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Large Scale Life Changes

Changes are never easy, even when they are needed. Personally, I love my routines and I love change equally. Perhaps at my age it’s what change can offer that I find attractive. When my life changes, so does my artwork. And I do love exploring new places, meeting new people, and trying new things. Change can be fun, while at the same time not being incredibly easy. This is where I find myself as I write this.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me give you a brief update of some of the events going on regarding my entrepreneurial exploits of the past week.

Workshop:

I was invited by Nuorten Taidetyöpaja to give an art workshop last week. The people in charge of the program asked me to present my Guatemalan worry doll workshop. It was so nice to be back in an arts educational space with eager and talented people to work with! I had so much fun sharing my artwork, ideas and creative art methods with everyone in the workshop.

The pandemic hit just when I was beginning to venture out an offer arts workshops locally. I had to change around my business model to selling physical artwork instead of arts instruction. The results of which are still mixed at best. Getting to put my teaching toes back into the workshop realm was a lovely gift for me. Mentally, emotionally and creatively beneficial to me.

What has even nicer than being invited to teach one arts workshop was being asked to teach another arts workshop! The lovely people who invited me to give the first Guatemalan worry doll workshop asked me if I could come again in June and present the workshop again. Wow! Of course I said yes! Again, this is so mentally, emotionally, and creatively beneficial to me. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity they’ve given me.

Social media:

I finally bit the bullet and got a Twitter account for myself (@KatieKinsmanArt). I’m still in the early stages of figuring out what I want the account to do for me. Right now, I’m just trying to get the hang of the platform. I feel a bit clunky at it at present.

Twitter has been around for quite a while now. I feel a bit like a late-comer to the whole thing. From a business standpoint, I know that I want to use Twitter to reach a wider audience. Hopefully a few people in this audience might want to read my blog posts or buy my artwork. Again, I’m still just figuring it all out!

Marielle has also gotten a Twitter account (@GoMarielleGo). Again, the hope is to grow her viewers. Her Instagram followers hover around 90 people, give or take 5 or so. I have so many creative directions that I want to take Marielle, but haven’t been able to. I’ve been waiting for some things to happen that would allow me to begin working in a direction that would hopefully mean growth.

The things that are finally happening:

My husband and I are relocating. This part of change is more difficult for me. Mostly because as a visual artist, I have so many supplies, tools, and materials to consider. As well as the physical artwork I’ve created for exhibits, and for sale. You never know how much ‘stuff’ you have until you’re having to move to a different location!

I’ve pushed back launching several different projects because I didn’t want relocation to interrupt them. Perhaps this is why I went ahead and got the Twitter ball rolling? It was something new I could do that wouldn’t be up-ended by relocating? Patreon, instructional videos, longer-form Marielle stories, YouTube, a newsletter, etc., are all things that I want and need to start! I just didn’t want to start something big, like shooting videos, only to have them stop because I have to attend to relocating my studio!

I’m not posting any details regarding our relocation until I’m comfortable with it. A large part of my personality likes having a degree of anonymity. Or at least as much as can be allowed as an artist who basically will tell her life story to a complete stranger on the bus.

So…

Now you can see where my mind has been over the past few weeks. I’ve been dealing with depression on top of all of this too. It’s not been necessarily a super-happy-fun-time-explosion if you catch my drift. My husband has been AMAZING throughout all of this. I would not have my website or business without his constant assistance. He also knows that relocation isn’t something I’m terribly keen on. So he’s been doing a lot of work to help me think of this relocation as more of an adventure than a terrible, overwhelming task.

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

 

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Depression

What brought me here today:

To be honest, the past two weeks have not been spectacularly great for me from a mental health standpoint. I’m struggling with some depression right now. My business is not doing as well as I want or need it to. Recent sales (free shipping, discounted prices) that I have promoted for my artwork have been dismal failures. And any attempts to get people to read my blog and/or purchase my artwork from my shop are making exactly zero impact.

Extremely negative thoughts about destroying everything I’ve worked so hard to build over the past three years have been obsessively running through my head every day. Shutting down my website and destroying my artwork being chief among those intrusive thoughts.

So, yeah. Clinical depression is more or less kicking my butt right now. And before I can even hope to move forward, I need to work through (gestures with arms at everything) that I’m presently mired in, mentally and emotionally speaking.

If wishes were horses:

This post is an extremely short one. Mostly because I’m just so not in the mood to talk about how I’m structuring and operating my small business. It’s glaringly apparent to me that whatever I’m doing, it’s all kinds of wrong. I have made a few sales. But they haven’t generated enough for my business to continue moving forward.

I have received many messages of encouragement from people online regarding my artwork. That has been of great help to me. It’s nice to know that there are people who like my artwork. But as all artists know, compliments and likes online don’t help pay the bills. And that’s just a hard fact of life.

So, now what?

Well, I’m going to go work on some artwork. While doing so, I need to have some hard conversations with myself about what I want to do, and where I want my business to go heading into the future.

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

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Four Box Dolls

What brought me here today:

I’ve always felt that as an artist, I’m in constant danger of becoming pretentious. The artwork that I create is deeply meaningful for me. Creating it has allowed me to work through my own mental and emotional difficulties. Seeing it as a finished product brings me a certain degree of pride in accomplishment as well.

What is deeply meaningful for me personally, isn’t in any way deep or meaningful to people who are not me. The very things that make my artwork meaningful for me may in fact, be weirdly off-putting to people. I understand that. Added to this is the fact that not all of my references are incredibly clear. Many being self-referential. So, if you don’t actually know me personally, meaning may be lost.

Past experience:

After high school, I attended art school and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Communications. At the time, visual communications was the fancier way of saying ‘graphic design’. In addition to my core courses in graphic design and related subjects like typography, I took a lot of lithography, etching and woodcut courses. It was here that I crossed paths with art students who were not in the graphic design program.

I remember the critiques being very different in the fine art studio courses than in my graphic design courses. In the graphics courses, we were far more blunt with our opinions and observations. Maybe it was to get us used to what could occur when working in our chosen profession. By the time we were in our senior year of the program, most of us had fairly thick skins when it came to hearing critique. Having a fellow student say, “Yeah. That fucking colour sucks. You need something different. Try something NOT yellow.” didn’t really phase me much.

The group/class critiques in the fine arts courses that I took were much different. There would be times in which I simply kept my mouth shut for fear of being far too blunt and straight forward regarding a fellow students artwork. I think the meanest thing that I ever said in a critique, under my breath, so just a fellow student could hear me was, “Shoot the artist. Burn the work.” In my own defense, the artwork was an absolute mess and the student had little to no efficacy in the field of art making.

One excruciating critique:

I remember the etching critique that broke me. There was a student in the course whose work was not interesting to me at all. His drawing style was confusing and messy. The compositions were oddly cropped. I got the feeling that he was attempting to hide his inability to draw hands with some of his cropping. His prints were smudgy and poorly executed. He had this one set of etchings in which he drew himself again and again, wearing some kind of goggles.

This student spent the better part of an hour talking about his work to the class and the instructor. There wasn’t a whole lot of back and forth. He didn’t take many questions from the class or the instructor. Preferring to kind of monologue his way through the critique. As a woman who is chock full of opinions, this was absolutely excruciating for me to sit through.

Added to the aforementioned pain of holding my tongue, partially by my own good senses, and the student monologuing about his artwork, was the fact that I thought that all of the students monologuing was just a half-assed art-speak batch of complete pretentiousness. He seemed as though he thought he was the smartest, most talented and deepest person in the entire room. And he needed us all to know it.

Reality check:

I didn’t know this student well at all. We may have exchanged two dozen words in all of the printmaking courses we were in together. He had his own personal battles and issues that he could have been wrestling with, and his artwork was the way in which he was working through it. I have to admit, I have no idea. And at the time, I didn’t care to inquire any further than those two dozen words to find out.

This critique made such a deep impression on me. I decided that I never wanted to sound as pretentious as I thought he did. Especially regarding my artwork. I was young and stupid and I own-up to that. My thoughts regarding my fellow student were painfully ignorant. And I cringe inwardly in embarrassment when I think of how inconsiderate I was.

Present day:

Reality check aside, that critique and all of the self-aggrandizing artistic pretentiousness left a mark on me. It honestly made me hesitant to actually talk about the thoughts, reasons and meanings contained in my own artwork. For many years, I could ignore this, because as a graphic designer and illustrator, the whole reason I was creating a design or illustration was to sell groceries, or illustrate a point. These weren’t personal. The artwork I was creating was for a purpose that existed outside of my own creative needs.

I have an easy time discussing the techniques and materials I use to create my artwork. That part is easy. It relates to being an art teacher. I’m well practiced at breaking down a lesson steps, techniques and materials for my students and fellow art teachers. It’s very academic and leaves out my personal artistic expression.

Four Box Dolls:

I’ve been thinking a lot about how people will perceive the Four Box Dolls. As I originally conceived them, they would be four completely separate and individual pieces of artwork. As I worked on them, they became a single piece containing four parts. The design of the boxes is a nod to mass produced dolls. I wanted to create the types of dolls that I wanted and needed as a child, but didn’t have. Once again, my artwork continues to be a message to the child I was in the 70’s.

As I continued working on the Four Box Dolls, the dolls themselves began to tell me who they were. DAMN! That sounds SO pretentious! But it’s the truth. I’ve talked at length perviously about how the artwork more or less decides what it’s going to be. I’m just the person with the hands that makes it happen. Each of the dolls began reminding me of who I was when I was so much younger. Who I thought I might want to be when I became an adult.

What’s in a name?

The names of each individual doll gives away part of that explanation. 5, Ten, (Ancient Egyptian Number 15) and 20. Each of the dolls contained within those specific boxes are meant to represent me, at least in part, at that age. Placing each of the dolls inside boxes meant to mimic mass produced dolls for me shows how I didn’t always see myself represented in the world around me.

The ways in which each of the dolls will be presented in the final form, behind plastic, sealed-off as a part of my past also carries meaning. I’m not completely committed to the permanent attachment of the plastic on these pieces. As I’ve demonstrated, not everything in my past has been boxed up, sealed-off and put away never to be seen again. Sometimes we want to get things out and play around with them from time to time.

Hidden:

I add details to my artwork that I know will not necessarily be seen by the viewer. The way in which I designed the boxes for these dolls, they can be hung up on a wall. If that’s how the piece is displayed, the back won’t be seen. Prior to adding the dolls names onto the panels of appliqué and embroidery work, I thought that I would just add a panel of felt, so that the box would have a bit of a buffer against any wall it might be hung on.

I think that I hide details, and add details in strange spots within my artwork because I don’t feel like most people really see the things that they look at. There is always more than meets the eye if you stop and take the time to really look at any given thing. This includes my artwork. There are references that I make within my artwork, like with the doll 5, that encompass not only a specific doll I played with as a child, but the television shows like this one, and this one, that helped to shape the person that I am today. And then, relate to the name of a song by the Australian band Architecture in Helsinki.

Some people will never look anyway:

There are some people who see that I make dolls and make the assumption that I make toys for children. Or that the pieces of artwork that I create are somehow childish and lack any kind of real meaning. Perhaps they even think that I’m weird and childish for making dolls. Yeah. I’ve met some of these people. For whatever reason, they don’t want or need to look closer at my work to see it for what it really is. Or how they as the viewer can relate to my work and create more and different meanings.

It’s an ongoing process:

If you’ve made it this far into this blog post, then you understand that talking about the meaning of my artwork is still something that I’m working hard at getting better at. I still feel as though I’m being insanely pretentious in the way in which I talk about the meanings behind my artwork. Hopefully writing posts like this will help me to get better at it.

I also know that creating artwork with odd, conflicting or strange personal meanings isn’t always conducive to actually selling it to a wide array of customers. This requires finding a very small and specific customer base. It would be super-neat if I found them one day in the future.

So, now what?

My usual answer is to go and make more art. This instance is no different. I’m going to go make more art. Well, work on art that I’ve already started. You can see more of the progress on the Four Box Dolls here. I post photos daily.

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

 

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Advice

What brought me here today:

Over the years, I’ve received a lot of advice regarding my artwork. Some advice has been solicited, and much of it has not. I’m pretty good at weeding out the unsolicited bad advice from the good. However, bad or even confusingly empty advice has a strange effect on me. When this type of advice is given to me while I’m in a particularly depressive state it pisses me off to the point in which I can begin to right my mental health, so to speak.

It’s not that the advice then is suddenly seen was good. No. Not that at all. The advice was very bad. Or perhaps even full of hollow platitudes. Maybe it was even dismissive of me and my work, or feelings. The point is that the bad advice pisses me off intellectually. Once this happens, the bad advice can be seen and understood for what it is. And, what it isn’t.

Sorting it out:

When I receive advice, both solicited and unsolicited. The advice gets put into one of two different categories. One is business. The other is creative. Then I have to consider the source of the advice. If the source is knowledgeable, or perhaps has a high degree of personal and professional experience regarding the type of advice they’re giving, then I feel as though I can consider the advice.

Sometimes, It’s not possible to gauge someone’s knowledge regarding their advice. Many years ago, a man who was at a craft show I was selling my work in told me that I should “...make Minecraft stuff…people would love that…” or something to that effect. My interactions with him were mere seconds long. There was no way I could know one way or the other if he were knowledgeable about art, businesses or being an art-based business.

I could make inferences regarding his knowledge of handmade, original artwork. I could gather that he knew little about copyright infringement. Or about my personal drive to create my own, original artwork. His assumption that making a lot of money being my sole goal was also incorrect. The advice didn’t even get separated into one of the two aforementioned categories. It was dismissed outright.

Critique is different:

It could be argued that the man who advised me to make Minecraft dolls was offering his personal critique of my artwork. Opinion is part of critique, but not the only part. Critique, in the artistic sense, implies that the person offering it has a degree of personal or professional artistic knowledge and arts education to back up their observations and opinions.

Being critiqued as an artist is nothing new for me. I’ve participated in many of them as a student, and supervised them as an art teacher. Those offering their critique of a specific piece of artwork are either artists themselves, or arts instructors within the workshop, classroom or arts gathering.

When a person who is an artist, artisan or craftsperson themselves critiques your artwork. And by critique, I mean, tells you the good and the bad things about your artwork. Their critique comes from a place of greater understanding than say, a randomly selected person off the street who has no practical experience with creating artwork. Or the tools, techniques, history and culture of art creation.

Reaching out:

Personally, I have to have a degree of trust and faith in a person before asking them for advice regarding my artwork or entrepreneurial endeavors. I ask people who I see as more successful that I am, because they must know more than I do. Because of course they do! Right?

The answer to that isn’t clear cut. Sometimes they know more, and gladly offer you advice. There are other times when you discover that they don’t know as much as you think they do. Which can be disappointing. Especially when proffered advice is at best some hollow platitude. And at worst, something that gives you DeForrest Kelley face.

Engage intellect:

I think what this kind reaction does something very important for me. It makes me realize that I am not as inept an art entrepreneur as I think I am. I don’t know everything. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

What I needed was to step back and take a look at who I am, and why I’m doing it. In the end, I came back around to David Bowie’s advice for artists. You can read them here in a post I wrote almost three years ago. Bowie’s not offering any entrepreneurial advice. Only artistic advice for creative people.

For me to follow his advice, compromises on my part have been made. One them is that actually selling my artwork is alway going to be a challenge. I make my artwork primarily for me. And finding the people who are somewhat like me, who want to purchase my artwork, has not been easy. The result is that I have low sales.

Consequences:

This is my trade-off. I make the artwork that I find creatively fulfilling, but struggle to make enough money from the sales to pay my way in the world. When I think about creating art to satisfy someone else’s wants and needs. It feels so incredibly wrong to me. This may be one of the key identity traits that made me a not-so-great graphic designer.

While there are repetitive elements within my larger body of artwork, I don’t continue make art that no longer holds any creative interest for me. I may return to them from time to time. But I don’t simply crank-out artwork with the sole intension being for it to attractive to potential customers. Nor do I make work that mimics other art creators successfully selling artwork.

Sometimes I need to stop and remind myself why I’m creating my small art business the way that I am. Just because someone has a larger audience and/or more customers, does not mean that they will offer any advice to me that is in any way helpful to me. Either in the creative or entrepreneurial realms.

So, now what?

I go back to work. There are several different things that I want to do, that are currently in a holding pattern. Things that I can’t start work on until other things are sorted out and settled. My asking for advice from someone was due in part to feeling as though my business plans are stuck in the mud. Getting pissed-off at the bad advice made me go back to my long-term plans. And realize that I know who I am and where I’m going. It’s just going to take me a while to get there.

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

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Doubt

Constant companion:

I’ve written about having self doubt before. It’s one of those things that never seems to disappear completely. For me, self-doubt is more a matter of degrees. There are some days in which it’s extremely low, and then there are other days in which I can feel it coming out of every pore of my body. When it gets to that point, it actually can make me physically sick.

One of the more annoying portions of this constant companion is that when it’s whispering away in the back of my head in low tones, I more or less block it out. I’ve become quite good at blocking it out over the years. But there’s a point in which the voice goes from something I can ignore, to something that is screaming at the top of it’s lungs into both ears 24/7. I’m not good at knowing when I’m getting close to the super-screamy self-doubt yet.

It’s not unusual:

Everyone has self-doubt. I’m in no way special in having it. The part that gets a little complicated is when and how it’s related to my creation of artwork and the selling of my artwork. Creating art is my therapy. It keeps me intact, mentally and emotionally. It’s an expression of who and what I am. Self-doubt begins getting louder when the artwork I make as a means to keep myself intact mentally and emotionally doesn’t sell. Man! Talk about a vicious cycle!

I’m getting a better mental and emotional handle on how to deal with this strange arrangement as I grow older. But it doesn’t mean that I’ve figured it all out yet. Actually, I’m not sure that I will ever totally figure it out either. Perhaps that the whole point of self-doubt?

Time passes, it’s still not unusual:

It’s no one’s job to purchase my artwork to prop-up my self-doubt. Most of the time, when my self-doubt is getting all screamy and annoying, I have to grab the loose end and start tugging, so it all unravels. I’m trying to find the root of what’s making the self-doubt loud and annoying inside my head. Fear and jealousy are usually the root cause. Fear that my artwork is bad un unsellable. And jealousy related to seeing other artists who work with similar techniques, materials and/or themes that are selling much more artwork in a week than I sell in a year.

For me, I have to make myself face these negative emotions so that I can move forward. The line “kiss my fear on the mouth” instantly pops to mind as I write this. (Henry Rollins lyrics have a way of attaching themselves to the inside of the brain) I must acknowledge my fears and jealousies, or else I will never be able to get past them. Or perhaps more realistically, how to put them down and not carry them so far.

Examination:

When I’ve unraveled my self-doubt and found the reasons, then I need to actually do something about it. I need to be honest with myself about what I can do to ease my self-doubt. Some solutions are easier to accomplish than others too. Then there are others that can be addressed in the future. And the hardest ones there is no apparent solution for. Again, self-doubt never goes away completely.

The self-doubt that I’m experiencing in the present has to do with the fact that my work isn’t selling as well as I would like it to. For me, the knee-jerk mental and emotional reaction is that it’s because my artwork isn’t any good. If I thought that my artwork was total garbage, I wouldn’t be constantly showing pictures of it in online social media platforms. I love my artwork. It’s how I interpret the world around me. It’s a part of me.

And the previous sentence is more than likely one of the core reasons that I don’t sell a lot of my artwork. Not everyone likes me, so why would I even hope that everyone would like my artwork? Or, like it even enough to purchase it? (Insert eye roll here.)

Changes:

In the same way that I have to acknowledge the roots of my self-doubt, I also need to acknowledge that there is only so much that I can personally do within my current living and working situation. This does not prevent me from planning for the future. And trying to figure out how I can accomplish some positive changes that will help ease my self-doubt.

This certainly is not a perfect system, but it works at least nine-eight percent of the time. That’s not too shabby. It should also be added that it’s taken me decades to be able to get to that point. Age and experience have a way of doing that to a person I suppose.

So, now what?

Well. As usual, I get back to work. Currently, I’m trying to get better at using GIMP. The hope being that I can create better advertisements for my artwork. It’s not huge, but it’s a change. And it’s helping me to move forward.

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

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Tiny Animal Sale!

Spring is finally here and all of nature has come back to life again. Winter here in Finland can sometimes seem like it will never completely end, but it does. Eventually.  I’ve enjoyed watching the birds returning to the trees and filling the air with their sweetly twittered songs. I’ve seen more and more hares out and about, looking for new greens to eat too! And strange as it may seem, I’m even happy to see the insects! Well, maybe not the mosquitos.

The air is warming. The sun is shining longer and longer each day. I watched the sun begin to come up this morning around 5 am. Seeing the rosy sky during sunrise made my mood so much lighter and content. The windows can now be opened too! I’ve actually been outside without a hat, gloves or a scarf! It’s sunny enough that I need to find out where I put my sunglasses last autumn. I have no idea where they are.

Suffice it to say, I’ve been completely enjoying this later part of spring and am looking so forward to more green, flowers and more wildlife all around me!

Tiny Animal Sale:

Inspired by this, all of the Tiny Animal dolls in my online shop have been placed on sale at a new price of 24€ ($29 USD) with free shipping! Free shipping is for domestic and international shipping too! Purchase of multiple Tiny Animal dolls will come with free shipping as well!

There are a total of 33 Tiny Animals currently in the shop. This includes 11 brand new Kitty dolls! Each of the kitties is a unique, handmade piece of original artwork made completely by me. I’ve loved cats my entire life and cannot quite figure out what took me so long to create these little kitty dolls.

Tiny Animal Dolls:

Cleo, Coco, Paulette, Salma, Brita, Ramona, Bunny, Iris, Mabel, Bernadette and Sabrina are all new in my shop and waiting to be adopted! There are also bunnies, bears, ducks and even an elephant that are part of this Tiny Animal dolls sale!

If you have any questions regarding any of the Tiny Animal doll sale, or anything else in the shop, please let me know via the Contact page! I will answer your questions as soon as possible!

Thank you for stopping by my small online shop!

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Frustration

Depression adjacent frustration:

During the past two weeks, I’ve been wrestling with an ever-deepening sense of personal and professional frustration. This frustration is laying on a great number of the same emotional buttons that can spin me off into a major bout of depression. In my previous Tuesday blog, I wrote about knowing where the traps are, so that they can be avoided. It took me a few days to figure out what was going on, but I got there eventually.

Honestly, I think it was my husbands own anxiety that helped me figure out what was going on. He was showing me something that he had done to alleviate some of his pent up emotions so that he could leave some of the anxiety behind, and move forward. I could tell as he explained what he had done, that he knew it wasn’t exactly normal. What he did made perfect sense to me. That’s when the light went off inside my own head.

Clinical depression:

I’m open about the fact that I have clinical depression. It began when I was in my teens. Then morphed into something that I thought was almost a bi-polar disorder in my early twenties. By the time I was in my late 20’s, my depression was completely unmanageable on my own. I began therapy. And then began taking antidepressant medication. While at first I was reluctant to try medication, after every other avenue was explored, they proved a life-saver for me.

When I was a young, I always knew that the depression was waiting for me at the end of any period of happiness or relative stability. It’s presence was always felt. Right beneath my feet. Waiting to grab hold of me and yank me straight down into the cold, empty, blackness. It sucked.

Side effects:

My current medication is one that I like a great deal. Some of the side effects are not the greatest. The most annoying being weight gain. My husband is the chief meal planner and cook. And we’ve been leaning heavily on a more plant-based diet with chicken and fish as out main sources of protein. I’ve also reduced my intake of all the delightful sugary foods that I adore. I’ve not eliminated them.

This has helped with some of the weight gain. But it’s still there. We walk and take the bus everywhere we need to go. This also helps a lot with my depression.Especially when I think I don’t need it, a walk to the store will do wonders in making me feel better. That’s not to say I would ever stop taking my meds and go on walks in nature to “cure” my clinical depression. But I will use lovely walks in the sunshine in conjunction with my meds to manage my clinical depression.

Present day:

My depression adjacent frustrations have arisen regarding the lack of traffic on my website, including my online shop. The lack of traffic and declining sales have just begun to frustrate the crud out of me. Realistically, I know what a teenie-tiny fish I am in the great ocean of internet art sellers. I have no illusions of grandeur. My frustrations are rooted in not knowing exactly why my website and online shop receives so very little traffic.

My previous Tuesday blog post talked about how I was trying to figure out the art of marketing. All the while knowing exactly how bad I am at it. Add to this the fact that everything that I have built here is the product of me trying to find the best options I can afford, everything I learned from the staff at Työbileet, and the mind of my ever-patient husband. In fact, if you click on the Työbileet link, you will find a short video of me. (Yikes.)

Love and…meh:

The frustrations I’m experiencing regarding the lack of website and shop traffic has required me to sit down and re-evaluate the methods and modes of marketing that I’m currently using. While I love Instagram, it’s not the right place for me to truly market my artwork. I love that I’ve met fantastically cool, creative artists who I can talk with about making art. It’s been a positive experience for me.

That all being said, it hasn’t driven a lot of traffic to my website. Nor has it lead to a sizable increase in sales for me. Part of this has to do with exactly what Instagram is. It’s a corporation. Corporations exist to make money for their stockholders. If I’m not paying a fee for being able to post on Instagram, then more than likely, I’m being used for other purposes. Oh. Yeah. I’m making money for their stockholders.

All hail the algorithm:

I know when Instagram’s algorithm has changed. Once every sixty to ninety days, the traffic to my posts gets a hard throttle by the algorithm. Along with that hard throttle, I begin receiving more “incentives” to purchase some manner of a business account. More and more posts pop-up in my feed that are artists or artisans with six posts and two hundred followers who have paid to advertise their accounts on Instagram.

Then Instagram starts asking me about advertising and upgrading my account. It’s not that I don’t understand how advertising works. I just don’t think that my advertising euro is best spent on Instagram. For me, it breaks down to what I’m using the platform for.

Useful to a point:

Like I said previously, I’ve met some incredibly cool and talented artists on Instagram. I view it as a place where I can see other artists and their artwork and talk with them. It’s not a mutual admiration society, but it’s akin to that kind of concept. And that is not a bad thing! Especially during the pandemic, it’s been beneficial for me to be able to talk to other artists and share our ups and downs. And yes, there are a lot of sincere compliments that are exchanged as well.

Investment:

Well, I think of it more along the lines of ‘Where do I want to invest my euro?‘ I’ve talked in the past about wanting to start a Patreon. And even flirting with Etsy. What I realized was that not only does the price-point for the marketing need to be right. That it also has to feel right to me, personally and professionally.

Seriously? They have to feel right? Well, yes. They do. This is partially due to a major identity trait of mine. No one can force me to do anything I do not want to do. It can seem like a total no-brainer to do a certain thing. But if I don’t want to do it. There is nothing that will make me do it. Nope. Never going to happen, Ever.

Decisions to be made:

I love the idea of having a Patreon. But I have to be honest with myself. I simply do not have the time, space and money to start a Patreon right now. Nor do I feel as though I have nearly enough people interested in my artwork, or my techniques to the point in which they would give me money every month. Even if it were only a euro or two. There is also an element of creative control that I feel as though I would be giving up as well. And right now, this just feels wrong to me.

Etsy has been the nine-million pound gorilla sitting in my studio space staring at me. I’ve made an attempt at selling on Etsy about ten years or so ago. It wasn’t a fabulous experience. This being said, I do know more now. And have a great deal more online experience, including my own website and shop. Along with that ever-patient husband.

For me, what it all boiled down to was: what did I want to get out of having a presence on Etsy?

Key questions:

What am I going to use Etsy for?

What is my end-goal?

The answer to both of those questions were similar. To get more eyes on my artwork. And a potential at getting more traffic on my own website and my own online shop. Any sales that might be made on the Etsy platform are gravy for me.

Part of the research that I did was looking at artists who sell their work on Etsy, while at the same time maintaining their own website and online shop. I wanted to see what artists that I admire are doing. Many of whom have much better sales and web traffic than I do. There was also a significant amount of article reading as well. Then a huge brain-dump lunch with my ever-patient husband.

So…now what?

I’m going to open up at Etsy shop. It’s will have specific pieces of artwork that are not offered in my online shop. I’ve gone through my inventory and made decisions about items I will pull from my own shop as well. This will take some time for me to get up and running. Remember, I’m still got all kinds of other irons in the fire that require regular tending!

I have no delusions. Etsy will not be a magical fix. I’ve done my research. As well as making sure that the decisions I make are ones that not only ‘feel right‘ but are also things that I can accomplish. Mentally and emotionally I am in agreement. My frustrations have been quieted, and my clinical depression managed.

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

 

 

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Marketing is Hard

Marketing is…:

Marketing my artwork has never been a strength of mine. I think that there are two reasons for that. The first among them being, in order to market my artwork, I need to call attention to myself. This would mean that people would actually look at me. Putting myself in this sort of position goes against the grain mentally and emotionally speaking. Secondly, asking for attention from people then means that I would have to talk about my artwork to people that I don’t know.

Both of the aforementioned reasons make marketing my artwork difficult for me. I’m either painfully slow at it, or I just don’t do it out of insane amounts of personal (and professional) fear. For my business to become more successful, I need to figure this out. I’m not as bad as I once was, but I’m not where I want or need to be at all.

Head scratching:

Knowing where the trap is — that’s the first step in evading it.” Thanks Duke Leto Atreides. That’s really great advice. And quite handy to keep in mind. However, it’s a lot easier said than actually done. Especially when it comes to mental or emotional traps.

That being said, I know the roots of my personal and professional feelings of inadequacy. I’m the poster child for imposter syndrome. Part of the reason that I know where all those mental traps are is precisely because I do spend so much time examining them, through creating my artwork. So I know who I am. I know my traps (or buttons, if you like). And the very artwork that I want to market is the product of this hard-won knowledge.

All of this makes me sound like an absolute mess, doesn’t it?! Actually, it’s not as bad as one might think. Knowing myself does have a mitigating effect on my fears regarding the marketing of my artwork.

Exhibiting my artwork:

I have been so fortunate in having two venues offer me the opportunity to exhibit my artwork during the past year. I’ve been looking online for additional places in which I might be able to exhibit my work. Exhibits are a good marketing tool for me. It allows me to show my artwork to a greater number of people who may not already be aware of me or my artwork.

Yesterday evening, I sat down to look online for exhibit opportunities. The pandemic has put a bit of a damper on art shows and fairs. I did find a few that seemed interesting. But I was disappointed to discover that many that I was interested in, or felt that my artwork would be a good fit, had restrictions on materials. Paper mâché and plaster works were not accepted. Crud. I did manage to find two that my artwork is still eligible for.

Cost of exhibiting:

Those who are not full or part time practicing artists, artisans or crafts people, might not know that entering artwork into juried art shows can be an expensive proposition. One of the art show applications I downloaded has a very reasonable 20€ application fee. I can afford that. One of the other shows that I had to rule out, had a 250€ application fee. These fees are just to get your artwork looked at, to see if it MIGHT be in the show.

If you’re work is selected, then you have to get the artwork to the venue. This can also be incredibly costly, especially for three-dimensional artwork like mine. One of the art shows that I had to rule out mandated a specific type of parcel shipment, with return shipping already paid for. They also wanted a certain amount of insurance added to the parcel shipment. And charged a fee for pedestal rental and set-up and take-down fees. For me to apply for entry, ship (to and from), rent a pedestal, pay for the set-up and take-down fee would have cost me around 2000€.

And there was no guarantee that the artwork would itself sell. Or that merely exhibiting my artwork at this venue would result in sales of my other pieces of art.

And then…depression set in:

I’m not an idiot. I know that art shows charge money for exhibiting specific art shows, or works by a specific artist. The venue has to be able to make some money too. After all, there is no guarantee that the artwork being shown will actually sell enough so that the venue will get a sizable enough cut to may the rent on the space, or keep the lights on, or heck, even pay their staff!

It’s just a depressing fact. I can’t change how exhibiting art works. All that this means is that at the present, I cannot go about showing my artwork and marketing myself and work in an already well established manner. This doesn’t mean that I won’t still be trying to avoid my own mental and emotional traps either.

It’s a trap:

My husband and I were talking about creating our own means of employment a few days ago. Neither one of us wants to return to working for someone else. We’ve both grown accustomed to having creative autonomy over our means earning monetary compensation. This kind of autonomy is equal parts fantastic and terrifying at the same time for me.

What struck me about the conversation I was having with my husband was that there are people who would prefer to be employed by something or someone other than themselves. I totally and completely understand that. Knowing that you have a place to be, a job to perform, and a guaranteed paycheck is a great comfort. Your basic needs are covered. There is comfort in that. A lot of comfort.

But…there is also the problems that arise when the pay isn’t enough to cover those basic needs. And then there are people who you know aren’t as smart as they think they are trying to tell you how to do your job. When they have never performed your specific job. Ever. There is the monotony of doing the same thing over and over again. Day in and day out. The trade off is that you have a place to be, a thing to do, and a steady paycheck. After a while, at least for me, the trade-offs are not enough.

Machete:

I know what I’m about, son.” Well said, Ron. Knowing who I am is a step in the right direction regarding my future marketing adventures. For now, there are well-worn paths like the expensive juried art shows, that are simply not an option for me. I need more affordable options. Free would be a good price to start. This means that I have to cut my own pathways. Hence the title of this section.

Since last night, I’ve been turning over some ideas in my mind as to how I find potential free to low-cost venues to exhibit my artwork. One of them is incredibly easy. Ask people. Yeah. I know. This seems like a total no-brainer, doesn’t it?! But remember, I have a network traps that I have to get around before I can arrive at a potential solution to some of my marketing woes. Asking people doesn’t mean I’m going to get any kind of useful information either.*

So, now what:

Well, I have some emails to write. There is not guarantee that any of my inquires will result in any kind of low to no-cost exhibit or gallery spaces being located. Asking for help is sometimes a difficult thing for me to do. I  don’t want to appear to be desperate. Because we all know, that is not a good look on anyone! There’s also a part of me thinks that at my age, I should already have all of this stuff figured out. I should know what I’m doing…more than half of the time.

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

*This clip is from the movie Gone with the Wind. The movie is paints an incredibly favourable view of the enslavement of black people within the US before and after the United States Civil War 1861-1865. I assure you, it was an abhorrent, despicable institution that remains a deep scar in the American consciousness. The movie was made in the late 1930’s and one several Academy Awards. Most notably Hattie McDaniel one a best supporting actress award for the role of Mammy. The role of Pork was played by Oscar Polk, whose acting career was cut much too short in 1949. It’s Oscar Polk that is shown in the ‘Askin’ ain’t gettin'” gif.

 

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One of Four

Uncovering meaning:

Long-time readers of my blog know that the meanings of my artwork evolve during the time in which I’m actively creating it. I may have an idea of where a piece might be going, but try hard not to become too attached to a specific theme or direction. The four box dolls that I’ve been working on started out as one thing in my mind. Then they decided that they were going to go off in a completely different direction. Not wanting to force myself on them, I let the art direct me creatively.

I generally work in even-numbered groups while creating my art. There isn’t any other reason than, it feels right to me. A group of four dolls, that will be contained in frames/boxes with hang tabs-like looking elements, is what I call a set. All four items belong to the singular artistic expression. They belong together.

My initial idea was to have the dolls contained within the frames/boxes (box frames?) each represent a type of doll that I would have wanted to purchase when I was a child. The types of dolls that were sold like this when I was a child didn’t appeal to me. Barbie dolls didn’t fit into how I played with or created by own dolls. Nowadays, I see so many different types of small dolls in stores that I would have saved my money to purchase. As a creative maker, it seemed obvious to fuse what I wanted and didn’t have, with what I could create myself now.

Where we parted ways:

In retrospect, I suppose it was silly of me to attempt this. Evidently, my subconscious thought the same thing. As I continued to work on the four box dolls, none of the ideas I came up with seemed correct. “Oh! I’ll make this one a scientist!” Why?! I never wanted to be a scientist. Or, “I could make this one an astronaut!” Again. I never, ever, ever, ever wanted to be an astronaut. Did I want to fly the Millennium Falcon? Damn skippy I did!

Then I thought about perhaps using the dolls to show different stages. You know? Like maiden, matron and crone? Something akin to that. But that didn’t fit, or feel right either. The four dolls kept staring at me and trying to tell me what they wanted to be, but I wasn’t listening. I liked the idea of showing different stages, or pages…perhaps chapters of myself. But I just wasn’t sure how to do that. Or even why I would want to do that.

Then I figured it out.

What I was trying to say:

We never remain completely the same over the entirety of our lives. Individuals are continually learning, growing and changing. There are times and places within out lives where we were really “into” something. We go overboard reading a specific author, or listening to a musician. Perhaps we cannot get enough of learning about a time in history, or a type of research in science, or going to the theatre. Most of the time, these hobbies and interests peak and fade. Sometimes we just lose interest. Perhaps a new interest has been sparked for us somewhere else.

There are times in which our interests can be folded into our individual life goals. A hobby can become a career. Or a passion about a subject can drive a person to choose a major for study at university that will aid them in future employment.

When the interests that I had as a much younger person met the real world, changes to how I pursued each of them changed. The interests and aptitudes evolved to fit my own talents and abilities, as well as what I was willing to do to attain them. My mathematics were never going to be good enough for me to be a veterinarian. It was a bad fit. Animals are a great love of mine, but being a vet wasn’t ever going to be a good fit for me as a career. For one, I can’t deal with the incredible sadness that comes with the death of an animal.

What the four box dolls could be changed as I thought about who I was in my early life. How I chose to pursue my passions and further my knowledge. Each of these dolls represents a distinct part of me, in that, they are tiny snapshots of who I was when I was five, or ten, or fifteen, and 20-ish. The passions, interests, hopes, dreams, and goals that I had when I was so much younger haven’t left me. They have merely been folded into my personal identity. They are who I have become.

One of four:

There is one of the group of four box dolls that has had staying power for me. It’s become a cornerstone of my personal and professional identity. Through every imagined future career or profession, art was always there. Being an artist is something that has never, ever left me. It’s my personal boon and bane. The life preserver that sometimes confuses the holy hell out of me. Even when my professional art career isn’t going as well as I had hoped, my passion for it has never dimmed.

However, there has been a change in how I see myself as an artist, and how I ‘thought’ being an artist would be in real life. Part of that has to do mainly with the fact that I’ve not yet fully discovered the place in which I and my artwork fit within the larger world conversation of art. Artist? Crafter? Artisan? (As I typed that, I actually rolled my eyes.) I feel as though I will always struggle with this question. It’s just nagging imposter syndrome. And it’s terrifically annoying.

Long story longer:

Each of the four dolls in this set will represent different aspects of who I was when I was a certain age. I have chosen the descriptor of ‘aspect’ as it relates better to the overall concept of personal identity that seems to permeate every piece of artwork that I create. The interests and aspirations of these former me’s are still very much alive within me. Each adding their own acquired knowledge and expertise to my work as an artist.

Names are hard:

I struggle at times to give titles to my artwork. The dolls seem to be easy to name by comparison. As of right now, I’ve been calling this set “The Four Box Dolls” which sounds rather lame if you ask me. Perhaps a better and more apt name will come to me after the entire piece is finished.

So, now what?

As always, I need to get back to work. I have three different pieces of artwork in process. This is way too many if you ask me. I feel stretched thin mentally speaking. There are other pieces that I want to start work on, but will hold off on that until I have the three pieces directly in front of me finished. If there were only more hours in a day. (Sigh.)

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

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Workspace Cleaning

With the arrival of spring in Finland, comes the ever-increasing amount of daylight every day. From the end of November through to the end of February, the amount of sunlight we get isn’t great by any stretch of the imagination. Consequently, accumulated dust isn’t necessarily visible, or perhaps better said, not bothersome, during the long, dark days of winter. The arrival of spring changes all of that. Now we I can see the dust-bunnies the size of some of the hares out in the fields!

Winter creative nesting:

I spent a lot of last autumn and winter creating artwork that would be in a public exhibition space. Once the artwork was taken down, most of it returned to our small apartment. Everything felt a bit more crowded after this. The creative mess accumulated during the creation of the artwork was now living side by side with the finished artwork.

My creating continued, even though my work space was becoming increasingly difficult to work in. At one point, I honestly felt like I was just tossing recyclables onto an ever-growing pile that had taken over a corner of my workspace. There was no way that this could go on much longer.

Small creative workspace:

It’s been mentioned here quite a few times, that the space in which I’m creating my artwork is not big. It’s more of less one third of our living room. My husband works in the kitchen, with his own desk and shelves. As a writer, he doesn’t require the amount of space for tools, materials and supplies that I do.

I try very hard to keep all of my creative workspace as neat and orderly as possible. My husband’s a very understanding man though. He knows that my work requires more space. When the majority of those materials are recyclables, storage can become a bit midden-like.

Cardboard and carton board:

I use a lot of recycled materials that I’ve scavenged from communal recycling bins, or our own recycling. Knowing that a certain percentage of my artwork was once something that was tossed out as trash or recycling is something that I absolutely love. Not only does it help cut the cost of materials for me, it also lends meaning to my work, by way of metaphor.

These materials take up a lot of space and can quickly get out of hand if you’re not keeping on top of them. The vast majority of the recycled materials that I had to clean up was my cardboard and carton board. Most of what I had on hand consisted of  cardboards in the form of small, oddly shaped pieces of that were not usable for my larger work.

The better part of a day was taken sorting through the mountain of cardboard and carton board that I had on hand. An entire large, Ikea bag was needed for the cardboard and carton board scraps that went into the recycling bins.

Plastics:

Our apartment complex now has plastics recycling. I felt a little better the fact that plastics that I had been keeping for my artwork could be recycled if I decided that I didn’t want or need them. Over the past year, I have been pointedly trying to not purchase items with too much plastic packaging, while at the same time trying to use more recyclable plastics in my artwork.

Some plastics have gone into recycling during the cleaning and organizing. While others have gone into an “I’m not sure” bag. This bag will need to be gone through once more, so that I can make final decisions about specific pieces of plastic.

There’s a large part of me that is still very much an art teacher. I was always on the look-out for plastic tubs with lids that I could put art supplies in, or mix paints in. For me as an art teacher, those are gold! That being said, I will still go through the “I’m not sure” bag and recycle what I cannot immediately use.

Sewing materials:

My sewing materials, especially my threads had gotten scarily out of control over the past few months. I went through everything. All of my threads were consolidated. Making sure that I had them all stored in the same place. Getting rid of useless scraps that I would never be able to use. Happily discovering another spool of white thread too!

A lot of my sewing materials, notions, buttons, etc., have now been organized neatly and stored in those lovely (and free!) clear, plastic, bulk candy tubs from the grocery store. Each of the plastic tubs in see through, and labeled on the side and the top. This is so that I’m able to quickly identify by sight what’s in each individual storage tub.

Lots of odds and ends:

In addition to all the cardboards and sewing materials, I needed to sort through all of my odd bits of materials too. Some of my materials, like wooden components, were stored in three different places on my desk and in un-labeled boxes. Yuck! I now have a single box for my wooden components. My glitter, wiggly eyes and sequins are all in a separate box. Pom-pom makers are in a box next to my small store-bought acrylic and wool pom-poms.

Each of the labeled boxes is within a step or two of my desk, and is clearly labeled. My sewing storage is on one shelf. I put my painting supplies on another. All of my glues now in two places (down from four!). Big bottles in a tray I can pull off the shelf, and my tiny bottles of Loc Tite type glues, glue sticks and rarely used glue gun are in a drawer at my desk.

Lost and found:

During my cleaning, I found dolls that I had completed, but for some reason hadn’t put in my shop. Quite a few of them need only a few small things completed to be finished too. I think that the reason that I (more or less) forgot about these dolls is because I was trying out some new clothing patterns on them. Most of the time, these sorts of dolls are not usually offered for sale. These dolls don’t have any glaring flaws, so I can see them going into the shop.

More things to make into art:

There were other items that I discovered during my cleaning that I’d like to find a way to use or finish-up. Sometimes I make multiple components, like buttons, beads or drawer pulls, out of air dry clay or paper mâché. I do this just in case something breaks or warps weirdly to the point that I cannot use it. When this doesn’t occur, I’m left with little extra bits from finished pieces.

I found some air dry doll blanks that I experimented with, but for some reason, never finished. There’s also a spare set of doll arms and legs that look a lot like the dolls Turk Tank, Piiing Tree, and Purple Fork. I’m looking forward to what I can do with these, and all the other small pieces and components that I found.

So, what now?

Well, back to work for me. Now that I have enough space to work in, and the ability to find everything that I need to work, I can’t wait!

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