Visual artist: If you have to, you can make a good living from it, ZEIT Arbeit

In the “Bank Statement” series, we regularly introduce people who tell us how much they earn, what they spend their money on – and how much they put on their pages each month. 40-year-old Ties from Berlin reports here.

My job

Occupation: I work as a visual artist in my studio in Berlin-Adlershof. I mainly create sculptures: from miniature sculptures to room-filling sculptures. But also installations, paintings and photographs. Many of my works are not understood at first glance, but that’s not my goal either. I want the viewer to make an effort. Recently, in the exhibition rooms of Lage-egal in Berlin, I built three columns up to 1.60 meters high out of my own household rubbish, each crowned with a white cube. I don’t always work alone, but enjoy working together with others. In the summer it’s “If Paradise is half as nice” again. Since 2013 I meet every summer with nine other artists in an abandoned building in East Germany and create new art together with the others.

“I’ve been working as a bartender for a year.”

Education: I come from the Netherlands and studied Industrial Design at the Technical University of Delft. But that wasn’t my thing, and I dropped out. I spent a year working as a barkeeper in pubs until I decided to apply for the Fine Arts course at the Willem de Kooning Academie in Rotterdam. My parents didn’t think the idea was very clever, my close circle of friends also warned me against the breadless life of an artist. But I wanted to become an artist and was taken directly. After my studies I immediately started to work. My first work of art I was able to sell was a neon tube with the lettering dit is het for 1.000 Euro.

Weekly working hours: My working day starts at eight in the morning in the shower, when the first ideas come to me. This morning, for example, I remembered which works of art I wanted to produce for the upcoming exhibition in Rotterdam: a miniature edition of my garbage columns. Around nine o’clock I’m usually in my studio, sometimes I stay there until night. When an exhibition is due, I work seven days at a time. But on average I get 60 hours a week – at least if I’m working exclusively as an artist. Most of the time I’m alone in my studio listening to music, at the moment I’m often playing Nick Cave’s current album. When the ceiling falls on my head, I stop by at one or the other artist’s studio in Adlershof. To make ends meet, I sometimes work as a stand builder, in galleries and museums and do a lot of handicraft jobs. In weeks like these, I get a good 90 hours.

My income

“50 percent of my income goes to my gallery in Rotterdam.”

Gross income: When my gallery owners from the Frank Taal Gallery in Rotterdam sell a work of art, I earn between 500 and 8,000 euros in one fell swoop. And 50 percent of my income goes to my gallery as commission. But there are also times when I don’t sell anything and have to do part-time jobs. Then I come to 1,000 euros a week. This is how I finance the weeks in which I am only artistically active. On average, I earn about 15,000 euros a year.

Net income: About 900 to 1.000 Euro per month. That’s not much, but if you have to, you can make a good living from it.

My issues

Rent: I live in a one-room apartment in Neukölln, which costs 410 Euro. It is a small apartment, 32 square meters. My bedroom is at the same time my living room, in addition there is a tiny kitchen, which I rarely use. I travel a lot, so a bigger apartment wouldn’t make sense. My studio is a bit bigger for this – 52 square meters, which I also use to the full because I need a lot of space for my work. Half of my studio is sponsored by the Berlin Senate from the studio program in the Kulturwerk of the bbk berlin; I have to pay 150 euros myself.

Insurance: 110 Euro for health insurance. In addition there is the car insurance and my liability. Together these are about 180 Euro per month.

Private pension provision: None. I really can’t afford that.

Material costs: In order to create my works, I need a lot of material from the building market or from special shops for artists’ supplies. From tools to clay or ceramics, paint, wood – depending on the project I’m working on. I have to plan at least 3,000 Euro per year for this, which means 250 Euro per month.

Mobile phone and internet: I pay 25 Euro per month for my mobile phone, including internet. The WLAN in my apartment costs me an additional 30 Euro per month.

Clothing: 50 Euro about. I don’t like going shopping at all.

“When I go shopping, I make sure I get cheap groceries and go to the discount store.”

Food: About 240 Euro per month. Mostly I eat outside, in my neighbourhood I have a large selection of cheap snack shops, for example I like to go to Illegal Burger in the Weserstraße, they have very good food and okay prices. Sometimes I think it’s nice to go out for a nice meal. But I prefer to invest the money in my working material. When I go shopping, I make sure I get cheap food and go to the discount store. But vegetables taste best in my organic shop.

Body care: Four euros. I need a new shampoo and shower gel every two months. And I’m not choosy, which one I don’t care about at all.

Means of transport: I have a small car, an old Peugeot 206, which I need above all to transport my art and materials. The vehicle tax costs me 75 euros a quarter. I drive about 20,000 km a year, which of course consumes a lot of fuel. I spend roughly 2.000 Euro per year.

“Every time I climb, it’s like a vacation.”

Travel: I travel mainly for professional reasons and mostly by car, trying to keep the accommodation costs as low as possible. Sometimes the costs are also covered. All in all, I come to about 1,000 euros a year. The private recovery has the clearly smaller portion thereby. My last big trip was two years ago, when I spent ten days in New York. To switch off, I often go climbing. When I climb, it’s like a holiday every time.

Going out: I don’t go to clubs that often anymore. I prefer to meet friends at home, or we go to the Hasenheide or the Gleisdreieckpark. We often meet at the Tempelhofer Feld and drink a few beers. So we get 15 Euro a week.

So much is left in the end

Nothing. Nothing. Everything I earn, I reinvest in my profession. Acquire, buy new materials, visit galleries or create a publication of my work.

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Christina Cherry
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