There are some who feel burdened when another artist comes into the picture. Although I understand the hesitance of a potential competitor coming into the mix, there is an opportunity to grow as an artist, as an individual and create long lasting connections that only enhance one’s self worth. This does not come without experience. I have been through the rough waters of finding ways around business, wondering if my already small market would become over saturated with artists. Fortunately, I have since then come to the conclusion that there is room enough, there is always room enough, for art to grow. This idea hit home even more when I recently met with two amazing artists in San Diego, California, Gopi Henna and Henna Trendz. Both showed their love of working together, both highlighted the importance of artistic networking, and both treated me to their best character.
I was left feeling enriched and craving for such a connection close to home. It was then that I began to feel for those who forgo all chances of developing a professional relationship; they are those who have truly done a disservice to themselves. (Some of the wisdom Gopi Henna shared with me are available for your viewing pleasure in the two-part video series on Henna Fixatin’s YouTube channel.)
If you find yourself being touched with uncertainty when the news of another artist in town hits you late at night, let the following bring you peace and a call to action:
- See Potential: The first thing anyone does when such news knocks on the door is to check out the newcomer. In the days of social media, everything can be accessed – website, Facebook page, Instagram pages and the likes, nothing is hidden. What does s/he do?, Where does s/he do it?, and perhaps more importantly, Is s/he good at what s/he does? There is no harm in finding out the abilities of the newcomer, but the harm comes when you start to find limitations in their art by comparing your strength to their weaknesses. See their potential. What are the ways in which their art is speaking to you – where is it that they have created something you would never have created due to it being genuine. Once you begin to see their work as being a creation, a piece of art, then you can change your mindset and start seeing them as a fellow artist to be admired rather than a competitor to be feared.
- Approach Carefully: Now that you’ve made the plunge into seeing them as an artist, begin to find ways to approach them. Your approach can make or break the deal. If your approach seems condescending, then the response will be equally condescending. But if your approach is coming from a place of friendship, comradrie and understanding of their professional ambitions, then it has a chance of being respected and admired. As I mentioned before, evaluate where your approach is coming from. If you have seen their potential then surely you have arrived at the conclusion that this person will enhance your life – whether personally or professionally. A few meetings with another artist can jumpstart your art to go towards another skillful degree.
- Host a Meeting: If your approach was thoughtful, then you have managed to start a rapport with the artist. They have begun to see you as a person worth knowing through the messages and/or emails, and if you really hit it well, then through text messages. Don’t stop there! Host the first meeting. Be the first person to meet them where you feel comfortable. Again, check your intentions for holding this meeting – Are you looking for a fellow artist-friend or are you still eyeing them as a competitor? In the meeting, outline your expectations, share your view of this relationship, and lay the groundwork for a successful professional attitude. In doing so, you might be surprised to hear their fears and their concerns, you might confirm their potential or see their pitfalls, you might see a dear friend or someone with an opposing view. What I mean to say is: Keep your options open. Do not cower in uncertainty, wondering if your business is about to be cut in half, but view this meeting as a way to meet someone with good intentions and getting to know that someone as an individual.
The Positive Scenario
Congratulations, you have found your soulmate! I digress, but it might feel just like that you did. Sometimes those who share the same loves as yours, as in henna in this case, come across as being long lost souls from a different era finally meeting after years of painful separation. This is when things get exciting. You can began to dream – dare I say plan, or am I moving too fast? – to work on projects together, hold henna sessions for eachother, conduct workshops, and even do events together. A business relationship with terms laid out beforehand leads to a very effective event. And finally, for those times where you have had to cancel appearances due to illness or have had to decline your services due to unavailability, there is someone else who can pickup where you have fallen short. This scenario is ideal and it does happen more often than not.
The Negative Scenario
When the meeting reveals a sinister news, there still is hope. During the meeting, you learned they were not coming from the same place of friendship, that in fact, it was them who came across as “scouting the competition.” Is it in your best interest to maintain this relationship? Yes! It is up to you to plant a seed for the future. A professional relationship is not built on sharing trade secrets and future plans, but it is built on seeds of confidence. It is in your best interest to keep in touch, even if with just a cursory greeting, so that room to cultivate the community together is always open. A person who is approaching you with a malicious intention simply means that they have not reached artistic maturity. Once they do, you will only be seen as a respected individual in their journey. What if they never reach that maturity? Then you are not to blame and there is no need to go further than cursory greetings as a professional courtesy.
It goes without saying that you must strive to maintain that relationship. If you are anything like most henna artists I have met, we find ourselves lost in our bubble with our art being the topic of conversation rather than ourselves. Getting out of your comfort zone is essential for you to reach new professional heights and, as a bonus, create a persona that reflects your presence in and out of professional setups.
May this be a way forward.
Peace, Love, & Henna