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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)

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Gang of 4 (New Dolls)

Today I’m adding a little gang of four dolls to my online shop! These dolls are fall under the Little Ladies style of dolls. But they’re the largest size I make in this series. These Little Ladies all wear boots, so I’m calling them Little Lady Boots! If you’ve been following me on Instagram, Facebook, or Ko-fi, then you have seen some of creative progress of these new dolls.

Doll Details:

Each doll is 12 cm tall (4.75 in.) and can stand on their own while they are wearing their boots. All of the dolls are jointed and can be gently posed. This makes them perfect with 1:12 scale miniature furniture and doll houses. As always, each and every doll I make is a one-of-a-kind original doll made completely from my own patterns and designs. I use names once and once only, so there will never be another Donna, April, Malvi or Tähti made by me!

Donna the doll in brown boots, and Tähti is the doll in yellow boots.

 

April is the doll in yellow boots, and Malvi is the doll in brown boots.

 

For a Limited Time Only!

I’m offering free shipping on these four dolls for the first four days that they are listed in the shop! If you purchase any of these four dolls (or all four dolls) before 9:00 am September 15, 2020, Eastern European Summer Time (EEST) you will get free standard shipping (estimated 7-14 days delivery from Finland).

Go Marielle!

I also wanted to announce that I have set up a separate Instagram account for little Marielle! You can find her at Go_Marielle_Go on Instagram. Posts with the continuing adventures of Marielle will be made on this account twice a week for the next month. I will also add a Go Marielle! page to my website, with a bio, links and additional pictures. Don’t miss out on what Marielle is getting up to! Click that ‘follow’ button!

As always, if you have any questions or comments contact me or leave a comment below!

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

Links:

Gang of Four is awesome! Entertainment! blew my doors in when I first gave it a listen so many years ago.

Damaged Goods

Natural’s Not In It

 

 

 

 

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Being a Working Artist

Over the years, I’ve had many people say to me, “Oh! You should sell your artwork! You’d make tons of money!” or perhaps, “Sell your work online! People will just snap it right up!“, and still yet, “Your work should be in a gallery! It would sell itself!” These comments were intended to be complimentary, and that’s how I took them. Most of the people who were giving me these compliments didn’t have experience as successful, working artists. A significant portion of them were not even artists.

What most didn’t seem completely aware of is that art is hard work. And if you want to have even a small amount of success at it, you have to work your tail off to achieve it. Nothing in life is easy. I know this. What some may assume is that because the physical art-making process is more or less easily accomplished, that the next step of selling said artwork would be just as easy.

This is not the case. There are several truths that I have discovered for myself regarding being a working artist. And they make the aforementioned kind compliments seem outrageously simplistic.

A Steep Learning Curve:

The first lesson I have learned is that selling my artwork is HARD. It does not in any way, shape or form, ‘sell itself’. Just setting up my shop online took the better part of two solid weeks of work. And this wasn’t the fun kind of art-creating kind of work. This was eight hours a day or more sitting in front of a computer entering data. My brain was complete mush at the end of every day. Besides being physically sore and knotted up from being hunched over a computer tapping away on a keyboard all day long.

This was all done after I spent hours and hours deciding on what artwork I would offer for sale in the shop in the first place! I agonized over my choices. Would this piece sell? Or would this piece be better? Is this something that people I’ve never met before will like enough to buy?

At at a point, I was throwing things at the wall and seeing what would stick. Hoping something would stick.

Computer Time:

No one told me exactly how much time I would be spending on a computer trying to sell my artwork. Spending so much time online working is still not something that I enjoy a great deal. Part of me thinks that all the time I need to spend on the computer shouldn’t necessarily be super-happy-fun time. It’s part of how I am creating my business. I’m using the internet as a marketplace. The computer is just one tool to help me achieve the level of success in the marketplace that I desire.

Always on My Mind:

Exactly what I’m creating artistically and how I’m managing my online presences are never far from my thoughts. No one told me that I would almost constantly be thinking about my entrepreneurial endeavors. Having thoughts like “I wonder if I move this weekly announcement to another day, I could get more views on my website?” or “Maybe I should lower my prices. Maybe my work would sell better.

This can be a little annoying. However, I’ve just begun to think of it as the way things are when you’re trying to build your own business.

Making Mistakes:

I honestly think that I could roll my eyes into the back of my head contemplating my own rookie mistakes as an entrepreneur. Things that I thought would be much easier, turning out to be so, so, so much more difficult that I originally planned. Having to go back, fix something online or in my shop. Realizing that I have to keep moving on social media and arts platforms online. Otherwise, my artwork just slips into the abyss, never to be seen again.

Time:

Another thing that I wasn’t prepared for was the dividing of my time between the online/computer tasks and the physical creating of artwork. Each of these are important for my business. I need to make new artwork for the shop and for gallery and exhibitions. Time must be allotted to website maintenance, as well as attending to social media platforms, and creating blog content.

I sat down over the weekend and did some writing and mapping of the projects that I have going on right now until the end of January 2021. That seems like a long way away from today, but it’s really not at all.

Twice Weekly Blog Posts:

I’ve been posting twice-weekly blog posts on Monday and Friday for many months. Lately, I’ve struggled to figure out what I want each of these separate blog posts to be centered around thematically. If I’m being honest with myself, there are only a handful of people who read my blog posts. Yet I want to keep-up with the writing. It helps me to stay on track mentally, and moving forward with my business.

I’ve decided that the Monday post will center around the theme of art creation and art-related topics. I do consider this post as an art-related topic, even though I’m really stretching that definition! The Friday blog post will be more business-oriented. I want to release new products on Fridays moving forward. That being said, I will be adding new dolls to the shop this Friday.

Go Marielle!

I’ve posted the first of many installments of Go Marielle! on my Instagram account. I’ve been wanting to do something like Go Marielle! for some time. I love the idea of taking pictures of my little dolls out in the world. Of all the 12 cm dolls that I’ve created since the beginning of the year, Marielle was the one who jumped out at me and said, “USE ME!

My original plan was to release installments once a week, but that is just not going to work. There are so many parts of her stories that it would take months and months to tell just one that way! Hence, the plan for releasing the installments of Go Marielle! have been revamped. Go Marielle! will be released twice a week (Wednesdays and Saturdays) through the first week of October. I will also be creating a Go Marielle! Instagram page, so it’s easier for people to read and enjoy Marielle’s adventures around Jyväskylä.

Artwork Preparation:

During the month of January 2012, I will be showing my artwork in a small gallery at Matara here in Jyväskylä. I have several pieces that I want to build from scratch. There is a theme that I’m building on for all of the pieces that I want to include in this exhibition. Finding places to exhibit my artwork that doesn’t require fees is a god-send for me. I don’t want to waste an excellent opportunity to show people what myself and my artwork are all about.

Getting my artwork in front of people locally is incredibly important to me. Positive contact through my artwork with people in the community will hopefully aide me creating more networks and contacts throughout the community. In addition to getting to express myself creatively, I will also have some great publicity for my art business, as the exhibition space will allow me to sell artwork from the exhibit, without taking a commission.

Conclusion:

Making art can be an easy process, especially for me. It’s just what I naturally do. Very little effort is needed. Making an art business,well…that’s hard. Well, at least much, much harder than making the actual artwork. There are so many places to make mistakes. So many places to just fall flat on your face. There are so many pieces and parts that I have to keep moving, or moving along together so that I can be as successful as I wish to be. So, for right now. I’m going to keep moving forward and learning as I go along.

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next week,

 

 

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Go Marielle!

Over the past few months, I’ve devoted a sizable amount of time to exploring various directions in which I could take my artwork and my online presence. Changes have been made to how I’m posting online. These have changes have made me so much more content mentally and emotionally. But, being the type of creative person that I am, I have a rather compulsive need to explore new ways in which to make art. New sets of skills, materials and techniques are always something that I’m interested in!

New Direction Inspiration:

While I was brainstorming, I realized that one aspect of sharing my artwork that I enjoyed a great deal was storytelling. When I was creating my online shop, I spent a great deal of time creating unique stories for each of the dolls that I’ve created. Some of the stories came about while I was in the act of creating the doll itself. Others came about after I had some time to sit with the doll and let my imagination take over.

I could clearly see these little dolls moving about on their own. Doing all kinds of things. Having friends and playmates. Going places. Being independent little creations going out into the world with complete personalities, ready to explore! This may sound strange to those who are not creators. It may sound childish or juvenile to some. But it’s the way my brain works. I tend to lean into it.

If you’ve been following me here or my Instagram for any length of time, you know that I’ve been working on a series of small dolls since the early part of this year. The current size of dolls I’m creating are 12 cm tall. They are the perfect size for 1:12 scale dollhouse furniture. Perhaps this is what pushed me across that invisible line. And made me connect some dots.

More Complicated:

Once I had decided that I wanted to tell stories with my dolls, then I had to figure out how to do it. Honestly, it sounds like a pretty simple thing, doesn’t it?

Create a doll. Write a story for the doll. Make the doll act out the story you wrote. 

Easy-peasy, right?! The more that I thought about it, the more complicated the whole idea became. There were so many small moving parts to my idea. Each of them generated questions that needed to be answered. This was a little overwhelming at first. There were just so many things that I felt could go really wrong.

There were small nit-picky questions like: Was I going to construct the sets myself? How would I do that? What materials would I use? Where would I store them? Could I reuse them in the storytelling? Would that limit the kinds of stories that I wanted to tell? What about the photos? Do I have the right camera for this? How am I going to process the photos?

Bigger, weightier questions: was I going to be able to create the artwork on a reliable schedule? Was the artwork that I was creating going to be good enough to share? Would the work make me look like a talentless fool? How could I utilize my limitations to my advantage creatively?!

There are times in which the fear can take over, and make you backdown. Fortunately, my internal need to create art over-road any and all of my fears.

I decided to take the leap with the little doll Marielle.

Go Marielle!

There are times that I fall completely in love with a doll from the very start. Marielle is one of those dolls. She is just the sweetest little doll! Hence, she was the natural choice to be the face of Go Marielle! Her name is pronounced MAH-ree-ehl-leh, because she’s a little Finnish girl. She’s a little girl who likes going to new places and having adventures! Go Marielle! translates to Mene Marielle! in Finnish, which I like a lot.

Currently, my plan is that I will be posting Go Marielle! stories in parts every Friday to my Instagram to start. Again, I have ideas of where I want to go and what I want to do with this idea. And things may change. It’s important for me to have an outline, but not one that is so restrictive that it’s hard to manage. Or, an outline that becomes stifling to my creativity. That is never good.

Hopefully, those who read Go Marielle! will enjoy the pictures and the stories!

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

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Blog Post Interrupted


We will be traveling today to Kuopio. Marielle seems terrifically excited about the trip. It’s her first train trip ever! Hopefully, I’ll take some good pictures of what she gets up to during the day. We all know that I’m not the best of photographers. Autumn has begun to arrive in Finland and the weather is beginning to turn chilly and over-cast. Having to be out in the rain is not my idea of fun. So, I hope it doesn’t rain either.

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Handmade vs. Homemade

I started with ‘Quality’ and then took a turn

The impetus for this blog post started with my examination of the word ‘quality’ as it related to the artwork that I create. I was brainstorming about the concept of quality and how as an art creator I could distinguish my own work from the work of others based on the quality of the workmanship.

How could I set my work apart from so many other artists?

Does my artwork even deserve to be called quality artwork?

What is considered ‘quality’ with regards to the type of artwork I create?!

These questions lead me in some other directions, further away from the concept of quality. However, I do think it’s important that I understand the bigger picture, before I answer the above questions. Seeing the bigger picture will help me to better define quality in my work in the future.

Language Changes

Words can be very powerful. They’re also quite plastic. The meanings of words are also not set in stone. Language changes and evolves right along side the people who are using to communicate their thoughts and ideas. What I find incredibly interesting is that the meanings of words can drift. This seems to happen in a short amount to time too. Words that I think have one definition, may have drifted in my own lifetime. The meanings I understand aren’t always the same as the ones utilized by other people.

How my artwork and the artwork I offer for sale in my shop is viewed by people outside of the realm of fellow creators and makers can sometimes confuse me. It has lead me to look more closely at some of the words used in conjunction with my artwork. Some of my confusion could simply stem from people having different understandings of the meanings of specific words like ‘homemade’ or ‘craft’.

To put even a finer point on it, I’m looking at how people within the United States are using these words and terms, and the definitions that they assign to them. I think that the reason I didn’t necessarily see the language drift of these words, is because English is my mother tongue. And I’m a citizen of the United States. It should be noted that I don’t think that the differing definitions of specific terminology is the only reason for confusion on my part. There’s a lot more going on here that can get very complicated, extremely quickly.

Handmade, Homemade or Both?

Each of these words have different meanings. They seem to have almost become interchangeable in the US.

Handmade:

Handmade is seen as something that is well-crafted, original, bespoke. Great care and detail are taken when a person makes an object by hand. There are connotations of being expensive and using the best materials as well. The person creating a handmade object is someone who is thought to have great talent and experience as well. 

When clothing is handmade, it’s tailored to the specific measurements of the person who will be wearing it. It can be further customized with extras that are added at the request of the customer. A custom kitchen has counters, cabinets, and appliances that are made to fit into a specific kitchen. The same can be said for other pieces of furniture throughout a house. Handmade craftsmanship is something that is thought of as a luxury. Handmade watches, made with exquisite attention to detail, along with precious metals and stones. Custom paint jobs for cars created by highly skilled painters and craftspeople are another sought-after handmade item.

Many people within the US wish to have handmade or customized items for themselves and their homes. It seems like anything can be made better when it’s handmade or customized. Again, I should acknowledge that many of the handmade items I’ve listed above are the types of things that many people see in the media and in television and the movies. The type of handmade artwork I create cannot be compared to these sorts of things, nor should they be.

Homemade:

An object that is homemade connotes an air of being of lesser quality. Something that is made as a stop-gap until an item can be purchased to replace it. A child who wears homemade clothing (at least when and where I grew-up) meant that the family didn’t have enough money to buy store-bought clothing. Homemade clothing meant you were poor. And being poor was looked down on. 

I have to take into account that my own personal experiences influence my definitions of the words handmade and homemade. I grew-up wearing clothing that my mother made for me. My mother liked to sew clothing. She also created curtains, pillow covers, quilts, and all kinds of other sewn items for the home. These were creative outlets for her, as well as a way to make the money in the household budget stretch further. But there were those, non-creators, non-sewers, who looked down on this. Viewing store-bought clothing as superior to anything that was homemade.

Made at Home, by Hand

What they really meant was having money to purchase clothing items in a store felt it made them better people than those who could not always purchase their clothing from a department store. When in reality, I had tailored clothing for the greater part of my childhood from birth to around age twelve.

The clothing that my mother made for me was unique and well made. I liked my clothes. I got to pick out some of the fabrics used, along with notions like trimmings and buttons as well. My clothing was different from everyone else’s. It stood out. 

The drift in the meaning of these two words, as a result of set of socio-economic beliefs, connected to the concepts of a capitalist, heavily consumer-based society, are pounded into people in the US from birth (at least in my opinion). It therefore makes sense to me that when a non-creative, non-maker person looks at my artwork and says, “Handmade doll? Nope. I would rather buy a LOL Surprise Doll at Walmart.

And that is totally okay. The person who would rather purchase one of these dolls would never have become one of my customers anyway. There’s nothing I could do to persuade them that my original doll design and construction has value, because their definition of homemade and handmade are categorically different than mine. 

Now what?

I’m still working on how I define quality in regards to my work. Knowing that there are differences in understandings and personal definitions has been helpful to me. Sorting these things out helps me to paint a more complete picture. While at the same time showing me where I feel the most comfortable moving forward as an artist, creator and maker.

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

 

Links:

The links that I’ve listed are all extremely interesting reads. It’s interesting that they seem to be equally divided between artist sand creators writing about their personal thoughts and experiences, and business-types of articles. I guess it’s a good snapshot of how my own mind is sometimes divided nowadays!

Megan Neilsen’s blog post “Thoughts on the Perception of Handmade Presents

Made Urban’s blog post “10 Reasons NOT to Complain About Handmade Prices

What the Craft’s blog post “Why Handmade is ‘so expensive’

Consumers Value Handmade Products

Forbes, “No More of the Same: Why Mass Production is Actually a Boon for Etsy, Amazon Handmade

Industry Week: “Handmade vs. Factory Made: Comparing Time and Cost

Oak City Gallery post: “Art vs. Craft

April Doyle (Unfiltered Hearts): “Homemade vs. Handmade: What is the Difference?

 

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Jobs I’ve Had

All working artists have some parts of their individual creative processes that they don’t particularly like. This isn’t unique to artists alone. Everyone who works a job has parts of those jobs that they don’t like doing. What usually pulls a person through the bad parts of work, is the reward of the good parts work process. When the bad parts of job outweigh the good parts of a job, it can make a person completely miserable.

Good and bad are subjective terms though. How an individual navigates between the two in the realm of employment is a matter of personal wants, needs and motivations.

There are some jobs in my past that weren’t fantastic, but I managed to find the enjoyment in certain portions of the job. I don’t think of myself as a super-positive kind of person either. What got me to the point in which I could find those positive aspects of those previous jobs was more or less due to my individual personality, coupled with the job I was being asked to perform.

Public Library:

While I was in art school, I had quite a few work study jobs. My personal favorite was working within the public library system. I worked at several branches, including the big, beautiful main library in Indianapolis Indiana. While at the main library, I worked in the stacks and in the periodicals reading room. I also worked for the Visual Arts Devision where they loaned out art prints, video cassettes, music, films and projectors.

Organizing and shelving were the biggest parts of my jobs. These tasks weren’t exactly fun. They were very repetitive. These jobs allowed my creative mind to do as it pleased while I organized, shelved and stacked books and magazines. Quick sketches and notes could be made while I worked at the library. My job wasn’t exciting, but it was a stable paycheck. And the majority of the people I worked with were very nice.

Clerical Temp Work:

The first time that I started working for a clerical temp agency was while I was in my early 20’s. I was still living in Indianapolis Indiana. There was something that I wanted to buy, and I needed some extra money I think. Anyway, I phoned a few temp agencies and settled on the one that offered its temps free computer training lab time. At that time, I was only familiar with Macintosh computers. I took full advantage of the free computer lab! The more proficient I was, the better-paying my job assignments were.

Temp work isn’t exciting. I answered a lot of phones. Filed millions on papers. Delivered tons of mail. Took hundreds of food orders. Organized millions of file systems. Entered trillions of data points into spreadsheets. Again, I could kind of let my creative mind wander, and quickly sketch or write things down that I wanted to remember.

I learned a lot during these clerical temp jobs. Not only skills that I could apply to future employment, but also things that eventually became part of my teaching practice. Some skills I continue using in my personal and professional life as a working entrepreneurial artist. Every item that I have for sale in my shop is in an Excel spread sheet, with all kinds of information that I might need for my business plans, taxes and such.

Plant Nursery Work:

For a summer between my first and second year in art school, I worked at plant nursery. I had a super-easy going supervisor who left me alone most of the time. The place that you see in the link looks so much different than when I was employed there so many years ago! For a time, I worked only on the watering and moving around of plants that were on a lot adjoining the main store. Sometimes I would be pulled in to help unload a truck too. I learned to hate junipers there. Especially those low-to-the-ground creeping ones. You wants rats? Plant a bunch of those. They’re rat starter homes.

At some point I was moved into the main store building and worked in the produce section. I didn’t like my supervisor in the produce section. We clashed a bit. I once saw him taking a bunch of boxes of Brach’s Candies out to refill the Pick-n-Mix display. He had a single razor blade to open the boxes. Not a box cutter like the rest of us had. I told him he should be careful or he’d cut himself. No attention was paid to me, other than some rolled eyes and some muttering about me being a girl I think. Two minutes later he came fast-walking back to the produce department holding his hand at a odd angle. Apparently, he’d slashed his palm open and needed to go to the hospital. I was told by him, “Not one word.”

With both of these different jobs within the same business, my creative brain could just wander off and do its own thing. Mostly while the bumblebees bonked into my head as I watered the plants and shrubs.

Secretary and Receptionist Work:

This kind of work was different than clerical temp work. For one, it was full-time employment. The clerical temp work I had done previously was training for being a full-time, benefits-getting secretary and receptionist. This kind of work was a bit more stable than a temp job. I was also good enough at my job to gain raises and have a department of higher-ups in a company that looked out for me.

One of these jobs was with a regional grocery store chain in the southwest. I started out as a secretary in the grocery merchandising department. I had around eight people who were “my guys” (even though there was one female manager) that I worked for. They were kind and generous to me. I always thought that I was spoiled rotten by them, as well as the food company reps that were always coming and going in the office.

Of all my secretarial jobs. I loved that one the most. I felt needed, wanted and totally appreciated by the entire department of people. Most of the secretaries within the company had one or two people that they “took care of”. I had more than double that number. There was a certain amount of pride I took in that too. It was hard to leave that job when the time came.

And guess what? Even though this secretarial job had a lot of moving parts, and could at time be so busy and complicated, my creative mind would still find time to slip away. This was especially true after I had been in the job for a few months. I knew when I could coast on auto pilot to complete a task.

What’s the Takeaway?

The aforementioned jobs I’ve had are not the totality of the jobs I’ve had in my life. There are so many more. I didn’t talk about food service, graphic design, illustration, teaching, freelance or photo jobs. Perhaps the reason I started talking about the jobs that I did is because they aren’t the kinds of jobs that most people see as “good” jobs.

In all of these jobs, I found a way to be creative and to learn new skills that would help me later on down the road. Not all the parts of these jobs were great, but I was able to find the bits that were good. I’m a maladaptive daydreamer. I’m an autotelic personality. I’m in my groove with repetitive motion. I’m pretty much self-contained and self-entertaining at any time of the day or night.

I’m not the type of person who wants to climb the corporate ladder. Making tons and tons of money isn’t my main goal either. As long as my basic needs are taken care of and I have money for more art supplies, I feel like I’m doing pretty well. Don’t get me wrong, bringing in more money would be nice. I don’t want to sound like, “Oh! I don’t NEED money! It makes everything HORRIBLE! I’m SO PURE and WHOLESOME!” What I mean is, “Why do I need a house with four bedrooms and three bathrooms? Why do I need two cars? Hell. Why do I need a car?

I think the word I’m looking for is lagom. A Swedish word meaning, ‘moderate’ or ‘just enough’.

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

 

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Getting Out of My Own Way

Being a part of an art show or showing my work in a gallery setting is something I enjoy a great deal. But seem to do it only rarely. There are two elements regarding the exhibition of my finished artwork that have either eluded me or I have not been able to wrap my head around. Whether by eluding me or confusing me, they have become increasingly annoying obstacles for me as important components of being a (successful) working artist.

An art show in my future:

Recently, I screwed-up my courage and asked to have my work considered for display in a local gallery space here in Jyväskylä. The sage advice of my friend Dubravka was in the back of my head saying, “What’s the worst they can say, no?” This simply question works well within my tendency to try and prepare for all possible contingencies. While my natural tendency can prove to be mentally and emotionally debilitating when allowed to run amok, it works with this simple question. I mean, seriously, what could be worse than ‘No.’?

No. You’re work is stupid and ugly and everyone hates you too.”

No. You’re artwork is pure, unadulterated crap and you should be ashamed of it and of yourself for creating it.

No. Make a bonfire of your work, NOW. Here’s a match.

Believe me, I have more loaded-up and ready, but I think you get the general drift of where I can go regarding my need to prepare for all possible contingencies. In fact, I have a harder time believing it when people say, “Yes! We would love to show your artwork!

Long story longer, I’ll be showing my work in a small gallery space in January 2021. It’s official and on the calendar.

Art show parameters:

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I create my artwork first and foremost for myself. To put it bluntly, creating artwork is my therapy. A healthy Katie is a an art-creating Katie. The idea of taking my deeply personal artwork and altering it to fit within a concept or theme that is completely unconnected to me or my artwork feels odd. Then there is the idea of changing my artwork to fit a physical space. This has never quite computed for me.

When researching art shows to possibly enter, I get mentally stuck on individual art show thematic parameters. One art show may have a theme concerning water life, or oceanic environments. Another art show may have a parameter that dictates that the art work be of a certain size, or a specific art medium. My artwork isn’t easily categorized in these ways. Nor is it made with themes that I don’t wish to work within our around.

Who is it for?

I’m fiercely protective of the hows and whys of my own art creation. It doesn’t seem natural for me to create artwork that is made solely for an entry into an art show. Doing so would make me feel as though I were creating art for others first and myself second. That’s not how I create art.

So it feels as though I am presented with the choice of making artwork the way I want to make it, or to create artwork specifically for someone or something else. All in the hopes that someone will pay attention to me and my artwork. Then perhaps buy a piece of my work. This made me the entire art show/gallery concept seem deceptive to me. I’m rotten at lying too.

Shipping artwork to art shows:

When I’m looking at different art show call for entries, I also have to consider the shipping costs of my artwork. This can be quite costly. And there is no guarantee that my work will sell or win a prize either. So, I may just be out 200€ in shipping (and return shipping) and have nothing to show for it, except an addition to an Exhibition Page on my website.

I do know that the exposure from various art shows can help to build a following of people who like my artwork. These people might buy my artwork from me personally, or through my website. In showing my artwork along side other artists, those artists then see my work and come to know who I am and what I do creatively. There are some definitely great benefits to showing my artwork in art shows. At present through, the shipping of my work, coupled with some of the complexity of my pieces (so, many, moving, parts) is proving cost prohibitive for me.

Around, through or over:

It seems as though I’ve really hobbled myself in regard to showing of my artwork to the public in a gallery type setting. I totally agree with this assessment. And it bugs me big-time. This inability to just shut-up and create artwork to enter into art shows keeps my artwork here with me in my workspace. Or showing my artwork on digital platforms such as my website, shop, and Instagram. These are important places to have a presence, but it shouldn’t be the totality of my exposure to the public. Showing my artwork would give me an opportunity to connect with more creative and artistic people. Being part of a larger community would be great.

The gallery space in which I will be showing my artwork has no space available to display three-dimensional artwork. All of the work is displayed on the walls. On the surface, this would seem like the last type of gallery space in which I would seek to show my artwork. I’ll admit, I wasn’t quite sure about it myself. Initially, I started thinking about ways in which to just hang my three-dimensional work from wires. But that seemed lazy. When I let my mind wander, it began playing around with different methods of displaying my artwork. This was surprising, but it shouldn’t have been.

Creative problem solving:

I sat down and started doing a little list-making. There are pieces of artwork that I have that I’ve not shown previously that I thought could be displayed on a wall. My mind kind of just started working away at the challenge of showing my three-dimensional work in a two-dimensional setting. In short order, I had five separate ideas for display that I like a great deal. Each of these ideas utilizes tools, materials and supplies that I have on hand, or that can be gathered at no or low-cost.

It’s what happens to you when you’re not paying attention:

What I found surprising, especially given the fact that I’m not a person to create art for a space or theme not of my own design, is that my mind began pulling in different un-trodden paths regarding my larger, paper mâché pieces. Not exactly un-trodden. My mind was pulling me back to sets of sketches done for pieces that I have not created yet. The more I looked through these sketches, the more I found that they fit within personal themes I’ve been working on. While at the same time, solve some of the ‘walls only’ display parameters.

Living in Finland has changed the way in which I create my artwork. The physical environment of the city I live in began making its presence known in some of the sketches that I had set aside. Realizing that my immediate environment was coming through in my artwork and sketches for new artwork didn’t seem all that important. Most of my artwork is wrapped up in my personal memories. The thing is, my personal memories are increasingly tied to the people and places in Finland. The sets of sketches that I mentioned are all, in one way or another, pulled from my immediate environment.

In the end:

None of what I’m experiencing with regards to art shows is particularly earth-shatteringly or unique. Everyone, not just creatives and artists go through similar types of personal challenges. And I know that regarding some of my personal problems, I’ve taken the longer, more difficult road. To a great extent, entirely on purpose. But it’s nice to be in a place now where I feel as though I’m figuring out things so that I can be who I want to be, how I want to be and where I want to be.

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again soon,

Links:

Beneath Between & Behind:

Rush: Beneath Between & Behind, Fly By Night (1975). I’ve always liked the cymbal work on this particular song. It’s tight when it needs to be, and crashy-splashy when it needs to be. This is also the first album in which Neil Peart was the drummer and lyricist. This song was also the first in which Peart wrote the lyrics and Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson wrote the music. Fly By Night was an important album for Rush. The way in which they worked creatively lyrically and musically changed for them as a group, propelling them in a bit of a different direction than they had been previously. While writing this post, this particular song kept running through my head.

In My Time of Dying:

Led Zeppelin: In My Time of Dying, Physical Graffiti (1975). This is my favorite Zeppelin song. It’s not really a Zeppelin song though. Remember, Led Zeppelin stole from black rhythm and blues musicians with both hands!  It’s a traditional gospel song. Here’s a version by Blind Willie Johnson, under the title, ‘Jesus Make Up My Dyin’ Bed‘. Bob Dylan also did a version of the song as well. Josh White’s version is particularly lovely. ANYWAY. John Bonham’s cymbal work on this song was and is amazing to me. I love how jangly it gets, it’s almost like the entire song is crashing out of a drawer in the kitchen with all the music seeming to hit randomly all over the floor, but it’s just tight as hell!

Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic

The Police: Every Little Thing She Does is Magic. Okay. I know. This song is a little too ‘pop’, but hear me out. Stewart Copeland has this amazing finesse to his cymbal work that I have always found insanely fascinating. He’s not a basher and a crasher when it comes to his cymbals. He plays his instruments with a level of dexterity and musical sensitivity that some drummers will never achieve. Each part of the cymbal is represented in his work. Copeland can transform each of his cymbals into distinct voices within the musical composition. It’s never too much, it’s never too little.

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Creating New Small Dolls

Over the past week, I’ve begun work on a new group of Little Lady Dolls. One of the big reasons for this is that I just wanted something small to work on. Designing and building the large paper mâché Play Set Dolls, like Audrey, Kiddo or Crystal is incredibly satisfying to me as an artist. But they can also take such a very long time to create. My mind constructs the finished piece at a speed that the physical world just cannot compete with.

While I am still thoroughly enjoying the creative process, there’s a portion of my mind inhabited by the ever-impatient toddler who wants everything done right now. I can usually keep her relatively quiet. Mostly because the Play Set Dolls have so many individual moving components to them. With each completed part, my inner inpatient creative toddler is pacified a little bit. For me, this makes imagination and creativity flow a bit better.

Larger Little Lady Dolls:

A few months ago, I created what felt like gargantuan sized 12 cm tall dolls, based on the much smaller 6 cm Little Lady Doll pattern. I made three test dolls with the 12 cm pattern. Only one of them I considered a success. Two of the dolls were a full 12 cm tall and the third is 10 cm. For two of the dolls, the clothing I made just bothered me. It just didn’t look right. Putting my finger on precisely what was wrong with the dolls proved difficult, so I placed them aside and started work on Shirley and her doll house. I could always come back to the 12 cm dolls at some point in the future if I wanted to.

The yellow top on the light green doll just looks wrong to me. The colors are okay. I think it has something to do with the scale of the doll and the clothing style. This type of swingy, a-line top or dress looks great on dolls that are 5 cm tall and under. On a 12 cm doll it just looks so wrong to me. The 12 cm doll wearing overalls looks fine to me. In fact, she’s the one doll of the three test dolls that I consider a success.

The 10 cm doll is the worst of the three dolls. Her proportions are all off. The pant legs and arms need to be either longer or shorter. I thought that making the doll a little shorter would make the a-line top work. Nope. It somehow made the proportion problems even worse. The hairstyles are the only elements that I like for the above two dolls. The rest of them, especially their clothing is just…yuck. That seems so mean, doesn’t it?

Practice Makes Better:

These three dolls were practice. No one hits a home-run their first time at bat. The same is true for artists. I call my practice dolls ‘The Alpha Versions’. They are more or less, a proof of concept for me. I’m not looking for them to be perfect. And anyway, there’s no perfect in the practice of art making. It’s all a series of educated attempts. Sometimes the attempts are successful to a degree. There are times in which the attempt is just an abject failure, not even worthy of a picture as reference. Practice is practice. I learn what works, and what doesn’t work. The failures are where most of the learning takes place in my opinion.

Failure is not a bad thing. If you learn from it, and then make changes when making a second, third or fourth attempt, you are amassing quite a bit of knowledge and practice for the fifth, sixth and seventh attempts. Failure isn’t a bad thing until it prevents you from that eighth attempt at success. You may not realize it at the time, but you get a little better each time you try and (maybe) fail.

This was always a difficult concept to teach to the students in my art classes. It was therefore part of my job as an art teacher to give these students a safe place in which to fail. This made failure just part of the overall art-creating experience. And in the long run, it taught students to be okay with not being terrific at something the first time they tried it. Failure taught them to pick themselves up. Dust themselves off. Look at what they did. Make a new plan. Decide on a new course of action. Then to implement it.

Open Mouth, Insert Money:

I’m practicing what I’m preaching by giving the 12 cm dolls another try. There are some ideas that I’ve been wanting to try out on this size of doll. Smaller dolls would not necessarily work for them I think. “I think“, because I do not know. The 12 cm dolls may be an abject failure within the confines of this new idea that I have. Who knows? No one will, not unless I make the attempt.

Making shoes is one of the worst parts of doll making, in my opinion. There is just something about it that I cannot seem to get my brain around in concrete way. I’ve made the above kinds of boots for dolls previously. They’re fairly easy to create. Yes. They look like Ugg boots. Having the dolls wear them isn’t so much a fashion statement, but a means to have them stand on their own. As much as I dislike making doll shoes, I still work hard to create dolls that can stand on their own. Two legs or six, I want them to be free-standing.

These boots aren’t perfect. I will need to tweak the pattern here and there. Hopefully, I will get closer to what I want after making a few more pairs. As you can see, the boots are removable, at least for now. I’m not sure if I will attach them permanently or not. What I do know is that at this point, just after making the boots, these two 12 cm dolls look better proportioned to me than my previous attempts.

I’ve planned their outfits out a little bit. Colors have been chosen as well. I know that I will not be creating any swingy, a-line tops or skirts for them. See?! I’m learning!

Conclusion:

Practice is great. It won’t all look good. Some of it will look bad. In my experience, a lot of this practice will kind of look ‘okay’. The point is not to despair! Keep working, even when you’re not quite sure what’s not right, or where you might be going. Plant one creative foot in front of the other and do the work.

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

Links:

Nukkekoti Väinölä: Maria Malmstrom has an amazing doll house site! Her miniatures are fabulous! Her designs just blow me away! She’s got all kinds of kits to purchase! Check out her online shop here!

Gepetto: I have a few pieces of Gepetto furniture. It’s super-cute and very easy to put together. They have multiple scales available and they’re kid-friendly. One of the pictures earlier in this post has my dolls sitting in Gepetto chairs.