Sunday, August 28, 2011

Is it a Hobby or is it Art?

One of the best unintended consequences of blogging is a link on the Blogger dashboard (where you can go and manage your blogs and keep track of the blogs you are following) called “stats”.  If you click on this link it takes you to a place where you can see how many people have checked out your posts, where in the world your readers are, and even where your traffic comes from.  A lot of my traffic comes from my Facebook fan page or my twitter account, but often there are links to other sites.  Often I’ll follow them to see where traffic is coming from, and last week I found this reference: where they were discussing my zombie sock monkey.  I’d have loved to jump on and thank them for the mention and discussion, but I’ve still not been granted membership.  I mostly want to thank them for making me think about what exactly I am trying to do on Etsy. 
          I started out on Etsy as a fund raiser for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.  I was pretty successful selling vintage items out of my stash and quirky knit things (bacon scarves especially) to willing buyers.  I knit as a hobby.  I find it soothing to have something to do with my hands while I watch trashy TV.  I had been cranking out baby blankets for gifts and the occasional hat or pair of mittens.  A few years ago, I saw a kit for sale for a sock monkey and wardrobe here: Carmen Bananas Pattern and thought it would be a fun project.  It was a little more challenging than I’d been used to, but it showed me that I could knit in three dimensions and actually produce something quirky and cute.  One day I found some white yarn with gray twisted through it and it looked just like the kind of yarn used for more traditional sock monkeys, but just a different color combo. 
          Before I go any further I should probably mention that I have an art degree.  I pursued an art degree because I have the impulse to create.  Unfortunately I don’t have the focus and drive it takes to make a living in art.  For years after I'd graduated from college and raised my family, I’ve tried to squash down this impulse or find other outlets, like painting murals a the kids’ elementary school, or retouching photos for friends, but until I stumbled upon the idea to knit a sock monkey with this white and gray yarn did I feel really energized.  At first I thought I’d make an albino sock monkey, but that seemed neither kind nor particularly noteworthy.  Because I’d been selling a few things on Etsy, I’d had seen that there was a market for the right kind of quirky, and I didn’t think that albino would have enough pizzazz.  Since I’ve jumped on the zombie bandwagon, with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and The Walking Dead, a zombie sock monkey seemed to have the right blend.  I started out thinking that I could crank out a lot of these and sell them for a reasonable price. 
          Quickly I realized that this monkey had turned into a much bigger thing than just a toy to crank out in quantity.  It had become a full-fledged obsession and a much more satisfying creative outlet than I’d had in years.  I knew I was out of control when I was pouring over my daughter’s anatomy books to get the embroidery on the muscles just right.  As I read the banter back and forth between the folks on about my monkey, I’ve been forced to confront the fact that while I plan to put it up for sale on Etsy (closer to the second season of The Walking Dead and Christmas), it will be presented at a far higher price than a toy purchaser would probably want to pay.  I will price it more as a piece of sculpture with the understanding that I might not sell.  I may not have the focus to try to support myself with art, but I at least have the focus to complete something and be satisfied to the point that I am willing to part with it, confident that there are more ideas where that one came from.  Knitting may still be a hobby, but maybe I can use it to create, if not art, then a facsimile.  At least I am satisfied that I am making a step in the right direction.  Who knows?  Real art might not be that far away.
The Butcher


  1. Well, from a previous post, we know what a hobby is: "...if I loved to do something, I may need to decide if I wanted to do it for money and risk getting sick of it, or keep it a hobby." (Ghosts of Jobs Past) It's something you would do only if you feel like it and only because you love doing it.

    But now you've been studying anatomy books to get the muscle embroidery right, and it's become "a full-fledged obsession" and "a more satisfying creative outlet" than you've had in years. When passion enters the picture, what we have here!

    Arteests might disagree with me (I'm thinking of the ones who vented on a forum thread on etsy about not wanting to be called/associated with the term "tinkerers" — "We are artists!" dammit (invective mine). Meh. Art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

    Maybe if you REALLY want to be considered an artist and the sock monkey to be considered art you could put on airs and a beret. Or not. I hope not.

    Keep writing. Keep posting on Facebook. Keep creating the quirky. Ees good.

  2. Awesome, awesome comment. I will be thinking of it still as it sit at my computer tomorrow. Thank you so much.

  3. Chris, I cite this post on my Funnarchist list at

    Congratulations on your award.

  4. Thank you so much for the recognition. I will try to live up to your award. I will be looking for bloggers to pass it along to.