One-of-a-kinds: Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

Many visual artists have trouble letting go of their original paintings, sculptures and other one-of-a-kinds. Do you?

Why does this happen? It might happen because you love having your work around, because you feel you need exactly the right home for each piece, because each piece feels precious and a prized possession, because you want to avoid criticism and rejection by keeping your objects out of the marketplace, or for any number of other reasons. The reasons are many and varied!

Although it’s wise to gain some clarity about why you might be feeling this way, there’s no reason to feel guilty about this. You aren’t obliged to let go of your original art. You get to decide what you show and what you keep, how you interact with the marketplace, and what relationship you want to construct around “multiples” and “one-of-a-kinds.” You get to decide.

However, you do need to decide. If you decide not to sell one-of-a-kinds, what will you sell? Will you avoid the marketplace entirely, sell reproductions, let go of a portion of your originals and keep a portion, add a new art form (such as photography) where multiples are the norm, or what? To repeat, the decision is yours to make but you do need to make a decision.

Likewise you should think through if there might be a simple, correctable problem at the heart of the matter. Maybe you hate letting go of your originals because you haven’t learned how to do a good job of photographing them or haven’t wanted to spend a lot of money on photographing them. The real issue might be that you don’t have a good enough record of them. If you learned how to save them well or if you paid to have them saved well, your reluctance to let the originals go might vanish instantly!

Writers don’t have to reckon with this issue. Neither do performers. This is an issue peculiar to those artists who make one-of-a-kind things. If you make jewelry, fabric art, paintings, sculptures or other one-of-a-kinds and you find it hard or even impossible to let them go, you aren’t alone. But you do need to think through how you want to proceed!


Eric Maisel’s latest book is Secrets of Creativity Coach. See how creativity coaching actually works! Glimpse the lives of 25 creative and performing artists from around the world.

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