Friday, May 30, 2014

Why Handmade: Hobbies vs. Profession

by Lynn Mohney of Prunella’s Workshop

Those dreaded words: What a neat hobby! When you quit a full-time “real” office job complete with vacation time, a steady paycheck, and benefits to pursue a career as a professional artist, these words cut like a knife. You have either met someone who has made this assumption, or you will sometime in the future. In all fairness, if you are like me and you don’t have a storefront, your work schedule is flexible, and you can meet up for coffee whenever others are available. This can give the perception we aren't as busy as we actually are.

Illustrations for fun and Profit?

There are a number of people who have pursued similar artistic endeavors or crafts who see themselves as hobbyists. They go as far as to sell their work, sometimes in similar venues. It is not their livelihood. They do their craft for enjoyment. Those who sell their work are primarily looking for an excuse to make more. In my humble opinion, there is nothing at all wrong with that. I consider myself a hobbyist and a professional artist.

Hair Styling

What is a hobbyist? Are they less qualified to do their craft? I think not. There are exceptionally talented hobbyists out there who create amazing work. The difference lies in why they create what they do. They are creating something different for their own personal enjoyment. If your hobby stresses you out, you have to ask yourself why you do it. They can be exhilarating, and some hobbies can really get the adrenaline pumping (skydiving comes to mind.) The only expectation you need to meet is your own. If you enjoy making latch hook rugs (my father used to make them when I was a kid, but I don’t think I've seen one in years) it doesn't matter if you have no audience. If you don’t feel like it, you don’t have to do it.

Face Painting

When  you make the leap to professional, the rules change. You need to be good- no excellent- at your skill. You have to brand yourself and market your work, so you are noticed. A professional artist is trying to make part or all of their livelihood with their craft. You have a bigger audience to satisfy as well. You have to consider what sells and what lingers. Your favorite work may sit forever, while items you hate sell faster than you can make them. A hobbyist can ignore this trend, but the professional needs to take it seriously. If the muse isn't speaking, we have to trudge along lest we fall behind.

Painting a wall mural in the children's bedroom

I said I see myself as both a hobbyist and a professional artist. I have committed my work as a jewelry artist to a professional level. I invest time and money to personal education, marketing, tools, and materials, and I expect my business to pay for itself. I watch what my customers like and dislike. I strive to put out quality work in minimal time to maximize profit. I love my job. I am a very lucky woman, because I wasn't always able to say that. However, I have needs to relax and do something different for enjoyment. I write fiction which is scheduled to be published shortly, but if no one liked my stories I would still write them. I create illustrations for books through paintings and/or computer graphics. I design and sew doll clothes. My daughter will have the best dressed dolls amongst her friends, but I have made no effort to even consider selling them. These hobbies are a means to escape and relax. Sometimes I even make a piece of jewelry just for fun.

Fulfilling dreams as a costume designer/seamstress 

What are your hobbies? How do you differentiate your hobbies from your professional life?


  1. Lynn,

    I too have dealt with this hobby/job conflict. What I realized is that neither is perception is correct. I would prefer to look at my shop as a business.

    By the way, it appears that the link to your etsy store on your website is down.

  2. Marco,

    Thank you for mentioning that, I'll get right on that for her.

    Duane - PW Minion


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