Oh boy! The name for this limited group of teensie-tinsie dolls came to me while I was working on their little dresses and hats. They just turned out to be so incredibly stinkin’ cute that I thought their name should be just as cute as they are!
I’ve added the ten Berry Little Ladies that I’ve created to my shop. These very special dolls needed a very special debut!
The Berry Little Ladies will have a special price compared to other dolls of this size. For a limited time, each of the Berry Little Ladies will be specially priced at 29€ with specially priced shipping to boot!
These special prices and shipping are only for the Berry Little Ladies!
Thank you all for your continued support! I know that you will adore these Berry Little Ladies as much as I do!
The last week hasn’t been the best emotionally speaking. Everything I’m doing regarding my business seems to be wrong. And if not exactly wrong, sideways at least.
The reasons for my current emotionally low state is that I’ve been watching my views on Instagram drop, and then drop again (katie_kinsman_in_finland and go_marielle_go). This is also true for my website and shop traffic as well. If you have a website that you post on regularly, and see that not a single person has been to your site in over a week…well, then you know what I’m talking about.
To be very blunt, it all makes me just feel like crap.
“Every artist is in the same boat!” No. Nope. NOPE. We’re not going to talk about that right here and right now. That’s another post for another day.
Setting up the mental equation
I don’t like my current state of mind. Petulant and childish is how I categorize it. I call it my ‘kindergarten self’. A large part of me wants to stamp her feet, gather up all of her artwork and yell, “FINE! I’ll just take all my things and leave!” For a person my age, it’s not a pretty picture.
When I’m feeling like this, there is a part of me that seriously wants to pile all my work up down on the beach and light it on fire. The petulant emotions rationalize this by saying, “If the work isn’t ever going to sell. Then get rid of it permanently.” Thoughts like this don’t sound rooted in reality, do they?
My weird logic
I’m not saying that any of the above makes sense. But there is some logic to it, at least when I examine my emotions. In past blog posts, I’ve talked at length about how the creation of artwork for me is therapy. A great deal of therapeutic good is gained by me in the creating of my artwork. Making art and taking my medication keeps me functional. Instead of curled up into a ball and crying all day.
The artwork itself almost becomes a byproduct of my never-ending, vigilant defense of my sustained good mental health. Selling the artwork would seem like a good idea then. To be blunt, it’s the artwork serving double-duty for me. I’ve already gained personal mental health benefits. The monies gained by the selling of the artwork then gives me means by which to contribute to my other physical needs, like food, clothing and shelter.
When the artwork doesn’t sell. And doesn’t sell. And it still doesn’t sell. Well, then the positive mental health benefits of creating the artwork begin to fade away. The artwork begins to mock me. It becomes a physical reminder or my personal failure.
Dark sticky thoughts begin to creep into my mind, like “If your art was any good, it would sell.” and “You’re not an artist. You’re a hack.” These thoughts leave their mucky little foot prints everywhere inside my mind. Making me feel more petulant and more childish.
It should be stated, I’m in no danger of losing my grip on reality. Remember, I take my medication every day. And am constantly monitoring my mental and emotional states. What I’m experiencing right now is just the frustrations of an entrepreneur who lacks customers for her product.
As always, I’m not that special.
There is nothing special in my circumstances at present. I know that I’m simply weathering something that every small business owner has weathered before me. Some manner of action is required to alter the direction of my sales and website traffic toward something more positive.
Fortune has granted me a husband with a degree in business and marketing. Any questions that I have, we discuss at length. He knows me, my artwork, and where I hope to take my business in the future. The advice he offers is priceless to me. I cannot imagine trying to start a small business without having someone on whom I can rely for good business and marketing advice.
My husband and I have discussed several different avenues of action over the past few days. I’ve chosen one to begin working on this week.
Yup. I’m going to be creating a Patreon account. I’ve been working out how I want to construct a Patreon account for a few months now. There are things that I want to do that I think may be successful on the Patreon platform that I’ve outlined.
Starting a Patreon account is going to require me to shift some things around. But I hope to fold-in some of the other big projects on my desk into a Patreon account. In this way, I won’t be doubling or tripling my work load. It’s my hope to have the Patreon account up and running by the middle of next week.
Again, I am under no illusion regarding the ability of Patreon to make me tons of money. As with many entrepreneurial ventures, it’s more or less a crap-shoot. It may work. And it may not work. I could make no money at all, and have to close the account entirely.
The world, such as it is right now (gestures broadly at everything) means that a lot of artistic and creative people are opening Patreon accounts to see if they can at least make a small amount of money to contribute to their living expenses.
I keep referring to Theodore Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena“. I know I’m not attempting some deed of daring do. But the fact of the matter is, I need to do something. If Patreon doesn’t work. I’ll have to “make-up something quick”
There are other things that I will be working on along with a Patreon launch. All of them in hopes that something sticks. That something actually works.
Thank you for reading, and if you’re still reading at this point, I will offer the first person who contacts me (via email: firstname.lastname@example.org) a 30% discount on anything they wish to purchase from my shop. The offer is valid for 24 hours only and ends at 12:15 EET, 20 October 2020. (THIS OFFER HAS NOW EXPIRED.)
I’m not new to Instagram. My personal account has been active now for more than five years. Over time, my account has become less about showing snapshots from everyday life in Finland, to a platform in which I share my artwork and my artistic process. With the exception of a mental health break of a month during the summer, I’m posting photos to Instagram every single day.
My Instagram following is not huge. 1,184 followers for my main katie_kinsman_in_finland account. And 56 followers for my go_marielle_go account. There has been a noticeable drop-off in the likes in which the posts on my main account have been garnering. And I have struggled to gain any measurable increase in the number of people following the Go Marielle account.
New hashtags have been added to each of these accounts. I use hashtags in English and in Finnish for both of them. This seemed to temporarily fix the issues I was having. But not for long. Once again, I found that my followers began to fall, and the likes that I was getting were fewer and fewer and fewer.
It was time to do a little research.
This term is new for me. I had no idea what it was all about. So I did some reading. According to Hub Spot (1), shadowbanning is “the act of banning a users content on social media sites, in such a way that the user doesn’t know it’s happening.” What this boils down to is that my content can still be seen by those that follow me. But as far as getting my posts in front of NEW people, that would not be happening.
WHAT?! What did I do to be shadowbanned?!
Well, it has more to do with the types of hashtags that I’m using. It was recommended that I try looking up the hashtags I regularly use to see if my posts were listed within the group. Two of the most common hashtags I use are #dollartist and #artdoll. I actually sat down and looked through all 220,000 posts with those hashtags and not one of my posts came up.
Now, remember when I said that I use English and Finnish hashtags? The same hashtags, literally translations, into Finnish are #nukketaide and #taiteilijanukke. When those hashtags are searched, my photos appear. There are far fewer Finnish speakers on the planet than English speakers. The population of Finland is around 5.518 million people. Compared to the population of the US, at around 330 million people. New York City has a population over 8 million. There are more New Yorkers than Finns on the planet.
What’s wrong with my hashtags?
Well, my Finnish hashtags are working. So I’ve got that going for me. But what about my English hashtags? What am I going to do to try and fix this problem?
Basically, shadowbanning exists as a means to control the amount of inappropriate or spammy content that’s ever-present on social media platforms like Instagram (2). A user can just attach a lot of hashtags that have NOTHING to do with the post or photo, and end up getting tons of views.
I noticed while looking up the English hashtags I mentioned earlier, that there were several dozen pictures of stacks of cash that were hashtagged ‘artdoll’ and ‘dollartist’. So I suppose the algorithm isn’t doing as good a job as it could be doing.
My mind cannot quite understand why the photos of my original, handmade, cloth art dolls are being snagged by this algorithm though. The vast majority of the ‘artdoll’ and ‘dollartist’ posts had mass-marketed, ball-jointed dolls. There were tons of Blythe-type dolls, as well as repaints from Barbie, Monster High and Bratz as well. Figuring this aspect out may take me a bit longer I think.
To get down to brass tacks, the reason why figuring this out is so important for me is because I am extremely limited in my ability to sell my artwork in venues like art or craft-types of fairs or gatherings. Circumstances have limited the size of many different types of gatherings, including those instances in which I might be able to sell my work face to face with customers.
Selling my work online is important. It’s incredibly important for me to be able to get my work out and in front of people who are scrolling through their Instagram feeds. The shadowban for me as an entrepreneur and art creator can be a death sentence. And weird thoughts of piling up all my unsold artwork into a bonfire and burning it all to ash start creeping in.
Is this an upsale?
I’ve wondered if this is just Instagram attempting to get me to purchase ads. I know that Instagram is owned by Facebook. One of the many reasons I shut down my Facebook presence was because I felt I was being increasingly pushed to purchase advertising. My posts, especially those linked to my Instagram account were routinely not shown to my Facebook audience.
I’ve noticed that my Finnish hashtags have increased my Finnish and Nordic followers. Because of this, Instagram is putting more ads from Finnish and Nordic artists into my feeds. Often, when I click through to look at their Instagram account, they have 170, 300 or 670 followers and like ten posts total over a 12 month period. Did they buy the ads because they were getting shadowbanned too? Did they feel like buying the ads was the only way to increase their numbers?
There are several different solutions that I’ve researched. I take all of them with a grain of salt. Mostly because many of them are aimed at Instagram ‘Influencers’. This is a category that I am so, so, so not a part of! Some of the solutions are easy, like changing up my hashtags. Others may take a little more effort, like creating Instagram stories. I could also switch to an Instagram Business account. One of the sourses I looked at, suggested not purchasing followers. One site (Later) was offering to sell me an app to help with all these problems too. And no. I’m not buying their software.
If these solutions don’t work, I really have no recourse. Instagram already knows that shadowbanning is a problem. I don’t see the doing anything that would fundamentally assist me in growing my business. After all, they are owned by Facebook. A corporation, just like every other, that is set-up to make money for its shareholders. Not me.
Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next Monday.
If you read my post from on 21 September, you know that the idea of where and how I can best spend my time as an entrepreneur. Social media platforms that are taking up too much of my finite time and creative energies are going to be dropped. Those social media platforms that I feel are worth the time and effort I expend to maintain will continue to be used. With the hopes that my small business will continue to grow.
That all being said, there are adjoining concepts regarding time, energies, costs and value that are never far from the forefront of my mind. Some of these concepts and ideas bleed off into other sociocultural areas that I feel ill-prepared to navigate. In many cases, my personal beliefs are at odds with the current zeitgeist.
There have been many times in the past in which I’ve stated that being raised in the US has impressed upon me certain beliefs regarding how I personally interpret buying, selling, marketing, consuming products, etc. “Eat quickly, drive faster, and make more money now!” (1) is a lyric that comes to mind when I ponder how being a US citizen consumer has shaped my personal and professional perceptions.
To that end, it’s been imprinted upon me that a thing is valued if it’s popular. If everyone has one, and you’re the only one without it, that’s bad. You need to fall in line and buy those things that will make you part of the larger group. Being a teenager during the 1980’s really hammered some of this home to me.
There’s an initial psychological buy-in that happens. Mostly without a person being completely aware of it. You see a an object (clothing, car, house, toy, food, etc.) everywhere. Advertising via print media, through the radio, internet, television. Even the movies, television and music deliver advertising. Soon, buying these things seem like your idea. And not something that has been put into your mind.
What is the Value of an Object?
The value of an object is determined by a lot of different factors. In fact, it seems like something that is ever-changing, especially when it’s related to the products of visual and performing artists. Trends can make something popular one minute, and out of style the next. Fashion is a good example of that.
The availability of an object also determines its value. This can easily be seen at an auction of fine art at an auction house like Sotherby’s. Vincent van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet was sold for $82.5 at Sotherby’s in 1990. Society has decided that van Gogh’s work is extremely valuable. Van Gogh is dead so there are a finite amount of pieces of his work. Scarcity can make for high prices.
What does this mean for me as an artist?
First of all, I’m no freakin’ Vincent van Gogh. I’m not even within the same art-making universe as him. What it does bring to mind is that I’m constantly creating artwork. Constantly. Regardless of whether it sells or not. Does this mean I’ve flooded the market? Too many original Katie Kinsman artistic creations out there in the world perhaps?
No. I don’t think that’s it. I do sometimes wonder if there are people who want to purchase my work, but are just waiting for me to have a big honkin’ sale. Or, my work may be selling because people just don’t like it. There are also (gestures with hands at relatively everything going on in the world right now) economic reasons why people are not buying things like artwork right now. Many other things are taking precedence over purchasing artwork. Food, clothing and shelter come immediately to mind.
The cost gets me coming and going as an artist. There is the up-front costs that I pay to create the artwork that I do. I don’t mean just the cost of the supplies. My time is a large hunk of that up-front cost, as well as my creative energies.
Material and supply costs are easy to figure. It’s all numbers. I keep track of what I spend on my materials and supplies, as well as shipping and handling for any pieces I do sell. Time is another that’s easier to calculate. But as I’ve written about previously, trying to make sure that I get even a US minimum wage from the time I put into my artwork isn’t possible. No for a non-entity like me on the art stage.
When it comes to creative energies, which I will agree is also related a to the expenditure of my time, that’s something that less quantifiable in strict numbers-sense. It’s where the ideas come from, intertwined with my knowledge and experience. Those creative energies are very much part of who I am as an individual. It’s difficult to attach a number to that.
Yeah, but what do I get out of it?
But the important thing is, I will continue to to create artwork even if I never show it on social media platforms. Or if I never sell another piece of artwork. I make the artwork that I do because the value to me, in the form of therapy, keeps me mentally and emotionally spackled-together. THAT is the value of my artwork to ME.
If there are other people who like my artwork and wish to give me money for it. Terrific! If not. Then. Okay. Go on then and do you then. Just not in relation to my artwork.
Then gate keepers determine value:
Gate keepers (2) are everywhere. In every type of work. They make sure that there are qualifications and credentials for professionals that must be attained before being a teacher, nurse, lawyer, architects, accountants, engineers, bankers, etc. In the art world, the gate keepers are gallery owners, shop owners, and museum curators to name a few (I’m leaving out the performing arts for now.). If an artists work doesn’t get past these people, then the art work will not be shown or promoted to the art viewing/ purchasing public.
The internet and the boom of social media platforms that have resulted have given artists a larger platform in general to share and promote their artwork. My artwork has been seen by more people in the past five years on Instagram than in the my previous thirty years of creating my art.
What I’ve come to realize in the past few months is that Instagram is just as much of a gate keeper as any art gallery owner. They just exert their gate keeping through algorithms instead of declining to show my artwork in their gallery. Instagram will show my artwork, but just enough. Then they would like me to pay to get greater exposure.
They want me to pay to advertise.
Back to costs and value:
Okay. I’ll admit it. From the beginning, I was näive as all get-out regarding Facebook and Instagram. As an creative art entrepreneur, I took full advantage of the free-ness of each of these platforms. Over the past three weeks, Instagram has become rather aggressive in it’s attempts to get me to buy ads on the platform. So far, I’ve resisted.
I’ve resisted because I have no money to spend on advertising. Zero. Zilch. Nada. None.(3) Not 20¢. Not 2€. Instagram has been putting a lot, and I mean A LOT of Finnish artists into my Instagram feed that are buying ads. I’ve noticed it. I know what they’re doing. And it’s gonna take a lot more to convince me to purchase ads on the platform.
Do I value the ads? I suppose so. I know that they are worth something. That something being, “more eyes on my artwork”. But more eyes on my artwork can easily translate into more likes of my artwork. The thing is though, likin’ ain’t buyin’. If I cannot be guaranteed a boost in my sales figures, then I’m not biting.
I will admit. I still have a lot of research to do on the subject of purchasing Instagram ads. I will rule nothing out at this juncture.
So now what?
This has been a long and rambling post. Value and cost, related to my artwork and the sale of it, are at times monolithic concepts that tread on an unsound mental and emotional path for me. Separating my personal value as a human being from the value of the artwork I create gets extremely complicated for me.
When a person tries to get me to come down in price on my artwork, it’s as though they are making me as a human being feel as if I’m of less value. In the past, I’v heard a potential customer say, “I could buy four dolls at Walmart for what you’re asking for one doll!” They value quantity over quality I suppose. But yeah, you go be you. Walmart’s waiting.
And on that less than upbeat note, thanks for reading. I’ll see you again next Monday.
(2) This is really a not great webpage to read, but it gives a pretty good idea of what an art gate keeper does and how they might be thinking. Mihaly Csiikszenmihaly is a good read if you’re interested in creativity.
(3) “Zero. Zilch. Nada. None.” is a line from a drag queen called Jiggly Calliente song called ‘I Don’t Give a Fnck‘. It is NSFW. NOT. SAFE. FOR. WORK. Or children, small animals or little granny ladies.
LA Money Train, Rollins Band, Get Some Go Again (2000) This song is a cutting review of American culture. Henry does not mince words in this song. I love Rollins. He’s an American treasure.
Leaving has been on my mind from time to time for the past year. It’s come to the forefront of my thoughts in the past few months for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons are personal, while others are totally professional.
During this past year, Facebook become a social media tool in which I share my artwork and my entrepreneurial endeavors with friends and family. It was a way to maintain connections. To show those who are half-way around the world what I’m doing with my time here in Finland.
Truth be told, I rarely sit down and write a post exclusively for Facebook anymore. Most of my posts are shared from my Instagram account. Over the past two or three weeks, I’ve noticed that Facebook is no longer sharing my Instagram photos. Even when I make sure that all the links are turned on. The past year has shown a decline in the variety of people engaging in my Facebook account as well. There tend to be the same two dozen or so people who comment, share, like, etc., on any of my Facebook posts.
The past four years or so have seen me consciously unfollow, unfriend and ‘snooze’ more people than I thought I ever would on Facebook. Most of those to whom I’ve done this have been because the content that they post I find disturbing. I shan’t go into exactly what the disturbing content is, but if you know me personally, or have been following me for a while, you can pretty much guess what kind of disturbing content I’m alluding to. And I’ll leave it at that.
Use of social media platforms as an entrepreneur
I’m incredibly fortunate to have a husband with a business and marketing degree. The entrepreneurial plans that I had prior to March 2020 had to be placed aside and new plans implemented when the world went into lockdown and then social distancing mode. The business plans I had prior to (gestures at virtually everything going on in the world at present) did a very sharp 80 degree turn, resulting in my increased reliance on social media platforms as tools to build my business.
I did a website re-do. Updated my content. Built an online storefront. Spent countless hours photographing, cataloging and entering data into my WooCommerce extension. It was hard work and not always super-fun either. But it was worth it for me.
My website is mine. I decide on the content. My shop is located on my site it as well. It’s my home-base online. My husband explained that I needed to have a presence online that was mine, and mine alone. Something not subject to the whims of a multi-billion dollar business, like Facebook, or Instagram, or Pinterest (Yeah, I know Facebook owns Instagram). It was fine to have a presence on those platforms, but I wasn’t to pin all my entrepreneurial hopes on those platforms building my business for me. Those businesses were out to make money for themselves, not me.
No one should put all their entrepreneurial eggs in someone else’s business basket.
Social platforms I’ve used
Instagram and Facebook are the two social media platforms that I’ve used the most. I’ve also dabbled with Pinterest and Imgur. I’ve treated these social media platforms as satellites of my website. In changing my business model to one of selling a physical product (art) and away from teaching and instruction, I’ve also had to change how I use social media platforms to promote myself and my artwork.
What I’ve learned is that my Facebook and Imgur accounts do not result in any increase in sales via my online shop. I have had a few sales via Facebook, but those were to people who already know me personally, not new customers. The people purchasing my artwork via Facebook contacted me directly. Imgur resulted in no sales, but some excellent conversations with people about my artwork. This was a nice surprise.
Strangely, Pinterest has driven people to my website, but has resulted in nothing more than a cursory look at my Welcome page and perhaps a peek into my online gallery. When I dug around to see why this was, I found that someone had tagged a set of drawings that I did almost a decade ago in the art classroom on Pinterest. Those people linking through to my website wanted to see a style of artwork that I am no longer doing. So they left.
If I had to pick a favorite social media platform, it’s Instagram. I’ve been able to share my artwork with many people. And met with some brilliant, unique and talented artists from around the world as well. My following is not big. But I do have people on Instagram who do take the time to click through to my website and read my blog on occasion. I’ve also had some sales as a result of my activity on this platform. People who do not know me, but see and like my artwork.
What is best for me as a small business
A big part of doing well as this whole entrepreneurial small business thing is being a one-horse operation. It’s just me making the artwork that I try/want to sell. As well as an incredible amount of help from my husband. I sit here, in my gross sweatpants, alone at my desk, typing away on my ancient MacBook Pro, with a history documentary on my headphones, writing this blog post.
Precisely because it’s just me working at my business, I need to spend my time on different aspects of the business that will yield the greatest possible benefits. Anything that takes up too much time and provides no discernible benefit must be eliminated.
What social media is going to be kept?
Presently, I’m keeping Instagram, both my personal account katie_kinsman_in_finland and go_marielle_go. People can connect with me easily there through comments and direct messaging. Go Marielle! is a creative endeavor I’m having a lot of fun with. And I hope to continue building the character through a variety of different storylines in the future.
Ko-fi is another that I’m keeping. I’m not sure where I’ll go with it, but I need a little more time and data to figure that out. My Pinterest accounts will remain open, but I won’t be super-active on them. I’ve no interest in creating a Twitter account, and never have. I see how it has affected my husband in the past and present. I do not need that kind of stress in my life.
Imgur will be kept, but more for the sharing of pictures and the pleasant contact I’ve had with Imgurians online.
And, of course, my website and shop will be kept. They are my home base. I’m in as much control as I can be here. I know some multi-billion dollar company owns WordPress and WooCommerce. There’s no illusion on my part as to this fact. However, I do get a bit more control over my online presence. And for me that’s incredibly important.
But wait! Have you considered…(insert thought/idea/feeling)?
Getting the most as a small business out of social media platforms requires frequent and active participation in a variety of them. Again, I refer you to the fact that I am one person. The online and social media portions of my business are just that, portions of my business. Time is required for me to actually sit down and physically create artwork to sell. As simple as the Go Marielle! stories and photos are, they take a lot of time to create.
I do enjoy working/creating content on my computer. I use Canva a lot. And the new version of GIMP is something that is making my online postings better. Canva and GIMP are low to no-cost, which is terrific for a one-horse operation like mine. If money were no object I would love to have Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to work with. But you know, if wishes were horses…
And to put a finer point on it, I’m a visual artist. My brain is the happiest and most balanced when I’m working with my hands. I’m the most engaged in my creative process when I am actually creating the artwork itself. Yeah. I have a tremendous amount of fun creating for Go Marielle!, but a large chunk of the work is via my ancient MacBook Pro and hitting keys just doesn’t give me the same feeling of completeness that working on a physical piece of artwork does.
In the end, I’m trying to make a place in which I am content with myself. A place where I can feel content as an artist and as an entrepreneur. The internet and social media platforms are all great tools that I can use to help me achieve my entrepreneurial goals. But it should be remembered that they are run by corporations whose main goal is to make money for their shareholders, not for a one-horser like me.
Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Monday,
The Social Dilemma (2020) Netflix — It’s a an interesting documentary. I think it’s worth the time to watch it.
Exit…Stage Left, Rush (1981) and you can give the album a listen here. You’ve probably figured out by now that I’m a big fan of Rush. They were an amazing band to experience live and I’m happy to have these live albums around.
Recently, I found myself focusing on a group of similar comments centered around the speed in which I create my artwork. The exact reasons for my focus on these comments eluded me. It’s not that the comments bothered me. Instead, they just seemed incredibly odd to me.
Why would the seemingly quick completion of a piece of artwork I’m creating require pointing out? Spending as much time in my own head as I do, the length of time it takes me to complete a given piece of art doesn’t matter all that much to me. The artwork happens at its own pace and in its own time. It’s finished when it’s finished.
But I think there is more to this.
Speed of Creation:
I’m aware of the passage of time. In fact, I have a rather fine-tuned sense of time and its passing. As a single artist building her own brand and business, I work seven days a week. There is always something that requires me to be working on it.
There are online and social media platforms that require monitoring, as well as new additions. Emails that need to be answered. Updates that need to be installed. Blog posts that need to be written. And photos that require processing before they can be posted.
This of course is sometimes lost when I’m in a flow state. This happens most often when I’m in the act of creating my own physical artwork (sometimes when I’m working on photos). Several hours can pass without my realizing it. Flow state just makes the time slip past so quickly. My focus is on the artwork I’m creating. Nothing else matters much outside of that.
I feel as though the perception by others of my ‘speed’ in creating artwork is due to several factors.
Possible Perceptions Regarding Speed:
Those who remark on my speed of creation have much more complicated lives than I do. Children, errands, friends, family obligations, yards, gardens, meals to cook, people to pick up and drop off, and jobs to go to. They cannot quite imagine finding enough time in their busy schedules to do what I do.
I don’t have many of the things I’ve listed above. Those things that require so much time and attention. My life is constructed so that I can use the greatest amount of time to create artwork. I get up in the morning, have breakfast with my husband, then go off to my desk to work on art production and the business end of my entrepreneurial endeavors. There are no kids. No yard or garden. My job doesn’t require me to drive to it.
I have a pesky habit of reading between the lines of statements. Usually this happens when I start chewing on them mentally. As an American, I cannot divorce myself from the cultural lenses in which I view the world around me. Because of this, part of me wonders if what is between the lines of “You work so fast!” is the implication that my work is not quality work and not worth the prices I ask for it.
Quality of the Work Created:
Being told that the quality of my artwork is amazing is very appreciated. Having someone see, and comment on the details that I painstakingly add to each and every piece of the artwork is incredibly satisfying as well.
If the artwork I make doesn’t look ‘right’ to me, then I change it. That may mean that I add several more layers of sealant to a paper mâché piece, or I take apart doll because the legs just are not level. It may mean that I completely change the color scheme, because what I wanted to use is just not making me happy.
The quality of my work is something that I’ve been working on since the first time I picked-up a crayon as a toddler. Each successive piece of artwork helps me to hone my skills. Making each piece of art after that one better. The constant attention to the quality of my work is also related to the speed in which I create. I get better and quicker at the specific artwork created.
Possible Perceptions Regarding Quality:
Here is one of those times in which I run everything through my personal American culture filters. The US is a consumer society. You are advertised to through almost everything that you see and hear during the day or night. There are so many businesses and companies vying for consumers dollars. Many of them using the tactics to get those dollars. Some offer more for less. The more you can purchase for the least amount of money is seen as a good thing. Regardless of the quality of the workmanship of the items being purchased.
When I create a one-of-a-kind 9 cm fairy doll using my own patterns and designs and put a price on it of 65€, there are those who question my pricing. It does not matter how well made or unique the piece of artwork is. What matters is that the consumer is getting a very small thing for a large price. In the eyes of some, their money would be better spent on a mass produced doll for 10€ at a chain store like Walmart or Target.
This does raise some questions regarding the perception of my artwork in general as well. Yes, I make dolls. Art dolls. Dolls that are made by me are not the type of doll that you can or should hand to a small child to play with. So yeah. How my artwork is perceived factors into this as well.
Cost of the Finished Artwork:
When purchasing artwork, there is always the question of what the “real cost” of the artwork is. Again, this relates to time and quality of the artwork. Yes, I can work seemingly quickly. Approximately 30 to 50% of the raw materials I use in the creation of my artwork are up-cycled, recycled and second hand in origin. There are other materials that I find locally in shops that are low cost as well.
This might seem like I’m cutting corners. Or not using the best quality materials to create my work. That’s not the case at all. I work with the tools and materials that speak to me. A large part of the joy I derive from creating my artwork is that I take things that might be seen as less-than, or trash to some, and turn them into something imaginative and beautiful.
And then, there is the time I have spent over almost 40 years of creating, learning and growing as an artist. The price of a single piece of artwork is never, ever just the price of the materials used to create it, or just the time it took to create it.
Possible Perceptions of Costs:
I do take great care in the pricing of my artwork. The prices that have been assigned to individual pieces have been thought about a great deal. In many instances, the final cost of the product for the customer works out to only a few dollars/euros per hour at best.
When it comes to the final cost of a piece of my artwork, the time (speed) and quality come into play within the mind of the customer. “Well, if she can make these so fast, they should cost less!” or “If these cost so much, then the quality should be better!” or perhaps even, “For this price, she should make the dolls bigger!”
All of these are questions a customer can ask themselves. The reality is, of the three; time (speed), quality and cost, you can have two, but not all three. There will have to be a sacrifice made somewhere. You want quality and speed? Be prepared to pay more. You want a low priced, quality product, then be ready to sacrifice the speed in which you get the work. If speed and a low cost are what you desire, then the quality of the work is going to be lacking.
So Now What?
I don’t know that there is any easy way to solve this problem. The Iron Triangle (I love that name.) is just one of many different project management and business tools that I can use to gauge my progress as an entrepreneur. Strangely, I’ve taken some comfort in researching the Iron Triangle. A big take-away for me is that sometimes it’s not all about me and my artwork (products). Many times, it’s about the potential customer.
The longer that I work on marketing myself as an artist and on my business plans, the more I realize that there are simply some people who will never be my customer. They will never purchase my artwork. And that’s totally okay. What this means for me, is that I shouldn’t spend my limited resources (time, energy, creativity and money) attempting to make them understand my work and why it’s worth the money. And again, that is totally okay.
Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Monday.
Over the years, I’ve had many people say to me, “Oh! You should sell your artwork! You’d make tons of money!” or perhaps, “Sell your work online! People will just snap it right up!“, and still yet, “Your work should be in a gallery! It would sell itself!” These comments were intended to be complimentary, and that’s how I took them. Most of the people who were giving me these compliments didn’t have experience as successful, working artists. A significant portion of them were not even artists.
What most didn’t seem completely aware of is that art is hard work. And if you want to have even a small amount of success at it, you have to work your tail off to achieve it. Nothing in life is easy. I know this. What some may assume is that because the physical art-making process is more or less easily accomplished, that the next step of selling said artwork would be just as easy.
This is not the case. There are several truths that I have discovered for myself regarding being a working artist. And they make the aforementioned kind compliments seem outrageously simplistic.
A Steep Learning Curve:
The first lesson I have learned is that selling my artwork is HARD. It does not in any way, shape or form, ‘sell itself’. Just setting up my shop online took the better part of two solid weeks of work. And this wasn’t the fun kind of art-creating kind of work. This was eight hours a day or more sitting in front of a computer entering data. My brain was complete mush at the end of every day. Besides being physically sore and knotted up from being hunched over a computer tapping away on a keyboard all day long.
This was all done after I spent hours and hours deciding on what artwork I would offer for sale in the shop in the first place! I agonized over my choices. Would this piece sell? Or would this piece be better? Is this something that people I’ve never met before will like enough to buy?
At at a point, I was throwing things at the wall and seeing what would stick. Hoping something would stick.
No one told me exactly how much time I would be spending on a computer trying to sell my artwork. Spending so much time online working is still not something that I enjoy a great deal. Part of me thinks that all the time I need to spend on the computer shouldn’t necessarily be super-happy-fun time. It’s part of how I am creating my business. I’m using the internet as a marketplace. The computer is just one tool to help me achieve the level of success in the marketplace that I desire.
Always on My Mind:
Exactly what I’m creating artistically and how I’m managing my online presences are never far from my thoughts. No one told me that I would almost constantly be thinking about my entrepreneurial endeavors. Having thoughts like “I wonder if I move this weekly announcement to another day, I could get more views on my website?” or “Maybe I should lower my prices. Maybe my work would sell better.”
This can be a little annoying. However, I’ve just begun to think of it as the way things are when you’re trying to build your own business.
I honestly think that I could roll my eyes into the back of my head contemplating my own rookie mistakes as an entrepreneur. Things that I thought would be much easier, turning out to be so, so, so much more difficult that I originally planned. Having to go back, fix something online or in my shop. Realizing that I have to keep moving on social media and arts platforms online. Otherwise, my artwork just slips into the abyss, never to be seen again.
Another thing that I wasn’t prepared for was the dividing of my time between the online/computer tasks and the physical creating of artwork. Each of these are important for my business. I need to make new artwork for the shop and for gallery and exhibitions. Time must be allotted to website maintenance, as well as attending to social media platforms, and creating blog content.
I sat down over the weekend and did some writing and mapping of the projects that I have going on right now until the end of January 2021. That seems like a long way away from today, but it’s really not at all.
Twice Weekly Blog Posts:
I’ve been posting twice-weekly blog posts on Monday and Friday for many months. Lately, I’ve struggled to figure out what I want each of these separate blog posts to be centered around thematically. If I’m being honest with myself, there are only a handful of people who read my blog posts. Yet I want to keep-up with the writing. It helps me to stay on track mentally, and moving forward with my business.
I’ve decided that the Monday post will center around the theme of art creation and art-related topics. I do consider this post as an art-related topic, even though I’m really stretching that definition! The Friday blog post will be more business-oriented. I want to release new products on Fridays moving forward. That being said, I will be adding new dolls to the shop this Friday.
I’ve posted the first of many installments of Go Marielle! on my Instagram account. I’ve been wanting to do something like Go Marielle! for some time. I love the idea of taking pictures of my little dolls out in the world. Of all the 12 cm dolls that I’ve created since the beginning of the year, Marielle was the one who jumped out at me and said, “USE ME!”
My original plan was to release installments once a week, but that is just not going to work. There are so many parts of her stories that it would take months and months to tell just one that way! Hence, the plan for releasing the installments of Go Marielle! have been revamped. Go Marielle! will be released twice a week (Wednesdays and Saturdays) through the first week of October. I will also be creating a Go Marielle! Instagram page, so it’s easier for people to read and enjoy Marielle’s adventures around Jyväskylä.
During the month of January 2012, I will be showing my artwork in a small gallery at Matara here in Jyväskylä. I have several pieces that I want to build from scratch. There is a theme that I’m building on for all of the pieces that I want to include in this exhibition. Finding places to exhibit my artwork that doesn’t require fees is a god-send for me. I don’t want to waste an excellent opportunity to show people what myself and my artwork are all about.
Getting my artwork in front of people locally is incredibly important to me. Positive contact through my artwork with people in the community will hopefully aide me creating more networks and contacts throughout the community. In addition to getting to express myself creatively, I will also have some great publicity for my art business, as the exhibition space will allow me to sell artwork from the exhibit, without taking a commission.
Making art can be an easy process, especially for me. It’s just what I naturally do. Very little effort is needed. Making an art business,well…that’s hard. Well, at least much, much harder than making the actual artwork. There are so many places to make mistakes. So many places to just fall flat on your face. There are so many pieces and parts that I have to keep moving, or moving along together so that I can be as successful as I wish to be. So, for right now. I’m going to keep moving forward and learning as I go along.
Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next week,
The impetus for this blog post started with my examination of the word ‘quality’ as it related to the artwork that I create. I was brainstorming about the concept of quality and how as an art creator I could distinguish my own work from the work of others based on the quality of the workmanship.
How could I set my work apart from so many other artists?
Does my artwork even deserve to be called quality artwork?
What is considered ‘quality’ with regards to the type of artwork I create?!
These questions lead me in some other directions, further away from the concept of quality. However, I do think it’s important that I understand the bigger picture, before I answer the above questions. Seeing the bigger picture will help me to better define quality in my work in the future.
Words can be very powerful. They’re also quite plastic. The meanings of words are also not set in stone. Language changes and evolves right along side the people who are using to communicate their thoughts and ideas. What I find incredibly interesting is that the meanings of words can drift. This seems to happen in a short amount to time too. Words that I think have one definition, may have drifted in my own lifetime. The meanings I understand aren’t always the same as the ones utilized by other people.
How my artwork and the artwork I offer for sale in my shop is viewed by people outside of the realm of fellow creators and makers can sometimes confuse me. It has lead me to look more closely at some of the words used in conjunction with my artwork. Some of my confusion could simply stem from people having different understandings of the meanings of specific words like ‘homemade’ or ‘craft’.
To put even a finer point on it, I’m looking at how people within the United States are using these words and terms, and the definitions that they assign to them. I think that the reason I didn’t necessarily see the language drift of these words, is because English is my mother tongue. And I’m a citizen of the United States. It should be noted that I don’t think that the differing definitions of specific terminology is the only reason for confusion on my part. There’s a lot more going on here that can get very complicated, extremely quickly.
Handmade, Homemade or Both?
Each of these words have different meanings. They seem to have almost become interchangeable in the US.
Handmade is seen as something that is well-crafted, original, bespoke. Great care and detail are taken when a person makes an object by hand. There are connotations of being expensive and using the best materials as well. The person creating a handmade object is someone who is thought to have great talent and experience as well.
When clothing is handmade, it’s tailored to the specific measurements of the person who will be wearing it. It can be further customized with extras that are added at the request of the customer. A custom kitchen has counters, cabinets, and appliances that are made to fit into a specific kitchen. The same can be said for other pieces of furniture throughout a house. Handmade craftsmanship is something that is thought of as a luxury. Handmade watches, made with exquisite attention to detail, along with precious metals and stones. Custom paint jobs for cars created by highly skilled painters and craftspeople are another sought-after handmade item.
Many people within the US wish to have handmade or customized items for themselves and their homes. It seems like anything can be made better when it’s handmade or customized. Again, I should acknowledge that many of the handmade items I’ve listed above are the types of things that many people see in the media and in television and the movies. The type of handmade artwork I create cannot be compared to these sorts of things, nor should they be.
An object that is homemade connotes an air of being of lesser quality. Something that is made as a stop-gap until an item can be purchased to replace it. A child who wears homemade clothing (at least when and where I grew-up) meant that the family didn’t have enough money to buy store-bought clothing. Homemade clothing meant you were poor. And being poor was looked down on.
I have to take into account that my own personal experiences influence my definitions of the words handmade and homemade. I grew-up wearing clothing that my mother made for me. My mother liked to sew clothing. She also created curtains, pillow covers, quilts, and all kinds of other sewn items for the home. These were creative outlets for her, as well as a way to make the money in the household budget stretch further. But there were those, non-creators, non-sewers, who looked down on this. Viewing store-bought clothing as superior to anything that was homemade.
Made at Home, by Hand
What they really meant was having money to purchase clothing items in a store felt it made them better people than those who could not always purchase their clothing from a department store. When in reality, I had tailored clothing for the greater part of my childhood from birth to around age twelve.
The clothing that my mother made for me was unique and well made. I liked my clothes. I got to pick out some of the fabrics used, along with notions like trimmings and buttons as well. My clothing was different from everyone else’s. It stood out.
The drift in the meaning of these two words, as a result of set of socio-economic beliefs, connected to the concepts of a capitalist, heavily consumer-based society, are pounded into people in the US from birth (at least in my opinion). It therefore makes sense to me that when a non-creative, non-maker person looks at my artwork and says, “Handmade doll? Nope. I would rather buy a LOL Surprise Doll at Walmart.“
And that is totally okay. The person who would rather purchase one of these dolls would never have become one of my customers anyway. There’s nothing I could do to persuade them that my original doll design and construction has value, because their definition of homemade and handmade are categorically different than mine.
I’m still working on how I define quality in regards to my work. Knowing that there are differences in understandings and personal definitions has been helpful to me. Sorting these things out helps me to paint a more complete picture. While at the same time showing me where I feel the most comfortable moving forward as an artist, creator and maker.
Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next Friday.
The links that I’ve listed are all extremely interesting reads. It’s interesting that they seem to be equally divided between artist sand creators writing about their personal thoughts and experiences, and business-types of articles. I guess it’s a good snapshot of how my own mind is sometimes divided nowadays!
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.
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,
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:
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!
I’m a visual artist living in central Finland. I create surrealistic dolls utilizing a variety of materials and techniques.