I was recently asked why posting and interacting with the YouTube and Instagram communities was 'worth it.' Of course they were talking about how was I converting that time and effort spent into dollars and cents. To be frank, we're not making money hand over fist - we're not seeing a business model that gives back more than we put in financially when it comes to social media. When the follow up question is, 'then why bother?' my only response is because of the COMMUNITY. If you speak to religious folks, one of the biggest values they find in church is a shared connection with other people. They teach about it in their ministries as well, the need to surround yourself with others so they can keep you uplifted and remind you of why you exist. To help reaffirm your beliefs and faith. Congregate in groups of two or more and there God will join you. There are identifiable similarities for those in the creative community. Not every artist is a recluse or introvert or "Solopreneurs" who benefit from being disconnected from normalcy. Most of us desire the same thing everyone else does, validation. Creatives have a desire for people to bounce their ideas off of, mentors to give them advice, muses to inspire their creativity, and people who will value them and what they are doing. God comes in the form of inspiration when two or more are gathered. This isn't to say that the creative community is a replacement for a church or religion or any other functional communal experience, I'm certainly not advocating one above all, but more like a pretty amazing companion for those who desire it.
With the arrival of the internet, people from all around the globe now have the ability to find new congregations for whatever interests they have. It can be as benign as people looking for other people who knit funky creatures, or more nefarious reasons as we've seen play out in recent years with radicalizations of thought and action. With every positive there is an opportunity to corrupt and distort the original intention. My hope is that the positive interactions far outweigh the negative. In fact, the internet is responsible for so much of what Ben and I have, including our marriage. We met online when meeting online was a bit taboo. It has brought many additional opportunities to us as well. Like: Etsy and Fiverr to sell our wares; Facebook and Linkedin to help reconnect with family, friends, and colleagues; Pinterest and Instructables to gain inspiration. In the case of Slap Stuff Together, we have been introduced to an amazing group of talented individuals who do so much to inspire us on a regular basis. By meeting these people online, we've been inspired to seek out others locally who also are active in this community. Ben and I have already begun to reap copious amounts of benefits from our interactions. We're consistently inspired by seeing what other people are working on. We are encouraged by new and amazing mentors in our disciplines and we're able to open up to a new understanding of what we can be as artists/makers/parents/spouses. The connections have brought opportunities to collaborate on projects and even brought new customers to our shop.
Last year, Ben and I stepped out of our comfort zone and took a trip to Maker Faire New York. It was our first dive into interacting with a community that we'd kind of been nervous bystanders in. It's not that people weren't welcoming, it's just that we were new and weren't sure what to expect - very similar to any new relationship or activity. During the day we wandered around the Hall of Science grounds in Queens. We were feeling one part in awe and another part out of place. A lot of the booths that were there were filled with technology we'd never really been interested in before. Ben was a little down because there wasn't much woodworking and I was just a bit overwhelmed by all of the things I just had no idea existed. Fortunately our awkwardness changed, the highlight of our day was a talk being given by several content creators; 'I like to Make Stuff', 'Maker's Muse', and '3D printing nerd'. They talked about their foray into YouTube and this community, highlighting on what was making them successful and what their plans were in the future. Along with the information from the talk we also benefited by being able to have a mini meet-up outside the hall with some really fantastic people; Bernie Solo, Paul Jackman, Pat Lap, Kyle from 'Chasen Makes', 'ijessup', Evan and Katelyn and a slue of others. They were so fun to spend time with. Plus, we finally felt like the trip was well worth it. This was what we had been hungry for, engaging with people that understood our mindsets and passion for the same things. OH, and to swap stickers - lots of stickers. This community is emphatic about them.
Due to our experience in NYC we started to become more active in the facebook groups. Having met some of the folks in person made it easier to interact and share. Our network has continued to blossom and we're finding more and more ways to incorporate our passions into our small business and share our world with those around us who doubted the value before. We've made new friends locally as well as internationally. One of the highlights has definitely been watching the spirit of this community grow so quickly. Two weeks ago was Maker's Central in Bermingham, UK. We were unable to attend but still got to participate because of our dear friends who were there. They took our stickers with them and posted videos sharing their experience with those of us who were unable to attend. We got to be a part of it vicariously through live streams on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. What an amazing time to live in. We have found our tribe and our tribe has found us.
Quite frankly though, the biggest benefit of sharing what we do is helping to ignite curiosity and creativity in other people. It has never been more apparent to us how many people gave up pursuing their creativity because our society doesn't see the value in it. People are desperate to work with their hands and learn trades and crafts after years of being told there is no use in it. Nothing highlights that more than our experience from the start with people's biggest reaction being - where is the money in what you are doing? I have my moments where I'm like, yeah, this is hard not having a whole lot of money - I'm tired because I'm doing so much more than I'm used to. BUT if I sit and really look at it on a normal day, I wouldn't trade what we have gained for any amount of money. I've never seen Ben happier than when he gets to share what he is working on. Personally, I've spent so much less time in front of a TV screen wasting time in the last year. I'm much more driven to accomplish tangible things than I ever have been. I have no doubt that as a result, we will be rewarded in the future with better health, better relationships, and maybe just maybe a way to inspire those around us. Not to mention, Carver will grow up seeing us actively pursuing the things we love and not just tirelessly working as cogs in a broken system.
Heidi Jacobs is the Co-Founder of Slap Stuff Together, a maker's studio. She is also a Project Manager by day and part time professional photographer. If you would like to learn more about SST's adventures as a new start up you can follow them on Instagram or on Facebook. If you would like to learn more about their startup you can drop them a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Small Business owner and Artist, committed to growing as a maker as well as sharing her and her husband's experience with owning a small maker studio.
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