Standing in front of an audience of around 50 people, Dodson was the keynote speaker at the recent “Crafting Your Success” summit, which was hosted by Haywood Community College in Clyde. Owner/artist at Mud Dabbers Pottery, Dodson spoke at length about what it means to be an artist, to run a business (with two locations in Waynesville and Brevard), and to attain longevity in both realms.
“I teach every single day, and by doing that, I feel like I’m doing a service for our community and for other artists,” he said. “Don’t look at just what is out there, but what isn’t out there, too. Find new markets, new products. Get involved in your community, whether it be with dogs, with church or with the environment. Find something else you’re passionate about — it will help your business, your soul and your community.”
Throughout the daylong summit, regional artisans and HCC professional crafts students attended seminars that addressed the short-term and long-term needs of an artist trying to find financial, creative and social stability in an often crowded and haphazard marketplace.
“Being an entrepreneur can be very isolating. Being an entrepreneur and also an artist can block out the rest of the world,” said Tonya Wilson Snider, one of the seminar leaders and owner of Sylva-based TenBiz, which helps guide small business owner in training, mentoring and problem solving. “Sell yourself, sell your image. Communication is very important in the business world, but it’s also something we really have to work on.”
The summit provided a round-robin dialogue where a wide spectrum of ages, backgrounds, mediums and experiences came together in hopes of walking away with vital knowledge on what works, what doesn’t and “where to from here?” when starting up, maintaining and growing an artisan business.
“We have such an opportunity to preserve the history [of these artisan crafts],” said Delaney Smith, a visual artist who was also a guest speaker at the summit. “And there’s a lot we have to build on. As craftspeople, this gives us a voice in not only our own lives, but also in the lives around us.”
The takeaway: HCC summit
Standing in the back of the classroom at Haywood Community College, I found myself with as many questions as I did answers.
During the “Crafting Your Success” summit at HCC, what I took away, more than anything, is the mere fact that common sense ain’t that common — especially in terms of the crucial crossroads of a successful business and creative fulfilment.
As the arts/entertainment editor here at The Smoky Mountain News, I spend countless hours, days and weeks wandering around the backwoods and backroads of Western North Carolina. I’m in search of passion, whether it be in the hands of weavers, blacksmiths, woodworkers, musicians, painters, photographers or any medium within the creative arts.
And yet, as I try and showcase these incredibly talented characters to our readership, I’m also in awe of how they aren’t as well-known as they should be. Their work is intricate and unique, something of intrinsic and monetary value, but why is it their wares are either gathering dust on the shelves, their presence in the modern world barely scratching the surface?
What it comes down to is the mere fact having talent is one thing, but applying that talent to encourage and cultivate success is a whole other ballgame. And that is truth. You could be the most mesmerizing bluegrass picker or the most vibrant painter, but, at the same time, might never leave the front door of your dreams without the proper social and business skills needed to gain traction in your aspirations.
Thus, here are some things to think about:
• Business cards — Get them as fast as you can, hand them out at every opportunity that presents itself. And also be sure to get them in return, where you can contact those connections and folks. You just never know who could be a good connection for your business. Be open to all avenues that you cross paths with, regardless if they may or may not be in the creative arts.
• Conversation — In social situations, interact with those you might not know personally in a room, seeing as most people will initially gravitate toward those they are friends with. Make eye contact, be sincere with your words, find common ground, listen to what the other person has to say, and also ask them questions as to what they do and where they’re from. Conversation is data gathering.
• Media — Social media, newspapers, magazines, radio and television are your friend. You can never underestimate the power of media and its readership/viewers. And when you create and nurture relationships with media outlets, those long-term relationships can result in a hub of connections and collaborations.
• You — The single most important things in your business’ success is “you.” Are you doing at least one thing a day to get one more step closer to achieving your dreams? Are you calling back connections? Are you finding the appropriate (and ideal) partners and collaborators in your projects? Is where you are today where you wanted to be this time last year? What about where you what to be next year, in five years, in a decade?