Careers & Ed: Assembling a career - Page 2

How Susan Gould makes a living making art
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Photo by Neil Motteram

According to her site, the top three things one needs to start one's own business are luck, optimism, and perseverance — in that order.

"I think luck is a factor, but not the only one," Gould explains. "I was lucky in that the things that appealed to me happened to appeal to a large audience. I've seen so many talented artists whose stuff doesn't sell, and I don't get it. I don't even really feel like I can take credit for the things I make, most of the time. The objects are themselves. They're already beautiful, and I just see ways to put them together. It's not something I've created; it's just a way of seeing things differently."

In order to support herself solely by the sale of her work, Gould sometimes has to make tough decisions about which pieces she offers to buyers.

"In making a living selling my art, I have learned not only to become an efficiency expert and listen to my inner judgment, but that I sometimes have to sacrifice really great products that I cannot make a profit from," she reveals. Gould offers her recent production of dice as an example. Each set took painstaking work to create: she used cubes of wood wrapped in distressed foil from wine bottles and formed the numbers with upholstery tacks. Gould says she could never sell them for their true worth, so she gave them away as gifts. It is that fluid, compromising attitude that has enabled her to succeed.

Gould also does custom work for individuals. If a person provides her with pictures, she can turn them into anything from a bracelet to cufflinks to earrings. She also creates superhero figurines by taking a small plastic toy, removing the head, and putting the image of a loved onemagnified under glass — in its place. The figure is then mounted on a wooden base with wheels. It sounds simple, but Gould's hand brings a sense of the surreal to the affair, turning what seems like a child's craft project into a true work of art.

However, not all of her work is for sale or given away. The corners and walls of her apartment are home to the few pieces she likes enough to keep or art that others have made for her, each of which has a story. Through these creations I learn a lot about her father, her brothers, and her friends, their memories preserved and constantly present. She has a miniature tomato mounted on a pedestal that she's kept for years and a rack of key chains that inspires me to talk about my sister and the emotional attachments people form with inanimate objects.

Which eventually leads to the topic of my shoes and the project, currently at hand, of repairing them. Now we've got a small drill, which we're using to bore through the rubber sole. Gould asks me to prop my foot on a stool before I leave, when she pulls out a camera and snaps a photo of the finished product, which looks like something emo kids would pay $50 to own: shoes, slightly damaged.

"Preserving the moment," I joke as I leave.

"Always," Gould replies with a smile. "I'll send the picture."

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