Monday, May 23, 2011

branding an identity

I've been thinking lately about this thing called 'branding'. As an artist, I am the brand. But I am also an actual, real, dynamic human being. There are REAL people behind every brand, but I think small creative businesses like mine have a particularly difficult time dealing with branding themselves. How do I deal with the idea of brand consistency as a real person, when the only constant aspect of a person is the constant state of change? Can I be consistent and dynamic at the same time? What parts of my 'brand' should remain consistent and what parts should grow and change as I do?

In case any of you had ever wondered, this may be the right time to share... eels is actually my nick name. My very best friends call me eels. It was coined years ago by Bernadette (@bmtrainor) when we were both studying at Enmore. There's no crazy story, it just comes from my name, Tenille. (not One-eel, Ten-eels..?) I actually didn't like the nick name at first, but it grew on me. And now I love it. It also relates in a quirky kind of way to the ocean and scrimshaw. Because I have lots of different elements to my design and art practice, I wanted my scrimshaw jewellery to have a very clear identity. I like to use my full name for exhibition work, events and other jewellery work that isn't scrimshaw.

All of my work IS ME. So branding my business and my work means that I am branding my own identity. This is a troublesome idea for me. Those that know me well know that I can be flippant, flighty and easily distracted. I am constantly growing, changing and evolving as a person, so how do I resolve this within the context of a consistent 'brand'?

Lately I am thinking that the only option is to embrace it! To accept that many things will change, but there are things that will remain strong and provide solid grounding for my identity and the identity of my brand.

What will remain constistent? ...My voice, my values, my ethics, my true imperfect growing self. My resolve to make amazing and meaningful work; whatever that may mean. My commitment to making individual and unique work of a high quality. By accepting these things as constant, I am able to accept the things that will change.

What will change?  ...My work. Hopefully it will get better and better! It may change dramatically over the years, but this is ok with me! My appearance, I will get older and more wrinkled. Haha! My perspective, I will grow and mature and that will impact on my brand and my work. My work is made by me and is influenced at every stage by me and my life.

What does this mean? ...I think that by embracing the reality of change, I will be more likely to be honest and take risks. This can only be a good thing! In the past, I have delayed 'making a move' until I was absolutely certain. Delayed launching a website, product, talking about an idea... etc until I was sure it was perfect. I now embrace the perfection of growth and resolve to put it all out there during the process.

What are your thoughts on branding a personal identity as an artist or in small business? What are the constants for you? and what do you allow to change and grow? I'd love to hear your comments below, or chat with me on twitter! @eelsjewellery




  1. Good post. I think that change is always good and it will keep your followers guessing. I see that you already have a strong correlation with all your jewelry and think that it will stay just as strong even with change in "subject matter" or style. Drastic changes and scatteredness is a turn off though. That's kind of what I had to go through. I dramatically went from drawing "gangster" type men in graphite on paper to painting women in oils on canvas. My taste changed and I hope that so will my followers (if any) so that they will appreciate what currently inspires me. Eventually the people that like that style/subject will find you. After all, it would be no fun to be stuck doing something that was just a phase.

  2. Glad you can relate! As artists, we are trying to "sell" pieces of ourselves. I think the people that relate to us and buy our stuff and 'follow' us probably enjoy the journey as much as we do! At least, I hope so! :) I certainly enjoy seeing an artist or designer grow and change. Particularly if that growth is positive. BUT... there will always be those "I like their old stuff better than their new stuff" people too.

  3. You take the words right of my mouth, or actually, my mind :) I had an idea and a certain style when I started my jewellery business, but as you point out, people change constantly and so did my style. I do not mind at all, because every piece I make is a bit more "me" than the one before, like a process of self discovery even, but it did leave me wondering if my current branding still fits. A big change I made is stepping forward myself (through twitter and a blog) and actually becoming the brand. I think if you're being yourself and let that shine through, you can never go wrong.
    You did inspire me to write down my constants and changes, so I'm off to do that now. Thanks!

  4. "every piece I make is a bit more "me" than the one before" -- I love this! Thanks Inge! Your blog and etsy shop certainly are beautifully branded and I can definitely see your personality shining through your work. I'd say that means you're getting it right! :D