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This post requires discussion.

08/15/2009

Between graduating and my birthday, I’ve been feeling quite existential lately. I find myself lost in introspection, wondering who am I, what I’m doing, where I’m going, and most importantly, How? How do I do what I want, get what I want, live the life I want to? What’s the next step? Inevitably, this navel-gazing has extended to the blog and shop, to what it is I want from and with my creative side, and how that relates to business.

The most successful indie crafters are instantly recognizable; stylistically, and by the type of products they espouse, they have built a brand. Think about the crafters you admire, the crafters you recognize instantly and most importantly (from the business side of things) the crafters who make a living off their crafting- how do you recognize them? Do their business ventures seem part a unified whole, and why? Look though the featured seller list on etsy, and you’ll find their works not only individual art pieces, but a cohesive whole. Most guides written up for crafty businesspersons spend reams of text on branding, on creating a recognizable brand and presence in the crafty world. Where, then, does that leave a crafter like me, one who practically defines herself by eclecticness, by trying everything once or twice, by not having a theme? How do you build a brand for a collection of miscellaneous eccentricity?

I’ve always looked at my own work- craftwise, or even drawing-wise- and felt like I lack an artistic style. I’ve felt generic, undefined and unrefined and while I know I am not unaccomplished, I sometimes feel as if I lack direction, and thus cannot fulfill my full potential. At the same time, attempts to narrow down my pursuits feel limiting, stifling, and ultimately do more to discourage than focus. When it comes to art, to drawing and painting and such, I feel that I simply need to continue to refine my technical skills, and the rest will come. When it comes to craft, I feel greedy: I fear limiting myself when there’s so much to sink my sticky little fingers and always-questing mind into.

When it comes to business, I’m totally lost.

I’ve thought often on focusing down my entrepreneurial efforts before: on focusing, perhaps, on one product type (fascinators, hand painted shirts and hand sculpted polymer clay jewelry have all crossed my mind), or perhaps on one style or theme (animals, geek craft, neovictorianism). The thing is, the very ideas tastes of limitation, so much so that I can’t even imagine enjoying it, much less maintaining a business presence. A large part of the reason I chose the corvids to represent my creative side is their folkloric habit of collecting whatever shiny bit strikes their eye, related by nothing other than the Crow’s eclectic tastes. My crafting is my cache, my excuse to indulge in whatever is beautiful to me, whatever is interesting, and while my store reflects that it does not make for much of a unifying, memorable theme. My business, my works are not identifiable as me, and thus I don’t think I have the same impact as a businessperson as I might otherwise. It’s been difficult, even, coming up with a business card: how do I communicate, on that tiny sheet of paper, what it is I do when I do so much?

So how can an eclectic crafter create a unified brand? In recent brainstorming, I’ve considered introducing “lines” which fit into a particular theme, like fashion houses release seasonal and themed lines. I’ve also been thinking about developing personalized touches that can be applied to multiple works- tags, stylistic details that are recognizable without being inhibiting. What do you think? If you’re a crafty businessperson, or artist, or just a creative person on general, how do you go about defining your brand? Your style? Your you? Does creating a brand concern you, or do you just do what you like and trust that the rest will follow? How has your approach worked for you so far, and how could it work better? Are there ways to create an identity in the subculture of craft without severely limiting one’s output? Is it wrong to feel that gaining recognition (or perhaps recognize-ability) requires a sacrifice of scope/range? Who are we? Why? And most importantly, how?

It occurs to me that this could become quite a valuable discussion(which is not to say that the discussion is new, just valuable enough to repeat). Ergo, let me know if you have or do blog about it yourself, or know someone who has, and I’ll link to it here.

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