There will be those days when a customer does not book your service, when your best planned out fashion designs are frowned over, when your cutest amigurumi does not win the competition, when an art fair rejects your fibreart. The latter happened to me. Sigh.
This was one of the reasons I for longer did not post and was very reduced in commenting, sorry for this, I was moping. Actually, I also had a cold/corona (I am still unsure) and have till today impaired hearing on one ear, this also did not spark joy.
Back to the rejection.
The last half year was filled for me with working on the bigger topic of women getting older and all the negative consequences this has for them in society. I have painted, sewed, crocheted, embroidered, and knitted. I created room installations, wrote texts, I hung up the paintings and and and. All in all, I was convinced of the topics importance and after setting up the exhibitions in February and May I also was convinced the artworks are not too bad (you know… even after getting a grant for the exhibition I still doubt my skills). I was looking forward to writing about all my experiences and I was even more excited to share some photos of the finished artworks you only saw in the making.
I will write about this, I promise
And then came the rejection. I applied with three works for a spot at an art fair of the Frauenmuseum Bonn (Museum for female art) in October. I thought the topic would be spot on for the fair and they reassured me on the phone that they also accepted room installations. But no, two weeks ago I got the rejection (I am on the waiting list). And as my first impulse was to quit making art forever (yeah… I know… very mature reaction 😆) I thought why not cope with this in a healthier way and perhaps I even can inspire you to be less sad about unpleasant surprises in your needlework business. Or even better we could start a conversation and share strategies to survive the brutish needlework and art world.
Do something you love and what demands your full attention.
After being sad for two days I could not stand myself any longer. But I also, could not stand to work on the exhibition which I actually should do as it will move in July into a bigger room in the town centre. I did not want to write about the artworks, did not want to update the website and neither did I want to post about it here. I felt like an imposter.
Not a productive state. So, I fell back to the one thing which always cheers me up: I casted on something new. Ok, even better. At first, I furiously finished my first shawl I ever made with expensive hand dyed super soft wool. And this shawl I gifted to my mother. Two birds with one stone, I made my mother happy as she adored the pixelated yarn colors and I could start something new.
mother and daughter united in the love of one shawl 😀
To exploit the distraction potential of a new knitting process to the maximum, I decided to try out a lace pattern. This called for a three-day ravelry research for the perfect pattern, a week long pondering and swatching to find the perfect yarn. And now I am sitting here with a project which requires unlike my mindless cardigans my whole attention. The Muru Kai shawl starts with the more complicated part – the lace border – and will than move on to an easier part of garter stitch peppered with short rows. For me this meant to re-learn the standard western knitting technique as my own knitting style is not suitable for lace.
You see not much time to be sad about anything, because wandering thoughts mean unravelling. Just to let you know, I am in row four of the shawl 😂
Look at the whole situation dispassionate.
„What !!?!“ You will say, „I shall think through this gruesome event in detail? This will make me feel even worse!“ And perhaps you have a point. But it is necessary to open your eyes to the situation and to at least get some benefit of it, meaning learn something.
In my situation it was thinking about where I applied (and art fair) and what its purpose is (selling art and connecting with buyers). Both points should have been obvious, but they somehow where not for me. While applying I was so immersed in the topic about gender injustice that I somehow missed to think about the „marketability“ of my artworks. While I am still (or again after the rejection-crisis subsided) convinced the artworks are important to start discussions about this topic to ultimately better the social situation for all, a huge room installation with embroidered sanitary pads may not be to the liking of most buyers. Do not laugh, I seldom think about selling anything – one reason I am so grateful there are art grants.
Then there was the other thing…. Most application I so far did had a huge section where you had to explain the artistic concept and a smaller section for your artistic cv. This time there was no section for the artistic concept, they only wanted an extensive artistic cv. Both not to my advantage. Most of my artworks need an explanation – not uncommon I would say for postmodern art – as the concept is ultimately the real art. And on the other hand, I do not have an impressive artistic cv as most of the awards and scholarships I got were for performing arts (remember I was a choreographer when younger – double sigh) I only work (professionally) in visual arts for I guess three years. I am not a member in any official art association, and this is very important in Germany (yes, the cliché is real, official papers are more important than content).
Reframing and Learning
Move from „I am a looser“ to „what can I make better next time.
After analysing the whole situation which may have felt like pouring acid into an open wound, now comes the tip which will give us a bit of comfort. In my case it went like this:
I never will know why I was rejected. There could be a million reasons. But it may be possible that the jury wanted to only represent art which will be sellable, and which can be presented well at a stall (like smaller scaled sculptures or paintings). Both does not apply to the works I chose for the application.
seeing new perspectives
The nice part of this reframing is, I can let go of the idea that I as an artist am worthless and move on to things I can change for the next time. Like really thinking about where I am applying, if it is an art fair, or for an exhibition in a gallery, for an auction or for a scholarship etc. I learned that I need to think less about my works and more about the recipient when applying.
The other point I must give some more thoughts is that I have a huge disadvantage in applying because of my unusual CV. I am still unsure how to remedy or cope with this and how to turn it into something positive. I have no „prove“ like an art study or membership in an art association to convince officials that my art is „worthy“. Should not play a role, but it does….
Do something similar but not the same.
Remember when you learned to bike and when after you fell your parents or whoever taught you biking said, to hop on again immediately? It’s the same case here. You may feel like quitting forever but in the long run this is impossible, either because it’s your job, or it is your favourite hobby and huge part of your identity.
As I wrote above, I felt appalled by the thought of making additional artworks about this topic for the exhibition in July, I did not want to write about the artworks, and I did not want to think about them (did not work). But I knew I ultimately will go on, so better now than later.
My strategy was to choose a completely different medium and topic for me. I bought a super tiny sketchbook (instead of the huge paintings I normally do) and some acrylic and alcohol markers and started to sketch „meaningless“ things. I did not plan the sketches, I did not chose topics which are near to me, I simply painted random things and people (as you can see the HALIENS from my last year’s topic crept back into the sketches, but as I did not felt angry about them it was ok :-DDD).
To start back with the fibreart I chose a skirt with tires and ruffles I already made for an installation and set the goal to transform it into something wearable – it’s the one with the huge holes on the photos, a design from Simone Rocha. So far, I cut out the pattern pieces, hemmed them and started with the gathering. I am still unsure how to solve the problem of the „holes“ as I prefer not to be naked in my clothes. I ponder a underskirt or to sew zippers into the holes or to transform the holes into a kind of pocket with lining.
Both projects are far enough away from the Candyfloss for Patriarchy (rejected) artworks but still similar enough to get myself back on track to being productive.
Now on to my last advice
Burn down your adversary or if impossible, the whole neighbourhood. This solution erases the cause of rejection ultimately but may lead to a different set of problems. The how-to is easy: buy petrol and a lighter and go ahead. You perhaps guessed this tip as you already know my preferred method to cope with problems…. But although not a new tip, I wanted to include it as one can never have enough coping strategies 🤪
Back to being serious. I hope I could inspire you to not give up something you love just because there is some wind (or storm) blowing against you. I would love to hear if you had to cope with rejection and if you have some tips what best to do (or not).
If you want to see more beautiful projects with yarn, fabric and most of all needles, follow @needleworkmonday on hive blog. Or even better grab your needles and keyboard and join the #needleworkmonday community. You can read more comments on this post on my hive blog.
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