And of course, as it so often is, I realised I was afraid. Over the years I've mainly sold my masks through chance meetings with people, through exhibitions and to friends and family. People who could see my creations in the flesh, touch them, explore them, and I find that a rewarding and very inspiring experience. I also sold a few via the internet. These were more often individually commissioned pieces, for a wedding, for a masquerade, for a photo shoot perhaps. But I found that a wholly different experience, always very stressful and full of worry! It seemed to just trigger all those feeling of self-doubt about my art that I try and keep neatly tucked away. To be honest I didn't find it a remotely enjoyable experience even though the people who I had created pieces for were always so kind and thankfully very happy with their masks!
Requiem- Private commission
I just didn't feel comfortable about people buying what they couldn't actually see for real. I am also very aware that compared to many artists I create very few pieces. Sometimes people must be wondering what I'm doing with my time as months pass by and I have nothing new to share. Well this is mainly due to the fact that my mask-making is fitted around my full-time job. However it is also because over time it has become more natural for me to allow the masks that want to be made to find me, rather than thinking, well maybe I could make this mask or that mask now because that would probably be popular and sell. The scarcity of time I have to devote to them has made the choice of the mask I give those precious hours to far more important and personal than it has ever been before.
I've come up with all sorts of plans to make my work more accessible. Creating masks that I can more easily reproduce if people want them. I quickly got very bored and frustrated with that :-/ For me, once I have made a mask and solved all the problems that come up in the creation of that piece I want to take those new skills onto the next new piece. I love challenge and pushing myself ever onward! I got irritated remaking work, it made me feel as if I were standing still and took the pleasure and excitement out of creation and those are the things that fuel my mask-making passion. I love the journey, the exploration the surprise of each fresh new mask I make :-) I've tried creating simpler pieces to reduce the time spent on each one. That didn't work for me either. I experimented with other materials that again would reduce time, meaning I could create more work. No joy :-/ For me personally, nothing could beat the versatility and possibilities of working with paper. My plans always came to nothing and I eventually admitted to myself that I had to concentrate on what felt right for me, and so that place is where my masks all spring from now ;-)
Along with everything else, I also realised that it was becoming more difficult for me to part with the masks I was making, They have become more intensely personal. I want to keep them close, to work with them and see what they could tell me or teach me. But the projects I am working on now or are to come are getting ever more ambitions, complex and in many cases larger and I have only so much limited space in which to keep my work. So I became very aware earlier this year that I really would have to offer some of my previous pieces for sale. Not an easy decision especially as I realised that the most practical way to do that was via Etsy... so back to the scary realms of long distance selling, that I had run away from for so long!
Decision made, it still wasn't easy, but I was actually helped by one of the masks I was working on. "The Storyteller" was proving to be a much more complex piece than I had thought and I needed to create all sorts of different parts for her. I made leaves with eyes and eyed leaf moths! I was so thrilled to get such good reactions to these that I was inspired to turn some of them into brooches! This then began nudging me gently towards Etsy again and so I understood it was now time to finally take a deep breath face down all that self doubt and set up my Etsy shop for real! So it's all done and come Saturday I'm on leave from work for a week so no excuses and plenty of time to begin putting up pieces for sale :-)
I know that this may seem a very long and waffling post but I hope it explains me and my work a little more :-)