Friday, February 17, 2006

The Artist's Angst

My older daughter is an artist who makes a decent living by selling her work on eBay. She has control over when she works, how long she works, and her colors and designs. She has no control over how much bidders are willing to pay for her work.

Sometimes an auction ends at a price that’s so low it scares her. How will she pay her bills if she can’t get more than that for her work? Why didn’t the bidders like that piece? Has she lost her touch?

More often, lately, the prices soar beyond her expectations, and even though she is delighted, she worries that her customers might be disappointed that they’ve spent so much once they get her work in their hands. So far, there have been no disappointments, and buyers keep coming back for more.

Once in a while, like yesterday, an auction climbs so high that there’s no rational explanation for it. When that happens, the online bulletin boards begin to buzz as my daughter’s peers watch the auction action and call it to the attention of others. People in Germany and the U.K., in addition to the good ol’ USA, chat about why this particular auction is going so high. Ninety-five percent of the posters are positive, praising her work and writing variants of "You go, girl!" But five percent cannot stand it. They criticize the work and the artist, question the authenticity of the bidding, and comment about the "rich bitches" who spend their money so freely.

My daughter smiles as she reads the posts of the ninety-five percent and then, somehow, those posts vaporize and she doesn’t think about them anymore. But the negative five percent, those are sticky. They cut, they burn, they don’t go away. She reads them again and tries to understand why people would write such mean things. The whole time she reads them, the whole time we talk about it, and the whole time they sit in the back of her head and nag at her, the posters are achieving their desired result: to bring her down. Down to where they are.

So here’s something else for you to think about, Sweet Girl:

"It is in the character of very few men to honor without envy a friend who has prospered."
Aeschylus"

Envy is like a fly that passes all the body's sounder parts, and dwells upon the sores."
Arthur Chapman

"Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all. "
Joseph Epstein

"Fools may our scorn, not envy, raise. For envy is a kind of praise."
John Gay

"If malice or envy were tangible and had a shape, it would be the shape of a boomerang."
Charley Reese

"I love you."
Mom

16 comments:

  1. The cream always rises to the top in the end!
    C

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  2. Hm... do I have to have a BLOGGER account to leave a comment? If so, consider it done.

    Wonderful writing, which I wouldn't have found had I not visited your daughter's site today.

    Thank you both.

    My comment on this entry is that yes!... I run an online discussion group and good god it's SO easy to forget about the oddles and oddles of warm, sincere, friendly compliments and dwell, instead, on the one or two bitter snipes. ARGH! Why do we do this?

    Since when does animosity outweigh kindness?

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  3. Your writing is as beautiful as your daughters beads! You are both very lucky to have each other.

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  4. I for one was absolutely thrilled to see Kims beads go for such wonderfully high amounts, when I read some of the sites I thought "BITCHES", how could they say that, but then realized whatever the medium there will always be envy, bitterness, judging etc, which I suppose is just human nature to a very SMALL group of women..... She is the one artist on eBay I have admired and enjoyed looking forward to seeing her beads at any time, and can only dream of the day I can be 1/2 as good!!!. I am so happy to see all the positive comments and so happy to be able to say how I felt about all this "GOSSIP" .Kim has always talked about what a wonderful mom you are to her on her site and it is so nice to meet you here. She is an incredible artist and you are very lucky to have each other.
    Amanda Craigmyle
    THE CRAFTIER SIDE

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  5. I just love how Kim keeps doing her thing, and doing it so well, despite all the spiteful crap she's had to wade through, literally for years. It can't be easy. If I ever win the lottery, I'm gonna score me some Kim Neely beads!

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  6. Welcome. Thanks for your nice comments and for your support of Kim and her art. I got lucky twice in the "daughters department," and I'm so grateful to have both of them in my life.

    I've lurked on LE long enough that I feel like I know some of you. Hope you'll drop in again.

    Kim's mom

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  7. I've looked up to Kim as an artist for a long time. As a beadmaker, I really admire her work, and I admire her character. Thank you for saying what you did. You both are lucky to have eachother!!

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  8. I am so happy that Kim mentioned your blog on her site. Kim talks about you often and I know it hurts you to see her hurt, it's every mother's nightmare.

    Kim has so many admirers that the petty few shouldn't bother her but I know it does. As c commented "cream always rises to the top". Thanks for your comments on your blog, it means a lot to me too!

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  9. I can certainly see why Kim is so proud of her Mom's writing. Actually, you brought tears to my eyes because my Mom and I had just such a relationship. A very special one, as you have with your daughter. I have long since been an admirer of Kim, as a person, and of Kim's artistry. Occassionally, I have e-mailed her about a special set that has struck me to the core. She has always responded with grace, as you would know. The lampwork community is fortunate to have such a member. That her sets go for extraordinary prices is, well, NOT at all surprising. They are a reflection of her. And, as it turns out, she's a reflection of you. So, I admire you both. Thank you for letting Kim share you with us.

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  10. I've loved Kim's beads ever since I discovered lampworking and have had some very interesting and insightful conversations with her over the years. She is a true gift to the world.

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  11. Kim, Mom; glass, class. Ahhhh.....it just doesn't get any better than this.

    A great big hug to you both!

    Smiles,
    Priss

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  12. It's great to see so many familiar names right here on my own site. What a terrific, talented bunch of ladies. I've enjoyed seeing both your words and your work on LE.

    Noel, special thanks to you for setting the record straight in the thread you started on LE the other night. I know Kim appreciates the support you've given her through the years, and your own work is beautiful, as well.

    Thank you all so much for taking the time to leave comments--especially such nice ones.

    Kim's mom

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  13. Hi Kim and Mom,

    I have to say this first: Velvet was the name of a Siamese cat we had when my children were small. 4 months old and so feisty and afraid that the shelter was going to put her down without attempting to adopt her out. I've always loved a challenge, so I took her home. My daughter named her, and she lived up to her name--smooth, sleek and slinky. Like a typical siamese, however, she could be a tiger, especially when anyone messed with her kids. Sound familiar, Mom.

    I have to say that I am fairly new to the lampworking community. Most of my work over the years has involved the use of precious and semiprecious gemstones, and it is only recently that I have even considered selling on ebay. You can have a quality product, but unless someone out there knows you, it is easy to either get passed over or end up selling an item for far less than it is worth.

    I, too, have watched Kim'a bead prices soar, even bookmarked the page from The Perfect Storm II, so I could show it to my husband. His response was typical of someone who tolerates, but does not understand, my bead obsession. "What are they made of, platinum?"

    The only problem I have had with the fact that bidding went well beyond my means is jealousy, pure and simple. Not of the artist; sometimes we do not place a high enough value on our own work. My husband does beautiful ink and pencil art (he even did portrait sketches for my daughter's funeral, three 11 x 14 pics in an after noon, simple pencil sketches), but he does not see the value. The bottom line is: No one can put a price on an artist's work except the person who is willing to pay that price. My jealousy stemmed from the fact that, darn, I was unable to get a set once again. Makes one wish that certain people would take a bidding holiday...lol. You go, Kim, and enjoy not only the popularity but also the notoriety. Notoriety usually is promoted by those who have an axe to grind, because they have not experienced the same success. I am just now exploring whether or not to begin making my own beads, as my habit has become rather expensive, but I can't imagine becoming as good as Kim.

    My other comment is this: Good for you, Mom, that you show such love and support for your daughter. My 18 year olddaughter died in her sleep on 1/3/06 as a result of prescription medications she was given for migraines. Her web page is www.albn.org, if you would like to see her pretty face and read the poem her 20 year old sister wrote. I relish the fact that you two have the kind of relationship I have always have with my daughters. It makes me smile and cry at the same time, because Chrystal will never again come home from college for a weekend and put together a piece that I would never have thought of. She has influenced my design in that she has always thought "outside the box," forcing me to do so as well, in order to understand her better. Now when I do a piece where I can feel her influence, it usually turns out to be extraordinary, and I usually don't have it long enough to list it on ebay. May you and your daughters always keep this special closeness and love. Sometimes, it's those memories and the fact that I know that Chrystal is no longer in pain that keeps me going. It may sound strange, but it often feels like she is standing right beside me, saying, "Don't cry, Mom. I'm fine." Of course, that's when the waterworks are at their worst. And one other thing, Velvet, the fact that Kim has had your love and support in her life is, no doubt, the reason she has achieved such success. It will also help her through the tough times, because she and her mom are obviously strong women.

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  14. Airmee99, I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your daughter. I can't imagine the pain of that kind of loss. After reading your comment, I went to your daughter's webpage; it's a beautiful tribute to her. Thanks for sharing.

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  15. I have always admired Kim's "class" (and of course her art!!), I see exactly where she gets her class and her talent for words. What a lovely thoughtful name "Velvet Sacks", I can see myself sitting with my grandmother at the table, with her holding a vevlvet sack, pulling out trinkets and sharing the story. And a simple note in regards to this post in particular, did you ever see Pretty Woman? Julia Roberts tells Richard Gere in a tender moment "it is easier to beleive the bad stuff" It is a struggle sometimes to forget all the wonderful comments and have the negative ones stick, I am glad you are part of Kim's life to help "unstick" the negative comments and pull up the positive ones!!

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  16. Thanks, Katie. I liked your description of sitting with your grandmother--nice imagery. And "Pretty Woman" is one of my favorites, but I hadn't thought of it in this context.

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