Thursday, July 19, 2007

How and When to Share??

How much information should you share about your process? Should you share anything about it at all? What are the potential risks? And are their times and places when you can and should avoid answering the how-to questions? I am not sure exactly who I am addressing these thoughts to...artists, or people who want to learn about an artist's process. A post today by Libby Mills touched on this issue, and as I was thinking about the response it has generated I found myself writing....

1. Be aware. It can be frustrating to an artist when someone comes into their booth at a show and asks question after question about the process and technique.....ignoring the fact that potential customers are coming....and perhaps going.....while this conversation is happening. It is expensive to do a show. And most artists will happily talk to any and all visitors about their work and their process. But there is a flow to the sales process. And time spent going into the minutea of a technique is time not spent selling. Meanwhile the person who has buttonholed your attention has no intention of purchasing a thing. There is plenty of downtime at a show, when traffic is slow when time could be more easily spent talking shop and answering questions.

2. It is never as easy as it seems. I have shared many details about how I create my cranes over the years. Even with this information, most people find out it is easier to describe than it is to do. I had one of those people visit my booth at the Guilford show last week. Last year I had explained the process to them. They were grateful that I shared so much information with them. But this year, they were buying a crane. They had tried to make one themselves.....and found out that there is more to it than it seemed at first. Ihave folded somewhere in the neighborhood of 2000 cranes now. There is a lot learned in that number. But the first cranes required persistence, belief and desire. Without that, I never would have made it to the current neighborhood.

3. Purchasing is like voting. When you buy another artists work you are in a sense voting for them. Saying I want you to be able to pursue your dream. I like what you do, and I want you to continue to do it. This is true for music, art or books or any other creative endeavor. Sadly, we live in a society that seems to encourage the attempts to avoid paying the creator for their creations. Whether it is music that is shared without the artist getting paid. Or books that are put on websites for people to read without purchasing. Or people copying another artist's designs rather than buying the original. It seems like we think because creative people enjoy their work, that may well be compensation enough. Doing work that you love is rewarding. But there are still bills to be paid. And when you are doing it as a business, a surprisingly large amount of time is spent in the mundane of running a business.

4. If you love to share what you have learned, teach classes. Get paid for sharing some of what you know. Your time and knowledge are worth something. But be aware that once you teach a technique, you will see yourself in many variations in many places. You need to have peace with that, or you should not teach. And if you want to learn more about a technique or process....take a class! Pay to learn that information. Support the creative journey of the artist.

Bottom line. It is fine to ask questions. But don't feel offended if an artist sets limits. And artists, don't be afraid to say no, or not now, not in this setting. The balance between being someone who is generous and sharing, and recognizing that you are in business is a delicate one. Sometimes knowledge is your company's primary asset. It is fine to be protective.


Trina said...

Thanks for adding your insightful comments to this discussion which now ranges over several blogs and discussion groups. One of the things our guild has done over the past 10 years is host an informational booth at the local County Fair. Since we can't sell anything we can take the time to share simple techniques and show off our work.

Judy said...

Hi Trina. This was a very difficult one to write....because there are no good or simple answers. The lines are very fuzzy and very grey. I guess I just think that all the choices we make, if we do this as a business, need to be done with as full of an understanding as possible of what the consequences could be. Leaping first, and then being outraged at the response is the last thing we should do. I try and be as sharing as I possibly can be, but there are limits to what I can share given time and other constraints. I love to spread the word about polymer clay. But, I guess I do have places or times when I feel it is going somewhere I don't want to go. This was an attempt to try and articulate some of those feelings.

Kim Cavender said...

Excellent post, Judy. I so enjoy your blog!

Judy said...

Thank you Kim! It is great to know that you are reading it!