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Art and Business: A tension and release

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Art and Business: A tension and release

There's a tension I’ve found, between being a Creative or Artist, and a business owner.

It’s not that we lack the business acumen- if anything we have an abundance of ideas and creative ways to solve problems. Most skills can be learnt as needed and we can carve out our own space in a business sense.

The tension is rather, that , for me at least, creating Art and the flow of creativity itself is about process. Its about the making, the learning, the journey, ebbs and flows. It's about leaning into intuition and trying to lose myself in the doing.

And business, well, it's about products. Or outcome. The focus is most often on an end goal, rather than the journey.

And when you’re trying to do both- or they’re both interconnected, and you’re building a business off the back of your creativity, the waters are quickly muddied.

And suddenly the process of creativity is hijacked by the need to develop a product. The focus becomes the end point rather than the journey.

It is determined by the taste of an audience or customer and how they may receive it. It becomes about brand and identity. 

It becomes a commodity rather than an act of pure exploration and discovery.

 

Aho, is an expression of my personal journey into understanding, uncovering, learning, embracing and expressing my whakapapa. Into exploring contemporary expressions of belonging and identity in Aotearoa today, informed by threads that are woven through time and place. It is made up of dreams for my tamariki, of creative musings and the occasional ecstatic moments of creative ‘flow’, given form through a wide range of creative practices- from printmaking to sewing, watercolour to writing.

 

To date (over the last 5 years), the making has happened in fleeting moments or late nights after our tamariki are in bed. Ideas come while hanging washing, stacking dishes, those midnight hours breastfeeding our pēpi while the world outside is silent, and I’ve learnt to scribble them on the closest piece of paper.

Often they’re developed at the kitchen table, while I draw alongside our tamariki or propped up on my knees from bed, exhausted from the day but hungry still for some creative outlet that declares that I, the singular me still exists in the world. Mahi, Māmā and Making have been indistinguishable from one another, so edges, boundaries or physical markers of what or who when or where. 


Some days I’m wistful for those long days as a student when there was no other pull of my attention other than to create. I remember the excuses I made for not putting in the work- and in hindsight, laugh at my naïve self. But mostly, I’m grateful, for the immense privilege it is to raise these beautiful souls, to have no time, little sleep, endless demands for my attention, and a relentless desire to create.


As Aho has grown as a business, our tamariki alongside it (they too with increasing demands on my attention and time), it has been increasingly tricky to sustain a creative practice- one motivated by process over product.

I’m endlessly inspired by things I see, learn and observe and think ‘that would make a great product that I’d love to share’.

‘I could design that’, I think.

It has been rarer to find a moment where I think ‘I’d like to just see where this takes me or If I can develop this skill’.


This year, It is my resolve to make time for the act of creating. For the joy derived from process of losing oneself in the making and instinct and learning- no matter the outcome.

To step back into an analog space- less technology and more time with my hands on the tools. Learning new skills and experimenting.


Over this summer break, with the incredible help of my Papa, we’ve managed to carve out and purpose design two spaces. One for the mahi of Aho- the business brain and execution. Systems, Processes, Inventory, Packing and Shipping. And the other, a creative studio for the actual doing.

My hope is that by separating the spaces physically, it might be a cue for my brain to flip between.

Now there is home- the place for our whānau life. There’s the Aho Studio- where the mahi happens, and this little sleepout affectionately dubbed ‘Kāinga iti’, where process reigns and creativity flows.

Systems and order in our Aho Studio

A more organic, analog vibe in the creative space with room for sewing, printmaking, sketching and musing.

I’ll let you know if it works, but would also love to hear your tips and experiences. Is it even possible to switch between? How do you do it?