It’s been a very busy few months, this being my first art Christmas season. I also happened to move house this month, take part in the Artists Open Houses exhibition, give a pyrography demonstration, and run a sale, all amidst hurriedly trying to meet multiple deadlines for Christmas orders and custom commissions. Whilst it has been exhausting, I’ve learned one very key thing: the importance of reflection.
I’ve recently moved to a small town outside of Brighton, surrounded by farmland. In the mornings I’ve been taking my dog out onto the downs, where we wander around finding good stick’s, meeting horses, watching deer, and counting pheasant. Being so close to wildlife is something I’ve really missed since studying animal behaviour and now I feel like I am living the dream. Whether it’s just the novelty of being somewhere new, or the rush of endorphins released by the fresh air, it really has been a much needed daily break in my schedule. Having an hour or so outside with just the sounds of nature as my soundtrack has allowed me to order my thoughts and prepare myself for the day. It has also given me the opportunity to ponder on my artistic journey, which began this time last year when I first started learning pyrography.
It’s on these walks when I remember how lucky I am and how much I have achieved. These are generally the thoughts that over-ride my day when I am over-run with work to do: Being self-employed is hard. I rely solely on myself for finding work, managing my business, creating my artwork, and ensuring I have enough money to cover my expenses and pay my rent. I often have limited time for my friends and family, I feel overwhelmed when I think of how long its been since I’ve seen my grandparents, or made time for my closest friends. My money is often tied up with investing in my business, and yet I feel a sense of loss when my artwork sells because it feels like I’m loosing a part of me. I pour my heart and soul into each piece and it’s hard to let that go.
It’s easy to let these mixed emotions get on top of me, to loose focus, and to forget that this is my journey. Allowing myself some time each day to explore my thoughts as well as the outside world, has helped me gain some perspective. Yes I rely on myself but as it turns out I’m not only quite reliable, but I’m a lot nicer to me than the numerous employers I’ve had to work for in the past. I’ve had returning customers and I get five star reviews; and I have been invited to partake in many events this year despite having no funds for advertising or marketing. Some months might be tight and I don’t always get to make the things that I really enjoy; but I am paying my rent and ultimately I’m paying it through doing what I love. Although I see my friends and family less than I would like at the moment, I am so lucky that I have such supportive people in my life. My friends and family understand that this is a busy time and I know we can pick up where we left off as soon as things settle. Most reassuring for me and my art journey is that people seem to like what I am creating. Without that, I would not have all these wonderful opportunities, and to do what I love every day. I will learn to let go of my work, but it takes time. I think that as an artist it is good to feel a sense of loss when work sells, because it means it is important to you. It means that you value that artwork and the time and the skill and the learning that it has involved. Most importantly, it inspires you to create more artwork that will mean a lot to you and a lot to the person who buys it. It’s really touching when I receive a positive review, or a photograph of a customer looking delighted holding a piece of my artwork. It’s rewarding to know that I’m producing something that someone doesn’t need, yet it is something they value all the same.
In the past two weeks of exploring my new surroundings I’ve seen nine pheasants, brought home a collection of inspirational natural materials, seen horses galloping through the fields, watched a mother deer graze whilst her fawn pranced about the fields, and watched the sunrise through the mist. These are things that truly inspire me. These are the things that I am grateful for and it is humbling to consider that by sticking with the artwork I have earned these experiences. I have earned these snippets into the lives of other animals because by dealing with all the stresses and unreliability of self employment and art life, I have afforded a little place on the Downs where I can go walking each day. It’s not overly ambitious, but it’s not a bad existence.
So in all, whether you are a creative entrepreneur or you’re simply working your socks off to get by, please take a half hour out of your day to go outside and simply enjoy existing. Appreciate the little things, it’s often those that really count.