Living a Creative Life: Indie Crafter Beth Howard
Unsurprisingly, we are big on crafts here at WWAC. Not only are we big on making our own crafts, but we are also all about supporting indie crafters! In this spirit—when I found out that one of our Facebook followers runs her own geek craft business—I reached out to her for an interview to which she so kindly obliged.
Beth Howard is the owner and crafter behind Wilde Designs where “the weird stuff is the best stuff.” She’s been doing the online indie crafter thing for a while, and when we sat down to chat, we talked about a range of things, from her business and her best tips for running a small business to defining geek and raising feminist kids.
Defining geek as something you are passionate about “to the point of annoying your friends,” Beth has translated her geek passions and tendency to “hoard crafting supplies” into a small creative business that sells geek-influenced creations. All of her creations are created by Beth with occasional assistance from her husband who is also a self-identified geek. (They met at a Rocky Horror Picture Show viewing.)
At Wilde Designs, you can find a range of geeky creations from art prints to jewelry. Most of the creations contain upcycled materials that Beth stumbles across at places like Scrap Denton. After finding stuff she likes, she finds “retroactive reasons” to transform these items into something else entirely. The inspiration for these “retroactive reasons” usually comes from Beth’s passion for vintage, old abandoned buildings, Victorian design, and her favorite fandoms such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xena, Hercules, Glee, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the X-Men, and Marvel cinematic. She also does commissions. Some personal favorite items of mine from her shop:
But Beth’s talent really shines with her Barbie Murders. The Barbie Murders are a series of staged dioramas that Beth photographs. The dioramas depict vintage Barbies in often bloody, deathly situations. These photographs are then sold as prints, greeting cards, magnets, and more. They are darkly comedic, showcasing her cheeky humor and love of mashing up kitsch with Goth.
Beth’s Tips for Running Your Own Small Creative Business
Beth started her first company at the tender of age of nine when she went so far as to design her own brand and labels. To say that running her own business was something she was born to do isn’t much of a stretch. Wilde Designs is a supplemental business (her day job is in graphic design) that she mostly conducts online. When we talked running your own small online business, she had these tips to share:
- Create stuff that is interesting to you: Many of Beth’s geek interests are Goth, niche, or more obscure fandoms, and while she loves that geek culture is opening up to include more definitions and fandoms, she says it is crucial to “make stuff you’re into.” It may be tempting to create for more popular fandoms in order to generate more potential income, but in order to sell something better, you need to be passionate about it and happy with it.
- Back-up everything: Beth began her business when Etsy was still a blossoming enterprise for indie crafters. At one point, she was a featured artist, but like many geek crafters, she got slammed with copyright violations, and Etsy shut her down. When they did this, she lost all her clientele information, product descriptions, etc. It was a devastating loss, but Beth looks at it now as, “I lost Etsy, but gained planning.” In sum, she puts it this way: “Cover your own ass.”
- Utilize social media: This one seems fairly obvious in the social media age, but Beth has some good tips for how not to get overwhelmed with self-promotion via social media. She recommends not using all the social media, but playing around with the different options and finding a platform you like and making it count. However, there is one exception. Instagram. Beth says Instagram is crucial to any small business doing handmade products.
- Research what others are doing and make it yours: If you find someone who is doing what you want to do and doing it well, study them. Explore what they do, note what you like, and make it your own. One of Beth’s small business inspirations is Lu & Ed, a small creative business that also provides small business advice via their blog.
- Find a creative community: Both Beth and I can speak to the necessity of this for creative people. As a writer and editor for WWAC, I am fortunate to have my fellow editors and writers to support and inspire me. One of Beth’s recommendations is An Archive of Our Own, a fan-run, non-commercial site for fan creations. Beth also introduced me to the Texas Creative Community, which is a part of the Creative Women’s Conference that Beth recently covered for us. Groups like these are crucial to feeling supported in your creative endeavors. I know, for me, seeing other creative people live their passion helps keep my spirits and determination up.
What about you? Do you run your own small business or freelance? What tips do you have for other creative types who want to live their passion?