Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Doll Patterns for Sale!

In my previous entrepreneurial post this week, I talked about selling doll patterns that I’ve created. I have patterns that I am working on that are not ready for release yet. I had put them on a back-burner while I was working on the art workshops I wanted to teach. Everything is flipped around due to circumstances beyond my control, so it’s all doll patterns a-go-go here in my world right now!

Monster Dolls:

I have five separate monster doll patterns; Harold, Cubby, Clarence, Ginger and Beady. Each single Monster Doll patter is priced at 4€ each ($4.35 USD). I’m not selling a physical product. The Monster Doll patterns are download only! You will need an email account to receive your purchased patterns.

Included in the price of the Monster Pattern is an additional 26 page PDF with more detailed, step-by-step instructions and photographs. Because many people around the world right now are social distancing and/or are under isolate-at-home orders, I have included additional ideas and information for materials usage if the Basic Fabric, Notions and Supplies listed for each doll pattern are not immediately available for the purchaser. The PDF Monster Doll instructions will be sent via email to everyone purchasing a Monster Doll pattern.

For those who wish to use this pattern with school aged children, you’ll find it quite easy to do so. Children 10 and older can work more independently with this pattern, while younger children will require more direction and assistance by an adult. There are multiple instructional possibilities that could be utilized with the Monster Doll patterns. At the very minimum, creating a Monster Doll could be part of a child’s on-going visual arts instruction. These Monster Doll patterns can also be utilized to instruct children about recycling and up-cycling of the materials they already have at home. It can also be used as a means of teaching critical thinking for students, especially when substitutions for the listed materials needs to be made. The finished Monster Dolls could be used as a writing prompt for puppet shows or  fictional stories with illustrations.

 

Easy Peasy Doll Pattern:

I’m also offering my Easy Peasy Doll Pattern. It’s 2€ ($2.17 USD) This pattern is also download only!

The Easy Peasy Doll Pattern is four pages with pattern and instructions. The construction methods of the Easy Peasy Dolls are similar to the Monster Dolls.

If you wish to purchase any of the Monster Doll or Easy Peasy Doll patterns, please contact me via email at Katiekinsman.fi@gmail.com or via Facebook Messenger (Katie Kinsman) or by Instagram DM. I will give you the payment details at that time. You will receive your patterns and directions files via email. They can then be printed out and used.

All of the patterns for sale are for individual use only and not intended for resale.

I’m a Jerk.

There are some things that I’ve been thinking a lot about, entrepreneurially, over the past week or so. The entire planet is having to deal with a new type of semi-permanent ‘normal’ due to the concerns over the spread of Covid-19. It’s still very early in this pandemic, so individual and national situations are fluid, and prone to change almost daily depending upon where you live. For those of us who work from home (my husband) and those of us who have been working on our own entrepreneurial endeavors, little may have changed regarding where we work, but a lot has changed for those who buy our work.

I noticed several weeks ago that some of the artists and makers that I follow had instituted sales in their online shops. Some offered a percentage discount on specific items, others on the final purchase total. There are many artists, creative, and performing artists who support themselves (and family) through gig-work. It seems like the term ‘gig’ has replaced ‘freelance’ in the world today. How many people do you know who have a full-time job and then a side gig? As a full-time employed public school art teacher, I had a side-gig all the time. I created art and sold it at various arts and craft shows in the city I lived in. I did artwork on commission. I took on additional teaching during the summer, to both children and adults. All so I could make ends meet. These gigs allowed me to have some breathing room within my budget. I know that this is not at all uncommon for educators to have gig work. At least in the US where I was living and working.

Covid-19 and the mandatory isolation orders, bans on gatherings of over ten people at a time, as well as other restrictions on travel inside and outside of different countries, have really hit artists, creatives and performing artists hard. A cartoonist that I follow, Adam Ellis (Instagram @adamtots) wrote a little about this. As a cartoonist, he’s had all the gigs he’s had lined up for the next year practically vanish in two weeks. Cons and book signings. Meet and greets. Talks. Meetings. POOF! All gone. He’s asking those who like his work and who want to help support him during this time to head to his merch store where he has a sale going on, or over to Patreon.

I’ve read some negative reactions to posts from artists asking for people to buy their merch or maybe become a patron on Patreon. These reactions give me ‘DeForest Kelley Face’.

Some of the negative reactions are centered around the fact that there are thousands and thousands of people who have been laid-off or let go from their jobs because of the closure of many types of businesses due to social distancing and isolation in place because of the spread of Covid-19. These people are justifiably scared about what is happening right now. They may have no money coming in and no savings to rely on. They may feel that it’s in poor taste or just rude for an artist to be asking for a ‘hand-out’ when they don’t know how they are going to pay their rent and buy food for the next month. (Interesting side note: artists do have to pay rent, eat, and pay bills too.)

But I’m getting a little off-track. Back to my point.

As much as the global pandemic is punching a big, fat hole in Adam Ellis’s ability to create, sell and promote his work, he’s in a better situation than I am by comparison. I’m a one-horse operation. I make the art. I sell the art. I create the workshop. I teach the workshop. My profits are infinitesimal by comparison. My range of products and the appeal of those products are a fraction of a fraction of a fraction when looked at in the larger Etsy-sized picture of artists, makers and creators working in the same vein or with the same themes as I do. There are doll artists who sell their work steadily and well, but still are not making enough money to live on. I’m much, much, much smaller than they are.

Full disclosure: I’ve sold four dolls over the last month and I am over-the-moon thankful (Seriously, deliriously, insanely, made-me-do-a-little-dance-in-my-living-room thankful to those buyers!!!) for those three sales. My profits for those sales were around 250€ combined over a thirty day period. If my husband were not working his buns off to support the two of us, we would have no place to live, no money to eat, nothing. Plans that I had made regarding art workshops has had to be back-burnered for now. This leaves my physical artwork as what I can offer for sale.

Perhaps there are some people who think, that if I cannot seem to sell my artwork, then the market has spoken. It’s told me that my work is bad and no one wants to buy it. So I should close up shop and go do something where I can make money, like…teaching workshops maybe? Or maybe I should just go an get any kind of job? What kind should I get? Maybe I would I sell more artwork if I decided to have a sale? What if I offered a discount? Or a BOGO? It’s tempting. I know that there are people who are more likely to purchase my artwork when I cut the price by almost half. But then what? Will people then expect me to sell my artwork for less on a regular basis once the sale is over?

I’ve always had a problem pricing my artwork. When I finally do arrive at a price, it’s been thoroughly thought about, discussed, thought about some more, discussed more (with my husband, and other respected friends) and finally decided upon. I’ve always thought that what I create, and the way in which I create it, isn’t exactly special. As an art teacher, I truly believe that every student I teach (child and adult) can accomplish the same levels of creativity and personally pleasing end product that I do. What I do is not rocket surgery. Because of this belief, I tend to undervalue what I create. So once all the sweating, fretting, discussions and debates have concluded, and a price is arrived upon. That’s the price of the work.

This may seem as though I’m being a total jerk. “This is what I will sell my work for and I will not take a single cent less!” But, would you question a physician or a lawyer about how much they charge? What about the mechanic who works on your car? Or the plumber who makes the poo go down the toilet instead of up and out of the toilet? There is this perception that an artist can be haggled with regarding the price of their work. There is this idea that because art is subjective, and capitalism is king in the US, that it’s perfectly acceptable to start haggling, or to just demand a lower price for artwork. The work of a physician or lawyer, that’s all objective. The value of their work is established. Their work is required for society to function well. The message is: medicine and law are necessary; art is not necessary.

Given the current state of the world, I’m also just cheeky enough to ask, how much art — movies, television, music, games, reading, sewing, knitting — etc., etc., — and including cooking, baking, drawing, writing, singing, playing an instrument — has the average human being done while they have been in isolation or quarantine? How long would it take people to start climbing the walls if they didn’t have art to keep them at least a little sane during all the scary weird happenings going on in the world around them?

Again. I digress.

So. I will not be offering any sales or discounts on the artwork that I’m selling for the foreseeable future. I do know that those fluid situations I spoke up previously may require me to change this, and in the back of my mind, I cannot rule it out completely. As a one-horse operation, with a very limited and specialized line of products, I simply cannot afford to. I’m learning what my value is as a individual and as an artist. It’s been hard-won knowledge and I am not ready to set it aside just yet.

This all being said, and if you’re still reading, go take a look at the artwork I have for sale.

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

This post brought to you by the following links:

Read a little about the late and very great, DeForest Kelley! He had one of THE BEST lines EVER in any Star Trek movie: “It’s like the goddamned Spanish Inquisition down here!” (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home 1986)

Adam Ellis is funny and weird and wonderful. I’m sure that most of those reading this post have come across his work somewhere on the Internet or via Buzzfeed. If you’ve read it for free, then you could toss a coin or two his way!

The Jerk is one of those movies that I watch when I really need to laugh. I hope that you can find it somewhere to watch because it’s just…completely stupid and funny. I shouldn’t admit it, but I sometimes sing the thermos song to myself.

The Bugs are Taking Over!

I usually post here on Tuesdays and Thursdays. With the Tuesday post being more of a rambling, personal and artistic stream-of-consciousness kind of post, and the Thursday post all about the business, marketing and entrepreneurial part of trying to sell my artwork and my art workshops and teaching abilities. I’ve been wanting to change around my established posting days for a while, and right now this seems like a good time to do it. From this point forward, I intend to post on Mondays (rambling stream-of-consciousness posts), Wednesdays (business, marketing and entrepreneurial posts), Fridays (about the artwork that I am currently creating) and Sundays (photo posts). As always, what works will stay, what doesn’t work will be changed. 

Bernard is practicing his elevator spiel on Howard and Walter. I’m not sure that they are really ‘into’ what Bernard has to say.

The last two weeks or so has been a bit of a blur for me. The whole world seems to have been up-ended for just about everyone. I work from home, as does my husband. Self-isolating is not as much of a burden upon either one of us, as it might be to many, many other people in the world. My husband has done a fantastic job of making sure that we have food to eat, with the intent of only going to the grocery store once a week. He’s always said that as long as he has an internet connection, he can work. This is exactly what he’s done. I have plenty of art supplies and tools. I’ve always been tremendously good at being a self-entertaining, and largely self-contained entity, so staying home isn’t so bad for me.

What has taken a bit of a smack are the plans I had for advertising the art workshops that I am available to teach to individuals, as well as small and large groups of people. That whole idea has had to take a backseat in my entrepreneurial plans for now. It’s disappointing, but looked at from a wider, more community-based perspective, I do not want anyone to become ill or potentially die because I just had to teach a workshop. So, they are on hold for now. They’re shelf-stable. Nothing will spoil. I’ll get to teach again in the future.

I’ve been working on some ideas for another project, as well as making some new tiny dolls; bunnies and bears. Last night, I created a tiny duck (I named him Bernard this morning). I’ve done some work on the website, hopefully to make it a little easier to navigate. I’ve also investigated adding an actual shop to the website, but at present, I’m not quite ready for it. I should have a steadier rate of sales before I do that. Right now, I’m still kind of in the ‘feast or famine’ part of my business plan. This indicates that I need to work on my marketing and advertising, so that people actually know that I have artwork for sale on my website.

I am so flippin’ bad at selling myself though! I keep telling myself that I need to take every opportunity to utilize the ‘shameless plug’ (insert the sound of a little bell here — ding!) to get my name and my artwork out there for people to see and perhaps purchase. This is not natural for me. I tend to want to blend into the background when it comes time to be the center of attention, with the weird exception of teaching. I’m completely and totally comfortable in front of a classroom of student teaching. Give me thirty squirmy seven-year-olds and I am in my element. Ask me to give a self-promotional 30 second elevator spiel to three people and I’m a knot of unbelievable tension and fear. I truly understand the fight or flight response in these situations.

There are some key differences between teaching art and talking to people I don’t know about my artwork, and maybe why they should perhaps sign-up for my art workshop or buy my artwork. The key component is control. In the classroom, I have a lot of control over the physical space, the objects within the space, the way the time is spent within the space, etc. When teaching children, there is a lot of implied control simply because I’m an adult and they are children. Children are expected to obey an adult in a position of authority. I’m also working, teaching, within a realm that I find incredibly comfortable, art and creativity. In some instances, I as the adult am there to assuage the fears of children who may not have the real world experience to deal with new and unexpected situations, materials, spaces, thoughts and ideas. Because of my comfort with the level of control over various aspects of teaching art to students in the classroom, I’m more comfortable letting students push boundaries, get a little messy and a little loud. If things get a little out of control, I know how do deal with it. A sharp look at a student, a vocal indicator, “Hey! We need to bring the noise down a little everyone!” or a practiced reaction to an accident, “Okay. Go get the paper towels by the sink and a box of baby wipes. Let’s clean this up.” This also relies of the students in my classroom knowing that what to expect from me as a teacher, mentally and emotionally, as well as their levels of familiarity with the space, the supplies and the general course of any given lesson taught.

When speaking with someone, often times a total stranger, about my artwork, my creative process, my theories on creativity, etc., I’m dealing with a lot of unknowns. If we use the elevator metaphor, I’ve never met these people. I don’t know if they have any experience with art, or creating anything at all, ever. Maybe their art teacher made them cry, or someone called them a crappy artist when they were a kid. I have no understanding of how they interpret the concept of a doll, or how I have fused them to core parts of my internal mental and emotional self. I have no idea if they will even respond to the way in which I speak about the world or my art. They are giant, blank, scary, tall, scary people who I feel are more than likely judging the holy crap out of me based solely on my physical appearance. So I choke. I often times head down the path of self-deprecation, which down-sells me and my work, and does nothing to make me seem like i have any idea of who I am or what I’m doing.

As an art teacher, I feel so at home in front of a bunch of kids. I feel like I can show more of my true self to them than I can to some adults. I can be goofy and fun with kids. When you do that with some adults, they think you’re a weirdo. I’m an endlessly curious person who has reveled in a lifetime of learning and exploration of all kinds of different thoughts, ideas, concepts and creations. Some of my own creations, some by others. There is always something new to learn and explore and sometimes I feel as though some of the adults I encounter have kind of put the learning and exploring away as part of their childhood. That perhaps, because I make artwork, I make dolls, it looks as though I’m a child playing, and children are simple, therefore I must somehow too be simple? I’m not sure. These things run through my head as I’m trying not to choke on my fear when presenting myself as an artist who makes dolls to scary adult people I do not know.

So, where does this leave me? Well, I do know what’s going on inside my own head, that’s one. Knowing that I have these thoughts and feelings is the first of many steps in figuring out how to deal with my own internal difficulties. I have been working on some online advertisements for my website, and my artwork. Creating a wording that strikes the right balance between quirky enough to get a persons attention and being out-right weird as all get out has been an interesting exercise for me marketing wise.

I don’t think that these advertisements are earth-shatteringly amazing or anything. I don’t think they have to be either. As always, I’m trying to build upon successes, and learn from my mistakes. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next Monday.

Musical Links:

There have been times in my life when the words of either Henry Rollins, Elvis Costello or David Byrne flash to the forefront of my mind, offering some sort of wisdom to get through a given situation, or simply to offer a sense of artistic solidarity during a trying event in my life. I’ve been an Elvis Costello fan since I first heard My Aim is True. He is a masterful lyricist who packs every single song so tightly with lyrics that I swear you can’t wedge another syllable in, lest the whole thing blow apart. If you’ve never heard of him, give him a listen. I’ve always personally thought that everyone should have his first three albums in their collections, but I’m a fan.

Elvis Costello and the Attractions Fish n’ Chip Paper (Trust, 1981)

Elvis Costello and the Attractions  Radio, Radio (1978)

Elvis Costello Hurry Down Doomsday (The Bugs are Taking Over) (Mighty Like a Rose, 1991)

You Must Advertise

A kind fairy, in my absence, had surely dropped the required suggestion on my pillow; for as I lay down it came quietly and naturally to my mind: Those who want situations advertise; you must advertise…” (Jane Eyre, Ch. 10)

Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books. I think I’ve read and re-read it a dozen times. There were times when I knew I was going to have a very long wait at a governmental office or at an airport, and if I had nothing else I was reading at the time, I would grab my worn copy off the shelf and stuff it in my bag to keep me occupied while I waited. I’ve seen several adaptations. Each of them use this above quote in different ways. Sometimes it’s Jane’s friend Helen who tells her that they must advertise, and in other versions, it happens a little more like it does in the book. Regardless of how it’s portrayed on screen, the fact that Jane looked at her current situation (teaching at Lowood School) and knew she didn’t want to be there anymore. She had no family or friends upon whom she could depend to help her find a suitable position either. She could only depend upon herself to find that suitable situation and to do that, she would have to advertise.

Now, remember, this book was published in 1847. Women had very few options when it came to employment. Teacher. Governess. Prostitute. And even those jobs that were not related to sex work were not always well thought of. Jane was a teacher, so she had a somewhat respectable means of supporting herself, but she was a no-body without a means of formal introduction to a potential employer. This meant that she was going to have to do something that wasn’t normal or lady-like: she was going to advertise for a position herself.

I kind of feel like I’m walking around in this passage of the book. I’m a no-body, from no-where, whose artwork means nothing to anyone. The difference between myself and Jane is that I have a very supportive husband (we just celebrated our 9th anniversary yesterday) and amazing friends that have been incredibly supportive of me. I also have organizations like Työbileet and Zonta International (which has helped me with tools and supplies for the teaching of art workshops here in Finland).

I’m so grateful and happy that I have the ability to teach art workshops. Having the tools and materials I need, and the ability to find more materials at low cost (Second hand shops, recycled and up-cycled materials, and Flying Tiger), makes me a much more marketable for the teaching of art workshops in a wide variety of subjects and mediums.

My challenge right now is: where do I advertise? Remember, I’m an English speaker, who has a loose grasp of conversation and art instruction in Finnish. I understand much more Finnish than I can speak, thanks to all plethora of compound words in the Finnish language. But still, I’m not fluent. By any stretch of the imagination! I want to teach art! I just need to advertise. Where?

I’ve done some research, looking at traditional types of print advertising in newspapers like Suur-Jyväskylän Lehti, but I’m not sure that the teaching portion of my business is quite ready for that. Part of the reason is the type of advertisement I would like is not within my budget. Hmmm…I don’t trust those free classified ad sites as far as I can throw them. They just seem a little hinky. This leaves me with not a whole lot of options. As I see it, the following are my best bets at present

Facebook:

It’s not the greatest option, but it’s free, and I am part of several groups dedicated to foreigners within Finland. English is the language used by the participants. I have advertised, i.e., created posts, about courses that I have offered through other educational institutions. The benefit of advertising for myself and the workshops I can teach, is that I’m in control. The cons are, I’m in control and I’m still pretty limited in my advertising reach. Part of me really hopes that there is some word of mouth that happens that can help me!

Website:

If you’re here and reading, then I’ve made contact with you! Hey! Would you like to have some private art instruction? Are you looking for someone who can set-up and instruct an open studio for a public event? Would you perhaps be in need of someone to teach a group of children art at an event? Contact me through the contact form and we can meet up and talk about it!

Instagram:

If you’re here, more than likely, you read about this blog post on Instagram. Again. I’m available for teaching art to children and adults! Contact me!

Flyers:

You know that kind I’m talking about, the kind that go on the bulletin boards at coffee shops, art supply stores, on university campuses, libraries, etc. I keep reminding myself, ‘I have to advertise.‘ I can’t just start at the top, right? I’ll just need to make some really attractive flyers to get people to look at them for long enough to me to get my name and that I teach art into their heads!

YouTube:

This has been pacing around in the back of my mind for some time. I watch several dozen YouTubers on a regular basis and I know how hard it is to break through the algorithm. If I do use YouTube, it would be something that I direct people to from other platforms like this website, Facebook or Instagram. I’m not super-comfortable being on camera, so I would have to really think about what I was uploading and why.

I still can’t believe that I have so many problems marketing and promoting myself as an artist and as an art teacher. What makes this even worse is that I have a BFA in graphic design. I love design and I love illustration. I just cannot seem to advertise myself, my art and my accomplishments with any degree of comfort. Sometimes I just want to post a sign like the one below:

I don’t think this would go over very well as a good advertising for myself or my artwork. Oh well. I suppose I have to get all of the bad advertising ideas out before I can come up with some better ones!

 

Candle Holder

St. Dominic, founder of the Dominican Order. There is a story about how he made a bothersome devil and/or demon monkey-ape ‘be still’ and hold his candle while he worked.

(I realized, last night that I had forgotten to post my regular Tuesday journal blog post on my website. It honestly slipped my mind. I had plans for Monday that got postponed until Tuesday, so I was doing some of the things on Tuesday that I had planned for Monday…so, I guess I felt like I had two Mondays? The weather here in Finland isn’t doing me any favors at the moment either, as it’s cold, damp and overcast, with the daily temperatures in the positives. This means it’s time for some barometric pressure headaches. They suck. Right now, it feels like someone is pinching and pulling the bridge of my nose, while simultaneously pounding nails into various points from my temples to the back of my head. My eyes hurt every time I move them. Bleh. Hopefully the ibuprofin will kick in soon. Anyway, on with the post!)

I’ve had competing urges over the years. One is to categorize myself and my artwork, and the second is to scrunch-up my face and declare that wish to remain outside of any type of categorization. The problem with this is that I already have self-categorized my artwork, and what the rest of the world (art world, craft world, people who are completely outside those worlds, etc.) thinks of my artwork is much more complicated. Where these two conflicting categorizations prove the most difficult for me is when it comes to the marketing of my artwork.

I am an artist. I identify myself first and foremost as an artist. This is something that has not changed much over the years, with the exception of adding ‘art teacher’ to it. I am an artist and art teacher. This is correct. I feels right. They are essential parts of who I am as a human being. Yadda, yadda, yadda, and so forth and so on, ad infinitum. You have heard all of this from me before. A lot.

I had a bit of an epiphany several days ago after some conversations with my husband (Berin Kinsman) regarding the problems I feel as though I am having in marketing myself as an artist (with artwork to sell) and an art teacher (with workshops to teach). Part of the reason for the conversations was a prompt from Meet the Maker, ‘Love to Make’ from day eight of the challenge. I had taken some pictures of pieces that I had created that were in many ways very different. They were all examples of the element of experimentation that is an integral component in my love of making the artwork that I create.

I love to experiment. My curiosity drives this love of experimentation. I think it also is a big part of why I’m such a magpie, using all kinds of different materials that I either pick out of the recycling or find at second hand shops. There are some tools, materials and supplies that I purchase ‘new’. I just bought some felt at Eurokangas earlier in the week, as well as some lovely decorated papers. The fact that I can do this does not prevent me from buying a shirt at a second shop and taking it apart for the fabric and buttons or saving the foil wrapping of chocolate bars and mailing circulars to use in my artwork.

Part of the difficulty of working with materials that are kind of finite. I can’t just go to the corner shop and pick up the lavender yarn that I found at a second hand shop a few weeks ago. Sometimes that materials, especially the fibers and threads, at second hand stores are from the stashes of people who purchased them twenty years ago or more. My chances of finding more of the insanely lovely yellow thread (on a wooden spool!) that was of Finnish manufacture, around the early 1960’s, is almost zero. Once these materials are used up. There simply is no more of it. Each of the dolls I create is made more one-of-a-kind because of the supplies that I use.

The other part, the mental one, is that I tend to create my work in groups. I get an idea. I start creating a pattern, and choose my colors. The materials are gathered. I sit down and start making. Before I know it, I’ve created dozens (or sometimes hundreds) of pieces working within a theme, and with some of those finite supplies described above. I usually have a a technique I want to try, or am trying to figure out how to make the materials and supplies I have do the thing I want them to do. Most of the time, the materials and supplies start asserting their own will, and compromises are struck between what I want to do and what they will do. I continue working. I refine ideas. I change around the sequence of construction. I add elements. I subtract elements. I note changes I want to make in subsequent pieces. I keep making the art over and over and over again until I feel as though I’ve exhausted the possibilities within the work itself.

In other words, I get bored. I make a thing until I get bored with it, and am seduced by a new idea or thought that I feel like I could form into something interesting. The ‘interesting’ should be construed as learning a new technique, or solving some kind of challenge in using a type of material I have and really want to use in some way. This means I will furiously make a thing until I don’t want to anymore. Then I’m done with it and am on to something else. It’s rather dog and butterfly of me. I’m completely focused and working on a series of pieces. Eyes and nose down. Ignoring everything else, until…I’m not. Once that new idea is seen, I’m off chasing it. And I’m done making the previous art work.

While Berin and I were talking, he pointed out that he, as a writer, works to create products expressly to sell. I create artwork because I have to. The thought of selling it, comes second. It’s not the reason for the creation. While this allows me a great deal of creative freedom, it makes successfully marketing my work to potential buyers much more difficult. As an art teacher, this ability to change the lessons, materials, ages taught, etc., work from a marketing standpoint, because what I am selling is my ability as a teacher of art first, and what the participant in the workshop will learn and make a very close second. Being flexible and well-versed in teaching methodologies as well as tools, technique and materials usage, is what a good art teacher should be.

As an artist, and an artist that is essentially a great big nobody from nowhere in the larger art world, my ever-changing series or groups of artwork, can be off-putting to a potential buyer. I cannot be depended upon to create a specific type or style of artwork for any set length of time.

I had been mulling over ways in which I thought perhaps I could alter the Little Ladies to make them sell better. Alterations that would make these tiny dolls more attractive to a wider-variety of potential customers. I found myself internally hesitating at each of these ideas. I felt that these alterations would make my artwork more derivative and less referential. I would be doing something that I felt had already been done, and done better by others as well. The purpose of these Little Ladies is tied so tightly to my own childhood and the toys I had and loved. Most importantly, as an adult, revisiting these things from my childhood, I am able to create what I wanted to be able to create when I was little. I wanted to alter those toys and dolls I had to better fit what I needed them to be within my tiny, little-kid Katie world that is decades past.

I feel as though it comes from a place of privilege that I can say, “Oh. I won’t compromise my artistic principles or my artistic vision!” I can honestly say, if I weren’t married, I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss making alterations to my work that would make it more marketable to a greater number of people. Not everyone has the luxury of not selling the work that they create. Every piece created is a monetary investment in a future that hopefully sees its purchase. These are those artists and craftspeople who hustle. And I admire their abilities, because they’ve got things figured out that I am still stumbling through.

Now that I know that I’m kind of working at marketing my work is a rather challenging manner (the cart before the horse?) I need to be creative and figure out how to make it work for me. The artwork comes first, with no thought of who would buy it or how it can be used. And the marketing aspects coming second.

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

Apples and Oranges

Participating in Meet the Maker March is forcing me to think about some areas of my own entrepreneurial plans that aren’t as solid as I once thought they were. In the past, this type of realization might cause me to panic, but it’s not. In fact, there’s no panic at all, merely some annoyance at the fact that I have areas within my plan that have not completely gelled. Perhaps a little annoyance at the fact that I have to come up with some kind of answer or solution for them as well, but I kind of figure that is part and parcel of being a one-horse small art business!

During the past week, I’ve been thinking a lot about where I fit (I wrote a blog post about it) in an amongst other groups of artists, creators and makers. Where do I fit mentally? Creatively? Where does my artwork fit in the incredibly large, and ever-growing sea of artists, creators and makers who are trying to sell their art and/or craft? That last one, regarding where my artwork fits, from the standpoint of marketability, as a generator of that modicum of income I would like to be able to achieve…that is the point in which I don’t feel as though I have everything quite figured out yet. There are still areas that are more or less ‘un-gelled’.

In the post that I wrote previously, I talked mostly about wanting/needing to fit in with creative people, to find that community in which I could feel as though I was creatively and emotionally supported. What I’m talking about here is how do I categorize myself and my artwork for in the entrepreneurial arena?

If you’ve not familiar with exactly how large this creator-maker-artistic sales arena is, it is huge, like, Godzilla-sized huge, and sometimes just as pants-sh!tingly terrifying to contemplate as an insignificant little one-horse shop, like I am. I stand in awe of the creators and makers out there who are busting their butts as they hustle and work hard every day just to keep up with the ebbs and flows of this market. I admire them, while at the same time, I know I cannot be like them.

I had an exchange with another maker recently regarding the element of time and how it’s used as a creator. Specifically, the amount of time that is spent creating the artwork that we each sell. This maker said that they had worked to cut down on the amount of time devoted to the creation of their work, so that they could create work at a price point low. When I really thought about it, I seem to create and sell in almost diametrical opposition.

All artists and creators, after a certain amount of experience, can gauge how long it will take them to accomplish a task required by their craft or art form. How long to rough cut the wood for a set of chairs. How long to prep the loom for a weaving. How long and what ingredients are required to bake and decorate a wedding cake. How many Berol Prismacolour pencils in peacock green will be needed to finish the background of that illustration. How long it will take to crochet a queen-size blanket. For me, how much felt to do I need and how long will it take me to knock together a 6 cm doll? What can I essentially ‘batch’? Like covering the bases or braiding the yarns that go around the edges. I’ve got a pretty good sense of time when it comes to these sorts of tasks and batching does make them go faster. But reducing the amount of time that I spend on the creation of a piece of art so that I may lower a potential selling price never enters my mind.

Time for me is an essential component of the price of the artwork. Yeah. There are parts that I can make go more quickly, but then there are other parts of creation that just take time. If you have seen my artwork, I do a lot of embroidery work in and on all of my pieces, even those that are papier maché. To reduce the amount of time spent on my artwork would require me to fundamentally alter the artwork in a manner that I do not find creatively satisfying in the least. I could make strictly papier maché dolls and completely forgo any surface decoration, either in pencil, paint or embroidery. I could make tiny dolls with clothing that has no embellishment. No embroidery. No crochet work. No bases for display. I could do that. But I don’t want to.

That last comment makes me sound like a petulant three-year-old! “I don’t wanna!” accompanying by little clenched fists and stampy little feet. Here’s the thing that I realized as it regards where my artwork fits in this sea of artists, creators and makers: I have my own visions of my own artwork and create using those visions and with the aid of the influences of my personal past and the larger world I was formed it (I’m a Gen X-er). I think part of my difficulty is that I’m trying to force my work into a category in which it does not belong. I am first and foremost, an artist. I love being an artist. I revel in wallowing and mucking-about in my own personal artwork creation on a daily basis. I strive to be uniquely myself in my actions and products as an artist. I have constructed my entire life around being able to create artwork. I have made specific decisions regarding this. I have had to forego some parts of what some might think of as a more normalized life, in favor of giving myself the ability to let art take precedence before anything else. It is one of my strongest internal driving forces.

I suppose what it all boils down to for all of those potential buyers of art an craft work is whether they would prefer an apple or an orange. It’s just a matter of preference. Sometimes the price point is a major factor in their choice, sometimes it isn’t. I know who I am, and I feel like this Meet the Maker challenge is helping me get those weird un-gelled areas figured out for myself and this can only be a good thing for me as an artist and as an entrepreneur.

This post got a little strange, so thank you for reading! Here are some links to things that have been rattling-around in my brain for the past week or so, each making their own contributions to the verbosity of the above post:

Todd Rundgren: ‘Day Job

Henri Tajfel: Social Identity Theory (Research Gate; Encyclopedia of Critical Psychology)

Santigold: L.E.S. Artistes

Pixies: Debaser (Which I cannot listen to at anything less than ear-splitting levels)

Henry Rollins: The One Decision that Changed My Life Forever

 

Time

I make my own sketchbooks and notebooks. Rarely do I purchase them. I make them to my personal specifications and they serve my creative needs well.

I wrote yesterday about participating in this years Meet the Makers challenge on Instagram. Yesterdays prompt was ‘Time’. Time seems to be something I always feel in short supply of as an artist. I feel extremely fortunate to not suffer from artist block. Time for me is short, but I have more ideas than I can possibly create in my head and in my sketch and notebooks.

I mentioned in my Instagram post that I have been told “You have a lot of time on your hands!” in the past by some people looking at, or experiencing my artwork for the first time. I said that I kind of smile and shrug it off in my post, but it goes deeper than that. I smile and shrug it off to the face of the person or people who are saying this to me because I don’t think that they have any kind of ill intent towards me or my artwork. I don’t think they are trying to demean me in any way, as if by saying the aforementioned phrase, the true meaning is, “Wow. You have nothing real or worthwhile in your life. No husband. No kids. No real job. No house to take care of. No one and no thing that demands your immediate attention all of the time. Oh. And cats don’t count. They just make you sadder and more pathetic.” Yes. I know. I kind of go off on a bit of a tangent with the reading between the lines. There are reasons why I do this, even if it is just internally: I’m a woman and I’ve been ‘Queen Bee’d’ since I was a kid; I had a caregiver that is the absolute monarch of passive-aggressiveness, meaning, I learned from The Master of the craft from an early age, and I’m weirdly sensitive, even though I seem like I just smile and shrug it off, while at the same time I’m screaming like a banshee in my head.

That all being said, last year, I wondered how much time I was actually spending creating my artwork. How much time did it actually take to create one of the Creative Experiment dolls? I decided to gather some data and crunch some numbers and see what I could learn.

I recorded my start and end times during periods of work, as well as what exactly I was doing during that specific time. I conducted five separate tests; four with completely original doll designs, and one in which I duplicated a doll form, but created different appliqué and embroidery work on. Upon completion of each doll, I went through my recorded data and came up with how many hours it took me to complete the piece.

Man. I hope my math is correct. I feel like I’m letting everyone look at my homework for third period algebra class.

I then gave myself three separate hourly wages; $20, $10 and $7.25 per hour. As a public school art teacher, I was earning around $22.50 per hour. I chose $20 (17.98€) per hour as my top-end, because of the length of time I have been a practicing artist, as well as my possessing a bachelors degree in art. The $10 (8.99€) per hour, was a kind of middle of the road kind of hourly wage that I have been paid in past employment situations. $7.25 (6.52€) per hour is the US minimum wage. I also used an arbitrary set price for the given doll of $100 (89.90€), and then worked out how much I would be earning per hour, if the doll sold at that price.

I did not figure the price of materials and tools in the creative process. Nor did I include utility usage (water and electricity), or the square footage of my workspace within the residential apartment in which I live. The element of time was my sole concern for this experiment.

I knew that the $20 per hour wage would make my artwork completely unmarketable. No one would buy one of my dolls for $431.60 (21 hours, 58 minutes to complete doll).Perhaps if I were a better known artist, or had the stamp of approval from a gallery, museum or show space, there could be a possibility of selling my work for that price, but the gallery, museum or show space is going to take a chunk of that money. Many artists like myself have difficulty even getting a foot in the door for spaces like this, because we are (as one gallery owner told me years ago), “You are not a proven seller. I can’t risk the floor space on you.” I’m not saying this is a good or bad thing (that’s a topic for another blog post entirely!) but it’s the way that it is for many artists.

The $10 per hour wage was not an attainable price point either. That $431.60 doll, goes down to $251.80 (226.36€) at the aforementioned hourly wage. Still, much too high for many, many people to readily afford. There have been times in the past in which I have broken down the price of a doll into payments for a buyer who really wanted a piece, but that is few and far between. To be honest, I do that for people that are past customers or who I really trust, because I’ve gotten burned on propositions like this in the past. Really, really burned.

The $7.25 minimum wage in the US brings the price further down to $156.45 (140.64€). For a set few people, perhaps the types of people who regularly buy artwork from local or regional artists at galleries and shows could purchase them. But if they don’t like  style of my work, or are part of the ‘niche’ that gets my work, likes my work and wants to own my work, the chances of them putting money down for my work, even at this lowest price, is relatively slim.

When I set an arbitrary price of $100 on this piece, my hourly wage is $4.63 (4.16€) per hour. And remember, I’ve not even factored in the tools, materials, rent and utilities involved in creating the piece of artwork. There is also the personal and professional efficacy (knowledge, experience and ability) involved in the creation of the piece. Nor is there any accounting for the creativity and personal artistic expression accounted for in this calculation.

Now, all of this being said, I do not feel that the world owes me. That the world must buy my artwork. No. Not at all. Nothing is guaranteed like that in life. It would be super-nice if I could occasionally sell my artwork at prices that better reflect my personal investment of time, efficacy, energy, creativity and craftsmanship into the artwork itself. For those reading this, I would hope that the next time you look at the price tag of a piece of artwork in a gallery, or at an arts sale, that you stop and think before rolling your eyes at the high price. Know that there is a lot of furious, dedicated work going on prior to you setting eyes on it. When you buy that artwork, you are buying a part of a persons life. A specific length of time, a period in the evolution of their own unique creative vision, that has come and gone and left the artwork as a mile-marker. If you love the work and can afford it, buy it! If you can’t buy it, but still love it, please tell the artist how much you love it and appreciate their time and energy being spent in the pursuit of making the world more unique and beautiful. Please do not say, “Wow. You have a lot of time on your hands!

My Odd Ends

Many years ago, when I was in university studying art, I took a series of illustration courses that I loved. I remember getting the syllabus and list of required tools and supplies and among the board, pencils, markers, etc., was listed “Library Card”. I thought this was kind of odd. The instructor explained that a great deal of the illustrators job is doing research for their work. A good illustrator needed to know where and how to find visual references that can aide them in creating the illustrations that they will be paid to create. It had never occurred to me that an illustrator would have to do research for their work. I was very young, and not at all even remotely experienced as an illustrator or graphic designer. Needless to say, I learned a great deal during my four years in art school. The least of which was ‘get a library card so you can do research’.

There is a distinct similarity between my recent entrepreneurial endeavors and that first day of illustration class, however, no one has handed me a list of required tools, supplies and materials to help me with my business. No, that is not true. I have had immense amounts of help from Työbileet and their fantastic staff. It’s because of them, and what they’ve taught me that I can recognize the challenges and potential problems getting my business up and running, while at the same time, making sure that I’m designing a business that is a reflection of who I am as a person and how I want to be as an artist and art teacher in the greater world.

I have a notebook that I map out my website posts in. I jot down notes about what I want to write about, when I want to post new artwork for sale, and ideas about where I want to take the website in the future, as a vehicle for my business as an artist and art teacher. Keeping this notebook and jotting down these notes has helped me to have some good aha moments regarding a project I’m working on for my business. Some of these aha moments have been arrived at after I’ve done some online research into questions like, ‘Is anyone else doing this?‘ and ‘Is there a market for this?‘ Even more important for me, “What is the context in which I wish to present this work?

There are other things in the notebook that are kind of at odd ends. Questions that I haven’t been able to answer, but which require additional research to help me make the right decisions for myself and my business.

Showing My Artwork:

I want to be showing my artwork more, both locally and regionally. My artwork doesn’t neatly fit into any one specific category. I make dolls, but they aren’t toys. I work in three dimensional mixed media, utilizing textile and fiber art. Some of the most logical venues, after some inquiry are just not open to me (Read: “They are in no way, shape, or form interested in showing or selling my work.”)

Part of me would think that language would be a barrier to finding these places and making the types of contacts, but it’s not. I read Finnish a lot better than I speak it, so I found many places to show artwork, but…it’s not the kind of place that would show my personal artwork.

I’m not in any way throwing up my hands and saying, “FINE!” I just need to keep looking and keep asking, and looking and asking. Hopefully without becoming an annoying bit of baggage in the bargain. And the benefit of all the looking and asking is, my Finnish will hopefully get better!

Teaching Art and Doll Making:

Recently, I was offered the opportunity to teach two art workshops at a local educational venue. I worked with the super cool staff and created two courses that we felt would be attractive to their students. Neither class received enough students, so each of the art workshops had to be cancelled. I was bummed-out about it, as I was so looking forward to teaching the workshops.

I’m an art teacher and I’ve got loads, heaps and bucket-fulls of lessons that I can teach. Since moving here, I’ve been concentrating on designing and creating art workshops and seminars for teenagers and adults. It’s been a lot of fun for me, because I love researching, designing and implementing art curriculum. I feel like I have so much to offer, but no place in which to offer it to anyone, which can be kind of depressing.

While thinking about what I could have done to make the art workshops that got cancelled more attractive to potential students, the thought struck me that I was trying to make myself fit into an educational institutions preconceived idea of what an art workshop or seminar is. I was making myself dependent upon a larger institution granting me an opportunity to teach art, instead of giving myself the go-ahead to teach art on my own, outside of that larger, more established institution. That sounds weird, doesn’t it?

When looked at from a different angle, I can teach art workshops and seminars to whomever I wish — well, to whomever wants to have me teach them, and I can decide on things like pricing for the workshop, and the venue, and the materials and techniques taught. That sudden revelation made it clear that I have other options. I just need to sort them out and see what I can make of them.

While it would still be super-nice to teach in one of these established educational institutions, I’m not going to sit on a log and cry and whine and moan because they’re not offering to have me teach in them. I will need to find my own way on this front, and that’s a good thing in the long run.

Etsy:

Let me first say, I don’t want to sell my artwork on Etsy. I’ve tried it in the past and it did not work for me. I think I made five sales total, and three of them were to people I knew. Etsy can be a great venue for lot of creators. It’s a ready made market place for crying-out-loud! What’s not to love about that?

Etsy’s not for me. I feel as if my artwork is lost on the platform. My work would just be one more handmade doll in a veritable sea of handmade dolls. I also don’t feel like my work belongs there because it’s not what sells on Etsy. I struggle to put it into the correct words, but my dolls, my artwork, they exist in this weird outer ether of not quite being Art (with that all-important capital A) and not quite “Craft” (in parenthesis, and with a capital C), and for these reasons, I don’t feel my work is right for Etsy.

I’d been trying to ignore the idea of putting my work on Etsy for quite a while, hoping that it would just go away and leave me alone. I decided to do some research in the hopes that I could make a decision that was good for me and my artwork and I found this site online. It’s worth the read and it did help me to make up my mind about Etsy for the foreseeable future.

Wow. I don’t belong in an Art gallery or on Etsy. So, where do I belong? Well, for right now, I belong on my own website, showing my own artwork and selling my own artwork. This feels right, so I won’t be changing it any time soon.

So as you can see, out of the three odd-ends, two are still more or less still at odd ends, with the third being fairly settled for the time being. There’s still a lot more work to do regarding teaching and showing my work, and while it would be so fantastically amazing if suddenly I got a teaching job or a local/regional gallery or association of artists would say, “Come! Be with us! Show your work here! Come to our meetings! There will be coffee and cake!” (“Tulkaa! Ole kanssamme! Näytä työsi täällä! Tule kokouksiin! Tulee kahvia ja kakkua!“) Because in any meeting in Finland, there is coffee, sometimes cake, or buns, or cookies, but always coffee. But it’s not a perfect world, and that’s just not going to happen, and that’s okay.

PS: I do have a card for the local library, so…I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

Release the Dolls!

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

ANYWAY…

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

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

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

 

My Mistakes

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

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

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

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

1. No Advertising:

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

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

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

2. People Didn’t Like Them:

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

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

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

3. They Aren’t Traditional Dolls:

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

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

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

So…now what?

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

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

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