Actually, I love turquoise. I love aqua, apatite, amazonite, every shade of bluey-greeny and greeny-blue, and everything in between. Especially green turquoise.
I love turquoise so much, I have to consciously STOP USING IT when I realize every single new piece has turquoise beads in it.
As I’m working today, I keep thinking about an artist who commented on my Fine Art Views post yesterday.
They asked for insight on how to keep their partner inspired to make art, when their partner’s work had been rejected by a gallery. They had not returned to their art-making since their rejection.
Okay, my lizard brain immediately thought, “One gallery?! You’re gonna let ONE GALLERY be the judge of your entire body of work?!”
My kinder brain understands completely. And I responded in kind. (No pun intended, but it slipped in there anyway.) Rejection is always hard, even when we know not everyone will love our work.
But here’s a story of how ridiculous that is, to let ONE GALLERY, one person, determine whether your work is “good enough”.
A few years into my jewelry-making, I approached several area stores to carry my work, and a few said yes.
Less than a year later, one gallery manager called me to pick up my work. “It just doesn’t sell!” they exclaimed. And as I looked at the display, surprise! I could see instantly why it wasn’t.
It was on a bottom shelf, about six inches above the floor. Nobody could even SEE it.
I’d already suspected my work wasn’t going to work with this venue. When I first brought my work in, they examined every piece. They would heave a sigh, and shake their head as they moved an item into the “no” pile. (Which was about half my work.) It was obvious they found much of my work “lacking”.
And obviously, to ensure their assessment of my work was “right”, they made sure it wasn’t even in the line of sight of any would-be collectors.
Fortunately, a good friend gave me clarity on this manager, and encouraged me to take my work elsewhere, which I did.
If I had let that person shut me down, I would not be here today, encouraging you to look past the nay-sayers (some of whom may actually be intimidated by our work!)
A few years later, I approached another store, not a fine craft gallery, but a store where I was sure my horse jewelry would well.
This manager LOVED my work, as did their sales associates, and happily picked out a nice selection. Until….
They came across one necklace with turquoise accent beads.
“Ugh! I HATE turquoise!!”, they exclaimed, and set it aside for me to take back home.
I was baffled. Surely this person, a well-respected businessperson in our community, understood that THEY might hate turquoise, but a lot of their customers would love it.
Nope. So I gathered up those “rejects” and saved them for another gallery at another time.
What’s my point here?
I’ll say it again, what an old craft friend, Tim Christensen, told me years ago:
“Gallery owners are just customers with stores!”
Does every customer love all our work? Nope.
Does every customer love all our designs, and color schemes? Nope.
Does every customer appreciate our pricing, the value of our work? Nope.
Customers come and go, visitors look and leave. Some people love my horses, some love my bears, and some people prefer my more abstract, non-figural work. And a very few love all of it, and a lot of people are totally baffled, and leave within a few minutes of entering my space, be it my studio, a show, or a gallery.
Not everyone will love our art.
And neither do the galleries we hope might carry our work.
Some are….contradictory…no? Some don’t make sense, and some make perfect sense.
Gallery owners are people, just like you and me. Some of them are secure in their own work, and embrace ours. Some are envious, and look for ways to take us down. Some love our work, but know their customers won’t. Some aren’t fond of our work, but they know it will sell. There are a million reasons why they say yes, and a million reasons why they say no.
My deepest hope for you today is to consider these stories when your work is deemed “not right” for whatever gallery you’re dealing with.
I hope you understand that one “no”, or two, or even a hundred, doesn’t necessarily mean the world does not want your art.
Yes, maybe you’re not quite ready for gallery representation. (Did you bring in a sample of everything you do, which can come across as a lack of focus, or a lack of a cohesive body of work?) Yes, maybe you need to improve your skills. (Did you apply to a major show after one year of painting classes?) Yes, maybe you didn’t do your research and you’ve approached a gallery that focuses on abstracts, with your realistic landscapes. Yes, maybe you are kinda difficult to deal with, full of smugness about your work. (Some galleries will still take you on, if they’re sure they can sell your work. But why make it harder for them to decide to take you on??)
Maybe they just don’t like turquoise.