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  • Writer's pictureGina Ferrari

Creating Our Brand

For various reasons this week week I’ve been thinking a lot about brand and identity. Mostly there have been many jumbled thoughts and as I have tried to write a blogpost and put my thoughts down into some coherent order it has caused me hours of editing, rewriting and a little bit of swearing! What follows may or may not make sense!

The week started with Izzy and I recording the latest podcast episode of Izzy and Gina in Stitches where we talked about brand, what did we even mean by the word brand and as artists do we have a brand or do we even need one? I mean it’s not like we’re a tin of baked beans is it?

The definition of brand is a product, service or concept that can be distinguished from other products, services or concepts so that it can be easily communicated and marketed. But I’m not a product, a service or a concept so how as an artist can I have a brand? But having a brand is what identifies us and makes us unique and different from everyone else so maybe as artists we do have a brand after all . It is the perception of our identity. It is how others perceive us, so maybe we should be thinking about the story we want to tell and the image we wish to convey to the world

Obviously, a name, a logo or a set of colours can be part of our brand, but it is so much more than a tin of beans with a turquoise label. It is our entire story. So equally important for me is how I communicate with my customers, how I deal with questions or enquiries and how I write about my art. It is much broader than just my art or what I do, it is who I am.

I don’t think I have ever consciously thought about this before and I have never set out to create a brand or manufacture an image. What has always been important for me is to be true to myself and give an authentic picture of who I am. I think I am conscientious and kind and hopefully I don’t take myself too seriously whilst at the same time taking my art and teaching very seriously.

But over the past couple of years, I have felt that my ‘brand’ or perceived identity has become muddled and I’m not sure if it is me who has muddied those waters or it is more about the expectations of others.

As a child I drew constantly yet despite early dreams of pursuing a career in art and of becoming an artist, it was never to be. Somehow, I also had a knack for solving algebraic equations and found myself doing maths, although funnily enough it was the geometric drawings and model making that I really loved. I trained as a maths teacher and taught in secondary school, later doing some primary teaching but always drawing and painting as a hobby whenever I could.

It was only after taking a City & Guilds in machine embroidery that I channelled that desire to make art into a career in textiles. I began to teach embroidery and textile art in adult education. With hard work over a period of more than twenty years, I built a reputation as a textile artist, exhibiting and selling textile art as well as teaching. I loved teaching and enabling others to reach their creative potential, and I loved the textiles too but for me they were just another way of making art. The sewing machine was my pencil and the fabrics and threads were my paints.

But maybe after more than twenty years it all was all becoming too predictable. I had mastered my craft and mostly could control the outcome. I knew which fabrics would and wouldn’t work and it felt safe. If I’m completely honest I was becoming bored. And although I still loved teaching, feeling bored with what I was teaching didn’t seem fair on my students. My enthusiasm for my subject matter was definitely waning.

Although I could never have predicted it, moving house, which meant access to my supplies was restricted, followed by the pandemic which put a sudden stop to my face to face teaching, gave me time to face the fact that I was no longer feeling happy with what I was doing. With so much more time on my hands I started to paint again and I realised that this is what I had always wanted to do since right back in those schooldays when I dreamed of being an artist. It had always been part of my identity and for me it had always been my brand.

This is me!

Over the past couple of years, I have done more and more painting and I know this is what I want to be doing but it has been so hard to wrestle myself away from that label ‘textile artist’. It has felt like a tug of war at times. It’s not that I never want to work with textiles again but more that I would like to be known as an artist who works with a variety of media. I have gradually shifted my teaching, so I no longer just teach just embroidery and there is always an element of painting or drawing in my classes. I still get asked to teach machine embroidery and I am learning to say no. But it’s hard.

People who know me and know my work tell me it’s a shame. They tell me I’m good at what I do but who does it serve if I continue to do something that doesn’t excite me? I need to feel that excitement for myself, I need to feel that passion because only when I feel that, can I hope to inspire it in others. Being good at something is not a reason for continuing to do it. It can be hard not to be influenced by the opinion and judgement of others, but I need to listen to my own voice, not to the voice of people who don’t really know me. It’s time to follow the riskier, yet more exciting path. Whilst this might feel like reinventing myself, I only see it as a continuation and development of who I am and who I have always been. Only I can know what excites me, what motivates me and what truly satisfies me. And when I’m true to myself hopefully that will once again excite and inspire others.

We all need to continue to explore, to take risks, to step away from our comfort zone and try different things because only then do we learn and discover the unexpected. It might mean that my audience deserts me because they no longer identify with my ‘brand’ and possibly I will have to build a new audience but again that is a risk I am willing to take. Are you staying with me? As always I would love to know your thoughts.

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