Yesterday I spent some time on Skype with a gent named Kevin, owner of a tailoring company in Pennsylvania.
He’s a member of the tailor’s forum I moderate, and he told me some pretty interesting things about how to run a successful business as a creative.
Because make no mistake: creating handmade suits is an art, quite literally.
There may be maths involved, but if you’re not an artist, your suits will look just as if they’d come out of a factory.
The thing with tailors though, is that they’re just as bad – if not worse – as artists, when it comes to marketing and promoting their work.
Which, incidentally, is how I burned through my $150K inheritance when I was still a tailor.
Anyway, Kevin’s not like that.
He realised that while it’s great to make classic garments for the Plainfolk communities, and fancy suits for local businessmen, he also needs to pay the bills.
And look, there’s only so many people who can afford handmade clothing and are willing to pay for the luxury f it.
So, when he started his company he quickly decided to include different types of clothing – nothing fancy or artsy – just series of well-made, affordable garments that don’t require a master-tailor.
Items that a skilled worker can produce, serialised, and that can be sold in quantities instead of one-offs.
Not bad, not bad at all. He recently bought a church and moved his company into it (it looked STUNNING! The light… oh god, the light – would that any artist or tailor had such a studio)
But I digress.
Kevin has several employees, who get cross-trained in the production of different types of garments.
They can be assigned tasks depending on which part of his business is busiest at any given time.
And, he’s able to keep working on what he loves most: Handmade fine suits, and Irish embroidery.
Now, most tailors would snub at that.
“I only make bespoke suits. Sir”.
Which is part of the reason that the tailoring trade is having such a hard time and why so many tailors go out of business.
Sad, but true.
Not Kevin though.
He understands that a business has cost and needs growth, and he’s always been willing to use ‘less interesting’ work in order to enable him to keep creating his art.
The lesson to learn?
Well, maybe consider your own options:
Would it be beneath you to create, or sell, work that isn’t your most creative work – but that people like
to buy and that pays your bills?
To sell prints, calendars, cards?
It’s sound business practice, you know.
And if you’re an artist and you want to have the freedom to make a living creating things you truly love, why not?
I mean, how about this: last fall I went to Cordoba with a friend, who wanted to buy plates and cups and stuff – so I took him to one of the many artisanal potters there.
A whole warehouse full of cups, plates, pots, jugs – all very nice stuff.
But then I saw that the guy is actually a really good painter, creating magnificent artwork on the vases he makes.
He doesn’t sell many of them – but by making series of tableware, he gets to stay alive, and that enables him to create exquisitely painted decorative pieces.
Maybe, at times.
Good for staying in business?
What about you?
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