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Large Scale Life Changes

Changes are never easy, even when they are needed. Personally, I love my routines and I love change equally. Perhaps at my age it’s what change can offer that I find attractive. When my life changes, so does my artwork. And I do love exploring new places, meeting new people, and trying new things. Change can be fun, while at the same time not being incredibly easy. This is where I find myself as I write this.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me give you a brief update of some of the events going on regarding my entrepreneurial exploits of the past week.

Workshop:

I was invited by Nuorten Taidetyöpaja to give an art workshop last week. The people in charge of the program asked me to present my Guatemalan worry doll workshop. It was so nice to be back in an arts educational space with eager and talented people to work with! I had so much fun sharing my artwork, ideas and creative art methods with everyone in the workshop.

The pandemic hit just when I was beginning to venture out an offer arts workshops locally. I had to change around my business model to selling physical artwork instead of arts instruction. The results of which are still mixed at best. Getting to put my teaching toes back into the workshop realm was a lovely gift for me. Mentally, emotionally and creatively beneficial to me.

What has even nicer than being invited to teach one arts workshop was being asked to teach another arts workshop! The lovely people who invited me to give the first Guatemalan worry doll workshop asked me if I could come again in June and present the workshop again. Wow! Of course I said yes! Again, this is so mentally, emotionally, and creatively beneficial to me. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity they’ve given me.

Social media:

I finally bit the bullet and got a Twitter account for myself (@KatieKinsmanArt). I’m still in the early stages of figuring out what I want the account to do for me. Right now, I’m just trying to get the hang of the platform. I feel a bit clunky at it at present.

Twitter has been around for quite a while now. I feel a bit like a late-comer to the whole thing. From a business standpoint, I know that I want to use Twitter to reach a wider audience. Hopefully a few people in this audience might want to read my blog posts or buy my artwork. Again, I’m still just figuring it all out!

Marielle has also gotten a Twitter account (@GoMarielleGo). Again, the hope is to grow her viewers. Her Instagram followers hover around 90 people, give or take 5 or so. I have so many creative directions that I want to take Marielle, but haven’t been able to. I’ve been waiting for some things to happen that would allow me to begin working in a direction that would hopefully mean growth.

The things that are finally happening:

My husband and I are relocating. This part of change is more difficult for me. Mostly because as a visual artist, I have so many supplies, tools, and materials to consider. As well as the physical artwork I’ve created for exhibits, and for sale. You never know how much ‘stuff’ you have until you’re having to move to a different location!

I’ve pushed back launching several different projects because I didn’t want relocation to interrupt them. Perhaps this is why I went ahead and got the Twitter ball rolling? It was something new I could do that wouldn’t be up-ended by relocating? Patreon, instructional videos, longer-form Marielle stories, YouTube, a newsletter, etc., are all things that I want and need to start! I just didn’t want to start something big, like shooting videos, only to have them stop because I have to attend to relocating my studio!

I’m not posting any details regarding our relocation until I’m comfortable with it. A large part of my personality likes having a degree of anonymity. Or at least as much as can be allowed as an artist who basically will tell her life story to a complete stranger on the bus.

So…

Now you can see where my mind has been over the past few weeks. I’ve been dealing with depression on top of all of this too. It’s not been necessarily a super-happy-fun-time-explosion if you catch my drift. My husband has been AMAZING throughout all of this. I would not have my website or business without his constant assistance. He also knows that relocation isn’t something I’m terribly keen on. So he’s been doing a lot of work to help me think of this relocation as more of an adventure than a terrible, overwhelming task.

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

 

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Depression

What brought me here today:

To be honest, the past two weeks have not been spectacularly great for me from a mental health standpoint. I’m struggling with some depression right now. My business is not doing as well as I want or need it to. Recent sales (free shipping, discounted prices) that I have promoted for my artwork have been dismal failures. And any attempts to get people to read my blog and/or purchase my artwork from my shop are making exactly zero impact.

Extremely negative thoughts about destroying everything I’ve worked so hard to build over the past three years have been obsessively running through my head every day. Shutting down my website and destroying my artwork being chief among those intrusive thoughts.

So, yeah. Clinical depression is more or less kicking my butt right now. And before I can even hope to move forward, I need to work through (gestures with arms at everything) that I’m presently mired in, mentally and emotionally speaking.

If wishes were horses:

This post is an extremely short one. Mostly because I’m just so not in the mood to talk about how I’m structuring and operating my small business. It’s glaringly apparent to me that whatever I’m doing, it’s all kinds of wrong. I have made a few sales. But they haven’t generated enough for my business to continue moving forward.

I have received many messages of encouragement from people online regarding my artwork. That has been of great help to me. It’s nice to know that there are people who like my artwork. But as all artists know, compliments and likes online don’t help pay the bills. And that’s just a hard fact of life.

So, now what?

Well, I’m going to go work on some artwork. While doing so, I need to have some hard conversations with myself about what I want to do, and where I want my business to go heading into the future.

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

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Advice

What brought me here today:

Over the years, I’ve received a lot of advice regarding my artwork. Some advice has been solicited, and much of it has not. I’m pretty good at weeding out the unsolicited bad advice from the good. However, bad or even confusingly empty advice has a strange effect on me. When this type of advice is given to me while I’m in a particularly depressive state it pisses me off to the point in which I can begin to right my mental health, so to speak.

It’s not that the advice then is suddenly seen was good. No. Not that at all. The advice was very bad. Or perhaps even full of hollow platitudes. Maybe it was even dismissive of me and my work, or feelings. The point is that the bad advice pisses me off intellectually. Once this happens, the bad advice can be seen and understood for what it is. And, what it isn’t.

Sorting it out:

When I receive advice, both solicited and unsolicited. The advice gets put into one of two different categories. One is business. The other is creative. Then I have to consider the source of the advice. If the source is knowledgeable, or perhaps has a high degree of personal and professional experience regarding the type of advice they’re giving, then I feel as though I can consider the advice.

Sometimes, It’s not possible to gauge someone’s knowledge regarding their advice. Many years ago, a man who was at a craft show I was selling my work in told me that I should “...make Minecraft stuff…people would love that…” or something to that effect. My interactions with him were mere seconds long. There was no way I could know one way or the other if he were knowledgeable about art, businesses or being an art-based business.

I could make inferences regarding his knowledge of handmade, original artwork. I could gather that he knew little about copyright infringement. Or about my personal drive to create my own, original artwork. His assumption that making a lot of money being my sole goal was also incorrect. The advice didn’t even get separated into one of the two aforementioned categories. It was dismissed outright.

Critique is different:

It could be argued that the man who advised me to make Minecraft dolls was offering his personal critique of my artwork. Opinion is part of critique, but not the only part. Critique, in the artistic sense, implies that the person offering it has a degree of personal or professional artistic knowledge and arts education to back up their observations and opinions.

Being critiqued as an artist is nothing new for me. I’ve participated in many of them as a student, and supervised them as an art teacher. Those offering their critique of a specific piece of artwork are either artists themselves, or arts instructors within the workshop, classroom or arts gathering.

When a person who is an artist, artisan or craftsperson themselves critiques your artwork. And by critique, I mean, tells you the good and the bad things about your artwork. Their critique comes from a place of greater understanding than say, a randomly selected person off the street who has no practical experience with creating artwork. Or the tools, techniques, history and culture of art creation.

Reaching out:

Personally, I have to have a degree of trust and faith in a person before asking them for advice regarding my artwork or entrepreneurial endeavors. I ask people who I see as more successful that I am, because they must know more than I do. Because of course they do! Right?

The answer to that isn’t clear cut. Sometimes they know more, and gladly offer you advice. There are other times when you discover that they don’t know as much as you think they do. Which can be disappointing. Especially when proffered advice is at best some hollow platitude. And at worst, something that gives you DeForrest Kelley face.

Engage intellect:

I think what this kind reaction does something very important for me. It makes me realize that I am not as inept an art entrepreneur as I think I am. I don’t know everything. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

What I needed was to step back and take a look at who I am, and why I’m doing it. In the end, I came back around to David Bowie’s advice for artists. You can read them here in a post I wrote almost three years ago. Bowie’s not offering any entrepreneurial advice. Only artistic advice for creative people.

For me to follow his advice, compromises on my part have been made. One them is that actually selling my artwork is alway going to be a challenge. I make my artwork primarily for me. And finding the people who are somewhat like me, who want to purchase my artwork, has not been easy. The result is that I have low sales.

Consequences:

This is my trade-off. I make the artwork that I find creatively fulfilling, but struggle to make enough money from the sales to pay my way in the world. When I think about creating art to satisfy someone else’s wants and needs. It feels so incredibly wrong to me. This may be one of the key identity traits that made me a not-so-great graphic designer.

While there are repetitive elements within my larger body of artwork, I don’t continue make art that no longer holds any creative interest for me. I may return to them from time to time. But I don’t simply crank-out artwork with the sole intension being for it to attractive to potential customers. Nor do I make work that mimics other art creators successfully selling artwork.

Sometimes I need to stop and remind myself why I’m creating my small art business the way that I am. Just because someone has a larger audience and/or more customers, does not mean that they will offer any advice to me that is in any way helpful to me. Either in the creative or entrepreneurial realms.

So, now what?

I go back to work. There are several different things that I want to do, that are currently in a holding pattern. Things that I can’t start work on until other things are sorted out and settled. My asking for advice from someone was due in part to feeling as though my business plans are stuck in the mud. Getting pissed-off at the bad advice made me go back to my long-term plans. And realize that I know who I am and where I’m going. It’s just going to take me a while to get there.

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

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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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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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Fresh Hell

Instagram:

I’m not new to Instagram. My personal account has been active now for more than five years. Over time, my account has become less about showing snapshots from everyday life in Finland, to a platform in which I share my artwork and my artistic process. With the exception of a mental health break of a month during the summer, I’m posting photos to Instagram every single day.

My Instagram following is not huge. 1,184 followers for my main katie_kinsman_in_finland account. And 56 followers for my go_marielle_go account. There has been a noticeable drop-off in the likes in which the posts on my main account have been garnering. And I have struggled to gain any measurable increase in the number of people following the Go Marielle account.

New hashtags have been added to each of these accounts. I use hashtags in English and in Finnish for both of them. This seemed to temporarily fix the issues I was having. But not for long. Once again, I found that my followers began to fall, and the likes that I was getting were fewer and fewer and fewer.

It was time to do a little research.

Shadowbanning:

This term is new for me. I had no idea what it was all about. So I did some reading. According to Hub Spot (1), shadowbanning is “the act of banning a users content on social media sites, in such a way that the user doesn’t know it’s happening.” What this boils down to is that my content can still be seen by those that follow me. But as far as getting my posts in front of NEW people, that would not be happening.

WHAT?! What did I do to be shadowbanned?!

Well, it has more to do with the types of hashtags that I’m using. It was recommended that I try looking up the hashtags I regularly use to see if my posts were listed within the group. Two of the most common hashtags I use are #dollartist and #artdoll. I actually sat down and looked through all 220,000 posts with those hashtags and not one of my posts came up.

Now, remember when I said that I use English and Finnish hashtags? The same hashtags, literally translations, into Finnish are #nukketaide and #taiteilijanukke. When those hashtags are searched, my photos appear. There are far fewer Finnish speakers on the planet than English speakers. The population of Finland is around 5.518 million people. Compared to the population of the US, at around 330 million people. New York City has a population over 8 million. There are more New Yorkers than Finns on the planet.

What’s wrong with my hashtags?

Well, my Finnish hashtags are working. So I’ve got that going for me. But what about my English hashtags? What am I going to do to try and fix this problem?

Basically, shadowbanning exists as a means to control the amount of inappropriate or spammy content that’s ever-present on social media platforms like Instagram (2). A user can just attach a lot of hashtags that have NOTHING to do with the post or photo, and end up getting tons of views.

I noticed while looking up the English hashtags I mentioned earlier, that there were several dozen pictures of stacks of cash that were hashtagged ‘artdoll’ and ‘dollartist’. So I suppose the algorithm isn’t doing as good a job as it could be doing.

My mind cannot quite understand why the photos of my original, handmade, cloth art dolls are being snagged by this algorithm though. The vast majority of the ‘artdoll’ and ‘dollartist’ posts had mass-marketed, ball-jointed dolls. There were tons of Blythe-type dolls, as well as repaints from Barbie, Monster High and Bratz as well. Figuring this aspect out may take me a bit longer I think.

Selling Online:

To get down to brass tacks, the reason why figuring this out is so important for me is because I am extremely limited in my ability to sell my artwork in venues like art or craft-types of fairs or gatherings. Circumstances have limited the size of many different types of gatherings, including those instances in which I might be able to sell my work face to face with customers.

Selling my work online is important. It’s incredibly important for me to be able to get my work out and in front of people who are scrolling through their Instagram feeds. The shadowban for me as an entrepreneur and art creator can be a death sentence. And weird thoughts of piling up all my unsold artwork into a bonfire and burning it all to ash start creeping in.

Is this an upsale?

I’ve wondered if this is just Instagram attempting to get me to purchase ads. I know that Instagram is owned by Facebook. One of the many reasons I shut down my Facebook presence was because I felt I was being increasingly pushed to purchase advertising. My posts, especially those linked to my Instagram account were routinely not shown to my Facebook audience.

I’ve noticed that my Finnish hashtags have increased my Finnish and Nordic followers. Because of this, Instagram is putting more ads from Finnish and Nordic artists into my feeds. Often, when I click through to look at their Instagram account, they have 170, 300 or 670 followers and like ten posts total over a 12 month period. Did they buy the ads because they were getting shadowbanned too? Did they feel like buying the ads was the only way to increase their numbers?

So…now what?

There are several different solutions that I’ve researched. I take all of them with a grain of salt. Mostly because many of them are aimed at Instagram ‘Influencers’. This is a category that I am so, so, so not a part of! Some of the solutions are easy, like changing up my hashtags. Others may take a little more effort, like creating Instagram stories. I could also switch to an Instagram Business account. One of the sourses I looked at, suggested not purchasing followers. One site (Later) was offering to sell me an app to help with all these problems too. And no. I’m not buying their software.

If these solutions don’t work, I really have no recourse. Instagram already knows that shadowbanning is a problem. I don’t see the doing anything that would fundamentally assist me in growing my business. After all, they are owned by Facebook. A corporation, just like every other, that is set-up to make money for its shareholders. Not me.

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

Links:

(1.) The Hub Spot Everything You Need to Know About Instagrams Secret Shadowban

(2.) Later Is the Instagram Shadowban Killing Your Engagement? Here’s How to Fix It (Take this link with a grain of salt. It’s run by a company that wants to sell you it’s product.)

These two links had some interesting things to say as well:

Hootsuite The Top Instagram Updates

Search Engine Watch How to Optimize for the Instagram Algorithm in 2020

Plann 10 Tricks for Gaining New Followers on Instagram Everyday (And they want to sell you something too! Man. That grain of salt needs to be baseball sized.)

 

 

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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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Exit Stage Left

I’m leaving Facebook

Leaving has been on my mind from time to time for the past year. It’s come to the forefront of my thoughts in the past few months for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons are personal, while others are totally professional.

During this past year, Facebook become a social media tool in which I share my artwork and my entrepreneurial endeavors with friends and family. It was a way to maintain connections. To show those who are half-way around the world what I’m doing with my time here in Finland.

Truth be told, I rarely sit down and write a post exclusively for Facebook anymore. Most of my posts are shared from my Instagram account. Over the past two or three weeks, I’ve noticed that Facebook is no longer sharing my Instagram photos. Even when I make sure that all the links are turned on. The past year has shown a decline in the variety of people engaging in my Facebook account as well. There tend to be the same two dozen or so people who comment, share, like, etc., on any of my Facebook posts.

The past four years or so have seen me consciously unfollow, unfriend and ‘snooze’ more people than I thought I ever would on Facebook. Most of those to whom I’ve done this have been because the content that they post I find disturbing. I shan’t go into exactly what the disturbing content is, but if you know me personally, or have been following me for a while, you can pretty much guess what kind of disturbing content I’m alluding to. And I’ll leave it at that.

Use of social media platforms as an entrepreneur

I’m incredibly fortunate to have a husband with a business and marketing degree. The entrepreneurial plans that I had prior to March 2020 had to be placed aside and new plans implemented when the world went into lockdown and then social distancing mode. The business plans I had prior to (gestures at virtually everything going on in the world at present) did a very sharp 80 degree turn, resulting in my increased reliance on social media platforms as tools to build my business.

I did a website re-do. Updated my content. Built an online storefront. Spent countless hours photographing, cataloging and entering data into my WooCommerce  extension. It was hard work and not always super-fun either. But it was worth it for me.

My website is mine. I decide on the content. My shop is located on my site it as well. It’s my home-base online. My husband explained that I needed to have a presence online that was mine, and mine alone. Something not subject to the whims of a multi-billion dollar business, like Facebook, or Instagram, or Pinterest (Yeah, I know Facebook owns Instagram). It was fine to have a presence on those platforms, but I wasn’t to pin all my entrepreneurial hopes on those platforms building my business for me. Those businesses were out to make money for themselves, not me.

No one should put all their entrepreneurial eggs in someone else’s business basket.

Social platforms I’ve used

Instagram and Facebook are the two social media platforms that I’ve used the most. I’ve also dabbled with Pinterest and Imgur. I’ve treated these social media platforms as satellites of my website. In changing my business model to one of selling a physical product (art) and away from teaching and instruction, I’ve also had to change how I use social media platforms to promote myself and my artwork.

Facebook

What I’ve learned is that my Facebook and Imgur accounts do not result in any increase in sales via my online shop. I have had a few sales via Facebook, but those were to people who already know me personally, not new customers. The people purchasing my artwork via Facebook contacted me directly. Imgur resulted in no sales, but some excellent conversations with people about my artwork. This was a nice surprise.

Pinterest

Strangely, Pinterest has driven people to my website, but has resulted in nothing more than a cursory look at my Welcome page and perhaps a peek into my online gallery. When I dug around to see why this was, I found that someone had tagged a set of drawings that I did almost a decade ago in the art classroom on Pinterest. Those people linking through to my website wanted to see a style of artwork that I am no longer doing. So they left.

Instagram

If I had to pick a favorite social media platform, it’s Instagram. I’ve been able to share my artwork with many people. And met with some brilliant, unique and talented artists from around the world as well. My following is not big. But I do have people on Instagram who do take the time to click through to my website and read my blog on occasion. I’ve also had some sales as a result of my activity on this platform. People who do not know me, but see and like my artwork.

What is best for me as a small business

A big part of doing well as this whole entrepreneurial small business thing is being a one-horse operation. It’s just me making the artwork that I try/want to sell. As well as an incredible amount of help from my husband. I sit here, in my gross sweatpants, alone at my desk, typing away on my ancient MacBook Pro, with a history documentary on my headphones, writing this blog post.

Precisely because it’s just me working at my business, I need to spend my time on different aspects of the business that will yield the greatest possible benefits. Anything that takes up too much time and provides no discernible benefit must be eliminated.

What social media is going to be kept?

Presently, I’m keeping Instagram, both my personal account katie_kinsman_in_finland and go_marielle_go. People can connect with me easily there through comments and direct messaging. Go Marielle! is a creative endeavor I’m having a lot of fun with. And I hope to continue building the character through a variety of different storylines in the future.

Ko-fi is another that I’m keeping. I’m not sure where I’ll go with it, but I need a little more time and data to figure that out. My Pinterest accounts will remain open, but I won’t be super-active on them. I’ve no interest in creating a Twitter account, and never have. I see how it has affected my husband in the past and present. I do not need that kind of stress in my life.

Imgur will be kept, but more for the sharing of pictures and the pleasant contact I’ve had with Imgurians online.

And, of course, my website and shop will be kept. They are my home base. I’m in as much control as I can be here. I know some multi-billion dollar company owns WordPress and WooCommerce. There’s no illusion on my part as to this fact. However, I do get a bit more control over my online presence. And for me that’s incredibly important.

But wait! Have you considered…(insert thought/idea/feeling)?

Getting the most as a small business out of social media platforms requires frequent and active participation in a variety of them. Again, I refer you to the fact that I am one person. The online and social media portions of my business are just that, portions of my business. Time is required for me to actually sit down and physically create artwork to sell. As simple as the Go Marielle! stories and photos are, they take a lot of time to create.

I do enjoy working/creating content on my computer. I use Canva a lot. And the new version of GIMP is something that is making my online postings better. Canva and GIMP are low to no-cost, which is terrific for a one-horse operation like mine. If money were no object I would love to have Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to work with. But you know, if wishes were horses…

And to put a finer point on it, I’m a visual artist. My brain is the happiest and most balanced when I’m working with my hands. I’m the most engaged in my creative process when I am actually creating the artwork itself. Yeah. I have a tremendous amount of fun creating for Go Marielle!, but a large chunk of the work is via my ancient MacBook Pro and hitting keys just doesn’t give me the same feeling of completeness that working on a physical piece of artwork does.

Now what?

In the end, I’m trying to make a place in which I am content with myself. A place where I can feel content as an artist and as an entrepreneur. The internet and social media platforms are all great tools that I can use to help me achieve my entrepreneurial goals. But it should be remembered that they are run by corporations whose main goal is to make money for their shareholders, not for a one-horser like me.

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

 

The Social Dilemma (2020) Netflix — It’s a an interesting documentary. I think it’s worth the time to watch it.

Exit…Stage Left, Rush (1981) and you can give the album a listen here. You’ve probably figured out by now that I’m a big fan of Rush. They were an amazing band to experience live and I’m happy to have these live albums around.

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Speed of Creation

Recently, I found myself focusing on a group of similar comments centered around the speed in which I create my artwork. The exact reasons for my focus on these comments eluded me. It’s not that the comments bothered me. Instead, they just seemed incredibly odd to me.

Why would the seemingly quick completion of a piece of artwork I’m creating require pointing out? Spending as much time in my own head as I do, the length of time it takes me to complete a given piece of art doesn’t matter all that much to me. The artwork happens at its own pace and in its own time. It’s finished when it’s finished.

But I think there is more to this.

Speed of Creation:

I’m aware of the passage of time. In fact, I have a rather fine-tuned sense of time and its passing. As a single artist building her own brand and business, I work seven days a week. There is always something that requires me to be working on it.

There are online and social media platforms that require monitoring, as well as new additions. Emails that need to be answered. Updates that need to be installed. Blog posts that need to be written. And photos that require processing before they can be posted.

This of course is sometimes lost when I’m in a flow state. This happens most often when I’m in the act of creating my own physical artwork (sometimes when I’m working on photos). Several hours can pass without my realizing it. Flow state just makes the time slip past so quickly. My focus is on the artwork I’m creating. Nothing else matters much outside of that.

I feel as though the perception by others of my ‘speed’ in creating artwork is due to several factors.

Possible Perceptions Regarding Speed:

Those who remark on my speed of creation have much more complicated lives than I do. Children, errands, friends, family obligations, yards, gardens, meals to cook, people to pick up and drop off, and jobs to go to. They cannot quite imagine finding enough time in their busy schedules to do what I do.

I don’t have many of the things I’ve listed above. Those things that require so much time and attention. My life is constructed so that I can use the greatest amount of time to create artwork. I get up in the morning, have breakfast with my husband, then go off to my desk to work on art production and the business end of my entrepreneurial endeavors. There are no kids. No yard or garden. My job doesn’t require me to drive to it.

I have a pesky habit of reading between the lines of statements. Usually this happens when I start chewing on them mentally. As an American, I cannot divorce myself from the cultural lenses in which I view the world around me. Because of this, part of me wonders if what is between the lines of “You work so fast!” is the implication that my work is not quality work and not worth the prices I ask for it.

Quality of the Work Created:

Being told that the quality of my artwork is amazing is very appreciated. Having someone see, and comment on the details that I painstakingly add to each and every piece of the artwork is incredibly satisfying as well.

If the artwork I make doesn’t look ‘right’ to me, then I change it. That may mean that I add several more layers of sealant to a paper mâché piece, or I take apart doll because the legs just are not level. It may mean that I completely change the color scheme, because what I wanted to use is just not making me happy.

The quality of my work is something that I’ve been working on since the first time I picked-up a crayon as a toddler. Each successive piece of artwork helps me to hone my skills. Making each piece of art after that one better. The constant attention to the quality of my work is also related to the speed in which I create. I get better and quicker at the specific artwork created.

Possible Perceptions Regarding Quality:

Here is one of those times in which I run everything through my personal American culture filters. The US is a consumer society. You are advertised to through almost everything that you see and hear during the day or night. There are so many businesses and companies vying for consumers dollars. Many of them using the tactics to get those dollars. Some offer more for less. The more you can purchase for the least amount of money is seen as a good thing. Regardless of the quality of the workmanship of the items being purchased.

When I create a one-of-a-kind 9 cm fairy doll using my own patterns and designs and put a price on it of 65€, there are those who question my pricing. It does not matter how well made or unique the piece of artwork is. What matters is that the consumer is getting a very small thing for a large price. In the eyes of some, their money would be better spent on a mass produced doll for 10€ at a chain store like Walmart or Target.

This does raise some questions regarding the perception of my artwork in general as well. Yes, I make dolls. Art dolls. Dolls that are made by me are not the type of doll that you can or should hand to a small child to play with. So yeah. How my artwork is perceived factors into this as well.

Cost of the Finished Artwork:

When purchasing artwork, there is always the question of what the “real cost” of the artwork is. Again, this relates to time and quality of the artwork. Yes, I can work seemingly quickly. Approximately 30 to 50% of the raw materials I use in the creation of my artwork are up-cycled, recycled and second hand in origin. There are other materials that I find locally in shops that are low cost as well.

This might seem like I’m cutting corners. Or not using the best quality materials to create my work. That’s not the case at all. I work with the tools and materials that speak to me. A large part of the joy I derive from creating my artwork is that I take things that might be seen as less-than, or trash to some, and turn them into something imaginative and beautiful.

And then, there is the time I have spent over almost 40 years of creating, learning and growing as an artist. The price of a single piece of artwork is never, ever just the price of the materials used to create it, or just the time it took to create it.

Possible Perceptions of Costs:

I do take great care in the pricing of my artwork. The prices that have been assigned to individual pieces have been thought about a great deal. In many instances, the final cost of the product for the customer works out to only a few dollars/euros per hour at best.

When it comes to the final cost of a piece of my artwork, the time (speed) and quality come into play within the mind of the customer. “Well, if she can make these so fast, they should cost less!” or “If these cost so much, then the quality should be better!” or perhaps even, “For this price, she should make the dolls bigger!

All of these are questions a customer can ask themselves. The reality is, of the three; time (speed), quality and cost, you can have two, but not all three. There will have to be a sacrifice made somewhere. You want quality and speed? Be prepared to pay more. You want a low priced, quality product, then be ready to sacrifice the speed in which you get the work. If speed and a low cost are what you desire, then the quality of the work is going to be lacking.

So Now What?

I don’t know that there is any easy way to solve this problem. The Iron Triangle (I love that name.) is just one of many different project management and business tools that I can use to gauge my progress as an entrepreneur. Strangely, I’ve taken some comfort in researching the Iron Triangle. A big take-away for me is that sometimes it’s not all about me and my artwork (products). Many times, it’s about the potential customer.

The longer that I work on marketing myself as an artist and on my business plans, the more I realize that there are simply some people who will never be my customer. They will never purchase my artwork. And that’s totally okay. What this means for me, is that I shouldn’t spend my limited resources (time, energy, creativity and money) attempting to make them understand my work and why it’s worth the money. And again, that is totally okay.

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

Links:

Speed is the Key, Sugarcubes – This is the Sugarcubes song mashed with a Commando Cody serial from the early 1950’s. If you’re a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, you’ve seen quite a few Commando Cody shorts!

Speed is the Key is from Here Today, Tomorrow and Next Week!, 1989 (The year I graduated from high school!)

Good, Fast, Cheap: You Can Only Pick Two!

The Iron Triangle (Product Management Triangle)