About ten years ago I decided to try my hand at doing art shows. The first few years were bumpy, I had to rethink everything I was doing in my second year - from the ground up.I’ve been accepted into a lot of real dud shows, dud for me. Everyone’s worst show is also someone else’s best show ever. I’ve also learned how to make much better choices for myself and my work when choosing new shows for the upcoming season.
Turns out I like the Jekyll and Hyde aspect of the year when doing art shows - it sounds crazy and it is!
I don’t have a partner. I need to earn every single dime it takes to support me, my small zoo, and my collection of 100 big houseplants that live with me.
I am part of an ecosystem that I created when I purchased my 100-year-old Craftsman-style home a few years ago. I made a commitment to each and every living thing I’ve invited to live under my roof and under my care that I would do my best to care for all of them as well as I’m able. It can be a lot.
The point is, I live alone, and have to earn every single dime needed to live - for as long as I’m going to live. I’ve been self-employed for over 35 years and was a single mom to two amazing children the entire time. Both children are grown and have wonderful partners, and good jobs. They/we experienced what it was like to be hovering on the edge of poverty their entire young lives. They also witnessed how hard I worked at my business and vowed to never be self-employed. We didn’t have a lot of money, but our quality of life was excellent. I was never able to put much money away for my eventual retirement - I never honestly had time to stop and think about it. My game plan from here forward is to crank things into a higher gear and earn as much as possible over the next few years so I might possibly have enough to slow down at some point in the misty, distant future.
The articles and charts made about “How to Live Comfortably on Your Retirement Savings,” or ...”your investments,” or “your 401K,” are for an entirely different income tax bracket of folks. People who were not single moms, working as a freelance illustrator and now supplementing their income by doing art shows every summer.
I just didn’t realize my “slowing down” time was so far off still. It was disheartening to learn initially - I’m working with a Wealth Manager at my Credit Union about what to do to have enough money to retire someday or slow down. I’ll never stop making art.
I’m fortunate in that I have a lot of control over what I do to earn money. Whether I make the right choices all the time to earn more money, I don't always get it right. There are many factors outside my control regarding how much money I can earn at any given time of year.
I’m conscious of doing my best each and every time I hand-make another piece of jewelry. Each piece must be high quality, constructed to last a long time, and contain many tiny beautiful objects. Many of the beautiful beads in my cool collection are quite old and have stories all their own. To customers or lookers, anyone who stops into my booth, I’ll tell the origin story of a particular bead. It’s really fun. Often, lively back-and-forth conversation ensues, leaving everyone feeling a little brighter. I’ve gotten to be a good judge of when and more importantly, when not to engage.
The parts of the equation I can control are the excellent products I sell, thought, research, and thinking. The most important of all - listening carefully to my clients, whether they be Freelance Illustration clients, or folks visiting my booth at an art show.
I love hunting for, making, and selling my bracelets, every part of the process. Even all the extreme physical work of loading my car, driving a few hundred miles sometimes, schlepping everything, and being thoughtful and kind in many extreme weather situations. When I travel for art shows, I must hire someone to care for my small zoo every day while I’m away. I can be gone overnight without anyone coming in to feed my critters, but more than one night and all my guys need someone. I have the most wonderful woman who cares for my animals. She’s an animal whisperer.
Things are slowing down for the season. Thank the Goddess.
I just returned from seven days driving in northwestern Mexico and So Cal with my grown son. It was wonderful and also pretty intense at times. I am an intentionally grateful and thankful person. I kept a thoughtfulness journal for a long time and it created a beautiful practice that has stayed with me all these tough, long years since. I am daily thankful and grateful for the people, animals, plants, and things in my life. My job is to take care of me and them.
That’s the agreement.
The Slowdown has allowed me to leisurely dig through my small, but dense bead collection. I have some magnificent semi-precious stones that I bought early on - before I knew all the essential elements that are necessary for the parts that make up my bracelets.
I never was able to use many of the semi-precious stones in my bracelets, so I just tucked them away.
Now I’ve learned a few things about the type of bracelets and simple jewelry I make. Art fairs have slowed down for the season - yaHOO. It’s been a marathon, it seems to have paid off. Ideas and schemes on how to add selling my original 2-D art to earn a portion of my income are beginning to take root. In order to make that possibly happen, I’ve needed to be mindful and intentional about it. I quickly realized selling my 2-D art is more of a long-term goal that is going to take some work.
But for now, time to work these beautiful semi-precious stones into jewelry.
Wrap your wrists with Love!
I've completely given into my lifelong love of beads, stones, making stuff and stories, not particularly in that order.