Guest series 2012: I asked fellow bloggers, makers and creators to write on their creativity and focus their essay on one of four topics: creativity and health, creativity and business, creativity and parenting or creativity and process. I am very excited to have a wonderful lot of fellow creative folk guest posting here at whipup.net over the next couple of months. Please welcome…
Lara Cameron is a Melbourne based textile designer and co-owner of Ink & Spindle, a boutique, organic and sustainable yardage screen printing studio located in Melbourne. Lara blogs at kirinote.
It would be so easy for me to write a post about how to turn your hobby or passion into a business. It’s a topic I know about all too well, since textile design was one of those things I dabbled with on the side before Teegs and I launched Ink & Spindle, our small, textile design and screen printing business. But I think there’s enough posts out there already explaining the value of business plans, pricing, blogging and good photography (although if you want to know about pricing check out the blog post I wrote on the topic over here!).
Instead I thought it would be nice to write about how my craft – and running Ink & Spindle – has improved my health and outlook on life. Because over the years it’s becoming more and more apparent to me how much the way I view the world has changed during the time we’ve owned this business.
I guess fundamental to this shift in thinking is the fact that running a small business doesn’t provide much in terms of financial reward. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just a fact. If you want to produce goods in an ethical, sustainable manner, without cutting corners or working crazy hours, you’ll never make as much money as those people whose businesses function within (and depend upon) the fundamentally flawed construct of the capitalist world. You pay first world rent, pay first world wages, work first world hours (mostly). Naturally profit margins are much lower, but that’s inherent in any ethical business and I feel like it’s the only way I’d ever like to earn money.
So if you’re not doing it for financial reward, why are you doing it? Because there are other rewards in the world that are more valuable than money, such as going to work each day and feeling good about what you are doing. It feels like such a privilege to do something each day that I enjoy, to work with my hands, be creative, be surrounded by good people and ultimately have full control over my own direction. It’s also highly rewarding to feel like you’re making some small positive contribution to the world. We may be nothing more than a drop in the ocean of the world of textiles, but it’s great to be providing people with an ethical alternative, and proving to our peers that it is possible to make a living doing something you love.
In a way I’ve found my very modest wage to be quite liberating. Before Ink & Spindle I worked as a web and graphic designer. My wage was still modest but fairly consistent, and I started to entertain the notion that I could buy some property. Buying a house is something I’ve always wanted to do since I was quite young, and I still love the idea of it. But living in Melbourne where property prices are through the roof respective to average incomes, buying a home anywhere close to the city is something that’s just not an option to a lot of people in my generation.
But strangely, now that that option has been taken away from me, I actually feel quite free. Thinking about buying a house and feeling like I needed to save a lot and start looking ASAP was always a background stress in my life, a constant pressure. Now that I’ve let that go I feel like my eyes have been opened to other ways of thinking about life and what my priorities are. I also feel as though it’s okay for me to live more in the moment. I don’t need to be constantly saving or chasing higher incomes just so that I can save for a deposit or pay off a bit more of a mortgage. I can live a bit more for the “now”. I can focus on those things that make my day to day life enjoyable – friends, family, making things – and what’s more important than being happy, right now?
I think this is a good moment to quote a bit of the wise ‘ol Dalai Lama: The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, he said:
Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.
And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present;
the result being that he does not live in the present or the future;
he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.
I guess it’s easy for me to spout these ideals whilst I am currently unattached and childless, but I hope that in my future – when I do have a family – I will be able to live by similar values. I’d like to live simply. I’d like to extend the ethical practices of my business into more facets of my life. I’d like to have chooks and a vegie garden and maybe one day build a self sufficient home outside of town.
I guess to put it simply, my small creative business has educated and allowed me to step outside of the rat race, view it from a slightly more objective standpoint. I am happier and healthier now that I stand free of those pressures, and am glad to be able to put my time and energy into building a business that makes myself and others happy and is hopefully benefiting the world in some small way :)