Arts + Crafts, Etsy Faves, Small Business

Natasha Mileshina & Random Small Business Thoughts

September 17, 2008

I have to spotlight Natasha Mileshina today because a parcel arrived from her in my little mailbox this morning and it absolutely made my day. I blogged about her etsy shop, bubbo-tubbo, in Take Five Tuesdays last week and like so many artists I feature here I end up becoming a customer because I want to own a part of their world.

Natasha Mileshina & Random Small Business Thoughts

I absolutely appreciate and love the American arts & crafts scene, and though there is one here in Germany that is growing and blooming right now, there is still something about the American aesthetic that I really like. Of course, I am partial since I am American so of course I’m going to appreciate things about my own culture that others in different lands may not. I think Natasha Mileshina’s style is so positively perfect, I really enjoyed the package of goodies that arrived because everything was so carefully wrapped and arranged. It was special to just open it and after turning back the papers to reveal the contents – ah, bliss!

Natasha Mileshina & Random Small Business Thoughts“Nothing to put on” print, 5 x 7, $12.

Natasha Mileshina & Random Small Business ThoughtsNotebook, $7

Natasha lives and works in Baltimore, Maryland… not exactly the ‘hub’ when it comes to creativity like other places in the U.S. (Brooklyn, San Francisco, Portland OR, etc.) but I imagine that at times it must be nice to not live in uber creative communities because you are able to really be alone with your work and spend time developing it and fine tuning your style. Does this make sense? I guess I think this way because I lived for years in Boston and only when I relocated to southern New Hampshire did I really ‘slow down’ enough in my head to focus on my own artistic and creative spirit. Everyone is different of course. I cannot doubt the explosion of creativity I feel whenever I’m in San Francisco, L.A., even parts of the south where I grew up… But you can really be creative anywhere on this planet and though many artists pack up and relocate to the hip cities to be part of the local culture there, there are plenty of artists who do just as well in their little corners, too. If you’re like me, I go to cities to be inspired but I feel completely fine living outside of creative hubs now because I don’t need to be immersed in it 24/7. It almost stresses me out if I spend too much time in New York City, for instance. I like it there but I find equal inspiration walking on the beach in Maine.

I think in really creative hubs there are so many people making things that yes, it can inspire, but sometimes it may also feel competitive or stressful… like you must continuously churn out new designs or you are no longer ‘the hottest thing’ in your community. I wonder if anyone reading this lives in a creative hub and can comment on this. Here in Hannover, Germany we have many creative types but no one really sticks together, in fact it’s a little competitive and ‘high school’ sometimes just as it was in the beginning days of blogging for me online. I am trying to change this here in Hannover, but it will take awhile. But I have an idea…

Natasha Mileshina & Random Small Business Thoughts
“Cat on my head” print, 5×7, $12.

I want to host a street fest here with the local artisans and craftsters but I’m scared no one will mingle because they seem to not like one another! I think these problems exist in the states too, but when I was at Renegade last summer in Brooklyn I didn’t get the sense that vendors there were competing or even jealous or upset at the success of the more popular vendors. I think this is one of many reasons why Americans have such success with their small businesses — the majority seem to support and rely on fellow small business owners knowing that their success comes, not by shunning or excluding others, but by holding hands with others and showing support. I don’t know if craft fairs like Renegade really exist here in Germany, but I’d like to get involved in hosting one here in Hannover to see how it goes. My friend Enna and I are in discussion over this so I’ll let you know what we churn out. I’m thinking next year, a summer fest. :) I want to have a ‘decor8’ table at the fair to show the work of my American friends, and even those from Australia, England, and beyond that may like to introduce their work to the German market. I want to expose more Germans to crafts outside of Europe, too.

You may be shocked to learn that most of my creative friends here aren’t even online, do not blog, and they’ve never heard of Etsy! Half or more do not even speak English, another problem if they want to reach customers outside of Germany. This is one of the major reasons I’m speaking this Saturday in Berlin, I want to encourage the many creative types who will attend the decor8/Dawanda event to blog and reach out to the world if they aren’t already doing it. I feel so confident in the indie arts scene in Germany but not many people outside know what’s going on in this country outside of Oktoberfest and beer. Not even many Germans know what’s going on because so many seem to create in their ateliers, closed off from the rest of the world so to speak, and not much is seen outside of their own city. This is only my opinion as a non-German but I think small business here (at least arts & crafts) is where American small business was back in 2004/05 – blogging was just picking up speed, indie craft fairs were starting to appear nationwide, more and more people were connecting online and making new friends, etc. It’s fun to be over here in the beginning stages of it all. I can’t wait to see what develops!

Natasha Mileshina & Random Small Business Thoughts“Fake NYC” by Natasha Mileshina, processed using the fake tilt shift technique, most likely in Photoshop.

I think I’m running off on a tangent here (what’s new!?), but this was on my mind when I awoke this morning so I thought I’d talk about it today to see what your opinions are on this topic. Do you need to be in the heart of a creative hub to create and network? If you lived in a city where shop owners do not seem to support other shop owners, how would you promote peace and encourage a more supportive environment? How do you overcome feelings of competition with fellow creative types?

Now back to the lovely Natasha! Don’t forget to check out her Flickr album for further inspiration, and don’t miss her lovely studio over at Poppy Talk.

(images taken by holly becker for decor8)


  • Reply cindy k September 17, 2008 at 9:17 am

    natasha is a dream. i’ve purchased many things on etsy, but her ledger is one of my favorites. her attention to detail and the care in the packaging really made me feel special when i opened the package. and, she added one of her photos with a thoughtful handwritten note.

    cindy ks last blog post: tunes : have a cup with m.

  • Reply Rebee September 17, 2008 at 9:35 am

    I think being in Austin is good for me – it’s pretty artsy, but mostly music-artsy, not so much art-artsy (that sentence was totally rad, yo). Fortunately, Austin is all about small business – there’s tons of stores that consist of only little tiny stands that have no permanent home. They’re everywhere though, and I like that anybody could just come out, set up a table, and sell the stuff they’ve made.

    I think living in a town where shop owners don’t support other shop owners would suck. There’s a camaraderie among local businesses, I think, because they tend to be the ones getting stepped on by huge businesses. But maybe not. Everyone can always learn, and if you have that attitude, networking is easier and competition isn’t a big deal at all. It’s all about having the right mindset, I think.

    That said, I’m just a student who hasn’t sold one thing. But I hope someday I can.

    Rebees last blog post: Cold

  • Reply Victoria Bennett Beyer September 17, 2008 at 10:55 am

    I moved to the bustling metropolis of Guernsey, Wyoming (pop. 1174) two years ago, leaving behind my job in newspaper and all the cool stuf in Pittsburgh. It’s an hour and a half from a Wal-mart or a multi-plex. At first I was pretty bummed, but, as it turns out, being in the middle of nowhere has been the best thing for my creativity. I think this is esp. true since I am sort of just starting to ‘be’ the artist I always wanted to be. The city had so many distrations I could never really get any direction. Here, I have lots of time and the ideas just keep coming. That said, I think once you are an established artist and are really trying to make a living, I don’t know how you could do it without at least living near a metro area. Or at least a very arty smaller town.

    ps – you’ve got a fab. blog! thanks for sharing!

    Victoria Bennett Beyers last blog post: Container Garden – Tomatoes and Herbs

  • Reply Kathy September 17, 2008 at 11:38 am

    I moved to a very small, rural town, and I am just starting out; and to be honest, the lack of a creative community is terribly stifling to me. For me, I feel that so much inspiration and enjoyment in creating comes from doing so with the support of a network. I grew up in an area that is more of a creative hub, and it seems that I was always inspired and motivated. Here, I feel very limited.

    As someone who is still finding a niche, the lack of resources is astounding; there are so many techniques I’d love to learn, but there are no classes, nor are there books at the library, and no inter-library loan. I can buy supplies from either Wally World or online; and as a tactile person, this can be very unsatisfying. At this stage in my life, I would be so happy to return to a more creative hub, regardless as to the competetive nature sometimes inherent therein.

    As to how to promote peace amongst shop owners, I think that (cliche) communication is key. Perhaps starting some sort of council or collective of sorts would be beneficial; wherein there is a development of common goals, such as community outreach, or the craft fair idea. In areas with developing creative communities, I think that the focus needs to be outwards, beyond the creative community, not inward. By being less insular as a community, the community will thrive and (in theory) success will follow.

    I know this is a different situation, but a nearby town created a council of antiques dealers (there are probably 7 or 8 in the town.) Rather than seeing one another as direct competition, they looked outward: they created a directory of all the stores that they distribute and they combine for advertising. As such, they reach a much larger audience than they would each doing their own, competitive thing. I think some craft communities could definitely adopt this type of system, to some success.

  • Reply Charlie @ So Lovely September 17, 2008 at 11:44 am

    You have a such great idea and I’m sure people would welcome you. There’s enough creative room for everyone. I’ve been on a little bit of a blogging rant (over it now) about the “popularity contest”, that is blogging. I love to read blogs about up-and-coming artists, creators etc, who don’t have “a following” yet. A fresh perspective. I live in LA, and its hard to find a little peace sometimes. But even walking across the street to the park or going to the beach, I can feel myself slowing down. Its almost a world away. Almost. Thanks Holly for this blog – its inspiring.

    Charlie @ So Lovelys last blog post: Early morning vices

  • Reply tidymess September 17, 2008 at 11:47 am

    I’m just a reader who’s passionate about design and all things beautiful, no artisic skills of my own (too bad!). Living in a quite small place in italy, the only way i can find an artsy environment is through the internet.
    I think we are ages behind Germany, let’s say we are america of the early 80s?
    Holly would you mind working on Italy’s artistic knowledge as well?

    tidymesss last blog post: magnum

  • Reply Gilby September 17, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    I never thought I’d say this, but I find myself craving a return to a small town like the one I grew up in. Creative types were much more supportive of one another. The competitiveness of the art program in Minneapolis I attended was very isolating by comparison.

  • Reply Kelly | Purple Lemon Designs September 17, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    I currently live in a rural town in Mississippi, so I am just about as far away from a cultural hub as you can be. I have lived in the city before, but since moving to “the country,” I find a lot of inspiration from the nature and the relaxed lifestyle of a small town. I think that you can find inspiration, camaraderie and challenge through internet blogs, though. I have really enjoyed the sense of community I get from reading new blogs, as well as the more established blogs (such as yours Holly).

    Kelly | Purple Lemon Designss last blog post: Inspiration via Christian Siriano

  • Reply Rekoj September 17, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    I moved from small town Olympia, WA to downtown Seattle a couple years ago – and although I am glad I made the move when I did and I have certainly seen my artwork blossom, I still find myself missing my sleepy little town. Thanks for posting the question of big city hub verses small town quiet because it’s something I’ve been wrestling with and I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who feels like I want to go “backwards”.

  • Reply Julie September 17, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Hello Holly,

    I stumbled over your blog “by accident” about half a year ago – what a discovery. I want to thank you for your positive encouraging energy, I?d never have thought it would be possible to transport that with the internet as its medium. I?m inspired by this and though I?m not really sure how, where or when I have a feeling this is a direction I want to explore.I live in Berlin, so really looking forward to Saturday :-)
    See you then, kind regards from Julie

  • Reply annkent September 17, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    Wow, this post has really made be feel so much better. My first post on my new blog speaks about how isolated I feel not knowing other “creatives”. I followed a very practical career early on and ignored my creative talents. Now, I am finding and using those talents again; however, I live in a suburb where I am finding it to be very difficult to meet other artistic or design-oriented individuals. When I discovered the design blog community, I felt like I was home for the first time in my life … so many thanks Holly for giving those of us who are design oriented but not living in a creative hub a place for inspiration, confirmation, and acknowledgment of the legitimacy of our interests! You rock!

    annkents last blog post: The Women

  • Reply Ellen Crimi-Trent September 17, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    you could be creative under a rock if you live there. I lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn way before others were calling it hip and I live here now in Southern, Massachusetts and most of my work is inspired from magazines, my children and my creative mind. You are correct that when you are stressed its hard to create unless of course you like to write about depressing subjects and create designs that reflect that too. I actually write better when things are bad not good, and I work better when my house is clean and not messy! Go figure, but sometimes its just a thought that pops in my head that begins a whole new set of designs for me!

    Ellen Crimi-Trents last blog post: Welcome baby MAX!!

  • Reply Ashley September 17, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    These are absolutely adorable, i have to go out and by like 30! Thanks for telling me about it!

    Ashleys last blog post: Serious Blogging

  • Reply Trina September 17, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    I live in Toronto, the largest city in Canada, however I’m finding it difficult to even locate locate artist’s and designer’s, and when I do, there is a huge feeling of competition among them more often than not.

    The creative community should be just that, a community. We can all help one another, and learn from one another as well.

    Maybe some aren’t ready to share, or hear others opinion’s or suggestions? If find that a lot of creative’s take all the responsibilities of being in business on themselves, they feel they can “do it all”. Hmm….may not be a bad idea to collaborate. You never know what 2 or more minds can came up with.


    Trinas last blog post: i’m slacking

  • Reply Laurie May Coyle September 18, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    What a thoughtful post this was — got me thinking, too. I have just returned from the Squam Art Workshops up in your neck of the woods in NH, where a group of about 125 gorgeous like-minded creatives gathered to support one another in their journey to becoming the artists they want to be, and it culminated with a great little art/craft fair in the local elementary school’s gym, where we could all support the economy of the creative community we had just spent the week nurturing. I think this is a great model for how it is at least starting to work here in the US. Less competition, more support and opening of hearts.

    I live in a very small town in Western Massachusetts. It is very hard for people to connect and network with other artists on a casual scale here, without attending some big event or showing your work in a gallery. The difference is, though, that the few people who do see your work locally are so supportive and excited for what you are doing — just because you are doing SOMETHING. It seems to me that it’s easy to succumb to the excuse of not being in a creative hub (i.e. city) to not create new and different work, but once you get going, there’s nothing to step in your way. Fewer distractions, more natural beauty, fresher air. Wow, I’m inspiring myself to get to work. :)

    Laurie May Coyles last blog post: feathering my nest

  • Reply brittany September 18, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    I think your point about being able to have creative freedom when you live in a place that is not as known for being having an Important Scene is a good one.

    However, I think you are a bit mistaken to lump Baltimore into such a category – just look at the enormous art and music community there. If you glance over Pitchfork or other “indie” coverage you will see that Baltimore pops up all the time these days thanks to the whole Wham City/Maryland Institute of Contemporary Art/etc scene.

    There is a very thriving community of kids who are doing really interesting things and Baltimore is attracting people from around the region who have been gentrified out of more traditional creative centers like Brooklyn.

    To support your larger point, though, as someone who has recently moved from Washington, DC to San Francisco, I will say that I feel there is more interesting, creative work being done in a place like Baltimore than out here – not in sheer amount, but in quality and degree to which it inspires me – and it is done with a more genuine, community-oriented attitude.

  • Reply eva September 18, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    I think germans are afraid of competition and someone stealing/copying their ideas or work. I also don`t know how popular crafting is in Germany nowadays. Maybe it`s this prejudice that handiwork is for very old ladies?
    I can feel that there is no comradery here, that`s why I`m focused mostly on US and international crafters/community/customers.

    evas last blog post:

  • Reply decor8 September 18, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    Brittany – I am not saying no one creative lives in Baltimore, I am saying that it’s not what most people think about as a creative mecca in the states. Just like most people don’t look at Boston as ‘the’ place for design. Certain cities in the U.S. are better known for things like law, medicine, etc. (like Boston) and lesser known as creative hubs. That is NOT to say that creatives don’t live there. This is exactly why I raised the point to ask what people who do not live in these major hubs for arts, design, and crafts, etc. how they are managing themselves and finding work in their field, etc.

    Thanks for your comment Brittany, but I just wanted to jump online and clarify my point.


  • Reply Hana September 18, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    I enjoyed to read. I live in Tokyo, and I could understand completely what you want to say though I can not at all speak English. Artist’s envy or competition have been exist almost everywhere from ancient times, so I could agree to you as a general opinion. I can imagine, quite the same or more problems exist if you would like to do the same attempt in my country. I do not have any answer to make things well anyway… But I wondered If I will plan something in Germany, do I feel completely same as your feelings? I see well you know Germany than I, and I know now you are talking about mainly Indie artists. But… when I imagine “Hub”, something might be fundamentally different from yours. It is just a problem of mere convenience, and it is unrelated to creativity as you said. So, why do you call it ‘Creative Hub’? I mean, I can understand the meanings of “Creative Mecca” you said. However, I could not understand partially. How does it relate to the difficulty about German festa story?

    Well, I know my knowledge about Germany is still very few and I have never stayed Germany, however, I will not worry whether the method with my familiarity runs well even if I will plan something there. I know there are – history of supporting a lot of art fairs that exist originally there, many artists, the unions of craftman families’ companies, and many village are ardent to protection of family based small business. Firstly, I will have more observation of those merits, than I worry about whether my old good method goes well.

    I am never shocked if someone cannot speak English or if many crafters aren?t online or even if they?ve never heard of Etsy. If anything, I will be surprised more if someone doesn’t know that Germany is famous for an international commercial trade fairs in the world. I didn?t know nothing about Renegade craft fairs before I read this post, though I know Etsy and have purchase sometimes.

    Since my childhood, my father, who can not at all speak English and German, visited an international trade fair of Frankfurt many times, and gave me the German crafts souvenirs. I might have heard the story of the maister system. Or, I’ve visited the Germany fairs which held at the Japanese department stores or at a local little museums of children books or toys many times. I could watch at there even wonderful craft artisans from the German. So Now, when I see the crafts for Christmas which Americans made, I feel that I see the influence of the German ornaments. I can search for all the International Trade Fairs in Germany -230 exist in two years- by using my local language through our local website of the industry association. If I want to join as a trader, I can entry with my local language there. And, I can read a lot of personal reports of the Japanese bloggers who visited the Christmas market or the Seiffen. There are so many web about German craft or arts, not only the webs of trainspotter who ardently talks about Maerklin.

    So, for instance… about the visit system in the atelier of the Seiffen village, some people say it is too much commercialized system, but hrmm… I will like to say it is not only commercial. But, I even do not know whether the American is interested in Seiffen. Thus, I could not understand why you have considered that the problem is competition. How does the art fairs or the Christmas market consist if the artist and vendors of Germany always fall into jealous? Why does Daimler AG support the artists even in my country which have some competing companies? Maybe, someone will say that it is just because a ‘history’ or an ‘investment’ – but I can say I doubt that reason.

    Well, it’s just my personal opinion as a non-German, too. I am not a kind of German craft collector or of German art mania, and I don’t think I am specially familiar to the Germany. But still I wonder, when I ardently talk about a German crafts like this, if you do feel my opinion as something strange. If so, what meaning is in the ‘creative hub’ when the network is one-way traffic??If someone only want to bring something in from the outside- you just need a free extension code. How do you introduce Germany Artisans to the person who lives in the ‘Outside’? Until you explain it well, I can nothing but be as careful as many of German vendors there to you. If you are requesting the opinion from the outside person, I just say – Don’t be uptight about your method.

    Hoping my comment can give you something new perspective. Sorry for my bad English.

  • Reply Ruth Crean September 19, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    I think I would create anywhere, it’s more a question for me about the public and how they differ in different places. I live in a small city in Ireland,Limerick, and there are lots of creative people here which has created a lovely environment to work in. I often get invited to work on things that I never would have thought of before. So to have that around me is a wonderful support and inspiration. But on the other side of it the market is not there. The people who have the money(and there aren’t many it’s a poor city) see no use for art in their lives. I have work as both a visual artist here, and now as a clothes designer. It seems that the global obsession with brands and labels has become omnipresent. Art is bought for the artists name and clothes are bought in designer shops,because it’s a recognised brand. It’s a very frustrating situation to be in,I’ve tried breaking out of the mould, to bring art out to the people. But at the end of the day they don’t want to part with their hard earned cash. So I’ll keep making work, and waiting tables cos that’s what makes me happy,I’m my own boss…half of the time.
    As for competition between traders and artists,we are all in the same boat so it’s fine. We all support each other by turning up to openings,gigs etc. If one person gets a break people seems genuinely happy for them.I’m so glad there there is no bitter competitiveness in the community.

    Ruth Creans last blog post: Tv or not Tv

  • Reply Sarah O - craftyFOLK January 29, 2009 at 1:17 am

    I live in Portland, OR. I love stumbling upon someone’s work you admire and realize, hey, we live in the same city and part of town. I personally don’t feel a competitiveness with others, more of a healthy does of inspiration, I’m a musician as well as an artist, so I feel the weight on both sides from time to time. There are always going to be better singers and guitarists than me and others who draw or write better than I do, but I’ll do my thing better than some too, so it evens out. If one thinks of their creative journey as a journal to their point of view, than it can be a healthy ride for all.

    Sarah O – craftyFOLKs last blog post: A New House + A Fresh Start = Moving (which kinda sucks and is awesome all at the same time)

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