Working as an artist or maker normally means that you are on your own for the majority of your day. You are your own boss, and you make all the decisions – which is the beauty of it all. You don’t have to discuss the latest design of your website with your team, you don’t have to get the nod from the CEO before you post something on social media. You make up your own rules and you can live by them.
However, at times, that does get tough. Sometimes it’s really hard to see things from an exterior perspective because you are so very much absorbed in what you are doing. There are elements of your work that you may not enjoy as much as others, and they may be things that you don’t quite understand – public liability insurance or VAT, for a start. You might be asking yourself lots of questions about the direction of your business, or even needing advice on a new piece, and at times it’s difficult to do all of that yourself. Add to that the days when you are lacking in motivation or energy, or even feel quite down on yourself, feeling like it’s a struggle to get going and wondering even if you are doing the right thing. These are elements of working for yourself that aren’t quite so joyful.
That’s why it is so important to have a ‘tribe’ around you – like-minded souls who can lift you up and support you through the rough times, as well as celebrate the good times. When I first started out on my business journey, I honestly thought I was the only person sat alone sewing in a shed, trying to make sense of building this business, but then I discovered (through the power of Facebook, mainly) that there were hundreds and thousands of us, all going through the same experience, having the same doubts and struggles and also wanting to find people to share their successes with. I was lucky and found a wonderful group of makers who formed a real support network for me, and who, ultimately, became the start of my ‘tribe’.
According to Wikipedia, a tribe is viewed, developmentally or historically, as a social group existing before the development of, or outside, states. This article sums it up perfectly…
“Many anthropologists used the term 'tribal society' to refer to societies organised largely on the basis of kinship. Kinship. That’s it! Being around people like you. With whom you connect. Where you buy in. Where you fit. Where you express your full self. Where you grow, and where you’re at home.
It’s not geographical. It’s a kinship of spirit, of being, of expression, of the things you care about, of who you are. It’s not an ‘us and them’, or a superior or inferior thing. It’s just a natural gravitation towards people like you.”
It makes sense – if you need to talk to, or get advice or support from people who will ‘get’ you the most, then finding your tribe is invaluable. So how do you do it? Where can you go?
Social Media is probably the best place to start. Facebook groups are a lifeline for so many artists and makers because they can ask questions and share their worries without fear of sounding silly. Find a like minded group where you can be yourself – it is easy to search for them, whether it is your location or your industry there are thousands of groups that you can have access to. Ask your friends, or makers you admire if they are members of any groups that you may be interested in. To start with, come and say hello to us in our Creative Women Together Facebook group (just request to join and I'll welcome you in), or depending on where you are based, then The Creative South West is another good one to join.
There are lots of Etsy support groups in Facebook, based all over the country so there is a huge likelihood you will find one where you live or work and it is well worth joining them too.
Don’t worry about intruding on a ‘clique’ or a firm group of friends – those kind of groups are normally kept secret, and these open groups set up to encourage new members. We can all offer each other something, and the bigger a group gets, the wider each member’s reputation gets. Groups are equal forums where no-one has hierarchy and you all have a voice so don’t be afraid to ask questions or advice from the other members.
Instagram is another place to explore to find your like minded tribe souls – it’s worth investing time and effort into finding out who is on there and what conversations you can tap into. There are many challenges on Instagram which encourage engagement – such as #meetthemakerweek which ran last week by Joanne Hawker. These types of challenges gives you a great opportunity to showcase the work that you do, introduce yourself to the Instagram world but also follow others who are using the same hashtag. By building up relationships with other makers you are on the way to being part of a tribe.
I spoke about hashtag hours in a previous blog post, and again these are a great place to find people who you may want to connect with. Take a look at those I previously mentioned and see if the subjects are related to what you are doing. Ultimately if the hour is full of independent makers then you can all support and encourage each other.
And if you are brave enough, there are opportunities to meet face to face. Not just at the events we run (although we’d highly recommend them!) but at craft fairs, Instameets or blogging events. It may take a while before you can pluck up the courage to walk into a room full of strangers, but if you’ve already made the connection online it’s a lot easier.
We are all the same – each and every one of us is looking for a group that understands us, and where we can talk about what we do without thinking we sound like a bunch of weirdo’s! Because although we work hard, we are incredibly creative and sometimes our passions and quirks are hard to get across to the ‘mainstream’! We need our tribe to lift us up and support our journey, and you’ll find that they need you too.
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4 New Buildings,
01884 266045 / 07969 044006