Art

Once again: Art is work, not throwaway entertainment. You need to pay for it.

Get a load of this email. I deal with this ALAALALALLALLLL THE TIME.

Your Name: xxxx
Your Email (which I don't intend to share): xxxxxxxx@att.net
Subject: I have a question
Message: Mr Murphy I have a quick question why is Julian van voon soo expensive he is so cute and that one is my most favorite I really wish you could lower it to a more reasonable price because I would willing to buy it Sincerely xxxxxx

Julian
Well.. Expensive is an opinion. Here are the reasons I've priced Julian the way I did:

He's handmade, which means it took me more than just an afternoon and a YouTube tutorial to disassemble the blazer I made him from, reinterpret the parts, trim, shape and cut them, stitch, stuff and close him up. 
He's very complex and detailed, which means it took me probably more time designing him than actually putting him together. 
He's one of a kind in the whole world. 
Add to that, he's kind of a published celebrity and comes with a free copy of the book he stars in, signed by the author.. 

I think he's kind of cheap. 

What kind of price do you think is reasonable?

Thanks for asking, 
John

And to all of you reading.. I realize this is a tough economy. When someone has a spare $150 lying around they’re probably going to use it to feed their family or invest in home repair. I realize few would make such discretionary purchases this day and age. But those people exist and I’m patient.

The email above begs certain questions: What do you make per hour? What do you need to earn to survive? Would you take any less than you think you’re worth? Would you take any less for your time than you need to make your ends meet? My work is valuable to someone out there. It isn’t valuable to everyone, which is why I counsel kids between the rare opportunities my art actually earns me cash.

Making soft sculpture by hand is such detailed and time-consuming work that it is no longer worth my time to create them full time anymore. Opinions like those expressed in the above email confirm for me that I should stick with counseling and pursue loftier artistic pursuits than one-off plush monsters.

I extend my sincerest thanks to the occasional few who get what artists do. There aren’t enough of you to make us want to stick around full time. And like I’ve said before, I’m just going to make what I want to make, when I want to make it. And I’m going to price it how I want. For the nay-sayers who think plush works should be cheap for whatever reason, go ahead and buy a copy of Closet Monsters where Julian’s pattern is taught. Make a Julian yourself and consider what the effort is worth to you.

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A Decade. Yep. I'm feeling decadenous.

Happy Belated New Year, everyone. This month marks the 10-year anniversary of Stupid Creatures™. And I have to tell you, I’m pretty amazed. I have learned a lot in the past decade about the world because of the creatures. I’ve learned a lot about myself and the way other’s tick. It’s been really crazy and full of experiences I never thought I’d have. I’ve had huge expectations, some of which have been met, others have not and likely won’t be. But whatever.

Let’s see. When I started making the creatures, I really, really wanted to be famous and popular and approved of and accepted by a particular, edgy, cultural, hipster elite. Instead, I fell in with parents and crafters and quilters. Nothing wrong with that. That crowd is humble, realistic, sincere and more loving than anyone whose attention I might have wanted while I was chasing fame. I mean, my publishers have primarily moms, grandmas and crafters for an audience and they’ve been really welcoming and supportive to me.

My sick pursuit of hipster affirmation gave me unrealistic expectations of the art world. Art is just a business at the end of the day. Willing buyers, willing sellers; a business. Nothing more. I’m glad to have been spared the hipster BS that I so badly desired back then. It isn’t real. It’s just a passing fashion. Most of them don’t have any money to buy one of my pieces anyway.

Let’s see. In my decade with the Stupid Creatures, learned that money doesn’t fall out of the sky. You’ve got to work your whole entire life for it, be born with it, or borrow it and painstakingly pay it back over the course of your entire life. If you want to do anything in the toy world you’ve got to have TONS of money up front, and manufacture scads of content overseas in a sweatshop so Americans can buy it cheaply. Americans will tell you they want your work fair trade, handmade and recycled, but when it comes time to pay for it, they scream and run to wal-mart.

So I’ve been very lucky to have the publishing, the press and the toy contracts that I’ve enjoyed. I’m also very lucky to be a counselor. I’m good at it, I love it. I’m doing something my community needs. Granted, the community needs art more than it realizes, but artists need to eat. Sadly, the vast majority of anyone anywhere do not believe in feeding or paying artists, so many of us wind up in other careers.

My problem, I’ve come to realize, is that at the end of the day, despite my love for monsters and my skills for sculpting and creating, I’m really a character designer. This means my best work isn’t the physical items that I sew and stuff, but their back story, their universe, their history, their relationship to other characters.. To this end, I will be pursuing cartoons and comics in the near future more than more plush sculptures. In fact, I’m helping a friend pitch a cartoon series as we speak. I’m working on the visuals primarily but I’m also helping him flesh out the universe that he created.

In addition to counseling children, I’m designing actual toys and other children’s items for The Land of Nod and I’m learning how the social work and mental health industries function. My whole life is research and I’m grateful for it.

This isn’t a swan song. Stupid Creatures is sticking around. But moving forward things will get a lot more serious. No more expending myself to force the art world and the consumer world to regard soft sculpture as legitimate art. No more starving at craft shows while the dowdy judgmental throngs peek and glare at price tags, or make the excuse that they don’t have any kids to shop for. I’m going to make what I want to make, how I want to make it. And I’ll work my hardest for those who support me the most. I’ll put my energy where the support is, and I’ll stop wasting myself on stuff that drains me unnecessarily.

Watch for me on various cartoon channels. That’s where I want to be next.



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New Year, New Things

Hi Everybody..

New-year-res-kid-art
Lately I’ve been catching up on some ghastly overdue paperwork, ignored now for 6-ish years. I’m finding forms and papers and documents from what seems like another life. Becoming a camp counselor was the meridian which divided the course of my life from *artist-who-listens* to *professional-listener-who-is-alarmingly-artistic*. I have grown up so much since becoming a counselor, and now I realize how disastrously un-ready I was to run an art business. This paperwork through which I now wade is the result of running a business without a bean’s worth of expertise.

New-year-kid-art
Needless to say, things that mattered to me before becoming a counselor, such as fame, attention, approval and indulgence, matter to me less now. New things now matter to me, such as whether the physical, emotional, nutritional and educational needs of at-risk kids are being met, and by whom, and under what circumstances. I get up at 5 a.m. I go for a run. I get to work and set out breakfast for the kids. My coworkers arrive. We chat about the coming day and try to find where we put the stash of new spoons. The kids trickle in and we metal detect ‘em at the door. We have breakfast with them and go to class. We do fun stuff, boring stuff, exercise stuff, play stuff, creative stuff and we address problems as they occur. The kids go home. My coworkers and I debrief on what worked and what didn’t, then we do our paperwork. I go home. I have a couple of hours left to do some creature making or housework before preparing for the following day. Then I sleep and repeat the process.

New-kid-art
My life is focused, driven and full. When the kids are doing what they’re supposed to be doing, I manage to jot down a few doodles of new toy designs and old comic characters. When I manage to find some good art time, I take it slow and steady, focusing largely on the planning and preparation for production rather than just hacking into fabric and seeing what transpires. My spontaneity has mutated into decisive, intentional planning. I will make fewer pieces of art this year, but they stand to be remarkably better than anything I have ever done. And Stupid Creatures™ as they have been known will change forever.

new-book-creatures
I’ve just finished writing book #3, and I will be editing the first run of black/white laser prints in February. It’s a new sock creature book, and it focuses on not just the projects, but the way an idea can transform, expand and evolve when shared with hundreds of thousands of people. 15 of those people became guest designers in this new book, which is why there will be 20 projects for you to enjoy and further evolve. I’m excited to show it to everyone when it’s legal for me to do so. Next on my creature roster is a set of robot-like characters made from old trousers, and a new way (for me) of making a 3-toed foot.

Take care, everyone, and more soon!!

John
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