Last week, local author and polymer clay enthusiast Angela Mabray shared her story of finding like-minded artists and forming a group. Here, she shares tips on how to form your own creative community.
1) Find a Friend (or a Few!)
Starting a group seemed like a daunting task to me. But finding even one like-minded friend helps make it a realistic goal. If you already know people in the area who share your interest, let them know about your vision and see if anyone jumps on board. If you don’t know anyone, do some research — both online (Etsy, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo groups) and offline (craft fairs, local supply stores). Post in forums, write about it on your blog, and email folks you think might be interested. Ask people to forward the info to others they think might be interested.
2) Make a Plan
Saying you’d like to start a group *someday* isn’t enough. Once you have a few folks who show interest, set a date for an organizing meeting. There you can decide on a good time and place for your regular meetings. Brainstorm ways to get the word out, and ask for volunteers to help do some of those things.
Keep getting the word out there every way you can. Create a basic website with info. Ask your members to announce it using their various online presences. Then supplement that with local opportunities. The Deluxe organizers allowed us to hold a demo meeting at one of the shows. We’ve also done demos at the Oklahoma State Fair and shown our work in a month-long display at a local library.
4) Be Patient
Don’t get discouraged if you keep plugging away and growth still seems slow. People are busy, and sometimes they need a few months to fit a new thing into their lives. They may feel awkward about coming to a meeting where they don’t already know someone. And even the ones who do attend may never come back. Give it at least 6-12 months before you’ll even consider throwing in the towel. Allow the right people to find you. Be welcoming to visitors and follow up with them… but accept that the ones who never came back may not have been a good fit for your group.
5) Be Flexible
Once things get going, allow the group to grow beyond what you originally imagined. Don’t let it stay “your baby.” I served as our group’s president for the first two years, but I was careful to really let go when I passed that office to the next person. New officers invariably do things a little differently. They each have their own strengths and focuses, and can help build the group in specific ways. Our group set term limits on our officers to hep encourage that constant change. This also spreads the work around and ensures everyone has a stake in the group’s success.
Just like any other worthwhile task, growing a local group can take some work and a little time. But you may find yourself rewarded in ways you never expected. Best of luck to you!
Angela Mabray is a co-founder of the Central Oklahoma Polymer Clay Guild, which meets the second Saturday of each month at the Moore Hobby Lobby. She blogs about polymer clay at CraftyGoat’s Notes and recently co-authored Polymer Clay 101.