When you start a business, it’s highly recommended that you write out a mission statement - its purpose and how it’s going to be done. All of the major companies have a mission statement. I hope the small businesses do as well, it’s one of the rules behind creating one. If you read any of them, they seem a bit… superficial. They say what they do, and how they’re going to make that happen, but it leaves the ultimate question: why? To some the answer might seem obvious, to make a profit. Of course every business wants to be profitable - nobody starts a business with the goal of losing money. Why? Why did they choose to start the business in the first place? Why did they pick their niche?
In the recent years, many of the greatest - in my opinion- current leaders (two that come to mind are Simon Sinek and Gary Vaynerchuk) are reinforcing what people have known for a long time - that we need to have self-awareness, that we need to know our “WHY,” why we do what we do, not just what we do and how we do it. For the longest time, I’ve been wanting to write my mission statement. I know I’ve hit upon it here and there, in emails to my husband, in comments to friends, but I have yet to sit down and actually write one out. I know in my head what I want it to be, but every time I tried to write it down, it didn’t feel right. I think it’s because I tried to follow the popular examples of other mission statements, but as I mentioned earlier - they all seem so obvious. Bland even. Not all that inspiring.
I think I finally have an idea of what I want to write, and it’s because I want to include why I’m doing this. I apologize if it turns into a bit of a novel, because it’s been pointed out to me in the past that I write a LOT. I think this is extremely important and I want to explain the reason behind my mission. Here is my why:
I want to spread a deep sense of joy and happiness.
It’s that simple. If I were to get past all the whats and the hows, that is WHY I’m doing what I do.
I am noticing a problem in our society (well, in particular American society because this is where I live), and I know I’m not alone in this. There is too much bickering, drama, negativity and disconnect. Of course some bickering is normal, we’re human and have our own needs, and when one person’s needs don’t align with another’s it happens. A lot of people aren’t truly happy. According to a report, between 1999 and 2012, the percentage of individuals on antidepressants has doubled. I’m sure it’s higher now. Don’t get me wrong, I know that depression is a serious problem and in many cases it’s due to a chemical imbalance, but I also suspect that there are plenty of cases in our quick-fix, immediate results society where people don’t want to put in the work of helping themselves that hope for a magic pill to fix everything for them. Of course there are studies that show that a lot of this has to do with being online more, having cell phones, etc. but I don’t buy that it is entirely the problem. There are plenty of people who are tech-savvy and still happy. My little immediate family is pretty tech-savvy, and it hasn’t affected our happiness. I think there’s something else, something deeper. Pointing a finger at technology is far too easy.
If you’re unhappy, if everything is just okay (but not really), I have a question: what is your outlet? Do you have something, anything, that you do on your own that brings you a sense of joy and fulfillment that doesn’t need involve other people? Yes, I’m removing “friends and family” out of the equation. What is your passion?
I’ve done a tiny survey of those who I know who express the most unhappiness and negativity, and the answer is almost every single time, “I don’t know.” When their friends are busy, when people they know are otherwise occupied, they’ve got nothing. Watching TV is not a fulfilling hobby. Their self-worth is entirely based on external factors. I think this is where social media gets blamed, because some people seek to fill that need of connection and appreciation and self-worth based on the amount of attention they receive online.
Why wasn’t this a problem years ago? My theory is because people did more with their hands. Women had quilting circles and sewing circles and knitting circles, they got together with friends to meet their needs for a sense of community, but they were making things. Men got together to build homes, make furniture, fix cars. They didn’t need to get together to make these things, they could do it on their own, and they often did so to pass the time before the advent of television and the internet. Again, I’m not blaming technology. Technology in and of itself didn’t force people to give up on hobbies.
What are among some of the most popular high-value toys that kids, generation after generation love playing with? Wood blocks, train sets, LEGOs.
What are among the most popular pins on Pinterest? DIY projects, recipes, craft tutorials.
What’s one of the first things said about people who are always getting involved in other people’s business, or a constant source of drama? “They’ve got too much time on their hands.”
Technology didn’t create this, society did. As they diminish the focus in schools on things like home-ec, arts, music, shop, fewer people are exposed to it. As they pile on homework, between that and extracurricular activities, there's no time to really focus on a craft. Those who are truly dedicated to it do continue to pass it down, but I’ve got to tell you, craft stores are nearly empty every time I go. There might be two or three shoppers, and that’s it. I know it doesn’t have to do with the timing, because the grocery store next door will be full of people. The home improvement stores parking lots are almost always full, but maybe that’s why depression is a much larger problem among women than men? Why is it that gift ideas for holidays, birthdays, father’s day is almost always “gift card to Lowe’s or Home Depot or Harbor Freight” but not for women? I’m not talking to the women here who do home improvement, I know that there are a few of us out there. I’m asking why I am not seeing craft stores mailers without signing up for it? Why am I not seeing craft store ads on TV? (Side note to the men: you also can learn crafts that don’t involve home improvement and cars. I encourage it.) Almost all of us have something our grandparents made, or our parents have it, a family heirloom. What legacy are we leaving?
What am I going to do about it? And why needle felting?
There are several answers to the question “why needle felting?”
First of all, it’s incredibly simple and works for people who are impatient. We need to break out of that immediate results mentality, but we need something to bridge the gap as we gain self-efficacy. Painting can be hard if you’ve never done it, plus it’s messy so people with little kids might be hesitant to break out the acrylics (doesn’t wash out of clothes or off furniture). And forget oils… dealing with potentially toxic chemicals, figuring out how to thin the paints, remembering fat over lean, it’s too much for a beginner. Crochet and knitting are also quite difficult. Blankets take a while to make, and most people give up after potholders. Cross stitch and blackwork may be something your grandmothers did, but for most it’s a long process. Making jewelry - now that is something that IS popular, because it’s not hard to string beads on a cord and there you go, some wearable craft. Don't get me wrong, I also enjoy doing all of those other things and have a deep appreciation for other artisans of all kinds - but you can't say those things don't take an enormous amount of time.
With needle felting, you can have a completed piece within an hour or two.
Second is the versatility of it. Here’s a list of all the things you can make with wool off the top of my head: toys, sculpture, hats, scarves, jewelry, wrist-warmers, potholders, coasters, embellished clothes (and shoes!), vessels, birdhouses, ornaments, bowls, wall art, decor, pillow covers, blankets, giant rock pillows, cushions, realistic animals/pets, masks, costumes… the list goes on.
Third, people are much less likely to try things that they have written off as too hard or time consuming. Needle felting is maybe 16 years old at this point. It hasn’t been around long enough for people to form an opinion of it.
Forth, art is therapy. The repetitive motion of poking wool with a needle helps to tune out distractions and enter a meditative state.
So here’s my mission statement.
I want to spread a deep sense of joy and happiness by teaching and encouraging others to learn a new craft that is simple, versatile and therapeutic in order to help them gain self-efficacy. Through gaining self-efficacy, people are motivated to seek greater challenges that positively impact their personal well-being, their lives, their careers and an overall sense of happiness.
Needle felting is inexpensive, does not require a lot of space, and takes very little time to master in comparison to other crafts. It is accessible to all income levels and living situations. Needle felting is therapeutic, while at the same time cheaper than therapy and medication, which would make it attractive to individuals with minimal access to therapy/prescription drugs or who wish to seek natural methods of coping with daily stressors. Many needle-felters would agree that, through the process of felting, they enter a meditative state. Needle felting also offers near-immediate results, which is consistent with a faster-paced lifestyle. Whether or not people choose to continue with this particular craft is up to them, but my hope is that it is a gateway to other forms of handiwork and motivates them to find their passion.