American Greetings approached a friend of mine at this past week’s AmericasMart in Atlanta, “Can you make 20,000 of these?” to which she responded, while nodding her head in dismay and fear, “Yes!” It got me to thinking . . . would I respond the same way, and could I within reason?
If you haven’t noticed yet, each and every item I make is one of a kind due to the materials that I use. The book boxes are created from discarded books and thus, while they might have the same cut-out inside, they are all a different REAL vintage books on the outside. My leather work is the same way– the leather I use is reclaimed, recycled, upcycled (whatever you want to call it these days) and comes to me in bits and pieces and very occasionally in large sample segments or hides. I’ve created four lines from the materials that have enough consistency within them that I feel comfortable doing trade shows and selling wholesale to shops – but, alas, they are still one of a kind. Could I make products that weren’t so one of a kind? Yes, I could. But it would change my entire process, my buying intuition, and my goal.
I make one of a kind items because I don’t want 20,000 of the same journal flitting around downtown NY like something you bought of a shelf from Barnes and Noble. I want my work to stick out. To be remembered. To be a keepsake. I want to create art. I don’t want to create mass-produced products that fit in fine on the shelf at Wal-Mart. That’s not why I’m doing what I’m doing.
But the money. Oh yes, the money. Can you imagine, 20,000 products to a single store in the course of 3-6 months – would help pay any child’s tuition, buy a new car, pay off our mortgage. That money could do a whole lot of things, but it wouldn’t make ME (deep down) happy knowing I’m just adding to the conglomeration of STUFF. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I am adding to that conglomeration, but I want my addition to be mine and mine alone and make a difference.
So I’ve had to think long and hard after this last show about where I want Conduit Press to go. Do I want to hire a small factory of amazing women to join me in my endeavor and produce produce produce . . . or do I want to employ like-minded individuals who share my vision of creation in making only one of a kind items that put me in difficult situations when attending trade shows with big name companies who want to buy you out. Yes, that’s what I want. What a great problem to have, no?
I started this business as art. It will end that way. The past year I’ve been grooming myself to move into the Art Fair world (away from my beloved Indie Craft) and all that would be for naught if I were to change my process, my materials, my end-goals. I’m not a production factory, I never will be. I will eventually hire help, but my work will still remain the same. Custom to a point. One of a kind. Artistic. No other single person will have a piece of work exactly like another, and that’s how I (personally) like it. It will remain art. Or at least, I like to think so.
This is all not to say I don’t appreciate the fine art behind those who are able to produce like-minded objects – I admire them more than you know – it’s just not how I roll.