Culture / Out West

Marketing the Digital West

Claire Everson brings thoughtful organization and marketing to the lives and creative work of Western artisans.

The West has always attracted artisans that answer the call for specialized items that lend a hand to the region’s principal callings: ranching and agriculture. Great makers, be they saddlemakers, bit- and spurmakers, bootmakers or hatters have survived in their specialized markets mostly via word of mouth. Reputations were built on quality of goods. Could they operate and stand the test of time?

Style was mostly a secondary concern, but individual vanity allowed customers to influence many a maker so they could be unique. That word-of-mouth approach was pretty much unchanged until the development of online marketing for Western artisans. As singer-songwriter Ian Tyson wrote about the moment of change in his song “Little High Plains Town.”

The high school’s goin’ online, some kids are gonna ride, ’cross the digital divide.

Ian Tyson, lyrics from “Little High Plains Town”

The Internet allowed everyone—good or not so good—to have a presence and a voice. For our Western genre’s universe of individual artisans, it brought about a revolution in the ability of a single person to gain incredible presence, mobility and influence. It also created the opportunity for already savvy marketing types to offer their services to help fast track the artisan’s desire to reach more customers without having to take their eye of the prime directive—to make singular things and focus on their craft.

Claire Everson does marketing for Western artisans
Claire Everson has developed a service designed to help Western artisans with all facets of their business. Photo courtesy of Claire Everson.

Enter Claire Everson, the founder and principal of Western Reign Creative, one of a new breed of entrepreneurial marketers focuses on marketing Western artisans’ work and helping them balance their time in their workshops with the ever-increasing demands of online communities and marketplaces.

Everson comes prepared with years of experience of creative direction and project management, helping artists, craftsmen and -women, farmers and business owners identify opportunities to improve their businesses and lives. She founded Western Reign Creative on the principle of reciprocity and the notion that the most effective way to engage the world is through understanding the complex connections between each other and the land and resources we share. Recognizing the stresses and problems each maker faces, she sees herself as a problem solver.

“Once we can identify what’s in the way of the maker being more productive and effective, we can help our clients not only work better, but stay more on message and still have a life,” she says.

Everson works directly with individuals and small teams, remotely and in their workshops, helping create individual work systems to help them get their jobs done. She does this in different capacities, ranging from fabrication and project management to online community development and website building. Current clients range from craftsmen to farm-to-table restaurants and jewelers.

“My goal is to help create strategies that keep the creative reins in the artisan’s hands, allowing them to stay engaged with what they love doing most while helping them remove obstacles that sometimes, they have unknowingly created,” she says.

Everson has always been drawn to artisans, and she sought them out after leaving her home ground in Idaho to travel around the United States. At one point she found herself in Nashville waiting tables at a chef-owned restaurant, working for an owner who was completely and passionately dedicated to his craft. His enterprise was about the love of the entire process—from farm-to-table to customer—and that working experience has guided Everson in developing Western Reign Creative.

“For all those years on the road,” she remembers, “my goal was to help the craftsman or entity achieve what they wanted by working one-on-one to identify opportunities that support the health and impact of the business.”

For most of her clients, this approach also involves a sensitive look at the environmental impact of the client business itself. This involves the importance of sustainable and regenerative approaches to growing, making and producing the items they sell.

Cate Havstad builds custom hats
Cate Havstad operates a hat-making business out of her Airstream hat shop. She also keeps busy as a rancher and a mother.
Photo by Aaron Lee

One such client is a hatmaker, farmer, environmental activist, and new mom. Since 2014, Cate Havstad has operated the Havstad Hat Company out of central Oregon, where she focuses on building what she describes as “lifetime quality, heirloom hats.” Each hat is handcrafted, start to finish by Havstad. She also runs an organic farm with her husband, Chris, and it is an Ecological Outcome Verification-certified operation, prioritizing the health of the soils, the presence of biodiversity, and the overall ecosystem function. 

“Claire is a systems thinker, “ Havstad says. “My life can best be described as organized chaos as I am managing so many things, between my hat business, the farm and now with a larger family as a mom. Claire has helped create some seasonality to my life and work, meaning there are times during the year that I have to focus on the ranch. Then there is the time I can just focus on building hats. Frankly, she has helped me develop organizational systems for a life that, without her, could have driven me nuts. Her help enables me to love all the varied things I am doing forever.”

It is apparent when you ask Everson if she loves what she does. Her answer is studied and direct.

“I simply have an appreciation for well made things, as most times they reflect the character of the maker,” she says.

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