Monday, July 25, 2011

Handmade Business - Part 1: What kind of artist are you?

I've been doing a lot of thinking about art, crafting, the handmade movement and Etsy. Yes, I know I'm always thinking about these things, but this recently, even more. Even though I opened my Etsy shop in 2009, this is my first year being serious about it. While I was finishing a graduate degree and working full time, it couldn't really be more than an occasional hobby, but now I have a plan for how I want my business to evolve.

Of course this involves coming up with a business plan of sorts (ugh), which has made me scrutinize every part of my process. I'm planning to share some of these thoughts and insights along the way. This is the first installment.


Living with another creative person and seeing the differences in how our creativity manifests got me thinking about different types of artists and artisans. I ended up coming up with two broad categories: the finished-object focused artist versus the process-focused artist.

When I think about myself, I know I always need to have my hands busy. I love creating, and I start to get crabby if I have to go a day without even 10 minutes to work on something crafty. I love the feeling of making, watching things come together, perfecting techniques, and everything else that's involved in the process. But more than anything, I love seeing the finished piece. Whatever it is I'm making, my happiest moment is when I add that last finishing touch and then try it out - be it mittens that I anxiously pull onto my hands, or a drawing that I quickly hang to "see how it looks in the space."

The Sam Cowl in Cotton Candy - Coming this week

On the other hand, my husband is completely different. He is incredibly multi-faceted and talented and I'm constantly blown away by all the amazing things he works on. But - he is a different kind of animal. He starts a million projects, throws himself in the process, finds victory in every step of the way, and 90% of the time, sets them aside before finishing. Now mind you, I'm not saying this is in any way worse than being "finished-object focused." It is just a very different way of experiencing the creation of art - this kind of artist is immersed in the process, and as the process starts to wrap up, the project might lose some of it's appeal. And that's ok - the phrase I heard the most in design school was, "it's all about the process."

Nate making book covers

But when it comes to owning a handmade business, you really have to understand what kind of artist you are. If you find that you start many projects but don't finish many of them, a handmade business might become a burden for you. After all, if you don't finish your pieces, you won't be able to sell them. Without pieces to sell, your business is going to suffer. If having the pressure to finish pieces is going to take the pleasure out of it, this might not be a good path for you.

If you're all about the finished piece, then a handmade business is probably a more viable option for you because you will have an easier time creating inventory for your shop.

Of course, this is just one of many, many things to consider when thinking about starting your handmade business, but I think it's a crucial one. It can be the difference between turning your craft into an unpleasant chore, and starting the business of your dreams.

So, what kind of artist are you?


  1. I am both. I love the process when I'm designing and starting to create possible items for my shop. Then, after my prototypes are finished, I become all about production. Production is soothing and satisfying, but it can be dull. Coming up with fresh ideas is exciting but doesn't always lead to successful products. I need to balance both to keep my interest up, and my business thriving.

  2. This might sound like a cop-out as I'm not traditionally crafty, but I consider myself a process artist...with people! All throughout acupuncture and herb school, I was always told that acupuncture is an art, that herbs is an art, much more than either is a science. In regards to the focus being on a person's continued health, rather than on an instantiated pathology, it makes sense. A person's life is a canvas with an evolving palette, so in a sense I'm not allowed to have a "finished product" until the person is "over." And people are always evolving, and I am, hopefully, allowed to help them along the way. Like painting when the oils are constantly changing viscosity, the colors are constantly morphing shades, the canvas is constantly shifting granularity...

  3. This has the makings of a greatmseries of posts! I appreciate how thoughtful you are with this process. Thanks for writing these and letting us come on your journey!

  4. You know, I'd never even thought about that. I'm not sure which I am, either. Hm... food for thought!

  5. I'm so glad this post got people thinking about what they do! It's so great to read your reactions :o)

  6. Great blog post! This really has me thinking...