The Art of Parenting Art

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. . . 



Fitra2009 said...

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Lets keep writing and share to us and other.

Nb: Dont forget to leave your comment back for us.

TuckooandMooCow said...

I really like how you describe your creative life as your child. That's very cool. It's true, the creative inside needs to be nurtured like a child, needs playtime, needs fresh air and positive reinforcement.

Sometimes, I feel I get caught up in all of the non-creative stuff like the Etsy community or working on my website. Sometimes I feel like I haven't really paid attention to what I do for weeks! I guess in that regard I can be a neglectful parent to my creative self, ha.

That being said, sometimes even children need to be left on their own sometimes. I find that when I've let go of being creative for a day or so and spend the day working on the business side of things I come back even stronger later!

Thanks so much for sharing

IKABAGS said...

First we are big kids :) our world is very inspiring !

Our work is like kids ; with positive energy !

Love all your work !

Merci !

Kids must be free , for work no stress, more time, and lovely customers.

Tons of fabric, big working table, big working space :)

PurePixie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PurePixie said...

You're so right! But of course when you already have kids to nurture, the real kids have to come first! This is quite a challenge as parents to find the right balance and keep a space for creativity and nurture it, but we should because it helps us keep sane. :)

Lee Wolfe Pottery OneClayBead said...

I enjoyed this read tremendously, thank you. I'll be thinking all day about how the lessons of parenthood can be used for raising a fledgling art business, so I'll be back later to post a link to my own blog follow up. But one huge difference that comes to mind immediately is that, while most children will survive our parenting despite our shortcomings, only 4% of start-up businesses will be viable a decade later. Knowing this, I feed my creativity first and foremost. Any business venture, such as an Etsy shop, is only a vehicle for me. I've taken trains, boats, and planes, and moved on many times in order to allow my creativity to thrive.

Tracy Bryan Roberts said...

Being with Etsy just over a year with a small, kind of distinct and all my own adorable child of a shop I realize that nothing happens on this site while I am "surfing about" without reason. There is a lesson with every convo with both customers and fellow shop owners, every article,forum or site I sit in bewildered aweand delighted wonder thinking..."How did they do that??" and after reading your blog I realized I've been ignoring that part of one of my favorite parts of this up and down, wonderous frightening frustrating and ultimetly life changing Etsy journey. The part that is very much my child begging me to pay attention but I've been too tired, frustrated, blocked to pay attention. May I say thank you for your WONDERFUL and inspiring words of which were the EXACT thing I needed to hear right now. It's going to be a good Sunday! :) Thanks, sincerely. - Tracy -AnneLynne Custom Jewelry

Еми Борисова said...

Oh, Nikolas ...I often need to read article like yours...there are moments when I don't see meaning to go on with that struggle but there is a voice inside me head that tells me every day: "Go on!!! Your works are ...amazing, the people need to see them." People like you are that voice and every time when I need a sholder you are there!

Best Regards