Notes on Success

I've had these thoughts rattling around for awhile. I think about it, when I suggest a really talented person set up a website, or Etsy shop. I sometimes, hear excuses. Not everyone is the whole enchilada. Yes, it does take a lot of work.

     What looks effortless online, great photos, fabulous shop listings. Takes a lot of f***ing work! Not everyone is cut out for it. I love the making part, the creativity, the doing. Making awesome colors happen on wool. My least favorite part? Organizing an update. Making sure the right photos get listed. Phew! It takes work, dedication, and focus. Not something I'm terribly good at. I've been a dreamer my whole life. I'm a bad student!

     So what does it take? In my 20's I was really looking for answers. Looking back, it was really kind of ridiculous. I wanted it to happen, and happen immediately. As if Vogue was going to call, and feature my hats! Instead, a passion for making, hard work, and a bit of luck is what happened. I buddied up with another crafter to do a few shows. She made clothing, I made hats. It worked out okay, for a few shows. It's one way to get into shows, and share fees. Some booth fees are $600, which seems staggering. Then, I put things on consignment, and moved to wholesale.

At one of the first craft shows I did. The Fairfax Festival-with my hats and some weird jewelery. I won 3rd Best Of Show, giving me a boost of confidence and a cash prize $150. which was amazing back in 1990.

Not everything was peachy. I got a lot of rejection. I also made a lot of money at shows. Making hats, when Titanic came out was huge. I also did shows where I made $10,000. a year later-same show $1,200 so you never knew, it was a risk!

Some Titanic styled hats, with big flowers. They always were a real hit!

6 years. That's what it took. Not overnight success, right? Lots of people yammer on about how to achieve success. Some, that's all they do. These days there's people who rock the advice on crafty success. Here's what I recommend, basic steps to becoming a indie super crafter:

Have realistic goals.
Make a business plan-stay focused!
Realize your shortcomings.
Do what you love.
It doesn't happen overnight.
Perfect your craft.
Connect-observe the successful ones.
Delegate/buddy system!
Promote, promote, promote. If you're not talking, no one is. 
Learn to wear a lot of hats-take that photography class.
Be a closer-rock the sales, selling online? Do rad packaging.
After the sale-go above & beyond for the customer.
Know when to get out-take a break, recharge, reinvent.
Balance, don't go overboard.

I've met a lot of super creative fun people over the years. Not everyone pulls it together fully. Some of the most amazing artists, sometimes never get off the ground. They give up too soon, or are flaky and bumble about none the wiser. Not that it's bad, it's just where they're at. The overall spark, that I think I have is, I never took no for an answer. I always pushed, and then pushed some more. I went out and took it! There were a lot of nights when I stayed up to 11pm making things. With the internet, these days there's so much information. Not so much in 1990! Back then it was outdated crafts books, a few shows, and a much smaller network. Now, everything is at your fingertips. Etsy has made a business model of encouraging artists. They have so many ideas, tips, and solutions. You're really lucky these days if you're creative, and looking to quit your day job.

     Me, I did it though hard knocks, and more. I took a successful career in making ladies hats and shifted-to make yarn and indie fiber supplies. It was tough at first-I felt like I was giving up. I had worked really hard to build my hat business. I could not maintain both-at first, I thought I could. In the end, the fiber end won out. I'm happier, and still get to explore my first love which is COLOR!

That said, it's not all been shits and giggles. The downside: I've had a promoter take a second hand comment, the wrong way. Corner me, and read me the riot act-then ban me from returning to the show. That happened, with one of my most lucrative venues. The show was suffering from mismanagement, and was down in sales in general. The core audience was unhappy, and boy I heard so many comments-I thought I was being helpful in passing on their commentary. (Nope! Best bet, when there's controversy at any show, best advice: stay quiet, stay out of it) This only happened twice. I have done hundreds of shows-these are exceptions, not the rule. These were stressed out promoters, folks that should not be in the business. Although there were several, really humiliating moments along the way. There's been Big highs, like when Joan Baez was rumored to have bought one of my hats. Or when Jacquard Products featured my yarns in their national ad! Other highlighted, weird experience, that bears mentioning-a shop who marked up my product x3! Then dressed me down for somehow "charging less" at craft shows.Who marks up 3x's? I have had my products copied, and sold in catalogs. I can laugh about it now, at the time-not so much...I've learned a lot. If it seems too good to be true, reassess, and walk away if necessary. Get a second opinion, have a lawyer review any contracts. Stay true to yourself-if there's a red flag pay attention! Focus on the positive.

So really, what they say is true. Success takes hard work, dedication, focus and a plan. Find a niche, and grow! Put your blinders on as necessary, disregard the haters. Bring it, and people will take an interest. It doesn't happen overnight, but will if you keep up the good work. I am thrilled to say, I'm at the point where people admire what I do. It's really awesome, and validating. It took awhile for me to go from blind courage to lucking out, and actually keeping up with it all...