When we're explaining what it is we do, we say we are makers, or more specifically, papermakers. In Portland there is a thriving, dynamic group of makers who create all types of goods. There's even a retail store devoted to local makers and a membership group that highlights businesses and offers member events. The media is also noticing the growth of the local maker community, and we were recently featured on a local news segment focusing on different types of makers with KGW's Tracy Barry. It can be easy to take for granted that if you create something, you're a maker. But what does it really mean to fit into this category that is more readily synonymous with the tech world and 3D printers? When you're operating a business being a maker is mainly tied up with being a producer of goods.
As the days grow shorter and the consumer machine that is the holiday season kicks in, we've been thinking about the types of things we make, and why we make them. Jenn recently attended the WeMake Celebrates Conference as a volunteer, and was truly inspired by the speakers, demos and panel discussions. Hearing about the struggles and triumphs of small business owners, illustrators, art directors, photographers, and others can help you feel like you are part of a larger creative community in which there are relatable stories.
For a long time we've felt a tug-of-war with the desire to explore and create, and share our material explorations with others, without adding more stuff to the glut of objects in the world. This is one of the big reasons we focus on using recycled and locally sourced materials for our products. The problem of course is that in order to be a sustainable business, financially speaking, we need to make, and more importantly sell, a good amount of things. So yes, we feel good about our materials, and that we are physically making the goods, and that when people buy our goods they are supporting our local economy. However, there is always a push to make more things in order to make more money. How do we balance out economic realities with our core business and personal values?
One of the suggestions we've been hearing a lot lately is that if artists and makers increase the quality and craftsmanship of their products that they can price their work at higher levels and therefore make more money while making less stuff. In theory, we absolutely agree with this concept. The main snag is if you want to make well crafted work and still have it be affordable to a large and diverse audience. Making luxury goods can indeed make you money, but if you're hoping to fuel the democratization of consumption (like we are) we don't necessarily want to focus on making big ticket goods.
When we were initially putting together our business plan one of the things we were told was that you are not necessarily your customer. So we imagined our ideal customer as an eco-conscious consumer with disposable income. And that has been going okay for the most part. But the feeling of wanting to make our products affordable for our friends, neighbors and community in general is one we've kept coming back to. We're still working on balancing out what we make, and how much it should cost. And of course a lot of the same feelings we have about wanting to keep our products affordable applies to our workshops and classes too.
All of this to say that while it's easy to say you're a maker of things, it can be challenging to be a seller of them. We'll keep questioning what we're doing, how we're doing it, and why we're doing it. And while we grow and evolve we'd love to get your feedback as fellow makers and consumers. Why do you think it's important to make things? Why do you buy things from makers?
Pulp & Deckle is a handmade papermaking studio located in Portland, OR.