December 19, 2019 | Alyson Stanfield

Our Stuff Matters with Megan Auman

As an artist, you may worry about the pressure to lead a minimalist lifestyle. Things weigh you down. Stuff is clutter. Stop being so materialistic.

These are just a few of the admonishments you're exposed to.

How does marketing your art jive with such trends? If we're encouraged to shed the objects in our lives, who will buy your art? Are you contributing to landfills? (The answer to that last question is a resounding No!)

Handcrafted jewelry by Megan Auman
Megan Auman models her Fleurir necklace and Petale earrings. Used with permission.

Designer and metalsmith Megan Auman has some insight that will make you feel better about making more art. What you do is critically important—it's the antidote to mass consumerism.

In this episode of the Art Biz Podcast, you’ll hear Megan and I talk about a manifesto she wrote back in 2012 titled Stuff Does Matter. When I read it, I thought it was brilliant and wished I had written it. Now, finally, I get the chance to revisit it with Megan herself. (I'm a little slow)

Before we get to my interview, here’s the manifesto for a little background.

Stuff Does Matter Manifesto

Stuff has a place in our world and in your life.

Statement Ring by Designer Megan Auman
Megan Auman, statement ring from her Contra Collection. Black and white gemstone from India in steel setting. Stone size: 1.5 x 1.25 inches. Image used with permission.

Objects matter beyond their utility.

Caring about things is not wrong.

Your stuff helps you make sense of the world.

Stuff connects you to people — to your past, present, and future.

Stuff provides beauty, meaning, and experience.

Stuff helps you remember and share.

There’s a difference between mindless consumption and the way you feel.

Value what you have.

Buy only what you love.

Savor what you own.

Allow your things to enrich your life.

Choose gratitude over guilt.

Know that the things you love do matter.

Listen Now


Music by Wildermiss.

Highlights

  • Megan's background, including her BFA and MFA studies (2:46)
  • Her current focus on production and one-of-a-kind jewelry with gems from India (4:50)
  • Her MFA thesis show of furniture made of wire in surface patterns and how it influences her current work (6:10)
  • Stuff Does Matter manifesto (7:50)

Display of jewelry by metalsmith Megan Auman
Megan Auman jewelry display. Used with permission.

  • Why the word “stuff” is the best word to use (8:10)
  • How she researched “stuff” and material culture (9:58)
  • Why Minimalism isn't the answer for everyone (11:40)
  • Why your art doesn't contribute to mass consumerism (13:45)
  • Millenials do want stuff, not only experiences, but they buy less (14:42)
  • Learn to talk about your art in the language of experience instead of the language of stuff (15:40)
  • How the death of her artist-mother prompted Megan to think more deeply about her attachment to stuff (18:00)
  • Swedish Death Cleaning (18:20)
  • Keeping things for sentimental reasons isn't wrong and why this is also a feminist issue 17:55 (21:10)
  • Our relationship to things changes over time (22:53)
  • Reach out to other people in your family when you no longer treasure an object (24:25)
  • Consciousness and connection vs. consumerism (28:55)
  • Artists don't want to be part of noisy mass marketing – to their detriment (32:20)
  • There is no shame in selling and being part of the solution to mass consumerism (33:15)
  • You have a responsibility to price your art appropriately and most artists need to raise their prices (34:30)
  • When Megan first received pricing advice and how she continues to follow it (36:10)
  • “My job is to help other artists and makers understand how important their work is so that they can go out and tell their customers and the world.” (38:58)

Assorted earrings by metalsmith Megan Auman
Megan Auman earrings. Steel and recycled sterling silver. Used with permission.

Mentioned

Download the Stuff Does Matter manifesto
Megan's post about Millennials and creating an experience
Megan's thesis exhibition
The mug she loves so much from MODHome Ceramics
Swedish Death Cleaning
Quote from Aesthetic Intelligence by Pauline Brown about the need for beauty

About My Guest

Megan Auman with mug by MODhome
Megan Auman with her handmade mug mentioned in the podcast

Megan Auman is a designer and metalsmith who creates bold, wearable jewelry made from steel and recycled sterling silver sold in stores across the U.S.

She is also a focused businesswoman who has helped many artists grow their businesses through her blog, courses, e-books, and consulting at Designing an MBA. That makes her a writer/author, instructor, and entrepreneur as well.

Megan received her BFA in metalsmithing from Syracuse University, where she also studied entrepreneurship. She went on to receive an MFA in metals and jewelry from Kent State University.


Music by Wildermiss.

Recommended Art Biz Action

This episode is sponsored my signature business-building program, the Art Career Success System, a program I have perfected for more than 17 years working with artists.

All of the lessons you learn in the Art Career Success System are tasks you will do over and over again throughout your art business and career. That’s why it’s a SYSTEM.

In the ACSS you will build a strong foundation using my video and audio lessons, worksheets, and transcripts. And you will be part of a community of artists who are forward-thinking and forward-moving.

Get Your Biz System Now

9 comments add a comment
  • Thank you so much for this episode! Thank you Megan for writing this topic!

    After doing outdoor art fairs for many years, the one thing people would say to me that was a dagger to my heart was, “I really love your paintings but I just have too much stuff and nowhere to hang one.” I wish I had read your post, Megan, so I could’ve had a great dialogue. Now, I will!

    I also need to do some homework on pricing as a couple of artist friends have kindly told me to raise my prices.

    Thanks again,
    Alyson

    • Alyson Stanfield

      You are certainly welcome, Amy. As I said, I wish I would have gotten to this topic much sooner. It’s so important.

  • VERY TIMELY!!!!!
    I’ve tears in my eyes as I will be re-reading this post and definitely definitely listening to this episode.

    2018-2019 have proven huge seismic changes in my life. My husband and I are in planning stages of another one in the next few years…which means downsizing, letting go, not buying, etc.

    Many of the thoughts your share here are the same that’ve haunted me for the last couple of years: why would someone want artwork as all it does is hang and look pretty? why would someone buy “more clutter?” and on and on like the thoughts mentioned here.

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS having an answer when most needed. Even when I can’t express.

    Let Megan know, manifesto requested…but I will continue to let go but now with a little more forgiveness when wanting to keep!

  • Thanks Alyson! I am not ‘in love’ with STUFF, but I do savor and enjoy all the stuff I have. Much of it is OLD, family pieces passed on from ancestors. Some of it is just old stuff I like (my Fiesta Ware). Some of it I need to be able to make the thinks I like to make (photos, cards, jewelry), and some of it I have, just because (books).
    I am really tired of the guilt trip laid upon us by well-meaning folks. You are SO right….if not having STUFF means no one will buy art, (be it music, jewelry, wall art, wearable art….) where does that leave us??
    If a fire or tornado took all my stuff, I would survive, because in the larger scheme of things it is not the important STUFF of life. However, I would lament its loss, just because it was STUFF I liked to have around.
    ‘nuff said.
    Thanks for all you do for artists, and Merry Christmas!
    Julie

  • Brilliant & timely, thank you!!

  • A great podcast that helped me with that age old question about ‘stuff’. I’m considering how to incorporate your thoughts into my marketing. Thank you!

  • […] We both decided that this was exactly what artists and makers need to hear around the holidays, and I’m so happy to announce that the episode is out now! […]

  • Thank you Alyson and Megan…another one hit out of the park! I LOVED this podcast, and I couldn’t agree more. I have a real attachment to certain things. I am well aware that they are not the most important “things” in life(of course people and relationships are). But I heartily agree with Megan saying they can provide a connection to the past, to memory, to sensuality and deep joy. Having just moved after 30 years…I had much to go through and let go of…I found it exhausting but cathartic. And in doing so I reclaimed those objects that resonated the most deeply with me, that carried a significance for me way beyond their “thingness” and that transitioned into my new space, bringing memories, joy, beauty and a sense of “home” with them. I was also ready to let go of much that had served its purpose and therefore was ready to a find place in another’s home. I think people are starving for deeper connection with one another, with the lives they choose, and the choices they make. Well thought out purchases of those things that bring joy, recollection, solace and a reminder of the beauty, art and possibility in this world, feel/are essential to me. As if that were not enough, I then followed all the links(to the manifesto, quote etc etc)…like bonus goodies or “take homes” after a party.. Thank you!

  • Very inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

Share Your Thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *