We all know the Internet is a huge resource, but how do you find people and websites that resonate with you and provide inspiration?
In my experience you really only need to locate a couple of great websites and from there the world just opens up. Find one member of your “tribe” and you will find hundreds or thousands of them.
For me, it was Another Girl At Play. I discovered this site by Alex Beauchamp in 2002 or 2003 and it was like a revelation. Suddenly I discovered this whole group of creative women rocking it online. At the time I was feeling trapped in an uninspiring job for a company that was going broke and I so desperately wanted to escape. Finding this website showed me just what could be achieved. I followed the links to all the creative women on the site and from there discovered an awesome community. At the time, Another Girl At Play had a vibrant and active community attached to it, which unfortunately over the past few years has become silent.
Since that first discovery I have been fortunate to discover several other communities that I feel at home in. Following is a quick overview of some possible starting points for you to find your tribe. And please, if there are any others you know and love, let me know in the comments.
|IndiePublic – is an independent art and design community. IndiePublic is a social network with over 16,000 members. Within the network are forums for general discussions or you can join one of the numerous groups focused on the art/craft you love, where you live, the marketplace where you sell your products, etc.
|Flickr – is a huge resource (over 5 billion images), not just for storing and sharing photos – although it’s awesome for that. Need some visual inspiration? Just search for what you are after. Want to connect with people doing or making similar stuff to you? Join a group. Need images to spice up a blog post? Search here, making sure to check the image owners’ copyright settings. Want to get feedback on your work? Create an account, upload photos, add them to groups, connect with other users and ask questions. (note: look out for a future article discussing in detail how to use Flickr to source images, what Creative Commons means, and more!)
|Ravelry – is an amazing site for anyone into knitting or crochet. It’s a way to manage your projects and stash, network with like minded people, get inspiration, read pattern reviews, find out about events. It really is a very clever and useful tool. To experience all Ravelry has to offer create an account and get stuck in! Ravelry has over 1.3million (yes, you read that right) members!!!
|My Sewing Circle – is the sewing equivalent of Ravelry and has over 7,000 members.
| Pattern Review is another sewing related community with over 250,000 members! It catalogues and describes sewers’ experiences and opinions in a structured way, with over 80,000 reviews of patterns, sewing machines and products. They hold live chats, have online classes and you can manage all your own patterns in your account. The volume of information here is actually a bit overwhelming!
|Twitter – has over 200 million users, so is a huge community. It is a fantastic way to connect with people you know, or artisans you love, or celebrities you admire, or politicians you hate! I love it as I can actually connect with people I admire, it provides me with breaking news, it provides short bursts of information that I can scan and only click through to those that interest me (e.g. I can scan 250 tweets in 10mins – it would take me an hour to scroll through that many posts in my blog feed reader). Find a couple of people you like here, then just go through who they follow and you can find some real gems. Or you can try a Twitter search tool like search.twitter.com, http://www.twibes.com/, http://www.twellow.com/. Mashable has a good review of Twitter People Search Tools.
|Blog Community lists – are great as they are designed to collate blogs with similar topics. Local to me are Aussie Mummy Bloggers and Kiwi Mummy Blogs which are exactly what you’d expect – Aussie and Kiwi mum blogs. Aussie Mummy Bloggers is sorted by category and group which makes it easier to find people with similar interests, more specifically than just being parents. Kiwi Mummy Blogs is only sorted alphabetically so can take some more effort to sort through. Otherwise try Googling “blog community list [area of interest]” e.g. “blog community list woodworking” or “blog community list cooking”. Also make sure to spend some time in the forums of these sites if they are available. You will soon discover people talking about your interests, or whose opinions you find interesting.
|BlogHer – is a large community of women who blog, where you can browse 22,000 blogs by name or category. You can follow the feed of new posts by members, search by category, join a group, or even join up and have your own blog posts included.
|DeviantArt – was created to entertain, inspire and empower the artists in all of us. It is a platform that allows emerging and established artists to exhibit, promote, and share their works within a peer community dedicated to the arts. The site’s vibrant social network environment receives over 100,000 daily uploads of original art works ranging from traditional media, such as painting and sculpture, to digital art, pixel art, films and anime. It has 13 million members and offers so much to it’s members – too much to list here!
|ATCs For All – is a fantastic forum for lovers of Artist Trading Cards. It is a great place to take part in group or personal swaps, give and receive feedback, share your art and meet people with similar interests.
|Online marketplaces such as Etsy, Dawanda, BigCartel, Lov.li, Felt, MadeIt, etc are all amazing services to enable artisans to sell their creations to the world. They usually have forums which can be great places to meet and communicate with fellow artisans. I only have experience with the forums on Etsy, which are very active, but a word of warning – Etsy has a rather “interesting” approach to monitoring the forums. Be very careful about what you say in the forums as the slightest negativity towards, or questioning of, Etsy or other members will likely result in your account being suspended.
| ThisNext, StyleHive and Polyvore – into fashion? Then these social bookmarking sites may be for you. They are online style clubs for people who live for fashion, design and shopping. Part social-networking club, part pop-culture lab.
|Yahoo and Google groups – are where people with a shared interest meet, get to know each other, and stay informed. This is done through shared message archives, photo albums, event calendars, shared links and documents. If you are interested in a topic, then there will be a group for it with both having literally thousands of groups – or you can set up your own. The testimonials on Yahoo give a good idea of the range of topics discussed.
|The Switchboards – is a forum for creative women in business with over 5,000 members. The forums are very active with lots of generous sharing of information, advice, feedback and business opportunities.
| Craftster – is a online community where people share hip, off-beat, crafty diy projects. The term “Craftster” means “crafty hipster”. Again, it has a very active community (over 190,000 members) with lots of reviews, tutorials, challenges and sharing of information.
| Swap-Bot – may be of interest too. It is a portal for taking part in swaps of all sorts of creative items. All the logistics of organising a swap are taken care of, you just choose what you want to do, sign up, receive all the details, send off your swaps and wait for the fun snail mail to arrive. You will meet lots of other people who like the same things you do.
Watch out for future articles where I will go into detail of how to use and get the most out of many of the sites listed above.
I am a member of most these sites and have, over the past few years, been actively involved in them at different times. I have met some lovely people and learned so much by just getting involved.
Choose one or two, sign up, watch for a little while to see if it resonates with you, then dive in. As with everything in life, you get back what you give out, so get involved!