November 3, 2014

Pride, Work, and Necessity of Side Projects: Bethany Betzler of the Artifact Makers Society

What are you working on—on the side?

Artifact Makers Society is a project I created to promote quality craftwork and contemporary design of local origin. We do this online through our site and in real-life through retail partnerships, gallery exhibits, and studio visits. We also connect retailers, gallery owners, collectors, and architects/designers directly to the makers we represent, in order to help them find the best of what is made locally. Our focus is on consumer goods for the home and other environments.

We’re native to Detroit, and right now, our primary concern is with promoting the works of Detroit-based designer-makers, but “local” to us means provenance, a sense of place, and an authentic connection between object and city. So as Artifact grows, it will begin to represent works from people in other cities throughout out the world. That’s our dream—to build a site where people can learn about what is being made where and why it matters. We are also in the process of developing more in-depth content about designing and creating quality objects that are ethically and sustainably made, so that people can get a sense of the big picture of why these types of makers matter. For us, it’s not just about cool craft wares or trendy design, but how designers can invent new ways of designing that lends itself to more mindful production and consumption.

How do you manage to work on your side project(s)?

I don’t watch TV, and limit my time browsing the internet, furthermore, unfortunately, probably don’t sleep or exercise as much as I should. I work with another company full-time, so my time to work on Artifact is limited to my week nights and weekends, or in the morning before I go into the office. I hope to begin involving others in the project as volunteers or interns so that more brains and hands can be involved in moving Artifact forward.

Why have side projects?

This side project was created not just to have a side project, but to do something I feel is important for the world, something which is not driven solely by the need to create revenue, but by a desire to see more people being more mindful of the objects they buy and how they impact the planet. I think that, in time, Artifact will become a fully fledged business, but in the meantime, it is important to me that we play and take the time to experiment with the way the project is received. Working on Artifact on the side right now means that I won’t unintentionally push the project forward in the wrong direction, just because I am trying to make a living from it.

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Diptych courtesy of Bethany Betzler.

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