It really, really helps if money is not the only measure of your “success”.*
*Thank you forever, Alisha Vincent!
On the brink of the last weekend of our Sonoma County Art at the Source Open Studio Tour.
I posted on Facebook mentioning that my first weekend was rather slow, with a pic of a necklace I made during the lulls. Another participant shared their studio visitor numbers, which were higher than mine.
Here’s why that didn’t bother me at all:
First, numbers come and numbers go. The first two years I did an open studio in New Hampshire, no one came. (I was the only participant in my neck of the woods.) It was a little discouraging but my studio was clean, and I got a lot of new work done.
The third year, my studio was filled to the gills with visitors, and it never stopped until we left New Hampshire.
Second, an original founder and long-time AATS participant (30 years?) who’s well-known in these parts, and whose work is popular, said numbers come and go, rise and fall, over the years, and usually for no discernible reason. “I don’t worry about it,” she said. “It is what it is, and I’m comfortable with that.” Thank you, Sally Baker! (She’s a true grown-up.)
Third, though my numbers were low, those visitors were amazing, each and every one. One woman brought me a box of beautiful abalone shells!
My last point is one that just came to me today:
My visitors created their own in-house community, in my studio, during the tour!
Somehow, I ended up showing two visitors the lovely gift of abalone shells. They were so amazed, I ended up giving each of them one! It just felt like the right thing to do. They were delighted. I know they’ll be back someday.
One long-time fan came in, we had a nice chat, and she gave me an idea for one-on-one mentoring/tutoring with polymer clay. While she was still there, another long-time fan and her studio-mate came in. The three of them hit it off. I offered them comfy chairs, and they sat in a little circle and talked avidly for awhile. (It was still a slow day, people could get around them easily, and I was totally okay with that.) It was wonderful to see new friendships created, right there in front of me!
Another visitor talked about losing a sibling last year, and then the tears came. On impulse, I opened one of my storage drawers and gave them an older bear artifact. Then I gave them a card with the bear’s story: “Be strong when things get hard. Listen more. Think slow. Love deep.”
(No, I don’t just hand out free stuff to people randomly. There’s just something inside me that says, “They need this….”)
It took me a few days to see what was happening.
These people all had at least one thing in common: They like my work. Some LOVE my work.
They felt safe enough in my sacred creative space to open their hearts, to my stories, to my work, to me. And also to others in that space.
It was amazing.
I’m still unwrapping that, figuring out why it affected me so deeply. But in the end, I can just say I’m glad this all happened.
Oh, I also made a few sales, enough to restock new supplies for my next projects. Some weird questions got asked, some people weren’t interested and left quickly. Tomorrow’s going to be really really hot, and I don’t have any thoughts about what that will look like.
But I’m not worried.
I’ve already had my share of beautiful little miracles. And I’m grateful for them all.
It’s not always about numbers.
It’s not always about the money.
It’s about using our creativity to bring out the best in ourselves, and in others. We are truly blessed to be able to do this with the work of our heart.