Artist’s Statement ….Part Two

The Pale Rook

So remember that thing I applied for?

My application was successful.  I was selected to take part in a project at Scotland’s Craft Town,  the wonderful West Kilbride.   I’ve been a massive fan of the Craft Town since I first found out about it a few years ago, so I’m massively chuffed to be a part of it.  The project I’m involved in takes selected craft makers based in Scotland, at various stages of their careers and gives them specialist business mentoring and studio space for six months.   For the first time in over a decade I am being mentored rather than mentoring others, which has been quite a shock to the system.

The first meeting of the participants, organisers and business mentors involved an exercise where we had to think of things that limited our business or things that we were worried about and then we had to decide whether these things were Financial, Operational, Creative, or Emotional. I do these kind of exercises with my students, so I wasn’t too surprised when most of the participants put a whole lot of their worries, fears and anxieties about their work in the Emotional category. I didn’t because as far as I was concerned I’m not caught up in my emotional issues, not me, nuh uh. I am wiser than that.

Or not.

Later that day I had a one to one meeting with my business mentor, a fabulously astute and direct woman who called me on my bullshit within about twenty minutes.

My mentor asked me to decide how much I hoped to earn in terms of my salary, and to price my work accordingly. I did it the other way around. I worked out how much I wanted to earn from each individual piece (and other stuff that I can’t tell you about yet), then I added up how much I would likely earn over the course of a year and then once I saw the total I decided that it was way too much, that I didn’t need that much and that I didn’t deserve that much, so I’d just have to earn less.

Seriously.

And the worst part was that I didn’t see anything wrong with this. In fact, I thought that earning a good salary for my work was somehow unfair to the rest of the world. So I reduced the price of the thing I can’t tell you about yet and went into my meeting with a nice clear idea of how to avoid earning more than I felt I deserved.

I’m not even joking.

So there we were in our meeting and my mentor patiently listened to my stream of ideas and plans and hopes and fears about where I want to take my work and how I want to develop the business side of things.

Once I’d stopped for breath, my mentor told me that she thought my pricing was too low. I explained that I didn’t think it was. She told me again, that it was indeed way to low, and I explained that pricing it higher wouldn’t be fair to people who wanted to buy it. Then she said something that made absolutely no sense to me. She asked if my feelings about pricing were somehow connected to something within me, or more specifically if my feelings towards the people who buy my work were fulfilling some need within me.

I had absolutely no idea what the hell she was on about. Remember, I teach this stuff. I am a master at pointing out the root of my students’ issues and creative barriers and I could sort of see what she might be getting at and why what she said might have meant something to someone else, but I really had no idea what relevance it had to me.

Until the train ride home.

Here’s what I realised about myself.

I feel bad about people paying for my work because I think that the people who buy and even those who appreciate my work are somehow being duped. I keep feeling that at some point I am going to be found out to be an imposter.  I feel bad when my work is considered valuable.

There.

Issue number one; I do not trust or value my talent.

And there’s more.

I worry that I am somehow going to get into trouble for showing off.  I feel that if I openly value my work then people might not like me.

I know.

Issue number two; please like me, please like me, please, please like me.

OK, so this is all deep down, little girl fear and anxiety stuff, it’s not up there on the day to day surface of things, but it’s still there, and in my experience the deep down stuff has a way of making itself heard in one insidious way or another.

I see it constantly in my female students. I’m sure men and boys experience it too, I know they do, but in my personal experience it’s women who consistently undervalue their work, their time and their talent and it’s women who desperately seek approval by making themselves small.

I have sat through literally hundreds of student presentations, from high school to post-graduate level and women consistently and persistently do one thing when they present their work, regardless of how good it is or how hard they have worked on it or how good they believe it to be – they apologise for it.

Over and over, throughout my career I have heard women and girls tell me all of the things they should have done differently and all of the ways they could have made their work better and all before they’ve even opened their portfolios or begun their presentation. Even when given positive feedback, they tell you how it should have been better and how it would have been better if only they had done something differently. They deliberately make it less than it is.

So about six years ago, I banned my students from saying the word sorry, and we did a little experiment. They had to present their work without saying a single negative word about it, and throughout the exercise they would have absolutely no encouragement or feedback from me whatsoever. So no negativity from them and no approval from me.

What happened shocked me. Some students weren’t even able to begin speaking. They looked at the floor, they took deep breaths, they took several minutes just to find words to begin with that wouldn’t include any sort of apology. Some were even brought to tears by the sheer frustration of not being able to criticise themselves.

Let me be as clear as possible; speaking about themselves without negativity reduced several women and girls to tears and silence.

And I hadn’t asked them to glow with self congratulation, false pride or confidence, all I had asked them to do was not criticise or apologise for their work.

I ask my students why they feel it’s so difficult to not devalue themselves. Their answers are always, always the same. They tell me that they don’t want other people to think they are arrogant. They worry that if they say their work is good, other people will point out that it’s not. They worry that if they appear to think they are better than others, then those others won’t like them.

Which brings us right back to me on the train.

Up until that point I had subconsciously believed that valuing myself meant devaluing others which would make them feel bad which would make them not like me. I had kept myself in a nice little box that would be no obvious threat to anyone and this deliberate devaluing of myself was making it’s way into my life in my reluctance to make a reasonable amount of money for my work.

The sad thing, the thing that made me furious on the train when all of this hit me, was that I knew, I KNOW that valuing yourself and your talent and your work, truly valuing your best qualities does not bring trouble, criticism and rejection; quite the opposite.

About half way through some of the student presentations something else would happen. After a few minutes of speaking hesitantly, through deep breaths and almost uttered “sorries”, something would shift.

There would come a moment when the student’s voice would even out.

Because I wasn’t giving them any feedback, encouragement or prompting, because they were getting absolutely nothing back from me, they would begin to say what they wanted to say. Not what they thought I wanted to hear, not what they thought was expected, not what they thought would make them likeable, but what they truly felt and thought.

There would be a change in tone and volume that was so moving, so utterly inspiring that I can’t even describe it to you. They would speak without apology, explanation or expectation, about what they loved about their own talent. Then they would realise that no one was laughing at them, no one was horrified, no one had stopped liking them, and that they weren’t in trouble, then their voice would get stronger and clearer and calmer.  And when they shone, something would happen to the other students in the room, and to me;  we’d feel just a little bit closer to our own value because we could see someone else connecting with theirs.

It’s worth pointing out that I have done this same exercise all over the place, with different age groups, different academic levels, different nationalities and the results are pretty consistent. About twenty percent break down in tears, around sixty per cent struggle to speak, about eighty per cent reach a moment when they begin to shine.

I would also like to point out that I would never and could never force anyone to do anything in my class. Everyone who participates does so openly and willingly and the ones who cry are the ones who hammer on through with the greatest determination because they are usually the ones who have the most buried within themselves. Just thought I’d point that out in case you had some sort of image in your head of me inflicting emotional and psychological torture on unsuspecting art students.

I could write forever about why we have all of these layers of apology within ourselves, why we feel we need to be small, to be liked, why we need to undercut our own value to feel comfortable. I won’t though because I’ve got way too much to be getting on with and I’m sure you have your own story to tell about all of the times you insisted on less than you deserved.

So go try this.

Talk to yourself about yourself, your work, your talent, your virtues, whatever you like but do it without apology and do it out loud.

It’s harder than you think.  I struggle with it.

I’ve always imagined that as an artist, I should devalue my work, that it’s up to others to see and judge it’s worth and that if I ask for just a little I won’t be disappointed when I get just a little.  After my meeting with my business mentor though, I realise that I have been seeing myself and my worth in exactly the same self depreciating way my students do.   My ideas about being a struggling artist are really just a reason to keep myself small, unthreatening and likeable.

I’m not going to suddenly increase my prices or change the way I sell my work, but I’m no longer going to limit myself in terms of what I achieve through my work.  I’m not going to prevent myself from earning more than I think I deserve.

From now on, I refuse to reduce my own value.

I’ve never been a materialistic person and I’ve never seen financial success as a goal in itself, but what I’ve realised is that until now I have seen financial success as something that I should avoid, something that I don’t deserve, something that might make people not like me, and that has limited me creatively.

So I’m not going to make myself small any more.  I’m not going to keep myself in a little box and whatever comes out of me next will come without any apology or fear of what it might achieve.

And there’s that thing that I’m planning that I can’t tell you about yet.  I’m not afraid of that thing being a success anymore.  I’ll tell you about it next time.

The Pale Rook

 

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421 thoughts on “Artist’s Statement ….Part Two

  1. Well, walked away mid-read because your words rang too true, came back, started to cry & now imagine it will take a few read throughs to soak all of the much needed messages in. Brilliant. Thank you.

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know how this affected you. I’ve been so humbled by just how many other people have had the same experiences. I really hope that this has been useful for you. xx

      1. Thankyou so much. A friend forwarded your blog to me & the focus for my upcoming classes is going to be: VALUE YOUR TALENT, APPRECIATE YOUR GIFTS!!!

  2. Wow! Great blog. What can I say but this rings so many bells with me? It’s even uncomfortable in places as it’s like looking in the mirror. Thankyou for sharing xxx

  3. oh my goodness…that really struck a chord with me too. I do exactly that…I feel guilty if people that like the things I make cant afford them. I give a lot away for free…just to keep small and being liked it a huge thing for me. To be adored is a very childish need on so many levels but it rules me…will work on it. Lovely to get to know you better. Thanks for sharing. Lisa x

    1. I felt the same way. I think being unable to afford to buy art myself made me feel really guilty about charging more than a lot of people can afford. I sort of got over it by offering payment in instalments and sometimes even exchanges with other artists. Take care and thanks for your comment 🙂 x

    2. I struggle with the same Lisa. I know deep down I can capture emotions well and portray that in my art and that I can be comparable to those whose work I enjoy, but I can’t see myself there. How do we deal with that. frankly it scares me witless.

  4. Every time someone admires what I make, then they see the price tag and give that disapproving, disgusted look and put it back down, I feel my stomach knot up, and I shrink about 5 feet. I try to make my prices “fair to them” for several reasons. I could go on, but it would take up a lot of space. This was SO helpful, and I applaud you for having the courage to write it.

    Much love xoxo

    1. I have never sold my dolls at craft markets because there is no way in hell that most people would pay for them there. Most of my customers are art doll or puppet collectors, so they appreciate the work and time that’s gone into each piece. If I’d kept selling through craft markets I’d have given up on the dolls. My point is that maybe you’re selling in the wrong place. I’m really glad the blog post was helpful, I hope you find more people who appreciate your work xx

  5. You are amazing and this is amazing. It’s a message every single person alive needs to see. Thank you so much for your gift, your articulation and your time. xxx

  6. Even if I don´t call me an artist I know what you mean with your post. I often happens to me that I feel a sort of shame when somebody likes what I make. I always say : that´s nothing. It is not that I myself don´t value it, but I feel embarrassed by the judgement of others. I´m happy that I have time to try out my créativity and love the making. Some times ago somebody asked me if I would sell some of my embroidery pieces. I was very confused and had no idea about a price. So I said, no I don´t it is just for me. I think at another level it is the same thing as you told us about your prices. I will try out your idea and I know it will be hard.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts
    Doris

  7. Thank you for putting into words what I’ve struggled with forever. We are taught to be supporters of the universe instead of how to be a shining star. Here’s to ditching the basket we’ve been hiding under!

  8. Thank you so much. I would give my eye teeth to be mentored at all. I am exhausted trying to exist. Best of luck to you and I LOVE your work.

    1. The title I work under is The Pale Rook, my name is actually in the title of the website “The Pale Rook – Textile Art by Johanna Flanagan”, on my Facebook page and Twitter account. I have many steps ahead of me but thankfully my first ones are long behind me. 🙂

      1. I’m only trying to be helpful, but I still can’t see your name in my Chrome browser. No need to respond. Just wanted you to know my experience as a first time visitor.

      2. I really do appreciate your comment, and letting me know your experience, but not having my name mentioned prominently is a deliberate decision as the name I work under is The Pale Rook. Like Anthropomorphica, Mr Finch, Belanorqua, Degrengolandia and many others I’ve chosen to use a title rather than my name, as that’s just what feels more natural for me.

  9. A fantastic post – didn’t think it would resonate with me and then I went ‘oh’. I do this too. Thanks for making me consider the value of of my art differently. Good luck at Craft Town. It’s a great place.

    1. Thanks Gillian, it is a fantastic place! I’m hoping to become a permanent fixture at Craft Town, I love it there. So glad this has made you reconsider the value of your work, take care 🙂

  10. I’m so glad I read this. Absolutely fascinating, and very sad, too. I set up my own freelance business in January (I’m a translator), and it’s so important now to believe in myself and value my work. Your post has given me a lot to think about. Also shared this in a group I’m in on FB and it’s sparked some good discussion. Thank you!

      1. 🙂 Well, I think it cuts down to a much deeper issue: our own valuation of ourselves. How much money we allow ourselves to make is really just a symptom of a much deeper issue–as you point out 😉 And until we women, individually and as a group, actively step up and intentionally and consciously own our worth, instead of apologizing for it, we will continue to fall into this trap. I love that statement you made that when your student was able to acknowledging her own worth, it raised the worth of everyone else in the room–Yes. I think that just nails it.

      2. For most of the students it did, some were still convinced that they wouldn’t be able to do the same until the tried, but everyone is a little different and it depends on how deeply they feel the need to make themselves small. I have to say that in Norway this doesn’t apply as much, as the women there don’t tend to be as self deprecating, but again there are always exceptions.

      3. I just got back to America from a trip to Sweden a few weeks ago, and I have to say that it was very refreshing being in a place where the sexism factor appeared to be so much lower than the machismo of the US. So I think to an extent it’s cultural. But, I wonder how much of what your describing still shows up in Scandinavia.

      4. It’s definitely happens less in Norway than in Scotland, but it’s still there to an extent. One of the best things about Scandinavia is the lack of general sexism, it really benefits men as much as women, and it’s even better in Iceland! The women there had rights 1000 years ago that a lot of women worldwide are still denied today. When I visited Iceland I met a fourteen year old girl who asked me incredulously if women in the UK really did change their name to their husbands when they got married. It seemed so utterly ridiculous and subordinate to her.

  11. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. It’s so true.
    I’m grateful for my intellectual women’s history professor, a specialist in Mary Hays, who told us years ago about the advice that Mary Wollstonecraft wrote to Mary Hays in a personal letter. Yeah, in those days (late 18th century, they actually wrote letters by hand 😉 Wollstonecraft wrote to Hays that she should never apologize for her knowledge just because she is a woman. Our professor always reminded us of this whenever we started our presentations with an apology. It became a part of me. So now whenever I want to preface whatever I say with an apologetic or degrading statement, I remind myself of Wollstonecraft and Hays. It works.

    1. I am a massive fan of Mary Wollstonecraft! She was such a visionary, I love that her work is still being taught today, although sad that it still needs to be taught. It really is amazing the difference it makes when you stop needlessly apologising. I also find that it makes genuine apologies more heartfelt. Thanks so much for sharing your experience too 🙂

  12. Raising my hand, saw so much of me also in this article, I think the same way, well at least I did until I read this, a eye opener and going to value myself more as a artist, thank-you for sharing your story with all us.

  13. Hello and thank-you for your work and words you are very inspiring. I wanted to thank-you and connect you to another doll maker I think will inspire you. I have also given them your info so here’s hoping you love each other. http://sacredfamiliar.com/ I am an art therapist and work with people every day who find their symbols gently, slowly and powerfully.Your dolls are filled with powerful messages and I adore them. One day I will love one in my studio.Love and Hugs, PetaxxOO

    1. Hi Peta, thank you. You have an amazing job! I’m going go to check out Sacred Familiar, thanks for sharing. I hope you find the doll for you one day. Take care, 🙂 x

    2. I want one of these dolls and I almost never say that! I’m going to go write a love letter to Julia. Peta, if I am ever in the land of Oz, I would love to come and visit you and see your practice. 🙂 x

  14. What a fabulous post, thank you. I struggle with this as well and am very aware of my fears. What I have noticed is that when someone buys one of my works, the immediate happiness I feel is immediately replaced with complete fear… When I sell a piece on-line I think, “What if they don’t like it once they see it in person?” “What is the colors and fabrics aren’t exactly like they thought they would be?” And despite my careful craftsmanship and attention to detail, I always think, “What if the piece falls apart?” (Why would it fall apart? In 20 years I’ve never had that happen!) I worry about the fabrics fading overtime, about the buyer having buyer’s remorse down the line, I worry and I worry… and to combat those worries, I often price my work less then what I really want to price it… so that if any of my worries do come true, I will in some way have compensated the buyer for ever having made the foolish decision to buy my work. I’ve been aware of this for years, and while I am slowly increasing my prices, I still am not where I wish to be. I have never admitted this to anyone, let alone on a public forum, but reading your post and actually writing this all down is opening my eyes really wide… as in, what the hell and how did this happen? This is not the thinking of the strong woman I aspire to be, (and generally think that I am). Again, thank you… you have given me a good look at myself with all the lights on.

    1. Victoria, I used to do EXACTLY the same thing and worry about EXACTLY the same things! I used to feel massive anxiety when I sent off work to customers, then even more anxiety if I didn’t hear from them immediately to say that everything was ok. It was all related to the feeling that I was somehow conning them into liking my work, which was rooted in me not believing in it as much as I thought I did.

      Honestly, your comment could have been written by me last year! Thank you so much for sharing your experience, it’s great to know I’m not the only one. 🙂 x

  15. You are absolutely correct that feelings of personal unworthiness interfere with our creativity and the business we sometimes attempt to build from it. The confusion I can’t make sense of in the article is how feelings about one’s self and about one’s work are essentially the same thing, or can be solved in the same way. It seems to me you can feel good about yourself and still see your work as being not up to scratch (how else would beginners even continue and veterans improve?) and that you can feel poorly about yourself and still find what you do has value. Untangling the one from the other seems more important than trying to solve both together in one stroke. To me, at least….

    To be honest, the artists who are taught to feel poorly about themselves as a reflection of their work mostly seem to get this idea from some institutional approach to what they are doing. A teacher or fellow student has led them to this conclusion, but its not something that artists/creators seem to feel on their own without the pressures of critique. If its LEARNED BEHAVIOR, then it both needs to be unlearned (what you are suggesting in your essay) and avoided from the get go. There is something unproductive and potentially harmful in the way we teach students to think of themselves and their works.

    Children never have this issue unless some parent or other authority figure has made them feel this way. Corrupting the natural joy of creative expression is a real problem that needs to be addressed, and its not just fixing the artists who are broken but fixing the institutions that break them…..

    Or so it seems to me

    1. I don’t think that feelings about one’s self and one’s work are essentially the same thing; I think they are wound up and around each other and that addressing one can help untangle the other.

      I also think there’s a misunderstanding about striving to improve and progress in your work, and deliberately devaluing your efforts. I think that even very talented people will and should always strive to improve. What I’m addressing is the feeling of needing to belittle your work in order to feel accepted.

      People who feel good about themselves but feel that their work needs to improve are very different from those who are afraid to express any positive feelings about their work. What I’m discussing here are the people who, regardless of what stage their work is at, or how successful it has been on what ever level, feel the need to undermine their efforts because it reinforces a need to feel “small” within themselves.

      I actually have seen children with this issue in my own personal experience, and although it’s rare, it still sadly exists. I’ve seen children as young as five telling me they’re not “that good”. It’s very sad, and I agree it’s learned behaviour. Unfortunately I don’t think the adults who “teach” this kind of behaviour are even aware of it in themselves.

      Usually by the time I meet my students they have so many layers of self deprecation it’s staggering! It’s incredibly sad, but hopefully changing. 🙂

  16. Thank you so much for this eye-opening blog. Every word of it hit much too close to home for comfort. Properly valuing my work is something I’ve struggled with for years. I too get that twisted knot in my stomach every time a customer calls or emails after a sale. Always I’m expecting them to tell me that t the work isn’t good and they want their money back. This has NEVER happened; they are always calling to tell me how happy they are, but that fear remains. Why do so many of us suffer from exactly the same affliction? You’ve given me much food for thought.

    1. You’re welcome. It seems to be so deeply ingrained in so many people. I’ve been overwhelmed by how many people have been in touch saying exactly the same thing Sharon.

  17. I can’t thank you enough for this post – I’ve been struggling to begin painting again after a lapse of many years and I am suffering from Imposter Syndrome to such a degree that it is debilitating. A big part of my ‘problem’ is also the ‘like me, please like me’ issue; even to the point of thinking that when people say they like my work, they are just being kind. It’s really hard after all this time to give myself permission to do something which I imagine others think is a waste of my time and money (this is despite positive support from my family). There is one other element, which is that although I completed a Foundation Course in Fine Art my BA and MA are in non practice based arts subjects, which is a big part of the Imposter Syndrome – I don’t have the academic background.

    But…what you have said in this post has been so very reassuring and has made me begin to feel much more positive. Thank you again!

    1. I really wouldn’t worry about your academic background. Art school can be a help or a hindrance depending on the school, the student, the time, and a whole lot of other factors. Some of the most talented people I know have not had any academic training at all.

      My advice is to keep on painting, even when it makes you want to tear out your hair and scream at the canvas. I wish you all the luck in the world 🙂

  18. I’ve been a cloth doll artist, pattern designer for over 20years. One of the most magical things I learned long ago is that there are no rules in being creative, and that thinking out of the box brings me to another world where everything is as magical as I choose it to be. Before you create for others, you create for yourself.

  19. Such a powerful article and courageous of you to share as an experienced artist. Thank you.
    As a starter I undertake not to apologise for anything to do with my work. I hadn’t even noticed I was doing it, but yes I do. I observe that It can be annoying / distracting to listen to someone aplogise about themselves, rather than explain their thinking or technique.
    I once practised (in front of the mirror, daily) just saying’ thank you’ when someone gave me a compliment, rather than being dismissive. Took a while before I could do it with ease.

  20. Wow! Brilliant post. Many of us feel exactly the same. So pleased to have been introduced to you by Sue Hotchkis. Am now following. Your work is wonderful, by the way.

  21. Oh, I love this so much. It is so nice to see that many others struggle with this! And I am now going to practice no negative comments/apologies when talking about my art.

  22. Thank you for this thought provoking and potentially life changing essay. I will refer to it many times and will invest some dedicated time to it because there is so much valuable content here.

  23. When people ask me about my prices I point out that they do not have to buy it. It isn’t food, warmth, essential. When they ask how long something takes I say 3 days and 54 years. That usually puts it into some kind of perspective. That doesn’t mean I don’t struggle every day with self doubt. I do. But I struggle on.

  24. Fantastic post & so common a problem many artists struggle with. I mentor artists, including many new graduates & really question why the art schools aren’t playing their part to help ease this problem. I have witnessed young fantastically talented artist at the verge of giving up & they just don’t have the skill, experience or strength to just ‘believe’ in their work or their talent. Sometimes it just takes a helping hand, a sympathetic ear, empathetic guidance to encourage the belief that their work is worth it, its a honest & fair price….keep your heads high & smile! x

    1. I absolutely agree! It’s heartbreaking that so many talented students are just not able to follow through because of their own issues with their talent. I’ve seen so many talented people just give up as soon as they graduate, or even half way through college because they just can’t cope with the pressure of having to believe they’re good enough. To be honest, I was one of them. I nearly dropped out twice, for exactly that reason. Thanks so much for your comment, I really appreciate it 🙂

  25. As an arts educator, i also encountered the impulse amongst women students in particular to resort to language like I ‘just’ did this, or i “only’ did that…two words i worked very hard to purge from their vocabularies…not that i was/am entirely immune to it myself- but it broke my heart to see these young women reflexively belittle their work without even realizing it – without hearing the self-denigration in those two horrible little words…thanks so much for this thoughtful and revealing post…you have held up a powerful mirror for many of us out here in studio land…

    1. Hi Linda, thanks so much for sharing your experience. You’re absolutely spot on about “only” and “just”, it really is a reflex that most don’t even know they have. It’s good to know there are educators out there who can spot it and address it.

  26. Very good post!
    The worst thing is the amount of energy we spent on undervalueing ourselves without even noticing.
    Thanks for making me to rethink it once more 🙂

  27. Another thing to consider about pricing – if you undervalue your work, you undervalue everyone else’s, and make it harder for other artists to get a fair price for their work. I know I’ve had experience of trying to create a business in a sector in which more than half my competitors didn’t need to make a living from it. Depressing beyond belief!

    I don’t do that any more…

  28. A thousand metaphorical hugs & kisses! I found this thru 2 women writers on Facebook who are also artists. I reposted it because so many of my friends are also women and writers. Muscling your way through that self-sabotaging voice that snarks in the back of our minds is hard enough without validating it every time we discuss our art. I knit, and I crochet lace and I’ve never been tempted to try to earn from those crafts what I know my time is worth because I see so many things made by talented people who aren’t even charging what the yarn is worth.

    I read your post and all I kept thinking was “Yes. Exactly. Yes!” Because between “Don’t blow your own horn.” (not sure whose bugler I’m supposed to be waiting for but there you go) and “Modesty is a Virtue.” there is the idea that we’re being selfish if we put our own needs ahead of anyone else’s. It’s a perfect storm of societal hobbling. And even when I think I know it’s there, sometimes it can still catch me.

    I think that so much of the urge to under-price our art comes from the general feeling that people won’t buy unless they can get it at a discount. The times I’ve heard people at Art Fairs telling artists that they could find things like theirs at Walmart or on eBay, as though some cobbled together necklace with sharp and unfinished edges is the same thing as a carefully crafted wire-wrapped pendant. The flip side of the coin being the ones who sweep a glance over your carefully arranged display and tell you they could make the same things at home. As though that somehow meant you shouldn’t charge them what your work is worth.

    This has me bubbling with thoughts and ideas I hadn’t looked at from this perspective before. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    1. Metaphorical hugs and kisses right back at you!

      I really feel a “horn blowing” or rather “refusing to blow your horn” or even a “it’s not a f***ing horn” blog post coming on. I was tagged in a post on Facebook where a friend of a friend had shared this blog, so I was able to read the comments by people who I had no connection with and one woman said she would rather play down her work than be arrogant and obnoxious, as if those are the only two options!

      I can’t understand why people who would go to an art fair would deliberately undermine the people selling there! Go get it on ebay then! Don’t undermine and humiliate someone who’s done you no harm whatsoever!

  29. Thanks for this thoughtful piece. I make classical ballet tutus and within the tutu “market” my prices could be described as mid to middle-high range. However, that market is defined by by the idea that it is women’s work so even the top prices don’t accurately reflect the skill involved. Sure, the market has to be tempered by what dancers’ parents can afford but considering the cost of ballet tuition for a year, an extra $100 on a costume would not be unreasonable. Sadly, women do habitually undervalue their work. It’s learnt behaviour in this man’s world where women’s work is seen of lesser value. Again sadly, this is reinforced by the women themselves who think my work is too expensive, although I’ve had the occasional dad come along to consultations who is amazed at what I do, especially if I refer to it as engineering. Sigh.

  30. I loved reading your thoughts on impostor syndrome! It’s interesting how we all struggle with these feelings regardless of our craft, perceptions, or circumstances. I’ve learned we are not immune, but your resolve to “refuse to reduce your own value” is contagious! Bravo.

  31. I like how you spoke with a specialized mentor, that’s very important. because the mentor understands what value means in that market. Market value is more complex than most people believe but I find they don’t want to face looking at it. I volunteer at SCORE and I’ve had two smart men come to me separately saying there apps (one is still and idea and the other a prototype) are worth $25 million. When I asked how did they arrive at that number? Neither had a good answer. So, in my experience most people do not understand how to price products and work. However it does tend to be that women “sandbag” their worth while men “hockey stick” it. Probably because women want to fit in and men would like to be King of the hill.

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