I admit it. I was an Art Snob. I didn’t consider crafts an art form. Yes, glass blowing, metal smithing, maybe even pottery, but I turned my nose up at cropping, stamping and needlework. I saw them as “housewife” or ‘granny-crafts”, color-inside-the-lines for those who had no imagination. And collage, well, that was just something for people who couldn’t draw or paint. That was, until I saw some of the amazingly creative things artists do with fiber, paper and glue. Now, I’m a convert.
My old attitude came from a misguided background in fine art. Actually, I was a misfit in a competitive Design , Art and Architecture College at a large university. It was immediately apparent they’d made a mistake accepting me into the art education program. I’m a creative idea generator but this was pre-computer and to say I’m not a perfectionist is an understatement. Several of our design courses were combined with architecture and industrial design students and, well, let’s just say, I didn’t fit in. Another part of the curriculum was classic training in the fine arts of drawing, painting and sculpture. It was unacceptable if not laughable to even consider creating anything functional. The only time I felt in my element was the one semester we got an abbreviated sampling of jewelry and textiles.
Decades later as I walked the aisles of the Buyer’s Market in Philli or the ACC show, I thought, “Why didn’t I know in the early 70s that this was a option? And as I looked around my gallery full of delighted customers purchasing “functional” art (craft), I visualized the disapproving face of my old college professor and smiled, happy I that I’d followed my heart and opened my mind to the world outside of fine art.
Yes, I’m still in awe of painters and sculptors and I do have fine art hanging in my home. I’m also proud of the funky, fun, functional craft I own. It makes me happy and I know that the crafts people I purchased it from are artists as well.
That was the advise of Ryan Kuder who, after a layoff from Yahoo followed by a fruitless job hunt, started Koombea,a web design company. And he’s right. It is easier to find a problem than a job. That’s not news to those of us who coach entrepreneurs. You ask many successful entrepreneurs why they started their own business and yes, many will tell you it started with a dream, but just as many will say they found it easier than finding a job. And a lot more fun.
IN an article today in CNNonline, Peter Bregman commented that “the best strategy in the downturn may be to create your own work.”
IN his commentary, Bregman tells a story of his friend who was recently laid off form his tech job and is trying to pull together a group from his synagogue to leverage their skills, talents and experience to create a solid business driven by passion. They’re not trying to make a quick fortune but rather create sustainable, ongoing employment. They’ve even considered forming a synagogue based micro-finance bank to fund the businesses.
Bregman calls his friend’s idea brilliant and figures if each of the 400,000 churches in the US used this model to generate 10 jobs, that would create the 4 million jobs Obama is hoping for from the stimulus plan. I like the way this man thinks.
What about you? Are you looking for a job.? Who in your community could you form a brainstorming group with to pool intellectual resources and create a small business that would create sustainable income? What problems do you see that you can find a solution to? Rather than spend more time looking for jobs, start looking for problems or obstacles. This is where good ideas for products and services come from. So, if you must listen to the negative media, listen for problems-they’re everywhere, and turn them into opportunities. It’s much more fun than job hunting, and more likely to be successful.
People often associate Stephen Covey with organization and efficiency and while these are absolutely factors in ‘the Habits”, the line below from The 8th Habit spoke to me as someone who is a true true Social Entrepreneur. “When you engage in work that taps your talent and fuels your passion – that rises out of a great need in the world that you feel drawn by conscience to meet – therein lies your voice, your calling, your soul’s code.“ Many of us grew up with such a sense of responsibility that we forgot that serving, unless it is also fueling a passion, can be a disservice to ourselves and those we serve. If your heart is not in your work, the recipients of your labor feel it. But, all of us have at least one calling and when we are truly engaged in doing that “thing” and while we may not realize the impact it has on others, NOT doing it is with holding a gift from others.
Over the next couple of months, we will be introducing you to Social Entrepreneurs who are not only doing work that feeds their soul but making a living while making a difference in their communities and in the world.
In a recent edition of eWomen eMagazine, Sandra Yancey, CEO of eWomenNetwork says, “The fact is, for small business owners, nothing has really changed that much from what we normally encounter day-in and day-out. Entrepreneurs already know that in good or challenging times we have to expend lots of energy and invest the time to cultivate new relationships, network and transact deals. To survive and thrive, successful businesswomen are not allowing negative news to permeate their thinking,”
The February 2009 Women’s Economic Business study is based on an U.S. (85%) and Canadian (15%) representative sample of 3,964 women business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals of companies with fewer than 100 employees. This was an online survey that represents over 600 different business categories in North America. The survey was conducted from February 16 – 24, 2009 by eWomenNetwork, Inc., an organization recognized as one of the premier women’s business networks with more than 500,000 businesswomen connected to the network in 113 chapters across North America. The article states that when asked how businesswomen are feeling about the current economic situation, 72.5% replied that they are “charging ahead and keeping a positive outlook and 73.8% of the women surveyed felt this isa good time to grow their businesses. These are highly successful women who didn’t get where they are by being “Pollyanas.” This isn’t about denial. It IS about staying positive and focussed and flexible.
I’ve found the same attitude among my self-employed friends. Many are not just surviving but are thriving. Yes, in a time when people are losing their jobs and homes, small business owners are having to get more creative. I think of an economic downturn as a colander in which the complacent will slip through the holes and those who embrace change and re-align rise to the top.
Now, I’m not saying this is strictly a female entrepreneur attitude. I have met men in some of the hardest hit segments who are facing on the challenge head-on. While the construction of new homes is down, some ambitious contractors can do very well by marketing themselves as re-model experts, and while many realtors have thrown in the towel because they have to work so much harder to make a sale, those who are willing to do the work can connect with prospective buyers who weren’t willing to pay inflated prices and present them with a portfolio of “great deals” right now. Even with the mortgage industry in such a mess, a broker who’s willing to work harder can have a hay day with refinance now that rates are low. I believe in any small business, it comes down to observing the problems and finding creative solutions that people will pay you for.
According to Sandra Yancey, ” Now is the time to re-tool, re-think, re-design and re-align your business.”
In her “Support your Wanderlust” class, my friend and mentor, Barbara Winter, tells the story of writing a report in high school about wanting to be a flight attendant. She yearned to travel and figured working for the airlines was a means to see the world. She also had absolutely no idea what the job entailed as she’d never been on a plane but obviously, serving drinks and instructing passengers on proper use of their oxygen masks would not have satisfied her desire to see the world. Barbara was wise to recognize early on that in order to have the travel experience she dreamed of, she could design a career for herself that pays her to do what she loves, which is teaching and speaking in her ideal environment, conference rooms around the world.
A group of traveling nurses were in my gallery in California. Hearing them talk about choosing where to work for 3 months contracts, all expenses paid anywhere in the world, while they sent money back home to Kansas or Nebraska, I was intrigued. When I told them it sounded like they had the ideal job, one asked if ever considered nursing school. When I answered, “No, I’m too squeamish-just the smell of hospitals makes me nauseous”, they all laughed. “But you get paid to travel to beautiful places like this.” The nurses reminded me that I didn’t have to find a job that took me to a lovely coastal town-I lived here. They all thought I had the ideal job, working for myself. And I realized, they were right. (and they didn’t even know that I had just popped in briefly to pick up the previous day’s deposit before heading to the beach for a walk. They also didn’t know that I frequently traveled wherever I wanted on my own time while trusted employees continued to keep the business rolling and put money in the bank.)
As you consider a career change, rather than look at the perks and benefits of a job, think first about what you want your day to look like. Do you want to be at home, in an office or outdoors? Will you enjoy spending your days alone or will you crave company? How can you find a balance of solitude and social contact? Does being in one location all the time appeal to you or do you prefer more mobility? Is having your pet or child with you a priority? Do you see yourself wearing comfy sweats or do you enjoy dressing up? What’s you ideal work schedule? You may love to bake but if you’re not a morning person, opening a bakery probably isn’t your ideal livelihood. Consider your environment. Not just visually. What about the temperature? Don’t laugh-it matters. Years ago I studied healing arts and developed a thriving bodywork practice. I was in my element in a dimly lit room with soothing music and the aromatic herbs. I made my own schedule and could travel and spend time with family. I had a natural intuition about what a body needed and my clients were happy. I also faint when I stand for long periods, particularly in a small, hot space. Environment matters.
Before focusing on an actual occupation, close your eyes and visualize your ideal environment. Consider all your senses and sensitivities, your body clock and what makes you tick. Yes, you may have to make some compromises, but this is your chance to design your ideal livelihood. Make it work for you.
In an article in yesterday’s New York Times, reporters Matt Richtel and Jenna Wortham featured several twenty-something college grads who turned what could have been the misfortune of losing previously coveted jobs into an opportunity to make their own fortune.
Truth be told, I don’t normally read the technology section-for me it would be like reading the Shanghai daily news (and not the English version), but the headline, “Weary of Looking for Work, Some Create Their Own” obviously caught my attention. Being an avid self employment advocate, I thrive on any proof that entrepreneurs are more secure than employees.
Richtel says that Alex Andon, a graduate of Duke University, was laid off last May from a biotech company. After months of looking for work, he started building jellyfish aquariums in his San Francisco apartment. Using new technology to keep the fragile jellyfish alive, he’s already sold some tanks, one to a restaurant for $25,000. He’s also selling desktop versions on his website.
Four of Andon’s roommates have caught the entrepreneurial fever and started businesses of their own, including laminated, fold-out language guides for travelers.
The Times article also mentions 25 year old Monica Zaminska who was laid by her PR firm and after meeting with several recruiters and sending out countless résumés, started a restaurant review website for food enthusiasts Zaminska says, “I love working so I made work for myself.”
While the headlines are filled with reports of Doom and Gloom, whether you have been laid off or are losing sleep over the next round of job cuts, you can either join the negativity or see this as the perfect time to get started on those entrepreneurial dreams. If you don’t have any idea what you’d like to do, you probably ought to spend an hour with a life coach and unearth those interests. If you know what you love, but can’t see how you could possibly make a living doing it, or you know what it is you’d like to do but don’t know where to begin, send me an e-mail at themuse@inspiredlivelihoodcom. We’ll look at your idea and figure out how to make it happen.
As one of Andon’s roommates, Erin Kitchell said, “This is a good a time as any to try something entrepreneurial. There’s not a lot of opportunity out there right now” (for jobs). And as the self-employment muse, I’m telling you, there sure are lots of opportunities out there to start your own little empire.
Whether you are a skilled craftsperson, fine artist, collector or just have an appreciation or passion for the visual arts, knowing the business side of the art world and contemporary craft market will enable you to Turn that Craft into Cash and not only make enough to support your hobby but actually Make a Serious Living from your Craft
You’re probably thinking all I do is play-not true-I do work. It just feels like play. In my hometown on the west coast, I take my daily strolls on bluff trails overlooking the Pacific. Dogs are not allowed on the state beaches where they might disturb endangered snowy plovers, so Lucy and I are taking full advantage of our dog friendly Atlantic community this winter. Because I’m self-employed, I take breaks on my own schedule, which admittedly is these days determined by the tide chart. At low tide, we have endless miles of pristine beach to explore. Unlike our California beaches, which are covered with sand fleas and kelp, the sand is clean and fine. I discovered a treasure today. Not something to put in my pocket and take home for the coffee table, but a transient visual treasure to file away in my memory bank of inspiration. (and yes, I also stored it in iphoto.)
As the tide goes out, it leaves magnificent patterns in the drying sand. I don’t know what sea life leaves these imprints (If you know, please share with us here) but they are a source of creative inspiration for me. I want to go home and capture these patterns on fabric, etch them on glass and paint them on pottery. But I don’t. I do run back to the house and grab my camera). Walking home I remember when I first realized how most if not all of the decorative patterns we see on surface designs are inspired by nature. I remember the first time I visited the American southwest in the seventies, noticing that the patterns in the Red Rocks were exactly like a textile known as “waterfall” in the home furnishings industry.
If you’ve ever wondered how someone gets paid to design these fabrics, there is an entire industry based on art licensing. It’s a great way for an artist to do a work once and get paid over and over. Another way to leverage for passive income. To learn more about art licensing and how you can make residual income in the arts, be sure to sign up for my “News Notes” where you’ll get weekly tips about making a living in the arts and in the crafts industry. You’ll get it free with your Free “Myth of the Starving Artist”.
Make a Difference