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Strange Indeed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Problem I’m Solving For

via GIPHY

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

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

Potatoes, po-tah-tos. I’m back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ANYWAY…

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

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

PS:

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

 

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Break

Last Thursday, I created a post for my Instagram account. I’ve been wrestling with some challenges* in my creative, artistic and entrepreneurial plans for some time. Some of these challenges I couldn’t predict (pandemics, lock-downs, social distancing, etc.). Some challenges were ones that I thought I would be better at weathering at this point in my life. While I feel as though I’m doing pretty-kind-of okay most of the time, there are other times in which I know I’m most definitely not doing “okay”.

I need to be “okay”.

I think Sarah Anderson described my current situation best her cartoon below:

The pervasive societal myth of the artist as unhappy, depressive who creates art from their own horrible mental and physical existence is a topic for another post. There’s a lot to unpack in regards to that myth that I want to say, as it relates to me personally as an artist. But like I said, it’s another post topic for another time.

Back to the topic at hand…

I am not happy with where my creative endeavors and my entrepreneurial efforts are going. My efforts are not yielding the desired results. Due to a lot of my own personal mental and emotional experiences (read: “baggage”, and again, a post topic for another time) this is causing an inordinate amount of pain for me. Please know, when I say “pain” understand what I mean. My current situation hurts me. I pay attention my mental health. As a person diagnosed with clinical depression, who is medicated, it’s important to know when I’m not feeling right and why. This could mean that I need to have my meds adjusted, or it could mean that I need to alter things within my life to address whatever is making me not “feel right”. Or in this case, I need to address something that is causing me mental, and increasingly physical pain.

What I need to do is remove myself from a situation that is causing me pain. Right now, that means I need to take a step back from posting my art and my artistic processes on social media. I need to take a break for a while so I can figure out the changes that I need to make to my creative artwork and my entrepreneurial plans for the future so that I can be happy and relatively pain-free. I can’t do that when I’m not feeling right. When I’m in pain. When I am unhappy.

I’ve been working on a piece for the past few weeks. It’s a large, papier maché doll that is intended to sit on top of a dollhouse, complete with furniture. I’ve enjoyed working on this piece a great deal. There’s a lot going on within it. Lots of moving parts. Lots of different inspirations. Lots of references from my own life, culture and experiences. I realized several days ago that the compartments on the side of the head were much too small to hold the spooled embroidered felt banner/backdrop I had created. I had two viable options: 1.) make the banner/backdrop smaller somehow so it would fit what was already made, or 2.) take apart the head, make requisite repairs as well as a new set of housings for the banner/backdrop.

As difficult as it was, I chose the second option. I have an intense dislike for destroying anything, especially things that I have made myself. I suppose it’s hard-wired into my identity to create, rather than destroy.

 

This morning, when I looked at the corrections I had made to my artwork, I was much happier. What had made me so unhappy about the piece had been adjusted. I could see that even through I had to go in a different direction than I was normally comfortable, the end result was my own contentment as an artist.

So…what does this break from social media look like?

  1. I’m going to take a month off from social media. (June 15 to July 15, 2020)
  2. I won’t be posting any pictures of my artwork in process or of my finished artwork.
  3. I will continue to make artwork. I just will not be posting it on social media or anywhere else online.
  4. I will post here on my website once a week on Mondays (June 15, 22, 29 and July 6 and 13)

I am hopeful that this time away from social media will give me some pain-free breathing space to figure out what I want to progress with my entrepreneurial plans going forward.

 

*Challenges” — I’m using this turn of phrase as a substitution for other possible words like, difficulties, problems, trouble, issue, worry, mess, obstacle, setback, hitch, stumbling block, quandary, setback, headache, etc.

Links:

Sarah Andersen is a phenomenal artist. Go look at her stuff. If you don’t want to buy my work, buy hers.

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Your Move

“Close ups reveal the weaknesses of the whole premise.” (1)

I didn’t write any update for my entrepreneurial pursuits last Wednesday. I was just not in a good place mentally speaking to do so. I’m an ambivert, so I’ve been relying a lot on my more introverted tendencies throughout this weird time. Staying in, making art and basically nesting, has been totally okay with me until last week. The staying in and maintaining social distance is beginning to wear a bit thin for me. My husband is far more introverted than I am, and is also is a person who is in a higher risk category related with COVID-19 infection. This means that even as the restrictions are eased a bit here, we’re still social distancing and continuing with other precautions.

I don’t mean to say that I’m climbing the walls or anything. I’m just beginning to get tired of it. I know myself well enough that I need to acknowledge my feelings so they don’t get so large and cumbersome that I find myself becoming overwhelmed by them. I know myself well enough that figuring out my feelings takes me some time, and I need to let them percolate through my mind so that I feel as though I understand them, myself and how I’m reacting to them.

Making art is my therapy. Making art is my passion. Teaching people how to make art is my vocation. Selling my artwork is (sometimes) my Waterloo, or perhaps my windmill? It could be many things.

If only I could pay my bills in personal fulfillment. My life would be damned near perfect!

ANYWAY…

I’ve been working on some new pieces and have begun some planning for some larger and more complicated pieces. My artwork to a great extent, guides and informs itself. I’m basically the one with the thumbs that brings the art into existence. I’ve had some things (ideas, thoughts, concepts, techniques, materials, etc.) swimming around inside my head for quite a while that I feel are ready to be created.

This is one of the hardest things to try and explain to a person who does not make art of their own. Differentiating between when it’s time to create a piece of art and when it’s not. There are some pieces, like the series of small dolls that I’ve been working on for the past few months, in which I can have an idea, sit down and complete the piece in relatively short order. I can see the results of the idea fairly quickly, then move on to the next idea. I can process through a lot of smaller ideas and acquire a lot of creative, emotional and mental satisfaction in doing so. I suppose I could liken my creative processes in this regard to hors d’overs and a main course. One is a lead-up to the next.

To date, the largest and the smallest of the dolls that I have created.

The part that can be the most baffling is knowing when is “when”. I cannot pinpoint when an idea or concept is ready to be created. I just know when it’s ready. There seems to be a point in which my brain or my sketchbook just isn’t a satisfying place to work on them anymore. There’s this weird tight-rope walking element to the whole process as well. If I start working on a piece too soon, the entire experience is somehow less satisfying mentally and emotionally for me. The art was not ready to come into existence. On the flip side, I run the risk of losing the entire idea or concept if I begin it too late. The finished piece of art lacks some je ne sais quoi that renders it a failure in my mind.

I’m struggling to discover how to make this sense of knowing work for me as an entrepreneur attempting to sell her artwork. My sense of knowing when to do something, when it’s right for me, should be a transferable skill. This ‘instinct’ for knowing when a my artwork is ready to be created is ephemerally ill-defined. Just because it works well in one capacity does not guarantee that it will work in another, wholly different capacity.

I suppose that when I say instinct, I may be referring efficacy in part. However, I don’t believe that they are the same thing. I see them as related, or perhaps working in concert (or at odds) in different circumstances. Instinct is different from acquired knowledge. Instinct can be based partially on acquired knowledge, but it’s more primal than that. Instinct is a gut-feeling. That little tug on your thoughts that says, ‘Wait a second.‘ This tiny amount of time can be invaluable in decision making processes. It can aid in building positive experiences that are an integral part of personal and professional efficacy. Acquired knowledge is everything learned in structured settings (schools, churches, clubs, etc.) and unstructured settings (family, friends, society, culture, chronosystem, etc.). Every event in my life has added to my acquired knowledge, making me a unique individual.

None of the above will get me a seat on the bus unless I learn how to use it to my personal, and yes, monetary benefit. Otherwise, I will simply be the most self-aware person walking her ass home in the rain.

I hate having to go out in the rain.

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

Links:

(1) Episode 912. “The Screaming Skull.” Mystery Science Theater 3000. Film Short, “Robot Rumpus.” 29 Aug. 1998

(This dialogue is Mike Nelson, during the film short. This short never ceases to make me laugh until I have a stitch in my side. I love MST3K, but some of the comedic writing for the film shorts is some of the best writing from the entire series in my opinion.)

What is an Ambivert?

Ambiverts – Introvert and Extrovert? The Best of Both Worlds

Yes. “I’ve Seen All Good People.” (“Your Move” and “All Good People”), The Yes Album, 1971.

Jethro Tull. “Skating Away on the Thin Ice of a New Day.War Child, 1974.

Natascha Rosenberg. She’s an artist and illustrator whose website I stumbled upon while looking for something else entirely. Her work is tremendously cool. Go and look at it! If you don’t like my work enough to buy it, buy hers!

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Additions + Adjustments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

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What Business?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will just have to sisu myself out of this.

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

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What Box?

Shameless Sales Plug First:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. What kind of workshop would I teach online?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ANYWAY…

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

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

 

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Contact

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

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

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

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

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

Point. Click. Wait. Receive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now What?

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

Until next Wednesday, thank you for reading!

Helpful Links I’m Using Right Now:

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

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

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

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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.

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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.