It’s easy to work in the studio, filling each day with making, cleaning, dithering, an occasional nap, forgetting that the world outside is going on its merry way without you. I like that. I can read the latest news about corruption in government, spying on a massive scale and gross greediness in business without feeling a part of it. Silly me.
It isn’t often that I feel touched by the potentially criminal or evidently unethical. This past week, I had brushes with two such instances. The first was at one degree of separation. A friend emailed to ask about a situation in which she found herself, not sure how to think about it. She had donated a piece of her work to a local arts organization for a silent auction. There was a bid on the object, made by a gallery owner who intended to sell the piece in his gallery. She, of course, would receive no remuneration for her work and the gallery was getting a deal, in that the auction price was below the wholesale value of the piece.
On the one hand, one could say that it was nice that the gallery liked the work enough to buy it and that the artist would get exposure. On the other hand, does the gallery “owe” the artist something, not necessarily 50% of what they sell it for, but at least some communication and appreciation? The gallery sees the object as product, I imagine, and if we sell through galleries, that is what we provide–product to be sold. But it is the other side of what we do that is offended. We make objects for expression, communication, pleasure, utility, ego, any number of categories that have nothing to do with profit. We don’t like losing control of the transaction because of how we feel about those elements of our work. I’m not saying that the gallery is acting unethically, but it feels a little off and I understand my friend’s feeling of being “bummed”.
The other occurrence was an internet communication. I received an email from a gentleman in Hawaii who wanted to buy a particular piece that he had seen online. The email was poorly written with a few odd grammatical constructions, but the name given led me to believe that English was a second language and so I didn’t give it much weight. A couple of emails back and forth, explaining that there were issues with the piece that he needed to understand and each time he wrote back saying yes, yes, he wanted the piece.
And then I got the email that sounded like the Nigerian Letter Scam. I wasn’t sure, really, but it asked me to be involved in an odd arrangement regarding money and his shipper. Not much money, you understand, not the millions that you read about in the true scam emails. “Now I’m concluding you are a responsible person and I can therefore entrust you with this arrangement,” he said. Up front, it just sounded odd, not criminal, and as I said we’re not talking about much money and I couldn’t quite figure out how he would profit.
Maybe the prospect of making a sale, modest though it was, had blinded me to clues earlier in the correspondence? He did, after all know my work and ask for a particular piece that was indeed online. Maybe it really was on the up and up? Well, no, it wasn’t. Fortunately, my clever husband suggested that I take the correspondence to the bank on which the check sent without my OK had been drawn. As it happens, they keep very good records on these guys and added my experience to the pile. The scam comes in sending a portion of the check on to someone else and then finding that the check is no good. Your own funds end up being gone.
No matter how insulated we feel in our studios, doing our work, we are citizens of this big, messy world. People and money are a potent combination, no news flash there. But it’s the combination of people, money and our artwork that feels so personal, for good or for ill.
Images are of bisque fired pieces still warm from the kiln. Still more to be done but I like them in this raw state.