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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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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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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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Exit Stage Left

I’m leaving Facebook

Leaving has been on my mind from time to time for the past year. It’s come to the forefront of my thoughts in the past few months for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons are personal, while others are totally professional.

During this past year, Facebook become a social media tool in which I share my artwork and my entrepreneurial endeavors with friends and family. It was a way to maintain connections. To show those who are half-way around the world what I’m doing with my time here in Finland.

Truth be told, I rarely sit down and write a post exclusively for Facebook anymore. Most of my posts are shared from my Instagram account. Over the past two or three weeks, I’ve noticed that Facebook is no longer sharing my Instagram photos. Even when I make sure that all the links are turned on. The past year has shown a decline in the variety of people engaging in my Facebook account as well. There tend to be the same two dozen or so people who comment, share, like, etc., on any of my Facebook posts.

The past four years or so have seen me consciously unfollow, unfriend and ‘snooze’ more people than I thought I ever would on Facebook. Most of those to whom I’ve done this have been because the content that they post I find disturbing. I shan’t go into exactly what the disturbing content is, but if you know me personally, or have been following me for a while, you can pretty much guess what kind of disturbing content I’m alluding to. And I’ll leave it at that.

Use of social media platforms as an entrepreneur

I’m incredibly fortunate to have a husband with a business and marketing degree. The entrepreneurial plans that I had prior to March 2020 had to be placed aside and new plans implemented when the world went into lockdown and then social distancing mode. The business plans I had prior to (gestures at virtually everything going on in the world at present) did a very sharp 80 degree turn, resulting in my increased reliance on social media platforms as tools to build my business.

I did a website re-do. Updated my content. Built an online storefront. Spent countless hours photographing, cataloging and entering data into my WooCommerce  extension. It was hard work and not always super-fun either. But it was worth it for me.

My website is mine. I decide on the content. My shop is located on my site it as well. It’s my home-base online. My husband explained that I needed to have a presence online that was mine, and mine alone. Something not subject to the whims of a multi-billion dollar business, like Facebook, or Instagram, or Pinterest (Yeah, I know Facebook owns Instagram). It was fine to have a presence on those platforms, but I wasn’t to pin all my entrepreneurial hopes on those platforms building my business for me. Those businesses were out to make money for themselves, not me.

No one should put all their entrepreneurial eggs in someone else’s business basket.

Social platforms I’ve used

Instagram and Facebook are the two social media platforms that I’ve used the most. I’ve also dabbled with Pinterest and Imgur. I’ve treated these social media platforms as satellites of my website. In changing my business model to one of selling a physical product (art) and away from teaching and instruction, I’ve also had to change how I use social media platforms to promote myself and my artwork.

Facebook

What I’ve learned is that my Facebook and Imgur accounts do not result in any increase in sales via my online shop. I have had a few sales via Facebook, but those were to people who already know me personally, not new customers. The people purchasing my artwork via Facebook contacted me directly. Imgur resulted in no sales, but some excellent conversations with people about my artwork. This was a nice surprise.

Pinterest

Strangely, Pinterest has driven people to my website, but has resulted in nothing more than a cursory look at my Welcome page and perhaps a peek into my online gallery. When I dug around to see why this was, I found that someone had tagged a set of drawings that I did almost a decade ago in the art classroom on Pinterest. Those people linking through to my website wanted to see a style of artwork that I am no longer doing. So they left.

Instagram

If I had to pick a favorite social media platform, it’s Instagram. I’ve been able to share my artwork with many people. And met with some brilliant, unique and talented artists from around the world as well. My following is not big. But I do have people on Instagram who do take the time to click through to my website and read my blog on occasion. I’ve also had some sales as a result of my activity on this platform. People who do not know me, but see and like my artwork.

What is best for me as a small business

A big part of doing well as this whole entrepreneurial small business thing is being a one-horse operation. It’s just me making the artwork that I try/want to sell. As well as an incredible amount of help from my husband. I sit here, in my gross sweatpants, alone at my desk, typing away on my ancient MacBook Pro, with a history documentary on my headphones, writing this blog post.

Precisely because it’s just me working at my business, I need to spend my time on different aspects of the business that will yield the greatest possible benefits. Anything that takes up too much time and provides no discernible benefit must be eliminated.

What social media is going to be kept?

Presently, I’m keeping Instagram, both my personal account katie_kinsman_in_finland and go_marielle_go. People can connect with me easily there through comments and direct messaging. Go Marielle! is a creative endeavor I’m having a lot of fun with. And I hope to continue building the character through a variety of different storylines in the future.

Ko-fi is another that I’m keeping. I’m not sure where I’ll go with it, but I need a little more time and data to figure that out. My Pinterest accounts will remain open, but I won’t be super-active on them. I’ve no interest in creating a Twitter account, and never have. I see how it has affected my husband in the past and present. I do not need that kind of stress in my life.

Imgur will be kept, but more for the sharing of pictures and the pleasant contact I’ve had with Imgurians online.

And, of course, my website and shop will be kept. They are my home base. I’m in as much control as I can be here. I know some multi-billion dollar company owns WordPress and WooCommerce. There’s no illusion on my part as to this fact. However, I do get a bit more control over my online presence. And for me that’s incredibly important.

But wait! Have you considered…(insert thought/idea/feeling)?

Getting the most as a small business out of social media platforms requires frequent and active participation in a variety of them. Again, I refer you to the fact that I am one person. The online and social media portions of my business are just that, portions of my business. Time is required for me to actually sit down and physically create artwork to sell. As simple as the Go Marielle! stories and photos are, they take a lot of time to create.

I do enjoy working/creating content on my computer. I use Canva a lot. And the new version of GIMP is something that is making my online postings better. Canva and GIMP are low to no-cost, which is terrific for a one-horse operation like mine. If money were no object I would love to have Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to work with. But you know, if wishes were horses…

And to put a finer point on it, I’m a visual artist. My brain is the happiest and most balanced when I’m working with my hands. I’m the most engaged in my creative process when I am actually creating the artwork itself. Yeah. I have a tremendous amount of fun creating for Go Marielle!, but a large chunk of the work is via my ancient MacBook Pro and hitting keys just doesn’t give me the same feeling of completeness that working on a physical piece of artwork does.

Now what?

In the end, I’m trying to make a place in which I am content with myself. A place where I can feel content as an artist and as an entrepreneur. The internet and social media platforms are all great tools that I can use to help me achieve my entrepreneurial goals. But it should be remembered that they are run by corporations whose main goal is to make money for their shareholders, not for a one-horser like me.

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

 

The Social Dilemma (2020) Netflix — It’s a an interesting documentary. I think it’s worth the time to watch it.

Exit…Stage Left, Rush (1981) and you can give the album a listen here. You’ve probably figured out by now that I’m a big fan of Rush. They were an amazing band to experience live and I’m happy to have these live albums around.

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Speed of Creation

Recently, I found myself focusing on a group of similar comments centered around the speed in which I create my artwork. The exact reasons for my focus on these comments eluded me. It’s not that the comments bothered me. Instead, they just seemed incredibly odd to me.

Why would the seemingly quick completion of a piece of artwork I’m creating require pointing out? Spending as much time in my own head as I do, the length of time it takes me to complete a given piece of art doesn’t matter all that much to me. The artwork happens at its own pace and in its own time. It’s finished when it’s finished.

But I think there is more to this.

Speed of Creation:

I’m aware of the passage of time. In fact, I have a rather fine-tuned sense of time and its passing. As a single artist building her own brand and business, I work seven days a week. There is always something that requires me to be working on it.

There are online and social media platforms that require monitoring, as well as new additions. Emails that need to be answered. Updates that need to be installed. Blog posts that need to be written. And photos that require processing before they can be posted.

This of course is sometimes lost when I’m in a flow state. This happens most often when I’m in the act of creating my own physical artwork (sometimes when I’m working on photos). Several hours can pass without my realizing it. Flow state just makes the time slip past so quickly. My focus is on the artwork I’m creating. Nothing else matters much outside of that.

I feel as though the perception by others of my ‘speed’ in creating artwork is due to several factors.

Possible Perceptions Regarding Speed:

Those who remark on my speed of creation have much more complicated lives than I do. Children, errands, friends, family obligations, yards, gardens, meals to cook, people to pick up and drop off, and jobs to go to. They cannot quite imagine finding enough time in their busy schedules to do what I do.

I don’t have many of the things I’ve listed above. Those things that require so much time and attention. My life is constructed so that I can use the greatest amount of time to create artwork. I get up in the morning, have breakfast with my husband, then go off to my desk to work on art production and the business end of my entrepreneurial endeavors. There are no kids. No yard or garden. My job doesn’t require me to drive to it.

I have a pesky habit of reading between the lines of statements. Usually this happens when I start chewing on them mentally. As an American, I cannot divorce myself from the cultural lenses in which I view the world around me. Because of this, part of me wonders if what is between the lines of “You work so fast!” is the implication that my work is not quality work and not worth the prices I ask for it.

Quality of the Work Created:

Being told that the quality of my artwork is amazing is very appreciated. Having someone see, and comment on the details that I painstakingly add to each and every piece of the artwork is incredibly satisfying as well.

If the artwork I make doesn’t look ‘right’ to me, then I change it. That may mean that I add several more layers of sealant to a paper mâché piece, or I take apart doll because the legs just are not level. It may mean that I completely change the color scheme, because what I wanted to use is just not making me happy.

The quality of my work is something that I’ve been working on since the first time I picked-up a crayon as a toddler. Each successive piece of artwork helps me to hone my skills. Making each piece of art after that one better. The constant attention to the quality of my work is also related to the speed in which I create. I get better and quicker at the specific artwork created.

Possible Perceptions Regarding Quality:

Here is one of those times in which I run everything through my personal American culture filters. The US is a consumer society. You are advertised to through almost everything that you see and hear during the day or night. There are so many businesses and companies vying for consumers dollars. Many of them using the tactics to get those dollars. Some offer more for less. The more you can purchase for the least amount of money is seen as a good thing. Regardless of the quality of the workmanship of the items being purchased.

When I create a one-of-a-kind 9 cm fairy doll using my own patterns and designs and put a price on it of 65€, there are those who question my pricing. It does not matter how well made or unique the piece of artwork is. What matters is that the consumer is getting a very small thing for a large price. In the eyes of some, their money would be better spent on a mass produced doll for 10€ at a chain store like Walmart or Target.

This does raise some questions regarding the perception of my artwork in general as well. Yes, I make dolls. Art dolls. Dolls that are made by me are not the type of doll that you can or should hand to a small child to play with. So yeah. How my artwork is perceived factors into this as well.

Cost of the Finished Artwork:

When purchasing artwork, there is always the question of what the “real cost” of the artwork is. Again, this relates to time and quality of the artwork. Yes, I can work seemingly quickly. Approximately 30 to 50% of the raw materials I use in the creation of my artwork are up-cycled, recycled and second hand in origin. There are other materials that I find locally in shops that are low cost as well.

This might seem like I’m cutting corners. Or not using the best quality materials to create my work. That’s not the case at all. I work with the tools and materials that speak to me. A large part of the joy I derive from creating my artwork is that I take things that might be seen as less-than, or trash to some, and turn them into something imaginative and beautiful.

And then, there is the time I have spent over almost 40 years of creating, learning and growing as an artist. The price of a single piece of artwork is never, ever just the price of the materials used to create it, or just the time it took to create it.

Possible Perceptions of Costs:

I do take great care in the pricing of my artwork. The prices that have been assigned to individual pieces have been thought about a great deal. In many instances, the final cost of the product for the customer works out to only a few dollars/euros per hour at best.

When it comes to the final cost of a piece of my artwork, the time (speed) and quality come into play within the mind of the customer. “Well, if she can make these so fast, they should cost less!” or “If these cost so much, then the quality should be better!” or perhaps even, “For this price, she should make the dolls bigger!

All of these are questions a customer can ask themselves. The reality is, of the three; time (speed), quality and cost, you can have two, but not all three. There will have to be a sacrifice made somewhere. You want quality and speed? Be prepared to pay more. You want a low priced, quality product, then be ready to sacrifice the speed in which you get the work. If speed and a low cost are what you desire, then the quality of the work is going to be lacking.

So Now What?

I don’t know that there is any easy way to solve this problem. The Iron Triangle (I love that name.) is just one of many different project management and business tools that I can use to gauge my progress as an entrepreneur. Strangely, I’ve taken some comfort in researching the Iron Triangle. A big take-away for me is that sometimes it’s not all about me and my artwork (products). Many times, it’s about the potential customer.

The longer that I work on marketing myself as an artist and on my business plans, the more I realize that there are simply some people who will never be my customer. They will never purchase my artwork. And that’s totally okay. What this means for me, is that I shouldn’t spend my limited resources (time, energy, creativity and money) attempting to make them understand my work and why it’s worth the money. And again, that is totally okay.

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

Links:

Speed is the Key, Sugarcubes – This is the Sugarcubes song mashed with a Commando Cody serial from the early 1950’s. If you’re a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, you’ve seen quite a few Commando Cody shorts!

Speed is the Key is from Here Today, Tomorrow and Next Week!, 1989 (The year I graduated from high school!)

Good, Fast, Cheap: You Can Only Pick Two!

The Iron Triangle (Product Management Triangle)