In the midst of my KonMari decluttering, I wondered what to do with some of my mosaic art. Diverse pieces created between 2007 and 2012 had not sold when I actively engaged with this medium. During those years, I designed and maintained a website and a Facebook page. I served as vice president of a mosaic art group, organized exhibits, displayed my work in galleries, at open studios and in shows. Several of my mosaics found their way into books and I even overcame my reticence to give a talk. Lots of people loved my mosaics yet fewer bought or commissioned them. As an introvert, I relished creating art and doing print and online marketing more than the process of selling in person; one reason I made art was so it could speak for itself. Mine was not the charismatic artist persona that could easily schmooze or woo clients. And perhaps I was too stubborn with my pricing, wanting to be paid a decent wage for the hours invested in each piece, rather than underpricing my work in order to move it.
About a month ago, after posting some of my furniture on Craigslist, a fiber artist came to my apartment. She admired one of my mosaics hanging on a wall, which I hadn’t planned to sell. She did not buy anything on the spot, but later we spoke via phone to discuss furniture pricing and wound up talking about the creative life. She asked me what I planned to do with my mosaics. She believed that art shouldn’t pile up in a person’s studio or be stored in boxes, but hang on walls. I made a mental note.
Faced with many heavy mosaics that, while still interesting, no longer brought me joy, I decided to give them away even if I had to pay for shipping to do so. That was far preferable to throwing them out, donating or consigning them. I posted an album on Facebook called “Dropping Weight: The Great Art Giveaway!”, and invited folks to contact me if they wanted to adopt a mosaic. Within a few hours, all nine of them had found homes, each distinct piece matched with its new owner across the land.
The reactions surprised and delighted me. One woman wrote me a joyfully ecstatic note of gratitude that made me burst into a grin. Another, whom I had never met in person, offered to drive the 40 minutes from Denver to Boulder to pick up her mosaic and to deliver them to others who lived near her to save me shipping costs. She also insisted on giving me a tip. Others insisted on paying for shipping. One man offered me one of his poetry chap books. A few folks, uneasy at the prospect of receiving free art, wanted to offer money in return, but weren’t sure how much would be appropriate. While my intention had been to give the art away, I was not opposed to receiving what others sincerely wanted to give. For some, it was important to honor the work I had done as an artist and to belatedly honor their unrealized intentions to purchase a piece. Payment seemed the best way to do that. Yet in the spirit of my initial offering, I felt uncomfortable naming a specific dollar amount. Since these artworks had not sold at their original prices, did even I know what they were worth?
In some spiritual settings, teachings and retreats are offered on a donation basis or sliding scale, where participants contribute an amount that feels commensurate with what they learned or experienced and that is within their means. It’s more of a co-creative than consumerist approach. Having attended such events, it’s empowering to discern how much to give that feels comfortable and good, rather than having another person determine the monetary value. At times I’ve been moved to give a great deal, other times less. So it was with my art, which I didn’t want to price even when asked. Indeed, I was curious how much people would send me on their own, if that is what they chose to do. It was an exercise I would not have attempted when my art was freshly made, my attachment to it strong and my ego more easily bruised. With some distance from the work, and the momentum of the KonMari method building, it seemed like a good time to experiment, to remain with the uncertainty and to accept with gratitude and, ideally, without judgment, whatever came my way.
To my delight, a few people were inspired to give quite generously (is that a judgment?!) in the “spiritual transaction” of exchanging art for money. More importantly, they were eager to share their reactions to my work and how and where they would hang it. That my artwork had sparked a conversation between me and many of the recipients completed the art making process, in some cases years after I had finished my own dialogue with the work. Inspired, I decided to give other mosaics to some friends, selecting pieces especially for them. Knowing that my work will hang on walls and will be appreciated is, for me, priceless, as is the lightness I feel for having dropped weight.