-employed bookkeeper, and perform most weekend nights in the band I run with my husband, Jim.

That means time is at a premium. So, it’s incredibly important that I be disciplined with my time to make sure that my jewelry making gets equal time. It’s equally important to me.

Respecting your time also means respecting your work. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. And even if I’m not happy with an individual piece, it doesn’t mean that piece is no good.

Here are a few things that work for me:

Block off time for art — I make sure that I block off time every day for jewelry making. Most days, it’s early in the morning, usually starting between 5 and 5:30 a.m. (I know: I’m an early riser!) It doesn’t matter really when you block the time off, as long as you make sure you DO block it off.

Have a space for art — I don’t have a studio, per se. But I have a space in our house dedicated to my art. It’s a place where I can spread out my tools and materials, work in peace, and soak in the inspiration being surrounded by the tools of my trade.

Respect your time; know when to stop — I set a timer (Thanks Alexa!) to remind me to stop weaving and get to “work.” I bet I’m not alone in that I get caught up in the creative process and lose track of time.

Don’t assume everyone shares your preferences — I once finished a piece that I frankly wasn’t crazy about. It was perfectly OK, but just didn’t thrill me. I sold it a week later to a client who loved it. And it looked beautiful on her. That was a powerful lesson for me. Just because I’m not thrilled with a piece doesn’t mean someone won’t love it.

No ugly children!

We once got the chance to attend a songwriting workshop with the famous singer/songwriter Tom Rush. Tom is a true artist, and approaches his craft with appropriate seriousness. Among his advice: Never throw your work away. He’s got a file cabinet full of scraps of paper with lyrics, melodies and simple ideas, stashed away in folders, collected over many years. Sometimes, he said, he’ll pull out a napkin or receipt with a line or two written years before that leads to a new song.

That’s inspired me to keep all my work – no matter how underwhelming — to me. Sometimes I’ll revisit a piece that I wasn’t crazy about, and that becomes the starting point for a “makeover.” I might change the chain, or the bezel or a bail. I might swap out the sea glass. Maybe add a vintage bead I’ve recycled. It’s all part of the process.