Felt Tips is a Blog and Video blog series that Felt run to support creative designers, makers, and artisan craftspeople. We do this because there’s a whole lot of skill that’s required to run a creative business quite aside from the actual creative skill itself. That business side is what we’re here for, to grease the cogs, or help you even figure out which cogs you need, to make the business end of your creative business tick. Whether you’re practicing creative work as a hobby, full time professionally, or somewhere in between , it’s easy to get off track or make mistakes that create a lot of hassle down the line. It’s easy to disregard the important-but-not urgent stuff, or spend a lot of time doing things that make us feel successful but don’t contribute to our success. So for the team and I curating the content, there’s a difficult balance between sharing content that we know you want to hear vs sharing content that we think you need to hear.
So why does Felt do this? Many people don’t understand exactly what Felt is all about because we don’t often shout to the rooftops about it. But we’re starting to change that.
In 2007 my colleague and Friend, Lucy Arnold, created Felt as an online marketplace where she could sell her own hand-sewn merino arm warmers. At the time there wasn’t really an online place in New Zealand where hand-crafted items could be advertised and sold as distinct and different from mass-produced alternatives. For 7 years Lucy and a small team in Christchurch ran Felt as a cooperative community, regularly attending craft markets around the country and growing the community and technology platform in tandem. The 2010-11 Canterbury earthquakes weren’t kind to the team, and Felt suffered greatly as a result. After 4 very difficult years the team at Felt knew something needed to change if it was going to fulfill its potential. They needed to reassess what that potential even was, what success looked like to them, and they realised it had always been something much more important that just making money running an online marketplace. It was at this time that I joined the team, and collectively we have transformed Felt into a social enterprise that serves artisan creators.
Being a social enterprise means that Felt is a for-profit company that exists for something much more important than making a profit. We can see that the world is facing huge problems, and that artisan crafted goods can be a huge part of the solution. We understand the flaws of the extractive global economy – it cuts down forests and turns them into cheap low quality mass-produced stuff, which gets used for 10 minutes and then thrown in a hole in the ground. All over the world people buy single use plastic items which have ended up in our oceans, our food supply, and now even in our own bloodstreams. And then at the same time we have some of the highest rates of mental illness, social isolation, cultural disparity, economic inequality, chronic stress, and suicide than any other time in our modern history – especially so in New Zealand. Creative expression is becoming a clinical tool to ease the burdens of life, rather than a fundamental building block of a vibrant and healthy life.
We know that humans are a creative species, it is literally what enabled us to pull ourselves out of the cold and dark of our past. Yet this creative spirit is often sidelined into a niche area we call “the arts” – something that society broadly devalues, and in New Zealand something that we largely fund with the scraps left over from the profits of a social burden called gambling. So as some parts of society valiantly fight to eradicate problem gambling we are, as a result, tightening up the dripping tap of funding for the creative industries that make life worth living.
This is the context in which Felt works. We believe in a society that values creative endeavour and celebrates artisan skill. We deserve and in fact require a world that sustainably produces and consumes the items needed to make our lives better – items that are made with skill, and designed with their full lifecycle in mind. We want people to have lives and lifestyles that work for them and the planet, rather than the current default where a majority of us destroy ourselves and the planet for 40+ hours every week. We are but a small and passionate part of the slow-consumer movement, eco-warriors, people who care about things, and there is a seat waiting at the table for you too. Would you like to sit?
If so, let’s talk about the business end of your creative business, and how to make it tick. Let’s have a good time together, and make some incredible things in the process.
What could possibly be more important?