Sunday

Soul Motivation


I have, perhaps, been in front of my computer too much this weekend. Throwing caution to the wind, I've been reading a bunch of articles on crafting under the guise of doing "research" for DudeCraft. There have been some bright spots (Sister Diane's podcast I wrote about yesterday) but, by and large, the majority of what I've read has left me with a less optimistic and, frankly, emptier feeling than I had on Friday (pre-emersion). Of all the things I've read, there's one topic that seems to be cropping up everywhere and is at the heart of what's got me thinking.

Monetization. How to make money from craft fairs, blogs, and Etsy (Oh God, is there a lot of talk about Etsy). Let me start by saying that I am a big fan of money. Money can be a huge problem solver and I fault nobody for trying to acquire some of it through doing the thing they love to do. What hits me though in all the reading I've been doing (perhaps it's just the kind of reading) is that money seems to be the first priority for a certain subset of crafters out there. Now, I'm not one to write posts lamenting the demise of art for art's sake or to pine for the good ol' days when Granny BoBo made rag rugs simply because she needed to cover her floors. I would like to put forth the theory, however, that the reason you craft is directly related to the potential you have to make money from it. For me, and not to be overly cutesy here, it comes down to the difference between a sole motivation and a soul motivation.

The best artists I know, the ones that make the most money, and the ones I return to over and over again all have something in common. They are more concerned with craftsmanship and an ongoing dialogue with their muse than they are about the acquisition of cash. It takes guts to live that way. They have all had periods of being less than solvent and none could be considered rich, even now. In the end though, because their creative house was in order, they have, every one of them, made a decent living from their labor. None of them are especially clever business people. Their work simply stands out as extraordinary and, subsequently, people want to buy it.

The problem that I see with crafters who are overly concerned with making an income is that they have shifted their reason for making things. The lure of a monthly supplement has surpassed the desire to become a better artisan and, by association, a better person. What comes out of their studios is a product with no context that is disconnected from the maker. Objects that may have once been a direct extension of the maker's feelings, personality, and skill are now reduced to baubles in a transaction. The resulting art/unit/piece is completely bereft of, what we in the business refer to as, "mojo"; and nobody really wants to buy a handmade object without any mojo.

The remedy, to me, is clear. Stop chasing the buck and concentrate on making things that feed your soul and improve your skills. Period. No reason to wonder if anyone will buy it; just make it as well as you can, learn from it, and put it into the world. If it's got mojo, somebody will pay money for it. Objects with mojo sell themselves. They have a curious way of finding the people they need to be owned by. All you have to do is set the wheels in motion by keeping your creative priorities in the right order.

"To have a chance to learn and grow
to be skillful in your profession or craft
practicing the precepts and loving speech -
this is the greatest happiness."

- Mahamangala Sutra, Sutra Nipata 2.4

50 comments:

  1. You have articulated something I think about all the time. Sadly (or happily) for me, I've never been motivated that much by money. I am, however, extremely motivated when I get an idea for a project, plan it and then go to work making it. There is nothing better in the world for me than that feeling of originality, problem solving and then the final product. It's unbeatable! And it does make me a happier person.

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  2. Thanks Michelle. I had a feeling this would strike a nerve one way or the other. Glad you liked it.

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  3. BRAVO, Paul - you've expressed something I've been feeling, but hadn't managed to articulate. It's so true - the people whose work I return to over and over again are the ones who make things directly from their hearts. Imagine what we could accomplish as a community of more of us were coming from this place!

    Thank you for posting this. I have to go shout your link from the rooftops now...

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  4. Thank god you wrote this piece! You hit the nail!

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  5. Good words Paul, good words.
    I know that my love of stitchery is what drives me and (kinda) keeps me sane in running Mr X Stitch. If I was in it for the quick buck, I'd have set up a blog about how to make money blogging (which is what I see quite a few people doing). But for me, it's about delivering the best that I can, that honours the subject that I care about. And eventually, the time and effort spent pushing all that love out into the Universe should come back to me.
    The motivation is the foundation upon which the rewards are determined. I'm sure of it.

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  6. Oh Paul. You've hit it right on the head. Sounds weird coming from someone who runs a craft-lead business, but really we make bugger all money from our store; just enough to keep going - and we've devoted our life to it for the last 4 or 5 years.... because we LOVE making stuff, inspiring people to make stuff and meeting people who make stuff. If you get hung up on the money bit, I think you're missing the point and will probably ultimately fail.

    The downside of this devotion to our crafty passion is that we deal with A LOT of people who are making things for Money and not Love. People see us and the dollar signs flash in their eyes. They want to find something to sell to us! Maybe they make it.. maybe their sister makes it... but someone in their life has something we should buy from them! And if we don't take said thing they get cross. They get even more cross when we won't pay them up front. And they are always surprised when they realise cash flow is tight.

    We do what we because we want to live a creative life and raise our kids on a bit of a DIY ethic. And tough as it can be kind of great eking out a living this way - at least it's doing something tangible and fairly ethical too.

    There are books about making a craft business out there - they make me shudder. I think that you can make a business out of craft, as long as you are doing it from a foundation of extreme PASSION for making. And as long as you know that you'll probably need another job on the side! Especially somewhere like Australia where we don't have the population to support the amazing amount of craft that is being produced.

    Even though we run a craft business, we fell into it accidentally, through a love of making things and a pre-existing store that was not doing well. We bit the bullet and turned it into something more creative, that we would WANT to do every day. And it kind of works. We're more interested in meeting nice people and showcasing lovely craft. Less interested in the money thing - as long as we can pay (the usually 2 weeks late) rent, we're okay. Except we need to pay our rates today... and it was a quiet weekend... gulp!!

    I think it's a bit sad that the common perception is that Craft = Money. It really doesn't. Craft = Happiness! Craft = Friends! Craft = Learning!

    x

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  7. Hear! Hear!

    I guess I live in the good 'ol days because I just made a rag rug because I needed to cover my floor! http://is.gd/11WhM

    That's the beauty of attempting to not buy anything new. Most of the time I have to make what I need. The thing about that is I end up with exactly what I want. And I get to have fun making it. :)

    Besides, if I got money for crafting, wouldn't that make it 'work'? That would suck the fun out of it for me.

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  8. That was meant to say "and tough as it can be, it's kind of great eking out a living this way..." Typing too fast with too much enthusiasm! Sorry!

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  9. Thanks for the great comments, people. I always wonder whether I'm on the right track when I finish something like this. Can't believe I got comments from Pip, Mr. X, and Sister Diane all on one post. Thrilling. Much respect to you all. I love what you do and why you do it!

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  10. Excellent post, and I couldn't agree more.
    One of my pet peeves at the moment is TV 'craft' channels - "buy this kit and you can be a crafter". Nooooooo! It's not crafting, it's putting together a kit. You're no more a crafter than somebody who buys a flat-pack book rack is a cabinet maker.
    Climbs off soap box and goes to sit quietly in the corner.

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  11. Paul... you never cease to amaze. Whether you're posting some awesome link, sharing a project you've made, or even better, sharing a bit of yourself or your thoughts (like in this post), I am ALWAYS glad I dropped by Dudecraft. With this post, you put into words what I've been struggling with recently. I create because I have to. I sell because people ask me to. I have to say, I have a VERY hard time assigning a price to what I do... it's not a lack of business acumen, it's the feeling that if someone likes what I do enough to want it for their own, I'm SO honored I want to just give it to them with a hearty thanks for liking what I do!

    I know I'm not a big shot like Sister Diane, Pip or Mr. X, but I am so thankful for this post. I'm glad to be reading this now, too, as I'm on a soul-search of my own. Serendipitous moments are divine. Thanks for being part of mine.

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  12. Nigel and Christina - Thanks for the comments. Christina - I'm almost certain those people are laughing right now at being called "big shots". As to your search...I want to be really clear that I don't mean there is anything wrong with commerce. Money is helpful. The post is more about putting money in the second, third or fourth position on one's list of priorities when we endeavor to create something. I don't think there's anything wrong with selling your stuff, I just think that when we are presented with a choice between making for money and making for growth and community, the latter puts us in a healthier and more creative state of mind and, hopefully, because we are being our authentic selves, people will open their hearts and sometimes their wallets to our craft. Thanks again for the thoughtful comment!

    P

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  13. This is fabulous food for thought. I'll be linking.

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  14. I love this post. You're absolutely right about seeing the difference in peoples focus reflected in their work. If only being good at something guaranteed your ability to feed yourself.

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  15. Now you should write a book about the passion of crafting so you can make oodles of money and be rich and retire. Ha!
    Michelle, aka Shelly, aka ModHomeEcTeacher

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  16. Last time I checked, none of our favorite craft authors had been out yachting recently. Although I hear Sister Diane has a Maserati. :-)

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  17. I guess in my efforts to not leave a novel in your comments section, I edited too much of my original post out. Thank you so much for your follow up, though. It only reiterated what I took away from my initial reading. I have stopped making ANYTHING lately for fear of becoming one of those people who puts money/self first and craft consequential. I don't want to say you gave me permission to sell my art (because that sounds needy!), but "permission" is the word that keeps coming to me. What you did was put into words the answer to my internal struggle of late. I needed to hear what you had to say.

    Money *is* helpful... but making what I love, spending time with good friends, and meeting cool new folks along the way are what is most important to me. How awesome will it be to do all of those things AND get paid?! You're absolutely right, Paul... it's all in the priorities.

    (And laugh all you want, but for the record, I consider YOU a big shot, too!)

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  18. excellent and thought provoking post. I spend a lot of time thinking about the small business model of craft versus the model where I make what I make (call it art) and then I need to get it out of the studio so there is room for more art making. All advise I get is geared to the business model and that doesn't work very well for me. Which makes me feel like I am doing it wrong. Which leads to the argument in my head about what and why I do what I do!
    And, unfortunately in our culture, money = value. What someone is doing is considered important only if they get paid the big bucks. Maybe that is off topic though :-)

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  19. Mimi, Thanks for the comment. Not off topic at all. Here's what I think: you should do what works for you, as long as what works for you moves you closer to what you want. For me, the goal is not money. I wouldn't mind if money was a byproduct of my passions, but it's not my first motivation. I think being clear about what you want and then aligning yourself with that is the only thing that ever matters. People can give you all the business advice in the world, but if it doesn't align with what you want, and you follow it out of some sort of societal pressure to make money, your chances of happiness are pretty low. Conversely, if you go forward knowing what you want and putting a laser point on it, how can you fail. Everything always conspires to help those who have a direction. Thanks again.

    P

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  20. I like this article. It gave me something to think about. I do photography and have done some markets and shows. I haven't sold much, yet. I get some great feedback from people looking at my work. That keeps me going, even if I think what is all worth. The money will come someday

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  21. I fully agree. Sometimes while going through my daily dose of craft and design blogs I start to feel irritated and sad. A while back I realized it's because of just what you're saying here: the priority of hawking a clever product over creating interesting and meaningful work. Thanks for sharing your view!

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  22. Kerry and Amy - Thanks so much for your comments. Glad this post is inspiring so many thoughtful responses. I'm enjoying reading them all.

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  23. For the record, I do NOT have a Maserati. In fact, we gave up our car so we could better afford a creative life. :-)

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  24. I create because I must....I am driven to keep going, It's always a pleasure that someone wishes to buy one of my designs. Thats a perk of hard work and usually goes to support more supplies so I can learn some more.

    I cant imagine my life without creativity. I wish everyone worked that way!

    Great subject, great thoughts thanks.

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  25. Michelle - Thanks for the comment and thanks for reading!

    Paul

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  26. Beautiful - thank you! Can't wait to listen to the podcast now!

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  27. Bridget - Thanks. I hope you like it!

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  28. Interesting post and podcast. I'm not sure that I should comment on this issue since I'm a crafter who makes very little money. I clearly have not struck the right balance. But I'll go ahead anyway.

    I definitely agree that tweeting Etsy shop updates is annoying. Self-promotion is a tricky business and one that personally makes me uncomfortable. But I think people are just using all available channels of communication in order to get out of the cubicle and into the craft fair. Those who are just in it for the money are most likely not creating original or innovative work, which becomes apparent quickly enough.

    I still think that the larger issue is how to help crafters make a living from their work -- not become rich, but maybe get health insurance and pay the mortgage. And I'd still rather buy a handmade bowl with no soul than a mass-produced product from China. I think we still have a lot of people to convince about that one, though. And they are definitely not reading craft blogs.

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  29. Ellen,

    Thanks for the comment. While I agree that the use of tools like twitter, facebook, and etsy can have a positive impact on sales if used correctly, I also believe that the incorrect use of those very same tools can devastate one's chances of success. I want to see people come out of their cubicles as much as the next guy, but in order to do that, I believe, people are going to have to be known as "givers" in the craft community. They are going to have to do more than announce new shop listings. It's not only the one's who are "just in it for the money" that I'm talking about. It's everybody with a shop. I think you can be radically successful if you let people see the passion that fuels your art, better yet, if you can make them feel it by giving them something of value.

    Thanks again for the thoughtful comment!

    P

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  30. I was just linked to this great piece, and I'll be bookmarking it to look at from time to time—everything you've said is all too true.

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  31. Paul, I just heard Sister Diane's podcast and read this entire post, and I can't agree with you more. I am in the beginning stages of establishing a wearable art business of my own, and this particular issues really hits home. I've had the same impressions of all the reading that I've done, trying to set it up, and I can't tell you how depressing it can be sometimes...

    I have to say that I think part of this comes from your theatrical background... I, too, have degrees in the tech side of theatre, and I can unequivocably say that it's obvious when theatre practitioners care about what they're doing and when they don't. The product and impact of the work is exponentially better. Audiences enjoy it more and the quality of the experience increases, and drives more ticket sales. Belief in the message of the play and emphasizing attention to detail in support of that message is the best way to create a great piece of theatre. No one goes into theatre expecting to get rich...

    And that's what creating any craft or art should be about. Understanding and emphasizing the altruistic reasons behind why one's doing it as an artist will endear others to your work, and infuse it with "mojo", encouraging them to buy it. Just like theatre.

    It's good to know there's another theatre guy out there doing this. Give me heart. : )

    Corey in San Diego

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  32. Thanks for a thoughtful comment Corey! Hadn't thought about the theater thing, but I think it's right on the money. Cheers.

    P

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  33. Hey, a god motivation for someone who works from home like me. I spend a lot of time in front of computer as well.

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  34. Jonathan - Thanks for the comment!

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  35. I think you're right that those who are eventually able to make money from their craft are those who do it precisely for the love and not the money. The reason for this, it seems, is persistence. Even if you do amazing work, it takes a long time to get your work noticed, and even longer to get paid for it. Those who don't love what they're doing won't do it long enough to get to that point.

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  36. bizmiss - Excellent point! Thanks for the comment!

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  37. Hello.
    This is actually a problem I face so often.
    I am a terrible business person.
    Every time I offer/ am asked to make something for someone, and they offer to pay for it, I always find some way of of it.
    With me though, it seems to be that I feel it is unfair to make it commercial, if it is something that they could do themselves.

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  38. Felix, I hear you. We, most of us, feel the same way. Thing is though, even though those people could make it themselves, they aren't going to. That's why they want you to do it. You shouldn't feel bad about charging for your work. It seems like you already have your priorities straight about why you make things.

    Thanks for the comment.

    P

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  39. This is just what I needed to read at just the right moment.

    thanks.

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  40. foobella - Happy to be of service.

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  41. Thanks for the inspiration! Though I'm not a designer, I find your entry a good reminder to do what you like, not what you're expected to do (: and I love how you quoted a sutra at the end of the post as well!

    Cheers,
    Carmen

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  42. Carmen - Thanks for that! Glad you liked it!

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  43. Hmmm Great comments! I enjoyed the read and the advice is good. Agreed that products should show love and attention to detail and showing how inspired one is by producing art or design ensures that people are enjoying what they purchase etc.
    The thing I love about working from home and designing and crafting is the freedom to choose what to do in the morning! and on a lovely day if a walk in the forest is desired. Then that is what happens. It ia Surprising the inspiration one gets from a walk on a beach or within the confines of a forest.
    Anyhow. Thanks for your ideas and ideals.
    Best wishes Mary.
    Oh better put my website etc. Just in case you want to Peek :-)... knitwitzuk.com

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  44. Thank you for the thoughtful and thought provoking article. I just started making jewelry because it's something I've always wanted to try, also my son is leaving for the army soon and I needed something to keep myself busy. I've only been doing it for a few months and got caught up in the sell, sell, sell attitude. I've since realized that I just like to create. I need to sell some stuff so I can buy more supplies but my main goal is to make something of quality that I love and hopefully other people will love. With that in mind I'm working on getting better at jewelry making and using better materials. I am going to link your article to my blog so the other crafters I communicate with can see it too.

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  45. Lori - Thanks for the comment. I'm glad you enjoyed the article and are enjoying what you're doing for the love of doing it. Also, I'll keep your son in my thoughts. That must be terribly difficult for you.

    Best,

    Paul

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