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Why My Artwork Must Be Original

Holly Hobbie is a creation of the watercolor artist Denise Holly Ulinskas. I loved her when I was a small child. I still love her as an adult.

Every, single artist wrestles with their art. One of the largest of these struggles for me has been discovering a balance between how create original artwork that is deeply meaningful to me, and making an income by selling my original artwork. When I was actively teaching art in public school, there was an agreement between the two sides. My bills were paid through my teaching, and I was free to create any type of original artwork that I wished. It was not crucial for the artwork I created to find a place in the marketplace or for that matter, within the art world as a whole. Teaching art handled that. Any of my original artwork that was sold was extra income.

Due to world-side events, selling my original artwork has taken precedence over teaching art. At least for the foreseeable future. My entrepreneurial plans required some adjustments. A larger part of my business plan is now devoted to the selling of my original artwork. I find it much easier to ‘sell’ myself as a teacher or art workshops, than to market my own artwork.

Being successful at marketing my own original artwork depends upon so many different things that I don’t have any control over. Success also depends upon my going into the selling of my work with a degree of  personal and creative confidence that fluctuates between ‘nonexistent’ and ‘okay’. Some days are better than others. As a result of my maladjusted sense of confidence, I tend to delve deeper into the how’s and the why’s in an effort to understand myself. Through this understanding, I can make the necessary adjustments that will hopefully increase my chances of being as successful a working artist as I possibly can be.

Why my artwork must be original:

I have a memory from childhood. My father found me either actively drawing a copy of a picture, or he saw a drawing I made that was a copy of another picture. The memory is a little hazy, but I think it was around the time I was 7 or 8 years old. That is the only time that I concretely remember copying a drawing. It was a Precious Moments bulletin board decoration from my classroom. It might have been Holly Hobbie. Actually, I kind of hope it was Holly Hobbie…but what artwork I was copying is beside the point.

The gist of what my father told me was that it was perfectly okay for me to copy another artists work. Plenty of artists throughout history learned how to create by copying other artists as practice. However, my father was vehement that I not copy a piece of artwork, made by another artist, and then sign my name to it, claiming it as my own. I was never, ever to attempt to pass-off someone else’s creative artwork as my own. That was just wrong. Very wrong.

How this Idea Effects My Artistic Processes:

I’m constantly running the ideas I have for my own artwork through the aforementioned memory filter. Sometimes it is less a ‘filter’, and more like a series of sieves. Each idea is pushed through a finer and finer mesh sieve with the hope of as original a piece of artwork  I can create being mashed through that last and finest sieve. This process has it’s Pros and it’s Cons.

The Cons:

One of the cons is that this process requires me to almost constantly second-guess my own creativity. This can be annoying to say the least. What ideas have not made it through all of these mental machinations that were perhaps more original than I thought they were? What designs have I placed by the wayside simply because I didn’t want to be perceived as an artist following a trend or style? Have I actively turned away from materials or techniques that are ‘all the rage’ right now?

Another con is that when an artist is actively trying to be as original as they can, the artwork that they create doesn’t always automatically find a niche within the larger arts community. My artwork is difficult to categorize in a traditional fine arts sense. My artwork is not an easy fit into the world of fine art, nor is it completely an ‘arts and crafts’ kind of thing. Perhaps my age, and the length of time that I have been creating my artwork makes artisan feel a bit more accepting a categorization for myself and what I create, but it’s still not a perfect fit. The thing is, this categorization isn’t so much for me, but for those who see and purchase my work. The person buying my work wants to know what they’re getting. Are they a patron of ‘the arts’, or a devote of a particular form or technique? Do they want to pass the work to their children, or will it be used up and tossed out when it loses its’ allure?

A con of my pursuit of being an original creator is that there is absolutely no guarantee of a reliable amount of sales in any arts marketplace, whether it be fine art, arts and crafts or artisan. This requires me as an artist to either bend to the the expectations of reliable marketplaces, or to take an active roll in creating my own place, no matter how small, within those established frameworks. To do either of these things requires me to ask myself, ‘What problem am I solving for?’ or perhaps, ‘What am I willing to compromise on, so my problem is solved in a way that doesn’t mentally and emotionally chap my keister to the point I can no longer stand the pain?

The really big and slightly addictive pro:

While the concept of creating my own original artwork was placed into my head at a very young age, I cannot deny that I revel in creating my own artwork. The sheer, unadulterated bliss of thinking an idea in my brain and then sitting down and making it so that it exists in the physical world, is just the most amazing experience for me. This kind of happiness, is something that I’ve grown so accustomed to, so dependent upon as a means by which I attempt to understand myself and the world around me, that I don’t think I can not make art in some way, shape or form. Copying another artists work by comparison feels as though it would be a hollow experience for me. I find no satisfaction in it, and the resulting artwork shows that.

It appears as though my endless pursuit of creating original artwork is not something that I’m willing to compromise on. This leaves me with the task of creating my own little place within the larger, established arts related marketplaces. What I need to make sure that I do is be honest with myself regarding this endeavor. I know that I’m free to create whatever types of artwork that I want, whenever I want to. What I am not guaranteed that anyone is ever going to want to buy my artwork. This, even after I work to create my own little niche in the marketplace. I can do everything that I can to sell my work, and still never sell a single piece. The marketplace, like old age, isn’t apparently for sissies.

So, I will continue to create my own original artwork, while at the same time carefully carving out my own small niche in which to place it. Those people who like my artwork, who ‘get’ my artwork…they are out there in the world. There may not be a lot of them, but I would like to think that the numbers are on my side. These people just haven’t found me and my artwork yet. I need to make sure they do.

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

Links:

What is an artisan? I usually start my lateral reading online with Wikipedia and move on from there.

Precious Moments: Honestly, my flirtation with them is contained to the year 1978.

Holly Hobbie: Holly Hobbie was the creation of watercolorist Denise Holly Ulinskas. Way cooler in my opinion. Kinda hippy-esque. She was the forerunner to my love of the Gingham Girls paper doll sets.

I also remember having a small, stuffed Holly Hobbie doll, like the one in the picture below:

 

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New Dolls in the Shop!

I hope everyone is having a good end of the week! I have added three new dolls to the shop! Two of these Niittykeijuja Dolls somehow flew under my radar and I forgot that I had made them! They hadn’t even been named! Poor darlings! They are two of the sweetest dolls I’ve ever made, even though I do say so myself.

Varpunen looks like she’s ready for an adventure! She’s just ready to get going to…somewhere! You can find out more information about Varpunen here!

Kiuru looks like more of a home-body to me. I think she would rather have a nice chat over a pot of tea and some cakes, don’t you think? You can find out more information about Kiuru here!

Winnie is one half of a set of dolls. Her boots can be taken off! She has a little up-cycled milk-spout with a cap in her tummy!

Shelley has an up-cycled milk-spout too, but not in her tummy. Her little green boots also can be removed, but she looks more comfortable with them on if you ask me. You can find out more information on Winnie and Shelley here!

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Strange Indeed

My website is still very much a work-in-progress, but I now have a real online store that is up and has my artwork in it for sale! Having an online store is one of those things that I have been thinking about for a very long time. I intimidated myself into the belief that I wasn’t important enough, or good enough to have my own store, I think. I’m sure that it’s linked to my deeply ingrained imposter syndrome.

I’m not doing a lot of fanfare around the opening of my store. I needed to do this the way in which I was the most comfortable. As of today, I’ve posted twenty-three items in my store. I have more items that I will be posting over the next few weeks. And I will be posting to my Instagram account regarding when new items are available in my store.

There’s so much that I feel is a work-in-progress right now. I will be continuing my regular Monday blog posts, and adding a Friday blog post as well. I still have to figure out a way to balance the work I will be doing for my website, with the actual creation of artwork. I know that once I’ve gotten my website and store to a certain point, the maintenance of it will require much less of my time.

To be honest, my brain is a little frizzled right now. It’s been a long time since I’ve done so much technical work on a computer. It just turns my brain to mush after a certain point! I’m hard-pressed to utter a coherent sentence after more than eight hours staring at my laptop screen.

I can assure you that my next Friday post will not be so…(gestures at the above four paragraphs of text widely)…like this one.

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

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The Problem I’m Solving For

via GIPHY

In the words of the great and talented Vivacious, “MOTHER HAS ARRIVED!

Or, I could just say, that I’m back from my social media hiatus.

Potatoes, po-tah-tos. I’m back.

I’ve spent the time away from social media formulating a plan and working on my website. If you’re reading this, you can see that my website looks all kinds of wonky and weird right now. I’m adding a store to my website (WooCommerce) and am changing around just about everything on my website as a result. These changes are much needed. I’m feeling very positive about these changes. I hope they don’t take much longer. I’m shooting for a live store by the end of this week. (My husband, Berin has been helping me with the nuts and bolts of the website and online store. Honestly, if it weren’t for him, I’d be crying in a heap on the floor in front of a pile of burning dolls.)

There have been those who have told me for years that I needed to have a “real store” online. Many of these people told me that it would be quick and easy. I’m standing up to my hips in adding a store to my website, and making all of the requisite changes to the website that are required too. I can tell everyone, including those who have said it’s the quicker and easier path: it is neither a quick nor easy path. I’m reminded of something that my Marine Corps father would say about ‘being up your ass in alligators… or something to that effect.

But, I’m about halfway through the whole process of creating a store and changing my website, so I need to just get through it. I’ll be happier when it’s done.

Making all of these changes has been a rather steep learning curve for me. I’m quite comfortable with computers and technology, but when given a choice, I’d rather spend my time making something in the physical world than hunched over my laptop for eight+ hours a day clicking this, and loading that, and then having to wait while things save or load…and backing things up…and on and on and on. It’s necessary if I want my work to sell, but it’s still mentally exhausting. My brain is oatmeal by the end of the day. My brain just wont “brain” anymore.

I spend hours hunched over my desk working on art in much the same manner, yet my mind is nowhere near as mushy and oatmeal like after a long day of making art. I may be physically tired or achey after working on a piece all day, but my brain is buzzing. I can still think. I can concentrate on reading, or watching a movie, or accomplishing a task. The same amount of computer work just drains me of all ability to think coherently in any way, shape or form. I’m just a blob.

All of the work that I’m doing for my online store and website re-do are all very abstract. It’s work. It’s a lot of monotonous work that is completely abstract. I can see the results of my work on a screen, but I cannot hold those results in my hands. For me, it’s not incredibly fun work. But work that I need to do, so I sally forth.

Even before I started working on the website re-do and store addition, I had to go through all of the artwork that I wanted to put in my store. I’ve made a tremendous amount of work while living here in Finland. Hundreds of dolls needed to be sorted and categorized. I created an inventory (so, so, so much time spent creating in Excel) with all the pertinent data required.

Then I had to go through all my photos. And then take more photos. Oh, and then take more photos. Then the super-fun task of editing those photos. As time-consuming and hard as all the website changes and store building have been, there is nothing in this world that I detest more than editing photos. I’m not particularly good at it. I lack the proper software to even do a passable job at it. And, I think that when I’m facing a file folder of over one hundred photos that all need to be cropped, color corrected and their file size and formats adjusted, I just have flashbacks to a job I had twenty years ago doing the same thing. I hated that job. It was mind-numbing work for me then and now.

It should be noted that I spent about two hours earlier in the day sorting and uploading photos. I think this is why I attacked that bag of Fazer Tutti-Frutti (Holiday Jumbo Mix) candy like a badger after lunch.

Ahhhh! summer in Finland is the time for gummy candies!

ANYWAY…

I will begin posting on my blog multiple times a week. I’m still working on what days I will be posting. This week, I’m posting again this Friday. Cross your fingers for me, I want my store up and operational by Friday. I’m putting artwork in my store that I’ve never offered for sale before, so it’d be great if you stopped in to take a look! Maybe even leave a comment!

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again on Friday!

PS:

I need to give a shout-out to my friend Benedicta-Ideho Omokaro. Her advice regarding my website and building an online store were the final kick in the butt that I needed to do all of these much-needed changes to my online presence. She is a lovely, lovely person, and an entrepreneur to boot! Her work is fantastic! Go check it out!  I’m glad I took a photo class with! (YES! I took a photo class and I still don’t like taking photos or processing them! Go Figure!)

 

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Turn and Face the Strange…*

My time away from social media is quickly coming to an end. The break has been of great benefit to me in a variety of ways. I feel as though I have a better idea of how I want to use social media in the future so that I don’t find myself painted into yet another painful mental or emotional corner. It’s also allowed me to create art without feeling as though I have to publish every single part of my personal artistic processes.

While I’ve been taking a break, I’ve also been working on where I want to take my website in the future. I’m adding a storefront (via WooCommerce) to my site, that I hope will make it easier for customers to locate and purchase my artwork. The storefront will allow customers to simply point and click to purchase artwork, instead of contacting me personally to discuss the availability, cost and shipping of specific pieces of artwork.

I have to admit, website construction is not something that I find myself enjoying a lot. I’ve spent the greater part of the past three days crawling around in the bowels of my site, archiving blog posts and images, rearranging a lot of information, working with backups, and double-checking everything…really, quadruple-checking everything to make sure that I’ve not lost information. Images in particular are things that I don’t want to lose. I suppose that’s part and parcel of being a visual artist.

To mitigate all of the computer time, I’ve also done a thorough cleaning of ‘The Midden’. Over the past two months, the Midden had turned a corner and become ‘The Crap-Slide’. I can deal with working in a midden, but a crap-slide is a completely different animal. In a midden, I know where things are. In a crap-slide there is no organization. Piles slide into piles and get all mixed up and I can’t find anything, which results in a great deal of cursing, usually beginning with “Son-ova-a” accompanied with varying levels of crashing or banging.

I’ve organized and photographed the artwork that I will offer for sale in the new storefront. It’s all sitting patiently in boxes in the living room, because there’s not other place for it to go in the apartment. I still need to go through a great deal of the artwork I will not be offering for sale, box it up, and put it into our storage unit in the basement. I also need to make sure that all the boxes are marked correctly so I know what work is in what box in the storage unit. Hopefully this won’t take too long. Fingers crossed.

Part of me doesn’t like putting my artwork into storage. It’s not that the storage unit is damp or gross or anything like that. It’s quite dry and safe. I don’t fear anyone attempting to break into the storage unit, to either destroy or steal anything. I guess I just don’t like the idea of my work being all alone so far away from me. I don’t feel this way when my artwork sells, because I know it’s going to a place where it will be taken care of. Packed in boxes and put into storage…that just seems lonely. Yeah. I know this is weird, but it’s how I feel.

BUT….before I can do any of that, I need to go through alllllll of the work that I do wish to offer for sale and organize it into a database for “businessing the business”. This task will be slightly less boring, as I will get to interact with my artwork a little bit. AND, I get to make spread sheets. I do enjoy making a spread sheet. Really. It’s weird. I find the same kind of satisfaction in filing too. There. Now you’ve learned something new and totally useless about me.

Okay, off to categorize, organize and database.

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

Links:

*Bowie, David. (1971). Changes. Hunky Dory. City. State. RCA Records.

I have to say, Hunky Dory is without a doubt, one of the most perfect albums ever recorded. There’s not a skip-able song on the entire album. It’s sheer, unadulterated, total and complete perfection in audio form.

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Interrupting Cow

(Note: I wrote this yesterday, but for whatever reason, didn’t actually post it. So, the Wednesday Business and/or Entrepreneurial post, which is being altered for the time being, is being posted, in altered form, on a Thursday because I guess sometimes stuff just happens. I’m not deluding myself in thinking there are people out there who are champing at the bit to see what I’m going to whine or ramble about in my posts either! Ha! Anyway, here’s my post!)

My Wednesday posts are intended to be devoted to my entrepreneurial endeavors. I want to talk about marketing, money, online store fronts, in-person sales, patterns, dolls, teaching workshops, etc., in these Wednesday posts. I’m going to suspend the entrepreneurial content for these post for the foreseeable future, or at least until the world returns to more normal functioning. Another reason that I’m making this small change is because frankly, I’m tired of feeling like a big, fat, whiny baby about my (lack of) business. I’m just so very tired of hearing myself complain about it. The negative aspects of my lack of business progress, and talking about them is just making me feel like crud. I know it’s important to acknowledge my feelings and where they’re coming from, but I’m tired of wallowing in them. At least for now.

With all that being said, I did have one sale this week! I’m tremendously happy about it and got it sent off to the buyer earlier today. I hope that the tiny little dolls I sent make the buyer and the person they are intended as a gift for happy!

I’d been thinking about questions that have been asked of me about my dolls in the past. I thought that it might be an interesting idea to document these questions and my answers to them. I’m not sure how many questions there will be. If you’re a reader of my blog posts, contact me with any questions you might also have that you don’t see here.

Questions and Answers Regarding my Recent Doll Creations:

1. Why are you making all these tiny dolls lately? What happened to all the paper maché dolls that you had been making for the past year?

Okay. Starting off with a two-part question. Good. The tiny dolls, and why am I making them? I’ve always been fascinated with tiny things. Tiny dolls in particular. As a very small child (3 or 4-ish?) I had some mass-produced dolls that I adored. I cannot remember anyone giving them to me as gifts. I think that the majority of these dolls were once my older sisters dolls. I’m not sure how the dolls became mine. My sister could have given them to me because she was getting older (13-14-ish) or it could have been that I just claimed them as mine and took them. Toddlers have a nasty habit of doing that at times, and I was quite the sticky-fingered kiddo.

I remember called these tiny dolls ‘Bitsies‘. I guess a take on ‘itty-bitty‘. The dolls that I had were anywhere from half an inch to two inches tall (There were some that were closer to four inches tall, but I don’t remember them). They were colorful and detailed and I loved that they could be tucked-into pockets because they were so tiny and they had tiny accessories. Their hair was so cool too! So long!

These tiny dolls were Liddle Kiddles. They were a line of dolls by Mattel that ran roughly from the mid 1960’s until the early 1970’s. I had quite a few of them. The dolls that I had were mostly from the Kola Kids and Kologne Kids series, and the Lucky Locket series, with a few of the storybook dolls and the tiny jewelry-themed dolls thrown in here and there. I lost some of the clothing and most of the accessories fairly quickly. Many of the Liddle Kiddles I had just had their little dresses on. I loved their sweet little faces! They were so adorable, with great big eyes! When you look at their faces, you can tell which ones were made by Mattel and which ones were cheaper knock-offs. The 1994 Tyco dolls I think lack the charm of the original Mattel dolls.

I remember being fascinated with the hair colors of Liddle Kiddles. Orange hair!? Green hair!??? I loved their little themed names and outfits for the different lines of dolls. I can look at these Liddle Kiddles Kola Kiddles (OH! The spelling! It BURNS!) and know exactly when my fascination with color and specific color combinations started. My color fascination was furthered by Sesame Street, but that’s another post entirely.

It cannot be overlooked that the Liddle Kiddles came in series. The way in which I’ve been creating the tiny and small dolls that I have since the beginning of the year are all part of a series. The Creative Experiment dolls, especially the small ones using buttons in lieu of faces were a long series (approx. 200 dolls, give or take). The number of pieces in a series I create seems to be dependent upon my personal curiosity regarding the series. By the time I’m a dozen deep into the creation of a specific type of doll (or any other art) creation, I know that there is something that I’m trying to figure out or decode that is coming from deep within my personal identity.

I wrote a post last December (Wringing Meaning from Turnips) about creating the tiny dolls had become my attempt at reconnecting with a place and time in which I was content being me. Not happy. Happy is a fleeting concept. Being content for me is finding a balance within my own mind in which my inner and outer worlds are working in concert, with neither one of them figuratively screaming at me for attention.

These Liddle Kiddle dolls came into my life as I was just nearing the end of that time in my life in which I remember being the most content. Before the world became more ‘screamy’ at me. They were so tiny and precious. They were colorful and sweet. I have intense memories of looking at their little faces and realizing that each separate doll had slightly different faces, but they all looked like they belonged together. Like they were related. In retrospect, I suppose my little toddler self thought of these little dolls almost as some sort of religious talisman. I wanted to protect them and keep them safe. I wanted to tell them all my secrets. I felt like they were safe receptacles for them. They wouldn’t tell on me or laugh at me. Being that I was on that cusp of having the outer world rush in to begin its influence on me cannot be ignored. By the time I was five, I knew there was something wrong with me. The outer world was telling me so. I was too loud. I was too obnoxious. I was selfish. I was fat.

Screamy. Screamy. Screamy.

So yeah. I’ve been making tiny dolls. It’s personally therapeutic for me, and creatively satisfying.

2. Now, for the second part of the question, regarding the larger paper maché dolls. I have been calling them ‘playset dolls’ because their construction is more complicated with lots of moving parts. I mean for these larger paper maché dolls to actually be played with. It strikes me as odd that when I show pictures of them, or when I had some of them in a small exhibit locally, no one who was looking at them knew about all those moving parts and all the things that were hidden away in the drawers within their bodies.

As these dolls grew larger and larger, they took on a guardian-like presence within the world I’ve created with my dolls. Very simply put, the big, scary, weird, strange outside keeps the tiny, delicate, sweet, doll parts safe on the inside. I’m completely aware of the metaphor working here. It’s kind of a metaphor delivered with a sledgehammer, but I guess I gotta be me. Connecting this metaphor to my personal childhood experience, to a cornerstone of the beginning of my creativity seems natural.

I will be creating more large paper maché dolls in the future. I have two or three that are getting rather noisy inside my head and are itching to come out. No skull splitting required!

Birth of Athena, from D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, 1962

Thanks for reading, and I will see you again next Wednesday (even though I know it’s Thursday, but then again, what do days of the week mean now anyway?)

Links:

D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths, by Ingri d’Aulaire and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire This is one of my favourite books from childhood. I was twelve or thirteen when I won a $20 gift certificate to Cambell’s Books store with a piece I had entered in a county childrens’ art show. I bought this book. I can still remember how the floorboards creaked as I walked through the store, right over to this book on the shelf. I didn’t need to look around. I knew what I wanted.

Vintage Liddle Kiddles I didn’t have any of these larger Liddle Kiddles, or any of the big accessories like the carrying cases or playsets. This video is a little funny, in that some of these poor little dolls are naked! They look a little sad, but I’m guessing that they were well loved because so many of their accessories are gone. The Lucky Locket Kiddle Kiddles are the ones I had the most of.

 

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Additions + Adjustments

It’s been a strange week. Everything seems a little…off somehow. Even the weather here has just been odd. Bright and sunny one minute, cloudy and raining the next. I’m working hard at keeping myself from dwelling too much on the negative things I cannot control regarding my business. As always, this is an on-going process, and almost as fickle as the weather!

I’ve started an experiment regarding my artwork that’s gathering some interesting data. I’d been thinking about it for a while and decided to set it in motion about two days ago. The experiment has made me realize that I need to take some better pictures of some of my larger, papier maché dolls. So I’m trying to figure out how to do that. They’re fairly large and will not fit into the little photo box that I have been using for my much smaller doll photos.

I finished the four dolls that I have been working on over the past week or so. I finished the two little elephant dolls as well. They have all been named and are listed on my Artwork for Sale page.

Kielo (blue) and Unikko (Green). They are each 9 cm without their stands. They can be removed from the stands and have moveable arms and legs.
Syreeni (teal wings, yellow petals on dress) and Ohdake (purple wings, white petals on dress). They are each around 9 cm tall, with moveable arms and legs. I have made them each hover a but above their stand, so they look as though they are flying.

I’ve continued the theme with the names of these tiny dolls with wings, and have named them the Finnish names for four flowers. Ohdake (Thistle), Syreeni (Lilac), Unikko (Poppy) and Kielo (Lily-of-the-Valley). I have also made a slight change to the name of this series of Little Lady dolls. They are now called Meadow Fairies, or Niittykeijuja. I’ve had a lot of fun and learned more Finnish to add to my language knowledge!

Sela (dark grey) and Sabine (light grey) are each around 7 cm tall. They can be removed from their stands and have moveable arms, legs and trunks.

I chose the names Sela and Sabine simply because I like them and the names seemed to suit these two little pachyderms! I’ve given each of them a little necklace of tiny beads and a little flower to wear on their ear. Thy can be removed from their stands and posed in a different manner if so desired. I added some wire to their trunks so that they can be posed as well.

I’ve come closer to making some other decisions regarding my business and the selling of my work. Basically it just involves inventorying (really critiquing) the things that are working and the things that aren’t, as well as figuring out what I can adjust to make it work better. I have no delusions. I know that the changes that I make will not suddenly result in some kind of big cash flow for me. At this point, selling three pieces a month (not including patterns) will be quite sufficient for me to feel successful with the changes I have planned.

I’m not exactly the most exciting art blogger, am I?! I suppose my posts would be more interesting if I were more dramatic, but frankly, I just don’t have that in me right now!

Thanks for reading!

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What Business?!

There’s only so much that I can realistically post regarding how I’m ‘businessing” my business. I can’t advertise workshops or apply to teach workshops in and around the city. I can’t sell my artwork in person at art and craft fairs, or at arts pop-up shops. There are things that are still within my immediate control. I can keep creating artwork. I can keep working on lessons and workshops that someday I will be able to teach. I can keep working on my website. I can keep writing posts for my website. But I need to be honest, the current trajectory of my business just makes me incredibly depressed. I feel as though I’m failing, and failing rather spectacularly at that. My sales are horrible (I had no sales at all in April). I’m not driving enough people to my site, so my views are also horrible (averaging around three people a day for the months of March and April).

And don’t get me wrong. I know there are definite reasons for why I cannot go out and sell my work and my teaching in person. I don’t want to get sick and I don’t want anyone else to get sick because of me. I know how important it is to continue with social distancing. I’m following the guidelines set by the government and my city to ensure that the spread of the virus is mitigated. I totally agree with these guidelines! Health and safety or not only myself, but the people within the city and country are so much more important than my teaching an art workshop or selling some artwork.

That all being said, I also think it’s important that I acknowledge my personal feelings regarding how my business is just tanking at present. If I don’t take the time now to understand these feelings, they’re just going to get bigger and nastier and so much harder to deal with when I finally have to sit down and sort them all out. By the time I do that, there’s all kinds of damage that more than likely has already been done, and then I have to sort that all out and make the requisite repairs to myself mentally and emotionally.

I’m finding it hard not to spiral downward as it regards my artwork. I find myself saying, “Well…if your artwork was better, you’d have more sales.” and “You’re just not a good artist, and people can see that.” When it’s your artwork that you’re trying to sell, the absence of sales usually means that you’re work is just not good enough to make people want to buy it. These kinds of thoughts are not conducive to building a business.

There’s this particularly nasty little part of my personality that usually starts picking at my insides when the above thoughts start swimming around in my brain. That nasty little part of me that thinks that all of the people who give my artwork thumbs-up’s and hearts and leave me positive comments on Facebook or Instagram (not my fellow art creators on Instagram) are all just lying to me. In the best case, they don’t care for my work, but just leave the positive comments because it’s easy and considered good manners to do so. In the worst case, they’re just yanking me around and giving me positive feedback while laughing behind my back.

Yeah. I know. This nasty little part of my personality suuuuuucks. No matter how much I think I’ve gotten her shrunken down to the most miniscule size, rendering her powerless, she springs back to life and spreads like mold on everything she touches.

I don’t like feeling this way. I feel like a petulant child. I know this will all pass.

I will just have to sisu myself out of this.

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

Posted on

What Box?

Shameless Sales Plug First:

I finished three small fairy-like dolls yesterday and am offering them for sale here on my website. They will be in added to the the Artwork for Sale page in the Fairy-Like Little Ladies category. I’m almost sure that I will be calling them Niittykeijuja (Meadow Fairies) going forward. The idea of a sunny, flower-filled meadow inspired the names that I gave to each of the newly finished dolls.

From Left to Right: Orvokki, Lumme and Apila. All of the names are Finnish. Orvokki is the Finnish word for pansy. Lumme is the Finnish word for waterlily and Apila is the Finnish word for clover. I had a lot of fun researching the names on Finnish websites devoted to flora and fauna. I liked adding to my vocabulary too!

I’m working on some ideas for growing my business, but with the current much-needed requirements regarding social distancing and self-isolation, many of the ideas boil down to “Oh! I could make that and sell it!“, which does not seem to be working for me right now. I feel as though just making another thing for purchase is my addition to the ocean of things for sale by millions of other sellers, creators and artists online at present. Then I start getting a little depressed.

I am so new to being an entrepreneur. I didn’t realize how much I depended upon meeting people in person, or being referred by a person I met to someone else who I could meet with to discuss teaching art workshops, selling artwork, etc. I feel as though I’m trying to make my business work with one arm tied behind my back. I suppose that I didn’t think that taking away my ability to meet with people would be this much of an obstacle to me. I feel as though I’m so awkward and weird in person that perhaps the people who might be interested in my artwork would rather just bi-pass actually having to talk to me to purchase my work! I have to laugh at that now!

My husband has floated the idea of designing and offering some online workshops, which I don’t think is a horrible idea at all. I know that the art and music teachers in the school district that I was last employed in the US has been making some amazing distance learning lessons for their students. I’m so used to teaching art in an up-close kind of way that my brain can’t quite figure out how I would even do that. There are so many variables that would have to be accounted for, including tools, materials and supplies just to name a few. This is just one set of questions. There are a lot more.

1. Would it need to be taught on Skype or Zoom or something else? Is there anything else I could use?

2. How much does a person charge for an online workshop?

3. What kind of workshop would I teach online?

4. Should I aim workshops only at adults, or should I also think about children?

5. A doll lesson? That kind of seems to be where I am a lot of the time.

6. Would I get all kinds of negative comments from selling a workshop instead of just putting it on YouTube for free?

7. How and where would I advertise for students to take the online workshop?

8. If it’s dolls, then should I create new patterns for an online workshop?

9. I think that I need to think about the logistics and do some research to see what I would be able to do in the way of teaching an online workshop before I make any decisions.

10. Would I need to have some additional sound and audio equipment do create online workshops that people would enjoy and pay for?

11. Should I think about teaching workshops, or individual people who want to learn how to make a doll using one of my patterns?

There’s a lot I have to think about, that’s for sure. Even if I answer all of these questions, then there’s my whole personal problem with not liking to be on camera. Teaching a class is different somehow. Being on camera…or having photos taken…YIKES. Those things freak me out. I’m not photogenic at all. Strange. I never have the same feelings about getting in front of a class of students and teaching them. I wonder what that’s all about?

ANYWAY…

I’m just going to need to figure it out what I think is best for me personally. It seems like a strange to be more or less physically restricted to my ‘box’ all the while knowing that as it relates to my entrepreneurial endeavors, I need to be thinking way, way, way outside my box.

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

 

Posted on

Contact

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

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

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

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

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

Point. Click. Wait. Receive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now What?

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

Until next Wednesday, thank you for reading!

Helpful Links I’m Using Right Now:

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

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

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