Updated: Mar 21
To quote Tony Stark 'Got any more stupid ideas?' Sorry... sorry, professional title - I guess I should have called this, 'So you're creating an art collection? Try ridiculous amounts of preparation on a thousand levels' - Still want to read this? then you might be truly happy doing 'that thing' you want to do.
Thankfully, I not only spent over two years working in an art gallery preparing & improving my skills like the nerd that I am, but I also have outstanding backup from my wonderful fellow artists, friends & colleagues a-like. This gave me some important things to talk about that might just help some people see things coming & see them for what they are.
For a start, out of my time bracing myself for the consequences of my endeavours, I completely lucked out & am collaborating this first collection's exhibit with the inspiring Ruth Claydon @mothandmagpie - Her brutalist & classical sentiments are so exquisitely expressed in her conscientiously & beautifully up-cycled fragments. I can't wait to make my start with her beautiful work inspiring me, (& dangling from my ears & essentially making me look like an amateur) but back to preparation...
Preparation for me, meant that when lockdown halted life, the first few unsure months passed, I lost a parent, had three forms of colliding chronic illness diagnosed & surgery for one became & remains, 'paused'. I moved back to my beloved Lake District with my beloved partner way sooner than we expected to & good grief was it the best decision...
Our cottage unpacked in December, I looked around me & realised that galleries were carrying on one way or another, much as was life in small ways & my entire self seemed to switch back on with a great whopping, 'sod this'. That preparation suddenly kicked in & I realised it's worth - Over a few days, I blasted my new studio in to a functioning, inspiring space - stocked up on materials & on the first day in months going through my designs & the pieces I had already completed, I automatically knew what to do with it all. I felt proud, I felt excited & as I looked over the works I thought, 'I want this, I love this, this is okay'
Suddenly so many peoples words sank in. People who've accomplished creative goals & built inspiring businesses - Anything worth doing takes time, work & determination. So many of us are encouraged by the internet (or rather, those using it) to think that if we are not millionaires three weeks in to something, then we've failed & do not deserve to make it a priority in our life. When there's already so many pressures to conform STILL leading us down paths, that's a hard feeling of guilt to shake at any crossroad & many of us choose the sign marked, 'Supposed To' for our direction. So what if you choose the path marked 'Your Own' ...Well the next hurdle those with a bit of fight in them can stumble on, is the immediate towering mountain of nothingness that is creating your own path. If you're doing this thing, you have no map, you must even construct the path as you walk it & who do you turn to for direction? The hard answer, is you. Here I return to my point on preparation. Prep will turn like minerals to gold, in to solid tangible progress & an artistic style will appear which is in its most essential form, becomes the visual language with which you speak.
Then come results... oh the tangible proof of growth, of skill & progress. It is here, that I promise, the path starts to show itself. If you're still waiting for those results & those feelings, take a look at working with galleries & your local artistic community, the fact that those people get it & live it, can be enough some days to keep your focus sharp, but the best advice I can give is to tell you that you must, must, prepare yourself as much as your work.
So what does preparation do for you?
As the title suggests, there are many things to prepare for beyond the work itself. I've had to keep stubbornly laying that path down as life came at me, (this ruddy path metaphor hey) but on ones own path, one of the first things you will immediately see is other people waving as they overtake you on theirs. A horrid feeling, but let me save you time & stress here. If you trust yourself to work hard, if you're prepared to fail, to either know when to quit, or to see a failure as a chance to improve, if you truly love what you're doing & want to work hard every day, then it doesn't matter what pace others seem to have. I once had a pearl of wisdom from a family friend, ''You can have a career in a company, for a wage they've skimmed your cream off the top of, only to find 9 years in, your work is wasted on a personal level when you are fired, just because someone somewhere made a move'' Aka - The grass is always greener & sadly sometimes cockier on the other path, but theirs is still littered with obstacles they must navigate & 'safe careers' can suddenly take the form of highwaymen stealing your stuff. When you fall, you get back up again & what are you left with? A bruise, some time lost, but whatever obstacles trip you, they cannot take away your skill, cannot undo the work done. All that remains, is the choice to continue or not.
So, preparation for other people. It can be a huge block to stand on or fall over. I've had toxic people hate me for not chucking it in for a life of 'misery loves company' with them. So many people desire a mirror over good company & when you reflect their own lack of effort, 'toxicity' rears its ugly head. When you don't stay out past 1 a.m with them every time, or you chose not to just sit with them doing nothing. People can even turn on you simply because you respectfully didn't want their advise, (control) & suggest they enjoy their own existence instead. Again, let me save you fretting - do not stand for it. I've had parents pretend my work wasn't laid out on a table in front of them & carry on talking over it because it wasn't what they thought I should do with my skills & I've had extreme physical pain to live with for 17 years whilst male doctors shrugged & told me I was ''too young & healthy looking'' to have what they've now found I have indeed been living with. But, but... In standing against or cutting out damaging people. I looked around, (as will you) & suddenly, I could also count the outstanding people I was left with, for who I suddenly had the time (previously lost on toxic people) to be with them instead. The great people in my life are taking responsibility for their own & thus, they remain true friends with no agenda beyond simple, real friendship. I eventually met my first employer who not only loved art & encouraged me, (with realistic advise) but who let me sit with a warm drink if I was in pain because he knew I would meet him half way & stand up with a smile when a customer entered. These good people & good situations are life changing. So though there's no quick way to know who these people will turn out to be, or even who you'll turn out to be, I can recommend that you prepare for answers to both & tell you that the rough but sparkling diamond in the end, is having trust in yourself.
Which leads me to preparation for happiness - On that note of good community, I was also, not prepared for how lucky I would be in my time with the gallery, I got to share my first exhibition space with the amazing Mick Leach & was surrounded by living proof of the joy which comes from making your creativity your profession. People like Kate Pettitt & Peter Layton, Piers Browne & Anita Klein & ALL the hardworking jewellers were constantly reminding me that I was already part of the world I felt so happy in & I recommend getting in to it via galley work, you learn to truly appreciate the effort they need to contribute in properly showing your work. A good gallery earns their cut without gatekeeping or manipulating a 'snob value' but in valuing the work an artist does & this creates a competitive but healthy & genuine market. Do not be afraid to approach these inspiring people.
Preparing for customers - yea yea, web shop construction, SEO stuff, that's all common sense, trust me just have common sense, be organised, be up in the morning.
What I'm preparing you for is not the technicalities of a sale, you can handle it trust me. It is the personal & touching way your customers reach out & respond to something you have made. It has, (especially this year) had me crying tears of happiness. Yes, you too must prepare for the wonderful people who are going to be your customers, your followers, your supporters. Total strangers who care enough to just write a thoughtful comment, or hang your work in their home. They are gold, they are fresh clear air & they are hot meals on tables - not to be scoffed at when that is a reminder of the independence you have carved out of your own little path. So prepare for happiness - hard work, but happiness. You can do it.
Visit www.pyramidgallery.com Instagram - @mothandmagpie @katepettitt @mr_mjleach @evieleach @piersbrowne @pyramidgalleryyork