Creative Community: Are You a Seeker?

"It Takes a Village" by blueskyclouds
In this era of redefining the way we work, both in terms of where our physical work places are and the kind of work we are doing and when we do it, many people have found that there is a lot of alone time. For those of us who have left the office/cubicle life (how great is that!) we have discovered the other side:

if you are a one-woman or one-man show, it can be pretty dang quiet in your office/studio/workspace.

When working on a project, brainstorming ideas for a new line, or writing that new article, there often isn’t someone on the other side of the wall who can take a quick look, who you can bounce ideas off of, or who can give you feedback on your latest brilliant idea. I’ll confess that I’ve tried it with my cat, but she’s really not much interested in crafting a sentence or choosing a colour palette.

So what’s to do? Have you looked for and found a local group who meets weekly or monthly? Have you gathered a group of either diverse or like-minded friends who are all doing their own thing? Or do you check your e-mail incessantly hoping for a little contact, a little diversion in the midst of your day?

We hear and read a lot of talk about community building, gathering a tribe and shaping your support network. Where once our colleagues were those people we happened to be working with at a company or studio, or in an office, with more and more people opting to go the route of the self employed, the move is toward forming intentional networks, rather than settling for happenstance.

Just as we have re-thought and re-imagined our workplaces and our job titles, we also need to look at the ways we connect with potential colleagues, team up with potential partners on a project, and design how we seek out and receive the support, feedback and business contacts we need. What a gift that is, to have an active hand in creating what we need to support our work and our lives.

So, this was the question posed:

Do you have a community or a group of people that you check in with or meet with, that you feel supports you in your growth and in your development as an artist/entrepreneur?

If so, can you tell us a little bit about what your community or group is like, how you found them and what are the things you have gained and or learned from the people you interact with? Is it formal or informal? Pros and cons?

I have an “informal salon” formed of five authors from the same genre. We formed serendipitously when two of us realized we needed professional reference points. Feedback is helpful and supportive. There are no rules, no agenda. We know we are available for candid support and honest feedback. It’s invaluable as a professional tool and personal encouragement.

Mary Anne Radmacher translates her passion for inspiration into books, art, teaching, licensing her products and starting each day with a cup of coffee and a good book.

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I think, especially for creatives who work at home–often alone–it’s invaluable to have a group you meet with face to face.  About a year ago I joined an illustrators critique group I found through the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.)  They’re really great and meet monthly.  People email in ahead of time if they’ll have work to show, but that’s as formal as it gets. Besides critiquing each others work, we also get a chance to talk shop, give tips and swap creative techniques. Unfortunately, as the group meets over an hour away it’s been hard for me to make every meeting, so I’m in the process of finding a new one.  I met a few local artists at a recent conference, so hopefully we’ll connect in person soon and maybe form our own group.

Gaia Cornwall is an illustrator, with a focus on the children’s market, who also does custom portraits.

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My communities are crucial to my work, but rather informal. I have friends in the NYC storytelling scene whom I see regularly at shows. It’s always helpful to talk shop, catch up over a drink, or debrief after performing. Every week I also have phone calls with my friends–part creative meeting/part soul care–and I love getting friends together for restorative weekends or meet-ups.

It’s probably the classic case of create what you wish to come upon in the world, as Anne Lamott says. It can be as simple as inviting a phone friend to come stay with me for a long weekend, or sometimes there are people whom I’d like to introduce to each other so we get together. Locally it can be as simple as meeting for coffee or a photo walk through the park, or if people are coming from a great distance we might rent a place and stay for a few days.

Most retreat options out there right now are in a teacher/student paradigm, but I’m interested in time to rest, to jam, and to play with peers–no schedule, nothing to learn or master or teach. For the most part, we’re getting our work done on our own. What we often struggle with is relaxation and restoration. Doing this in rich, safe, and stimulating company can fill us up–with new ideas, fresh inspiration, and deep, full wells of energy and encouragement to draw on for months to come.

Jen Lee is a regular performer in NYC’s storytelling scene, and the creator of Finding Your Voice: A Multimedia Course.

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I’ve got a few groups of folks who support my business ventures, and they are all invaluable. One such group that I belong to started on twitter. We found each other slowly, often times introducing one to another; we’re a group of women who are all raising kids and trying to grow our online presence as blogging makers. At some point it became hard to converse on twitter because we’d have to include so many @names in each tweet, so we’ve formed a private facebook group, where the conversations can be longer than 140 characters and take place in a less time sensitive way than on twitter, (although we still have lots of tweet chatter going on).

We’ve got a place to bounce ideas off one another, share too early to tweet about triumphs as well as kvetch about bothersome issues without worrying about repercussions – in my mind it’s an old fashioned quilting bee, that disregards time and distance, and instead of quilting, we’re working on our individual businesses.

Candy Glendening, quArtist
Candied Fabrics: Art and Design for People who love Color

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The community I rely on most is my sangha – the spiritual community with whom I practice yoga and meditation here in Wellington. We are yoga and meditation teachers, studio owners, musicians and holistic health practitioners who came together in various ways, but perhaps most importantly through our regular monthly kirtan (chanting) evenings.

A spiritual community might seem an odd group to turn to for business advice and support, but what makes this group so precious to me is that we share the same values and face the same challenges. Together we work through issues like how to make our offerings accessible to everyone while also ensuring that we can sustain and nourish ourselves. We also find opportunities to collaborate, which offers more value to our students/customers and gives us the chance to learn, grow and play together.

Marianne Elliott is a human rights advocate, writer and yoga teacher, a zen peacekeeper and an instigator of radical acts of kindness. She’s also creator of the 30 Days of Yoga course and a practicing Buddhist (trust me, it takes a lot of practice).

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We are so lucky to be working artists in the age of the internet! As I struggle to build my local tribe of creative kindreds I find great comfort in connecting with strangers all over the country who are on similar artistic paths. Not only have some very solid friendships been born out of these cyber-relationships, but quite a few really amazing professional opportunities have presented themselves as well. One of my most inspired collaborations was curating a group show in which women from all over the country shipped their gorgeous pieces to my studio! My online creative community has truly been one of the most supportive and magical miracles of my creative life!

Anne Carmack is the poetic product of a one night stand between two people that she has never met. Her search for something still undefined continues.

Support and camaraderie can be found in a myriad of ways, from a variety of sources, and sometimes in surprising corners of your life. If you are actively seeking support, community, or tribe ask yourself what part of your life you are looking to buoy and grow. Are you like Candy, a mother and an entrepreneur who is seeking kindreds? Are you like Anne who is looking to create a creative community in her own backyard? Are you more like Jen, seeking refuge and relaxation with a group of friends? Or do you have your own unique list of things you are hoping to find in a community of your own making?

Where do you find your support? Where do you meet your community?

We’d love you to join in on the conversation and tell us where you seek and find your networks of support.

6 thoughts on “Creative Community: Are You a Seeker?

  1. This was incredibly helpful. I’ll be sharing this particular article
    with every creative I know who works for the greater good of the/ir world, ironically, alone.

    You have an excellent capacity to distill so much information into an accessible, graspable truth.

    Thank you.

  2. Wonderful article Liz. I’ve never had an organized art group, but get a lot of informal support from friends. I’ve “met” many artists, photographers and writers through my blogs, others’ blogs, facebook and twitter. Posts like this help me to feel connected as well.

    Jen I love that quote from Anne Lamont. “Create what you wish to come upon in the world.” I’m going to be thinking about that a lot today.

  3. Liz,

    This is very interesting. I’m enjoying it. I too love the Annie Lamott quote, in large part because it crystalizes in my head what we do. She’s so right.
    Also, it’s fun for me to see some of those names from the Brush Dance days.

    Keep at it girl,

  4. I have been struggling with the isolation, especially since I am currently without a car. I do meet with a creative group and book group once a month which is great, but Most of my interaction is like this. Online and one sided as there is no direct interaction. I find these conversations help and am thinking about starting something like a skype group that converses once a week? Hmmm

    “Create what you wish to come upon in the world.”

    Thanks for making me think!

  5. I’ve been lucky to find other creatives where I now live, in Phoenix, AZ. Moving across the country can be hard, and for someone who works from a studio, it can be pretty lonely!

    But we banded together, and now, every month, I get to drive out and meet up with about 12-15 other creative ladies in an amazing shop. We chat while working in our art journals/sketchbooks, sharing techniques. What’s amazing is the diversity — there are mixed-media nuts (like me!), watercolor journalers, stampers, scrapbookers, etc! We all have things to teach each other, and everyone’s just so great!

    I come back energized from the meetup, ready to dive into my work with new vigor. I really don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have a creative group to get together with!

    I also have art journaling Saturdays, where I head to my favorite coffee shop, spread out, and invite others to join me via Twitter. These are my little recharge moments, where I can work on projects for myself, and I love that anyone can just drop by. I’ve had a friend come by pretty steadily for about a month, now, and it’s just great to hang out, even if we’re quiet because we’re totally into what we’re working on.

    Being in the studio all day can drive anyone crazy! That’s why the internet’s amazing as well — I leave Skype open when I’m doing business work at the computer, and sometimes, we even do art via Skype! I think a balance of in-person meetups and online chats is key to my boosted creativity and productivity. I really don’t know what I’d do without my weekly and monthly doses of creativity. I love learning from others, and have found my art is morphing and changing as I meet new people and open myself up to other artistic avenues.

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