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The traffic for my site has just tanked over the past few weeks. (I just actually looked at my stats and it’s more than tanked. I’m at zero people visiting my site for several days in a row now. Even with several regular weekly postings.) I have some days when there are no views at all, even on those days in which I post written material or photos of my work. I’ve had absolutely no interest from any potential customers in either one of the patterns I’ve offered for sale. There’s a part of me that just wants to yank down the patterns from my website and delete them completely from every hard drive I own. With the zero interest shown in them, I feel as though history is repeating itself, and these patterns are plague-ridden garbage that I never should have created in in the first place. These responses are coming from an incredibly tender emotional place within my psyche. My more logical side feels that I need to do some thinking about the problem at hand, well, the two problems/questions at hand: 1.) why is there a lack of traffic on my website? and 2.) why have I had no sales (or even any interest) of the patterns?

Is the Lack of Traffic to My Site Due to not Having an Easy-to-Use Storefront?

I know it would be better if I had a website that had a storefront that allowed customers to simply point and click to purchase items. I totally agree. I wish that were something that I could afford to do right now, but it’s not. WooCommerce was recommended to me by a friend, and it looks great, but I would be in the red every month just paying for the storefront. Gumroad is another site that’s been recommended by a friend who publishes his own zine. I think it might work for me, but not if there is no market for my downloadable patterns. Gumroad also would be taking a small portion of the sales. Etsy is the same way. I would be paying them for the service of running the storefront I cannot afford to run myself. I don’t fault these online services for needing to take their cut for the services that they offer. They aren’t running altruistic organizations. They are running a business and they need to make money.

My husband and I talked about the lack interest in or sales of the Monster Doll and Easy-Peasy Doll patterns. He made an interesting observation. I have asked potential customers to contact me directly via email, Messenger or Instagram DM to ask questions about, or to purchase the doll patterns. I asked potential customers to reach out and send me an message and actually talk to me regarding what they may wish to purchase. I’ve asked them to do this instead of clicking a button and entering their payment information. What I’m asking potential customers to do is to do something that’s not how e-commerce is done today.

It’s easy to purchase items from a mega-monolith site like Amazon. You just point and click. Your payment and shipping information is already stored on the site. You don’t have to re-enter them. It makes buying an item so incredibly easy to do. You don’t have to talk to anyone directly at all. You don’t even have to talk to the delivery person who brings the items to your door. The only time that you might talk to someone is if there was something wrong with the items you ordered, items missing, or if the package was never delivered. I use Amazon as an example, because it’s the most ubiquitous. There are literally thousands of websites on the internet in which you can purchase items in almost the same exact way.

Point. Click. Wait. Receive.

For those of us who are still in the beginnings of business-building, having a polished internet storefront isn’t always a feasible option. Good grief! I’m still trying to figure out so many things like, what sells and what doesn’t, what to post and how to post it, pricing, mailing, etc. My business is in its infancy. But I’m expected to be able to (at least on the surface) look as though I’m just as big and established as other artists and crafters that have been in the game longer, have more sales, and a much larger target audience? It doesn’t seem fair, but business isn’t necessarily fair. I suppose I should just buck-up and spend the money I don’t have for the online tools that I think may at some unknown point in the future generate a satisfactory amount of business income so that I can contribute to the household expenses.

Or…I could rely on my solidly midwestern American up-bringing and engage my inner reservoirs of pure, undiluted, vitriolic sarcasm to aid me in weathering my incredibly poor sales.

Either way, I feel like I’m going to turn-off potential customers.

Am I Just Too Weird and Off-Putting as a Person for Potential Customers?

I tend to use sarcasm to deflect things that I find emotionally painful. It’s a knee-jerk reaction that I developed in childhood I’m fairly sure. It doesn’t make me special. It makes me one of the millions of people on the planet who had to deal with emotionally unpleasant or down-right emotionally debilitating circumstances and had to come up with some manner of coping mechanism. Using sarcasm for me is the emotional equivalent of throwing a handful of dirt in a perceived attackers face and then running away so I can tend to my wounds.

Couple my tendency to use sarcasm as a crutch and my unbelievably odd sense of humor, then add a dash of my love of all things Dada and Surrealistic, and you can see why I fear that sometimes I come across as weird, off-putting and hard to approach. Which then leads me to another question: Am I presenting myself as mean and weird and that’s the reason no one wants to contact me to buy a doll pattern — and for that matter, anything else that I have for sale on my website?!

Wow. This entrepreneurial post just took an unexpected psychological turn. But I’m nothing if not painfully honest about my personal psychological challenges.

So, if I’m presenting myself in a weird and off-putting manner as an artist, creator and entrepreneur online, how do I fix that perception?

I feel as though it would be deceptive to present myself as anything other than truly myself here on my site. It’s taken me a long time to become comfortable in my own ‘Katie-ness’ and I don’t have any wish to give that up any time soon. I was once told by my older brother that I ‘needed to tone-down my intelligence‘ when it came to dating, because I was ‘intimidating‘. I was shocked and frankly, hurt when he said these things to me. I needed to be something other than who I was so that a man would like me enough to potentially date me? Really? It felt deceptive and wrong and I didn’t follow the advice.

I do think that I can better manage perceptions of myself. I just don’t know exactly how to. Again, I feel like anything other than being myself, my entire weird, surrealistic, mess-up self, is just making myself into a liar. And that feels so incredibly wrong to me. I suppose that the answers to these questions about myself and how I present myself to the public and customers requires further examination and subsequent discussions.

Now What?

My questions have been been partially answered, perhaps merely explored to the extent I can at this given moment. I want to have a storefront at some point for my website, but until I make enough money, that cannot happen. I’m still rather emotionally defaulting to “My doll patterns are total and complete crap and that’s why no one wants to buy them.” as the key reason why they aren’t selling. I hope that I can learn from the mistakes I’ve made with them, so I don’t make the same mistakes in the future. As usual, I need to wallow about a bit in these kinds of thoughts before I can then start coming up with possible solutions to the problems I’m encountering.

Until next Wednesday, thank you for reading!

Helpful Links I’m Using Right Now:

I have had the refrain from Peter Gabriel’s song, I Have the Touch ping-ponging around in my brain for the past two weeks.

I’ve also been listening to Rush’s album Signals a lot over the past month. It’s my favourite album, and one of the few that I don’t ever seem to skip tracks on while I’m listening to it. It’s also got cool cover art. I think I had this on vinyl, but it could have been my younger brothers copy. I know I had the poster.

I’m a huge Mystery Science Theatre 3000 fan. (I love B horror movies and in general, just really bad movies in general) There are some episodes that I’ve seen many times. I’ve been listening to (and sometimes watching the super-good bits) while I’ve been working recently. Well, more than that, but you get the idea. You can go to Shout Factory TV (they have lots of other fun stuff too!) and watch MST3K, or on YouTube. It’s not every single episode, but it’s a lot of them!

Fairy Wings

I started experimenting over the weekend. I didn’t intend to create a bunch of sets of fairy wings. As with most of my artwork, it started out with a me asking a question. I wanted to see if I could take pieces of rigid plastic packaging and make something approximating insect-like wings for the tiny dolls I’ve been working on for since January.

I’m limiting my time out of the house to once a week, so I had to use the art supplies that I have on hand. I didn’t want to order any art supplies, or have to figure out how to combine several errands into one trip that would coincide with the opening hours of a shop, or the specific errands I needed to run either. So, not only have I asked myself one question, but then set up several additional parameters for the project as well.

I like setting up different problems (challenges?) for myself. I feel like it keeps me from getting too stale in my thinking or in the artwork that I produce. At least I hope that it does. It never seems to take the route that I imagined in my head, and it always teaches me something new. Sometimes what it teaches me is that I don’t know nearly as much as I think I do.

In the case of these fairy wings, I did arrive at a product that I like quite a bit. What I found surprising was the fact that what I thought would be a ‘quick and dirty’ method of creating some okay looking wings, turned into a much more complicated and involved creative process that had me reaching into my knowledge of fine art printmaking.

I took a lot of printmaking while I was in art school. I have experience with stone lithography, wood and linoleum cut, etching, and monoprinting processes. I loved the physicality of stone lithography. There was an element of flying by the seat of your pants with wood and linoleum cut, especially since I did a lot of ‘suicide prints’. I was poor and couldn’t afford a separate piece of wood or linoleum for each color run. Etching seemed like magic to me. I loved everything about printmaking. I loved that you could make multiples of the same piece. I loved that you could alter the image or create separate monoprints that you could work back into with other mediums. It was a lot of fun and the processes all made sense to me. They seemed logical and orderly.

Once printing process I never really got into was intaglio. I just couldn’t physically handle the way in which the drawing is created on the matrix. The scratching on the metal or the plastic just makes me nauseated! It feels like the scratching and scraping are being done inside my stomach. Yuck! So it makes perfect sense that intaglio, crossed with a little scrimshawing is the way in which I think I can create fairy wings.

I thought that what I would do is take some of the plastic packaging that I had pulled from the trash for this. My initial idea was that I would take a metal needle tool and quickly scratch some wings onto it. Then I would use paint (in this case, acrylic, because it’s what I have) and paint it onto the surface of the plastic. Then I’d wipe off the excess. The paint would stay in the scratches below the surface. Then I could cut out the wings and attach them to a doll. Easy! Right?

Well…no.

Here is the first set of wings. More of less a ‘proof of concept’ construction. This was to answer the questions: will the plastic I have work? Does the paint stick to the places I scratched? Can I sew the wings together easily?

The first wings were wonky and frankly, sucked. So I went on to the second set of wings. For this set, I created a drawing to work from that was placed beneath the plastic. I taped the plastic down and then scratched the lines on the wings onto the plastic.

This second try was better in that they looked more like butterfly wings, but I just couldn’t get the paint to stick inside the areas that I scratched. I think I’d applied paint and buffed it off three separate times and there were still spaces where the lines were thin and scraggly looking.

On to the third try. This time, I decided to add two more colors. I thought by adding different colors, I could add some dimension to the wings, while at the same time hiding some of the areas where the paint would not adhere to the plastic scratches.

The third try was wonky. I got some better coverage, but the way in which I was removing the second and third colors (robins egg blue and a yellow) were just cruddy. I used too little paint and it dried more quickly that I thought it would and it was hard to wipe down with either paper or even to get off with at a q-tip.

On to the forth try! I used a different plastic for this set of wings. I think the container held some kind of refrigerated pasta salad or something like that. It was slightly thicker, almost spongy compared to the other rigid plastic I had used for the previous three wing attempts.

I feel like I figured out what I wanted to do with the wings by this set. I don’t like the plastic itself. The way the painting turned out, as well as the sealant, I liked very much. I also learned that I need at least two holes poked through the center of the wings so that when I sew them together, they hold well and don’t wobble back and forth too much.

I decided that for the 5th and 6th sets of wings, I would change up the color schemes. One was done with red, orange and yellow(s) and one was done with blues, purples and pinks.

 

I used four colors; red, orange and two different yellows. With the 5th and 6th attempts at these fairy wings, I realized that I needed to scratch the stylus into the plastic much deeper than I had previously done. The plastic is thin, and there are a few places where I kind of started a repoussé technique with the plastic. It’s only visible when you’re really looking closely though.

With the 6th set of wings, I used blues, purples and pinks. I left much, much more of the color on the plastic than I did in in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th sets of wings.

You can see how much paint I left on the reverse side of the 6th set of wings. I sealed the sides with paint on them with a sealant, which is just Eri-Keeper, slightly modified. I like how it begins to make the see-through portions of the wings look like glass from windows prior to the turn of the 20th century; wavy and uneven. These last two sets of wins I think are the ones that I think I will be using on the two tiny dolls that I intended to have wings.

I had a lot of fun creating these sets of wings. I already have ideas for other techniques I would like to use to create wings for dolls, or just to create interesting surfaces for larger, more complicated pieces of art that I would like to create. I think there is a lot to explore using plastics and paint, as well as the intaglio/scrimshaw treatment of the plastic sheets.

The one thing that is kind of gnawing at me a bit is the fact that I’m not a big fan of fairies per se. I mean, I don’t hate them or anything. They’re just not my thing. Same thing with angels. I tend to root for the monsters and creatures other than fairies. ANYWAY…I’m not sure what possessed me to create fairy wings. The wings I made looks more like butterfly wings, but since they will be attached to tiny dolls, it makes them fairy wings by default.

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

Sunday 5 April

I decided to try out a few new ideas on these two 8 cm dolls. I need to get their little faces and hair done before I can start on the rest of their outfits and other bits and bobs. I have ideas…ideas that somehow rely on my fine art printmaking background. I wonder if I can make it all work?

Doll Patterns for Sale!

In my previous entrepreneurial post this week, I talked about selling doll patterns that I’ve created. I have patterns that I am working on that are not ready for release yet. I had put them on a back-burner while I was working on the art workshops I wanted to teach. Everything is flipped around due to circumstances beyond my control, so it’s all doll patterns a-go-go here in my world right now!

Monster Dolls:

I have five separate monster doll patterns; Harold, Cubby, Clarence, Ginger and Beady. Each single Monster Doll patter is priced at 4€ each ($4.35 USD). I’m not selling a physical product. The Monster Doll patterns are download only! You will need an email account to receive your purchased patterns.

Included in the price of the Monster Pattern is an additional 26 page PDF with more detailed, step-by-step instructions and photographs. Because many people around the world right now are social distancing and/or are under isolate-at-home orders, I have included additional ideas and information for materials usage if the Basic Fabric, Notions and Supplies listed for each doll pattern are not immediately available for the purchaser. The PDF Monster Doll instructions will be sent via email to everyone purchasing a Monster Doll pattern.

For those who wish to use this pattern with school aged children, you’ll find it quite easy to do so. Children 10 and older can work more independently with this pattern, while younger children will require more direction and assistance by an adult. There are multiple instructional possibilities that could be utilized with the Monster Doll patterns. At the very minimum, creating a Monster Doll could be part of a child’s on-going visual arts instruction. These Monster Doll patterns can also be utilized to instruct children about recycling and up-cycling of the materials they already have at home. It can also be used as a means of teaching critical thinking for students, especially when substitutions for the listed materials needs to be made. The finished Monster Dolls could be used as a writing prompt for puppet shows or  fictional stories with illustrations.

 

Easy Peasy Doll Pattern:

I’m also offering my Easy Peasy Doll Pattern. It’s 2€ ($2.17 USD) This pattern is also download only!

The Easy Peasy Doll Pattern is four pages with pattern and instructions. The construction methods of the Easy Peasy Dolls are similar to the Monster Dolls.

If you wish to purchase any of the Monster Doll or Easy Peasy Doll patterns, please contact me via email at Katiekinsman.fi@gmail.com or via Facebook Messenger (Katie Kinsman) or by Instagram DM. I will give you the payment details at that time. You will receive your patterns and directions files via email. They can then be printed out and used.

All of the patterns for sale are for individual use only and not intended for resale.

Peddling My Wares

Almost all of the plans that I had created for the upcoming year in my entrepreneurial plan have gone sideways. I don’t feel as though I should be whinging and whining about the fact that teaching must be put on hold for me. It’s not as though my art lessons will go moldy while waiting for a date in the future in which I can have at least ten people in a room who can be closer than two meters apart. They’ll keep.

I have two other ways at my disposal to further grow my business: my artwork and patterns.

Presently, physical product, my artwork, is what I have been advertising for sale. I have many pieces up for sale on this website. I am selling some work here and there, but not at any type of consistent rate. Every sale is celebrated, but I would really like to have some consistency regarding the amount of artwork that I sell. The infrequent sales could be due to many different things that are out of my control. The current situation in the world regarding COVID-19. Potential customers being wary of spending money on something that isn’t a necessity. The fact that I live in Finland and shipping outside the EU can be a little lengthy and expensive. There’s always the possibility that there aren’t a lot of people who like my work, but that’s a different more wibbly-wobbly-emotional-artist-thing for another time and another post entirely.

I’ve talked previously about why at this point I’m not having a sale on my work. This decision isn’t carved in stone and at some time in the future may be up for change.

I have also looked into adding onto my website, creating a store front with a check-out and more typical online store presence. At this point, I’m just not selling enough art to do that. I cannot afford it the upgrade. This leaves me with the selling of patterns.

I’ve never been abject to selling patterns. I suppose what I worry about most is that there are people out in the world who will use a pattern that is not of their own design to create work and then sell it as their own creation. That does bother me. Which then brings me to another challenge; do I make patterns for work that I have already created (20 cm and 10 cm cloth dolls; 6 cm Little Lady dolls; tiny animal dolls?) or do I design a completely new and different doll specifically geared toward pattern sales?

I do have some patterns ‘in the can’ so to speak. These are patterns that I can easily offer for download. My hesitance is offering them for sale again is due more to the abject feeling of failure I felt when these patterns did not sell well when they were first created. What were those reasons? Was I attempting to market these patterns at the wrong time? Was I simply in the wrong place? Were the patterns just really horrible and bad and that’s why no one wanted to buy them?

As an artist and as a budding entrepreneur, there are many things I like about being both. The feeling of control that I have regarding what I make, how I make it and when I make it being first and foremost. When I do sell work, I know that I have worked hard for what I have earned. It even makes the small amount that I earn from my artwork feel immensely gratifying. As I have detailed above, there are always things that are out of my control. These situations require flexibility and the ability to change course quickly. It’s interesting that these qualities are also ones that I utilized a great deal as an art teacher in the public schools!

I feel as though I’ve been trying to talk myself into selling patterns here on my website throughout this entire post! To be honest, I suppose that is in small part, true. I have a few ideas in the fire and I think I need to finally make some decisions and move forward with them.

(Inhales deeply through the nose)

Okay. Let’s get this pattern thing going.

 

Tiny Elephants

I feel rather uniquely well-suited to remaining at home and limiting my time outside of the house to one grocery store trip per week. I do have some things coming up that require me to leave the house this week. It makes me a little nervous, but I’m confident that my chances of becoming ill are significantly less here in central Finland than in other parts of the world. It seems like every morning, the numbers of people diagnosed with COVID-19 just keep going up and up and up. The virus seems to be galloping through the population. It’s scary.

I’m trying to keep my own anxiety down to a dull roar. Making art has always been my preferred method of therapy, so that’s what I’m doing. I made two elephants yesterday. I’ve never had any reason or need to make elephants. I just wanted to see if I could. I basically created a problem for myself, and then made attempts to solve it. Making a tiny elephant or two was something that I could be in complete control of. There were no other people outside myself that were controlling it. It was all me. I called all the shots. I was the one who made the decision to use the materials that I thought would work the best. I’m the person who decided how to alter the pattern for the second elephant so that the ears would fold and kind of droop the way I thought they should.

When I’m making something, there is something about the act of creating. It’s the opposite of destruction. It’s ordered. Methodical. On the surface, not at all chaotic, or at least not the worst parts of the concept of chaos (panic, fear, non-thinking). This brings to mind “I thought I could organize freedom, how Scandinavian of me” from the song Hunter by Björk. Somehow, I always change the word ‘freedom‘ to ‘chaos‘ in my mind. There must be something Freudian about that, I’m sure. But I digress.

The act of creation, breathing life into something that on the surface, seems lifeless it’s a divine act. Rooted in the past and looking, hoping, striding towards the future. Acts of creation come in as many different forms as there are individual people on the planet. I make art. What I create perhaps seems to some people as trivial. I make dolls. This is where I have to start internally fending off “Katie doesn’t make friends. She “makes” friends.” that at times in the past has gotten the better of me. Is this an attempt to make my acts of creation seem childish, meaningless, small and inconsequential? No act of creation is too small. Small things have a way of growing into larger things over time. At least, if they are carefully nurtured.

Times like the ones in which we are currently living is a time in which all of that nurture can begin to pay off. Not necessarily pay off in the monetary sense, but more in terms of the mental and emotional sense. I’ve said this so many times before; making art keeps me intact, mentally and emotionally. I feel fortunate that my personal methods of self-soothing and self-medicating are potentially far less destructive than alcohol or illegal substances. (Okay. I do want coffee. I’m a huge fan and require two cups prior to 12 in order to function without a headache. Here, go listen to the Descendants sing about coffee, live and from the album I would think that the entire country of Finland might feel the same?)

COVID-19 is scary. At times, it can be huge-Godzilla-sized-scary. An individual person can feel helpless and without control of their life. They can’t go to work. They can’t get together with friends and family. Some are in full quarantine, while other people are dealing with being in isolation, either state or self-imposed. Children are out of school and at home. There are bills that need to be paid and perhaps no money coming in. Or even scarier, you are one of those people deemed ‘essential’ and you are at work, serving the public by doing your job. (Thank you for doing this. You are an amazing person and you deserve more consideration and compensation for your service to the communities in which you live and work.) This is all weird and scary and dangerous.

Take it all in. Acknowledge what is going on. What you are in control of and what you are not in control of. Be honest. Look inward. Find yourself. Make art.

I’m not at all trivializing the danger that many people are in, especially those essential workers. It may seem like I’m saying, “Hey! Make some arts and crafts and everything will be okey-dokey! All your worries will just vanish!” No. I’m not saying that at all. What I’m saying is that being creative, making art can help a person deal with all of the scary-weird-crazy that seems to be happening in the world. A person can find one tiny area of their life in which they have control. No one else can tell them what to do or how to do it or where to go, or where to stay…it’s just them and the art. It may be only for a few minutes per day. Singing a song. Take a picture. Writing down their thoughts. Drawing a picture. Cooking a meal. Dance a dance. Planting some seeds. These small acts of creativity can grow into larger ones that help keep a person intact mentally and emotionally. COVID-19 will still be there after the art is created. Your mind will be different. You will be more yourself and feel as though, even though things suck right now, that you can get through it. You will get through this and it will change you.

So, I make tiny elephants. After I post this online, I’m going to make a third tiny elephant. I feel as though the pattern and the sequence of construction will be in the final form once I’ve completed it. Who knows what will come of my tiny elephant dolls and pattern? Maybe they will grow larger?

Thanks for reading, and I will see you next Monday.

Links:

A song by The Double Clicks, “Tiny Paper Elephant” seems to be a good song for everything that’s happening in the world right now. Listen to their other songs too. I love the Double Clicks! They’re amazing!

I know that the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear has become quite popular right now. I’m a sci-fi fan and have actually read all six Dune books. (You can stop after the third book.) Here are two different versions. One from the really not-so-great David Lynch version, (some great casting, especially Sian Phillips) and one that’s a musical version from Akira the Don and Comic Girl 19. It might also be a good time to read the books, but remember! Stop after the third book! I mean it!

I’ve been watching/listening to a lot of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 over the past two weeks. It’s wonderfully funny and goofy. Right now, some people need that more than anything.

Sunday 29 March

I decided to try my had at making an elephant today. I like everything except for the ears. The size and shape are a little too Topo Gigio for my liking. I changed a few things around, including making the torso and limps thicker. I also made the arms and legs flat on one end to look a bit more elephant-ish. The trunk has a wire and can be posed. At present, she’s standing on my pin cushion holding a rose in her trunk. She needs a little tail and I think I will call her finished!

Dispatch from the Desktop

I’ve spent the past few days experimenting with the most recent tiny doll pattern I’ve created. It’s the same one that I used to create bunnies, bears and ducks. One of the great things about being a visual artist is that I can go from idea to physical object in a relatively short span of time. Revisions and streamlining of the art production process can sometimes take a bit longer. Sometimes, I have to simply put a piece aside so I can think about the problem for a while, and that takes time. At present, I’m still not sure about Stanley’s top hat. It’s merely pinned to the top of his head, instead of being permanently attached. This is because I want to be completely sure about something before committing to it totally. Nothing sucks quite as much as not listening to your creative gut instincts, rushing through a decision, and then having to come up with a way to fix the solution that you thought would work.

The bird and duck dolls contain the most individual pieces of each of the dolls I’ve been creating lately. It’s strange, because it doesn’t seem like a lot of parts to me. They seem to come together quite quickly. The additional hats, dresses and collars feel like they take a lot more time to me. The dress for the little ducky doll Edwina was actually made twice. That was about four hours of work, and I only used one of them.

I took some photos while creating a blue bird. I wanted to try out a new method of attaching the heads to the dolls that wouldn’t require them to be sewn on. I wanted to try this out, because if I ever created a pattern to sell for these dolls, I wanted an easier method than the one I’m employing. That’s not to say that how I sew the dolls heads to their bodies is insanely hard. It’s just tricky. A novice doll maker might become frustrated with the method. I think this is the ‘art teacher’ part of me at work. I want everyone to feel successful when creating art.

I’m still being lazy and not creating a pattern piece for the wings or the tail. It’s just so much easier to cut them out free-hand for me. Each of the pieces that are pinned are two-layers of felt. I used a medium and a dark blue felt to make it more interesting to look at. The yellow pieces, in the shape of U’s are the feet. The kind of longish pieces that’s tapered at each end are the beak pieces. I use a single strand of regular sewing thread, and a blanket stitch, to hand sew all of the pieces together to create the feet, wings, tail and beak.

The picture above shows what all the cut pieces look like once they’ve all been sewn together. I think the only piece I didn’t show was the little pink tongue. It’s about two and half millimeters long and about a millimeter wide. I only cut it out when I have the beak sewn onto the head of the doll and it’s ready to be glued in. For the more easier method of attaching the head to the body, the arms and legs are sewn onto the torso first, then the head is attached. When I sew the head on, it’s sewn to the torso first, then I add the arms and legs. All of the sewing on the head is completed before it’s attached to anything. It’s so much easier to hid knots inside the head on the underside.

I think I’m okay with the new way of attaching the head, but I still think it needs some work. I don’t like how there’s a visible bump between the top of the torso where it meets the head. It really bugs me. The head is securely fastened. I think I’ll crochet a collar to hid this, otherwise it will drive me nuts!

I also made a little pig, because I found a few tiny scraps of some wool felt and I wanted to see how it would work for such a tiny doll.

The felt was harder to work with. It’s a 40/60 acrylic and wool blend. It was a little thicker than 1mm as well. Honestly, I hated this doll when I got to the point of putting the snout on. I was so close to just scrapping it completely. Then I added the ears and the doll started to look ‘right’ to me. Any future piggies will be made with a lighter weight felt, and have a shorter snout I think.

I tried out making a little strawberry head doll next. She went well. I used a 1mm felt for her body and head, but don’t like how her body came out. I may have just been working too fast though. The second attempt at the strawberry head I think was much improved.

I like the dark green for the body better. I also added some stitches for the ‘seeds’ that should be on a strawberry. I like using yellow for this, making the strawberry more ‘cartoony’, but it didn’t look right. I changed to a slightly darker red and it looks much better I think. The new method of attaching the head worked out well for this doll. I think due in large part to the fact that I added a green ruff to look like leaves around the neck.

And what goes with strawberry? Banana! (I love strawberry and banana flavours together!) I like how this little guy turned out. What really kills me is that I had to stop and create a pattern for this little banana, but I can free-hand cut more complicated wings and have them come out almost identical. I suppose it’s because I’ve made thousands of wings over my lifetime of being an artist, and this is the first time I’ve ever made a banana!

The size of these dolls, between 6 and 6.5 cm or so, makes it fairly easy for me to change things around once I feel like I’m getting a bit bored. I always feel like a bit of a lout when I say that, but it’s true. I like solving the problem, and once it’s solved, I want to go on to the next problem. These problems always start with, “I wonder if I could do that?” or “Would this work?” Perhaps it’s not true boredom, but impatience. Or perhaps a combination of the two? I’m not sure. I’m just thankful that I don’t ever seem to run low on ideas for artwork that I want to create. Time is something that I never seem to have enough of though.

That’s what I’m working on this week. What are you working on?

I’m a Jerk.

There are some things that I’ve been thinking a lot about, entrepreneurially, over the past week or so. The entire planet is having to deal with a new type of semi-permanent ‘normal’ due to the concerns over the spread of Covid-19. It’s still very early in this pandemic, so individual and national situations are fluid, and prone to change almost daily depending upon where you live. For those of us who work from home (my husband) and those of us who have been working on our own entrepreneurial endeavors, little may have changed regarding where we work, but a lot has changed for those who buy our work.

I noticed several weeks ago that some of the artists and makers that I follow had instituted sales in their online shops. Some offered a percentage discount on specific items, others on the final purchase total. There are many artists, creative, and performing artists who support themselves (and family) through gig-work. It seems like the term ‘gig’ has replaced ‘freelance’ in the world today. How many people do you know who have a full-time job and then a side gig? As a full-time employed public school art teacher, I had a side-gig all the time. I created art and sold it at various arts and craft shows in the city I lived in. I did artwork on commission. I took on additional teaching during the summer, to both children and adults. All so I could make ends meet. These gigs allowed me to have some breathing room within my budget. I know that this is not at all uncommon for educators to have gig work. At least in the US where I was living and working.

Covid-19 and the mandatory isolation orders, bans on gatherings of over ten people at a time, as well as other restrictions on travel inside and outside of different countries, have really hit artists, creatives and performing artists hard. A cartoonist that I follow, Adam Ellis (Instagram @adamtots) wrote a little about this. As a cartoonist, he’s had all the gigs he’s had lined up for the next year practically vanish in two weeks. Cons and book signings. Meet and greets. Talks. Meetings. POOF! All gone. He’s asking those who like his work and who want to help support him during this time to head to his merch store where he has a sale going on, or over to Patreon.

I’ve read some negative reactions to posts from artists asking for people to buy their merch or maybe become a patron on Patreon. These reactions give me ‘DeForest Kelley Face’.

Some of the negative reactions are centered around the fact that there are thousands and thousands of people who have been laid-off or let go from their jobs because of the closure of many types of businesses due to social distancing and isolation in place because of the spread of Covid-19. These people are justifiably scared about what is happening right now. They may have no money coming in and no savings to rely on. They may feel that it’s in poor taste or just rude for an artist to be asking for a ‘hand-out’ when they don’t know how they are going to pay their rent and buy food for the next month. (Interesting side note: artists do have to pay rent, eat, and pay bills too.)

But I’m getting a little off-track. Back to my point.

As much as the global pandemic is punching a big, fat hole in Adam Ellis’s ability to create, sell and promote his work, he’s in a better situation than I am by comparison. I’m a one-horse operation. I make the art. I sell the art. I create the workshop. I teach the workshop. My profits are infinitesimal by comparison. My range of products and the appeal of those products are a fraction of a fraction of a fraction when looked at in the larger Etsy-sized picture of artists, makers and creators working in the same vein or with the same themes as I do. There are doll artists who sell their work steadily and well, but still are not making enough money to live on. I’m much, much, much smaller than they are.

Full disclosure: I’ve sold four dolls over the last month and I am over-the-moon thankful (Seriously, deliriously, insanely, made-me-do-a-little-dance-in-my-living-room thankful to those buyers!!!) for those three sales. My profits for those sales were around 250€ combined over a thirty day period. If my husband were not working his buns off to support the two of us, we would have no place to live, no money to eat, nothing. Plans that I had made regarding art workshops has had to be back-burnered for now. This leaves my physical artwork as what I can offer for sale.

Perhaps there are some people who think, that if I cannot seem to sell my artwork, then the market has spoken. It’s told me that my work is bad and no one wants to buy it. So I should close up shop and go do something where I can make money, like…teaching workshops maybe? Or maybe I should just go an get any kind of job? What kind should I get? Maybe I would I sell more artwork if I decided to have a sale? What if I offered a discount? Or a BOGO? It’s tempting. I know that there are people who are more likely to purchase my artwork when I cut the price by almost half. But then what? Will people then expect me to sell my artwork for less on a regular basis once the sale is over?

I’ve always had a problem pricing my artwork. When I finally do arrive at a price, it’s been thoroughly thought about, discussed, thought about some more, discussed more (with my husband, and other respected friends) and finally decided upon. I’ve always thought that what I create, and the way in which I create it, isn’t exactly special. As an art teacher, I truly believe that every student I teach (child and adult) can accomplish the same levels of creativity and personally pleasing end product that I do. What I do is not rocket surgery. Because of this belief, I tend to undervalue what I create. So once all the sweating, fretting, discussions and debates have concluded, and a price is arrived upon. That’s the price of the work.

This may seem as though I’m being a total jerk. “This is what I will sell my work for and I will not take a single cent less!” But, would you question a physician or a lawyer about how much they charge? What about the mechanic who works on your car? Or the plumber who makes the poo go down the toilet instead of up and out of the toilet? There is this perception that an artist can be haggled with regarding the price of their work. There is this idea that because art is subjective, and capitalism is king in the US, that it’s perfectly acceptable to start haggling, or to just demand a lower price for artwork. The work of a physician or lawyer, that’s all objective. The value of their work is established. Their work is required for society to function well. The message is: medicine and law are necessary; art is not necessary.

Given the current state of the world, I’m also just cheeky enough to ask, how much art — movies, television, music, games, reading, sewing, knitting — etc., etc., — and including cooking, baking, drawing, writing, singing, playing an instrument — has the average human being done while they have been in isolation or quarantine? How long would it take people to start climbing the walls if they didn’t have art to keep them at least a little sane during all the scary weird happenings going on in the world around them?

Again. I digress.

So. I will not be offering any sales or discounts on the artwork that I’m selling for the foreseeable future. I do know that those fluid situations I spoke up previously may require me to change this, and in the back of my mind, I cannot rule it out completely. As a one-horse operation, with a very limited and specialized line of products, I simply cannot afford to. I’m learning what my value is as a individual and as an artist. It’s been hard-won knowledge and I am not ready to set it aside just yet.

This all being said, and if you’re still reading, go take a look at the artwork I have for sale.

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

This post brought to you by the following links:

Read a little about the late and very great, DeForest Kelley! He had one of THE BEST lines EVER in any Star Trek movie: “It’s like the goddamned Spanish Inquisition down here!” (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home 1986)

Adam Ellis is funny and weird and wonderful. I’m sure that most of those reading this post have come across his work somewhere on the Internet or via Buzzfeed. If you’ve read it for free, then you could toss a coin or two his way!

The Jerk is one of those movies that I watch when I really need to laugh. I hope that you can find it somewhere to watch because it’s just…completely stupid and funny. I shouldn’t admit it, but I sometimes sing the thermos song to myself.

The Bugs are Taking Over!

I usually post here on Tuesdays and Thursdays. With the Tuesday post being more of a rambling, personal and artistic stream-of-consciousness kind of post, and the Thursday post all about the business, marketing and entrepreneurial part of trying to sell my artwork and my art workshops and teaching abilities. I’ve been wanting to change around my established posting days for a while, and right now this seems like a good time to do it. From this point forward, I intend to post on Mondays (rambling stream-of-consciousness posts), Wednesdays (business, marketing and entrepreneurial posts), Fridays (about the artwork that I am currently creating) and Sundays (photo posts). As always, what works will stay, what doesn’t work will be changed. 

Bernard is practicing his elevator spiel on Howard and Walter. I’m not sure that they are really ‘into’ what Bernard has to say.

The last two weeks or so has been a bit of a blur for me. The whole world seems to have been up-ended for just about everyone. I work from home, as does my husband. Self-isolating is not as much of a burden upon either one of us, as it might be to many, many other people in the world. My husband has done a fantastic job of making sure that we have food to eat, with the intent of only going to the grocery store once a week. He’s always said that as long as he has an internet connection, he can work. This is exactly what he’s done. I have plenty of art supplies and tools. I’ve always been tremendously good at being a self-entertaining, and largely self-contained entity, so staying home isn’t so bad for me.

What has taken a bit of a smack are the plans I had for advertising the art workshops that I am available to teach to individuals, as well as small and large groups of people. That whole idea has had to take a backseat in my entrepreneurial plans for now. It’s disappointing, but looked at from a wider, more community-based perspective, I do not want anyone to become ill or potentially die because I just had to teach a workshop. So, they are on hold for now. They’re shelf-stable. Nothing will spoil. I’ll get to teach again in the future.

I’ve been working on some ideas for another project, as well as making some new tiny dolls; bunnies and bears. Last night, I created a tiny duck (I named him Bernard this morning). I’ve done some work on the website, hopefully to make it a little easier to navigate. I’ve also investigated adding an actual shop to the website, but at present, I’m not quite ready for it. I should have a steadier rate of sales before I do that. Right now, I’m still kind of in the ‘feast or famine’ part of my business plan. This indicates that I need to work on my marketing and advertising, so that people actually know that I have artwork for sale on my website.

I am so flippin’ bad at selling myself though! I keep telling myself that I need to take every opportunity to utilize the ‘shameless plug’ (insert the sound of a little bell here — ding!) to get my name and my artwork out there for people to see and perhaps purchase. This is not natural for me. I tend to want to blend into the background when it comes time to be the center of attention, with the weird exception of teaching. I’m completely and totally comfortable in front of a classroom of student teaching. Give me thirty squirmy seven-year-olds and I am in my element. Ask me to give a self-promotional 30 second elevator spiel to three people and I’m a knot of unbelievable tension and fear. I truly understand the fight or flight response in these situations.

There are some key differences between teaching art and talking to people I don’t know about my artwork, and maybe why they should perhaps sign-up for my art workshop or buy my artwork. The key component is control. In the classroom, I have a lot of control over the physical space, the objects within the space, the way the time is spent within the space, etc. When teaching children, there is a lot of implied control simply because I’m an adult and they are children. Children are expected to obey an adult in a position of authority. I’m also working, teaching, within a realm that I find incredibly comfortable, art and creativity. In some instances, I as the adult am there to assuage the fears of children who may not have the real world experience to deal with new and unexpected situations, materials, spaces, thoughts and ideas. Because of my comfort with the level of control over various aspects of teaching art to students in the classroom, I’m more comfortable letting students push boundaries, get a little messy and a little loud. If things get a little out of control, I know how do deal with it. A sharp look at a student, a vocal indicator, “Hey! We need to bring the noise down a little everyone!” or a practiced reaction to an accident, “Okay. Go get the paper towels by the sink and a box of baby wipes. Let’s clean this up.” This also relies of the students in my classroom knowing that what to expect from me as a teacher, mentally and emotionally, as well as their levels of familiarity with the space, the supplies and the general course of any given lesson taught.

When speaking with someone, often times a total stranger, about my artwork, my creative process, my theories on creativity, etc., I’m dealing with a lot of unknowns. If we use the elevator metaphor, I’ve never met these people. I don’t know if they have any experience with art, or creating anything at all, ever. Maybe their art teacher made them cry, or someone called them a crappy artist when they were a kid. I have no understanding of how they interpret the concept of a doll, or how I have fused them to core parts of my internal mental and emotional self. I have no idea if they will even respond to the way in which I speak about the world or my art. They are giant, blank, scary, tall, scary people who I feel are more than likely judging the holy crap out of me based solely on my physical appearance. So I choke. I often times head down the path of self-deprecation, which down-sells me and my work, and does nothing to make me seem like i have any idea of who I am or what I’m doing.

As an art teacher, I feel so at home in front of a bunch of kids. I feel like I can show more of my true self to them than I can to some adults. I can be goofy and fun with kids. When you do that with some adults, they think you’re a weirdo. I’m an endlessly curious person who has reveled in a lifetime of learning and exploration of all kinds of different thoughts, ideas, concepts and creations. Some of my own creations, some by others. There is always something new to learn and explore and sometimes I feel as though some of the adults I encounter have kind of put the learning and exploring away as part of their childhood. That perhaps, because I make artwork, I make dolls, it looks as though I’m a child playing, and children are simple, therefore I must somehow too be simple? I’m not sure. These things run through my head as I’m trying not to choke on my fear when presenting myself as an artist who makes dolls to scary adult people I do not know.

So, where does this leave me? Well, I do know what’s going on inside my own head, that’s one. Knowing that I have these thoughts and feelings is the first of many steps in figuring out how to deal with my own internal difficulties. I have been working on some online advertisements for my website, and my artwork. Creating a wording that strikes the right balance between quirky enough to get a persons attention and being out-right weird as all get out has been an interesting exercise for me marketing wise.

I don’t think that these advertisements are earth-shatteringly amazing or anything. I don’t think they have to be either. As always, I’m trying to build upon successes, and learn from my mistakes. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next Monday.

Musical Links:

There have been times in my life when the words of either Henry Rollins, Elvis Costello or David Byrne flash to the forefront of my mind, offering some sort of wisdom to get through a given situation, or simply to offer a sense of artistic solidarity during a trying event in my life. I’ve been an Elvis Costello fan since I first heard My Aim is True. He is a masterful lyricist who packs every single song so tightly with lyrics that I swear you can’t wedge another syllable in, lest the whole thing blow apart. If you’ve never heard of him, give him a listen. I’ve always personally thought that everyone should have his first three albums in their collections, but I’m a fan.

Elvis Costello and the Attractions Fish n’ Chip Paper (Trust, 1981)

Elvis Costello and the Attractions  Radio, Radio (1978)

Elvis Costello Hurry Down Doomsday (The Bugs are Taking Over) (Mighty Like a Rose, 1991)