Today I wanted to write about a subject that is constantly being raised amongst my creative friends. We become frustrated, disillusioned and despondent about our chosen paths when we read in magazine articles or blogs about the instant and meteoric rise of artists/designers/artisans.
The scenarios for these stories are fairly standard but here is one. Firstly they give up their day job, or start a family and decide to work from home, or have just finished a degree in visual arts. Then they begin to make __________ (insert a product) and show their friends and family the finished product. Friends and family promptly begin buying from them; this rapidly escalates to orders being placed from stockists, all this resulting in them having a viable business which affords them a comfortable living in a fairly short span of time.
Anyone in a creative industry will tell you that it is a crowded market and highly competitive. There is no such thing as overnight success. The people who rise to the top and have longevity are those who are diligent with their making and marketing; possess faith in themselves and their products and those, most importantly, who don’t give up.
So I am writing this post to congratulate them. Congratulations to those who have a day jobs, look after their families and still manage to create beautiful handmade products. To those who work on their creative careers on weekends, late at night or early in the morning. To those who run their business not from an airy all white studio but from the kitchen table or garage. To those who have sent in countless images and pitches to magazines, blogs and galleries only to be rejected time and time again. You are the unsung heroes who demonstrate a stubborn persistence to success in your craft when it would be easier to just give up and have a cup of tea.
To the makers who overcome fear and focus on the optimism required when you put yourself and your products into the world for scrutiny. I am in awe of all the creatives that never take ‘no’ for an answer and just keep knocking on doors. I wanted to give voice your stories and let you know that you are seen and valued. I applaud your striving to build a business which is financially viable and emotionally sustainable.
I hope that readers understand that behind every story of success there is always a tenacity which doesn’t allow failure to deter that person’s ambitions. Maybe magazine editors and bloggers believe that writing about the difficulties encountered by makers does not make for good reading. Let me disavow you of that notion. I for one, would find it aspirational to read about a person entire journey. To learn what difficulties they encountered along the way and how they have not only survived but thrived.
Those are the stories I would like to see more of and I truly believe after talking to people that I am not the only one. So I’d like to send out a challenge to editors and writers at large to consider when they next are writing or commissioning a story about a designer to give us the ‘whole scoop’ warts and all; so that we as readers can cheer them on because we have been privy to their vulnerability as well as their successes.
PS: When I read stories about makers I never make assumptions that they have had it easier than anyone else in their industry. What I object to is the one sided picture that we as readers/fellow artists are given by the writers and editors of these stories.