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Metaphor

Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking about how my personal artistic media choices can be interpreted as a self portrait in and of themselves. These tools, techniques and materials anchor me firmly in my own past as well. It’s interesting how they all are shaped into the artwork that I create.

Overthink something? Me?

Initially, the metaphor came to me while I was waiting for the bus sometime last week. The metaphor being, that I am much like the artwork that I create.

I’m a bunch of (seemingly) haphazardly selected bits of cardboard. That are cut and glued together in <almost> a symmetrical manner. Then covered with loads of old, torn newspapers and glue. Then slathered in layer after layer after layer of gesso, paint and sealant. And finally decorated in a way that would make an ancient Roman think, “Hmmm…perhaps a little less would be better?

Please allow me pick-apart and explain my own clumsy metaphor.

The Cardboard:

Used for the substructure. Never, ever meant by me to be seen, much less understood completely. Seen by most people as trash. Or perhaps something that needs to be put out and recycled into something better.

Symmetry?

Even when I’m making a concerted effort to be symmetrical in the creation of my artwork, it is almost never quite correct. It’s never completely even. Exact symmetry makes me uneasy in that lizard-like part of my brain.

Torn Newspapers:

Again, something that most people see as trash or recycling or both. However, a newspaper has an original purpose. It delivers the news and information that a community needs to know. From the weather report, to cultural events, to major decisions made in all levels of government, all the way back to movie times and advertisements for local businesses. Newspapers are meant to teach and inform.

Layer after layer after layer:

Even to me, this seems a rather good stand-in for the physical human form. Tendons, muscles, veins, fat, skin, bone, teeth, etc.

Horror vacui:

Yes. I do seem to fear an undecorated square centimeter in my finished artwork. To me, decoration is like Jell-o, ‘there’s always room for more‘ as I see things. It keeps the viewers eyes moving from here to there. If their eyes stop, they might see a flaw.

This is very much a fear-generated coping mechanism of my own psyche. Rooted in the intense and sometimes debilitating fear that I am completely unworthy of any kind of friendship, love or admiration in any way, shape or form by those around me.

So what does this mean?

In a nutshell, it means that my choice of artistic media and accompanying techniques are right for me. Mediums like clay and wood are ones that I find very attractive. They each have their own unique ways in which an artist can express themselves. However much I love working in them, they don’t fit me like the paper mâché work I have been creating fits me.

I derive a similar level of personal creative satisfaction from paper mâché as I do from sewing and doing needle work by hand. My aforementioned clumsy metaphor regarding my utilization of a paper mâché technique gives me something to anchor that sense of creative satisfaction to.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again on Friday.

 

 

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Artistic Medium

Preconceived notions:

In the previous two blog posts, I’ve discussed how I personally work creatively in paper mâché. One of the blog posts concerned the tools and materials I use. While the other one dealt with how I personally go about creating a finished paper mâché piece.

While working the most recent paper mâché piece, I found my mind wandering back to the my own personal artistic insecurities regarding the medium in which I have chosen to work for the last few years. Some of the questions were untangled. But as Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohaim once said, “Answers only breed more questions.”

Research:

I did a little online reading about the history of paper mâché. Wikipedia had a pretty good entry on paper mâché. You can find it here. Paper mâché has been used by many different cultures around the world. Some mummies from ancient Egypt had their outer casings made of paper mâché!

One of the historical points that I found very interesting was that paper mâché became popular in the 1700’s as an inexpensive substitute for plaster moulds that were traditionally used for gilt work in all kinds of decoration from coaches to churches to homes.

Most people are familiar with paper mâché. I lived in the New Mexico for almost twenty years. The tradition of working in paper mâché for important holidays like Dia de los Muertos, as well as religious decoration in churches was well known to me. I have already spoken of my love for the Lupita dolls in blog posts.

It is without doubt that the paper mâché traditions of Mexico have influenced my personal artistic style and expression.

What’s the difference?

Many of the people working in paper mâché, who are utilizing a vast cultural history, are making objects that are devised more for mass production.

The piñata maker that I drove by in Albuquerque several times a week was always making new piñatas. ALWAYS. Many were the same. You could see the rows of Sponge Bobs and Spider Mans and Princess Peaches hanging out underneath the awnings at the front of the business.

The Lupita dolls that I love so much, are created using a mould. This way, many, many dolls can be made utilizing a singular mould. Each doll is relatively similar to the ones made before and after it. (Of course, allowing for variances in the paint and decoration.)

The two aforementioned types of paper mâché art aren’t necessarily meant to last forever either. A piñata gets stuffed with all kinds of goodies and treats, then bashed open at a celebration. Lupita dolls will gradually be loved to death by any little person who plays with them on a regular basis.

I love Lupita dolls and piñatas, and admire the artistic efficacy that goes into their creation by those who are making them. But I need to recognize that what I create out of paper mâché and what they create out of paper mâché are inherently different.

One of these things is not like the other:

One biggest differences between my paper mâché artwork  is that I don’t bash my finished artwork to bits with a stick until candy falls out it. (Pedro Martin, who writes a fabulous comic called Mexikid Stories has an hilarious story about piñatas called Holy Piñata. Read it here on Instagram. Remember! It’s in two parts!)

Another big difference is that the paper mâché artwork I create isn’t necessarily meant to be played with. Or perhaps, just not played with by a child. And when I say “played with” I mean, carefully moving the pieces. Maybe setting them up a little differently than I have. Perhaps sitting the large jointed doll in a different position. On a pillow. In a room where the dog and small children won’t be able to touch it. So yeah, with the door closed. Yeah.

Anyway…

I make one-of-a-kind pieces. I will not make a six-tiered cake doll with drawers and an aurora/halo of smaller dolls around it’s head. There will be one, and only one of these paper máché dolls ever made by me. This doesn’t make the piñata maker or the Lupita doll maker any less by comparison. Just different.

My objective is not to create many pieces that are either similar or the same so that I can sell them to as many customers as I can get. I want to express myself on a very personal level through the creation of my artwork.

Where knowledge and experience ends:

What I find curious is that while there are many, many, many people from throughout history that have worked in the medium of paper mâché, it’s still relegated to a folk art or a craft. Not an art form. Perhaps this harkens back to the 1700’s, when it was used as an inexpensive alternative to plaster or wood.

That seems to me to be part and parcel of the fact that most people, once they leave public school, never practice any kind of art themselves at any point after they graduate. The sum total of their artistic knowledge is book-ended with pre-school and high school graduation. Paper mâché is that messy stuff that a person may have worked with that one time in 2nd grade, or perhaps again in 8th grade. And that’s it.

So when I relay to someone that I’m an artist, and I work in paper mâché, their understanding of what type of artwork I create is somewhat limited.

So, now what?

Well, I don’t think it’s really that important for me to necessarily change around what I’m already doing. The understanding of what may be happening within the mind of the person I’m talking to is more important. This means that I have to be able to discuss my artwork in such a way that the people I’m talking to better understand what the difference is between the paper mâché rabbit they made in the 3rd grade and the pieces of artwork that I create.

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again on Monday.

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Paper Mâché: Beginning the Work

Beginning

I keep a sketchbook for all of my ideas. It’s not expensive. In fact, it’s about twelve pages of A4 paper, folded over and saddle stitched together. Usually, I make three or four with graph paper, and then two or three with inexpensive white drawing paper. This type of sketchbook works well for me.

A great deal of my sketching is more mental than physical. There is a lot of time spent thinking about the ideas. Moving it around inside my head. Looking at it from different angles. Deciding on themes, colors, sizes, etc.. prior to any serious sketches being made. Sometimes, more thinking and more sketches are required.

What I try hard to keep in the forefront of my mind is to allow the artwork to be itself. If I feel as though I’m forcing an idea or a concept, I drop it for a while. Ideas can always be returned to in the future. Describing how I know when I’m forcing an idea is difficult to pin down. I suppose that at this point in my artistic career; I just know.

Once the idea is decided upon, it’s time to start putting it together in real life.

Patterns

Some pieces require me to create pattern to ensure adherence to a specific size or shape. An inexpensive school-grade graphed paper is used for this. One of the pieces that I’m currently working on required me to create six tiered half circled forms. The patterns I created made sure that the finished tiers were uniform from top to bottom.

There are times that a pattern piece needs to be heavier, because it’s going to be traced many times. I transfer these types of patterns to carton board. It’s easy to trace around and stands up to more abuse.

Some pattern pieces are organically shaped. Making patterns for those also helps in construction. Especially if the organic shape is complicated. Or it needs to fit into a very specific place within a larger, paper mâché piece.

It should be noted that as I have continued working in paper mâché, I don’t cut out patterns for every single piece of cardboard and carton board. In the beginning, I measured every tiny little piece and had a pattern piece for EVERYTHING!

When all needed pattern pieces are completed, then it’s on to cutting out the card and carton board.

Cutting it all out

When using patterns, it’s fairly easy to get started. Pencil or ballpoint pen work well for tracing pattern pieces onto the cardboard. When I’m choosing the corrugated cardboard for a piece, I look for the stronger cardboard for the outer portions of the piece. Weaker, flimsier cardboard I can use within the structure to give it more strength.

The weaker, slightly flimsier corrugated cardboard works well for creating curves. For tight curves, I score the corrugated cardboard so it bends a bit easier. For bigger curves, I usually roll the corrugated cardboard over a cylindrical form. It holds the shape just fine.

For the large, six tiered doll that I have been working on, I did have to sit down and do a little math to figure out how tall I wanted the finished piece to be. Would 7 or 9 cm in height for each tier work better? The drawers needed to be taken into account as well as the space around them. Again, my personal time and experience factors into a lot of my decisions. In the end, I go with what I think and feel is “correct”.

Now to the glue!

Attaching the pieces

Once I have the main corrugated cardboard structure the way that I want it, I begin gluing it together. In my previous post, I mentioned the glue that I use, Eri-Keeper. I have a deep and abiding love for this glue. It does exactly what I want and need it to do. I understand that I’m also a person who doesn’t mind getting my hands messy and sticky as well. So I understand when someone might rather use a glue gun!

If you would like to see some of the work I have been putting together using my own paper mâché construction methods and techniques, take a look at my Instagram here. When working with a very symmetrical piece like this one, I made sure throughout the entire construction process, that I kept the center (90 degree) marked so I could see it.

This six tiered doll was constructed in sections. Each tier was completely separate until I put it together using the bamboo skewers and wooden plant stakes. The construction was planned this way, so that I would be more easily able to create the drawers within three of the tiers.

The drawer holes were measured and cut out of the corrugated cardboard. Then the inside walls were added. They’re not hard to create. The space from top to bottom of the drawer space was measured. Pieces of corrugated cardboard (with the corrugation running vertically) were cut. They were put into the space and marked for length. Then cut to fit then glued in place.

Adding stability

Now, I may be just a little paranoid about my finished paper mâché artwork falling apart. So I add a lot of structurally stabilizing corrugated cardboard to my artwork. In the pictures you can see here of a pervious piece, there are so many little pieces of corrugated cardboard!

Remember that flimsy corrugated cardboard I mentioned above? I use a lot of this inside the cardboard structures. Sometimes it’s used to shim-up a wall or to support a very thin dividing wall. Sometimes it’s little rectangles that I glue in between an internal structure (like a drawer) and the outer wall. This is done so that the outer and inner walls don’t buckle or bow while drying.

This buckling and bowing will happen when you begin adding the newspaper and the PVA glue to the outside of the cardboard structure.

Veneering

Corrugated cardboard isn’t the strongest material on the planet. When it gets wet, it begins to come apart. This has a lot to do with the kinds of paper fibers and the way the corrugated cardboard is created. When newsprint and the PVA glue are attached to it’s surface, it will get squishy. Then when the piece as dried, more often than not, the corrugations (ripples) can be seen through the layers of newspaper and PVA glue.

Again, I’m a little nit-picky about certain things. This ripply surface makes me nuts. I solved the problem by using carton board as a veneer over the top of the corrugated cardboard. The entire surface of the six tiered doll was covered in cookie and porridge cartons, as well as some toilet paper rolls.

Measuring wasn’t really required. I just laid the pieces onto the cardboard and traced them. There were some spots in which the carton board didn’t match. It was more important for the thickness of the carton board matched.

And anyway! It’s all going to get covered with newsprint and PVA glue anyway!

Prep that newsprint!

The size and complexity of a piece I’m creating determines the size of the newsprint pieces that I need, as well as the way that I tear them. Any kind of newsprint will work, as long as the paper isn’t glossy. Glossy papers don’t work! Save those for paper collage work and book making projects!

If you’ve followed my paper mâché artwork for a while now, you know that some of the pieces I create have all kinds of oddly shaped elements. Each of them use a differently torn paper. It’s important to note that the newsprint needs to be torn, not cut with scissors or a utility knife.

For the internal parts of drawers, and where legs are attached, I use thin strips of newspaper. They are about .5 cm wide by about 3 cm long depending upon the specific piece. Larger, flat areas I use 2 cm wide by 3 cm (approximate!) pieces of paper. There are some really tiny pieces I’ve created in which I needed a 1 cm by 1 cm or smaller pieces of torn newsprint to work with.

For some pieces that are not flat, I will tear the newsprint into strips and then again, against the grain of the paper. Giving the paper a somewhat jagged looking shape. This allows the newsprint to adhere to an irregular surface better. I used this kind of paper a lot while creating the head pictured here.

Attaching the newsprint and glue

In the previous post, I mentioned that I use an inexpensive white PVA glue to attach the newsprint to the cardboard forms. A little water is sometimes required to thin the glue a bit. I buy Memoris-Precious Askarteluliima (Craft/Hobby Glue) in 500g bottles. The amount of water needed to thin it a bit, is about 5 to 10 ml. for the entire 500g bottle.

I’m not a person who minds getting her hands messy. For large areas, I usually just use my hands. When there are smaller areas, or I just cannot get my hands into a space to attach the newspaper and glue, I use an old #6 watercolor paint brush. First, I paint down a little glue, then pick up a piece of newsprint with the same sticky brush. I place the newsprint where I want it, then paint it down with a little more glue.

This method sounds time-consuming. And it is. Or perhaps I should say, ‘and it can be’. However, it gets me the results that I want. For pieces that I will be adding gesso, paint and sealant to, three or four layers of newsprint and glue are enough. I make sure to alter the direction of the newsprint in each layer. This helps the surface to be stronger.

For pieces like this one, a finished thickness of 1 to 1.5 mm is enough. There will be additional structures placed inside this piece. So the thinness of the surface is okay.

This and that

While adding newsprint and glue to a piece, I do make corrections as I go. There may be a place where it seems a bit crooked, or too thin. Added layers of paper and glue can help to disguise that. You can see in this piece, where I will have to do some creative paper applications to cover this up!

Sometimes, the time it takes for individual pieces to dry makes me impatient. This isn’t surprising. I’m an incredibly impatient artist. Some paper mâché artists use a hairdryer to speed up the drying process. Personally, I’m not a fan of doing this. It’s possible to dry out one spot a lot, while another spot may still be really squishy. I prefer to let pieces dry overnight before I continue working on them.

There are a lot of essential parts of my personal creative process and how it interacts with the paper mâché techniques I use. To be honest, most of the time while I’m working on a piece, I’m so focused on what I’m doing that even I may not be completely aware that I’m actually doing a specific thing at a specific time.

An example of this would be how I plan out the sequences of work during the creation of a paper mâché piece. Some things must happen before others. And I just ‘know’ how to do it. There’s not a tremendous amount of thinking done regarding this. Again, this is just time and experience at work for me.

Now what?

Anyone reading this two part blog post now has an idea of the tools, materials, preparations and work (mental and physical) that go into how I create my artwork. As I said previously, I know that I’ve left all kinds of stuff out. If I wrote a totally faithful step=by-step account of what I do, the blog posts would be the length of a book!

Thanks for reading, and I will see you again on Friday,

 

 

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Paper Mâché

This post became very large, very quickly. Because of this, I’ve divided it into two parts. Part one is this following post and the second part of the post will be posted on 16 November 2020.

In this post, I’ll be discussing why and how I began working in paper mâché, as well as the materials and tools that I use regularly in the creation of my own artwork.

Isn’t paper mâché for little kids?

Prior to moving to Finland, I had never created any of my own artwork using paper mâché. As an elementary art teacher I had taught a few lessons over the years that utilized the art form and accompanying techniques.

My personal use of the paper and glue method is partially inspired by some of my former students with allergies. Specifically, allergies to wheat, requiring me to find a substitute for the flour and water paste commonly used for paper mâché elementary school art projects.

It should be known that I have never had anyone sit down and teach me how to work with paper mâché. What I know is what I learned from personal experience as a child, then as an art teacher, and now as a practicing artist. YouTube, as always, has been instructional, as well as various personal art websites detailing paper mâché materials, tools and techniques.

The remainder of my paper mâché education has been gained by creating my artwork. In the rest of this blog post, I will detail, as best I can, my personal paper mâché tools, materials, techniques, as well as any tricks I’ve found along the way.

Materials: Corrugated Cardboard

Part of the reason I began using paper mâché was because a great deal of the materials are free or incredibly low cost. In addition to being low cost, the materials are incredibly common. The two main materials I use are newsprint and cardboard. Both of these materials are quite easy to lay your hands on most of the time.

Most of the cardboard, specifically, the corrugated cardboard, that I use I pick up at the Lidl. Lidl staff stock the shelves in a particular way, having large rolling bins that they chuck empty cardboard boxes into. The staff at the Lidl I shop at are so used to me picking (neatly) through the bins that I don’t get a second look.

Time and experience has taught me what corrugated cardboards work the best for my own particular creative needs. Corrugated cardboard from cookie box shipments (Sondey brand) are one of my favourites. The corrugation is small and strong. Most of the time, it’s two layers of corrugated cardboard, laminated together. The box usually has a heavier glossy paper finish too. These features make it good for what and how I create my artwork.

I take a retractable box cutter with me to Lidl. Any box or carton that is large or oddly shaped I can break down quickly. Again, at this point, none of the staff at Lidl seems to be bothered with this. The smaller pieces just go in my shopping bags for the trip home.

Materials: Carton Board

Carton board is different from corrugated cardboard. Carton board is the lightweight, kind of grey-ish-brown-ish papery-card-stock used in packaging like cereal boxes or frozen pizza boxes. My husband does all the meal planning and cooking for us, and knows when I might like a carton or box. I trim-off the bits I don’t want from these cartons and store them in a reusable shopping bag.

Most of the carton board is used to veneer the underlying corrugated cardboard structure. Some smaller elements of a larger paper mâché piece may be constructed completely out of carton board that I have laminated together using glue to give more strength to the piece.

I will talk more specifically about how I veneer the corrugated cardboard structures with carton board in the second part of this blog post on Monday. Wood veneer is very common. My technique is similar. I just use carton board instead of wood.

Materials: Newspaper

We don’t get the newspaper, but we do get a small free city newspaper every week or so by mail. They are saved in much the same manner as the cardboard and carton board. Several months ago, while putting the recycling into the bins, I came across several bunches of newspapers (that we don’t receive) still in zip tied bundles. Several of them came home with me.

Materials: Glue

There are two glues that I use. Each having a different purpose at different times during the construction of a piece. For gluing cardboard pieces together, I use Eri Keeper. It’s a Finnish brand of all-purpose glue that has a strong hold, especially with cardboard. A glue gun can be used. I just find them expensive, messy and cumbersome.

The glue I use when applying the newsprint to the surface of the cardboard form is an inexpensive white PVA craft glue, thinned with a little water. I don’t like using this kind of glue for anything other than paper mâché. White, PVA craft glue has a bond I find too weak. However, when used with newsprint, in many consecutive layers, it works extremely well.

Tools

For the type of artwork that I create, several tools are used. But you really don’t need incredibly specialized tools to work with paper mâché. A ruler, pencil, cutting blade and a safe surface to cut it on is enough to start out with. Metal rulers are better than plastic or wood though.

There are also several other tools that I use. A compass, a protractor, a multi-use piercing tool and a self-healing cutting mat are also useful. For small pieces that I’m applying newspaper to, I use an old paint brush instead of my fingers as well.

Tools: Cutting Blade

Since I was a freshman in art school, I’ve used an X-Acto knives. An X-Acto knife and replacement blades even came with me to Finland! The blades are a little expensive here, and frankly aren’t what most people use. Retractable cutting blades, the kind you can snap the dull bit of the blade off, are much more common here in Finland. They’re also much less expensive!

It took me a little time to get used to using this kind of cutting blade. But I like it a great deal. My index finger of my right hand doesn’t ache after using them. Plus, they are retractable, so I’m much less likely to cut myself. Personally, I use the cheapest ones from Flying Tiger and the slightly more expensive ones from Motonet.

What’s important is to find the type of cutting blade that works the best for you. One that you’re most comfortable using. And remember to be safe! Never, ever cut toward anything that might bleed! The latter being a reminder to my students when they used anything sharp to cut in the art room.

Even more supplies and materials

There are other tools and materials that I utilize when working in paper mâché. Bamboo skewers in different sizes, small wooden plant stakes, toothpicks, pens, pencils, erasers, markers, scissors, various plastic containers (recycled) to hold torn paper, glue and other supplies, just to name a few. There will be more about these incidental types of tools and materials in Monday’s blog post.

Hmmm…

Wow. This post got very long, very quickly! And I haven’t even gotten to my personal creative paper mâché techniques! Don’t miss the second part of this blog post on 16 November 2020!

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again on Monday.

 

 

 

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Two Art Exhibits

Exhibiting my artwork:

2021 is going to be a busy year for me.

Not long after I had announced that I would be taking a short break from blogging, something unexpected happened. I was contacted by the Suomen Käsityön Museo regarding my artwork. More specifically, I was asked if I would like to exhibit my artwork in a window gallery that the museum has.

It took me a few minutes to mentally digest the invitation offered to me by the museum. Part of me thought that perhaps I was reading it incorrectly. Another part of me thought that I was sent the invitation by mistake. But it was a real, sincere invitation to exhibit my artwork! Cool!

So, long story somewhat longer, I will be exhibiting my artwork in the window gallery of the Suomen Käsityön Museo in Jyväskylä during December 2021 until February 2022. I know that it seems like a long time off in the future. But from where I see it, it’s right around the corner!

Matara exhibit:

Part of what I think is incredibly cool about the Suomen Käsityön Museo exhibit, is that it is at the end of 2021. I am exhibiting my artwork at Matara in January 2021. My year begins and ends with me exhibiting my artwork! Honestly, part of me is a little scared by both of these exhibits. It’s kind of a ‘put-up or shut-up’ set of circumstances for me as a working artist.

Communicating my ideas:

I have been working steadily over the past few months on the new pieces of artwork that I will be exhibiting at Matara in January. What I’ve discovered that creating a cohesive body of artwork is a much different experience than creating a single, stand-alone piece of artwork.

The Creative Experiment was one in which I worked on one piece until it was finished. Once finished, I started another. No piece of artwork was left unfinished. And no new piece of artwork was started until the previous one had been completely finished. This experiment had many different goals. But focusing on one piece of artwork at a time became increasingly important as the experiment progressed.

A different point of view:

When I sat down and started planning the pieces that I wanted to create for the Matara exhibit, I couldn’t just think about one piece of artwork at a time. A theme needed to be chosen and woven through all of the artwork that was to be created. The theme could vary in the degree to which it applied to each individual piece of art. But it needed to be present.

There was also the interesting creative challenge of creating new pieces of artwork that would be displayed on a vertical surface to consider. How would the themes I had chosen to with translate well in a vertical format? Would the themes be apparent to the viewer?

A big question for me was; what if the themes began to change as I worked on the individual pieces of art? This is an extremely frequent occurrence for me while I’m creating my artwork. Could the changes of theme in individual pieces of art alter the entire exhibit?

Organization:

To make sure that I wasn’t overwhelming myself with the endless possibilities of ‘what if’ questions, I needed to give myself a mental structure to adhere to. Something that wasn’t too confining. That could change according to my individual creative mental requirements.

A book format seemed logical to me. The exhibit is a story. The theme is the subject of the exhibit. Each piece of artwork is a chapter in the story. Additional themes and ideas can be woven in to each individual piece of artwork. A beginning and end of the exhibition are required as well. Even if that ‘ending’ requires a sequel.

Once I had decided on the book metaphor, I just needed to adjust where I wanted to put pieces of artwork in the exhibit. There’s also been some tweaking to each piece of artwork here and there. This was done to make sure that my artwork was accurately telling the story I needed it to tell.

Nothing is set in stone:

The aforementioned mental (and creative) organizational methodology may seem a little rigid. But I don’t see it that way. Changes in how I work creatively are always, always, always on the table for me.  Nothing is ever set or carved in stone for me!

There are parts of my personality that are super-flexible and this helps me to evaluate what working methods are beneficial, and which ones that aren’t. If the book metaphor ceases to give me the creative results and mental security that I need, then I’ll change it.

So, now what?

I will continue working on the pieces that I will be exhibiting at Matara in January 2021. As well as formulating new ideas and exploring new themes, materials and techniques for pieces that I will exhibit in December 2021-February 2022. Along the way, I will continue creating Go Marielle stories and posts. And creating and adding new items for sale in my online shop. And then there are the weekly blog posts…and Patreon that I want to get started.

Yeah. I have plenty to keep me busy.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Monday,

 

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A Short Blogging Break

I’m going to take a short break from blogging until 9 November. There is so much going on right now (sits back and gestures at basically everything). A short break is needed to help me deal with my rising levels of anxiety. It feels like someone is standing on my chest most of the time. Working on the new pieces of art for the show will give me a sense of control. It will also alleviate some of the physical symptoms as well as giving me a task that requires attention.

Man. Even typing this message has ramped-up my anxiety levels.

My shop is still open! There are lots of dolls that are looking for good homes! Take advantage of the one and only sale that I will have this year! 20% off every item in my shop!

Thank you for reading and I will see you again on 9 November 2020.

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Contents May Have Shifted

Strange:

I feel as though there should be more for me to write a blog post about. But the thing is, my thoughts and energies are in a lot of different places right now. There are several different projects that I’m working on at the moment. None of them seem to be in any sort of exciting spot that requires a blog post devoted entirely to them.

It would be a lie if I didn’t admit that events in other countries (the US in particular) have been gnawing at my thoughts. Stirring-up all kinds of emotions. Emotions that aren’t exactly productive in any way. These events are laying on my ‘fight or flight’ responses. Living with this button crammed into the on-position is just exhausting.

Exhausting to the point that there’s no need to elaborate. If you know. Then you know. If you don’t. Then contact me and I’ll let you know.

What I’m doing:

Writing, designing and creating the Go Marielle posts and stories continue to take-up a significant amount of time. I’m going to be changing around the amount of longer multi-panel stories that I post through November and December. I plan to post only one story a week instead of two. This post will be on Wednesday.

There are a few reasons why I’m doing this. Go Marielle takes a lot of time to create. Some of that time is needed for the creation of artwork for an upcoming art show.  Another reason is that I don’t want to burn-out on creating Go Marielle. I’ve got some fun things planned for future stories. And I don’t want to be grumpy and unhappy about making them because I feel tired of creating the stories.

Creating new art:

I’ve been in papier maché land for the past week or so. Five pieces have been started, with another six to seven that I want to create. Each piece has so many moving parts! So many little details!

This morning, while I was working, I was suddenly struck with some themes that have kind of snuck-in under my creative radar. These themes I had not in any way consciously been aware of while I’d been working on sketches and designs up until that point. It made me wonder if I had not been devoting enough thought to the artwork that I’m actively creating.

Hopefully, some of the time I’m freeing-up regarding Go Marielle will help me to focus a bit more on the themes of my new body of work.

20% off Sale:

The 20% off all items in my shop sale is still going on here on my website. There are lots of new items in the shop that I’ve never offered for sale before. So make sure you take a look at everything! As always, if you have any questions, please use the contact form to send me a message!

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.

 

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20% Off Everything in Shop!

Once a year sale:

This is the only sale that I will be having in 2020.  All items in the shop are  20% off regular price starting on 26 October 2020 (Monday). The sale ends 23 November 2020 (Monday).

Every doll in the shop is a unique, one-of-a-kind item. I never use the same name again for any doll that I create. Nor will I create exact duplicates. Therefore, if you see a doll you really love and want for your own, or wish to purchase as a gift, it’s first come, first served!

Allowance for current shipping realities:

Due to the unique mailing conditions of 2020, if you’re planning on purchasing an item from the shop as a gift, placing your order early is better. Allowing a little extra time for your purchases to arrive will increase your chances of delivery before the holidays begin!

If you wish to add additional expedited shipping on any items purchased in my shop, contact me directly. You can easily contact me using the Contact tab in the upper right side of my main page. Between Subscribe and About.

New dolls in shop:

I’ve added a number of previously unreleased dolls to my shop specifically for this sale! But remember, once a piece has sold, it will not be restocked, ever.

As always, thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next Monday!

 

 

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Fixing What Needs Fixing

There are several different challenges that I’ve been facing as a very new entrepreneur. All of these challenges have one thing in common: putting my artwork, blog posts, and name in front of as many different people as possible. The following is an update on how things are going.

Increasing traffic on my website with the idea of:

Having people actually read my blog posts.

My writing is getting better with each blog post, but no one is reading them. In the beginning, I had decided to treat my blog postings more or less like journal entries. The idea being that I wanted to have a degree of authenticity to my posts. And make them something that at least a few people might find interesting to read.

What I haven’t fully considered is the fact that no on reads blogs anymore. Especially when they’re longer, like mine are. There’s also a distinct lack of pictures as well. I would be lying if I didn’t say that this doesn’t sting a bit.

Another factor that I’d not truly considered is that the types of people who might have read a blog post in the past have now switched to other forms of social media. Watching a vlog is much more popular now instead of reading a blog.

Looking at the items in the shop and making a purchase.

Getting more people looking at my website should translate at least into more people looking at the artwork I have in my shop. The more eyes there are on my artwork, the greater the chances that some of my artwork will be purchased.

The lack of traffic on my website means that there are fewer people looking at the artwork I have for sale in my shop. And this is a problem when running a small business.

Possible solutions to the traffic challenges:

Having a limited time sale on my artwork is one thing that is coming within the next week or so. This will be the first sale that I’ve ever had. My hopes are that by utilizing advertising for it on other social media platforms, that I can generate some sales. And perhaps even a few people will take the time to read some of my blog posts.

No hashtag experiment on Instagram:

I wrote previously about being shadow banned on Instagram because of the hashtags I use. This is still happening. I’ve dropped all hashtags on my posts in the hopes of re-setting my account. So far, it doesn’t seem to be working. My Instagram posts are still being buried. Especially those posts built on Canva that are letting my followers know that I have a uploaded a new post or added new items to my shop.

Possible solutions to Instagram challenges:

For the time-being. I’m going to continue not using hashtags. It may be that not using hashtags takes a number of weeks or months to have the hoped for benefits. I have also made a concerted effort to expand outside what the algorithm might call my established patterns of use.

There have been a few new followers to my Instagram account that seem outside of my “usual” algorithmic bounds. This has been nice.

Instagram stories are also something that I’m working on. I’ve purchased some inexpensive tools to aid me in hopefully achieving some success.

Opening an Etsy shop with additional, but different items for sale:

This is something that I’ve been thinking about for a while. It’s another place that I can gets eyes on my artwork. Etsy does take a cut of the profit though. There is also the potential for more people visiting my website and shop after having seen my artwork on Etsy.

This plan is not yet carved in stone. I have a lot of different creative plates spinning right now. Etsy will take a backseat to the Patreon account that I have decided on creating.

In the end, there is always sisu:

Sisu is a uniquely Finnish word. A quick translation into English defines it as guts, grit, pluck and perseverance. But there is much more to the word than that.

For an American living in Finland, I think of it as meaning ‘keep going’ or ‘one foot in front of the other’. You need to keep moving, even when you think you may fail in the end. You can’t quit, because you just can’t quit. No matter what.

In Wikipedia, the following definition was given:

“…a psychological key competence which enables extraordinary action to overcome a mentally or physically challenging situation.” 1, 2

I suppose the FuturamaYou Gotta Do What You Gotta Do” is akin to sisu in a way. Sisu implies much more determination and a high degree efficacy to me. One does not employ sisu without some kind of plan of action laid out first.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday,

References:

  1. Lahti, Emilia (8 July 2013). “Sisu Is a Universal Potential Within All Individuals”Sisu Social: Transforming Barriers into Frontiers. Retrieved 11 November 2013.
  2. Rockind, C. & Lahti, E. (27–30 June 2013). “WK 17 How to Find the ‘Why’ of Life: A Research-Based Process to Uncover One’s Purpose and Find Meaning in Life”. Third World Congress on Positive Psychology: Final Program (PDF). Los Angeles: International Positive Psychology Association. p. 108. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 April 2014. Retrieved 11 November 2013.
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Emotional Lows and Lack of Traffic

Currently

The last week hasn’t been the best emotionally speaking. Everything I’m doing regarding my business seems to be wrong. And if not exactly wrong, sideways at least.

The reasons for my current emotionally low state is that I’ve been watching my views on Instagram drop, and then drop again (katie_kinsman_in_finland and go_marielle_go). This is also true for my website and shop traffic as well. If you have a website that you post on regularly, and see that not a single person has been to your site in over a week…well, then you know what I’m talking about.

To be very blunt, it all makes me just feel like crap.

Every artist is in the same boat!” No. Nope. NOPE. We’re not going to talk about that right here and right now. That’s another post for another day.

Setting up the mental equation

I don’t like my current state of mind. Petulant and childish is how I categorize it. I call it my ‘kindergarten self’. A large part of me wants to stamp her feet, gather up all of her artwork and yell, “FINE! I’ll just take all my things and leave!” For a person my age, it’s not a pretty picture.

When I’m feeling like this, there is a part of me that seriously wants to pile all my work up down on the beach and light it on fire. The petulant emotions rationalize this by saying, “If the work isn’t ever going to sell. Then get rid of it permanently.” Thoughts like this don’t sound rooted in reality, do they?

My weird logic

I’m not saying that any of the above makes sense. But there is some logic to it, at least when I examine my emotions. In past blog posts, I’ve talked at length about how the creation of artwork for me is therapy. A great deal of therapeutic good is gained by me in the creating of my artwork. Making art and taking my medication keeps me functional. Instead of curled up into a ball and crying all day.

The artwork itself almost becomes a byproduct of my never-ending, vigilant defense of my sustained good mental health. Selling the artwork would seem like a good idea then. To be blunt, it’s the artwork serving double-duty for me. I’ve already gained personal mental health benefits. The monies gained by the selling of the artwork then gives me means by which to contribute to my other physical needs, like food, clothing and shelter.

Win-win, right?

Results

When the artwork doesn’t sell. And doesn’t sell. And it still doesn’t sell. Well, then the positive mental health benefits of creating the artwork begin to fade away. The artwork begins to mock me. It becomes a physical reminder or my personal failure.

Dark sticky thoughts begin to creep into my mind, like “If your art was any good, it would sell.” and “You’re not an artist. You’re a hack.” These thoughts leave their mucky little foot prints everywhere inside my mind. Making me feel more petulant and more childish.

It should be stated, I’m in no danger of losing my grip on reality. Remember, I take my medication every day. And am constantly monitoring my mental and emotional states. What I’m experiencing right now is just the frustrations of an entrepreneur who lacks customers for her product.

As always, I’m not that special.

Action required

There is nothing special in my circumstances at present. I know that I’m simply weathering something that every small business owner has weathered before me. Some manner of action is required to alter the direction of my sales and website traffic toward something more positive.

Fortune has granted me a husband with a degree in business and marketing. Any questions that I have, we discuss at length. He knows me, my artwork, and where I hope to take my business in the future. The advice he offers is priceless to me. I cannot imagine trying to start a small business without having someone on whom I can rely for good business and marketing advice.

My husband and I have discussed several different avenues of action over the past few days. I’ve chosen one to begin working on this week.

Patreon

Yup. I’m going to be creating a Patreon account. I’ve been working out how I want to construct a Patreon account for a few months now. There are things that I want to do that I think may be successful on the Patreon platform that I’ve outlined.

Starting a Patreon account is going to require me to shift some things around. But I hope to fold-in some of the other big projects on my desk into a Patreon account. In this way, I won’t be doubling or tripling my work load. It’s my hope to have the Patreon account up and running by the middle of next week.

Why Patreon?

Again, I am under no illusion regarding the ability of Patreon to make me tons of money. As with many entrepreneurial ventures, it’s more or less a crap-shoot. It may work. And it may not work. I could make no money at all, and have to close the account entirely.

The world, such as it is right now (gestures broadly at everything) means that a lot of artistic and creative people are opening Patreon accounts to see if they can at least make a small amount of money to contribute to their living expenses.

I keep referring to Theodore Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena“. I know I’m not attempting some deed of daring do. But the fact of the matter is, I need to do something. If Patreon doesn’t work. I’ll have to “make-up something quick

Now what?

There are other things that I will be working on along with a Patreon launch. All of them in hopes that something sticks. That something actually works.

Thank you for reading, and if you’re still reading at this point, I will offer the first person who contacts me (via email: katiekinsman.fi@gmail.com) a 30% discount on anything they wish to purchase from my shop. The offer is valid for 24 hours only and ends at 12:15 EET, 20 October 2020. (THIS OFFER HAS NOW EXPIRED.)