Or at least, not yet. I’ve been thinking a lot about sustainability this week as part of my planning for my craft consumerism article for UK Handmade. I believe that the key to true sustainability is learning to do things for yourself. This doesn’t just apply to our craft practices, but to life. It’s about responsibility, not just sitting back and apathetically letting things happen to you or unquestioningly consuming (food, drink, opinions or anything). Doing, making, creating – these are all positive actions which can apply to everything you do. Thinking is the most important step to it all and is often left out of the equation or not given as much time as it should.
So what has this to do with sustainability? The Oxford English Dictionary defines sustainability in the following ways: 1. Capable of being borne or endured; supportable, bearable. 2. Capable of being upheld or defended; maintainable. 3. Capable of being maintained at a certain rate or level. Nowadays we most often link the word sustainability to “green” issues however looking at those definitions what emerges is that sustainability is to do with what can be successfully maintained over a period of time. So why do I think that learning to do things yourself is the key to sustainability? Well, leaving aside the scenario of the electricity just stopping and all that would ensue from that, let’s look at how society is set up in the main.
In our attempts to simplify life we’ve added gadgets and given up control of many areas of production – food, clothes etc. In many areas this has been a great improvement on the past however in others it is questionable. For example, £3 may buy you a beautiful artisan loaf of bread but the same amount of money will buy you ingredients to make four loaves at home. £3 might buy you a cheap pair of socks which you can pick up at the supermarket along with your lunchtime sandwich, but a few months down the line they’ll have started to go bare on the heel or poke through at the toe. But the same £3 can buy 100g sock yarn and you can knit up a pair of socks which will have much greater durability.
The difference in both these scenarios is having the skills to know how to bake bread or knit – both of which are not as hard to master as we have been lead to believe. The other difference is time, obviously baking and knitting take longer than going to the shops because let’s face it, we’re all busy working to earn money so we can buy more <insert relevant item>, but what we are often really buying ourselves is time.
Now, I don’t want to go into this too much here to avoid overlapping with my article for UK Handmade, but let’s just say that you can be empowered through learning a few simple skills which will give you greater control over your life and how you choose to spend your time and money. Thinking about how you spend time and money, both precious commodities, gives you greater control in life. It is the active thought of spending it which is important, rather than just blindly, unthinkingly consuming.
Thought is increasingly being squeezed out of our lives. Emails and texts are great when you want to communicate quickly and get a response, but when it’s you the pressure is on to make a really important decision, allowing yourself the time and space to do so can be hard when the email in the inbox is silently urging you to reply to it. At least back in the days of postal communication you usually got a day’s grace to think and respond before the next post went. It also wouldn’t have been seen as tardy to wait a week for a response to a business letter. I recently decided that wherever possible I would wait an entire month before making really important decisions. I’ve been amazed at how much I can change my mind about something over the course of a month even when at the start of the process I was adamant that I knew what I wanted to do.
This is all part of trying to live and work more sustainably. By being concious of everything I consume (not just in a food and drink sense) and how I spend my time and money I am taking responsibility for how I live. This is also why my blog is called “I Am Satisfied”, it’s a reminder to me that I have everything that I need, everything else is want. Want is ok, and satisfying that want can also be ok, as long as I’ve properly thought about it and the implications.
Recently I applied my sustainability ideas to my new blog schedule. I noticed that I was starting to feel a little bit stressed, I could just pick up on the almost imperceptible noise of uncompleted tasks building up. Actually what it turned out to be was the pressure of these deadlines which I had set for myself. What was I going to blog about three times a week? Did I really need to blog three times a week to build up my particular business as a craft educator? I know that some people do benefit from a frequent and regular blog schedule but when I thought about it I realised it wasn’t necessary for me.
I do have some thoughts which I want to share but when I’ve written them all, will there be new, relevant and interesting things to write about? With regards to online content I agree with the notion that if you haven’t got anything interesting to say then the best course of action might be not to say anything at all (of course, ‘interesting’ is a subjective concept, but you know what I mean). I don’t always succeed with that aspiration (as some of my tweets will evidence!) but I do recognise that we all read a lot of stuff on the internet and that it can become overwhelming.
So to avoid adding to this burble of non-stop online voices I have decided that I will only post when I have something interesting to say. Secondly, you don’t need another weekly round-up from me, there’s plenty of those on the web. If you want to have a look at what I’ve been eyeing up then you can follow me on pinterest and I have added a button for you to do that on my blog. I also often tweet things I like so you can follow me on twitter and although I don’t use facebook much, my twitter feed and blog are linked to my profile so you can find me on there if that is your social media of choice. One other option is that you could subscribe to the blog by email or as an RSS feed. Hopefully all of these options are simple to do since the blog redesign.
So before you give up your day job and dive right in to your craft business just stop and think for a minute (or a month). Is it sustainable? Think about this not only in terms of the financial or environmental, but also in terms of your time (the real thing we sell for money, and the thing that we often use money to buy).
I realised after two years of selling at craft markets that it wasn’t for me. I’d been wasting time and money, making a product that people weren’t buying which now languishes in a box on top of my cupboard gathering dust. That’s not remotely sustainable in any sense of the word. One day it occurred to me, if my business took off (which at that time was designing, making and selling fascinators) would I really want to do it all day every day? The answer was no. My next realisation was that sometimes it is ok just to do something as a hobby, you don’t have to turn it into a money-making scheme – which is what I try to do with everything I enjoy! However, what I did really enjoy doing was teaching people craft skills and writing about craft so I decided to focus on that. That side of the business has been much more successful. 🙂
What does sustainability mean to you? Is it important in your business? I’d love for this to become a discussion, for people to comment and talk to me. Tell me your thoughts and experiences. What works and doesn’t work for you in your craft business? If you managed to give up your day job and live off your work, do you have any tips?