At the risk of breaking down the facade (actually, with the hope of breaking down the facade), I want to share a bit about what it’s really like the other side of the screen as a mama and a creative business owner. Even using that term seems a bit strange- but I’m starting to own the fact that I do spend time on my business (whilst my children are my main focus) and that I want to embrace that role regardless of my own perception of my ‘success’ at it.
I love to paint, create, and weave. I have three small children, so I don’t fill my days with it- which is just as well really. I enjoy being able to pick things up when they are in bed or having a nap or painting alongside them. Since I’ve started painting again I’ve embraced being creative with them with a whole new mindset compared to that I used to have before, when I viewed it all as an inconvenience, mess, or just an unknown. Over the past two or three years, I’ve built up a little collection of work which I’m really happy with, primarily that in my shop. Obviously there are lots of sketchbooks of rough drafts, paintings I’ve not had the time to edit and scan and print and everything. There are just because pieces, things I’ve made for other people, but I’ve been so fortunate to be able to carve out an hour here and an hour there to build up a little collection of prints and things that I can share. My alphabet project was testament to the fact that small steps make progress- it took me about ten months to paint 26 letters, since I had three little ones at home and various other things going on- but I really enjoyed taking that time and not pressuring myself. They have been in the shop seven months now, and the newest prints have just been added. I’ve got a mind spinning with ideas that are patiently waiting for one of those time slots.
But the truth is that whilst that all sounds lovely- the painting, playing with the kids and enjoying normal life with them- the hard part is getting it out there. I can put it all in my shop, or on Etsy, I can tell you or my friends over on social media- but it’s really discouraging when you have a few sales a week (on a good week). There’s so much work behind it all, I’ll tell you. From taking pictures, to editing them, uploading them, writing descriptions, tags, editing SEO titles. Then if you want to you can pin it, tweet it, write a post about it (!). There are spreadsheets and costs to balance and sometimes you wonder if it’s worth the hassle, if anyone really cares. There are always new and different ways of sharing your creativity that you wonder if you should pursue- open events, fairs, wholesale, pitching to magazines? It’s all great and it might help but it’s lots of not so creative jobs to tick off in addition to the actual making.
The truth is that whilst we can all project ‘successful’ on the outside, no matter what our stage of life, the reality is often different. It’s choosing to put one step in front of the other, it’s seeking wisdom and praying for direction. It’s really often freeing when people let down their guard and share their struggles in whatever area of life- parenting, housework, relationships- because sometimes you can say ‘me too’, and you’ve made a friendship deeper. So if you’ve ever thought ‘I don’t know how you do it’, about me, or anyone- the truth is that it’s never as lovely as it looks on the outside. With every part of life there are hard conversations and tasks we don’t enjoy (picking up toys 100 times maybe?!) but there are joys and encouragements hiding there too.
I don’t know that ‘success’ would be found in a certain number of sales, or a certain amount of affirmation. I’ve never created things ‘for the money’, but I do hope that people enjoy my work enough to want it in their own homes or to give to friends. My motivation is for the love of sharing stories and helping others to create a life woven with them. I’m certainly not looking for people to pity me or buy things just because I’ve opened up about the things which can be struggles for creative business owners. The days for me when the balance feels right are days when I’ve created for the fun of it, when I’ve ticked off one or two of those trickier jobs, and spent lots of time investing in the lovely ones in my home that I’ve privileged to have with me.
If you’re a creative business owner, you’re doing great. No matter how far down the line you are time wise or sales wise. And wherever you personally are in life, whether you empathise with any of this or not, it’s worth opening up and being vulnerable with people. Encourage each other, be honest and kind and friendly. If you have a friend with a business or a passion that they’re sharing with the world- share it with your world. Small acts of love and kindness add up, and our vulnerability isn’t a weakness but a way that we can strengthen relationships.