The End of the Tunnel?

tunnelbook 'bestseller' 01It’s been a year now since I consciously decided I wanted to try to live as a book artist, and two years since I was employed as a mathematician.

This month was the last that I received the start-up-money from the government. So this was always the date on which I wanted to rethink my process and think about what my chances in this field might be.

Also this month I received a letter from the KSK (Künstlersozialkasse) letting me know that finally I am not found worthy to receive the support for my social security and health insurance that is granted to artists, journalists, and authors by the German government. The official reasoning is that I am also working as an artist craftsman which can be seen in the fact that I offer custom bindings, and that my customers are encouraged to choose some features of these bindings for themselves  (I don’t disagree in that point). But for artist craftsmen (who are generally not covered by this aid) special rules apply. Essentially we have to have won art prizes, and have had solo exhibitions to be considered.

Beforehand I had decided to continue working as a book artist also after the start-up money stops flowing should I be recognized by the KSK. So I felt my heart sink with this letter. It looks like the responsible and reasonable thing to do to get back into line, and pick up my career where I left it standing a while ago. Try to make money, instead of trying often unsuccessfully to express myself.

tunnelbook 'bestseller' 02

I discussed that with my dear M. who still seems convinced that I should go on and make books. – I am so grateful for his support in all this time! We talked for a while, thinking about my business concept, and found some major issues I seriously have to work on. Prominent among them: I need more contact to the local art community, and secondly I need to have a part-time job. So I’m in search now for both. And I’ll pursue my artistic ambitions for a while longer.

But I am still a bit shaken by all this. So it’s not a coincidence that I am making tunnel books at the moment. The pictures here are from the lastest piece. It is one of several planned tunnels that are dealing with books and their reception. This is meant to picture a newcommer or bestseller.

On other news: The Six Ways to Make Coptic Headbands are now available in my etsy shop. They can still be ordered directly from me but are no longer on discount. It sold quite well until now, several people contacted me, thinking it was a book on the Coptic binding, though. So now I am thinking about whether a book on the binding itself (in German language this time) should be my next big project.

5 replies on “The End of the Tunnel?”

  1. I hope that you can continue to be a book artist. Does the fact that you are represented by a major American dealer in artist’s books (Vamp and Tramp) not help at all?

  2. Hilke, i’m thinking you applied to early, your work is becoming more ‘free’ with every item you do. Get connected with the artist community and go for it. I would really love to see some of your work at a Papier Biennale soon 🙂

    xo Dymphie

  3. Thanks, Cathryn and Dymphie. It’s comforting to get some sympathy.

    During the first 3 years artists don’t have to be successful to qualify for support by the KSK, they only have to proof the intent to earn money as artists. So I thought I could apply. But, as I mentioned, for those who are close to the crafts special rules apply.

    They accepted my deal with V&T as evidence, and I also exhibited some of my books in group exhibits, but they claim this is not enough to proof that I am an artist.

    Probably if I had an arts degree the evidence would have been enough. What they really want is the certificate by an arts school that I am an artist (and a degree would be exactly this). Maybe they would have accepted a solo exhibition as proof, but that’s not sure, several would definitely be better.

    At the moment there is probably nothing I can do. I can see that it looks like I am rather a craftsperson with artsy ambitions than an artist who makes some money with craft. I hope this will change some day, and then I’ll apply again.

  4. I’m glad that you decided to keep doing your artistic work, and I think the part time job is a brilliant idea. 🙂 Your blog and your books are an inspiration, and as I’ve said before, it’s clear to me that you are indeed an artist. Custom orders are necessary in order to make some money, but also the customer’s choices and demands serve as valuable input in our learning process, I think. So I don’t necessarily agree that custom made products are not art products.

  5. Entscheidungen der KSK sind nach meiner Erfahrung häufig nicht nachvollziehbar. Ich habe dazu eine Menge (abschreckender) Beispiele im Familien- u. Freundeskreis. Du solltest diese rein bürokratische Entscheidung gegen deine Vision nicht persönlich nehmen. Sie sagt NICHTS über deine Arbeit aus.

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