When jewelry artist Thomas Mann came to speak at East Stroudsburg University (PA) in February, he covered a huge amount of material designed to help artists design their businesses to survive in our current marketplace. One thing he stressed is the importance defining our design vocabulary, or the language we use to describe ourselves, our art, and our businesses.
Why create a personal design vocabulary? When someone asks you “what do you do?” how effective is the language you use when you explain it? Are you helping another person to understand why your work is valuable to them? Are you helping them to imagine why they would want to own one of your products, or partake of your services? If you are already selling your work, then you are already successfully offering something that people are willing to pay for. Develop the language you use to describe it. If someone approaches you at a show or other venue, would you be ready to offer a quote about what you do, or why you do it, or why people want it? How ready are you for an impromptu interview? Tom reminds us that these opportunities are the best kind of free advertising, but to take of them, we must have already developed our design vocabulary.
How can an artist or craftsman create his own design vocabulary? Tom’s suggestion: Write about it. Write about your business for a few minutes every day. Write about the materials you use. Write about the techniques you use, write about the forms you make, about why you make things, about the concepts behind what you do, about the inspirations the move and excite you. Write about every aspect of your work.
You already have an entire language that you use internally when you talk to yourself silently (well, silently for most of us) about your work. Write about it until you figure out a way to make this language public! This writing will create your design vocabulary. It will be developed into your bio, your artist’s statement, and your descriptions of your work. This writing will become the backbone of the press releases you write to announce your work to the public, and the short “elevator speech” that you use to introduce your work to the world. Even if it’s only for 10 minutes a day, start your day by writing about your work. I have started writing, and it’s tough, but I’m starting to find inspiration arriving. Now if only I can get it to stick around for a while.