I've been struggling recently with something less tangible than my artwork: my name. I'm from Generation X, or so I'm told by a recent online game. I was born in 1977, so now you know my age, and raised to be and do whatever I want. Both a blessing and a curse.
But with that freedom comes questions and uncharted territory, and mistakes. So, when I got married ten years ago, I wasn't certain what do do with my name. I had started my artistic career and all of my works had been signed "Schaeffer," my maiden, or as another artist called it recently, my birth name. At the age of 26 (I turned 27 the week after our wedding) I was among the first of my friends to marry. I had many conversations with the few who were marrying about their naming decisions. Should I keep my birth name, should I lose it and take on my husband's name, Goldberg? Or should I lose my middle name, Traill, shift my birth name, Schaeffer, to my middle, and take my husband's as my last? Should I hyphenate? And then, what should I go by for my business and what are the legal / social ramifications of those choices?
I had no idea, few had any real experiences to share, so I decided on the following since I was already creating and selling work: keep my middle name Traill (my business name is built upon that name; I'll write more on that in a future post) and use my birth name, Schaeffer, in my business, use my husband's name, Goldberg, socially and legally hyphenate Schaeffer-Goldberg.
Experience is simply the name which we give our mistakes. Oscar Wilde
Well, ten years and two kids later with one in elementary school, all of my decisions are proving frustrating. Now that I'm meeting people socially in school, but also wanting to associate myself and son with my business, all of these names are just too darn confusing.
So, here's where I am now. I have begun signing my work with TRAILL. It is the name associated most with my artwork and business (TraillWorks), and it's easier to sign legibly than Schaeffer. I'm beginning to introduce myself as Schaeffer-Goldberg. It's the only way I see to make it easier for people to learn about my artwork and also associate me with my son, and my husband as well. Yikes!
I've always been someone who hates conflict and wants to have my cake and eat it, too. So I'm going with the longer name, which will allow me to stop over-explaining who I am and why I made the choice, and started signing my work with TRAILL.
Married women artists, what did you choose for your name? Please share with me and let's start a conversation. If you're a younger artist, embarking on marriage, feel free to comment or ask questions.
Jennie Traill Schaeffer
Sometimes called the Kitchen God's Artist, I'm balancing mothering two energetic sons, a big mutt Ringo, making and teaching art. TraillWorks is the apron under which I create and teach. My own art develops mostly in my West Orange home studio, but is sometimes spurred through my teaching.
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West Orange, NJ
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