Category Archives: Business

Release the Dolls!

My previous Thursday Business Post dealt with the sales, or non-sales for the most part, of the Creative Experiment dolls. I’d decided to offer about a dozen for sale to see what kinds of responses I receive. Showing my work is always, always, always a white-knuckle-thrill-ride of insanely irrational emotions that are deeply entangled in my personal sense of self-worth not only as an artist, but as a human being. If you’ve followed me on Instagram, you know that I rarely if ever post photos of myself. I’m not comfortable taking selfies. I don’t like having my photo taken. It makes me cringe. I show my artwork. That’s the me that I want people to see and connect with. Weird. I know. Believe me, I know!

ANYWAY…

I decided that I needed to make an honest effort to sell some of the Creative Experiment dolls. There is no way that I will ever know if there are people who want to buy them unless I put a price on them and offer them for sale. I’ve chosen sixteen dolls to offer. I created a gallery with names, dimensions and descriptions of each of the dolls, as well as a FAQ about purchasing, shipping, etc. as well.

I know it doesn’t seem like much of an effort to create a gallery with some prices and put it on my website that frankly, at this point, does not have loads of traffic, but I have to start somewhere, right? I’m a one-horse business. I do everything myself, with occasional feedback and assistance with business and marketing from my husband and friends who work in entrepreneurial education. I don’t have a marketing budget. I need to take advantage of every no-cost and low-cost option available to me. Please don’t misunderstand me as whining, moaning and complaining about this. It’s simply how it is. I want to be honest with anyone who’s comes upon my website. And if you’ve read any posts of mine, you know, I’ll spill my guts at the blink of an eye!

I have no glorious expectations of fantastic sales and world-domination for these Creative Experiment dolls. It would be nice to see them go to people who really love them and appreciate the skill, knowledge and ability to create them. So, let’s see what happens, let’s roll the bones.

 

My Mistakes

I spent the greater part of two years working on something I called the Creative Experiment. The experiment was a success. I learned a lot about why and how I create artwork. I pushed myself to let go of some of the creative processes that were no longer proving themselves useful to me. And most importantly, I became much more comfortable within the active creative process without knowing for sure exactly what the end product would look like. I feel as though I built a great deal of personal creative efficacy over the time I spent creating the dolls in the experiment.

Over the past month or so, I couldn’t help but compare the differences in the how the Creative Experiment dolls and the Little Ladies dolls have been received. More to the point, why was there interest in purchasing the Little Lady dolls, but almost none in the Creative Experiment dolls? What mistakes had I made in with the Creative Experiment dolls that I haven’t been making with the Little Lady dolls?

The reason that I want to sort this out is for business reasons. These bodies of work have their similarities and some very distinct differences. The Little Ladies are selling. The Creative Experiment dolls are packed into boxes, to the greater extent, unsold. I need to understand the why and how of this, so that I can identify and fix future mistakes quicker than I have in the past.

There are three main reasons that I think the Creative Experiment dolls did not sell well.

1. No Advertising:

I made absolutely no attempt to market the Creative Experiment dolls. I was at the very beginning of an entrepreneurial course and did not think that I wanted to be in the ‘physical product business’ and chose to focus on developing art seminars and workshops to teach. I didn’t use my website or Instagram to market the Creative Experiment dolls. I think I felt as though if anyone saw photos of these dolls, that they would make an attempt to contact me to inquire about purchasing my work. I think I sporadically added a “contact me if your interesting in purchasing any of my work” to the end of my Instagram posts, but that was so lazy.

I have not sold a single Creative Experiment doll through any internet platform. The few that I’ve sold were to people who knew me personally. I think that my reluctance to advertise or market myself and my work is due in large part to: I don’t want to be perceived as ‘pushy’, and I don’t want to attract attention to myself. Because when you get attention, you don’t always get just positive attention.

I didn’t advertise. I didn’t sell any work. It was my completely my fault. Lesson learned.

2. People Didn’t Like Them:

Okay. On this one, I could simply me making assumptions. I know that the Creative Experiment dolls were not to everyones personal taste. They were a radical change in the direction of the types of dolls that I have made in the past. They were smaller, lacked human like faces (all the parts of the face in the correct places), and were not always humanoid. I gave them holes in their abdomens with screw-top lids (recycled from milk cartons) and buttons in lieu of faces. I can see where some people would find them weird, and off-putting. I can also see where some people would really like them. The people that I think would like them are a fairly small segment of the potential doll-buying community, and very targeted marketing on my part could have helped me get my artwork in front of people who might have been interested in buying it.

I feel as though I let my Dada flag fly when creating the dolls in the Creative Experiment. I worked on instinct. Picking and choosing whatever colors of felt, fibers and threads that I wanted to in that instant and not asking myself why. As the experiment continued, the embroidery and the appliqué work took on a like of it’s own and I just went with it, creatively speaking. I had no real idea of how I would ever sell any of these pieces, even if I wanted to.

I’m sure that there were people who looked at the Creative Experiment dolls and found them creepy as well. There are people who find regular dolls creepy, so I can only imagine what they might have thought of the Creative Experiment dolls.

3. They Aren’t Traditional Dolls:

I suppose what I mean by this, is that they weren’t really like the types of dolls that people were used to seeing. They were called dolls, but perhaps my work didn’t fit into what their idea of a doll is, or their belief in what a dolls primary use is: a toy for children.

I’ve always wanted to ask people about this. Children always seem attracted to my work, no matter what kind of dolls I make. The Creative Experiment dolls were abstracted, colorful and small. It makes perfect sense that children would be attracted to them. Children’s ideas or beliefs about what things are and aren’t supposed to be are not carved in stone. Adults, while they have the ability to think more abstractly, sometimes have beliefs can become more fixed and rigid over time.

There is also the fact that even if a child really liked one of my Creative Experiment dolls, 40€ or more for a tiny, handmade doll may seem tremendously expensive, especially knowing how hard children can be on toys. And…my dolls are not necessarily toys to begin with anyway.

So…now what?

I’ve made the comparisons and feel as though I have discovered some valid reasons for why I sold so very few of the Creative Experiment dolls. The fact that I didn’t actively try to sell them was the main reason I feel as though they didn’t sell. I will be putting some of them up on my website for sale over the next few weeks. I need to do choose a dozen or so out of the almost two-hundred that I made, shoot some photos and decide on some prices, and then I can see how it all goes. If they still don’t sell, then I guess they just aren’t marketable and I will have to live with that.

Pricing for these dolls is difficult. And if I’m honest, pricing my work is always, always, always difficult for me. Is the price too high? Is the price too small? What will the shipping cost? How do I adequately convey the amount of time, energy and thought it takes to create the doll I am asking 75€ for? I had a few people, years ago, contact me and express interest in a doll, but when I quoted them a price — I think it was 75€, including shipping, I never heard from them again.

I’ll figure it out, I will need to, because I want this business to be a success.

The Business End of Things

From the South Park episode “Gnomes”, the 17th episode of Season 2. Originally aired 16, December 1998

I’m the first to say that the business end of my present (and past) entrepreneurial endeavors are the parts that I personally struggle the most with. There are elements to it that I don’t feel as though a completely understand, no matter how many times I have them explained to me by my insanely patient marketing and business-degree-holding husband. I know that I’m smart enough to handle business and marketing matters.  There are specifically two elements that give me agita: discussion regarding money and having to place myself at the forefront of my ‘brand’, i.e., people will actually have to look at me and interact with me. The mention of these two elements makes my heart rate increase.

The bigger part of me just wants to make art and teach art and have someone else handle all of the business money and marketing. But, that’s not the route I’m currently taking. I want to do this as much as I can on my own, but with guidance (as needed) by people like my husband and by the people in groups like Työbileet. (Wow. I’m one of the first videos on the site. Yikes! BAD HAIR!)

That all being said, I’ve actually been trying really hard to pay attention to the business and marketing items in recent months. I’m trying to move at a speed that is comfortable for me. I tend to get overwhelmed with all of the things that need to be done in a business, and for my degree in graphic design, creating my own brand and logos, well, any ability I possess that might be of help with that just goes straight out the window.

I’m much more in my own element, swimming around in all that lovely, expansive, grey area, turning my formless ideas into solid, physical artwork. Those parts of my brain that make me good at creating and teaching art, aren’t always the same things that will help me get more organized and moving toward a business goal when it comes to the business and marketing aspects of my entrepreneurial path.

I have to remind myself that it’s okay that these things make me anxious. But at the same time, I need to figure out how to still do the business and marketing things that have to be done without sending myself into a mental and emotional meltdown. I need to find and then implement things that will acknowledge my fears, and to not allow them to hold me back. Along with the business and marketing, and the creating of the artwork and the designing of art workshops and lessons, I had to also come up with a way to make these things more mentally and emotionally comfortable for me.

Some of the comfortable steps I’ve taken are built on Albert Bandura‘s work on self-efficacy. I’ve created some achievable goals relating to the business and marketing of myself as an artist and an art teacher, and through repeated successes of achieving those goals, I build my professional efficacy related to my business, art creation and teaching. One of the reasons that I’ve begun to post regularly on my website, is because it’s an achievable goal. I post every Tuesday and Thursday. My Tuesday post is a journal-like post, talking mostly about art making and how it makes me who I am as an artist and teacher. My Thursday posts are for talking about the business that I am creating. Posting every week makes me stop and think about what I need to be doing business and marketing-wise. Repeated exposure to these things, coupled with some successes, make business and marketing less anxiety ridden and give me a modicum of success to build future plans upon.

What is a ‘modicum of success’? The goal I set for myself is that I’m contributing more to the household budget, with a little left over for more art supplies for me. So far, I’m hitting that goal. Each time I can contribute for the regular household expenses, I reinforce my internal belief that I can have success at my business. All of these successes, and learning from the points in which I fail, because, lets face it, failure will happen, will help me get back up, dust myself off, and keep going.

I have more plans for things that I want to try in the new year. I have art workshops and classes that I would like to teach. I have new products that I would like to create and offer for sale. I’m excited to start these things, and smart enough to know that I need to take this all at my own pace.

To close out this post, I thought I’d add a little more humor, because why not?

Here is a little advice on success from the great Leslie Jones, one of the funniest people on the planet! Her comedy special Time Machine is hysterical!

And, of course, some B. Kliban:

I remember this image from I think a wall calendar, when I was a kid. I don’t think I was necessarily supposed to see it…and I certainly didn’t ‘get it’ as a kid!