I had the privilege of interviewing one of Etsy’s most successful shop owners last week: Cat Ivins of Polarity and Uncorked. Cat shared some fantastic insights on how she ensures her creative process is authentic, why her blog’s mission is so outward focused, and what sharing her social awareness means to her.
Catherine: Hmm – well, the way I want to live my life is at the heart of both brands. My thinking is that branding is a process, a conversation with the audience, to a certain degree, and it needs to start with something authentic, something real – people crave authenticity – we latch onto things we can understand and appreciate. I know I do. I probably couldn’t have created these lines even 5 years ago because my life wasn’t as authentic then.
Before I created Uncorked, I had really done some clearing out of my life and I truly believe I made room for something amazing to come into my life and change it. I was ready for it. It couldn’t have developed any other way.
When your life gets authentic in other areas, your work comes along with it – it can’t NOT be authentic.
Everything truly awesome out there came from someone’s heart and both these brands truly came from my heart and what I believe in.
And of course, I have a niche and my stuff is not for everyone and doesn’t try to be.
Tara: I love that you’re not concerned with wanting to be everything to everyone.
Catherine: I think that just dilutes everything.
Tara: A lot of business owners really struggle with that, is that a realization you came to over time? Or something you’ve always believed?
Catherine: I think it was a process for me – it’s like trying to please people – you finally realize you can’t please everyone and you get real with yourself and then maybe real work can happen.
Catherine: it’s ongoing though – ack!
Tara: For sure! How do you ensure your own authenticity in your creative process?
Catherine: well, I don’t really know – it’s kind of like I knew enough about who I was BEFORE I started making jewelry that there was a certain way I couldn’t do it – I had never worked with regular jewelry materials so it didn’t occur to me that I should, so when people say to me how did you think of using THAT? I just think well why wouldn’t I use that. Also, since I have been remaking things for so long that has to be part of it – leaving the lightest footprint.
Tara: I think it’s a really good lesson for anyone who is really conscious about doing something original – from their soul.
Catherine: right – your intention needs to be to make something of your own.
Tara: Speaking of doing things from your soul…. Your blog – and I think what really sets you apart online – has a very clear focus “outwards.” You’re supporting multiple causes. The badges practically BEG people to think more about the way they live in the world. How does this worldview and social awareness shape your creative process?
Catherine: Tara – you have made me see my blog in a whole new way! I always think I am all over the place with it!
You know when I started the blog it was to document the growth of my business and the growth of my puppy who came along at about the same time- but it kind of took on a life of its own.
I’ve always known my audience was mostly others makers and creative people so I definitely write with them in mind, but it has just kind of developed organically from what I have felt the need to say. Again it is just about being authentic – and people who read my blog know that I am nuts and they are kind enough not to always be expecting anything past nuts.
I think your blog is a really excellent example for other makers.
You provide really useful information while always “keepin’ it real” – ya know? You really get a sense of your personality. And what’s important to you.
Catherine: I am just kind of going where I am going and thinking maybe other people are, too
Tara: Well, I think that fact that you are keeping your audience in mind while you go “nuts” is what makes it work so well!
We think of blogs as all about us – which is opposite of reality.
Catherine: right – a few really amazing artists can blog about their work and their show, etc, etc and keep us along for the ride but I don’t have that kind of skill set! Most makers need to blog outside of ourselves to grow an audience or really even to say anything worth saying.
Tara: So have you always had a mind for social awareness & change?
I have always thought that the possibility that things could be so much better keeps us all going
Tara: love it.
Do you ever fear that people could be turned off by your social statements?
Catherine: in the beginning I definitely did- and I still stay away from certain things that I would love to say- mostly political because I don’t have all the answers anyway, but I stay true to myself
Tara: I think when activism is, well, authentic and not just rants or silly slogans, it’s much more palatable
Much more convincing too.
Catherine: yes – giving people another way of looking at things – not saying one way has all the answers but just an opening into another way.
I’ll be sharing the rest of my conversation with Cat later in the week!