Here they are, the two central tasks of the craftsman – working and waiting.
These actions, one active and the other passive, are inseparable.
No one tells you as you learn your craft that, if you go to the marketplace, you’re in for some brutally long waiting, that most of the time it will appear that you’re working only for yourself.
I spent the afternoon and evening of November 5th at Tomandy Gallery in Frederick, Maryland. My friend Alan Clingan designs and builds custom furniture – gorgeous, artful stuff, often from reclaimed materials. He has four major pieces for sale in this tastefully stocked gallery. For several hours I hung out and watched him present his work to people.
The rejection was staggering.
Over and over he talked about what went into each piece and how he conceived each design. Over and over people told him how wonderful his work is, in gushing terms of awe. They pointed and caressed and huddled close around it – – and then left. They simply walked away.
The next morning Alan and I talked about this. The conclusion we drew is that in the end, the work must sell itself. It is up to the work – the object.
As producers of craft we can overwhelm ourselves with the calculus of placement and presentation (selling) but in the end there will be one buyer in a million. Buyers (publishers and thoughtful readers in my case) are staggeringly rare. Whether it is a vintage oak cabinet or a literary short story, the great masses will walk past, pointing in wonder and delight. But our work cares not for them, it awaits the Buyer – that person who will not only observe and fall helplessly in love, but consume the work. Who will make it their own.
This transaction is between the work and the consumer. We must remove ourselves from it. We must step away and let it happen. For we control only one thing. Producing. We do the work. And this is not easy. We must develop the ability to know well our work and determine truthfully its quality, even to recognize when it is done. This is very, very difficult work. But we must tend solely and diligently to the doing of the work because no one else can.