Experts by Experience: Profiles of entrepreneurs at different stages on their journeys, identifying and sharing some universal truths along the way.
Many of the entrepreneurs I meet talk about the therapeutic value of creating beautiful things, some talk about the financial value of that creativity, but few suggest that the prospect of making money might help release hidden talent in unlikely people and places.
Which is what makes Teresa Crickmar and her Craftworks enterprise so interesting. Teresa is creating a series of workshops to teach craft work to groups of learners of different ages and abilities with an interest in setting up their own mini-enterprises.
Both the means and the ends are both important to Teresa. “The USP [Unique Selling Point] will be the quality of the craft work – making it different from other, comparable projects. We use glitter and glue… but the products we make are as beautiful as that made by a craftsperson rather than a primary school project.
It’s also important that the buyer doesn’t know who has made the work… it may be an 11 year old autistic boy, an adult with learning difficulties, an older person, or a young mum who wants to work from home making some money. All the craft work will be broadly the same, so you won’t know which group has made it.”
Teresa’s creation of Craftworks follows a clear path from one career stepping stone to another – even if she didn’t plan her route at the start. Degrees in silversmithing and teaching, were followed by teaching jewellery-making to adults, including learners with autism. This brought her to her current role – teaching Design and Technology to young autistic students in the 5 – 18 age range.
As a child, Teresa was inspired by the sense of achievement that came from creating beautiful art and craft works. It is the same inspiring reinforcement of self-belief that she sees in the young people she now teaches.
“I’ve seen their disbelief that they have created something so pretty – they realise they are more than they thought they were. The creative process is broken down into really simple steps so each product is similar but, in reality, is slightly different. Each one is hand-made and I wouldn’t want them to look exactly the same.
One little chap working on a fridge magnet design was really going for it… drawing with the pens and inks – it was really beautiful to see. He wouldn’t have done that in another situation – it was the encouragement he needed to release his creativity. He was so proud of himself.”
In producing art for sale, I wonder whether there might be a problem that the creators of the items might be reluctant to sell them. Teresa has already thought of that, suggesting they might make two sets – one to keep and one to sell – but she believes this will not be as big a stumbling block as I do.
“The making money bit is the incentive for some of the young people – using their own skills to make real money in the real world! A reward for their efforts; people buying their work not out of sympathy, but because the object is beautiful.”
The advice Teresa will be passing on to the creative entrepreneurs supported by Craftworks is deceptively clear; separate art and commerce.
“Many artists have trouble with this”, she says, “as if going commercial cheapens your work”. But if you want to make money from this, you need to make it saleable and sell it at a viable price. The designs you come up with have to be commercial if that’s what you’re in it for. If you’re a creative being who wants to create art, don’t think of it as a business proposition.”
I return to Teresa’s earlier point about not identifying the artist with the work of art (I’m a believer in telling the story behind the product). She’s adamant in her view, but I feel we’ve reached some sort of meeting of minds by the end of the interview…
“I think it’s really important that people choose to buy a piece alongside other craft work because it’s beautiful. But there would be a label if someone wants to look into it… If the products are sold with the Craftwork logo, customers know that their money is helping both the individual artist and the organisation that supports them.”
To find out more about Craftwork, contact Teresa at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tersea is in the 2013-14 cohort of learners with the School for Social Entrepreneurs on
the Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Programme at the Eastern Enterprise Hub in