Saturday, June 3, 2006

Financial Sanity in the 21st Century

When I was in school, I loved to read biographies of and letters by artists. I had painfully romantic images where composers lived in small 3rd/4th floor stone apartments in Vienna, and roamed the autumnal Viennese Forest in search of symphonies. Painters and sculptors lived likewise in Paris, and though they could only afford half a baguette and a hardened piece of cheese, they met with friends at the corner cafe to discuss art, love and life into the wee hours. Writers, on the other hand, preferred quaint cottages in the English countryside, or Maine or Connecticut, and corresponded with friends in beautiful, longhand letters. The intrinsic beauty of artists' lives was understood by everyone around them. I don't recall finding books about weavers, potters and cabinet makers; I wonder if these craftspersons/artisans/"applied artists" seemed less sexy and their work more "work" than art.

My life as a weaver is pretty unsexy and most of it is slow and, unless one enjoys it immensely as I do, tedious. On a good day, I am covered in fine fiber dust; on a fair day, in sheep and goat poo; and on a more colorful day, I breathe toxic dye fumes or stick my hands in piping hot water and soap. So even though my life for the last few years has evolved around attempting to create beautiful shawls, most days I don the same old track pants, Ben's old shirt, and a red synthetic apron covering me from neck to the shins. The only aspect of my life that coincides with my childhood images is privation.

Well, not really; Ben has a real job, and we can buy whole baguettes. I have, though, surprised myself with my inability to live within the rules of my life: weave, sell, earn, spend. The relationship between this mechanism and my bank account was never so crude when I worked in office jobs. I do the fourth most eagerly, and the first earnestly; I haven't yet the confidence to go about the second enthusiastically; therefore, the third isn't robust. Not many weavers in the developed world can live on handweaving alone, and not many New Zealand artists of any kind can live on their art alone, so for a newbie like myself, it is Kafka-esque.

To get a little help, but more ardently longing to belong, I joined an organization called Arts Marketing, for a fee. The organization publishes an attractive guide to Nelson's artists and art facilities on even-numbered years; a listing in this book is covered by the annual subscription, or so I thought; but no, one has to purchase space. So I did. For a fee. Previous guidebooks have been roughly A5 in size, (roughly half of letter size,) take away the margins, and my space is 1/6 of that, or just about the size of a piece of sellotape going across the page, or two Air Mail stickers sitting beside each other.

I appear to have been positively idiotic and naive about being a member of the free world in the 21st Century; of course everything costs money. My life is utterly unromantic, and the intrinsic beauty of my life is knotted and entangled. But now I am in the book; I have declared myself an artist, and the name MegWeaves will be in print. We shall see, you and I, how this works out. Have your magnifying glasses ready.

*****

If you practice art in the Nelson area, and have not done so already, consider speaking to Martin Rodgers at Arts Marketing to see if you will benefit from the organization. Their website is www.nelsonarts.org.nz.

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