Monday, December 6, 2010

Thoughts On Creating and Selling

William Morris

This may sound strange...but I feel a bit weird trying to promote myself.  I know as a self employed creative I have to be part of the money driven world if I want to sell anything.  I just find it hard.  I know I should start a facebook page and update my blog and do promotions and twitter constantly but I just can't seem to bring myself to do it.  Its honestly that I feel a bit akward and sort of weird singing my products praises.  I kind of just want to quietly make things in a corner...and if they impact someone who chooses to buy them that's great.  I really like being connected to my process and to other people...I find it hard to think...'will people buy this or that' or find my inspiration through current trends.  I am not trying to sound arrogant here...I just find it really hard to make and sell stuff in a profit before people focused world.

Morris and his good friend Edward Burne-Jones
Morris' Wallpaper Design
A painting by Morris

One of my big hero's is William Morris who was the founder of the Arts and Craft Movement in Britain in the late 1800's.  I wrote a research paper on his life and found myself really amazed by his spirit, writing and charisma.  He was the kind of person who swirled revolution around himself..who really set out to be different and found people following him.  He lived in the midst of the Industrial Revolution in Britain, and witnessed horrible factory working conditions and the literal destruction of the land around him by belching, dirty factories and mines.  He was a major advocate of hand craft, artisan-ship, beauty, joy in labor and people before profit driven societies.  He wrote amazing poetry, novels and political/philosophical works.  He was also prolific as an accomplished architect, painter, furniture maker, illustrator, designer and even weaver!  Ironically, he was a gifted business man, and created products that the public really desired.  This frustrated him as he found himself attempting to retain his principles within a capitalistic profit before people structure.  In short, in order to function within the framework of society he had to play by the rules and adjust his process to reflect this.  Toward the end of his life he abandoned business to become a socialist.  He realized that rather than attempting to fit within the current economic structure, he needed to pull down the structure itself and begin again.  His end aim began pushing towards a socialist, people before profit society where he felt his process could function with integrity.

Here is an excerpt of Morris' thoughts on factory production:
"We should be the masters of our machines and not their slaves, as we are now. It is not this of that tangible steel and brass machine which we want to get rid of, but the great intangible machine of commercial tyranny, which oppresses the lives of us all."
These are the words of his student Walter Crane concerning Morris:
"As an artist, no doubt at first he saw the uglification of the world going on, and the vast industrial and commercial machine grinding the joy and leisure out of human life as regarded the great mass of humanity.  But as an employer he was brought into direct relation with the worker as well as the market and the public, and he became fully convinced that the modern system of production for profit and the world-market, however inevitable as a stage in economic and social evolution, was not only most detrimental to a healthy and spontaneous development of art and to conditions of labour, but what it would be bound, ultimately, by the natural working of economic laws, to devour itself."

Now I am not saying we need to pull down society as we know it and become socialists.  I am only trying to express that I understand exactly how he felt.  Convicted but trapped within the current system.  Desiring to create and sell pieces to sustain our life, but overwhelmed by the hoops we need to jump through.  This is my beef...I really feel uncomfortable with the current system of economy.

This is why I love handcraft and its movement toward a more sustainable, people loving economy.  I am glad to be a part of this change.

I do not want to be part of a manipulative marketing world that essentially coerces people into believing they 'HAVE' to have this product when they really should be paying their rent.  I know I have to do some amount of   marketing/selling, but if so, I would like to do this in a respectful manner.  I do not want to push or prod or try to be something I'm not.  I think that people are lovely just as they are and shouldn't have to try to be 'cool' or fit in to a trend.  I really want to celebrate individuality and the beauty of choice.  I want women and men to feel comfortable with themselves and realize that they are valuable,  incredible beings with lots of good to offer the world.

I am not trying to sound haughty or better than anyone....this is something that I really wrestle with and want to shine light on it.  I understand that marketing and selling is part of life.  I just want to be real and not feel pressure to change myself in order to make some money.  I need to eat and like having a home but would really like to accomplish this in a way that I feel comfortable with.  Is this so hard?   I am writing this rant as I do feel the pressure...its certainly lots to think about and really stirs inside of me.  What do you think?


  1. I completely understand what you are saying, as I feel the same way about self promotion. When I first started selling my handmade wares, I almost felt embarrassed to be advertising myself. To me it felt like I was shouting in a crowded room and no one was listening.
    In the course of running my business I have learned,to my mind anyway, that those most interested in buying handmade are those who are the least responsive to traditional marketing strategies. They aren't the ones hanging out on Twitter or fanning your Facebook page. Once you identify your target market, you can approach them more organically and realistically.
    Sorry for writing a novel.......

  2. Thank you for this Barb. You have put into words EXACTLY what I am struggling with. I am feeling compromised and stumped about which direction to take... some days I come very close to closing up "shop".

    All these feelings have motivated me to offer a series of free sewing workshops once a month in a "donated space".I don't know how this will help my inner turmoil...but offering something for free takes all the consumer madness out of the feels satisfying.

    Love you

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  4. William Morris was an amazing man, I loved learning about him in design history. It was so insightful, too, of him to see that the industrial revolution was going to be a bad thing for people. Too good to be true...

    I think you will find that many people who hand make struggle with marketing themselves. I don't want to stereotype, but I think it would be fair to say that most people who hand make do what they do because they love it not because of the money. They are not usually money minded sort of people so they find it hard to talk themselves up. We just love what we do and hope that someone else does too.

    I really hope that the current handmade & craft movement is more than just a trend.

    I think you should look at this in a different way. You don't really want everyone in the world to buy your shoes cos most people wouldn't appreciate the work gone into them. The people who would love to buy them (like me!) really appreciate them, and we are the sorts of people who think about and research our purchases. How will we find out about your product if you don't get it out there? If you don't want to twitter don't - you can't fake stuff you don't really want to do. But talk loud and proud about what you do. I once worked for a cafe that only served 'Happy Eggs' but they didn't tell anyone or even have it written on the menu!

  5. Thank you for all the amazing comments! I really appreciate your thoughts and it is nice to have a dialog. Thank you for your encouragement. I actually feel more focused and it is amazing to know I am not alone:) Thank you! It means a lot:)

  6. I totally know what you are talking about. I struggle with promoting my work and I have huge issues pricing my things. But after a few years of mulling over this I try to remind myself that when your work has integrity it finds the right place to be and the right people find you. There are lots of people going quietly about their business and are successful because of it. I love my shoes and I tell people about your work every chance I get. Happy Xmas marketing - hope I will get a chance to see you at one soon. Kia Kaha