Encouragement from a small business owner who overcame the fear of sharing her work + 5 tips for creators who are hesitant to share their work
CREATING: PRIVATE AND PUBLIC
Creating behind closed doors is often an effortless thing. Privacy allows creativity to bloom unhindered. It reaches its full potential. Words are bolder. Colors are brighter. Ideas are a little off the wall. Anything goes, though -- so long as no one but the creator knows.
Many times, though, there comes a day when it's time to let the creation breathe on its own, outside the safe walls of privacy. The words must be shared. The artwork must be seen. The cooking must be tasted.
This could simply be because your creative hobby needs funding and you want to make a little cash off of your art. Or, it may be that the message your work carries is a message the world desperately needs.
You then find that this kind of creating -- creating in the public eye -- is not such an effortless thing. It's an entirely different process, bringing with it entirely different challenges and emotions.
While creating once looked like soaring with confidence, you now shrink back in hesitation. You want people to notice your work and, at the same time, you don't. Your secret world of creative bliss could come crumbling down with a few insensitive words.
Releasing your art into the world, as it turns out, is an art in and of itself.
Katie Simmon, the owner of Etsy shop Soulful Clay Co., sat down with me to discuss her polymer clay earring business over a cup of coffee for an article in Missouri Life Magazine.
Katie's work with clay began in a pottery studio owned by her aunt and uncle, called Springfield Pottery. When her time in the studio came to a halt due to the pandemic forcing it to temporarily close its doors, she had to find another way to create. Katie soon discovered a gem: polymer clay. This special kind of clay can be baked in an oven at home and doesn't require clay artists to leave the house to find a kiln.
She made use of her new creative outlet by crafting statement earrings in unique shapes, colors, and textures. She decided to start sharing her hobby with others to turn it into a small business. Katie recalls those first careful tiptoes into sharing her work publicly, on Instagram.
"I was so nervous," she says. "I posted it and then I left my phone at home and went to go run an errand because I just didn't want to see what people had to say."
When the feedback started rolling in -- first, positive feedback from her friends -- she was able to breathe a sigh of relief. Katie soon opened her Etsy shop. This eventually blossomed into selling her earrings in a gallery and at festivals.
"Everyone starts somewhere," Katie says. "I never thought this was what was going to happen."
Now, Katie says the events she attends spur her on in her work. Customers present ideas that inspire her and give feedback that helps her figure out what to create next. They are curious and ask about her creative process, which allows her to share the passion behind her work.
At best, she says interactions with event attendees remind her that her business is going in the right direction. At worst, passersby admire her earrings but mention they aren't pieces they could see themselves wearing.
"And that's totally okay," Katie says.
5 TIPS TO HELP YOU PUT YOUR CREATIVE WORK IN FRONT OF AN AUDIENCE
If you're on the fence about putting your creative work out there, here are some tips to help you move past your hesitation and enter the world of sharing your art:
1. REMEMBER YOU ARE YOUR OWN HARSHEST CRITIC
You've probably heard it said a thousand times, but it's true. It's likely that no one will give you feedback about your work that is more harsh than the feedback you give yourself in anticipation of what others might think.
2. REALIZE IT PROBABLY WON'T BE AS BAD AS YOU THINK
Once Katie overcame her fear that her work wouldn't be good enough in the eyes of others, the most negative feedback she got was simply, "It's not my style."
3. KNOW WHO YOU ARE
Art is subjective. So, why should another's opinion hold more weight than your own? Recognize that your work is valuable in and of itself, regardless of what others say. This mindset will allow you to keep going even in the face of harsh criticism.
4. BE OPEN TO FEEDBACK
As it turns out, the opinions of others can actually help your work reach its full potential. When Katie started selling her earrings at festivals, she discovered that she loved interacting with customers or curious browsers. They provided new ideas that sparked even more creativity.
5. VIEW EVERYTHING AS A LEARNING PROCESS
The more you create, the better you get. So, it makes sense that you're probably going to like the work you're creating now better than the work you made years ago. In the same way, the future version of yourself is probably going to look back on what you're creating now and see that you still had so much growing to do. Don't let this thought stop you from sharing your work. As Katie said, you have to start somewhere. So, it might as well be here.