Sunday, April 01, 2007

Lies and Selling Out

In my last post, I said that I'd use this next one to tell you about my plans to change my approach in supporting my ability to do my work.

I lied.

I'm not going to tell you what my plans are just yet. One of my favorite Malcolm X quotes is, "when you have concrete plans, the best way to keep them concrete, is keep them to yourself."

Instead, I'm going to talk in vague terms about it. Let's just say that I've looked at my approach, and the model that so many have laid out before me, and found it lacking. There are thousands of guys (and girls) out there, who have tried to balance and support their ability to make studio furniture, art furniture, furniture as art, sculpture, whatever the hell you want to call it, by doing traditional work and cabinetry. I've studied this approach, and tried it for years, and I'm out.

Here's why: I don't like it.

What I mean is that a woodworking business, short of building a manufacturing operation with 10 or 15 employees, is something that people do more for love than money. It's a high stress, low profit endeavor that is a full time, full attention job that when done properly, takes up one's whole life. I have hundreds of friends who do this, and it would be a disservice to them to treat it as anything less, or to assume that one could do it successfully with less time or attention. Ain't nobody getting rich there - those with larger operations can make a decent living, but it is all consuming, and they love what they do.

But I don't.

I have looked to this side of my business as a support system, a way to balance the profitability or the lack thereof that I discussed at length in my last post. I'm good at it, and people ask me constantly to build things for them that I don't necessarily like, and they're willing to pay me for it, so I've always assumed that the mix would make a good business model. This is a foolish idea. As I said - to do that kind of work regularly and profitably is a full time job that in the end, doesn't pay very well, and paying well - or more importantly, buying time, is supposed to be the point of a support system.

So. Here's the thing that's become really abundantly clear to me: I don't care where my money comes from. I don't. I couldn't give the proverbial rat's ass, whatever the hell that means. Money is freedom, pure and simple. Money is the way to keep the rain off of my stuff, and food in my mouth, and it's how I can pay for my shop and my time to go and do what I do. And it might be nice to eventually get some health insurance, and maybe a decent pair of shoes.

And that's it.

Realizing this simple thing, that I take absolutely no pride in being a 'successful businessman,' is immensely freeing. The fact that I don't care if I'm dressing as a chicken or whoring to a pervert in a back alley or putting on a suit and selling office supplies or running a midget porn website or doing a tv show about how to make a shaker coffee table, means it must all result in one simple thing, or it's useless to me: freedom.

And freedom is the key. What I do with that freedom shows what I'm made of.

'Selling out' is a concept that's been drummed into our heads since we were kids, and to those of us who came up thinking we were artists or rebels or anti-everything, it was the worst thing you could say about a guy. So here's the test. If I make a move of some kind that will provide me with good money, especially something that isn't 'artistic' or something that doesn't define me as a person as we've all been so brainwashed into thinking is necessary, am I a sell out?

It turns out there's a very simple answer. If I let that income make me fat and lazy, if I get wrapped up in the pursuit of stuff, or the nonsense that comes with any income source, and I let it become my life, pushing my work into the realm of a 'sometime hobby,' then yes, I am a sell out.
But, if I use it as a means to an end, and I never take my eyes off the point of what I'm doing, and I continue to produce my work, using my newfound freedom to make what I want to make, and to continue to grow in whatever direction I feel, then I am the exact opposite of a sellout.

And now I've told everyone, which puts a nice bit of public pressure on me to act like I want to be seen.

There. I'm sick of talking about it, and I'm sick of thinking about it. That's it. Let's get back to talking about what's real.

'Cos you got to keep it real, yo.


Blogger Rabbit B. said...

I deleted my last comment on the previous post because I talked too soon and didn't read this one, but really the question is same.

"...short of building a manufacturing operation with 10 or 15 employees..."

Do you not like this idea because you don't physically create every piece of your art? Is it simply not profitable or does it force you to do work you don't want to do? I've always wondered how Michelangelo felt about having assistants and was wondering if you could give me some perspective on it.

10:58 PM  

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