I’ve always been somewhat of a misfit. Painfully shy as a child, insecure and angry as a teen, never quite finding my place in the world. It always seemed to me that the majority of society just goes along with the status quo, no matter what it may be, swimming in a sea of beige and boring afraid to go against the tide. I think that’s probably true for a lot of people, historically anyone who doesn’t conform to ‘the norm’ has been outcast and discriminated against. We only have to look at the harrowing tale of Sophie Lancaster to see the dangers that standing out can bring. But there are 2 sides to this fated coin – sure if you fit in with everybody else then in many ways your life could be easier, but on the other hand suppressing your true self can do untold damage to your mental health.
I definitely went through a phase where I tried to fit in more. I was in my early twenties, broke, and going nowhere. I thought that dressing in more ordinary clothes, taking out piercings, trying to like the same things as everybody else etc would help me get a better job and progress in a career. If I look the part and act the part then everything will fall into place, right?
Yeah, it doesn’t work like that! I was miserable, and it showed. I had lost all sense of who I was. I ended up having a mental breakdown. Obviously the breakdown had many contributing factors, but pretending to be someone I’m not played a huge part. The result of my breakdown was a decision to stop trying to find my place in the world and instead carve it out myself. I bought the clothes that I actually liked, dyed my hair green, got more piercings and tattoos, rediscovered my favourite music and eventually set up House Of Bats. I had found myself again.
Working for myself has been huge for me. I’ve discovered a confidence I never knew I could have, I have sold my designs all around the world, stocked in some of the biggest alternative retailers on the planet, been in newspapers and internet articles, given talks and workshops – all while staying true to who I am. But it’s not been plain sailing. The world still revolves around money, like it or not. Running a small business is difficult, and our economy is in a bad state so last year I took on a second job working as a care worker. I love that job, but not being my own boss is taking a bit of getting used to! There’s also the issue of, when running your own business, relying on third parties. When I first established House Of Bats I started out on Etsy, so was reliant on them to help me find customers and give me a selling platform. I then added my own website to the mix, and finally started selling on Amazon.
The goal was always to be able to close down my Etsy and Amazon platforms and solely sell on my website and wholesale to retailers. I just had to wait until I was earning enough money…which hasn’t happened. But I still shut down our Amazon store. Why? It all comes back to being a misfit. I signed up with Amazon in order to earn more money, knowing that their ethics do not align with my own, but going along with it anyway. It felt terrible. I’m not here to debate the ethics of Amazon, I don’t claim to know everything about them, but I certainly was not comfortable selling with them, and the obscene wealth that they have generated particularly through the global pandemic just sealed it for me. I don’t need to sell on Amazon to be part of the world, I can carve my own place. House Of Bats can still be found on Etsy, for now. The main problem with Etsy is that for all their talk of being unique and different, everything they promote has a very similar aesthetic. Everything is minimalist, pastel or floral. You might have noticed, but that’s not quite our look! It’s not really a place for the misfits.
So I will continue to work on House Of Bats, striving to stay true to my ethics, doing business my own way. And if you ever feel that there is no place for you in the world, pick up your chisel and make your own space.