creative community – where to find it & what to do with it!

A guest post by Andrea Porter of the Conference of Creative Entrepreneurs

We are all looking for ways to keep ourselves motivated weather it be in finishing our next quilting project or in getting that next wholesale order. I have found that joining a creative community has keep me motivated and active. Each month I meet up with other crafters and we discuss various topics. But is it more than the topics we cover it is the sense of community that keeps me coming back.

I decided to talk with Marlo Miyashiro the organizer of EtsyRAIN and owner of Creative Arts Consulting about creative communities. Marlo will be moderating a panel at the upcoming Conference of Creative Entrepreneurs about Creating and Connecting Creative Communities.

A – Hi Marlo, To get us started what are the benefits of being a part of a creative community?

M – Being a part of a creative community is all about finding a group of people who you can share, learn connect and grow with while maintaining your own creative path. As creative people, we all know the feeling of expressing joy about something we thought of, created, improved or just plain got excited about and receiving not much more than blank stares or half-hearted responses from our friends or family like, “Oh. That’s great for you.” However, when we are surrounded by others who understand the creative process, we are met with so much more enthusiasm! It is with the giving and receiving of this type of support that helps us maintain our confidence and encourages us to keep moving forward with our creative lives.

A – How does one find a creative community to match their needs? What are the options if a crafter lives in a more isolated community?

M – One of the fastest ways to find an active community is to do a quick search online for groups that interest you in your area. Meetup.com is a great resource for this type of thing. When searching, you can be as specific or as general as you like – depending on your needs. For instance, if you are looking to meet with people who can help you improve your skills in a certain medium, then a search for guilds, associations or other community groups might get you to a good starting point. If you are looking for a more social or activity based group, then pulling back your search and looking for more general terms that encompasses a larger group of people would be more helpful.

When you find a group that is interesting, then do some research on their membership requirements, meeting activities and perhaps even some research on the organizers of the group just to get an idea of the personalities that run that particular group. Sometimes groups require a membership fee, so before you spend any money to be a member, you should find out if you can attend a meeting as a guest first before spending your money on a group you might not connect with. After all, it’s all about finding a group of people that you would be willing to hang around with at least once or twice a month – maybe even more – so you’ll want to make sure it’s a good fit before making a significant investment.

If you live in a more isolated community and can’t find a group locally, you might want to look into creating a group of your own and inviting local creatives to join you. You don’t even need to create a super-formal structure around it. Honestly, it can be as simple as posting an introduction with a meeting date and time at a local coffee shop and being there to greet anyone who decides to attend! Craigslist.org and Meetup.com are both great for this type of local community event posting as well.

If you’re not the leadership type, then you might consider joining an online community instead. There are many options for these types of online communities — from Yahoo and Google Groups to social online networks like Facebook and Ning.com. You can also do a search on your area of interest with the phrase “online forum” to quickly find a number of online bulletin boards and discussion groups to join. When you find one, look for the “introduce yourself” thread and post a friendly introduction and an invitation to discuss a topic on a new thread in the group’s message / forum boards.

A – Personally, I am involved with a few different creative communities and I often find we focus a lot on the business aspect of crafting. I was curious what role you feel creative individuals who are not looking to become creative entrepreneurs have within these creative communities?

M – More often than not, business-oriented creative communities also offer opportunities for a more social group connection. This may take the form of an occasional social gathering, potluck meeting or some other non-business oriented gathering. To be successful, the main ingredient for any community is membership participation. This includes not only attending meetings, get-together and events, but also supporting the activities of the groups members as well. This might mean anything from attending a craft show to offering to help a fellow member get ready for that craft show.

Remember, most of the time these creative community groups are organized by people just like you — creative types who were just looking for a friendly group of people to relate to and hang out with. There were willing to take the step of creating the group for people to join — it is up to the membership to make it into a vibrant, active community by participating and supporting the activities of all of their members.

A – In my experience it has been hard to show individuals the tangible effects of being a part of a creative community. Often prepping for the next craft fair or finishing a project takes precedence over meeting up with ones creative community group. How do think you organizers of a creative community can highlight the benefits of creative community and encourage members to take a more active role in their group?

M – Like most things that are worthwhile, it takes time and a lot of effort to develop a creative community. It is the organizer’s job to create a safe, welcoming environment for their group’s members. The best way to show prospective members that your group is the one to join is to make sure that the needs of your current members are being met.

An organizer should be willing to create events that their members are asking for and also be the one to make them happen for at least the first year or two. Surveying the group’s membership every now and then to get an idea of how the group is doing helps a great deal. Instigating quarterly or monthly meetings – either online or in-person to let members talk about what they are looking for helps foster trust within the group. Listen to member ideas and suggestions and implement the ones that fit within the overall mission of the group. If an overwhelming number of suggestions occur outside of the original vision, it could mean it’s time to revisit the group’s mission statement and revise it if necessary.

Share successes on a public website. Create blog posts about group events. Post photos and member testimonials. Anything you can do to showcase the value of your group to the general public goes a long way toward encouraging participation as well.

A – Do you have any last suggestions for individuals looking to join or grow their creative community?

M – For community members, it is always a good idea to:

  • Be very clear about why you joined the group and make sure the organizers know that you appreciate their efforts.
  • Participate in your group’s events even if it’s sometimes inconvenient. If you want your group to flourish, you must make time to participate. Do not rely on others to do the participating for you.
  • Offer to help whenever you are able – any organization needs a good supply of volunteers to keep things going.
  • Remember that the people who are running the group are just like you, so when they make mistakes, let them know you still support them.

Have a great idea for an event? Suggest it to the organizers! Better yet – offer to help plan the event! If you aren’t able to help with the planning, at the very least – do some research on locations, places, dates, etc and pass them along to your leaders. This sort of thing helps a lot.

Welcome new members, participate in message board discussions, keep your ego checked at the door and keep a good sense of humor about you at all times. Like any group of people, there will be fun times and not so fun times — but without them, you would have nothing but time to wonder where all the creative people are, so make the most of the opportunity to connect to your community!

If you’d be interested in hearing others thoughts on creative communities as well as a wealth of other amazing topics for crafters we’d love if Scoutie Girl readers joined us at the Conference for Creative Entrepreneurs. It is being held in Seattle August 13 – 15. We are happy to offer readers a discount of $25 off any ticket order. When you register just use the code “25discount” to use your Scoutie Girl discount.

{necklace by laru, etsyRAIN}

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Andrea Porter along with her husband owned and operated Bluebottle Art Gallery and Store in Seattle from 2002 – 2010. Bluebottle built a reputation for being at the forefront of the DIY indie art, craft and design movement. In 2010 Andrea moved full time to focusing on building the Matthew Porter Art line. The line features her husbands children’s books and clothing. They sell the line through out the US and Canada. She currently is on the organizing committee of Grassroots Business Association and Conference for Creative Entrepreneurs.

3 thoughts on “creative community – where to find it & what to do with it!

  1. Good information. I do need to find a group of people to interact with face to face. I find sharing on the internet is really helpful, but there is something about sharing in person that takes it to a different level. I sure do wish I could attend the conference. Next year!

  2. I definitely agree that doing things together or with a group somehow makes it easier. Maybe it’s the accountability and want to be involved…even in blogging we are reaching out to the community for a response or some kind of interaction.

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