Success in the Making

Everyone has their own thoughts on what is success and as an organisation run ‘by makers for makers’ we decided to carry out research to find out what makers consider as success.

Existing research on makers primarily focuses on entrepreneurship, business outcomes and development needs which has led to success usually being defined in terms of business goals and it is clear from the responses to our survey ‘What does success mean to you as a maker?’ that success for makers is much more than running an effective business.

Fiona Thompson, ceramicist, Cyan Clayworks Studio

We received responses from makers across a range of disciplines and at different stages in their careers from pre or just started to over twenty years, and from these views, four key measures for success emerged, resources (studio/tools), financial stability, creative satisfaction and recognition, and they were all intertwined.

The most important measure of success at all stages in their careers was making enough money to live on, with makers mentioning wanting to be able to repay student loans, to live without leaning on a benefit system and to be able to support their family.

However, selling work was about more than being able to survive financially. Makers mentioned the creative satisfaction and happiness of seeing people enjoying and wearing their work, the recognition through people valuing their work by wanting to buy it and the desire to be able to make a living from something they enjoy.

Makers at all stages of their practice also highlighted the importance of financial success to their creative development as it allows them experimental time to develop fresh and innovative ideas, to explore new experiences and opportunities and the freedom to create without commercial pressure.

The final measure of success was recognition; this included having work recognised at a national level, receiving positive feedback from peers, recognition by the sector and people valuing their time, skills and artistry by paying artist’s prices for their work.

For just over half of makers there was also an additional measure of success, which was to share something they are passionate about by passing on their knowledge and skills and to educate others.

Overall, being able to make a living from being a maker was itself a measure of success, as one maker describes ‘without making my life would be incomplete, making, sharing skills and showing my work makes me who I am’.

The results of this survey were shared by Carol Sinclair, AAS chair, with the Creative Industries Advisory Group meeting in September 2018.

Top image: Mary Watson photographed at Cyan Clayworks by Alistair Clark

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