Sunday 26 December 2010

Amateur and lovin' it

On our way back from a day out in New Zealand we spot a sign for wood turning. We turn into a residential house drive - next to the garage there's a sign pointing to an old small caravan, saying,  'IN HERE'. The quality of the chopping boards inside is very good, with a unique embedded paua shell technique - not as polished as the shops in Nelson, but with a good sense of the natural beauty of the wood, shell and other embedded stuff. A man pops in later, telling us not only the wood (we choose kauri and lawson cypress)but where, when and how he came across the wood.

Today's been the best day for shopping - earlier we stopped by at Gourd man's gallery - very personable, and able to explain where I'd been going wrong with my gourd growing and decorating. His passion for gourds, skill and experience in the various traditional and more experimental techniques for decorating is incredible, and we can't help leaving with a small gourd and a packet of seeds.

The chance encounter somewhere in New Zealand Abel Tasman National Park is a stark contrast to the prescriptive, albeit 'choiced out', LA Hollywood experience from earlier in our holiday.

For example, we went to Universal Studios - the studio tour was fantastic - we saw the Bates Motel (Psycho) and, of course, classic Jaws coming out of the water.  In the theme park there are any number of choices to make - whether you want to do 'Waterworld live performance' or 'Simpsons Virtual Rollercoaster' (both fantastic) or any number of inventive rides. Everything is carefully prepared for you - even the waiting in queues is carefully managed so you are constantly entertained.

Eventually though the highly professional spoon feeding of entertainment wears off and at the end of the day you have a nagging empty feeling. Whatever you've done, there's no feeling of discovery. Despite the many, and amazing choices on offer, you don't get the same sort of conversation I got with gourd man with a giant Bart Simpson.

It's true that we had a huge range of quality stuff on offer in LA, but that's not the same as finding it for yourself.  I know the majority of my present work will end in July, and I'm beginning to think about what I will do, how I might sell myself. I've been following bloggers like the excellent Helga Henry on how to run successful creative businesses and make money. I agree the two aren't exclusive, but you do need to set priorities.

I can see that researching my market will pay dividends. A better, more professional website would benefit my business. Also I don't separate my work much from my home - when or how I do it. In many ways I am not professional.  That's because I am an amateur - That is, the work I do is driven primarily by my passions. Money-making does come into it, but very much a secondary thing.  I can see my experiences and skills put me in a good position to have the luxury of choice. However, in the words of Prof. A. Dumbledore, 'It's our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our skills'.

MacDonald's started in California 1940.  Did they make a choice at some moment in time, sacrificing the quality and enjoyment of making food for a more saleable product? Is it really possible to continue 'lovin' it' or 'living the dream' if the dream, or what you're lovin' is about making money? I just hope there's a gap in the market for two gourd men.

Sent from my BlackBerry smartphone from Virgin Media


  1. Thanks for the kind words Marcus and I'm glad the blog is helping to shape your thinking. I love the Harry Potter/Dumbledore quote and I suppose I think that the choices we make are so much more powerful if they are INFORMED choices. I can see that you are thinking about the calibre of the experience you had both in New Zealand and in LA. I think, for what it's worth, that if you create the calibre of the experience that you want to give your clients, the rest will follow.

    You can choose whether you have a "lifestyle" business or an exit one - if you grow or you simply make sure that you have work (an SME of one). I think there probably is a gap in the Market for two gourd men: particularly if they are in different parts of the world. It might be naive but I think that business is not about stealing a slice of someone else's pie but growing the pie so its bigger for everyone.

    Good luck with your continued thoughts and plans.

  2. Thanks for comment Helga. I agree, far better to be naive and occasionally loosing a bit of your pie, especially if the pie gets bigger for everyone.

    On the flight I saw film, 'The Social Network' about Facebook's beginnings. A bit depressing in that message seemed to be if you want pie, don't just steal it, organise a proper mugging.

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