Warning: strong language. Reader discretion advised.
Oh boy, is this self-esteem hoohah a loaded topic.
I belong to a group of entrepreneurial craftspeople, where we have a private forum to discuss techniques, ideas, and, yes, the negative points in our lives as artists. If you can read this, you know by now life is not all rainbows, and business is not all butterflies.
Which is why, when I see a fellow artist who posts this:
Self-doubt had me awake half the night, and I ended up deciding not to do this show. In the morning light I know I will go, and my stuff will sell but I think it’s horrible crap. Why do I get into a state like this before shows? Why do I think all my stuff is rubbish? What the fuck is wrong with me?
…it brings me back to many moons ago and a crippling breakdown.
I had been swatching and grading a certain idea for months. I made a prototype. Frogged it. Made a second one, and I was amazed.
It was the biggest bestest thing I had ever done.
And I woke up one day, logged into Ravelry and found… someone (much bigger) than me had already done it and just released it.
Like that, it crushed me. Crushed my spirit, my ethos, my self-beliefs and my desire to go on as a designer. I ripped the whole thing apart. Something ticked off in my brain and I broke down. I cried. I obsessed over sales figures. I looked at the lack of activity. I looked at how crappy my website looked. I downloaded spreadsheets of sales to see where I’d gone wrong. I contemplated quitting, because I was failing to come up with the most original thing ever.
I looked inwards and blamed myself because I was the closest thing to the failure itself.
The guy who said: everything is derivative, nothing is original... should be shot in the balls Click To Tweet
Because simply, by saying that, this guy embedded an opinion in our heads that, in 6 words, tells you YOUR WORK IS NOTHING NEW OR SPECIAL. As artists, we equate our work with our selves, our values, our capacities and our self-esteem. As artists, that comment means we are nothing.
I bet you this guy was an unoriginal, uninspired, asshole bully. Congrats dude. You made it to the psyche of all artists.
Let’s look at it now from an outsider perspective, ok?
A customer who goes to a show where artists show their craft and product is a customer that is willing to look at what you create and maybe place money on it. No one goes to a craft/art show thinking “I’m not spending”. I may go in with a budget, but if I make the effort to go, I will most likely burn through it.
Your work has value. You, as the person who creates the work, have value. Click To Tweet
And now we go back to that design of mine:
That design didn’t actually have the same gauge, stitch pattern, or silhouette, as the one I saw had already been done. It may have LOOKED similar, but after certain time had gone by, and looking at it with fresh eyes and a brand new attitude… It was not the same.
I was crushed by the thought that I was a smaller designer and my work looked somewhat derivative of this other designer’s.
While I didn’t invent the wheel, my wheel was flawless, had an original perspective, and I was not a copy.
Like my friend above, who thinks her work is crap. Maybe she has had an issue with her materials. Maybe her skills aren’t feeling as strong and refreshed these days (I know for a fact that sometimes my knitting looks like a hot mess and other times it’s fucking flawless). Maybe her family/home life is hectic and she doesn’t have much time to devote to perfecting her product as much as she had. Or…
“…well I do this every day so it’s not that hard/special”
Maybe she’s seen her product one too many times to appreciate the great value it has to those willing to spend money on it. Because we make it, we see it every day, our art consumes our mental capacity, it becomes one with our hearts and minds, and whenever we see it from the outside, we think “anyone could do that” or devalue our effort.
We must dispel those thoughts and banish them from our minds, because the time we spend pondering whether our product is worth it is valuable time we should spend creating and improving.
Now, what should we do when the comment depreciating our work comes not from ourselves but from the outside?
That’s a whole different post for a whole different day. For now, I will tell you how to make a seller/exhibitor’s day as an attendee at a show: Go up to their space. Admire their product, and even if you can’t buy/afford it, tell them “that is beautiful/creative/ingenious/crazy-amazing” when you see something that catches your eye.
In-person appreciation is a beautiful thing.
Pass it on.