I finally made it up to Portland Japanese Garden last Sunday for the first time since I moved up here. Coincidentally, it was the garden's reopening after closing for $33 million expansion. I was hoping to see spectacular blossoms, but our record-setting long winter was still hanging on up at Washington Park, and its effect on the flowering season was visibly obvious except for a few notable spots. It was overcast with clouds for the most part, but whenever the sun was out, there was no denying in that spring is here. Or at least not too far off.
It took longer than I wanted to update my website. There were some issues with Facebook, which would be too long and boring to get into here. The problem still isn't resolved as FB is too big to pay individual attention to its members. It definitely got me rattled for little while, but I decided that it was good that the complication happened and I will not have an existential crisis over it. The truth is, I seldom promote my business on FB, and still feel somewhat ambivalent about Instagram as a marketing tool even though I actively post there. It's more for sharing with friends and few loyal fans about my work and life, and even if I don't amass a large following, I'm okay with that.
Yes, I understand the importance and benefits of social media, especially for a business like mine. But I really don't want to feel too dependent on them. I want things to happen more organically for my business rather than me having to chase things that they say that I should be chasing (i.e., social media following, etc), whoever "they" are. The way these things take priority just feels backwards sometimes, and this FB woe brought that underlying annoyance to light. Like I said, I'm happy that it happened, because it forced me to address other aspects of my business more thoughtfully as well.
Many years ago, I had the opportunity to work closely with these two Dutch brothers who were master designers who handled major branding projects for many nationally known supermarket products. Even though I was green and equally stupid, I knew that it was a real privilege to be working closely with them. I often felt like they shouldn't be paying me and I should be paying them for the exquisite lessons that I can't get anywhere, not even from art schools. I literally popped out of bed every morning looking forward to going to work, and weekends always felt too long and boring, unless I was in the shop working with them on a pressing deadline. It was the most fulfilling two years of my life as a graphic designer.
So, one would think that if you worked under a brand-design master for that long, you'd be really good at branding your own business too, right? Well... I'm not so sure. The Facebook issue wasn't the only reason why the website update took so long. I'm now at a point where I can no longer let my business meander in ambiguity – it needs clear branding, but it's been really difficult to hone in on it.
I guess the main question that I've been grappling with is, am I an arts business or a crafts business? I'm kind of both, right? If so, am I being unrealistic in thinking that I can handle both – when I'm already spread thin being all things to all aspects of my work? I'm not a purist who thinks that commercial success as an artist means you are selling out. However, my work is more fine-arty than crafty when the "crafty" products seem to have more commercial appeal, and what do I do about that? I've got my hands in on more than one medium and discipline, one distracts me from the other and vice versa. I spent many hours these few weeks researching, trying to get a grasp on how to angle my business in general and my work in specific in this highly saturated artisan world. And then there is this on-going debate about my business name. Do I always want to associate my name with my brand? I'm no Martha Stewart nor do I want to be, but as an artist, doesn't it make sense that you put your name to your own handy work? But what about my jewelry? So I went on and on in circles.
Are you still here? Hope you didn't get lost in my ramblings.
Well, all this to say I don't really have a concrete answer yet, but I do feel that I am headed in the right direction. I hope some of the updates to this site reflects that.
You know... In the middle of all the deliberation, there were little moments of clarity – that in most any conflict, the answer always seems to be within. If I were to be honest with myself and really listen, I think know what to do. I need to go back to the basics. Go back to my sketchbook. Start doodling again. No agenda for a line of product or anything like that. Just be immersed in it and see what shows up... Yeah, that sounds really good.