Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Multiplicity ...

I had a very productive Monday. I suppose it helps to start early, stay focused and finish late. Today it's another early day since on Tuesdays I have to leave for a part-time evening job. Part-time job? I used to work at my part-time job 2-3 times a week but this year had to change that to once a week due to my busy life working glass and writing. When I say part-time, it's about 3-4 hours. Why do I bother, since I lose time in the studio? Because it refreshes me to leave the studio, be around creative people, and also conduct my "market research." More on this another time, so today is a half day and that is why I am up so early. I hope to have a miracle of a week in the studio.

I often get asked at shows "How long does it take you to make a bead?" Uhmmm, what bead? Different beads take different times to make. There is no real definitive answer to this question. It depends on the day, the hour, the temperature, the style, etc. There are many factors. Is this a question asked to place a value on a bead? I know some glass bead artists price their work based on how long it takes them to make a bead. I price my work based on that, some, but also "market research", materials used and affordability to the end consumer ----> the beader. My prime goal as an artist is to make glass art that evokes my vision, which may move another person who sees it to want to own it. I do that with color and texture mostly, but also with a story that drives the series. I would like to see the beader incorporate my beads into their work so the story continues with a different author. I am always thrilled to see my beads in a finished piece and used in a manner which I may not have originally intended or envisioned.

So back to the question of how long it takes to make a bead. If I am working on a familiar style and having a good day, I will be quicker than I am when I am not or prototyping. For example, this last weekend, I made about 12 or so test beads over two days, working out some ideas I've had for many months. It has been EXTREMELY hot here in Southern California. Was I being productive? Is it important that I only made 12 beads, that aren't necessarily all that beautiful and are never going to be sold, amidst getting ready for the three August shows? No, because my focus was more on developing a vision, not on productivity or saleability. What I accomplish in two days took me closer to making my vision become reality. Sometimes it takes me a few hours, a few days, a few months or even a few years to develop an idea.

James McNeill Whistler:
"An artist is not paid for his labor but for his vision."

I really like this quote I found by Whistler. If another artist takes 1 hour to make his/her bead, will it be worth more than the bead that took half the time? I am an engineer by training and as a past engineer, I am always looking for ways to improve my skills and perfect my techniques. What took me half an hour to make a year ago now takes me maybe 15 minutes (but I also do some prep work too). Does this mean now that I've worked hard for a year to perfect my skills, I should get paid half as much, since it only takes me half the time now? I think solely pricing one's work based on time is inaccurate. If a beginner beadmaker takes 2 hours to make a bead, should he/she charge twice as much? So like Whistler states, you are not paying an artist for her labor, but for her vision. (I took the liberty of feminizing his quote. hahaha)

I enjoy making bead series instead of beads with no theme/story. Some people may think that this gets boring because "you are duplicating the same bead". Am I really? Or am I just continuing to explore the many facets of my original story. I think multiplicity improves an artist's skill. The more you do something, the better you become at doing it - at least you should. Remember you are not paying for the labor but for the vision - the story. Even in creating and developing a glass bead series, each bead is unique - a piece to a bigger puzzle. Although the results for the most part can be replicated in following similar steps, there are many factors that will make THAT bead, different from it's predecessors and different from future beads. A series becomes an artist's signature works. Signature works in one's repertoire is recognizable as their voice or style.

Andrew Kuntz, a glass artist himself, said "I find working with glass meditative, almost therapeutic. I can leave the world behind, and focus... The simplicity of form, the drama of rich, intense colour, the joy of challenge, and the challenge of endurance... The piece, when it is over, is not what is made, but how it is made." I should add that "when it is over, it is not what is made, how long it took to make it, how many is made, but how it is made."

And now that I've finished my daily cup of coffee, I continue to my labor of love - to the glass studio for a busy day.

Have an excellent day, Lisa
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