Wednesday, March 19, 2008

DIY Grad School

I came to a couple of realizations recently when anticipating the "what do you do for work?" question from a new acquaintance and catching up with relatives. Having lived in a rather alternative/rural/artistic way my entire adult life, the answer has often not been easy, depending on the group or person asking.

These are my realizations:

1) I am an entrepreneur. Having a craft business is so much more than just creating. The creative part is certainly a big reason why I took this on, but to get my work out into the world on a scale to support my family involves a tremendous amount of time doing what would come under the heading of "running the business." And in order to keep costs low I'm doing a lot of things myself, like photographing products, designing marketing materials, building a mailing list, researching markets and supplies, applying to shows, building displays, etc. etc. Instead of hiring a photographer I spent most of the day yesterday doing a photo shoot with some borrowed equipment and friends for models. It really takes a lot to get a good picture: the lighting, the product displayed just so, the model looking great with no stray wisps of hair (because I want to spend as little time in Photoshop as possible!). And for some juries the model has to be void of expression and personality. That was probably the hardest for me: I didn't accomplish it at all. It was apparent how a hair and make-up person, and other helping pairs of eyes and hands, would have been so useful. But I was wearing all the hats, so to speak.

2) Getting a new business up to speed is like being in graduate school. I come from a family of mostly highly educated upper middle class academic/business/lawyer-types and we have a family reunion every year. Grad school is something they can understand. I am working really hard (in a life-consuming kind of way), making a big financial investment in my career, and not making any money. Don't get me wrong - this doesn't mean I am not producing or selling, but at this stage I am reinvesting all the income from sales back into the business. A new business starting up can expect to turn a profit after 3 - 5 years. That sounds about like a grad school timetable.

Let me get back to that life-consuming comment: I love it all. Sure I feel anxiety about deadlines, juries, investing in supplies, anything I do that's new. But it's a good, motivational kind of anxiety. Never dread. I look forward to it all, wake up in the night with plans and ideas I'm anxious to carry out (witness the time of this post), constantly envision my success. I sometimes have feelings of frustration at not being able to make things move forward at a faster rate because of the level of my involvement in my family, homestead and community. But those things are the lifestyle it's been important to me to create, and the business is in part to support my ability to live like this, so putting it all aside too much wouldn't be consistent with my desires for the big picture of my life.

Some of the things I often want to share on this blog are aspects of our "homesteading" activities. I don't know why I don't like that term. We didn't break any sod around here* so it doesn't seem right to use it, though it's a common enough term for what we do. My daughter did a 3rd grade project on subsistence farmers for a history unit on early Vermont. We definitely fit that definition, especially this year as we've raised almost all of our own food for the entire year. But subsistence farming sounds much more lacking in outside resources than we are. Of course we can and do buy food when we need to and want some variety. I think of subsistence farmers of old as being hungry if they run out. Anyway, here's a picture of yesterday's egg yield and the kindling basket. We usually get one goose egg each day. The geese bury their eggs about 6 inches down in the hay and dirt so they are rather in need of a scrub when they come into the kitchen. Kitt is now splitting kindling! Such a useful boy when he wants to be. *heart*

*actually, that is totally not true! This valley and our land has been in agricultural use (skipping the last generation or so) for a couple hundred years, but Richard broke the sod for all of our veggie gardens and is planning a new garden in the unbroken field across the street. Maybe because the sod was broken here 250 years ago, and the fact that we didn't build our house, is why "homesteading" doesn't seem to fit. I think of homesteaders as the first to till and settle the land. Must be the pride of my Midwestern roots. Rolvaag stuck in my mind more than...hmm, I guess I haven't read any novels about the settlement of New England. Mom, Marie, want to suggest some?

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