Demoralized, Depressed, and Defeated

….yes, those three words describe the entirity of my weekend at the Indie Craft Experience in Atlanta. Never, in my wildest of cynical moments did I think I would do as poorly as I did.

Three.

Customers.

Yeah, three. In two days. Fourteen hours of manning my booth, and I had only three customers. Not only did I lose my shirt this weekend, I lost my pants, my underwear, my shoes, and any semblance of dignity. I didn’t even make enough money to cover my booth fee, not to mention the hotel room, the gas to get there, and the cost of the canvases and prints.

Really, it was humiliating. I cried on the drive home.

Okay, in all honesty, I had five customers. My mom and dad actually drove all the way to Atlanta to see me on Saturday, which touched me so much I nearly cried. I can’t begin to tell you how much it meant to me to see them in the crowd; to feel their love and support was immeasurably wonderful. Thank you, mom and dad! I love you more than I could ever say!

My fifth customer was the FAMOUS Jennifer West, whose The Jen West Quest Blog should be on your blogroll if it’s not already. We went to high school together and have kept in touch via Facebook, but not seen each other since at least our 10-year reunion, which was…..uh, like five years ago. (Dear GOD!) She absolutely made my day and we’re going to grab lunch very soon. Love, love, LOVE me some Jen West!

Anyhow, back to my tale of woe and heartache.

The show itself is really cool, and I was impressed to be among so many talented people, but the bitter taste of so few people expressing any kind of interest in my work was really, really demoralizing. I felt like a total failure, like someone with absolutely no talent. A total fraud. It was a terrible feeling, about as bad as when someone dumps you or you fail an important test in school. A handful of people told me that they loved my work, and honestly, that was all that kept me going, so thank you, Kind Strangers, for your words of encouragement, because I desperately needed them.

I spent much of yesterday and today feeling like a fool for telling everyone how I got into such a cool show, and how awesome it was going to be, and how excited I was. Like, now I have to eat my words and let everyone down because so many people have been so supportive and said so many kind things, and I basically failed in the most public and humiliating of ways. When you put so MUCH of yourself into your art and spend so much time honing your craft and striving for perfection, it’s really hard not to take it personally when so many people walk by your work without much more than a glance. It hurts.

My wonderful husband had a lot nice things to say about me on our way home, when I hit rock bottom (well, I also hit rock bottom today in the ladies room when I had my first Good Cry). And you know what I realized? He’s right. I am good. I am talented. I do have a style. I am WORTHY. This show may not have proven that in any way, but it doesn’t take away the fact that photography is what I love, what I spend my time dreaming of, and ultimately, what makes me happiest in life. (Apart from icky, mushy things like my husband, my cats, my friends, and my family.)

Maybe this wasn’t my kind of show. Maybe this wasn’t my kind of audience. The only way I can really fail is if I let this defeat me. And I will not let this weekend defeat me. I will put a lampshade on my head until tomorrow and have the most rocking Pity Party you ever did see, but tomorrow I’m going to wake up, realize I have a ton of great inventory to put in my store, and keep on keeping on.

Floral Macro Photography

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20 Comments on “Demoralized, Depressed, and Defeated”

  1. K. Smith says:

    Head up Buttercup. I think we all have these moments at one time or another. We put so much into our work and then for it not to work out how we visioned is heartbreaking. So have your cry, a glass of wine (or 4), and look ahead to what is next. Just think, you may have had 3/5 customers..but how many thousands saw your name and your work. You never know what that exposure may bring in the future.

  2. jackie says:

    umm… you see that photo in the wooden holder on the left. the front one – the orange flower and blue sky? i need that. you may bill me at our next lunch… obviously, you’re MY kind of art! πŸ™‚
    -jackie

    p.s. i bet none of them had a major retailer purchase one of their pieces… so ehhh on them πŸ˜‰

  3. Kattie says:

    I agree TOTALLY with your husband ( and not because of course I’m biased in every way!) but Deborah I do know how you feel. My first art show was a total flop! I sold one painting ! Even though it was a total stranger I felt validated that somebody saw my talent! You ARE a fantastic artist and you see things other people don’t! You have a terrific talent! Target noticed for gosh sakes! Your booth looked wonderful and very professionally put together! Not everybody wants certain things at certain times! It was still an honor to be picked for this event! Don’t look it as a failure look at it as an adventure and now you have things already waiting for your customers who LOVE your art and you WILL sell it in the future! Your parents are sweethearts to come and support you! That says a bunch! We all think your talent is fantastic and We KNOW you are going to be a star one day soon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    We love you and your work!
    Kattie

  4. Gina V says:

    Sorry your weekend was so sad for you. I’ve never put myself out there like you did so I’ve never experienced the rejection or emotions, but I do empathize as much as I am able, because we all know what it’s like to some degree to want so badly for a good thing to happen and it not happen just as we dreamed. I hope you keep putting yourself out there and find the right place to draw an audience. I believe you have talent. I believe in you. You captured beautiful moments of my dog and for that I am eternally grateful. Whiskey and I send you all our love and good vibes. -g&w

  5. Liz S says:

    I think you are very brave to write a post like this. Thank you so much for sharing. I feel a lot less alone now.

  6. Amy Carson says:

    You, my friend, are an amazing artist and a fabulous friend. If I was a baller, I’d totally buy all your art πŸ™‚

  7. You’re very, very brave to share so honestly. Hey, and you’re not alone! So much about what we do as makers & sellers force us to bare our souls, to risk vulnerability in very public ways….and yeah, it’s not easy sometimes.

    For me, I have to remember why I do this thing – because I love it and it feeds my soul and fills my heart and allows me to live passionately – and the rest? It’s out of my hands. I find that the more I stay out of the result, the more I seek to fulfill myself rather than wild expectations (I try not to even HAVE those), the more successful I feel.

    I love your photographs. Chin up! You’ll find the market and clientele that fits you, and not the other way around. The only way we fail is if we give up! =)

  8. Your photos are lovely and your booth looked nice. You are correct that part of the battle is finding the right venue with the right audience for your work. If you do more shows, you might want to consider some lower price points with items such as cards (or not, but these often sell well for me when my larger things aren’t selling). You were very brave to put yourself out there for your first show to be such a big one that also included travel. My shows have been smaller, local events. Good luck in the future.

  9. Laura F says:

    First of all have the pity party. I’ve never had this kind of experience with a creative endeavor (because I’m not creative at all, so I’ve never tried), but in other stumbles I have found pity parties to be therapeutic. You’ll know when to stop. And then as Jay-Z (or are we just calling him Blue Ivy Carter’s Dad now? I’m not sure.) would tell you “Go on brush ya shoulders off.” You’re so talented. You have so much to offer. I can’t wait to see what you do next.

  10. abraalani says:

    I would be having a good cry too right about now, but don’t let one show’s worth of people get you too far down.
    You ARE brave for sharing this experience, and I for one really appreciate hearing that I’m not the only one not selling my work (though I’m not brave enough to try in person yet). And it sounds like you’re right, that wasn’t the show for you. But how would you have know if you didn’t try, right?
    I have been loving your pet photography work, so much in fact that I was inspired to post a few notices and business cards at dog parks here in the Seattle area to see about building my own pet portfolio.
    I love the look of your booth, it looks beautiful, your prints are colorful and eye catching, sometimes people are dumb. Don’t worry about them, you’ll find your right clientele soon enough. Keep up the great work.

  11. Phwoffy says:

    I think you take absolutely beautiful photos. If I lived in the States and had a cat who didn’t hate strangers I’d demand you come and take pictures of him. And if I had any money whatsoever I’d be having that lovely photo at the top right of the display (purpler flower).

    Obviously people just don’t have taste!

  12. burstmode says:

    I preface my comments with the warning: I have no artistic background, so please take what I am going to say with a grain of salt.

    I picked up the camera solely to slow down life and enjoy my children. I was older when they were born and my experienced friends all told me how fast it went. I thought that photography might slow it down. Perhaps it has.

    Along the way, I discovered that I have some artistic ability and it was flower macros that helped develop my ability. Soon, I was transferring what I’d learned with flowers to portraits and even architecture. I used the flowers to broaden my skills (although I didn’t realize that is what I was doing).

    As I gained more skill in portraits and architectural shots, I found my flower photos improved. I started applying different techniques and this helped me view flowers differently. What I was doing, without realizing it, was breaking out of the mold.

    Flowers are, ultimately, erotic. How you show that eroticism is what distinguishes you from anyone else with a good macro lens. It is no different, I suppose, from the photographer that specializes in nudes. While all nudes are ultimately erotic, we easily distinguish art from pornography.

    With flowers, the eroticism is different. We have no caveats about displaying the naked attraction of the flower yet we all recognize that attraction even if we don’t call it that. You already understand the attraction. You know its there and that is what draws you to photograph the flowers.

    But the danger is that in understanding the power of the flower, we somehow trap ourselves into seeing the flower in only this way. It is easy to photograph the nude and make pornography but it is not so easy to make the nude into art. I think you are at a crossroads and you’ve received that news in a jolting way. Your show was not an indication of your skill or abilities but rather that people did not see the art inherent in your work. Don’t be discouraged but rather, re-evaluate your work. Let your mind go and don’t trap yourself. Break out of your mold, reconstruct reality, allow your imagination the freedom to do the different and accept the wrong as another way to do a thing.

    Aaron Siskind wrote “We look at the world and see what we have learned to believe is there. We have been conditioned to expect…but, as photographers, we must learn to relax our beliefs.”

    Michael

    • What an absolutely amazing, inspiring comment! Thank you so much for taking the time to write it. I am reading it again to absorb all of your wonderful thoughts. I very much appreciate it.

      xoxo,
      Deborah


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