The problem is that I went into this venture thinking I was going to have a beading business.
I accepted from the beginning that there would be “start up costs” so I wasn’t really buying all those beads and neck-forms for myself—I was buying my supplies for the business and my displays for the business. That took some of the sting out of the sticker shock. Because beads are expensive, and displays are expensive, and custom business cards are expensive—and because I would never have bought those things for myself. The fact that I was buy them for the business made it seem okay to spend money I didn’t really have on things I wanted anyway. A bit of debt is okay, I coached myself, for the sake of having the business.
But I don’t really have a business.
Sure I have a dot-com domain and an online store. Sure I have professional packaging and enough displays to fill a ten by ten craft faire booth. Sure I do nice, professional work and I have a good portfolio of unique high quality pieces that I designed myself. But those things don’t make a business. Selling merchandise and receiving money for it—that makes a business. And that is something I have yet to do in any sustainable way.
I sit at the local craft shows and I make a few sales but nothing near what I’d need to make to justify the risk of taking time and money traveling to more distant shows. I live in the middle of nowhere and traveling anywhere outside of town is a big commitment in gas money; a commitment I can’t stomach when I know that, even on a good day, I barely make enough to cover my booth fees.
As an artist, I have been phenomenally successful over these last couple years. I have gone from duplicating the work of others to creating my own designs. My craftsmanship has improved to the point of my getting regular comments about the durability and quality of my work. You wouldn’t believe the number of compliments I get at shows and the number of people that stop to fondle the necklaces wistfully.
They just don’t buy them.
And that doesn't just happen to me, that happens all the time because the reality of art is that it doesn’t always pay to do it—at least, not in the monetary sense of the word—and while I enjoy beading greatly and while I grow every time I make a new project and while having all the materials I wanted without thought to the cost has expanded my creative horizon in ways I had only dreamed of back when I was doing twenty dollar projects out of Beadwork magazine… I wasn’t thinking in terms of artistic growth when I spent all those hundreds of dollars getting the studio stocked and the booth set up. I was thinking in terms of business. And if one looks at my venture through the eyes of business, the whole thing—despite the artistic success— was an utter failure.
A very expensive failure.
The disappointment is not something I prepared for. And there is an additional layer of shame that comes from tallying up all the things I bought on credit and realizing that with interest on those purchases, I am unlikely to make back that loss even if I sell out my entire current inventory. It’s also so horribly embarrassing when friends ask me if I intend to go to the fall craft show and I get immediately wishy-washy about it because I know how much work it is and how little payoff there will be. I don’t need to spend the booth money to sit there for twelve hours and hear compliments, however genuine, from folks. My coffers need filling, not my ego. But I also feel like I’ve made some sort of commitment, a promise of kinds, by taking on the business name and having the business cards and paying for the domain of this blog. But if it was a promise that kept me anxious about not posting and anxious about not going to local shows, it’s a promise well broken by now.
It’s taken me some time to come around and back out the other side of that. It’s taken me some time to stop seeing myself as a business person and start seeing myself as an artist again. These days I don’t buy art supplies based on what I want to get out of them in terms of salable products. But because of that, I also don’t take on debt under the delusion of some future reimbursement—I buy things when I have the money to buy them. That comes with its downside too—like the fact that I may get a great idea for using some new shaped bead and not act on it because I don’t immediately have the funds to make the supply purchase.
Remembering that I am an artist first and foremost also reminded me that I do other kinds of art. I paint and draw and play with polymer. I write and fold origami and mess with wirework just because I want to. This summer, thanks to my brother buying me a camera, I will be spending all my time trying my hand at photography. Because I’m a creative at heart.
I have been searching for a way to make this blog about more than just the business, and for that matter, about more than just my beading. That’s kind-of hard with the name of it being “Chrysina Beads” but I know if I don’t start posting about my other creative endeavors, eventually, I’ll just stop posting altogether. I love beads and I love beading, but I’ve been going through something of a beading dry-spell. I don’t sit down to make projects very often anymore and what I have made recently, I haven’t been satisfied with.
I know it’s probably not what people want to hear from me after such a long hiatus, and I hope I don’t alienate those of you who came here, and continue to come here, for beading related content. But I figure some content, even if it’s not beading specific, is better than no content. That isn’t to say there will be no beading content, just not as much of it.