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Frustration

Depression adjacent frustration:

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

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

Clinical depression:

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

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

Side effects:

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

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

Present day:

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

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

Love and…meh:

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

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

All hail the algorithm:

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

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

Useful to a point:

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

Investment:

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

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

Decisions to be made:

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

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

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

Key questions:

What am I going to use Etsy for?

What is my end-goal?

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

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

So…now what?

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

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

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

 

 

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Marketing is Hard

Marketing is…:

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

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

Head scratching:

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

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

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

Exhibiting my artwork:

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

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

Cost of exhibiting:

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

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

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

And then…depression set in:

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

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

It’s a trap:

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

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

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

Machete:

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

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

So, now what:

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

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

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

 

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Wanted: Art Criticism

Last night, my husband and I were talking about artistic criticism. Specifically, the types of criticisms that come from outside the sphere of creative peers. During my time as a graphic design student, I learned how to critique my classmates work, and in turn how to receive artistic criticisms myself. Even when feelings were bruised, I knew that the critiques were coming from an informed, experienced argument of a peer.

In time, my graphic design work became a means to an end. A designed grocery ad meant that I would get paid. The design work that I was creating wasn’t meant for any greater purpose than conveying pertinent information as to what items were on sale at a specific place and time. After that, it was chucked into the recycling bin, or used to line a bird cage. I exchanged a service for monetary gain.

Simple truth:

There is some great graphic design work done by some fabulous graphic artists out there. But mine was not, and would never be that. Time and experience taught me that. Over the last twenty years, whatever graphic design or illustration work that I created was simply an exchange of goods and services for me. While I might derive a degree of enjoyment in the creation of the occasional graphic design freelance work. It’s not my only creative art outlet.

My creative ego is now not dependent upon it being a spectacular success as a graphic designer. Having it bring me loads of money or heaps of praise for my unique and innovative work. No. I’m no Neville Brody. And that’s a good thing. Because we already have one of those, and he’s pretty good at Neville-Brody-ing.

The struggle is real:

The difference between my graphic design work and my personal artwork, is that I’m extremely emotionally invested in my personal artwork. My personal artwork is part of my identity. Receiving positive feedback regarding my personal artwork is great, but doesn’t always translate directly into increased sales. I wrote about this almost a year ago in this post.

Personally, I felt as though I was just being a big, fat, whiny baby because the thumbs up, or hearts or nice words were not being reflected in the sales of my artwork. This is something that I am in some way, shape or form always struggling with right beneath the surface.

Sometimes, I think that if I were an artist fifty or seventy years ago, when there was no computers, internet or social media like we have today. I would have been one of those women labeled a spinster. Who worked some day job, and made a lot of personal artwork in her off hours. Only to have a horder-like apartment full of my artwork discovered by my nieces after I keeled over and my cats ate my face.

What?!

There is a point to all of the above backstory. Recently, I decided to step outside of my (somewhat) predictable positive artistic criticism chamber to post my artwork in a completely different environment. I wanted to see what people who don’t know me, or perhaps who are not creators would say about my artwork.

Let’s say, I don’t think I’ve handled it well. I don’t think I approached the posts and my comments correctly at all. In the echo-chamber of positivity mentioned above I think the only weird critique I’ve ever received was that some high school kid thought that the arms and legs I made for some dolls looked like cat poops.

Over the past few months, I’d begun posting more of my artwork on a platform. There wasn’t a lot of feedback being generated. Sometimes I would get some nice bits of feedback. But nothing specific. Then today, I just totally stuck my whole foot squarely in my mouth.

Digging for a compliment much?!

For whatever insecure reason I attached some rather sad-sack paragraph of whiny-ass-ness to a set of pictures I posted. And someone, quite rightly, jerked a knot in my tail about it. Suggesting that I was just digging for a compliment. I had mentioned that some of my previous posts had been down voted. Apparently, my posts were not as down voted as I had thought. Or, they had been up voted since the last time I looked.

Regardless, I feel like a colossal boob for the post and my poor-pitiful-me up-vote-grubbing ramblings. I’ve resolved to edit the post. And make clear what I’m really looking for: critiques of my artwork from people outside my peers and affiliated groups.

My husband isn’t quite sure why this matters to me. There’s some logic to his argument. Someone who is not an artist, or even interested in art probably isn’t going to give me any kind of critical feedback that I would necessarily take to heart. However,  it might possibly help me in discussing (explaining?) my artwork to all kinds of different people.

Now what?

Well, I’m going to do some more thinking about what I will post next. It needs to be clear and to the point. No Uriah-Heep hand-wringing and aw-shucks-ing about it.

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

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Metaphor

Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking about how my personal artistic media choices can be interpreted as a self portrait in and of themselves. These tools, techniques and materials anchor me firmly in my own past as well. It’s interesting how they all are shaped into the artwork that I create.

Overthink something? Me?

Initially, the metaphor came to me while I was waiting for the bus sometime last week. The metaphor being, that I am much like the artwork that I create.

I’m a bunch of (seemingly) haphazardly selected bits of cardboard. That are cut and glued together in <almost> a symmetrical manner. Then covered with loads of old, torn newspapers and glue. Then slathered in layer after layer after layer of gesso, paint and sealant. And finally decorated in a way that would make an ancient Roman think, “Hmmm…perhaps a little less would be better?

Please allow me pick-apart and explain my own clumsy metaphor.

The Cardboard:

Used for the substructure. Never, ever meant by me to be seen, much less understood completely. Seen by most people as trash. Or perhaps something that needs to be put out and recycled into something better.

Symmetry?

Even when I’m making a concerted effort to be symmetrical in the creation of my artwork, it is almost never quite correct. It’s never completely even. Exact symmetry makes me uneasy in that lizard-like part of my brain.

Torn Newspapers:

Again, something that most people see as trash or recycling or both. However, a newspaper has an original purpose. It delivers the news and information that a community needs to know. From the weather report, to cultural events, to major decisions made in all levels of government, all the way back to movie times and advertisements for local businesses. Newspapers are meant to teach and inform.

Layer after layer after layer:

Even to me, this seems a rather good stand-in for the physical human form. Tendons, muscles, veins, fat, skin, bone, teeth, etc.

Horror vacui:

Yes. I do seem to fear an undecorated square centimeter in my finished artwork. To me, decoration is like Jell-o, ‘there’s always room for more‘ as I see things. It keeps the viewers eyes moving from here to there. If their eyes stop, they might see a flaw.

This is very much a fear-generated coping mechanism of my own psyche. Rooted in the intense and sometimes debilitating fear that I am completely unworthy of any kind of friendship, love or admiration in any way, shape or form by those around me.

So what does this mean?

In a nutshell, it means that my choice of artistic media and accompanying techniques are right for me. Mediums like clay and wood are ones that I find very attractive. They each have their own unique ways in which an artist can express themselves. However much I love working in them, they don’t fit me like the paper mâché work I have been creating fits me.

I derive a similar level of personal creative satisfaction from paper mâché as I do from sewing and doing needle work by hand. My aforementioned clumsy metaphor regarding my utilization of a paper mâché technique gives me something to anchor that sense of creative satisfaction to.

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

 

 

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Emotional Lows and Lack of Traffic

Currently

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.

Win-win, right?

Results

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.

Action required

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.

Patreon

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.

Why Patreon?

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

Now what?

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: katiekinsman.fi@gmail.com) 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.)

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Value & Cost

Recap:

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.

Value:

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.

Cost:

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.

 

Links and References:

(1) William Shatner with Henry Rollins, I Can’t Get Behind That, Has Been (2004)

(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.

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Go Marielle!

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

New Direction Inspiration:

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

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

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

More Complicated:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Marielle!

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

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

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

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

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What Shirley Tells Me

Understanding the harmful and the happiest parts of my life:

There is always meaning behind the work that I create. There are times in which I’m not immediately aware of the meaning behind the images, forms and styles that I’m employing. It’s there though. It’s working away quietly behind the scenes. It’s through the discovery of the meaning behind the work that I’m able to learn more about who I am and why I think and feel the ways that I do. It allows me not to lurch from ‘knee-jerk reaction’ to ‘knee-jerk reaction’ through life. I need to know why I am the way I am. It’s the only way I can see to find a way in the world.

There are things that I have learned about myself through the creation of Shirley that shines a light on some of the more unfortunate bits of my past. The maladjusted portions of my child and young adulthood that have gotten wedged inside of my mind. Those bits that won’t budge. In this piece, Shirley, I find myself questioning the incongruity of  how the best and most precious parts of my childhood can be so inexplicably entangled within some of the earliest, most damaging emotionally warping experiences of my life. Each of these things have shaped me as a person. How can these things be both shitty and happy at the same time?

The five words become five phrases:

From a very early age, I can remember feeling like I wasn’t what I was expected to be. The older I became, the more I heard the same five words used to describe me: loud, obnoxious, selfish, fat and ugly. I can hear people say, “But come on! Kids can be mean. You got bullied, BIG DEAL! Get over it! Everybody gets bullied for something when they’re a kid!

Okay. I’ll address that. The first three (loud, obnoxious, selfish) were said to me by my mother. Repeatedly. The fourth was addressed by my mother via the never-ending series of diets I was placed on as a child and teenager. The fifth was used as “You’d be so pretty if you lost weight.” and “You have such a pretty face!” I inferred that I would not be ugly if I was not fat. If I stayed fat, then I was, by default, ugly.

Believe me, middle and high school boys let me know what a fat, ugly, dog I was. And yes. That still stings like all holy hell, even today. Because my mother had let me know what parts of me she personally found so wrong, so lacking, that somehow, the negative reaction of the boys I had crushes on in school were somehow justified. They were just seeing what my own mother saw in me, mentally and physically.

Because of this, these five phases took root within my psyche:

I am loud.

I am obnoxious.

I am selfish.

I am fat.

I am ugly.

How they affect my existence:

These five phrases are deeply fixed within my identity. The roots are have wrapped themselves in, around and through every single, solitary experience of my entire life. I am never, ever without them at the forefront of my thoughts. I cringe inwardly when asked to introduce myself, or tell someone a bit about myself. The five phrases flash across my brain. I have to consciously tell myself not to say them out loud to people. Often, I fall short of describing myself in anything that could be remotely construed as positive terms. More often than not, I blurt out something self deprecating and incredibly off-putting. Part of me feels like not saying the five phrases out loud is a victory.

I was taught from an extremely early age, that what people think of me is incredibly important. The five phrases, while they were my truth, needed to be disguised, or somehow made more palatable.  A semblance of normality needed to be presented to those around me. This was done in the hopes that: 1.)  people would take pity ugly, fat girl, and let me be their friend and 2.)  to make myself an indispensable workhorse type of person that made my presence less disgusting because I could do x, y, or z well. It didn’t matter what I felt inside. It didn’t matter how my negative self-image damaged me internally. As long as I could fake-it until I made it, all was good.

Then I met, fell in love with and married a man who loves completely unconditionally for who and what I am. This was and is to a great extent, still extremely weird to me. My husband understands me. Well, as much as any one person can understand another. His presence coupled with time and distance from the people and conditions that formed the five phrases within me, has been beneficial to my mental health. This started the inevitable destruction of my extensive mental work-arounds and fronts. It’s only natural that the artwork that I create began reflecting these changes.

Finland Changed Many Things:

With Shirley, I decided to bring the phrases out into the light and place them right along side some of those happy memories of childhood. The five phases were turned into questions. A choice was made to ask them in Finnish. Why? Because living in Finland has changed me. It has changed my artwork. It has fundamentally changed my point of view on many things.

Viisi Lauseita:

Oletko äänekäs? (Am I loud?)

Olenko vastenmielinen? (Am I obnoxious?)

Olenko itsekäs? (Am I selfish?)

Olenko lihava? (Am I fat?)

Olenko minä ruma? (Am I ugly?)

To be totally honest, I’m not sure how to answer these questions. It is interesting to filter these thoughts through a different language and a culture that is at times similar to, yet very different from my own though. The sting is removed from the words. The words become easily teased apart into free-floating letters. When I picture the time in which the five phrases were planted within me, they are not with these words or pronunciations. I can more easily dissect these words. There is an emotional distance that isn’t provided in my mother tongue.

Yeah. I know. The English words of the five phrases are big and in yellow. The Finnish is smaller, in blue and is kind of just floating around the bigger words. Rome wasn’t built in a day. And over forty years of internalized pain are not extinguished with the completion of one piece of artwork. The completion of Shirley is the first volley of fire in a long battle.

Reactions to Shirley so far:

It’s interesting that there have been almost no comments made regarding the five words or phrases. In fact, there has been exactly one. A friend expressed said that she had similar types of thoughts running through her head. She said that she doesn’t see me that way. This made me wonder if I’ve made people uncomfortable with these five phrases. My admissions to dark, depressing and malformed ways of thinking about myself. Perhaps they think I think that way about them? No. I reserve all my poison for myself.

Is it that people don’t know how to respond to them? Should they agree with me? Would that be insulting to me? Are they put-off by the way in which I think about myself?  Does that mean there are people out there that don’t think of themselves in the most negative terms?! How is that even possible?! Do they think it’s some kind of trap? Like, I’m luring them out so that they will admit they think this way about me? Or maybe they just think one or two of these things about me?

Yeah. I’ll own-up to fat.

Are people embarrassed that they maaaaybe think these things about me?

There’s a quote by Regina Brett, that has been expanded upon by RuPaul CharlesWhat other people think of me is not my business. What I do is what I do. How people see me doesn’t change what I decide to do.”

I don’t think I’m anywhere near living up to that quote. Someday, I might get there. Anything’s possible.

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

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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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&%$#!

Over the past day or so, my husband has had to listen to me muttering curses under my breath while working on “Shirley”. To be more specific, the actual doll I’m calling Shirley has given me little to no problems. Or perhaps I would say, Shirley has given me no problems that I have not been able to handle. The thing upon which she sits, the little dollhouse, just started giving me fits last night while I worked on it. My husband started calling me Yosemite Samantha because of all the frustrating muttering and cursing.

The most oft repeated curses involved the following phrases:

Why won’t you just go into the hole?!?!

The HOLE is where you LIVE! GO THERE!

The hole is your HOME! GO. TO. YOUR. HOME.

How in the am I supposed to get a hole in THAT corner?!?!?

I HAVE MADE YOU A LOVELY HOLE. JUST. GO. IN. THE. HOLE.

Believe it or not, all that I was attempting to do in the interior of the dollhouse seat was to install tiny curtain rods and tiny curtains. The curtain rods are around 4 cm in length. All the tiny curtains and rods have been finally installed within the house. I may be adding some rolling window shades to one room, but there will be far less cursing around the concept of holes as a result.

I could argue that my problems with the rods and curtains were a result of my own poor planning for this little dollhouse. I don’t think that’s far off the mark, but I’m increasingly, for lack of a better term, winging-it as I work on this particular piece. In reality, winging-it is nothing more than relying on my own efficacy. All of the cursing and frustration are just the points at which my efficacy either comes to an abrupt stop or becomes a little squishy and ill-formed. I could have chosen to just throw everything down and declare my entire idea of using paperclips (unbent and stripped of the plastic outer covering, then clipped to size and bent to fit into specific holes made around the window frames) and pieces of handkerchiefs (thank you Dubravka!) and old pillowslips that I used white glue to create seams instead of sewing them (because my #12 needle is too big, even with a single strand of thread, to sew the seams and have them look good) a bad idea and simply started over with something better. But I didn’t.

That place where my efficacy ‘abruptly ends’ and ‘throw everything down and declare my entire idea to be bad’ is the place in which some of the most important learning for me is done. It’s the forge for my own artistic efficacy. I kept moving forward. Even when I cut the wires too short and had to start from scratch again. When I had to go back again and again and widen holes and make new ones. When I had to widen the holes as I was poking the wire through them. When I realized that I couldn’t make the bends before putting the curtains onto the wire. It would have been so easy to just toss it all in the trash and try another idea.

The frustration as I worked (that spilled out into so much cursing) was actually quite (Lev) Vyvotsky-esque. The cursing was just my inner speech spilling over the sides. That area where my personal artistic efficacy was being built is pretty much textbook Zone of Proximal Development. The curtains don’t look exactly how I had imagined them. I’m already making adjustments for imagined future pieces. The result that I achieved isn’t bad enough that I would toss them out, but isn’t good enough to make me think that I cannot do better in a future attempt.

Part of me feels as though I should be creating more sketches of my ideas and thoughts. If not for me, then for some far-off imagined posterity in which artistic fame will be granted to me, and my artwork accepted by the masses. This all done while my body decomposes deep in some Nordic forest (I wish to be wrapped-up into a nice burlap bundle and buried under tall trees where my body will biodegrade and return to the earth. My personal version of returning to ‘the force’ if you will), a curious few will wonder “How/Why did she do that?“. If I’ve written it all down, then they will know!

Or…I could just be realistic and decide that it’s not that important in the grand scheme of things. Who really gives a rats pink whoo-ha about how I created tiny curtains for a tiny dollhouse? It’s not like I’m curing cancer or ending climate change or anything. I’m just making art, and by doing so, figuring out how I work and where I fit, or even if I fit. Or perhaps, should I even want to fit? Hmmm…perhaps I have more in common with tiny curtains and curtain rods than I thought?

“Why won’t you just go where I want you to go?!”

“THIS is where you LIVE! Stay HERE!”

“This is your HOME. STAY. IN. YOUR. HOME.”

“How am I supposed to explain this to people?!”

“I made you! Just do as I say!”

Wow. That got a little psychological there for a minute now, didn’t it?

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

PS:

Tiny Rods and Tiny Curtains:

The tiny dollhouse is still under construction. The second level and roof are not permanently attached to the rest of the house shell. This is why it looks as though there are weird gaps between the walls.