With my love for Tasmania I always gravitate to magazine articles about those making a living in that beautiful part of the world and there’s always a constant comment of what a supportive environment surrounds creative creatures there.
And I’ve noticed this myself on my travels through the state. I go each year for the Tasmanian Craft Fair and when I answer the question of what I do with “I make porcelain jewellery” I am always greeted with admiration and praise. It is wonderful. I’m never asked what I do for a day job as I am here in Sydney.
The supportive environment for artisans and artists isn’t just from individuals, there’s support from government in Tasmania as well for small creative businesses. This comes through in the marketing material for the state’s tourism, partnerships and collaborations as well as a recognition that the arts and crafts industry is really important for the state’s economy. Tourism Tasmanian even links to small creative businesses from their website and social media pages. This doesn’t happen in the larger states.
While we often put artists on some sort of pedestal as being extra special because they are creative it can be a very lonely place to exist. It’s far more enjoyable being part of a warm and welcoming community than being isolated on some lofty peak.
So it has had me thinking, what makes a supported creative environment and how can we all contribute to it? Whether we are the makers and the artists, the patrons who buy the work, the government administrators who can make connections happen and foster growth, the person who feels they haven’t got a creative bone in their body but enjoys being around it and everyone in between.
4 Easy Ways to Grow a Creative Community
Here are four very simple starting steps to actively be part of a supportive creative community, no matter what you do for work, where you live or your own creative talents:
1. How we treat each other, with respect, kindness and interest makes a huge difference; asking questions to seek to first understand and then share. By having real conversations with each other we enhance daily life through connections. We find shared values, hopes, dreams and life is enriched with a simple starting point.
2. Be open to collaborations that can strengthen each individual and your organisations. With my online women’s magazine I’m telling stories of other artisans and we’re both benefitting, my readers get to learn more about fascinating creative individuals while the makers are having their stories told and their work shared. While this is an example of two creative businesses collaborating, partnerships can be an amazing way to grow any business.
3. Approach new ideas and alternative lifestyles with open minds and big hearts. One of the best personal upsides to this is feeling good within yourself while another is others think you’re interesting and want to know more about you.
4. Recognise that we are all creative. As children we all played with crayons and paints, having fun and getting stuck into it. We learn through play and we grew. Then many of us stopped somewhere during our teens and started thinking we weren’t creative, when we were still coming up with clever ways to get away with things. We all have creativity within us, it is just different for all and needs to be acknowledged a bit more.
Being Part of a Creative Community is for Everyone
You don’t have to be a maker or musician, an artisan or artist, a writer or a chef to be part of the creative community.
We can all be part of it through our own actions.
The support comes from the conversations we have when we’re out and about, being approved as rental tenants, studio spaces being left undeveloped into (another) huge apartment complex, interviews with bloggers and journalists, invited to be artist in residence, small acts of support by government administrators, sharing on social media pages links to what inspires you, trading baby sitting between friends to let each other have time out for yourself (or radically, maybe even attend an art class!), there is something we can all do to help each other, to nurture a creative community.
None of us could keep doing what we’re doing without the rest of the community supporting and enabling us. I couldn’t keep making ceramic jewellery if I didn’t have a rented space to make in. Nor could I if my work wasn’t bought by treasured customers; I just couldn’t afford to do it full time. But I can because there are thousands of people every weekend at The Rocks Markets who value the handmade. That is a supportive community.
The cafes have paintings and art works on display and for sale. The local shops carry local makers work as well as the general trade show goods that are the current trend across the country.
Government agencies work with small creative businesses, not just big creative agencies. When I was part of The Rocks Popup it was an amazing collaboration between state government and small creative business owners to was a showcase to locals and visitors what this amazing city of ours has to offer with artists and artisans. Yes, such a collaboration between government and small business is highly unusual (and that’s part of the reason the government benefited so much from it) and the risk was put more on the small business owners to make it work.
Landlords and ladies rent out empty spaces at peppercorn rates for new ideas and initiatives to be tested and people get along to them to explore.
But it goes beyond the economic side of shopping with makers. Yes, that’s vital but what creative communities also have is respect, conversation and interest from all different areas of society.
I do think it is easier for rural and regional communities to have a strong and diverse creative community but that is mainly because housing and studio space is far more affordable. Few makers and artists make the big dollars that city properties demand. But I do strongly believe that city folks from all walks of life can be enormously supportive and encouraging, fostering a vibrant creative culture and community.
I also believe that we all have the power to actively be part of a supportive creative community just by how we behave, the friendships we nurture, the choices we make at work and where we shop.
Creativity is For All of Us
Creativity is just as much in our thinking and daily problem solving as it is in the artistic world. It isn’t limited to just painting and making, it is in how we approach challenges, work practices and even flow charts. It’s in figuring out family friendly work hours, ways to switch off and on for relaxation and work and how we help our children learn through play. It’s part of our cooking and gardening, how we blend flavours and grow our herbs in the kitchen window.
Just think of the work practices that you deal with daily and I bet there are some that with some simple changes would run so much more smoothly. That solution is creative thinking. And the frustration that comes from resistance to that change is what can make it happen. It takes someone speaking out, offering a solution and another being willing to enable the change. With a culture that supports creative thinking it is much easier.
We all have the right to live in a community that celebrates creativity and we all get to live richer lives when we’re part of it.