What I Do For Love

IMG_4544I spend a lot of time thinking about how fortunate I am. It’s true—I’m fortunate by pretty much any standard you could think of to apply.

But the good fortune I’ve been thinking about lately is how fortunate I am to be able to make what I want, when I want, and not to have to do it for money, to make a living.

Historically, craftsmen and artisans did a job of work. They worked long hours, they sought to please others—a patron, a customer. These craftsmen could not stop when their backs ached or when they lost the creative impulse.

I do a job of love.

Making for the love of making is different from making to make a living. I have and will continue to sell some of the things I make but I do it entirely on my terms.

If I don’t want to make fleur de sel caramels anymore, I don’t have to, even if they are the most popular candy I sell.

If I find no joy in purple or pink, I can leave those colors out of my quilting and weaving, even if other people love them and would pay for them.

If I want every single item I make to be entirely different from the last, I am free to do exactly as I please, even though that’s inefficient in the marketplace.

When we were in Ireland, we talked to two weavers for whom weaving is a job, both excellent life-long weavers. They weave to put food on the table, to keep a roof over their heads. They prized efficiency and output—they had little choice.

They made multiples of best-selling items. They wove in colors deemed popular and made items designed by someone else, someone who understood the trends. They did the simplest of weaving because simple is quick and yields the highest return for time expended.

They laughed at us because we don’t use a flying shuttle—“you’re so slow,” they said!

But we’re lucky enough to be able to go slow.

I can make a quilt in which every stitch is done by hand, because that’s what pleases me.

I can make an Etruscan loop-in-loop chain where every link is formed and soldered and woven by hand, because that’s what pleases me.

I can hand dip, one by one, every chocolate, because that’s what pleases me.

I can pass the shuttle slowly, from hand to hand, and watch the fabric grow slowly, inch by inch. It pleases me.

I don’t have to worry about pleasing someone else. Just me.

Now, let’s be clear—I like selling things I make. It’s a special kind of thrill when someone honors my aesthetic and my skill by trading their hard-won money for something I’ve created.

I like that but I don’t NEED it. And that, my friend, is good fortune.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Do you make your living from your art or craft? Do you sell your work at all? Do you struggle to please yourself while pleasing buyers? Can the pressure of making a living co-exist with the joy of creativity?