Manifesto Session: Enterprise and Employability
Below are draft guidelines that emerged from the first creative practice cycling tour. They identify matters of concern related to enterprise and employability in creative practice as a broad category of production. By no means exhaustive, they point to considerations that arose through our sessions with a furniture designer, an independent record lable, an artist and print designer and the head of business development at a creative incubator for craft-based businesses. As the guidelines below indicate, there is significant overlap among these areas in practice. But they be distinguished as value, vision, relationships, time, labour, experience and resources.
- Align professional development with personal values to ensure your practice meets your individual needs: For some practitioners, visualising an outcome in vivid detail motivates them to take action by giving them a target to work towards. But for others, finding their way as their practice develops in response to circumstances makes more sense. Whichever approach is right for you, being aware of your personal values and relying on these to guide your professional development will help ensure the decisions you make and actions you take are best suited for your individual needs.
- Identify value in your practice beyond the outcomes you produce: Creating artworks or objects to sell is one way your can turn the cultural value of your practice into financial return. But your process and other aspects of your approach can be sources of value too. Developing ways of identifying and articulating this value and sharing it with others can open up other revenue streams, such as consultancy and teaching to name only two.
- Relate to your practice like it's something that matters deeply to you but not as the only thing in your life: Putting other aspects of your life on hold to focus on your practice does not guarantee success however you define it. Cultivating other relationships not only promotes greater life/work balance. It can also provide a support system that you can lean on when times in your practice get tough.
- Make the most of gaining experience through formal schemes: Apprenticeships and internships can provide rapid learning through immersion in the rough and tumble world of cultural production. But to make the most of these opportunities, don't rely on your mentors to determine the value of your work. Turn experience into knowledge through taking stock of your learning and ensuring that it's furthering your personal and professional development.
- Become part of a community of practice: For some, this means growing through a creative incubator or some other context that offers a ready-made network of relationships and other resources. For others, networking with a more loosely tied community of peers is better is a better fit. The point is to avoid feeling isolated by identifying a community of practice where you can give and take because you feel at home.
- Learn through peer-to-peer exchange and information networks: When it comes to realising a successful creative practice, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. This is because the range and complexity of each instance is specific to the practitioner's situation. Yet there is much to be gained from sharing your practice with peers and pooling your knowledge for mutual benefit. Although the obstacles and opportunities you encounter differ, the problem solving required to address them can be adapted for a range of ends. Additionally, there are professional bodies like Artquest and the Craft Council that can help you with specific issues by providing practice-specific expertise.
- Developing technique takes time: We can think of technique as a combination of craft and artistic skills, understanding of a particular subject or issue, experience negotiating the professional worlds art, design and craft and other aspects that compose the broad knowledge base required to make your creative practice both personally meaningful and economically viable. Developing this base requires time to experiment, reflect, recalibrate and put new understanding into practice. Accepting that some aspects of your practice will develop faster than others can help ensure realistic expectations about the time required for your maturation as a creative practitioner.
- Treat your time as a limited resource: Artists can benefit from how designers and other craftspeople cost their time by treating this as a limited and hence precious resource. This involves thinking about their creative process in relation to the value it generates. Because there are limits to what any one practitioner can accomplish, developing a viable process requires being realistic about can be accomplished and identifying aspects for outsourcing if scaling the practice is what's required for it to grow.
- Think about your 'studio' in an expanded sense and value it as a dedicated place to work: Not all creative practitioners need a bricks-and-mortar studio for experimenting and making with materials. Many, though, appreciate having a dedicated place to collect and store their stuff. But a must-have is the mental space to develop your practice. Prioritising the time and attention that creative labour requires will create the space for optimising the imagination and the decision-making process that underpins all cultural production.
- Administration is an often invisible but nevertheless indispensable part of creative practice: We can transform our relationship to the administrative aspect of creative practice by valuing it on par with other kinds of labour that compose cultural production. This begins with appreciating that despite being largely unpaid, administration is an important way that decisions translate into action to produce the concrete outcomes. Simply put: without administration creative practice cannot operate in the broader context of cultural production.