What Goals Does An Artist Set?

David Gomm

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As I read and learn about how to run a business, I’m often confronted with the question, “What do you want to accomplish with your business?" Usually the article or speaker will go into depth and describe lofty goals of somehow creating an empire, a money machine, a legacy.

But those kinds of questions don’t seem to apply to us as artists. Our questions need to be, “What do you want to accomplish with your art?" We artists are often driven by visions, or desires that have little to do with the money or the details of running a business. We’re, instead, driven to create both for our audiences’ enjoyment and inspiration and for our own fulfillment.

So our goals are different than those of a businessman’s goals. But we have to set them, unless we ‘re happy with the way things are, we have enough income, enough fulfillment, enough challenge (and nothing ever changes in the future).

My problem is that there just isn’t enough room for glass in my home. I need to sell glass so that I can afford more and so there is a place to put it. And I need to set goals that will let others know about us and our accomplishments so they will trust our ability to do the job that they need done. And to be practical, I do want more equipment, not for the sake of ownership but for the ability to do more work.

I can cut glass with a hand cutter from the hardware store that costs a buck or two, but then I want an oil cutter that runs from $20 to $40. It improves my cuts, and my quality goes up. Then I need a strip cutter for straight lines and a circle cutter for, you got it, circles. And a saw would be nice and an extra grinder. And so it goes, another table, more storage space, just a little more so the quality can improve.

Stained glass is a very technical art form. Just ask anyone who’s ever done sandblasted pieces. There are so many things that must work properly. You need the right sand, the right nozzle, the right air pressure, and the right resist. The proper flow is achieved and you finally get to concentrate on the art. All those other details are just things that must be right in order to perform the art. This is why art competitions are so unfair to glass artists, judges hold us to the same standards as other artists even though the same conditions don’t apply. Painters don’t have to make their own paint and weave their own canvasses. Sculptors don’t have to quarry the stone out of the ground before starting work. Welders don’t have to start from scratch, creating metal from ore they dig out of the ground.

So, I’m beginning to set goals, artistic goals. The first is for myself. I want to work more hours on my art each week. This means I have to set more rigorous hours for myself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked all day, and then all week and haven’t even cut a piece of glass. So I’m holding myself to a more structured in the shop work schedule.

Second, I like doing good work, the kind you have to go campaign for. Great work rarely comes knocking on your door, you have to go out and seek it. So I’ve set goals about a structured way to contact people. I’m not going to start knocking doors from sunup to sundown as I did when I sold books door to door, but I am going to talk to a couple of people every week.

Lastly, I’ve set some financial goals, nothing big and grandiose, just simple goals. Like, put some money in savings for a rainy day and then know how much profit I really make on a job. I don’t want to be like the two truck drivers who bought watermelons for a nickel apiece in Texas, drove them to New York and sold them for a nickel apiece. When they looked at how much they had made, one said to the other, “There’s no doubt about it, we’ve got to get a bigger truck!"

Goals don’t have to be big or unattainable. I think a lot of folks get put off by the idea of setting goals because they are so close to those New Years resolutions that get put off and failed at, year after year. But like someone said, “a goal that isn’t written down, is only a dream. " Dreams are great, they help me figure what my goals ought to be…. . "I want to have a studio in the mountains near a babbling brook where little woodland animals…"

David Gomm started building stained glass windows professionally back in 1983 and has become an expert at many aspects of stained glass building, design and repair. He writes a monthly newsletter at his http://www.betterstainedglass.com website. A gallery of his stained glass work can be viewed at http://www.gommstudios.com


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