Q: I’m a mature craftsperson who has been making fashion jewelry for 25 years. I’m beginning to feel that my ideas are wearing out. Going to the studio feels too much like work. How do I get myself going again?
—Martha Safe, via e-mail
This can be a serious problem, especially for the older masters in our field. Let’s think of some ways you can use so that burnout doesn’t burn you up. I just need to get one thing clear first. You have a business, and running it and going to the studio is work. We just want to enjoy going to work; that’s why we chose this career path in the first place.
As with any events in our lives, it’s important to learn from the down moments. What’s making you feel this way just now? Are you working too hard? Too many hours? Do you need help? Are you worn down by the repetitive nature of your work? Are you finding it difficult to design new pieces for your jewelry line? Are you feeling isolated as a result of the long hours you spend in the studio? Whatever it is, don’t run away from it; dive in.
Your creativity is your most important asset; it’s important to nurture it and to be able to follow your creative impulses. I think the first thing you need to do is get out of your studio. This could mean taking a class that lets you play; I’d suggest you can do this best by taking a class outside your field. Think about a painting class, a foreign language class, or a cooking class. Whatever you choose, really immerse yourself.
You could also find a way to spend time with other makers, to share ideas, grumble, or talk about the weather and the kids or pets, just to be engaged with other people. This could be an informal coffee or tea date for two. Or, it could be a more formal artist salon with as many folks as you’re inclined to include. The salon could have a theme, and the guests come prepared to talk about that topic.
Another idea that I find always works is to commit to an exhibit. The process of thinking through what you want to make and how you’ll make it is usually very stimulating; there’s nothing like a deadline to get you focused. I realize a craftsperson’s production schedule is often driven by financial needs; however, it could be helpful to cut back a bit and allow time to play in your studio, generating ideas that might lead to new designs. You could also consider teaching a class. The process of getting your ideas organized very well may get your creativity going.
Burnout is the most threatening influence on your career, because it goes after your creativity, the most important asset you have. Each of us employs different methods to keep our creativity alive; hopefully, some of the ideas here will help you keep it going.
Donald Clark is the author of Making a Living in Crafts and was a partner in Ferrin Gallery for 25 years. In addition to writing, he is currently a consultant to artists, a personal property appraiser, and a collection manager. He also continues to create his constructions that have been shown extensively and collected internationally.
This is an excerpt from the July 2011 Just Ask column. To read the entire article, contact us at (800) 331-0038, ext. 124 to buy the issue.