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