Make Tools, Not Art

Monday, December 24, 2012
I wish the world was not this way, honestly. I don't like that I have been forced to this conclusion, but it's inescapable. It's human nature to want to create. Sadly, not everyone will succeed. Artists struggle, it's just a fact. So - how can you still be involved with the creative process and manage to not starve?
Make tools. As a thought experiment, it's as simple as saying; "don't paint - sell paintbrushes." Oddly enough, I was brought to this realization by friends of mine who do machine embroidery. As with any creative profession, there are those at the top of their game, and the remaining 99% who are struggling, or at least aren't in the game so deeply that their livelihoods depend on it.

Observing the digital embroidery market, I witnessed shops large and small in the decorated apparel industry struggling. Some do better than others, but as with any creative industry, they're often breaking their backs just to remain in the black. Outside this fracas sit manufacturers of embroidery machines, and software vendors. These are the people who make the tools for digitizing embroidery designs, and stitching them out, and from my perspective, it looks as if they're the only ones making a killing in this game.
I come from a background of digital print media. I've observed that market for many years, and it's similar, though broader. I had it in mind to try and help out my friends with whatever benefit my years of experience in my own profession could bring to bear. At first, this seemed like a no-brainer. My profession is largely Macintosh based, with a large, mature software industry behind it. I'm used to smooth, well-designed software - nice tools that are powerful and a pleasure to sit in front of for eight hours a day.
The tools I saw my friends using for their embroidery designs are uniformly Windows-based, and really unpleasant to look at, much less use. They are able to turn out quality stitch files, but getting from concept to finished product can be like pulling teeth. It occurred to me that there needed to be embroidery software for the Macintosh. Embroidery is not for me - by machine, or otherwise - but I could make tools, I thought.
I haven't exactly set the world on fire, but I have been able to produce tools for the Mac to facilitate myself and my friends with their digital embroidery. I was amazed how I was able to mingle the skills and experience I've gained over the years to produce simple, to-the-point, well-crafted tools that have helped my friends, myself, and even random strangers who've appreciated what I've done. For me, this path was far easier than that of the starving artist. Don't let this discourage you, but remember that your experience may someday provide you with a viable fallback plan you may not have considered.
In the end, I suppose that making tools is no less a creative act than the art those tools are used to create, but it's a lot more likely to keep you from starving.

1 comments:

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