The ebb and flow of being a Maker

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A week ago my friend posted on Instagram about feeling a little invisible, a little lost, perhaps not feeling quite good enough. It wasn’t done in a doom and gloom way but in an honest, ‘tell it how it is’ way. Her simple post resonated with so many people and it seems that many of us suffer from feeling like this from time to time.

After discussing it some more, Mirta from Modern Botanics,  Tempy from Grey Whale and myself decided that we would write our own perspectives and post our blogs simultaneously in the hope that it might start a discussion and hopefully provide some positive thoughts and tips to help us and others feeling the same way.

So here’s the thing… I know what I want to say but I’m not too sure how to start it…please bear with me, I hope it will become clearer….if not feel free to catch a few zzzzzzz’s.

As an artist I work mostly on my own and quite frankly I like this; there are no office politics to deal with, no complaints over who’s turn it is to do the coffee run, no fights over who took the last fig roll, lets face it, if the jars empty I’ve only got myself to blame! The downside is, there’s no one to bounce ideas off, no one to canvass opinion from, no one else to inspire me.

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In December I embarked on a self inflicted, crazy scheme that had me creating a new print each day, inspired by plants that I found growing locally. It was an amazing project and I loved it and learnt so much. I learnt about plants, about Instagram, I pushed myself to try different printing techniques, I learnt that you can’t really photograph a new print after 2pm in Winter! I learnt that I can do so much more than I thought I could (if I don’t Christmas shop or eat!!!). I also learnt what a fantastic community I have around me, both locally and on social media. I was blown away by the encouragement and support & heartfelt comments from complete strangers.

Following that high, its no surprise that creatively, January was a bit of a slump, what I wasn’t expecting was that February would be the same. I had ideas, in fact I had lots so I can’t say I had creative block, but I’ve lacked the faith, confidence or gumption to put them into action.  I started to question what I was doing, where I was going, why I hadn’t ‘made it’ by now… I’m scared to try something new, what if its a disaster? I don’t want to waste money and I only have 2 days ‘making’ that I fit around my young family, I don’t want to waste days, doubt and fear turn to panic and feeling overwhelmed, then I don’t do anything! I freeze…eek! That’s where I think I need other people.

Its not the first time I’ve felt like this about my work, its hard self motivating all the time and I guess many creative are not natural business people. Since I started out 20 years ago my confidence in my ability has deffinately had its ups and downs which initially led me to move from freelancing to salaried jobs, but they weren’t fulfilling the need to create my own work. So I’m back doing my own thing and I’m determined to make it happen as outside my family, nothing else makes me feel like I do when I’m creating what I love.

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In a studio on my own, this is where social media and especially Instagram has come into its own for me. There is a whole community of artists and makers across the globe, right there sharing the same passions, questions, aspirations & problems. This community is able to give advise, laughter and inspiration and most importantly support.

In my own experience I Love Instagram, after all its a visual thing. I find it so inspiring as you get to see so many other artists and their work and also images of what inspires them on a daily basis. However, this can be a double edged sword as its all too easy to start to compare yourself with the images you see (and subsequentially feeling that you don’t quite come up to the mark). But they are just images, I’m not saying they aren’t real but many will be curated, posed, promotional shots, even the ones that are ‘snapshots’ are not telling the full story. What we don’t see is the work that goes into creating some of thoses photos, the work that goes into creating the items in the photos, the many projects that haven’t quite been up to scratch, the trial and errors, the years of plugging away before success. The context.

So what I’ve found is that whilst it can be incredible inspiring, it can also nibble away if you let it, if you start to compare yourself or your work with the perfect images you see. For me, I think I’ve identified that my confidence drops & my sense of floundering rises when I allow myself to compare my work and my success with what I think I see in other peoples posts. Spending time comparing myself against others saps creative energy.

You can be a voyer but for me, the benefits come when you get involed after all Instagram is a visual ‘sharing’ platform. When you become engaged with other makers, their posts come with context. Taking part in projects and challenges can also be a great way to meet others and also to annalyise your own story. Hashtag ‘March meet the maker’ created by Joanne Hawker is a current  Instagram challenge that encourages makers to share their story bit by bit each day. Projects like this help me to admire and learn from others whilst identifying, refocussing on and celebrating my own story. Helping to ground me, keeping true to what I’m doing.

Judy Garland said ‘be a first rate version of yourself instead of a second rate version of someone else’
Learning to admire without comparing – that’s my plan!

Click here If you’d like to read other posts on this subject from the perspective of Mirta of Modern Botanics  & Tempy of Grey Whale or you can find them on Instagram under Modern Botanics and Urban Grey Whale

There will also be an Instagram tag called #makerstruth that you can get involved in and share your own perspective, or perhaps you have tips for working through a creative block?

Oh and if you nodded off way back there, ‘wakey wakey’!

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4 thoughts on “The ebb and flow of being a Maker

  1. Kathy, this is a fascinating perspective of what it’s like to be a working artist. Several times as I read your post, I was agreeing and getting encouragement from reading in black and white what I’d felt.
    For those of us who want to support artists and see who’s out there, social media is a boon, but conversely for those of us trying to become creatives it is rather daunting – and sometimes uplifting! Above all there is a very mutually supportive network out there and it’s a wonderful thing to see.
    Waffle over! X

    • Not waffle at all Fi, someone said yester ‘ never compare your own beginning to someone else’s Middle’ I found that so refreshing as hats what I think can happen on SM.
      I love seeing your work, would love to somehow have a better local network for creatives, not sure if best approach though…. Xxx

  2. Great post Kathy, I agree that Instagram can be wonderfully supportive but it is still just a snapshot. Everyone calls it a visual platform but the writing in many descriptions (such as yours) and the subsequent trains of thought and comments, are just as rewarding. If it was easy, everyone would be creative, what is helpful I think, is allowing yourself breaks, time to review, time for family as needed, knowing that it’s so essential to you that you will come back to it. There is no race or time limit! Projects like you mention are fabulous but you can sustain that although it will continue to filter through to your work. Love the hashtag and your prints.

    • Thank you Alice, that’s so important to ‘give yourself time’ I’m loving the ideas of your Yellow dots that you posted the other day, I might make a similar system. Currently I’m conscious that I’m trying to do tiny snippets that prob don’t acheive much, but I’m trying to fit them in left right and centre. Not healthy. I need to make a change on that front. Thank you for your support xxx

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