Thursday, June 1, 2017

Authenticity in a creative business - Keeping it your style

I had a few pieces lately that totally reminded me to just do my own thing. I think it's really important in a creative business to develop your own style and hone it until it is recognisable. 

To create a brand. 
To be authentic.

 I know that I have generally done this with my painted furniture but every now and then you get swayed and do something a little different, something not quite your own style, something quick and easy and often that really doesn't work out for you. 

The first piece recently was a little French style chair I painted and upholstered. I used some designer fabric I had been given and to be honest it's not a design I ever would have bought. I didn't love the fabric but it was free and on hand and meant I could get the job done quickly and the chair up for sale. The chair not only remained unsold but I literally got 11 likes for it on facebook. It sat for weeks unsold. Then a customer asked me about it and said could I recover it for her. I said yes and I showed her some lovely blue vintage ticking that I had in my stash. 

The ticking was part of a huge load of fabrics I had inherited from my mum. She was a great seamstress and quilter. It is very difficult these days to find blue ticking but I had the perfect amount for the seat pad of the chair. I recovered the seat (an easy job as it is a drop in seat) and Kristen and George picked it up and absolutely loved it. It seemed that everyone else did also as I had 146 likes on facebook and 108 likes on instagram. The same chair but much more my style - it just goes to show that the reason people follow you and buy your pieces is that they like your style. A good reminder for me to keep only painting pieces I would have in my own house. Have you found the same in your creative business? It really is all about authenticity.

Below is the chair that didn't sell. I think it's lovely but not 100% my style. On the other hand Phil hates this floral fabric and says it looks like an old grandma's fabric and no wonder it didn't sell. LOL.

The other lesson in authenticity I had this week is about remaining true to what you love and not worrying if other people says it is out of fashion. I really love vintage mannequins and have a lovely one in the corner of my lounge room. It fills up an otherwise empty corner and I love the old faded fabric on it and the wooden neck piece. 

I often see these mannequins for sale but a friend of mine who owns a french style shop always tells me they no longer sell and they aren't popular anymore. So I always pass on them. This week I found the mannequin below and it was in such lovely condition and stamped and a good price so I decided to fly in the face of my friends advice and I bought it. No problem if it didn't sell as I would have been more than happy to keep it. Of course, it sold immediately on my pages with several people asking for it. It goes to show that what doesn't sell for one person doesn't mean it won't sell to your customers. This mannequin in one I would have happily kept and I truly love it, and, of course, so did my customers.

Mannequin -now sold
So here are a couple of my thoughts about authenticity in a creative business. 

Be real and true to your style. Don't go for fads or just what you think will sell quickly. It doesn't work like that and you lose your brand and reputation.

Share your true talents, be generous and share your love of your products. People will connect with your passion. If they don't, then no problem, they aren't your customers anyway.

A sale to people who love what you do is always better and easier than a hard sale to someone who doesn't "get you" or love what you do. You may need to wait for the right customer to come along. The people who barter and push you down on price and give you a hard time aren't your true customers.

By being authentic to what you love, you will discover your niche and develop a true following of very supportive and loyal customers. It takes consistent effort and lots of time, often years and years, but it makes being in business very rewarding. 

You will gain respect and be trusted. I have had so many customers say to me what do you think of this piece Fiona, I trust you, does it suit my house, is it worth buying, etc. By being authentic, people will rely on your advice. I never go for a quick sale and I know my customers appreciate that. I will forgo the sale if I don't think it's in my customers best interest. You will always find a buyer for your work, and the person you told the truth to and said no it won't suit your house or won't suit you, even though they may not have bought from you on that occasion will remember your honesty and will become a supporter and a customer eventually.

Everything and everyone, including you, has a story. These days people can purchase product from anyone and anywhere. Product no matter what is so readily available. What people want these days is a story. Something meaningful. Something to connect with. Customers will connect with you and support your business if they know and resonate with your story...and the story behind your painted pieces. One reason people buy vintage furniture is that they love the history behind the piece.

To grow your business in a sustainable way, you need authenticity. With authenticity, you will be able to talk about your products and your business from your heart. With PASSION. This saves you from being too salesy and pushy.

This above all, to thine own self be true.
- Shakespeare

(My mother's favourite quote, she was always drumming that into our heads)

I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Fiona xx


  1. Loved this post Fiona, you are spot on with what you said and sometimes I have to remind myself to be true to my style. I love the chair with the ticking so much nicer than the floral and I too have a mannequin in my home similar to yours. I had been looking for one for ages and was really excited when I found one. My taste is a mixture of shabby French & vintage and opened a store not long ago in Mittagong NSW called Shabby French & Vintage and sometimes I'd wonder if I went in the right direction by following my passion but when I speak to customers who walk in and love my store I know I'm on the right path. I can so totally relate to your post today. I also just want to say I love all your furniture projects and advice on painting. take care xx

    1. thanks so much Marion. I will have to pop into your shop next time i am down that way. Your style sounds LOVELY :)

  2. Hi Fiona, I totally agree with you when I read your blog, People rely on good advice from people they trust, It is very refreshing to hear how you feel.I think when you hold such lovely values, it takes you down a wonderful path in life.Best Wishes ps I loved the chair with the stripes as well.Janelle

    1. Thanks Janelle - I have been so blessed with this business and all the lovely supporters of it.
      How good is vintage ticking :)

  3. Hi Fiona
    Fabulous and spot on, absolutely agree, people have an instinct for what's real or fake.

    1. Thanks Maria, I always wear my heart on my sleeve - sometimes that’s a bad thing but generally good. Hope you have a lovely day xx

  4. Very true, Fiona. That is why you have been so successful and why you have such a huge following.
    I look at other people's furniture up for sale and I wonder about the quality of the painting. I know yours is always beautifully finished.
    Regards Robyn

    1. Thanks Robyn, much appreciated. I am so grateful for all the lovely people supporting my business. Makes it so rewarding.
      Have a lovely day xx


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