a few top tips from our favourite makers
From the business of art to working with siblings – full-time crafty types share their words of wisdom.
Always wanted to pick the brains of your favourite creatives? Luckily for you, we did just that in Look What We Made, our spiffy coffee table book and tribute to the handmade way of life. Below, you'll find some snippets of maker wisdom, from advice on making moolah out of your artistic talents to running your own market stall.
ON THE BUSINESS OF ART – FREYA JOBBINS, ARTIST
1) Discuss money first. It’s very uncomfortable, but you need to say, “This is what I charge, are you prepared to pay that?” Everyone takes advantage of artists. They tell you it would be good exposure to have your work featured somewhere. I can die from overexposure – it’s cold out there.
2) Always be honest. If someone wants a commission in six weeks, tell them it will take 12 months. I’ve been caught out before, and it’s not worth the stress.
3) Collaborating with other artists is always beneficial – there’s not a negative to it. You learn so much about your own practice, as well as other people’s. You have to get to know the right people, too – it opens doors.
ON MAKING CASH FROM CREATIVITY – GEMMA O’BRIEN, LETTERER
It can be hard to juggle commercial stuff with personal creativity at times. I like having a balance of both. Making time for experimentation facilitates more personal work, and commercial work can teach you how to have more structure and discipline when working on your own projects. I like to think of the commercial work as funding my personal work.
At the beginning of my career I said ‘yes’ to everything. But not anymore. You need to say ‘no’ to some commissions that aren’t the right fit, or that will burn you out if you take on too much. Now it’s about 50/50 yes and no.
My best marketing advice? Don’t overthink it, be yourself and always make it about the art first. These words from Patti Smith are very helpful: “In art and dream may you proceed with abandon. In life may you proceed with balance and stealth.”
RULES FOR GOING INTO BUSINESS WITH YOUR SISTER – FATUMA AND LAURINDA, DESIGNERS AT COLLECTIVE CLOSETS
1. Identify roles. Our ideas are still done collectively, but having responsibilities is really important. That way there is accountability within the business.
2. Family over business. You’re stuck with each other and you’re going to see each other at family dinners. You still need to be sisters and that relationship needs to be cultivated. You need to be able to go, “OK, we’re in business mode; or we’re in sisters mode.”
3. Trust in each other’s vision. Enjoy the magic that you bring together. There’s something you have as a family member that no one has. You can’t always be that explosive or passionate in front of someone else. It gives us goosebumps sometimes when we think about what the two of us have been able to accomplish together.
ON HOW TO EXPLAIN THE BENEFITS OF HANDMADE – ALICE NIGHTINGALE, FASHION DESIGNER
When I first started selling at markets I found it difficult to deal with hagglers. Every single market someone would come up and try to barter. I would be like, “No, sorry I don’t do discounts. This piece was hand-printed, handcut, handmade, I drove it all the way down here. This dress represents so much work.” Usually they’d be like, “Oh, all right,” and they’d buy it anyway, but it was a problem: so many people assumed that I had designed the dress and then had it made overseas.
Documenting my work on social media has helped so much, because when I post endless photos of me sewing or embroidering or cutting fabric, people can see the labour that goes into the label. There were a few months when I felt the need to just shove it down everyone’s throats. To say, “This is next-level handmade!” It can feel obnoxious, but it really helps.
ON RUNNING A MARKET STALL – SHUH LEE, ILLUSTRATOR AND MAKER
You need to eat, drink and sit down, so you need someone to support you: an extra pair of hands, an extra pair of eyes. Doing it all on your own isn’t very healthy in the long run.
Plan how you’ll set up your stall in advance. Everything has to be prepared, so when you go to the market, you don’t have to think. You don’t have time to think – especially at a bigger market like Finders Keepers.
You get pretty nervous. It’s like exposing yourself to everyone, when all your work and effort is on display. But these are your kind of people – your clique. So I think, ‘Let’s just enjoy.’
For more top tips and visual inspiration, pick up a copy of Look What We Made from our online store.