Advancements in technology don’t have to mean the end of human connection
I’ve been reevaluating my social media activity lately. Like many of us non-Millennials, my participation on platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram is not “native.” Au contraire, my friends. I have jumped on the bandwagon grudgingly, awkwardly, and with extreme anxiety. Any decent showings I’ve managed to present in these media is due only to my two sons, and their never-ending desire to correct their mother’s social media faux pas (and every other kind of faux pas, believe you me). From them, I hear advice on how to adapt to an ever-moving target. Sometimes, they boggle my mind with their ideas. But in the end, they always help me move closer to my goals.
Having now given credit where it is due, I’d like to give myself a wee bit of cred as well. When I started my business 28 years ago, I made “commitment to technology” one of my company’s core values. I’ve upheld this as best I could while working for myself, frequently isolated in my basement studio. From the beginning I’ve challenged myself to keep my books using accounting software, rather than by stashing receipts in a shoebox to sort at the end of the year. Having done so, I am able compare sales and expense data across the life of my business, looking for ways to deliver the right products at the right time, or tighten up materials purchasing so I can offer my artwork at the best prices possible. Being an artist-entrepreneur is, to me, a privilege, and I like to give it the care it requires. My commitment to technology means I do everything I can to use social media effectively, which means using its tools to offer a contemporary version of the creative experience.
This is SO very different from the old days, when an artist could print and mail a simple postcard to stay in touch with customers.
Back in the day, we ordered stacks of postcards printed with photos of our newest work, slapped on a stamp, and- voila! A lovely, full-color image would arrive in the mailbox announcing art fairs or local events where the public could find our work. Sure, we had to maintain a mailing list, and maybe stay up ‘til midnight affixing stamps, but those cards ended up on refrigerators around the nation, a physical reminder of our connection to you, a delight to see each morning when pulling the milk from the fridge.
Meeting face-to-face with customers, sharing stories of the creative process, creating relationships over time, these were the currency of the realm, and part of what I loved about that life.
Sometimes I miss those old days, not least of all because the novel Coronavirus has put the kibosh on large public gatherings. But really, aside from that bizarre happenstance, there’s a lot about the art fair life I don’t miss: the solo travel and time away from my family; booth set-up and tear-down; iffy weather; the struggle to locate healthy food to feed yourself while on the road. It wasn’t always fun. After years of financial reward and long-term meaningful relationships with customers, the convenience of remote shopping via the internet began to overtake the slower paced art fair, reducing artists’ incomes and making life-on-the-road a little less glamorous. I began to hear customers ask, “Do you have a website?” even as they drooled over the items they tried on. It seemed that the times, they were a-changin’.
My grandfather used to say to me, “You can’t stand in the way of progress,” and I believe he was right. Time rolls in only one direction, and that’s forward. If we pay attention, instead of fearing change, we can allow it to teach us to appreciate what we have in the moment and inspire us to prepare for the future. Innovation is part of what defines us as human, perhaps one of the best parts. While I miss the old way of connecting to my customers and friends (many of whom became one and the same), the future may yield even richer possibilities.
Stay well. Take good care of yourselves, and each other.