Wednesday, November 30, 2011

To Sell or Not to Sell...

I often read at the blog of Rachelle Mee-Chapman, aka Magpie Girl and I had read her post addressing the "Rush" we often feel during the Christmas season. I left a comment at that post, but I also sent a private message expressing a few other concerns about gift giving and gift receiving during the holiday season. She was kind enough to let me know that she would be addressing some of them in a blog post and she did so in this blog post titled "Exchange"*.

I asked about what to do when one feels conflicted about "cashing in" on the holidays. These were my exact words:

"One of my big concerns about this time of year is about being an artist/crafter that sells through Etsy, but I’m just not comfortable with the concept of “cashing in on the holidays” and my Etsy shop is closed at this time because of those concerns. How can an artist that creates lovely and meaningful gifts find a way to sell that doesn’t feel like it’s “cashing in” on what is, for many, a sacred time of year???"

My Etsy shop has in fact been closed since February when I left for the Artful Journey Retreat and I didn't re-open my shop after I returned. I thought that it seemed silly to have a shop with barely a dozen items to sell. I hear often of the concept that a well stocked shop does better than a shop with only a few items to sell, but I've been reconsidering that idea because it's been holding me back...

However, as the holiday season drew nearer, I was still reluctant to open my shop and have it look as though I were "cashing in" on holiday sales. After a few conversations with my Life Coach Pete, I realized that both ideas were not working for me! We made a plan and I made a commitment that I would reopen my shop on a certain date, one that was an auspicious date according to Feng Shui principles, which I often follow whenever possible.

One of the things that Pete and I discussed was the idea that I can follow my values and principles**, not those of society at large. I can dictate when and how my Etsy shop will work in alignment with my personal vision and values. Sometimes, I forget that I am in charge! It's hard to remember to follow your own North Star when the winds and tides of larger forces are pulling you off course...

Another thing we discussed was the idea that I really do have something to offer to the world at large, something different, unique and special. I think this quote from a favorite dancer, Martha Graham, puts it best:

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others." 
- Martha Graham

I put my plan into action before I saw the response from Magpie Girl regarding my concerns about selling during the holidays, but when I read what she had to say, I am really glad that I put my concerns out there and with someone I knew that would give my concerns some thoughtful consideration.

I am not an overly religious person and choose to celebrate the Winter Solstice instead of Christmas. However, I was raised (somewhat!) as a Catholic and I understand that this time of year has a significant sacred meaning. Because of this knowledge/understanding, it's hard to watch what should be a sacred season and see it turn into nothing more than one big commercial for "gift giving" as though this is the ONLY time of year one can give gifts.

Magpie Girl's statement:

"You don’t have to be held hostage by the commercialism of our age"

is one that really sang to me. Her statement that it's okay to 'close shop during the holiday season if that is what feels right to you' is something I really appreciated as well.

And this statement:

"Whether you are the buyer or the seller, be mindful of the narrative you are telling yourself about these exchanges."

...reminds me (again!) that I am in charge and I can follow my own North Star. I can create a better 'story' about selling during the holiday season...

Small bags I've recently made to hold a new version of cards for reflection - I may have to make more with the "North Star" stamped upon it!

I'm beginning to craft a better story of how I can contribute to a more meaningful season by selling the goods I create that are in fact made with a great deal of care and thought to the small details. Many of the things I've created for friends are meaningful and meant to lift the spirits. And I like to think that I make toys for grown up children!

Mail art envelopes in process - the paper is designed by a dear friend. I'm hoping she will sell some of her designs for craft and scrapbook paper - they really are fantastic!

I am also interested in connection which is part of my love for Mail Art and giving gifts is also a way to connect with friends and loved ones, though I would like to see more people giving gifts of all kinds every day of the year...

Some pendants and altered buttons waiting to be used as embellishments in mixed media artwork

I feel strongly about encouraging creativity in others because I believe that everyone can be creative, though it may not always be linked to Art. One can be a creative problem solver, a creative cook, a creative organizer of the home or of special events. I want to contribute to people accessing their creativity by offering "creative supplies" to make mixed media or collage art with.

With these ideas firmly in mind I feel much better about re-opening my Creative Beast Etsy shop. It has been re-opened for a few days now and I added a few items for the holidays, such as some Christmas stockings that I had made a few years ago to sell at a craft show, which didn't happen (this was before Etsy!). I made quite a few stockings that were eventually given to friends but I still had a few left that I thought someone might like to buy to hang in their home. They are unique in the textiles and colors I used, having been inspired by my favorite ballet at this time of year "The Nutcracker" - I like to think of them as my "Nutcracker Suite Stockings"...

Pale gold, dark green and pink colors fit for a Sugar Plum Fairy ;)

I am not planning on doing any "marketing" for my shop at this time. I'm having Faith that the right people will find what they need from my shop and if they happen to find it in these next few weeks, that will be great. If I don't make a lot of sales during this "holiday shopping season", I'm okay with that. For me the important thing was to re-open my shop so I can be free to create special goods that will be listed as they are made...

A new card series meant for reflection are very nearly ready for selling to the public...

I keep this idea, told to me by my Wise Woman and dear friend Janet, firmly in mind:

"You may not have many followers*** or customers but they will be the RIGHT followers and customers for YOU"

As with so many other things, I know she is right about this and this idea makes me happy about offering my goods to sell =-)

* - Thanks to my blog buddy Kat of I Saw You Dancing who gave me a heads up on the post! And MANY thanks to Magpie Girl for addressing my concerns - I hope it helps others who might be feeling a similar conflict...
** - These posts made at the start of the 2011 cover just a few of my values and principles...
*** - she was speaking about my blog at the time, but this concept could be applied to Etsy shop customers too!


Kathryn Hansen said...

this year more than ever has just turned into a shopping frenzy...not necessarily for gift giving i suspect! i am pretty ashamed of all the businesses and shoppers who made retail employees stop celebrating Thanksgiving so they could buy a cheap TV!

anyway..i stay away from it as much as possible (on the buying side)...i buy in advance gifts at art fairs and etsy vendors,but make all my gifts for my siblings and friends. which they appreciate much more!

from a sellers perceptive, i don't push to're absolutely right about the right clients finding you...i have a great one right now who just commissioned a pet portrait from me.

i can't stand the loss of what Christmas use to's very sad!

The Creative Beast said...

I hear you Kathryn - it really does seem as if it's a bigger frenzy than usual and it's shameful that many retailers chose to open at midnight on a holiday to gain as many sales as possible...

And it is VERY sad indeed to see the loss of the meaning of the season as the years pass =-(

Here's hoping we artists can find a way to restore the sacred at this time of year!

SueAnn said...

A very thoughtful and meaningful post!