Originally published: 2022/02/27
Sometimes I lament being a creative in this era of human history.
Of course, this is the usual nostalgia for the "good ol' days" that never really existed. Artists that had patrons that paid their room and board were in some ways indentured servants to the rich. Being born a woman would simply not even give an artist that option unless they were born into a very wealthy family.
But like most things there are pros and cons to being in this space and time. And time. Time is the ass-kicker, isn't it?
The daily duties of making a living, getting the kid to and fro, minding all the things to mind - critters, grocery lists, schedules - it's a challenge and leaves very little time for creativity. Playing, exploring, testing, failing, making are all creative acts that take time to settle into. And here is where I get to my lament.
Among all of these things demanding time and attention, I also (have to? choose to?) consider creating content for my audience. Knowing that the way to get exposure for the work I'm doing, I need to create engaging content, get likes and views. So I spend time thinking, what do I need to make this week? How many Instagram posts can I get out of that? Is there a reel I can make? How the hell do reels work anyway? How do all these amazing reels and videos and images of potters get made? Why do they all look so good? Have they hired someone to take these pictures? Are they lucky enough to have a friend/partner that supports them in this way? Did they take a class to learn how to edit?
See the rabbit hole I fall down? Not very creative, is it.
Really, what it does is send me into a spiral of self-doubt, indecisiveness, and imposter syndrome.
I make good pots. Sometimes I even make great pots. I believe that I have a voice that contributes to the world. I also think when I have the time and space to slow down and breathe, I can create decent content for free consumption to stay in touch with people who are interested in what I am doing.
One of my favorite pots I've ever made, along with a lovely box made by Tim Carney.
But that's another thing. I have 1.1K followers on Instagram. I get an average of 10 or so likes on my posts. It's even worse on Facebook. My business page has 1.5K followers and I'm averaging about 5 likes per post, and one of those is usually my mom. (Thanks Mom!) On Twitter, I have just under 1K followers there and little to no interaction.
My point is, that unless my followers actually interact with my posts, they are never going to see them. I fall out of their algorithm. And we all know that, right? Creating content for people in hopes they stumble across something that they like enough to engage with feels Sisyphean to say the least. And yet.
That engagement with the public via social media is becoming so much the norm that now galleries, festivals, exhibits and shows are looking for that content to see whether or not an artist is worth having participate. If you don't have that content, it becomes harder to see if you are engaging enough that your pots/art will sell. It becomes a caste system, and unless my work is supported by content, I can't engage with other artists who have that content or participate in events.
So does my art get created because I need to create art? Or does it get created because I need to make content? How does one get into the mental/emotional space of making art without considering the camera angle? How does one settle in to the act of being a maker without being sure that it's being documented properly so there isn't too much editing later?
Frankly, most of the time, I enjoy creating content. I find the act of making in many forms exceedingly satisfying. In fact, I think that is what's missing. I may be in a bit of a funk due to an imbalance in life, never really getting to do what I love (making) because I can't support myself and my kid that way. The amount of time I get to do the things I enjoy most is small and fleeting, and therefore I find myself resenting having to do the additional work of creating content for public consumption.
In this late-stage capitalism, rugged-individualism, American exceptionalism world, where none of those things do anything for the human being, or a family, or a community - I suppose being a maker, for the sake of making, and not for the consumption of the masses . . . is revolutionary.