Thursday, June 23, 2011

Do you make to sell or sell what you make?

The quilters were in town for the big annual Vermont Quilt Show last week. Groups of them stop back in each year when they're in Vermont and new ones find me. As one group checked out & left the store, I heard one say to another "oh, there was just so much to see and so much to feel there wasn't enough time"(they'd been here over an hour)to which another in the group responded "that is just the coolest shop we've ever been in, seriously, EVER, don't you think?"!
So I had to share (not because these remarks were so unusual... I am paid compliments directly about the shop remarkably often) but because it caused me to think about what aspect of the shop it was that made it stand out so memorably with that group that had essentially "knit-shop-hopped" the eastern seaboard on their way to the show.
This reflection led me back to that recurring dilemma I grapple with constantly ... for those of us who have turned our passion into our livelihood - do we make/do what we think will sell, OR, do we reserve our time & energy to make what we creatively want to and then hope the money will follow? I usually do some of each, but always ending up erring on the side of doing what I think more people would actually make and wear than making what I creatively want to (afterall, it's not the ohs and ahs that keep kibbles in Chloe's bowl!).
And yet, it seems to be these "outlier" projects that elicit the oohs! that seem to leave the lasting impression and which seem to be one of the main reasons so many out-of-towners hyperventilate when they visit(I wish I had tape recorded 2 ladies who stopped in from Montreal last was about an hour of that famous scene from When Harry Meets Sally!).
So this year, newly reinspired by the art and traditions witnessed on my recent vacation to Russia, Estonia & Gotland, I'm testing that "field of dreams" approach and going for broke....I just chose 6 projects from my queue of "projects-I-want-to-do-that-probably-nobody-will-buy-material-for-because-no-one-in-their-right-mind-would-want-to-take-the-time-or-spend-the-amount-of-money-they-cost-to-make-them" and I've decided to treat myself to the indulgence of putting the time and money into them even if nobody ever buys the materials to make them too!
A new approach for me....let's hope I can stick to it. It sounds so obvious... of course you do what you're inspired to do and the money will follow, but since my vendors don't accept oohs and aahs for payment there may be times throughout the year that my resolve wavers!
If you struggle with the create vs. make to sell balance, I'd love to hear your thoughts.