Friday, 18 February 2011
just for the record
it's a tricky business, making a living as an artist. many of us have to wait tables and wash dishes at some point just to keep body and soul together. i have taught school [paid and also unpaid], painted scarves for the tourist trade, cleaned hotel rooms [nasty] and worked in dress stores [strangely entertaining]. i have driven exhibition trucks and toured art [made by others] to remote corners of the state.
that was then.
now i am in the fortunate position of being able to juggle teaching [mostly adults who actually want to learn and don't need me to engage my best theatrical skills in order to secure their attention], writing [the odd commissioned texts for set fees as well as the more rewarding sole author trips ie Eco Colour and the soon-to-be-unleashed Second Skin] and exhibiting. sometimes if i am lucky i have the time to make a few dresses and in between i am grateful to Leigh Warren for offering me costume work.
this is not a hobby. it is my life and my profession. it supports not only me but also three children, 6 rescue cats, 5 elderly horses, a wind-dumped parrot and several bunnies. one day i hope that list will again include a Border Collie or two.
yes, i do get to travel to interesting places...but no, mostly being crammed into cattle class for long flights isn't a great deal of fun [even with gin and hours of stitching]. it's getting harder to bounce back after those long flights so i have to schedule a recovery/adjustment day after each one.
yes, i amass flyer points and sorry folks, i do insist on flying [as far as possible] with Qantas. loyalty pays off and call me old-fashioned but i like to think that the pilots know what they are doing. if the wings fall off they'll calmly deal with it, rather than screaming and leaping for the nearest parachute. so no, i won't fly with the cheapest airline just to save a few pennies.
it all sounds very exotic but lining up the ducks is not so easy as it seems.
i really don't know what artists did before credit cards were invented. maybe it's why some of them cut off their ears. think about it. in order to fulfill my commitments i usually have to organise and pay for my flights in advance. this year i have one European trip, three trans-Pacific flights and have just put some weeks in NZ behind me. in between there are several gigs in Australia. unless i personally take bookings from students [in which case, thank you dear friends, there is cash in the kitty] i am paid at the end of an engagement. sometimes the cheque doesn't arrive until a month or two after.
administration is not my forte. recently i found a cheque in my travel kit that was over 6 months old and could no longer be presented to the bank. i'm still blushing with embarrassment.
i drive a fifteen-year-old car and don't buy new clothes [except for knickers and socks]. i don't go "on vacation". when at home i work seven days a week [admittedly because sitting around doing nothing ain't my gig]
anyway you look at it, this way of life requires a substantial turnover of $
the funny thing is, i can work as hard as i like and fill my year with a squillion trips but in the end, each year i net roughly the same amount of money once expenses have been taken into account. and it's frankly not enough to fund a pension plan so i'll probably still be tottering on to planes at 90, hoping someone out there is still interested in listening.
if you're still reading you may be wondering what my point is.
i'm trying to explain why i don't haggle, give discounts or sleep on couches [9 times out of 10 i find homestays involve interrogations over breakfast and dinner and by the time i get to class i am already worn out and can't remember what i was going to say].
these days when people start to quibble and mutter about my fees, i just back away. this is why i am not teaching in Belgium, Holland or Italy this year. it is also why i will be attempting to present a tri-lingual class in Switzerland and enthusiastically visiting Canada and the US several times and one of many reasons why i will continue to delightedly visit my beloved Aotearoa.
argue with me and i run. treat me as you would any other professional person [would you ask for discounts from your lawyer, dentist or car mechanic?] and i will respond by giving it my all and handing out chocolate against "day 4 syndrome"
and at the end of the day, Dogs willing and with a fair wind, i wouldn't want to be doing anything else. thanks folks. bless y'all.