In mid- January a group conversation was initiated on Facebook. An idea was presented and many voices within the group were enthusiastic supporters of manifesting this idea. We imagined a gathering/retreat/summit of Creatives of all sorts to talk, learn and be inspired about being a Creative in business. The thought foundation behind it was simple - there are so many aspects to working for oneself and building a business from a creative passion that a forum to share ideas, resources, challenges and solutions would be invaluable. By the end of January our conversation thread had a count of over one hundred messages. As a group we had decided dates, location and even the event name! It seemed that the time was now ripe for this gathering to happen.
For the following 6 + months there were countless more threads of conversation surrounding the content and structure of the event. An informal poll was taken of the content people wanted incorporated and it was built up from there. A small core group of voices helped to set the framework, but most of the grungy details and logistics were worked out meticulously by our gracious host. Mariko Paterson McCrae, ceramic artist a co-owner of Feedlot Studios on Gabriola Island off the west coast of Canada courageously came forward early in the conversation to offer her studio as our venue. Luckily for everyone Feedlot is co-owned by Mariko’s husband + graphic designer, Bryan McCrae, who was very much the all-things-technical support team. This magnificent setting provided the perfect retreat ambience for this fine gathering. The stellar behind-the-scenes crew of local artists, supporters, and small businesses helped to bring it all together.
Then…it happened! From August 28-30 the inaugural Forage Symposium: A Gathering of Ideas + Makers commenced. Boy did we talk, and yes we learned and were definitely and obviously inspired! How could one not do all these things surrounded by the best of our creative peers, former schoolmates, new friends, mentors, supporters and advocates? It was incredible down to the last detail (meaning the basil wrapped local cherry tomatoes with feta and vinaigrette for example). Three days of jam-packed content included topics on how to use social media successfully, where to find funding for creative projects, partnership + collaboration and how to find your audience. We discussed the pros + cons of consignment vs. wholesale venues; brick + mortar vs. online; outsourcing production vs. keeping it in-house. Panels deliberated about time + money management, delegating, prioritizing and balancing family life with work.
Desiring to be more inclusive than the standard ‘expert-presents-to-audience’ model it was decided to draw on the expertise of our delegates themselves. Seven out of twelve timeslots were panel discussions where 25 of ther 50+ attendees were asked to sit on different panels based on their own creative practices and areas of specialized skills. There was a risk that we could have had total snoozer discussions, dud panelists or in the least some awkward silent moments. That didn’t happen however. In fact, the discussions were so lively that they overflowed into our break times proving to be a real challenge to round the crowd back up for the next presentation/discussion.
Thanks to size and magic of our venue it felt like we were sitting around someone’s (albeit large) living room facilitating the intimacy of our discussions. Panelists were open and honest, sometimes standing on the edge of vulnerability. They shared both victory moments and challenges, advice about what to do and what not to do based on lessons learned, as well as valuable technical and industry information.
Presenters spoke about: How to rethink and embrace ideas around branding and marketing (Bianca Gignac/Italian Fix); DIY Media Relations (Tamara Komuniecki/Delish Magazine); The nuts and bolts of how to build a successful wholesale business based on a creative idea (Fiona Richards/Cartolina Cards); Rethinking our approach to art [making] (Julia Krueger/ Renegade Art Historian + Sheila Norgate/Artist) And sage advice about doing what you love and the rest will follow (Leslie Shewring / a Creative Mint + Douglas Burton Jones). You can be sure that these presenters sparked some major fires under the inspired butts of those attending with their personal accounts of finding their creative paths and detailed reflections on how they did it.
I’d say it was pretty much as awesome as awesome can get with awesome sauce on top! To boot it was all accomplished on volunteer hours keeping the budget humble and costs for those attending more than reasonable (@ $100/person this was a steal!). Personally, I already see the tangible outcomes that my attendnce is having on both my creative and business practices. The nuggets that I gleaned from this bounty of information were solid affirmations with philosophical and practical implications. We are all scared, but who cares? Get over it. Just do what you want to do. Do your research and figure it out. Be prepared for Success. Yes!
All of this came from an idea that turned into a conversation that turned into an experiment that will now turn into… an annual event perhaps? Perhaps! In any case I look forward to future gatherings and continuing to be a part of building this kind of community – one that isn’t hemmed in by geography; one that is built on kindred values and visions as well as shared challenges; one that aims to grow collectively rather than individually and competitively; and finally one that not only supports, but encourages people to get out of their own way to fully live the creative lives that they envision. And isn’t it easier and way more fun when all your friends are doing it too!
Many thanks again to Mariko + Bryan + their team at Feedlot Studios and their vision to bring this all together! Big Love!
If you want to know more about the symposium check out the detailed content descriptions and schedule.
Read the condensed version of this post on the Uppercase blog.