I have been butting up against a dilemma in the past couple of weeks. It has been simmering in the background, but it keeps rising closer and closer to the surface. Pretty soon its going to break the surface and I am going to have to confront it head on.
This dilemma concerns the tension between the desire to create, and the desire to simplify. One involves producing, the other reducing. One involves making use of resources, the other involves conserving resources. On the one hand I want to be creative, and also value the creativity of others. On the other hand, I am conscious of the resources that are used up in this creative process, and also in packaging and shipping creative output if it is to be sold.
I have been exploring my desire to create through writing and photography. My writing is mostly online, and immediate, in blog form. I like not having to store up my words in books, boxes and folders. I just post it and let wordpress do the archiving. I have been doing some journal writing lately, with a pen and paper. I make sure not to write anything I would not be willing to have someone else read. I have a box of old journals in the “too hard” corner in the garage. I don’t want to add to it. I am going to try to make sure that anything of importance ends up in digital form so that I can shred the physical notebooks when the time comes. I think I am going to be doing more writing, and may need to come up with better solutions for storing and archiving my notes and finished work. I am grateful for the computer and the online resources available to do this.
Photography is really a hobby and a lot of the photos I have been using were taken on overseas trips, with no expectation of being reproduced or published in any public arena. I have enjoyed using my own work to illustrate my blog posts on this site, and I also enjoy having a photography based ImageChest Photography blog. The dilemma here is that I have been getting prints made of my photo’s and making greeting cards for sale. I have enjoyed this and explored different outlet for selling them, including shops, an online store, and markets. This is where the dilemma is, because I am conscious of the resources required to make and store physical photos. The cardboard is flown to Sydney from Tasmania. If I sell cards online, I need to post them around the world. Although this is small scale, it does consume resources.
The main dilemma with selling greeting cards is that thrusts me into the world of product marketing. When selling online there is the opportunity to get involved in teams and market each other’s products. While some of the items I have come across for sale online are beautiful artworks or valuable vintage items, a lot of the products are ephemeral expressions of our materialistic age. In other words, clutter in search of a home. I enjoy looking at other peoples online shops because I see the product images as just that, images. I don’t get hooked in by what they represent, and rarely feel the urge to buy anything. However I know that other people who look at these images are seeing something else. They are seeing products they can buy, and perhaps feeling excited about the prospect of a parcel in the mail. After all that is the point of the product promotion.
What I am learning is that in order to make and online shop work, you really need to engage in many forms of marketing, including social networks and blogs. And here is where it gets complicated. You see I don’t think my family and friends need me to be encouraging them to buy more stuff. I don’t think you need me encouraging you to buy more stuff. I have already put a few people onto online shopping sites and began to wonder if that was doing them a service. Much as I hate to say it, I feel like I am sending mixed messages by advocating simplicity while at the same time promoting online selling, even if it is handmade arts and crafts.
And here is the minimalist artists dilemma. How to be creative without over-using the earths resources. How to sell creative products without buying into our already materialistic culture. The digital arena offers one solution. I think I may be heading further toward digital writing and photography and away from physical products. Although even this is not without is problems, as we use up the earths scarce resources to build our electronic devices, and burn up energy to run them.
Another solution is an emphasis on quality over quantity. Once upon a time ladies did embroidery in the evenings by lamplight. Before there was TV. Before there was radio. Even before there was electric light. Ladies embroidered detailed pieces of work because that was a enjoyable way to fill time, and provided a way to introduce visual beauty into their lives. The investment of time and attention seems to warrant the object, to make it worthy of its existence. Crafting has been simplified, so that finished items can be produced quite quickly, in some cases creating a glut of creative output with is beyond what we really want or need.
So here I am, stating this dilemma. Now its not a secret and I have to deal with it. I have a lot of greeting cards stored in shoeboxes, but I don’t think I will be getting any more prints done for a while. I am going to make up the remaining stock I have, and see about selling it. Then I will work out whether this is really something I want to pursue.