I always wanted to be a cowboy. The stetson, the horse, wrangling cattle, it’s all admirable; and the occasional bout of saloon rebellion, going against the grain, it’s all admirable too (even if my definition of a cowboy comes solely from old movies). The coolest thing about cowboys is that they appear to live for the moment, they embrace the land and their own self-dependence, their rewards weren’t always financial. If a cowboy did wrong, the sheriff would put up a reward, a financial reward, so the ‘normal’ people could come forward and claim that reward. Unfortunately, the norm in life is a financial reward. But there’s a lot more to life; anyone who has children, or has found their soul-mate, or runs their own business, or has climbed a mountain, or swum across a lake, or entertained a crowd, anyone will tell you, the best rewards are far from financial.
As an illustrator, a full-time creative professional, I frequently have to seek the financial rewards, the clients who will pay me, and hence pay my bills, for the future. However it’s frequently apparent that formerly client-focused people change their businesses and turn away from purely doing ‘client-work’ to find their rewards. Ladies and gentlemen… people are making stuff.
I’ve made a lot of things in my career. My wife and I have produced art prints, magazines, toys, clothing; some of them were great fun, some of them were profitable but most importantly, all of them were rewarding. Right now we’re setting up our biggest venture yet, a range of fabrics and homewares, we really are making stuff. This venture is much the same as most ‘making stuff’ ventures, they take a long time, they cost you a small fortune (in money/time/sweat, delete as applicable) and you have to learn more than you ever did at college. However, before we’re even selling our new wares, we’re already reaping rewards, our minds are more open, our hands are more skilled and our pride is riding high. There is no one way to manage a creative career, and I would never be able to drop client work entirely, I genuinely enjoy it a huge amount, but there’s a set of rewards that I believe will only come if you also make stuff for yourself.
Design a product, produce an invention, create an app, apply some creativity, build something, brew something, get your hands dirty, get your hands diversifying, publish a book, learn to print, paint, shape, synthesize, manufacture, mold, fashion, fabricate, forge, code, construct, carve and cut. Make something for you, not for a client, make something you can keep, or give away, or sell, whatever you do with it, it will reap rewards, the rewards are special, and the more you put into it, the more rewards you can reap. Make something new, make something good, reap some non-financial rewards, reap some life rewards, like a cowboy. Saddle up. Make something.
Here are some makers that inspire me, I don’t know if they’re cowboys or not, but I admire them all…