|Sculptor and artist Paul Tamanian works in the woods
outside of Tallahassee
Every creator is in the business of creating an ecosystem.
Before we parse out what that means for you, let’s look at what it means for a Fortune 500 company — in fact a Dow index company, one of 30 — and the longest on the index. (Since 1896, that’s longevity.)
GE recently announced a major relocation of its headquarters, from Connecticut to Boston.
Here are the four most important factors GE cited for their new choice of ecosystem:
Quality of life for employees
GE’s leadership thought this out carefully. They want to be where they can hire the best. (Talent.)
They’re looking at expenses, but really . . . this wasn’t an extreme qualification . . . it’s not as though they moved to Nebraska for its low-cost structure.
GE also sought quality of life for its team, which means a great deal when you’re coming from Connecticut. You can’t move to rural Wyoming and expect your crew to follow.
Then the final clincher: top flight education. So they can hire emerging brainiacs straight outta Cambridge.
. . . . . . .
Every creator who wants impact must cobble together an ecosystem. And every ecoystem differs. Even for those in the same field.
My wife and I are 19 years into the art gallery business. Through all manner of stumbling and sometimes accidentally clever innovation we’ve created a thriving ecosystem for our art gallery.
It includes the team we work with, vendors, suppliers, the landlord, and an affluent community that values original artwork in its homes.
It most certainly encompasses the way we do business. The way we deal with our clients.
The gallery ecosystem even includes other small biz owners who have nothing to do with the art gallery business . . . yet are compadres in the wild world of commerce. They are the ones we confer with when we have an employee issue. Or need a solid caterer for an event.
There’s another gallery not far down the street whose ecosystem could not be more different. Ours are the only two galleries to survive the crash years in our locale . . . yet there is so little overlap in our ecosystems our paths seem to link only in our proximity to one another.
Let’s take artists as an example of how ecosystems vary even in the same line of work.
For an artist the ecosystem may include galleries. Or maybe an artist bypasses galleries and lasers in on boutique retail outlets. For a different breed of artist, street fairs and music festivals may do the trick. Or sidewalk selling near a major museum in New York City. Or an artist may prefer direct selling through the internet and personal connections.
Whatever it is, there is a sales side to it. The route to the final customer is as creative as the art itself.
This sales side is as different in kind as a Picasso from a Matisse.
There’s also a supply side. The tools and materials from which to craft their creations. The myriad vendors who make the artistic life possible. No artist unearths the minerals or synthetically composes the pigments they use.
If an artist intends to make some part of their living from their art, then a network of peers and suppliers and clients must be assembled.
And each artist’s network will look different from another’s. There may be overlap — this art dealer or that type of brush bristle — but overall the nodes are likely to be more dissimilar than identical.
Your ecosystem needs to be cost effective and soul satisfying.
An ecosystem isn’t built overnight — it’s tweak upon tweak upon tweak to get you to that place where your environment supports your creative practice.
Two elements get you farther along the road than anything else. Keeping your process affordable and making it pleasurable.
Some important creative ecosystem components:
Location: Where do you choose to live? If you are serious about creating something in the world your first and most important choice is location.
Early in your career it may be critical to be part of a scenius
. A scene that promotes flourishing in your area of focus. A scenius
is commonly located in an art town or a freewheeling creative area of a city.
Later on you may prefer suburbia or ruburbia where I live (rural suburbs . . . secluded acre-plus lots), where you can inexpensively carve out the space and light you need to optimally create.
Tools and strategies: Now you can find almost everything you need via internet research. You can figure out what might work well for you. You can look up ways to overcome the most common obstacles. You can search for the best-rated products. You can read blogs on how to start down almost any path.
As easy as this sounds, are you doing it? Are you availing yourself of best minds and systems for what you want to accomplish?
Work space: Where do you work? Setting up a distraction-free zone enables the focus that creates significant work. We may all dream of the studio nestled in the woods, like my wife has . . . but a small bedroom, a corner in the garage, or an outdoor patio can suffice.
Virtually everyone I’ve met or read of started in the smallest possible way.
The critical element is carving out that space . . . and then making sure everything in it amplifies your mission.
Method: How do you work? When do you work? I think of this as my creative practice.
My preferred strategy is to engage in deep creative work for a minimum set time on gallery days . . . and to augment that time on my days off.
As a writer and art gallery owner it’s all about simplicity. What simple systems can I engage in?
Sales: How do you get your work out there? This is for those who want to be part of the conversation culturally.
If you want to make an impact you’ll need to consider how to promote your work. Marketing your creation is as much a part of the process as making it.
Support: Who supports you emotionally? Find these people, cherish these individuals. Support them in their endeavors too. Your allies make the difference between a long slog and a happy career.
Others uplift us through the day-to-day rough spots.
It’s important to remember that we thrive by supporting others too! Nothing feels as good as making someone else feel good. To help somebody along their path is its own kind of salvation.
Inspiration: As a creative it can be easy to lose heart. Forging an ecosystem isn’t for the faint of heart. I find keeping multiple and plentiful sources of inspiration close at hand to be the best antidote there is for the most common creative ailment of all time: whatthehellamIdoing disorder.
Steeping yourself in the successes and strategies of those who’ve made their way before you is like inserting vision boards into your prefrontal cortex. The stories seep into your unconscious and become part of your resource reservoir, to be drawn upon as needed.
. . . . . . . .
A personal note:
If you’ve read this far, it’s likely because you’re engaged in a creative endeavor of your own. You already have an ecosystem in place . . . or at least the beginnings of one if you are just starting out.
Do the work, enlarge your ecosystem: That will get you there.
In fact, if you are enjoying the work as you build your ecosystem, you are already there.
For you —