To fill or burst, to break or bury, or wear as jewelry

November 18th, 2022

I’m reading a book called The Gift by Lewis Hyde and have a longer essay forthcoming, but I wanted to write a little on it before my last table gig of the year, tomorrow morning at Valley Creek Mall in Woodbury.

The Gift is about (spoiler alert, I am so sorry) gifts.

Gift-giving creates deep relationships; it forms and strengthens bonds, and maintains communities. Commerce does the opposite; it allows two parties to remain free of anything but the desired transaction. (It’s why capitalism breeds loneliness.)

Gift-giving is common in the artistic community. At cons and shows, people are constantly gifting and trading their work, and you see all these relationships grow before your eyes. It’s beautiful stuff, and it’s a practice I both strongly believe in and occasionally do a bad job, in regards to participating. Not always on purpose, and sometimes out of capitalistic necessity.

Being an artist who tries to sell their gifts puts you in a strange position.

I want people to think I have a gift, and to compensate me for it. Conversely, I wish I could freely give away everything I create and also have a career doing what I love to do.

I am not a great businessperson. My motto behind the table (and I know you’ve heard it if you’ve met me at a con) is that I am not here to sell you anything; I’m just here to talk. Because of that, I am regularly informed that I am almost always talking to someone at my table.

I also encourage people to barter with me. (I actually tell people to do so on my sign.) I don’t twist arms. I don’t beg, plead, or demand. I plant seeds.

And it’s because I want people to choose me. If someone has to spend money on my gift, I want it to feel like a gift as much as a transaction. I want my work to keep moving, to be shared, and to hopefully inspire, because that’s what gifts do.

“It is when someone’s gifts stir us that we are brought close, and what moves us, beyond the gift itself, is the promise (or the fact) of transformation, friendship, and love.”

I don’t know how to solve for art and commerce. (I’m also not quite done with the book so maybe the answer is at the end of it?)

But I do know what feels right for me, and I know that I have to remember that I am part of a community: a vibrant, inclusive, passionate pack of nerds.

I hope I see you tomorrow. All you need to bring is yourself.


Published by dennisvogen

I'm me, of course. Or am I?

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