Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Group Hug

Groups can have infinitely more power than the individual. And artists, by nature, work in isolation. This isolation can be part of how we create. That time alone allows our creative voice to be heard. But when it comes to the business side of being and artist/craftsperson....that isolation can be deadly.

Many years ago, in my corporate incarnation, I found that the time spent talking with others about ideas or projects was often helpful. They might know something about what you are doing and be able to lend insight, or a shortcut, or steer you around possible problems. Also there was that annual process of setting goals. As much as I dreaded it each year, it did help to have a target. Something that you were working towards, that you could measure your success against. When you are working alone, it is easy to skip that process.

Last January, I began meeting with a group of artists, brought together by fellow polymer clay artist, Amy Crawley. We were mostly working in different media, and all had different products. But we shared a common goal of wanting to make our businesses more successful, and to figure out the best way to do that.

We had help. Alyson Stanfield has a free artist marketing program for groups to follow. The groups need to be made up of at least three committed members. They meet for at least nine sessions. And Alyson provides an agenda, and background information for each meeting. Amy recruited six other artists, and we began meeting last January. Only one person had to leave the group because of time constraints. But the rest of us came together every few weeks, and over time became a tight knit group.

There were things that Alyson tells you to do, that most of us would just as soon skip over. The 30 second, and 10 second introductions for one. But Amy stuck to the program, and it paid off. We all became better at being able give that succinct intro to a stranger, or shop/gallery owner. Practice does make things easier.

And we set goals. Where did we want to be in a year? In five years? We shared these goals, out loud, with one another. It is one thing to think about these questions. It is another to write them down. But the real power comes from verbalizing them to others. It requires courage and trust. But it also means that you are accountable on some level. And you have support. When you share your goals, you now have the eyes, ears and wisdom of the group to help you along the way.

We have all grown in many ways. Our businesses have grown. Our confidence as business women has increased. We have learned more about standard business practices in this world of fine art and craft. We now have a group to go to when we have a question. An email out to the group usually generates several responses in a few hours. And for those more prickly issues, there is an active discussion. Ultimately, we as individuals still make the decisions about what we do. But, we have had the opportunity to talk with others, and sort through our options. And they know first hand, the issues we each face. Our spouses may be supportive and knowledgeable, but they don't necessarily have the knowledge and experience in the world we travel.

Our group continues to meet, beyond the nine meetings suggested by Alyson. This month we will be inviting some other artists to join us for brunch, and to share what it is we learned by working together like this. Perhaps some new groups will be born that day. Given my own experience, I hope so.

Check out the work of my fellow artisans:

Amy Crawley: polymer clay and mixed media artist
Gayle Joseph: Ceramics
Deb Malone: decorative painting, and now, soups!
Martha Munroe: fine artist and 3-D images
Linda Williamson: Photography

And a big group hug goes out to all of them.

No comments: