Making and Money

Geoff and I attended the #MakerMonday event, part of Lincoln Startup Week. It was a great event, with talks by Marc Kornbluh, Lincoln Hot Glass Studios & High Volume Oxygen; Vishal Sing, Quantified AgJennifer Rosenblatt, Argyle Octopus & MusicSpoke; and Chris Hughes, Artifact Bag Co. The day started with self guided tours of Nebraska Innovation Studio.

One statement that Marc made really stuck with me:

“Money to an artist is your permission to keep creating” -Mark Kornbluh

It seems counterintuitive at first. Why would an artist need permission to create? It really rang true, though, for a couple of reasons. For myself, I’ve found that after years of painting and a few attempts to sell my paintings (with no success) my desire to paint kind of petered out (for now). It was depressing to see paintings stack up in my spare room, with no home to go to. While it’s easy to say that money doesn’t matter, capitalism dictates that money is one of the main ways we show appreciation for things, and a lack of money is easily interpreted as a lack of appreciation.

The other reason it struck a cord with me is that my husband recently started his own business, Balliet Fine Jewelry, and recently we attended our first art festival. Seeing people interact with his work was wonderful, but even more wonderful was seeing people vote with their dollars. Geoff was energized and enthusiastic after the first day, running home to create a couple of new pieces to replace some that sold.

The link between making and money was re-emphasized when Chris Hughes, of Artifact Bag Co. spoke of his epiphany: he left his job for making full time after seeing his work become popular on Etsy. Obviously he was making things before that, it’s how he started having sales in the first place, but money coming in gave him permission to really start creating – not only new work, but a whole business.

In art school, we’d have discussions endlessly about money and “selling out” and almost treated money as a dirty word. It’s easy to be idealistic while living on student loans. But the truth is, money is necessary if you want to make a living making. Sure, you can make things as a side job (and many do, and that’s great too!) but it’s also great to make that leap into making full time, with permission from yourself.