Why We Make Things

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I wrote this article a couple of months ago on my Craft Monster show blog. Being a part of a community has always been a big deal to me, and Craft Monster has allowed me to meet and hear the stories of so many of my local makers.

gnome_knitting_webBeing a Craft Monster, I know quite a few creative people from many different walks of life. Making things brings us together as a community, but we all have different reasons for doing it. Talking to our community about it, we hear things like “to keep my hands busy”, “Because I literally wasn’t good at anything else”, or “Because the things around me ceased to be made by humans and human made things are way cooler.” Whatever the particulars are, it comes down to this: “Makers gotta Make.” We also need to make a living though, and it’s these two things that inspired this blog post.

I usually don’t do that, since that kind of time investment isn’t good for business.

binx_potMy friend Karen of Binx Ceramics makes wonderful animal, and gnome figurines. She posted this little pot yesterday with the caption:

Let myself spend all evening decorating this little pot. I usually don’t do that, since that kind of time investment isn’t good for business. I can’t price this thing what it’s worth, but the methodical painting of this pattern was the meditative process that made tonight perfect. How do you price that?

This is a difficult question that we all face. How do we make time to make things just because we want to see them in the world, when we have to justify that time and effort against making a living? Is that kind of time investment good for business? In his speech “Make Good Art” to the University of the Arts Class of 2012, Neil Gaiman said this:

Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be — an author, primarily of fiction, making good books, making good comics, and supporting myself through my words — was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal.

And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain.

Art is made in a gift economy. Sometimes that gift is the work, given to ourselves as we make things and get better at our craft. Sometimes that gift is the finished item, made from love and then moved into a commodity economy to be sold at market. Bridging those two economies without sacrificing our craft or our profit is probably the most difficult challenge we face as independent makers. Is the investment of time on something made purely for the love of making that thing good for business? I guess that depends on what mountain you’re walking toward.

You can watch the entirety of Neil’s speech here: http://vimeo.com/42372767

Please take a minute to check out Binx Ceramic. She’s pretty awesome: https://www.etsy.com/shop/binxceramic

kaGh5_patreon_name_and_messageThank you for being a part of my community! Your involvement is part of what makes it all possible. If you’d like to help support this and other projects like Craft Monster, Patreon is a great place to do that. Check out my pledge page here for more details. https://www.patreon.com/redherringjeff