I may present myself regularly in this forum as a freelance writer and working artist, but going strictly by my official credentials, I’m best described as a secondary English teacher. Never mind that the only time I ever presided over an Actual English class with Real Students was during my student teaching, and that I entered the masters program through which I earned my certification only as a back door to getting re-hired as an elementary art teacher. But those are different stories, most of which have been thoroughly explored in assorted posts spanning late ’07-mid ’09.
My educational details come to bear within the current post only to underscore the alarm with which I regard recent evidence that my reading comprehension has hit an all time low. Yesterday I mentally substituted a key noun in a friend’s facebook status, effectively changing the meaning the poster intended to convey. Twice, today, I cheerfully volunteered to cover specific meals to be served during an upcoming girls’ lake house weekend—only to discover that other prospective attendees had already claimed both mealtimes in clear, concise prose within a widely-distributed email thread which I had ostensibly been reading. For days, I revealed in the possibility of enrolling in a particular art class I’ve been eying on the local community college website. When I finally decided to take the plunge and register, I discovered that the class was clearly labeled as an offering at a relatively remote satellite campus, too many miles north to be a viable option.
I chalk much of these gaffes up to side effects from trying to keep up with too much at once. Aside from the usual rigors of part time teaching, family life, and general post- vacation re-assimilation into society, I have been stoically plugging away on the mosaic pieces I agreed to submit to a local art gallery.
I say stoically because of my ongoing dismay over the contractual terms associated with becoming a Participating Artist at the gallery. I’ve been having difficulty accepting the concept of forking over a full two-thirds—66%!—of my sales to the gallery, in addition to an accompanying 8 hours of monthly in-shop servitude. It seems impossible, under these conditions, for one to break even, considering the cost of materials alone, without even getting into the hours of labor and creative energy. Still, I’ve gamely pressed on in spite of my prevailing wariness, encouraged by family, friends, and even Readers that the exposure alone was worth it.
“Consider the pieces advertising costs,” my wise friend, Lori, suggested.
“Just figure out your materials cost, double it and then multiply it by three,” my husband said. “It is what it is.”
So I’ve been logging each expense along the way, struggling to remain excited for the opportunity to practically give away a finished puzzle comprised of hand painted pieces and careful design.
Sunday, my friend Lisa, who happens to be a Participating Artist as well as a Board Member at said gallery called to see how things were coming.
“Oh, pretty good,” I said. “It’s just that I’m really wondering how much I’m going to have to charge for these pieces to even break even. It’s just that with the gallery taking a 66% commission, I don’t know how I can keep from losing money on the deal,” I confessed.
“What?! Who would do that?” Lisa’s shock jolted across the phone lines. “YOU get the 66%, silly. “
“And you do know that if you work the 8 hours a month, they’ll give half of the commission they take back to you, right?”
Um, no. I didn’t know that, because It appears that I read the entire contract backwards.
Which is why it’s probably a good thing that I’m not teaching English right now.