The May MKE Creatives was filled with a precious resource of Wisconsin – professional creatives! There were in attendance: Scott – photography and 3D animation; Johnny – poet and music producer; Eric – house DJ; Jon – 2D animation, art educator, and writing a novel alongside his daughter who is also writing one!; Paul – a “storytelling Santa” and Renaissance Faire toymaker/storyteller; John – a CPA/financial planner who specializes in small businesses; Andrew – a publisher, editor, writer, photographer, and organizer of the Milwaukee Analog Photography group; and Sara and Anna, of Tactile Craftworks, our featured creatives of the month!
Sara and Anna are leather crafters, who have been in a long-term relationship with progress. They met more than a few years ago, when they both worked in the props department of a local theatre company (Sara and Anna both have degrees in theater tech). In fact, the ladies both started at the theatre company on the same day and six years later, left on the same day, too! It was during those six years that the two realized they have a strong collaborative energy.
In talking about their business, they had lots of anecdotes to share, and some of the things they have learned…
“…at our first craft fair, we were the most expensive one there, and we only sold four items, but were SO happy!”
“…we learned that we had to specialize, and narrow our focus…had to learn what we wanted, versus what would sell…and we got good at letting go of things that weren’t working out.”
…had the ‘kernel’ of an idea for working with leather, and once they learned of laser etching on leather, they “embarrassingly lost their minds” over the possibilities!
…they discovered that people who responded to their “Atlas Series” were in a similar place of seeking change in their lives.
…Sara and Anna were sincerely surprised at how strongly people responded to the Atlas Series. They now have over 20 cities in the series.
…as the work became more steady, they had an important realization: “We wanted to make an impact on things…It wasn’t enough to make money and nicely-designed things…we wanted to make a difference to causes we were interested in.” In late 2016, they started their Park series and donating to the National Park Foundation.
…they completely understand the doubt that creatives can feel sometimes, saying “We totally think we know what we’re doing…and that last about five minutes!” (and it comes back in time) 🙂
…”when we went independent, we were both lucky enough to be in marital situations that covered health insurance…and when we left the full-time jobs, we picked up part-time jobs to keep some stability…we slowly waded into self-employment.”
The final bit of advice they gave was that if you have that idea, that thing you want to do, you just might have to “start before you’re ready”, and make that leap.