Self promotion is a hard job.
I remember working in a summer market years ago where I sold handmade journals. People would pick up the books, turn them over, run their fingers over the embossed designs and say, “Wow, these are beautiful! You are really talented!” And I would say thank you, sheepishly, hoping no one around me heard me accept the praise and could accuse me of being vain. Praise is awkward for everyone, I think. We are happy to receive it but somehow feel uncomfortable with it. I wonder what age that starts happening and why? It certainly wasn't the case when I was say, seven.
But when my market neighbour David would take off here and there and I’d watch his booth, it was no problem to sell his pottery. “David is a fantastic potter!” I’d say. “I’ve been eyeing up this one all week! Just look at the colours!” Easy peasy Japanesey, as my students in Shanghai used to say. And I loved doing it too because I did love the work, and I did know that it was well crafted. It was a happy accomplishment when I sold something off David’s table when he was away.
But selling your own work is tricky for one big reason. You need to promote your work and as an artist, that means you too.You aren't selling encyclopedias or vacuum cleaners, you are selling your own product made with your own hands. How do you do this on the internet without making it seem like your titillated by yourself and what you do all day long? My other day job, yoga instructor, runs into the exact same problems. I assure you, the people who know me well know that I am my world’s worst critic and I am certainly not uber-self absorbed. But the nature of how I am trying to make a living makes me appear as such from time to time.
If you are too humble, it looks like you have no faith in your product. If you are too confident, you can come off as arrogant and full of yourself. I hope I’ve come somewhere in the middle. Truthfully, I don’t love the self promotion. I’m trying to find more creative ways of promoting my stuff in order to avoid this and do others some good at the same time.
Donating Scarves for Korakor is one example. Selling the scarves through the Penticton Art Gallery, with a percentage going towards the public gallery is another. Donating prints or paintings to charitable fundraisers is yet another way. The Naramata Playschool is about to auction off a print of mine at a silent auction dinner. I’ve joined an Etsy team to help promote others as well as myself. It’s all slow going and it’s hard work. And when no one knows you, the only one working to promote you is you.
That’s why, when I get a mention in another blog of someone I am not connected to, I am really, truly, honestly grateful, and thankful. Because someone else out there thinks what I am doing is worthwhile even though sometimes I am discouraged and think it’s time to pack it all in for a coffee slinging job at Starbuck’s. At least I’d get free coffee.
And I just found this one today, which is also very special for me because it’s nice to know someone out there is paying attention. Thank you for the mention, elanthemag and Sumayyah Meehan, it means a lot to me. I am honoured to be listed as a Top Ten Etsy Shop for Muslims. Shokran!
She lists nine other Etsy shops worth mentioning, check them out!