A fellow needle-felter posted the question on Facebook the other day. Is needle-felting a full-time job, part-time or hobby?
I know she meant “do you support yourself by selling your needle-felted art?” and I think I can say that not very many people can manage that. When I was a full-time teddy bear artist, my children were small and we wanted them to have a full-time stay-at-home mom. Teddy bear making allowed me to stay home, but did I make enough money to support myself, let alone my family? No. It was extra income, but not very much. I travelled a lot and spent a lot of time creating product and marketing it. It allowed for some extras for our children and some discretionary spending money for me, but my husband’s full-time job and benefits provided our support. Eventually, I had to give up a lot of my teddy bear making and spend my days at a “real job” with a regular paycheck and benefits. This coincided with a downturn in the economy that led to less discretionary spending, fewer people who could be active collectors, shows and shops that went out of business…a downturn in the collectibles market. So things worked out.
Right now, most of my art is donated to raise money for charitable causes. I don’t have much time to make things. In fact, I had an order that took me over a year to complete, but that’s another story.
Needle-felting has really taken off in the years since I started sculpting with wool. When I started, nobody knew what it was. They liked what I did, but I didn’t really know how to price things, so I priced them the same as my mohair pieces. I sold whatever I made, but I didn’t make very much. Now, there is so much wonderful needle-felted artwork out there! I really want to get back to work!
Back to full-time vs. hobbyist. I think if you are an artist, you are an artist all the time. At the office, I sculpt with words, I design graphics and forms and coax code into web pages. I choose promotional items that support and reinforce our brand. At home, I paint with plants in my garden. I photograph my flowers and dogs and use those images to convey messages. I am always creating, taking pieces and molding them into something else, but it’s not always with some kind of needle. I tell stories – sometimes intentionally and sometimes by accident. There is an art to all of it. So yes, I am a full-time artist.
Does selling or at least trying to sell your work make you a full-time artist? Is the benchmark how much your earnings contribute to your support?