There's so much to consider when making and marketing work that I sometimes feel like the crazy plate spinner in the circus. For the past year, sales have been almost non-existent which also has me feeling a bit disgruntled. I have a ton of work that I've made during the eight years since my BFA and I'm kinda tired of looking at it.
How do you stay motivated when trying to find a market for your work?
Disgruntled and lost
For aspiring artists and craftspeople, the path for success is NOT about making work to sell. The path to success is to make the best most interesting, deep, esoteric, off the beaten path, unique, "_________(fill in the blank here)" in the whole world. It has to reflect your inner core, not what you think will sell. You need to dig deep.
Expecting to sell what you make as a measure of success is a poor measure of the merit for your work (and bound to make you feel bad in this poor economy). If you want to make work to sell, then make work for Target or Wal-Mart. That is what sells. In reality, nearly all artists and crafts people must find supplemental income.
As for staying motivated, the book titled, Talent is Overrated, by Geoff Colvin. analyzes how people become successful. I recommend that you read it. A very important concept of the book is regular, "deliberate practice." Most successful people accumulate over 10,000 hours of deliberate practice before they become a success. If you started in elementary school, or when you were 3 years old like Tiger Woods, then you will have your 10,000 by the age of 21, or 24. But if you started your deliberate practice as a student in college, then you've just begun your 10,000 hours of practice.
My favorite part of the book is in the last chapter, "Where Does the Passion Come From?" Colvin points out that focusing on extrinsic motivation such as awards (or money) reduces the creativity of the outcome. This principal is backed up by academic research. So where does passion come from? It certainly has to come from within. Think about what you really love to do.
While doing your "deliberate practice" every day in the studio, develop visibility for your work outside of or beyond the gallery/consignment world. Look for other opportunities to gain insights and experience like submitting your work to calendars or magazines, or volunteer with your local or national arts organization or at a local small museum or non-profit. Network online like crazy. Save your money from your day job for professional photography when you are ready.
(Taking your own pictures is a back up plan.)
Start or join a Critique group. I have been in several critique groups for over 28 years. It is an absolute necessity to hear solid critical feedback from your professional peers. Eventually, the group may even create or lead to group show opportunities. Avoid talking about children, dogs, cats, and personal problems. Talk only about the work of the members. Download Critique Group Guidelines Final 2011
One final thought. Have you considered giving away a few of your experiments or finished pieces to friends or family that appreciate your work? This may expose your work to a wider and diverse audience.