Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Glamorous Artist Lifestyle

I do what I love for a living. I get to travel to places I never thought I would go, meet people I never thought I would get to meet, and do things I only ever thought were some distant chance for me to do. It's awesome - I really do understand the phrase "living the dream", and feel extremely fortunate, because I truly am.

I realized the other day that, for people who do not work for themselves, the basic day to day of what self-employed artists do is probably a mystery. I've talked to enough people to know that it's a widespread belief that my life is spent in a fantastical, booze-fueled creative trance, broken up by long bouts of daydreaming, navel-gazing, and schmoozing with other artists.

So the next time you wonder of your favorite artist, "why don't they make more work?", or "why do they only have occasional sales?", or "why is artwork so expensive?", or "why don't they answer my email/facebook comment/tweet?", this may shed some light.

In an average week, these are the things that need to be done - they have little to nothing to do with actually sitting down and making work, yet they are absolutely part of my job.

• answering/drafting business emails (projects, clients, galleries)
• sourcing new supplies
• ordering supplies
• driving around to purchase local supplies
• tracking finances (receipts, subscriptions, materials costs)
• daily promotion (facebook, blog, instagram, twitter, forum, website)
• graphic design for hang tags, web images, packaging, etc
• preparing materials (dyeing fabric, conditioning clay, painting eyes)
• product photography
• digital photo editing
• studio maintenance and cleaning
• travel planning

After I do all of those things (and after actually sculpting, painting, sewing, and finishing work), I can attend to "everyday maintenance", like doing the dishes, cleaning my apartment/studio, running errands, paying bills, and clipping my toenails.

Now, my goal in this is not to say "waaa, poor me, I work so hard!". Because I love my job. I am a happier person now than I ever was when I was making $30k+ more, working for someone else. My goal is simply to point out that, despite the carefully curated glimpses that artists give us into their daily lives, their lives are vastly more mundane, more complicated, and more stressful than you may assume, because they have to do everything themselves. My job = my life. My business name is MY name. I live, cook, sleep, and bathe in my studio. I work around the clock. I have a hard time letting go to socialize, because when I am not working here, I feel extremely guilty that I am taking time away from my art.

I feel so very fortunate that I am able to make my life work this way, and that I am able to bring a sense of joy and wonder into the lives of others - which is something I truly love to do. But it does come with certain kinds of sacrifice. But if you ask any artist who is carving their own path in the rock - it's really difficult, but worth it entirely, to be the author of your own employment.

It's not for everyone, and sometimes, I'm frankly surprised that it's something I can handle. But I don't want to do it any other way. I am always humbled that folks will spend the energy to find me and follow my art, and wait so patiently for the few works that take so long for me to create. I'll never take it for granted, and it's something that pushes me onward, when little else will.

- Amanda


  1. Amanda, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I read this post and felt like I'm reading my own thoughts. Especially about feeling guilty for not making things while hanging out, for example. Only my closest people know, how hard I'm fighting for my daily to-do list, trying to stick to some schedule - because if I don't it's hard to keep up with some orders if any. And I even have to plan my "rest" hours and days-off - without it I would just work-work-work (which is definitely not OK, 'cos a human being needs rest).

    But making art and handmade is indeed happier and a lot more satisfying, than sitting in an office and spending your precious lifetime for someone's better living.

  2. AnonymousJuly 15, 2013

    This is a fabulous explanation. I have a hard time getting people to grasp that living the dream is in fact a crazy amount of work although I love it its still work 24/7 especially with having two young kiddos and 6 animals. Love loved this post

  3. Like akatombo said, it was like you read my mind. I live a parallel life to you but with no traveling. I ditched my truck in 2010 and have been biking ever since.

    I find I get cabin fever and bring my work and work on the patio of my local watering hole.

    I paint Memento Mori and try to live life knowing that you only live once.

  4. Thank you for this! Absolutely spot on!

  5. Amanda, your art is beautiful and very inspiring. I wanted to thank you.

  6. StephanieJuly 15, 2013

    It is an overwhelming and awe-inspiring lifestyle. I realize many 'collectors' of works of art/toys/creations, often forget to think of this end of where 'their' passion originates(ed).

    It's good you're expressing this and mutual support and understanding exist. So many don't say this out loud because they don't want to sound like the 'waa poor me person'. But, truly as you have expressed, it doesn't have a single thing to do with that. It's simply the reality of what it takes. And it never stops taking. Not unless you get to a point where you can afford to enlist hired help, anyway! :)

    I used to create and many things broke down my ability to manage, like you are now. So, I do very much feel what you are saying and admire you and everyone like you who does this every day.

    It is why I don't ever wonder at the cost of a 'custom', I know you're all spending gas money driving around looking for those supplies, your overhead is right there in your homes as you pay your bills, your nights are sleepless and we are all really getting great deals as it is.

    I stopped creating because I couldn't get $20 for what cost me $75.00 in materials, not to mention my time and talent. So ROCK ON!!! And hopefully, get an extra nap or two in, even if it 'cat nap style'. LOVE YOUR WORK and look forward to 'collecting' something one day soon. ;)

  7. AnonymousJuly 15, 2013

    I work at an Architectural/Interior Design firm and we just cleaned out our fabric memo sample bins in our library, so maybe you could check with your local firms for free samples. We donated most to the local museum for kids crafts. I kept some to make a quilt.

  8. What a great article! I find even close friends are surprised I'm not twirling and sprinkling glitter all day! Keep up the great work!


  9. An excellent description of self-employment; it means doing all the mundane work oneself.

  10. I loved reading this post. I have recently begun my work as a textile artist specialising in needle felting and I also have a hard time balancing work and pleasure (and since I so love my work, I should be able to count work as pleasure, right? WRONG! I also need to rest, and I've recently found out about that the hard way...) It's nice to know it's all part of "living the dream" and not something I'm doing wrong. I don't have a lot of money and I don't have a lot of free time, but I LOVE what I do and wouldn't want to do anything else, even for more money!

  11. I'm in love with your work and I absolutely adore "The maker"!

    I'm a doll maker myself, with other 2 freelance jobs and your post is just spot on!

    Thank you! Grazie!

  12. Eres una gran artista y gran inspiradora :-)


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