making a living

Are you an Art Snob or Craft Connoisseur?

I admit it. I was an Art Snob. I didn’t consider crafts an art form. Yes, glass blowing, metal smithing, maybe even pottery, but I turned my nose up at cropping, stamping and needlework. I saw them as “housewife” or ‘granny-crafts”, color-inside-the-lines for those who had no imagination. And collage, well, that was just something for people who couldn’t draw or paint.  That was, until I saw some of the amazingly creative things artists do with fiber, paper and glue. Now, I’m a convert.

My old attitude came from a misguided background in fine art. Actually,  I was a misfit in a competitive Design , Art and Architecture College at a large university.   It was immediately apparent they’d made a mistake accepting me into the art education program. I’m a creative idea generator but this was pre-computer and to say I’m not a perfectionist is an understatement. Several of our design courses were combined with architecture and industrial design students and, well, let’s just say,  I didn’t fit in.  Another part of the curriculum was classic training in the fine arts of drawing, painting and sculpture. It was unacceptable if not laughable to even consider creating anything functional. The only time I felt in my element was the one semester we got an abbreviated sampling of jewelry and textiles.

Decades later as I walked the aisles of the Buyer’s Market of American Craft, a wholesale-to-the-trade show Continue reading

Three Criteria for the Ideal Socially Responsible Business Venture

If you are a regular reader of Inspired Livelihood or Craft Biz Blog, you know that I have three criteria for the ideal business venture:

  • It is profitable
  • It improves lives
  • It utilizes a local workforce when possible

Frequently, when someone comes to me for help creating a socially responsible enterprise, they are initially thinking non-profit. They are surprised that they can create a business in the private sector that makes a difference and they think they have to  manufacture product oversees to make a profit. Of course they can have the item made more cheaply in sweatshops that do not pay fare wages but what good is building a business to help people and then taking jobs oversees that could be creating local income and helping unemployed Americans create a livelihood?

I try to encourage the use our own labor force whenever possible so I was absolutely thrilled to read about what I think is the perfect sustainable model.  Darr and Tom Aley founded Mojo, (short for Moms and Jobs), a hand made apparel company that hires and trains single mothers living near or under poverty level. They provide child care, health care and career training to help these women get off social services like food stamps and welfare and create sustainable livelihoods to improve the lives of their children.

If you know of other businesses that are profitable, improve lives and use local workers, please post in the comments below. I’d love to share them with our other readers. What can you think of that you can do to meet the above three criteria in your own business?