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dressing for success (and starving artists)

updated mon 27 aug 12


Dina Barnese on thu 23 aug 12

I enjoyed reading Snail's take on the starving artist and dressing for
different occasions. You are right, we have to make conscious choices on
how to present ourselves, whether we're dressed to the nines or sloppy.

I've never had so much angst over what to wear as I have these past two
months. Before this, I worked in a professional setting at a university. It
was easy to get dressed for the day and bring a change of clothes for
working out or for the studio at the end of the day. Now I'm working the
studio and my gallery full-time and I face this conundrum nearly every day:
I need to work in the studio, so set the gallery up for the day, then put a
small sign on the door that says, "I'm working out in the studio, come on
back!" - and when customers come I bring them into the gallery so they can
have a look around and (hopefully!) shop.

I'm sure you see the issue here - I am representing the gallery in my
studio clothes and while I do try to dress fairly nice, I'm still wearing
clothes with clay on them and dirty clogs and it is entirely possible that
I have clay on my face or in my hair. I can't get away from this. I want to
represent my place as professionally as possible but I do not have money to
hire somebody to gallery-sit for me at this time. Maybe next year. So, I
wear the best working clothes I have, I fix my hair and wear makeup (not
much but enough), and put on my friendliest smile and attitude and hope my
shining personality shows through my studio attire. :-)

Along those same lines but a different subject - early on I would bring
folks into the gallery and sit down and futz around on the iPad while they
shopped. It was pretty obvious that I was hanging out until they finished,
and I think it made folks uncomfortable and rushed. I know it made me feel
that way, and also made me feel like I was losing valuable production time.
I figured out that I need to have a project that I can work on inside, so
now when I set up the gallery I also set up a small project at the checkout
table - working on small sculpture, painting pieces or carving soap dishes
- those things that need to be done and aren't too messy. Something to keep
me busy and productive and occupied, so folks can take as much time as
they'd like. And, they can watch me work if they like, too.

This sure is a bigger learning curve than I'd anticipated, but it's fun!

Dina Barnese
Zizziba Studio
Flagstaff, Arizona

Snail Scott on thu 23 aug 12

On Aug 23, 2012, at 9:46 AM, Dina Barnese wrote:
> ...I am representing the gallery in my
> studio clothes and while I do try to dress fairly nice, I'm still wearing
> clothes with clay on them and dirty clogs and it is entirely possible tha=
> I have clay on my face or in my hair...

I definitely get it. The nice thing about clogs,
though, it they cone off fast. Keep a set of clean
nice slip-ons or clogs just inside the gallery door,
to swap for the studio clogs. And an apron can
be whipped off in an instant. At least a pottery
gallery can have a different dress code than a
gallery selling Minimalist paintings for six figures!

For a time, I taught at a tiny private college,
where I was warned to keep a 'professional'
look by the previous clay instructor, who'd been
reprimanded for looking scruffy. After teaching
three sections then mixing more clay, it's tough to
look like you've been teaching English, though.
My strategy was to wear beige khakis the color of
our shop clay when dry, and print tops with beige
in the pattern to hide the splatters. Not my usual
taste, but it seemed to work, most of the time. I
even found a pair of thrift-store designer trousers
in beige with a pattern of watercolor-effect splashes,
for the days when I had to teach 2-D design with
paint. Then, on Alumni Visiting Day, I walked past
a gaggle of visitors and heard, "Oh, my God, it's
Art Department Camouflage!" And I thought I was
being subtle...oh, well. At least I had the admin
folks fooled!

-Snail on sun 26 aug 12

A stark dramatic example of 'dressing for success' can be found in the li=
of sculptor Louise Nevelson.

During much of her midlife, she lived in extreme,gritty poverty; living i=
NYC, in a rat infested space where she could at least collect materials a=
work. Nevelson also had to keep up the appearance of 'an artist' ,and had=
figure out how to put herself together enough to 'pass' and attend art=3D2=

openings in other parts of the city .Probably or the food as much as seri=
endeavors to get her work shown. And this was in the late 40s, and 50s,
where a woman didn't just show up in black leggings and a wild top.=3D20

It was not until she was in her late sixties i believe, that Nevelson
finally got a major exhibit and in her 70s began to make some money. It w=
at that time she cultivated the exotic look she is now known for: the la=
eyelashes, caftans , etc.. She enjoyed the heck out of it, saying she had=

worked so hard for so long, she enjoyed every minute of her late bloomin=

The 'starving artist' has become a myth , even a caricature. people thin=
it is something artists strive for. It is not. Poverty is not romantic.=3D=

Nevelson sacrificed a great deal for her work, and some would say she was=

selfish in her pursuit of her work. She did not 'choose poverty ' as much=
she was absolutely driven to keep working. Fortunately she lived long eno=
to reap some rewards from it.