I’ve been thinking.
A lot. Maybe too much.
About reciprocity, about effort, about return, about worth, about why.
Why do we do this? Why, as people do we express ourselves in a way that requires reciprocation from others? I make for me, because I love it. I make for me, because it’s in my brain and my heart, but...thos things needs a tangible home outside of those places. Which is where earrings come in, a tangible link to me, my brain, my heart.
But, also, I make for you. I make to bring joy to others. To bring beauty to your day, or at least to a cute outfit.
Also...I am a business, therefore, while as shitty as it sometimes feels to say this, I also make to sell.
There are times when the reciprocity of others blows me away, and times I crave or need more than what I am getting. How do I get past the number of followers that I currently have without using social media politics and tactics? But then I think, I often have more likes per photo than an account with 5x as many followers, I have the engagement, I have the support of people that came here of their own volition rather than being lured with tactics. Is that enough? Should I care? I know most people who read this will respond with something about not caring, not finding my worth in likes and followers, etc, and they’re right...but, also, this is how I sell. Around 95% of my traffic comes from Instagram, how do you justify those two opposing things against one another? Do I want too much? Am I not grateful enough? Am I reaching for too little? Thinking too small? Expecting the world when I’m only giving what I can, when I can? There are also times when the reciprocity leaves me exhausted, unanswered emails, lack of effort, rejected proposals, etc. Which all in all is a balance, you can't really have one without the other.
My bestie turned me on to a show that interviews inspirational women, and one episode interviews @elainewelteroth and @cleowade. Cleo says something along the lines of “galleries used to have to make artists, now artists make artists. Social media has democratized art” and it literally blew my mind. I’ve gotten this far (so grateful) because I’ve put the work in, because you all as customers and followers have supported me, and I’ve done it from my basement with little other means than my phone, my voice, my work, and YOU. It’s pretty astounding. If this were 5 years ago I’d be hoping that my Etsy page would make it big, buying ads, running myself into the ground trying to get above page 32 on the search results for polymer clay earrings. I wouyldnt have the ability to reach you, to be a human and a brand at the same time, and I owuldnt have the ability to sell directly to you just based on the amount of effort I put into on a free platform. Because of social media I’m able to share some stories on a platform I already use in a personal capacity to reach you as a businesswoman and as a human...It’s empowering, it’s also overwhelming. Where does that perfect balance lie? How do I empower myself through a free tool while not drowning in the inertia of it? How the hell do I not compare myself to others when the whole point of the app is to look at others? It’s there. The balance is there. I’ve found it before and I’ll find it again, but it sure does feel...something right now. Putting oneself out there is highly emotional, it's scary, and at times, highly rewarding.
I honestly don’t know how to make a bigger impact; I’ve been doing live discussions with other makers, asking people who I admire to wear my jewelry in photographs, and getting some response, but if I’m being honest, not the kind that I want, or frankly need. It feels hard right now, and it feels like I’ve plateaued, like I’m sort of on an island asking people to swim out to me, but I can see them hanging out on the shore...not jumping in. I've asked folks to wear my jewelry in photos because I respond to who they are, to what they put out there, and when that's not reciprocated I cant help but feel rejected, failed, not good enough. I don't think that much of that is true in a "grey" sense, but in the "black and white" version of it that flies through my brain at 800mph, that's how it can feel. How do you get exposure without selling yourself, without buying those ads (done it, didn't work nor feel right), how do you GET OUT THERE? I also recognize that I'm pretty new at this (polymer clay) so I'm still (gladly) paying my dues, some of my frustration comes from past experiences in this with my vintage business and my plant business...organizing events, doing pop-ups, posting on social media, etc, it's been the past 5.5 years of my life, some of those past experiences have left residue in my brain and in my heart.
So much of this has to do with self-doubt, the need for an immediate response, expecting numbers to validate me (likes, followers, comments, orders), and also the knowledge that in some capacity, I genuinely do need those things to survive as a business.
None of this is really leading anywhere, it’s all an observation that is also a question...and one that will show up throughout my journey as a maker. One that will plague my nights regardless of how my days go. One that, for the most part, is a question a lot of us ask, and we all know the answer isn’t in what we seek.
I’m pretty damn happy with what I’ve created - I’m so fucking thankful for every person who cheers me on, I really hope this little blurb doesn’t make it seem like I’m not. I’m just feeling a little stalled and not sure how to jump start something with no instruction manual that feels worth reading. I dunno. Thanks for listening and thanks for all you do, you are seen. We are seen, even if today it just doesn’t feel like it.