17 June 2008

sometimes

Some mornings I wake up feeling excited about the projects I have lined up and awaiting me on my work table. I get into the swing of things at the studio fairly easily, losing myself in my work until it's three or four in the afternoon and I realize that I haven't had lunch yet. I finish things, photograph them, and feel a sense of satisfaction as I color-correct the images before I post them onto Flickr and then the blog. I even get little surges of hope and promise when I think of the things I can do with this, the places I can take this softie-making venture, a book or two perhaps, so many new designs to work out, patterns I'd like to publish, so many wonderful things I can do if I just pursue those options.

Some mornings I am not so enthusiastic and optimistic about this all. I make the mistake of checking Flickr as I have my breakfast and see that a way more popular and almost "legendary" softie-maker has once again beat me to the punch. While I spent the last week or two up to my eyeballs in mice and bats and bunnies, working on more of the same, this person has come up with a new design, and not just any new design, but the same animal I have been sketching and planning and dreaming of making and in a very similar construction. It's as if they lifted the pattern out of my imagination. Granted, it is their own style; had it come from my hands, it would surely look different. But that's not the point. The point is that in this industry, as with any creative field, if you snooze, you lose. Time is always of the essence, and sleeping on what you know is a great design is going to cost you. I have been so stupid. I keep trying to take control of my shop and make what I want to make, but I end up making the same old stuff because it's "what people want." I respond to what people most request, but it seems like this last batch of softies fell short of the mark, which I shouldn't take to heart or be discouraged by. It's not a big deal. It happens. That's life. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.

What is a big deal is how I have been feeling about doing this for much longer because I gotta be honest, I am not so thrilled with the way things are going. Right now, I am thinking that I really have to go back to school and get my Master's or possibly even go for a PhD so that I am not the only person in Cambridge with only a *gasp!* B... F... A.... I want to do more than this. As it is, I finally came to the realization that I made a huge mistake in pursuing art as a career. I feel as if I had been lying to myself my whole life and finally woke up to the truth. I don't want to ever do illustration again. I don't want to do graphics and color-correct images all day or do freelance design crap. There is nothing wrong with that line of work, but it is not for me. I keep trying to convince myself that it is, but it's not. Neither is working at an office answering someone's phones, playing the role of the file monkey. So what do I want to do? I have been thinking about that a lot lately. For the last two years, I thought this was what I wanted to do, and for a while, it was going in the right direction. Am I calling it quits too soon? Or have I done all I can with this? I feel like there are so many more options to explore with this, but I maybe I am not working hard enough at this. I failed myself by not making this particular softie sooner, and this is not the first time I have done this. It happened before when I was thinking of making little space aliens that come with their own spaceship. Great idea, right? I slept on it, and someone else beat me to something that was too similar for me to go through with my idea without looking like a copycat. I frigging dropped the ball big time there. Am I mismanaging my time? Well, I must be, if not I would have finished that design much sooner. Should I even bother going through with my version? Maybe, but I feel a little strangely about it now because I feel like my vision has been tainted and informed by theirs and I will be paranoid about the possibility that someone out there will think, "Oh, look, she made a turkey or an otter or an elephant. Psh! Whatever! So-and-so made one last week and it was SO much better." I am trying not to be jealous, and I love and respect this person's work, so I certainly don't begrudge them their successes. I am telling myself, "Just do you. Just do you." The words feel a little hollow at the moment. I'm wondering why I should continue doing this if I don't seem to be doing it on my own terms and keep coming up short of the mark. As I have said before, I try to make people happy and keep the shop stocked with the items I get requests for, but I am not making myself happy by regurgitating the same patterns over and over and not allowing myself to work on the new stuff that I need to work on if I want this venture to succeed. So what to do? I'll think of something. In the meanwhile, the next update is still scheduled for this Friday, and it's going to be bat-astic. (P.S. - Puns still make me happy.)

21 comments:

Barbara Prime said...

I know where you're coming from. I think you should still go through with your idea, although, maybe you'll think of something different and even better tomorrow and have nothing to worry about.

Maybe you should work on getting some patterns published. I find that extra income gives me more time to work on new ideas, rather than rushing to make bunches of the same old toys so I can make enough money to cover expenses. I would love to test out any patterns you come up with (maybe we could even do an exchange ;)

knitography said...

Totally unsolicited advice, but you should make what pleases YOU, what makes YOUR creative juices flow. If you do that, you'll disappoint some people sure, but you'll please some new people too. Your customers should inform your business, but they shouldn't run it.

quaint handmade said...

maritza, quite simply your work is exceptional. it does not even slightly resemble anything i've seen, and i think i know who you're talking about. i have one of your mice and it's hard to to believe it's handmade. it's so perfect.

i have no advice for you, but i hear what you're saying. i worked in management consulting and one thing i learned was that the middle part of a project/venture is the hardest.

it's not exciting like when you start. or, as rewarding when you finish. it's just the day to day routine. i think you might be there now.

you will find your path, but you should know that you've created something that is very special to people.

xo, cindy

Mintyfresh said...

If it's any consolation, YOU are the biggest softie maker I know, so I'm not even aware of another animal's release. Also, it is so hard to have an idea in your head and start work on it and then see something else similar out there (I have this issue with knitting pattern stuff too sometimes). Sometimes you just gotta stick to your own thing and not worry about it. But you seem to be questioning a move of much bigger proportions; not sure how to advise you on that.

Kat said...

I dropped out of high school to be a ballet dancer. Then, I realized that dancing 8 hours a day 6 days a week constantly comparing myself to other better dancers made me miserable. I went to college and have a BA and MA in math. Because I left the professional ballet environment I stopped driving myself crazy and fell in love with it again. Sometimes I wish that I had stuck it out professionally, but I know I am happier dancing regularly and teaching some classes for FUN.

If making softies as your job is sapping your joy in making softies, then maybe it is time to make some sort of change. If your joy is being sapped by trying to make people happy, there will be a lot more people who would be sad to see you stop completely then there would be people upset with you for slowing down on shop updates to chart cool new softy frontiers.

Now my personal wish is for you to make a pattern book so that I can make my own softy goodness! But that is me being selfish.

Michael said...

I'm still fighting with deciding on my undergrad, so... *proffers cup of tea and fresh cheese and chive biscuits*

marisa said...

Like Minty, you are totally the biggest fish in my pond, so I have no idea what other rival softies might be out there (and I never saw another cute alien like the one you made; I was always hoping there would be more of them! Now I understand why they disappeared). Seriously, the only other softie-makers I am even aware of are into dolls, not animals, so very little competition there.

If that helps at all.

As for wanting to pursue a higher degree, well, I don't know what it would mean to your life, but I can tell you that my MA has been less useful to me than toilet paper so far. But whatever you decide, I wish you only the best.

Ashley said...

I'm with Minty. The only way I ever know about another softie is if you put one in your faves mosaic in flickr.

And I'm with a couple of other commenters too: your work is unique. Just because somebody's making the same animal you were dreaming up doesn't mean you'd be copying, or derivative. What you create would look like yours, not anyone else's. So go for it. Especially if it's a Bailey softie. Just saying.

monda-loves said...

You are good at what you do, very good infact, and I thnk your softies are totally unique.

Maybe you could do something else on a part time basis - just go off and learn something new that you've always wanted to learn, or just take a break from this for a little while - take the pressure off yourself. You'll soon decide if you want to continue with your softies or if you want to try something different completely.

Things may well just seem much brighter tomorrow too :o)

Monda
x

Rashida said...

You know it's so funny, Maritza, I was just going to do a post similar to this. I've been feeling the need to vent lately. I've been seeing some work around that has made me feel like someone has been going through my sketchbook and sharing my ideas with the world. It's very frustrating when someone has the same idea you had and basically beat you to it. (Especially when it's well executed...dangit! *grumble grumble*) It is indeed the nature of the beast in this industry. You really have to be fast! So I totally know how you're feeling.

Your work is so great! I'd hate to see you stop doing it. But you really have to do what makes you happy. I think it's good to try new things, so I think you should give some new designs a try. That's the beauty of working for yourself. YOU make the decisions. It's what Maritza wants, not what we want. ^_^

craftybirdy said...

I think your work is amazingly creative, and I *can't imagine* comparing anyone to you. For instance, when you made an owl as a custom order (I think - it was the first time I saw one of your owls) - I did not think to myself "So many people make owls, and now Maritza is making one..." I thought "Ohmygod, Maritza's owl is fabulous, I must have one!" Frankly, I would have bought up half your shop update last week if I had the resources. But also, if you are thinking of going in a totally different direction, I would love to see it. As a customer, I certainly don't think that your creativity should be stymied by what *I* expect to see in your shop updates. I completely understand that (from what I can tell) your livelihood is based on selling the stuff you make, so of course you are worried that your new ideas won't sell. But, if you continue to focus on this work (I hope you do, and understand if you don't) I would love to see your new ideas.

Knitsonya said...

Argh I hate that - ideas lifted straight from my imagination. Nothing worse. Can I just say that now as an owner of an original Soto Softie, my whole family is in love. "Hoot" the owl was what he was christened (not thoroughly original, I know). There was an incident where he was perched by a certain 2 and a half year old on the car window, while we were stopped in traffic. And yes he fell out. SO don't stop. I can't help thinking that you need a retinue of sewing elves to churn out the established softies, while hold the role of Creative Visionary in the Softie Thing Tank. I think to myself, If Dale Chihuly can do it, so can I. Just hopefully I won't have to first loose an eye or a hand.

Shannah said...

I am sorry that my favorite softie maker is feeling down! You are an artist and this kind of reflection/anguish unfortunately seems to be mandatory... whatever the result, I hope you continue sharing your creations with us.

In regards to the snooze or lose, I have had the same thing happen to me:) I chalk it up to the collective unconscious. We live in postmodern times where less emphasis is placed on being the "only" and "first," right? If we start seeing softie space ships (or rabbits:) everywhere, I think it says something important about us and the time we live in.

Perhaps you could start documenting your creative process from the start... sort of as a way to stake your claim before presenting the final piece. I understand your concern, but I think your work is so unique it would be impossible to interpret it as anything but your own!

lisette said...

You are my inspiration to start sewing!! For almost half ayear I had a picture from a softie you madeon my desktop on my computer. And every time the same softie inspired me.
Still, I'm not making softies yet but I make other stuff with fabric, yarn and treads. Why? Because making a good softie is an art! And you are definitly an artist!! And a realy good one!

Please go on with your idea for a new softie. You dreamed about it! Don't loose your dreams, or stop believing in it. Your new softie is your 'child' and sometimes, diffrent children look the same.. But they're still different...

Good luck with this proces..
X

lucykate crafts... said...

if i were you, i'd go ahead with your new design regardless. this kind of thing happens all the time, a toadstool is toadstool shaped, so any softie made is going to be the same shape regardless. the big difference, is that it will be made by you, and that is what makes it unique. it will have your choice of fabrics, your stitching on it, and handmade by you. if you're still worried, then look at other difference you could make to your pattern, eg, the scale, you could go larger, or make it in miniture to take it away from the other designers work.

have confidence : )

diana said...

M, you know how much I love your work and your seemingly endless creativity.

I say do what seems right for you. Mwah!

carolyn said...

maybe if the focus was on creating them as art / with say museums and galleries as their intended outlet / rather than shops/selling? do you read "while she naps"? I feel like that's kind of how she refound her joy in it (this is totally my interpretation, no idea if it's true). She used to make a certain "type" of softie and sell them all the time. now she's making very different stuff and has been exhibiting at galleries and shows.

i definitely think you should make what YOU want because if you spend all your time making stuff the people are demanding, you WILL indeed start to hate it and be miserable and it will become a JOB instead of your JOY.

i am a crossroads in terms of jobs myself. but for me, there's no certain thing that I love that I want to do / there's "this shitty alternative" and "this shitty alternative" and which will make me hate myself less. ;)

tiennie said...

I hope you find a way to not feel so unsettled. Please just do what makes you happy. If something is your idea - just go ahead and do it. Don't let the joy of it get taken away from you.

Annie Oakleaves said...

Its really hard not to keep doing what people want and what sells. I said after the last 16 mushrooms I made I would never make another one but now I have 8 more lined up to be sewn.lol Im thinking Iam going to just make a pattern for them so others can make it and then I wont have to do it ever again,I have waay too many ideas in my head to repeat anything and Iam sure you do too. You ARE a LEGENDARY softie maker AND an amazing imaginative artist,really,when you think about it you are doing yourself and others and injustice by making the same thing over and over and not flowing with your thoughts and ideas. The people wanting for the same thing over and over will see that.I should listen to my own advice but true success will only come when you are really happy doing what you are doing,please yourself and Im really positive that it will please other people too. :) xoxoxo

Eva said...

grown-up life is so confusing sometimes. gosh, i think all of us know exactly how you feel. i constantly draw ideas in my sketchbook and plan on making them one day, but then i always see someone making what i was thinking of and as you said, it's not the same... but still it kind of takes the wind out of you. but the reality is... that most ideas aren't very original when it comes down to it. if you look at any art, movies, music, it's always been inspired by something that's already out there. and I don't think that's a bad thing... that's the way it works. what's more important that you put love and dedication to it. and maritza your softies are super! i own 3 of them and i own loads more by other people, but yours hit a high mark and stand out for sure. if you're having the feeling of going back to school, it might be a good idea. i always say go with your gut instincts :D it's not like you'll have to give up your plush adventures totally. i make artwork for videogames by day and plush by night. the nice thing is that i can do it without worrying about whether they sell or not and i find it very satisfying. i still suffer from the same disappointments, the same happiness, but i do it more because i love to do it, not because i have to. so maybe you can channel your art in a different way... you do have artistic talent and i always think one should go with what one is naturally inclined towards. of course, you could be a mathematically whiz and i just don't know that. but i think if this is not making you happy anymore, take a break, do something new- and who knows maybe you'll come back to it, maybe not. that's the beauty of life. change is good :D
ps: i wish i could be that positive when i'm reflecting on my own life :D always easier said than done, huh?

astula said...

oh maritza! I just got off the phone after having spent 2 hours having a similar conversation! mind you...i'm waaay behind you in success and wonderfulness but...
I read your newer post too. I don't know this all just makes me smile a bit in a ahhhh/ugh way. But YOU rock. totally rock! (and I'm psyched to be in the la thing with you too!
:)