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Nicolas and I have always preferred to have our studio space integrated with our home. In our last apartment, we set up our own studios in two separate rooms, but we found that we would always migrate into the same room and ended up happily sharing one very cramped space. When we found our new home, there was no question that the large front room would be our shared studio space.
There is a wall of southern-facing windows which provides tremendous light. We wished to maintain access to all the windows, so we set up our workbenches three feet back. We have a rolling cart with a homemade light box that we can move around for photoshoots. Between the workbenches we have our printers and computers, which are very much integrated into our workday. Our workbenches were set up so that they can be worked at from three different sides and used standing or perched on stools.
Sitting at desks has always been very uncomfortable for me and this arrangement has worked very well for long workdays. We set up two individual work benches supported by shelving and sawhorses that are used to hold all of our tools and materials. It is important that they can be broken down and moved around if necessary. We've found that our studio is constantly evolving, depending on what project we are working on. We also have a small room in back devoted to shipping and storage.
On the west wall there is a set of shelves for our finished work, a kitchen island that has been converted into a table for conditioning polymer, a set of drawers on wheels, and a large calendar and corkboard to keep track of projects. I have an easel set up behind my workbench for drawing and painting. On the east wall is our sofa, alternately piled with pillows and blankets, guitars, books and our cat. It is the heart of our home and where we begin and end our workday.
Each artist and crafter comes to Etsy with, at the very least, a wonderfully creative idea.
We are so excited and, at the same time, terrified, to open our “doors” and let the world see what we have to offer. Our precious little “newborn” shop. It’s scary and thrilling all at the same time. It’s overwhelming at the beginning and a steep learning curve. Then, once you are here for little awhile, you can look back at those first awkward months and smile.
One of the first things many do (as I did) is browse the Etsy forums looking for tips and advice. I will never forget one of the first user comments I read on an Etsy forum went something like this: “Well, I’ve done every single thing I am supposed to do to be successful here and still no sales. . . now what Etsy?”
I took, from that, the number one tip I still follow . . . I do not rely on or expect anyone elses advice or help to get me where I want to be! If there are 250,000 sellers on Etsy then there are surely as many pathways to, and definitions of, success. There are factors that work, to a degree, across the board. I’d count professionalism, excellent product photography, genuine warmth, realistic expectations and self-critque, uniqueness, impulse appeal, and a certain degree of Etsy network savvy among them.
At the beginning, with time and so much energy that we are willing to invest online, we are drawn to the community of a place such a Etsy. It’s teams, treasuries. helpful blogs, our social media forays and seeking out good and solid advice. It’s a necessary series of steps we climb to get ourselves going. It feels great to be “connected” in a supportive environment. It gets us noticed and, without that help, we could quickly drown in obscurity.
There are amazing upsides to the community but ultimately, as with many things in life, I believe we do better and become stronger when we are forced to venture out on our own. To invent our own way. As an example, I’d offer the number of parents I have known (my own mother included) who have said, “No book or other mother’s advice could’ve prepared me for what parenting was going to be like.”
I, for the record, see my mother as an absolute hero.
I take their word for it since I decided long ago I was not going to have children. My creative world has always beckoned so deeply and, not to take anything from the reality and immediacy of actual parenting, I’d say that my creative world IS my child. And I treat it as such.
It comes first
I can say that if it needs “fed” I feed it.
If it needs attention, I lavish it.
If it’s having a bad day, I sit with it patiently.
My own learning curve this past year has been greatly expedited with the running of three shops that I curate and create for. Each of them is completely unique and different in their content and I can tell you that anything that has worked for me, sales and marketing wise, in any one of them has not necessarily worked in the other two.
Three different shops.
Three completely different paths.
Three different "kids"
The key, for every seller, is always based in finding one’s own unique path. There are, in this web-crazy age, so many possibilities as to where to invest your time and how to build your own base and customer network. New ideas and outlets are popping up every day it seems.
I learned years ago, as all parents do, that I had to prioritize my time and energy and a lot of things would have to be weeded out of my life to make the room required for my art. The rewards for “going without” are, as I expect they are for any parent, immeasurable and often undefinable to others.
So we come here to the Etsy playground . . . with our “children”, and it’s really nice to see others raising such fine young shops too. I admire many and sometimes I wonder “Now what were they thinking?” about others. But it’s a community with a common thread, hopes and goals. We are all raising our little shops as best we can and it helps to just not feel so alone.
In that regard though, I’d like to share something my Zen teacher would often repeat,
“Anything that you truly love to do will feel lonely.”
If you are or have been a parent I believe you have an advantage. Just treat you art, your craft, your shop as you would/did your child. Give it that same unconditional love and undivided attention. Prioritize it with the same immediacy. You will find success in that.
The time will hopefully come when your Art-baby outgrows the toddler stages. It will begin to get around on it’s own. You’ll need to devote even more energy to follow up and care for it then. You’ll need to decide what is really important for continued success and growth. There is no right or wrong answer . . . but these questions all create an infinite lot of possibilities. Leaving us further out on our solitary paths.
There will be more time required. It’s at this crucial stage that I see a lot of people apologizing for the lack of time they then have to invest here. Lack of time for treasuries or comments. Lack of time for blogs or blitzes. Lack of time for chats or keeping up.
There’s no need. . . you’re an art parent. Not to mention you may also have a significant other. Human or animal kids. Another job. etc etc It should be understood that it all comes first.
It should be understood that everything has a time and place and then it too must pass.
Trust your parental instincts. Love what you do. It’s a long term commitment.
Take pride in, and celebrate, that success along the way.
And if moving down that path to success brings about a feeling of loneliness,well, my Zen teacher had a saying for that too. . .
“It’s just loneliness.”
Oh, %@#%$ ZEN! :)
Do you feel a struggle to find time for everything in your life as your business grows?
Do you feel community has to take a back seat to your individual and shops needs for growth?
Do you feel the commitment to ANY life success requires commitment similar to parenting?
Does your art/craft create an experience of loneliness at times?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of these!
And thank you for reading. . .
When I finally hired help, both a studio assistant and a packing assistant, I became hyper aware of whether their time was well spent. It became instantly clear to me that 95% of the time I spent on treasury teams was not worth $10/hr. When I tried to train someone to function in my chaotic mess, I realized that I spent way too much time hunting for misplaced things. It’s funny how I could so easily squander my own time but once I needed to shell out cash for time spent, making priorities and order looked way more compelling.
The fault lay in how I was comparing tasks. Like, it takes 4 minutes to find a sponge in a disorganized studio, but it would take 3 days to clean it up. But once cleaned and organized, my mental energy soared. I hadn’t even factored that in.
It took a day to set up a Facebook business page and to revamp my blog, but now that these are in place, maintaining them takes very little time. With these effective promotional systems in place, I spend hours per day less on promotion than when I depended on treasury team cross promotion.
They say it takes money to make money, and most of us have put that into practice in one way or another, such as investing in supplies. It also takes time to make time.
Have you invested time in developing something, or taken time to learn something, that gave you back more time?
by Lee Wolfe