Dolly Henry is a sewing and design blog for the creative wanderer, where style meets play and making is a lifestyle.

Hi, I'm Megan - owner, designer and writer at Dolly Henry! Join me here as I explore the ins and outs of creativity, dabble in dollmaking and raise my voice on issues facing creative entrepreneurs.

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Thoughts on Creative Community

There is a lot of talk about community online these days. From businesses and brands urging you to come and join their community on social media, or in the creation of new websites or apps specifically for makers. At the heart of it, you can be sure there is a mention of a 'community' and the offer for you not only be a customer but to be part of building a new company or product.

I guess that is the really cool thing about the internet - we can share, exchange and connect with others on a global scale and this can eventually lead to micro-communities - groups of people with something in common, invited to actively participate in growing a business while building relationships with other customers.

While you can certainly foster a community, and offer this to your audience, I believe there is more to it than simply joining a newsletter or using a common hashtag. For me, community happens almost organically, and they spring up when we are open, giving and authentic.

Photo by Amy Shamblen on Unsplash

I have always wanted to create a community within Dolly Henry, I have been unable to define what that means precisely in myself. I don't simply want to bandy the word around like another piece of modern 'snap of the fingers' smart marketing dribble that doesn't mean a great deal. An unofficial rule of mine - if your Mother or Grandmother doesn't quite know what you are talking about, re-explain. There is no need to complicate everything all the time by making ordinary things sound 'deeply profound'....

Apologies if that sounds harsh, it's just that I have spent the last couple of days watching a new platform launch, with all the promise of community for it's makers, without seeing the vital essence or spirit that is needed to truly create an engaged and excited community.

A community is not a fan-base that you can curate on an app, herd into a Facebook group or collect in a bundle of Instagram hashtags. Those things can help facilitate a connection between like-minded individuals, acting as the bridge that often spans the gap of different time zones, languages and cultures.

A community comes when you cultivate an environment that allows the members of your audience to develop relationships with each other. Think about your brand or business as a cafe, a place where people can meet. You have created a space where like-minded people can connect, which encourages community. But the cafe cannot sell or offer 'community' with your coffee and cake - it is in the spirit and nature of the customers to decide whether they wish to form relationships within the cafe.

I love the opportunity the online sphere has given me for meeting like-minded people. It is easy to feel isolated in your location in a time where not quite as many people enjoy making things, and it can be hard to find your tribe without the connection tools of social media.

The ultimate extension of all this online connection, is facilitating events or meetings where you can get together in person, or if distance is a problem, the sending of an actual paper letter or swapping craft supplies in the mail. That feels a little like community to me.

Sharing information, exchanging ideas, inspiring each other and developing relationships with people you have something in common with. It's not fancy, it's not something that you can tap into by simply joining a newsletter list or slapping a hashtag on your latest post. It comes from positive and active communication, one on one with others - whether in messages, comments, emails or snail mail. It comes from taking the time to get to know people and form relationships. All these things gradually and slowly build up and create a sense of community.

Your friendships within an online community do not have to be deep and meaningful, they can be built solely upon your shared love of a craft. However, that feeling of connection and being able to honestly relate with someone else who just GETS IT is powerful. It is encouraging, inspiring and it motivates us to go forward and create.

A couple of years ago, another maker and blogger reached out to organise creating a quilt for another lady in the creative community who was having a tough time. It was amazing being able to help make that happen, barely knowing the other women involved or even the recipient yet we had been brought together purely because we had sewing in common. As a group, we were able to complete a pretty big project, enabled by the creation of community through social media (and the postal service...quilt blocks flying here and there across the country!)

A lot of makers I know that are helping to create micro-communities within their business or blog are going about it quietly, and are most likely unaware of the value they have given the people that follow their work.

Whether it is by hosting a swap, a sew-a-long or a knit-a-long, writing blog posts, organising collaborative projects, inviting discussion on important craft topics, encouraging creativity, creating online magazines with a view to connect makers with each other and the most important of all - listening to what their customers/readers/followers have to say.

To those quietly going about their business, creating space for others to participate in positive and inspiring environments - thank you. You are the ones who are truly making a difference and creating communities. You don't have to be big, or fancy, or have 50k Instagram followers or be up on all the latest whiz-bang marketing lingo, but your kindness and authenticity shine out over that every. single. time.

Megan x

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  1. I must say I do so love the 'simple living' community online. I find it a gentle and encouraging place to be. Very few judgmental words are spoken, infact the kind comments between bloggers is a refreshing lift. I am lucky enough to have made some wonderful friends through blogging, whom I deeply value.

    I totally get what you mean by places or areas online lacking spirit. I don't know how you make it - but I do know it when I see it!

    I love your story about the quilt. So beautiful. I once received a beautiful Christmas fruit cake in the mail after having a new baby, and life becoming a bit wobbly. I was so deeply touched it brought tears to my eyes. I was able to send her a little super hero Waldorf doll I made to cheer her up after she was having a really hard time battling health problems. These things were unknown to others apart from us. She has since sadly passed away, but her online presence and encouragement gave so much to so many.


  2. That is a beautiful story Emma, thank you for sharing it with me. I have received surprise packages like that too, and when they have come at a time when things were a bit hard, it has meant so much. There is something so special in a handmade or home cooked gift - a little bit of extra love must go into the creation and I do believe you can feel the spirit or intention in the way something was made. It's not tangible but it's definitely there.

    Finding a positive, calm space online can sometimes be tricky, but I often find it in blogging communities - it makes a refreshing change to the calamity and chaos often discussed on social media, which does have a place I am sure, it's just nice to be able to step out of it when you want to as well!

    Megan x


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