Learn To Bead

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Posts Tagged ‘micro loans’

Finding A Job That Utilizes Your Bead Experience

Posted by learntobead on December 25, 2009


Times are tough — particular for craft artists — as opportunities to teach or sell their crafts diminish with the recession, and are slow to come back with an economic recovery.

This is especially true for students graduating with art or fiber arts or other related degrees with a craft specialty, including beadwork.      In this environment, while there may be shortages of more obvious jobs — like instructor or jewelry artist/apprentice, this are still many job and career opportunities for you.   

You may have to do a little more leg work, and a little more tree-shaking.   Don’t assume, however, when the linear pathway is blocked, that all pathways are blocked.   They are not.

Some types of jobs/careers that might use your talents…..

There are a lot of private companies, nonprofit agencies, government agencies, and foundations and philanthropic agencies that work with disadvantaged groups, and need people to provide technical assistance to these groups.   These groups might be inner city.   They might be rural.   They might be overseas.   

Very often, projects these businesses and organizations work on have a craft-angle to them.    They may need people to teach crafts, to teach people to transfer their craft skills into marketable skills, or to assist people in applying for loans to start up businesses, usually small loans and usually things associated with selling crafts.

Banks have found it profitable to make “micro-loans”.  These loans are very small amounts, and usually given to women in developing countries, to help them leverage their skills — often craft skills — to make a business out of them.   Banks need personel to
– develop loan forms, documentation and procedures
– find opportunities for making these loans
– working with people to teach them how to apply for these loans
– working with people to teach them how to be more accountable with loan moneys
– working with people to teach them how to translate their craft skills into marketable skills (called transfer of technology).     Often this means helping them find resources to get materials, make choices about materials and what would be most cost-effective, and how to market their products
– working with people to find markets for, and otherwise promote, their products
– helping people form cooperatives so that they can buy materials more cheaply, and sell and market their products cooperatively

Government and International Agencies need people to….
– determine where — what communties, what demographics — they can most likely leverage local talents to better people’s lives.     Crafts, particularly beading, provide very useful talents around which to leverage
– evaluate local technologies — and these include all craft technologies — in terms of readiness and/or capability for cost-effective technology transfer.
– do some community organizing to make local people aware of governmental assistance (or other assistance), and to help them complete applications for this assistance
– evaluate these kinds of programs to determine success, and make recommendations about how to increase these successes
– document craft technologies, particularly among native, tribal, or isolated groups that are in danger of becoming extinct.
– similarly, to create ways to preserve craft technologies which are in danger of becoming extinct, or which became extinct a long time ago, and which be restored.     A good example is how South Korea restored the art of celadon pottery making, or China’s work at preserving Yixing Tea Pot making.

Military Agencies do similar things as governmental ones, except from a slightly different perspective.     They want to know, in an anthropological sense, how people value different local technologies — including craft technologies –, and which ones can military and related civilian advisors assist the locals with, to improve their economy and security.

Philanthropic Foundations have many missions.   One mission is to improve and secure the health, welfare, and social economy of particular areas or population groups.    Crafts are one way of accomplishing this, particularly if working with disadvantaged populations or areas.   

Crafts are things people do all the time, that are attractive as products (and services if you are teaching), improve the quality of life, and form the roots of good businesses — especially start-ups.

Another mission of Philanthropic organizations is to pre-test different strategies for social and economic development.      Again crafts, and beads especially, can form the basis of many strategies for business development, empowerment of minorities and women, assistance for the elderly, technology transfer, and the like.

Philanthropic organizations need people who can…
– develop grants, rules and applications
– find community organizations to apply for these grants
– evaluate the success of grants
– work with academics and consultant experts to generate experimental ideas to be tested through grants
– work with local, state and national government agencies to find cost-sharing ways of testing out these “ideas”
– in similar way, find and negotiate public-private partnerships towards this end

Information technology companies, with Google a prime example, are in the business of translating reality into tables of data that can easily be accessed and assessed.     These types of companies need people who can
– translate craft terms and activities into categories for which data can be consistently collected, organized, stored and analyzed
– work with museums and galleries which buy, own, exhibit, store or display crafts, to develop ways to collect and categorize routine data on these collections and their importance to different types of people and groups
– sell the use of these craft-specific databases to companies or individuals that will use them
– work with craft magazines, museums, schools, galleries and the like to help standardize some of the terminologies and valuations associated with various crafts, to make it easier to collect and sort data about them

Museums, Galleries and Libraries employ craft artists to…
– catalog collections
– document quality of items
– restore aged or otherwise damaged pieces
– write brochures and promotional materials
– organize exhibits
– raise funds for exhibits
– advocate for funds among government agencies and philanthropic groups
– organize a “crafts” section where none has existed before
– promote fine crafts
– organize a craft show to raise money and/or awareness

Many museums, galleries and libraries have tons of things in storage that have only loosely been documented, and need much more documentation and organization.

Non-Profit Groups employ all kinds of people with all kinds  of backgrounds.    They always need help with many fund-raising or program-targeting things.   Your craft knowledge can play a very useful role here.

For example, take your local breast cancer society.     Think of all the kinds of craft-type things you can make, and for which they can sell, to raise money.   You could organize a craft braintrust among your friends, and turn out item after item with breast cancer awareness themes and colors.   Or you could scour the internet for breast cancer awareness craft items, and make them work for you.    And you could repeat this success for many other local nonprofit groups.   

One of my friends went to the Atlanta Gift Show, and identified vendors that had products that could easily be adapted for breast cancer awareness.   She worked out with each one what the minimum orders would be, how much lead time would be needed between placing and order and receiving the merchandise, and price.     Then she went to local breast cancer groups and presented them with the options.   She added 15% to the prices as her commission.    These organizations fund raise all the time, and are in major need of new things to sell and promote.    My friend had to lay out very little money — basically the cost of a trip to Atlanta, some phone calls and paperwork — and generated a very lucrative business for herself.

I remember spending some time in Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital in New York City.  This hospital specializes in cancer treatment.    I was observing patient activities.  One of these activities involved volunteers pushing a cart around with various craft activites for patients to do.  

Most of the patients in the rooms in the Ward I was on could barely move their bodies, arms and hands.    They were very medicated, and had many needles and IV’s stuck into them during their stay.    All the craft projects on these carts required considerable manual dexterity — knitting, beading with seed beads, crocheting.      The volunteers would cheerily come into the room, announce themselves, and ask if the patient wanted any of these fun crafts to do.   The patients would shake their heads No, and grunt.   The patiens could barely move.    And the volunteers left the room, unconcerned.

I took a trip to FAO Schwartz — the toy store — and came back with sets of interlocking building blocks.   The blocks were made from differnt colors of plastic.  They were different shapes.   A patient could easily hold one or two pieces in their hands without requiring much manual dexterity.   The pieces fit together easily by interlocking two pieces, where a slot had been cut out in each.   These were a big hit on the Ward.    They allowed creativity, without much manual dexterity.   The pieces were large enough, that the patient could manipulate them with their hands, and not worry about losing any, if they dropped to the floor.   

While a hit with the patients, my new blocks were not a hit with the volunteers.  I guess they were afraid they would somehow lose their volunteer positions.    But I’m sure I could have marketed and sold them to the hospital, had I stepped out of my academic role at the time.     

Another company found a good opportunity in a hospital setting with children.    The company developed a system using different color beads, which could help children with various symptoms, but similar disease, to better relate to each other, and the future.    Again, another idea using crafts in an atypical context.

In hospitals and health care settings, I’ve helped create programs to assist occupational therapists with improving manual dexterity with the elderly, therapists with improving attention spans with children, conducting memory agility tests with patients, and many more programs, utilizing crafts materials and technics.

There are plenty of social and community problems to solve, many different kinds of businesses and organizations responsible for solving these problems, and many solutions which require crafts — materials or technologies which are workable, do-able, saleable, and implementable.       There most likely won’t be advertised positions for these kinds of things.    But you would be surprised how easy it can be to create your own job opportunities and ones which utilize your craft experiences and knowledge.

Be sure to…

1. Be able to clearly define how your craft knowledge/experience can help your prospective employer solve some of her/his (NOT YOUR) problematic situations.

2. Approach the prospective employer by phone or in person first.   Then follow-up with a resume and cover letter.     Don’t assume that, because you can make the intellectual link between job and solution, that the employer will see this link when reading a resume.   You’ll probably have to educate the employer a bit.       This really doesn’t take much effort.  

3.  Cite examples of what kinds of things you can do.   If you can identify other programs or individuals with success stories, do so. 

4.   If you make your “job search” also a “mission to educate people about crafts”, you’ll be surprised how much energy and excitement you bring to the job interview situation.

– Warren

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