Tag Archives: selling crafts

The Shame of Calling Yourself an Artist or Crafter

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There is little that makes me more uncomfortable around people I just met than being asked what I do. A few people are fascinated when I tell them “Oh, I’m a glass beadmaker,” but the majority give me a reaction that tells me they just heard me say “I’m an unemployed, uneducated person who has a lot of time for crafts.”

It’s not their fault that they hear that. If I didn’t do what I do I’d think the same thing. That’s because most of our society has the following assumptions.

1. We don’t produce goods in America. Most people haven’t even met someone who works full time making something themselves. The people who do that are found in Chinese factories, or at least they have more important people telling them what to make.

2. You can’t make a living doing something creative.

3. Things made to be decorative or beautiful are worth little. Unless they have some recognized name brand stuck on them somewhere of course.

4. When you tell me what you do for work, I can infer from your job title how educated you are and how much value you are to society… in other words how much money you make.

The responses almost always make me feel uncomfortable and even bad about myself if I let them. Most people assume that because I’m married I don’t have to work so they don’t ask further questions but I can tell what they are thinking. If I’m really lucky the next part of the conversation is about Chihuly or some glass blower they saw somewhere on vacation or how glass art is made in general.

Sometimes I’m asked “Can you actually make money doing that?” I love the people who ask that, awkward though it is. I’ll usually answer with something like “Yeah, I know it’s crazy!” or “Who would have thought?”

But I don’t think that’s true. I really don’t think it’s crazy at all.

I think I stumbled on an opportunity that no one seeks for themselves because no one knows it’s possible. How sad is that?

Please stop thinking that creativity is just some rare stroke of genius that is only someone like Steve Jobs had. Please stop thinking that you have to have employees, or that you can’t produce a product yourself to have a successful business. Please stop thinking that you can’t work at home, doing what you love and maybe even make a very good living.

I’m here to tell you that you can! Is it easy?

No! I have put in more unpaid hours of work learning to work with glass and doing research than I would have getting a bachelor’s and then master’s degree. I had to figure out through trial and error what would not work both on the level of making my beads and then solving the problem of how to sell them. All the time there was no “finish line” in sight. I never knew if I’d ever get to say “O.k, that worked, I made it.” But in return I get to do exactly what I want with my time. I get to research what I want to research, learn the skills I want to learn. I’m free to take my work in whatever direction I want to take it. And because the whole time I was so very engaged with what I was learning, it really didn’t feel like work at all most of the time.

Here’s the secret. One of the most fun, rewarding jobs there is out there isn’t pursued by many people. No one respects crafts because no one takes them seriously. They are considered nothing more than just a hobby that people pick up and drop within the span of a month. But if you love something enough to take it seriously and put thousands upon thousands of hours into it, you’re eventually going to come up with something great enough that people can’t ignore. Sometimes great doesn’t translate to money, but often it does. And as long as we have our basic needs met is more money important or is it more important to wake up every morning inspired to start your day?

If you are a creative person, take your creativity seriously. Stop thinking of crafters as crazy people who love to use glue guns to stick ribbons and doilies on everything in sight. Make time for your creativity and honor it. Especially if you are one of those previously described crafters with a glue gun. :) You never know where it could take you.

It’s enough just to make the world a more beautiful place. No matter how small the beautiful things you make are. :)

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Buy Art Not Brands

Do you ever think about what your dream home would look like if money
were no object? Would it look like luxury home photos in magazines?
Would you be surrounded by expensive furniture and whatever art and
decor that was trendy and expensive at the time? Would you want things
like a pool and a tennis court even if you don’t really like to swim or
play tennis? Or would it be a completely unique place all of your own?

I’ve recently been thinking a lot about what makes us want something,
and why sometimes we find ourselves wanting things that don’t really fit
us as individuals. Sometimes we want things because its more about them
helping us fit in rather than those things fitting who we are.

Lately I’ve seen multiple articles like this about Etsy’s most successful seller. http://www.inquisitr.com/1863026/thr…libaba-claims/ I’ve started to completely rethink my approach to selling art.

Common advice to artists is to become a brand. Basically this means to
somehow magically make distinctive art and become famous at the same
time. This is great advice because our society is brand obsessed. Even
as artists, we are brand obsessed. Etsy’s most successful seller created
a brand that is so big that now she must have her designs mass
produced. She’s definitely a brand but is she an artist?

Is it really Etsy’s problem that they have to find a way to survive and
thrive as a huge popular website that serves a culture that is brand
obsessed? Just like food brands would have never taken corn syrup out of
their products before documentaries like Food, Inc, got so popular,
Etsy won’t change before the culture does.

I believe that big brands are as to artists as huge farms are to small
local farms. The reason that so many people desperately want to sell
their art and work for themselves is to avoid having to work a soulless
unfulfilling career, but ironically many of those soulless careers are
working for a big brand. I think marketing is often approached by other
artists as a way to get their art seen by more people and bought by more
customers over other artists. I can give you advice on how you
personally can get an edge over other artists by finding the right
keywords and optimizing your listings for search engines, etc, but that
can only help one person be able to quit their regular 9-5 to sell their
art.

Other artists aren’t your competition, brands are. If we can work to
sell art itself to people instead of just marketing our own art and
trying to find a way to tell everyone how great your work is without
sounding egocentric or stepping on others toes or spamming all your fans
you’ll create real change in the world. The hands that make products
for a brand don’t belong to the minds that dreamed them up and in that
disconnect the “soul” is lost. Art has soul. Art that is created in the
mind and made by the hands of the artists that belong to that mind, that
are ONE with that mind, that art has soul.

The problem is that as a culture we don’t put a monetary value on that.
We dismiss that “soul” as oh you made something cute, oh she is crafty.
Oh he does art for a hobby. Then we turn around and put a huge monetary
value on something mass produced or even made in a sweatshop because it
has a brand name. Someone put a lot of money into advertising and
product research to make you aware of that thing. They spent a lot of
money to make you believe that if you own and display that thing that it
will enhance your ego or impress people you don’t really care about.

A masterfully crafted craft or piece of original art is not something
that you throw away when the trend has passed. Rather there is no trend
to come or go but the thing has true value that is more likely to
increase then quickly diminished with time. The less well known the
artist and the more original the art, the less brand like it is.

Trends in fashion are the most ridiculous waste of resources because
essentially a trend is started by a few brave people who discover they
want to be different from everyone else and everyone else wants to be
different too so they all end up looking the same. Then it’s on to the
new trends. Trends are destroying the earth. Instead buy an original
piece of art that speaks to you, that you love and be original.

Before you purchase something ask yourself? Why do I like this? Do I
like it just because I like the brand name? Do I like it because it’s
popular? Do I value it because I think it has value or because my friend
thinks it has value? How much is this actually worth considering the
materials and time spent on workmanship? Whose hands made this and who
designed it? Are they the same person? If not how greatly removed are
they?

  

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