Navigating financial deserts is part and parcel of the artist life.
Sometimes our work sells beautifully and provides us with everything we need to pay for power, internet, and dinner out with dear friends. Other times we need to supplement with regular work to allow us to keep doing what makes our hearts sing. And now and then, life throws a curve ball where we don’t have enough money, work has dried up, and each day becomes a struggle to keep trying and cling to hope.
I went through that struggling stage this year.
I had finally built a great work/art balance and was so happy and excited about the future. Then a boss reneged on a contract, my new boss announced that my job would include sexual favors (I reported him), and the next boss disappeared, literally, the day I was to receive my first pay check (I reported him too).
Reporting those scoundrels felt good morally, but it was devastating financially. To go without a sufficient paycheck for one month is manageable, but for five? It was gutting. And stressful and scary and sad.
I knew I had a choice to make. I had no power over getting a new job or suddenly having enough money for all the bills piling up, but I had a choice in my attitude and in how I used that time.
So, I had a good cry, fumed about how unfair it all was, then took a deep breath, and a few more, and chose to make the most of it.
I planted gardens so we would always have something to eat, I cut back in every possible way to lower our monthly bills, I collected wheelbarrows full of weeds and grasses from the fields and gardens to keep our animals fed, and I applied for every job I could find. Then, I created.
I wood-burned spoons, cutting boards, and spatulas.
I harvested, dried, and blended herbal teas.
And I wrote and published two books: “herb & spice: a little book of medieval remedies” and “Desert Fire: medieval nomad food”.
I drew on my experiences as a medieval reenactor, and the years of research and experimentation I’ve done to make medieval medicines and medieval tribal food for demonstrations I give at festivals and schools throughout the year.
I spent weeks in my tiny kitchen slow-roasting lamb until it was fork-tender and moist with flavorful drippings, and pounding together dates, clarified butter, honey, and spices into beautiful spreads that never go off in the desert heat.
I simmered elderberries with spices and raw honey into a nourishing cordial that fortifies the immune system and helps stave off colds and flus, and mixed up innumerable herbal concoctions to soothe sore throats, calm upset stomachs, and ease headaches.
I taste-tested and arranged photo shoots, edited photos and wrote stories, histories, and recipes, designed the books, and finally, they were done, printed, and in my hands.
They’ve gone to new homes in Australia, Canada, and the United States, inspiring people with the creativity and ingenuity of our ancestors who always knew how to use fruits, vegetables, animals, and herbs to heal their ailments and provide the nourishment they needed to care for their families.
When I see them with my books now I feel so much warmth and love and gratitude, for their creation saw me through months of deprivation and stress, anxiety and grief, wondering if there would ever be light at the end of the tunnel again. They are the product of hope, the belief that if we keep doing the work, things will work out in the end.
Thankfully I have consistent work now, with editors who keep their word, pay on time, and treat me with respect and kindness. I’m slowly catching up financially, and give thanks every time I have enough money to cover a new bill. And I’m so proud that those dreadful months didn’t take me down, that, in the midst of loss and pain, I made something good and beautiful.
This is Week 34 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Krista's story today. To connect with Krista and see more of her work, please visit the following links:
Good Reads: https://www.goodreads.com/ramblingtart