Am I A Dabbler

“Help, My Husband Says I’m A Dabbler!”

"Do I love making too much?"

Dear Clare,

My husband says I’m a dabbler. My main business is selling ceramic jewellery on Etsy but I also have smaller Etsy shops for stained glass and stationery.

I’m interested in selling to shops and he says that’s yet another business and I need to pick something and stick to it. The jewellery is my biggest earner but I love making my other products too. But I have too many interests. My husband says if I concentrate on one discipline, I’ll have lower material costs and more time to put into the jewellery business.

I have a lot of family responsibilities (2 kids under 8, one with type 1 diabetes) and I’m phobic about letting people down. I’ve baked fairy cakes at 1am for my friend’s son to take to school, FFS. If you need something I am there in a heartbeat.

So in the small bits of time I have to make, I have this feeling of it being “me time.” Which means I get to make what I want. Sometimes it’s jewellery, sometimes it’s cards or glass. Or I go on a spree where I make 10 new earring designs, then I don’t touch them for months. Etsy orders go out and I keep all three businesses running but there’s no routine.

I’m the only “creative” person in my family. Everyone else has normal 9-5 jobs, including my husband, in normal fields. Sometimes I feel like an overgrown child, still playing with the crayons and paints and glitter when the time for that is past.

Am I a hopeless dabbler?


Dear Chris,

Nah, you don’t have dabbling problem.

Magic is spilling out of you in all directions AND YOU’RE NOT TAKING IT SERIOUSLY.

That’s the problem.

When you have an abundance of creative energy, interests and abilities, you can end up going through life in an apologetic half-crouch. At some point in your adolescence you were supposed to pick The One Thing to do in life, but you picked enough to fill a wheelbarrow.

It’s embarrassing.

I’ve been embarrassed like that. I still am, sometimes – usually when talking to my accountant.

I’m an actor, a shopkeeper, I teach makers how to sell to shops, I teach kids drama and I’m helping set up a theatre company. What do you even call someone who does all that?

Because there’s supposed to be a name for what we do.

Part of picking The One Thing when you’re seventeen is that you receive a role to inhabit.

Zumba instructor. Quantity surveyor. Chef.

Having a job title marks you out as an adult to others and yourself.

Creative people often don’t have a title that sums up their working lives, beyond the generic “artist,” so the world treats us like embarrassing babies.

But nuts to that because your creative abundance is a miracle.

You’ve been conditioned to insult yourself about it, and you’ve spent years absorbing insults from others, but it’s the power source that allows you to take care of your family, run three businesses and bake fairy cakes at 1am.

What an extraordinary success story you are.

And you know what else is rare and beautiful?


So many people go through agony, hellfire and torture when they feel drawn to create. Maybe because they’ve been taught that misery is part of the creative process for “real” artists. They think suffering is required.

Or they’re in pain because no-one ever made them feel like they had a right to create anything, ever. So when they try, they feel ashamed.

But the truth is right there in your email. Creating is “me time” for all of us. It’s when we’re most ourselves.

And you’ve not only cultivated a range of interests, but making actually makes you feel good. That’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.


As things stand, making lovely things isn’t a business for you. It’s a pressure valve.

Working on your jewellery, glass and stationery refreshes you before you turn back to all your responsibilities. That’s why you have no routine, and probably why it looks like dabbling to your husband.

It’s an escape.

Sometimes your need is great, like when you’re tired and run down, so you go on an earring bender. Sometimes you’re feeling fine and a few moments of making is enough.

And what you work on is driven by your mood. Sometimes it’s a glass day, sometimes you’re making birthday cards.

All of which is grand. Lots of people have an Etsy shop as a hobby and they work that way.

But if you want a business, you need to iterate. That requires setting time aside to work on your products, without interruption. Acting like they matter every single day.

And it means honing what you make even when you’re not in the mood.

Not because your work needs to be perfect, but because revising, polishing and stretching yourself until what you’ve made truly pleases you (and you might never fully reach that goal,) is how you serve your customers.

It’s how you serve the magic too.

Whether you ultimately pick jewellery, glass or stationery, stick with all three or start approaching stores… I’m not worried about your ability to make those decisions.

The goal for you now is to show up for your art like it’s fairy cakes for someone else’s kid.

With every warm wish for your success,


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