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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.)

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How I Create Go Marielle

Why did I create Go Marielle?

I’d been thinking about doing something like Go Marielle for quite a long time. Simply put, I wanted to combine my original doll artwork with a story telling medium. When I began thinking about the idea, it seemed large and kind of un-doable to me. There were so many moving parts to the project.

I worried that I didn’t have the right computer programs or technical know-how. And that my camera skills and equipment were sorely lacking.  To be honest, all those things were true. They weren’t going to change any time soon either. But the idea still wouldn’t leave me along. So I wanted to give it a try.

What’s the worst thing that could happen? No one would like what I made?

Getting started

A central character was needed. The 12 cm tall dolls with boots I’d been making seemed a good choice. Their size made them easy to transport. I had made their faces very simple, so altering the photos as I had planned, would be easier.

Interestingly, I chose another doll for the central character while I was in the planning stages. Malvi was the doll I had chosen initially. But by the time she was finished, I had created several additional 12 cm dolls. Marielle was one of them. She just seemed…I don’t know, right for the role? Marielle had a je ne sais quoi that Malvi didn’t.

My husband helped me to come up with the title Go Marielle! I liked the translation into Finnish, Mene Marielle! as well. It has good alliteration, which is something I like a great deal.

I now had my main character created, as well as a name for her stories. Now to get some pictures taken.

Always taking pictures

I now never leave the house now without Marielle in my bag. Or more often, just tucked  inside my jacket pocket. Traveling with her this way means that I can take pictures on the fly. When-ever and where-ever I feel like. On the bus. Taking a walk. Looking at nature. Reading a book.

I may take a series of pictures for a longer story, or I may just get one or two pictures for a single daily post. There is some longer-term planning done for specific longer stories. In these cases, I need more detailed plans for when and where I will be taking photos with Marielle.

So far, the vast majority of the photos have been taken outside, or in stores and other public places. Natural light is the best for an amateur photographer like me. There are plans for a bedroom for Marielle in the works. I just need to find the time to build it!

Computer based programs

Remember, I’m a one-horse operation with a shoe-string budget! I have two different cameras that I can use to take photos, but the vast majority of the Go Marielle photos are taken using my Samsung mobile phone. It’s just convenient to the way in which I structure the Go Marielle stories. I can take pictures quickly and conveniently.

My computer is an older MacBook Pro. I use the Preview feature for the viewing, sorting, renaming and resizing of the photos. Adobe Photoshop is not something I can’t afford right now, so I’m using GIMP 2.10. There are some parts of GIMP that are less than intuitive. But I’ve been fortunate that there are YouTubers with good tutorials that have helped me quite a bit. It’s an excellent alternative to Photoshop.

To put the stories together, I’m using Canva. My husband had been using it for quite a while. He suggested that I give it a try. There are parts of Canva that I find really, really frustrating. It makes me wish that I could just magically have Adobe Illustrator at my disposal at times.

For me, the lack of finesse with the fiddly bits, like color, text and layering is what I find the most frustrating. But I know that’s because I have experience and training with more creatively flexible types of programs. Canva is a great tool though. With a price that is more easily absorbed for me at present.

Processing photos

I’ve begun to wear a path in the creation of the different daily and twice weekly longer story Go Marielle posts. All photos need to be uploaded to my computer. There are some days that I upload 60 to 80 photos, then others when I may upload 2 to 3 photos. I never completely know how many photos I will take on a given outing.

I sort them into two categories; longer stories and daily posts. I then go through all the photos, discarding ones that are duplicates, or blurry, etc. I resize and rename the remaining photos. Then it’s time to sort the photos into sequences that make sense for the longer stories.

My aim is for 10 photos, as Instagram posts have a limit on how many photos can be posted at once. More often than not, the stories either fall well short (around 6 to 7 panels) or well over (12-18 panels). Instagram has stories that I think I may look into for posting some of these longer stories.

Once the photos are chosen, sized, named and sequenced, they need to be color corrected. I admit, this is something I do not enjoy. My color correction skills are at best a bit ham-fisted. And I am painfully aware of this. Once they are all color corrected, I need to go through and remove the faces embroidered on the doll in GIMP. This can take anywhere from 10 minutes for a couple of photos, to almost an hour for a longer story.

Once the photos are completely processed, I upload them to Canva and begin putting all the pieces (photos, faces, text) together into a cohesive story.

Creating the faces

All of the pieces of Marielles face need to be dropped in and placed individually. Each piece of the face is drawn by hand. I don’t have a printer or scanner, so I photograph them instead. These photos also require photo processing on my computer (Back to Preview and GIMP!). The style in which I’ve drawn them is incredibly simple. So my rather clumsy work around of photographing my drawings doesn’t suffer too much through the photo processing.

Each of the facial elements has the backgrounds cleared, so they can be easily placed into an existing photo. Each of these facial elements are uploaded to Canva. I can then pick and choose from them after I finish writing the story.

Writing the story or text

Once the photos are sequenced in Canva, I drop in the text. I have an idea of what I want the story to be while I’m taking the initial photos, but nothing is ever carved in stone. Decisions regarding the final story aren’t made until I have the sequence of photos finalized. And even then, I sometimes pull out or add photos, as the story dictates.

The rough draft of the story is left at least overnight, so that I can edit it with a clear mind the next day. Usually it takes one or two story edits before I land on the story I want. Even then, I know I’m no great writer. There is a lot that I still have to learn. Fortune has graced me with a husband who’s a writer, so he’s there to help!

I have established days in which I work on the stories and the daily posts, so that I can leave them alone for a while before editing them prior to publication on Instagram. My Tuesdays and Fridays are largely spent working on computer on Go Marielle and other things, like blog posts.

All of the stories so far have been a learning lab of sorts for me. Discovering what works, what doesn’t. As well as finding the direction of the whole idea itself. I feel as though I’m getting closer to figuring out what I want Marielle herself to sound like. But again, I’m still in the discovery phase of this whole creation.

Adding the personality

The story dictates the facial expressions that Marielle will have. Happiness, shock, anger, frustration, surprise, etc. I want to show the emotion without being too complicated in the final product. Eyebrows are essential! So much emotion can be conveyed with an eyebrow!

There are times in which the angle of the photos makes it challenging to add the correct type of face. Especially when it comes to the eyes. I’m just kind of plowing ahead and trying to not let myself think too much about some of the really wonky angles and perspective that some of the finished stories have. I keep telling myself that the fantasy element of my storytelling and art creation allow for some of this wonkiness.

There are times while working that I need a new facial feature. My clumsy ‘draw and photograph’ method makes quick work of this. However, it should be noted that even the most simplistic facial feature usually requires two or three drawings on my part in pencil and pen, then looking at it on computer before I make a decision regarding which ones to keep and continue processing by removing the backgrounds, color correcting and resizing.

Finishing work

Once the photos, faces and story are completed. Then it’s ready to download from Canva. Each of the longer stories and the daily photos are downloaded so that I can give them a last look before posting them. If I’ve forgotten a face, or there is a spelling error. It’s caught at this point.

Now, here is where Canva becomes frustrating for me. I have had difficulties getting the smart phone version of the program to work on my phone. A work-around was required. The longer story and daily Go Marielle posts for Instagram are then sent to myself via Gmail. They can then be downloaded from my Gmail to my phone. I know this a clunky solution. But for now, it works.

I usually ‘batch’ my daily Go Marielle posts, and send myself several daily posts at once. Then I download each daily post as needed. There is a part of me that is always terrified that somehow my files are going to get lost or corrupted. Having a copy hanging around in my Gmail for a little while quells those fears. Yeah. I’m weird.

Hashtags

Hashtags are a bit of a headache for me right now. I’m doing some experimenting with them. They don’t seem to be working the way in which I would like them to. Well, the English language hashtags aren’t working as intended. The Finnish ones are fine. But this is an entirely different post!

The take away

What I have learned so far is that there is a lot more work in creating the daily and longer story Go Marielle pieces for Instagram. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the creative work a great deal. It’s just a lot of work! There are long-term plans that I have for Go Marielle. So I know that the investment of time and energy into building the foundations of the project are well worth the effort.

The take-away for those people who read and enjoy the Go Marielle posts that I post each week is that there is much, much more work going on behind the scenes than perhaps non-creatives know about.

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

 

 

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Fresh Hell

Instagram:

I’m not new to Instagram. My personal account has been active now for more than five years. Over time, my account has become less about showing snapshots from everyday life in Finland, to a platform in which I share my artwork and my artistic process. With the exception of a mental health break of a month during the summer, I’m posting photos to Instagram every single day.

My Instagram following is not huge. 1,184 followers for my main katie_kinsman_in_finland account. And 56 followers for my go_marielle_go account. There has been a noticeable drop-off in the likes in which the posts on my main account have been garnering. And I have struggled to gain any measurable increase in the number of people following the Go Marielle account.

New hashtags have been added to each of these accounts. I use hashtags in English and in Finnish for both of them. This seemed to temporarily fix the issues I was having. But not for long. Once again, I found that my followers began to fall, and the likes that I was getting were fewer and fewer and fewer.

It was time to do a little research.

Shadowbanning:

This term is new for me. I had no idea what it was all about. So I did some reading. According to Hub Spot (1), shadowbanning is “the act of banning a users content on social media sites, in such a way that the user doesn’t know it’s happening.” What this boils down to is that my content can still be seen by those that follow me. But as far as getting my posts in front of NEW people, that would not be happening.

WHAT?! What did I do to be shadowbanned?!

Well, it has more to do with the types of hashtags that I’m using. It was recommended that I try looking up the hashtags I regularly use to see if my posts were listed within the group. Two of the most common hashtags I use are #dollartist and #artdoll. I actually sat down and looked through all 220,000 posts with those hashtags and not one of my posts came up.

Now, remember when I said that I use English and Finnish hashtags? The same hashtags, literally translations, into Finnish are #nukketaide and #taiteilijanukke. When those hashtags are searched, my photos appear. There are far fewer Finnish speakers on the planet than English speakers. The population of Finland is around 5.518 million people. Compared to the population of the US, at around 330 million people. New York City has a population over 8 million. There are more New Yorkers than Finns on the planet.

What’s wrong with my hashtags?

Well, my Finnish hashtags are working. So I’ve got that going for me. But what about my English hashtags? What am I going to do to try and fix this problem?

Basically, shadowbanning exists as a means to control the amount of inappropriate or spammy content that’s ever-present on social media platforms like Instagram (2). A user can just attach a lot of hashtags that have NOTHING to do with the post or photo, and end up getting tons of views.

I noticed while looking up the English hashtags I mentioned earlier, that there were several dozen pictures of stacks of cash that were hashtagged ‘artdoll’ and ‘dollartist’. So I suppose the algorithm isn’t doing as good a job as it could be doing.

My mind cannot quite understand why the photos of my original, handmade, cloth art dolls are being snagged by this algorithm though. The vast majority of the ‘artdoll’ and ‘dollartist’ posts had mass-marketed, ball-jointed dolls. There were tons of Blythe-type dolls, as well as repaints from Barbie, Monster High and Bratz as well. Figuring this aspect out may take me a bit longer I think.

Selling Online:

To get down to brass tacks, the reason why figuring this out is so important for me is because I am extremely limited in my ability to sell my artwork in venues like art or craft-types of fairs or gatherings. Circumstances have limited the size of many different types of gatherings, including those instances in which I might be able to sell my work face to face with customers.

Selling my work online is important. It’s incredibly important for me to be able to get my work out and in front of people who are scrolling through their Instagram feeds. The shadowban for me as an entrepreneur and art creator can be a death sentence. And weird thoughts of piling up all my unsold artwork into a bonfire and burning it all to ash start creeping in.

Is this an upsale?

I’ve wondered if this is just Instagram attempting to get me to purchase ads. I know that Instagram is owned by Facebook. One of the many reasons I shut down my Facebook presence was because I felt I was being increasingly pushed to purchase advertising. My posts, especially those linked to my Instagram account were routinely not shown to my Facebook audience.

I’ve noticed that my Finnish hashtags have increased my Finnish and Nordic followers. Because of this, Instagram is putting more ads from Finnish and Nordic artists into my feeds. Often, when I click through to look at their Instagram account, they have 170, 300 or 670 followers and like ten posts total over a 12 month period. Did they buy the ads because they were getting shadowbanned too? Did they feel like buying the ads was the only way to increase their numbers?

So…now what?

There are several different solutions that I’ve researched. I take all of them with a grain of salt. Mostly because many of them are aimed at Instagram ‘Influencers’. This is a category that I am so, so, so not a part of! Some of the solutions are easy, like changing up my hashtags. Others may take a little more effort, like creating Instagram stories. I could also switch to an Instagram Business account. One of the sourses I looked at, suggested not purchasing followers. One site (Later) was offering to sell me an app to help with all these problems too. And no. I’m not buying their software.

If these solutions don’t work, I really have no recourse. Instagram already knows that shadowbanning is a problem. I don’t see the doing anything that would fundamentally assist me in growing my business. After all, they are owned by Facebook. A corporation, just like every other, that is set-up to make money for its shareholders. Not me.

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

Links:

(1.) The Hub Spot Everything You Need to Know About Instagrams Secret Shadowban

(2.) Later Is the Instagram Shadowban Killing Your Engagement? Here’s How to Fix It (Take this link with a grain of salt. It’s run by a company that wants to sell you it’s product.)

These two links had some interesting things to say as well:

Hootsuite The Top Instagram Updates

Search Engine Watch How to Optimize for the Instagram Algorithm in 2020

Plann 10 Tricks for Gaining New Followers on Instagram Everyday (And they want to sell you something too! Man. That grain of salt needs to be baseball sized.)

 

 

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Pumpkin Head Dolls!

New In Shop!

I have two new dolls available in the shop today! Nutmeg and Ginger are little pumpkin leshys. I’ve based them on the gourd leshys that my tabletop roll-playing game (Pathfinder/Dungeons and Dragons) character Karkarelia (druid) created. Leshys from Russian folklore seem a whole lot scarier than my cute little pumpkin heads!

Ginger (in the beige boots) and Nutmeg (in the tan boots) are both available for purchase in my shop! And don’t forget about Saffron and Russell! Ginger and Nutmegs much older, and much better behaved cousins!

Go Marielle!

And don’t forget to read about Marielle’s latest adventures! Two new stores are posted each week on Wednesdays and Saturdays on her Instagram account, go_marielle_go! There are additional shorter posts made every other day of the week!

Thank you for reading! And I’ll see you again next Friday!

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New Skills Acquired

Life long learning:

I take a great deal of satisfaction in learning new skills, and acquiring a new knowledge. Life-long learning is important to me. Not only as a working artist, but just as a regular human being existing on the planet. New skill and knowledge acquisition requires that there be some shifting around of older skill sets, knowledge, etc. All the experiences garnered through the learning process add new dimensions to my more seasoned knowledge and skills.

It took way too long for me to take a course at the Taitokeskus here in Jyväskylä. Way, way too long. Pinpointing exactly what was making me hesitate is difficult. Courses aren’t that expensive. The teaching space isn’t too far away. Maybe it was my lack of spoken Finnish that was holding me back? Perhaps. There might have also been the reticence to make art in front of other adults. Again, perhaps.

Well, all of these fears were unfounded. I took a three day course called Japanese Boxes. And I it was wonderful. Even with my severely limited Finnish language skills.

Learning something new and brushing-up on skill sets:

Many years ago, I took a course book binding while I was a student at the Herron School of Art. I loved it. The course dovetailed nicely into my graphic design major. We used one of Keith Smith’s books as a text and had a lot of fun playing with the concept of what really was a book. It got my creative mind working in all kinds of different directions. This was just the first step for me regarding story-telling through visual art.

From some of the books I read about book binding, I also learned how to create clamshell book boxes. These types of boxes are great for all kinds of things besides books. They’re great places to store photos, drawings, prints, etc. Really, anything fragile. The types of clamshell boxes I learned to make were archival as well.

So in taking this particular course at Taitokeskus, I wasn’t a total newbie. But I was in no way any kind of expert on the subject either. A lot of time had passed since I had done any type of artwork this. And my exact memories of how to do the work were quite faded.

Getting me outside of my own head:

There are very few people that I have enjoyed creating art with. I tend to work on my own most of the time. Creating the artwork that I do is a very therapeutic activity for me. Going inward and entering a flow state is an integral part of my personal creative process. So, taking an arts course in which I would be required to stay present for the instruction and interactions with fellow students was going to be different for me.

The studio that we worked in was neat, tidy and well kept. Tools and materials were abundant. All students had their own areas in which to work. There were tables set up for different stages of the box creating process as well. The instructor was clear in her directions, as well as being very attentive to each of her students.

This physical environment made it so much more comfortable for me to get out of my own head and have fun in the course. There was a pleasant hum of work among the students in this course, as well as from the adjoining art studios. Children could be heard laughing. Metal workers plinking-away with tools. People in another studio working on ceramics. The building was old, but felt safe and nurturing to me. A perfect place to create artwork!

Meeting new people and using my limited FInnish language:

The entire three days of instruction was done in Finnish. There were several students in the course that spoke English as well. The instructor too I believe speaks better English than she thinks she does. I’m glad that I wasn’t catered-to by the instructor language-wise. My spoken Finnish isn’t great at all. But during the class I discovered that I was understanding a great deal more of the instructions than I thought was currently possible for me right now.

There were times in which I did speak English to the students in the course. And there were chats in English while working or eating lunch as well. Anyone who thinks of Finns as being stereotypically quiet and reserved has never really spent any time with them. There were jokes and laughter just like any workshop/creative space I’ve ever been in!

Why did I take this course?

Part of the reason that I decided to sign-up for the Japanese box course at Taitokeskus is because of the art show I have coming up in January 2021. My artwork will be hanging on the wall. I thought that learning some new techniques around the creation of boxes would be useful.

Many of the pieces that I’m designing have a shadow-box or diorama kind of feel to them. I didn’t want to simply create the same sort of box over and over again for several different pieces of art. Creating a variety of different types of boxes for my artwork is a way in which I can make each separate piece distinct and unique. If I made the same sort of shadow-box/diorama seven times over, the artwork would look rather boring I think.

And, like I said, I like learning new things. Adding to my personal repertoire of art tools, materials and techniques.

Now what?

Well, I think I need to remember that I need to get out more. Covid has kind of monkey-wrenched many types of activities. I need to remember that being away from my own artwork, learning something new, meeting new people, all while getting to practice my Finnish language skills are all incredibly important for me to take full advantage of when I can.

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

Links: Taitokeskus Jyväskylä

Tuula Moilanen, she wrote the book Kirjansidonnan Opas (1997) that was used by the instructor of the course I took. It’s in Finnish, but even if you don’t speak the language, there are great illustrations to reference.

Keith Smith has written a lot of great books about book binding if the Finnish language is a bit daunting for you. Every one of them is excellent! Volume 1, Non-Adhesive Binding: Books without Paste or Glue is a great place to start.

 

 

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New Body of Work

Why create new artwork?

I have an upcoming art show taking place during the month of January 2021. It seems like a long way off in the future, but it’s much sooner that it seems. Creating new artwork specifically for an art show of my own is an amazing multi-level opportunity for me. On one hand, I get to make new and different artwork. And that’s always a good thing! On another hand, it’s good for publicity for myself as a working artist.

It’s just a jump to the left.

The biggest challenge of the gallery space I will be showing my work in is that the artwork all must be hung on the wall. There are no pedestals or cases for three-dimensional artwork. Everything I display must be able to hang on a vertical wall. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I do enjoy an artistic challenge. The learning potential for me as an artist is something I couldn’t pass up once my brain started chewing on it.

The challenge of creating and displaying work vertically also dove-tailed nicely into some ideas that I had been mulling over for quite a while.  In the physical world, display/storage space within my own flat is at a premium. Some of my artwork has begun going up onto the walls as a result. I’ve not been completely pleased with my results though. New methods will need to be devised

Part of that dove-tailing I mentioned, is also thematic for me in the creative sense. The concept of how we ‘store’ and ‘manage’ those intangible portions of our human experience. Where do those memories reside? How do some remain while others drift away into the ether? What effects do these memories, ideas, beliefs have on our present day existence? Do we need to have a place to put these things?

How I create artwork:

The Creative Experiment series of dolls fundamentally changed how I go about creating my artwork. Until just a few weeks ago, I was still unintentionally following one of the original parameters of the experiment; working on a piece until it was finished before starting the next piece. Even when working on the larger Play Set dolls (paper maché) I was still adhering to this parameter.

This method of working just wasn’t going to be efficient for the creation of this new body of artwork. This being said, I felt as though if I began working on several pieces at the same time, that the quality of the artwork would suffer. Suffer mostly because I wasn’t being completely present in the moment when working on an individual piece. I would lose the meaning of what I was creating in the attempt to make more artwork faster.

One bite at a time:

At first, I was a little confused as to exactly how I was going to create the new artwork for the show. The methods I’d employed during the Creative Experiment have served me very well, creatively speaking. But in creating the artwork for this show, I do not have the luxury of spending a month or more on a single piece.

As I went through my drawings and writings over the past few months, distinct themes began to emerge. The themes began to tell a story. I began to see each separate piece of artwork being a chapter of that story. The thematic structure I’ve begun to create has given me something to ‘hang’ the created artwork on.

When I approach each separate piece of artwork as a small part of a larger whole, my brain settles down. I become less anxious. I feel confident that I can work on multiple pieces simultaneously now. This is taking more planning on my part. I’ve outlined six new large pieces that I will create. These pieces will be using papier maché techniques. I’m also integrating a lot of the smaller dolls that I’ve creating as well.

Work has already begun:

Most of the pieces that I’ve been working on that are specifically for the art show are smaller, sewn components. The six small (12 cm) geometric form headed dolls are for a piece that will be in the show. The skeleton doll (30 cm), as well as another doll (30 cm) are also intended for the art show.

I’ve also been collecting a lot of the free materials I use in my artwork as well. Lidl is always a great source of card and carton board. I stumbled-upon a treasure trove of newspaper a month of so ago, and came home with a backpack overflowing with it! With autumn here in Finland, I can also venture outside for natural elements like wood and stone as well.

So now what?

I guess I would say, stay tuned. Because as always, I will be taking a ton of pictures of my artwork as it progresses to share with you!

 

Links:

How to Eat a Whale, Shel Silverstiein

Let’s do the Time Warp Again!; Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

 

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Value & Cost

Recap:

If you read my post from on 21 September, you know that the idea of where and how I can best spend my time as an entrepreneur. Social media platforms that are taking up too much of my finite time and creative energies are going to be dropped. Those social media platforms that I feel are worth the time and effort I expend to maintain will continue to be used. With the hopes that my small business will continue to grow.

That all being said, there are adjoining concepts regarding time, energies, costs and value that are never far from the forefront of my mind. Some of these concepts and ideas bleed off into other sociocultural areas that I feel ill-prepared to navigate. In many cases, my personal beliefs are at odds with the current zeitgeist.

Value:

There have been many times in the past in which I’ve stated that being raised in the US has impressed upon me certain beliefs regarding how I personally interpret buying, selling, marketing, consuming products, etc. “Eat quickly, drive faster, and make more money now!” (1) is a lyric that comes to mind when I ponder how being a US citizen consumer has shaped my personal and professional perceptions.

To that end, it’s been imprinted upon me that a thing is valued if it’s popular. If everyone has one, and you’re the only one without it, that’s bad. You need to fall in line and buy those things that will make you part of the larger group. Being a teenager during the 1980’s really hammered some of this home to me.

There’s an initial psychological buy-in that happens. Mostly without a person being completely aware of it. You see a an object (clothing, car, house, toy, food, etc.) everywhere. Advertising via print media, through the radio, internet, television. Even the movies, television and music deliver advertising. Soon, buying these things seem like your idea. And not something that has been put into your mind.

What is the Value of an Object?

The value of an object is determined by a lot of different factors. In fact, it seems like something that is ever-changing, especially when it’s related to the products of visual and performing artists. Trends can make something popular one minute, and out of style the next. Fashion is a good example of that.

The availability of an object also determines its value. This can easily be seen at an auction of fine art at an auction house like Sotherby’s. Vincent van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet was sold for $82.5 at Sotherby’s in 1990. Society has decided that van Gogh’s work is extremely valuable. Van Gogh is dead so there are a finite amount of pieces of his work. Scarcity can make for high prices.

What does this mean for me as an artist?

First of all, I’m no freakin’ Vincent van Gogh. I’m not even within the same art-making universe as him. What it does bring to mind is that I’m constantly creating artwork. Constantly. Regardless of whether it sells or not. Does this mean I’ve flooded the market? Too many original Katie Kinsman artistic creations out there in the world perhaps?

No. I don’t think that’s it. I do sometimes wonder if there are people who want to purchase my work, but are just waiting for me to have a  big honkin’ sale. Or, my work may be selling because people just don’t like it. There are also (gestures with hands at relatively everything going on in the world right now) economic reasons why people are not buying things like artwork right now. Many other things are taking precedence over purchasing artwork. Food, clothing and shelter come immediately to mind.

Cost:

The cost gets me coming and going as an artist. There is the up-front costs that I pay to create the artwork that I do. I don’t mean just the cost of the supplies. My time is a large hunk of that up-front cost, as well as my creative energies.

Material and supply costs are easy to figure. It’s all numbers. I keep track of what I spend on my materials and supplies, as well as shipping and handling for any pieces I do sell. Time is another that’s easier to calculate. But as I’ve written about previously, trying to make sure that I get even a US minimum wage from the time I put into my artwork isn’t possible. No for a non-entity like me on the art stage.

When it comes to creative energies, which I will agree is also related a to the expenditure of my time, that’s something that less quantifiable in strict numbers-sense. It’s where the ideas come from, intertwined with my knowledge and experience. Those creative energies are very much part of who I am as an individual. It’s difficult to attach a number to that.

Yeah, but what do I get out of it?

But the important thing is, I will continue to to create artwork even if I never show it on social media platforms. Or if I never sell another piece of artwork. I make the artwork that I do because the value to me, in the form of therapy, keeps me mentally and emotionally spackled-together. THAT is the value of my artwork to ME.

If there are other people who like my artwork and wish to give me money for it. Terrific! If not. Then. Okay. Go on then and do you then. Just not in relation to my artwork.

Then gate keepers determine value:

Gate keepers (2) are everywhere. In every type of work. They make sure that there are qualifications and credentials for professionals that must be attained before being a teacher, nurse, lawyer, architects, accountants, engineers, bankers, etc. In the art world, the gate keepers are gallery owners, shop owners, and museum curators to name a few (I’m leaving out the performing arts for now.). If an artists work doesn’t get past these people, then the art work will not be shown or promoted to the art viewing/ purchasing public.

The internet and the boom of social media platforms that have resulted have given artists a larger platform in general to share and promote their artwork. My artwork has been seen by more people in the past five years on Instagram than in the my previous thirty years of creating my art.

What I’ve come to realize in the past few months is that Instagram is just as much of a gate keeper as any art gallery owner. They just exert their gate keeping through algorithms instead of declining to show my artwork in their gallery. Instagram will show my artwork, but just enough. Then they would like me to pay to get greater exposure.

They want me to pay to advertise.

Back to costs and value:

Okay. I’ll admit it. From the beginning, I was näive as all get-out regarding Facebook and Instagram. As an creative art entrepreneur, I took full advantage of the free-ness of each of these platforms. Over the past three weeks, Instagram has become rather aggressive in it’s attempts to get me to buy ads on the platform. So far, I’ve resisted.

I’ve resisted because I have no money to spend on advertising. Zero. Zilch. Nada. None.(3) Not 20¢. Not 2€. Instagram has been putting a lot, and I mean A LOT of Finnish artists into my Instagram feed that are buying ads. I’ve noticed it. I know what they’re doing. And it’s gonna take a lot more to convince me to purchase ads on the platform.

Do I value the ads? I suppose so. I know that they are worth something. That something being, “more eyes on my artwork”. But more eyes on my artwork can easily translate into more likes of my artwork. The thing is though, likin’ ain’t buyin’. If I cannot be guaranteed a boost in my sales figures, then I’m not biting.

I will admit. I still have a lot of research to do on the subject of purchasing Instagram ads. I will rule nothing out at this juncture.

So now what?

This has been a long and rambling post. Value and cost, related to my artwork and the sale of it, are at times monolithic concepts that tread on an unsound mental and emotional path for me. Separating my personal value as a human being from the value of the artwork I create gets extremely complicated for me.

When a person tries to get me to come down in price on my artwork, it’s as though they are making me as a human being feel as if I’m of less value. In the past, I’v heard a potential customer say, “I could buy four dolls at Walmart for what you’re asking for one doll!” They value quantity over quality I suppose. But yeah, you go be you. Walmart’s waiting.

And on that less than upbeat note, thanks for reading. I’ll see you again next Monday.

 

Links and References:

(1) William Shatner with Henry Rollins, I Can’t Get Behind That, Has Been (2004)

(2) This is really a not great webpage to read, but it gives a pretty good idea of what an art gate keeper does and how they might be thinking. Mihaly Csiikszenmihaly is a good read if you’re interested in creativity.

(3) “Zero. Zilch. Nada. None.” is a line from a drag queen called Jiggly Calliente song called ‘I Don’t Give a Fnck‘. It is NSFW. NOT. SAFE. FOR. WORK. Or children, small animals or little granny ladies.

LA Money Train, Rollins Band, Get Some Go Again (2000) This song is a cutting review of American culture. Henry does not mince words in this song. I love Rollins. He’s an American treasure.

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Shop Update!

There are three new dolls available in my shop today! I’ve had a lot of fun creating these three dolls and I hope that they find new homes soon! As always, my dolls are one-of-a-kind creations. The patterns used have been created by me. Each doll has a unique name that will never be used again in my future doll making. When you purchase one of my handmade dolls, know that you are getting a piece of unique artwork!

Zoë and her little kitty Renata are full of all kinds of mischief! Read more about them in their bio in my shop!

 

Russell is made for the season! He’d be a great addition to anyone’s Halloween! Read more about him in his bio in the shop!

 

Saffron is such a sweetheart! She’d be a great addition to anyone’s Halloween! Read more about her in the bio in the shop!

 

Limited Time Offer!

I’m offering free shipping on these three dolls for the first four days that they are listed in the shop! If you purchase any of these four dolls (or all four dolls) before 9:00 am September 29, 2020, Eastern European Summer Time (EEST) you will get free standard shipping (estimated 7-14 days delivery from Finland)!

Go Marielle!

Don’t miss any of Marielle’s adventures! Daily posts are made one her Instagram at go_marielle_go. Twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, a full length story is posted to the same Instagram account!

As always, if you have any questions, please contact me! You can find the ‘Contact’ button in my black menu bar at the top of my Welcome page!