Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

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!

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!

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.

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.

 

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!

Doll Patterns for Sale!

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

Monster Dolls:

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

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

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

 

Easy Peasy Doll Pattern:

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

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

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

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

I’m a Jerk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again. I digress.

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

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

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

This post brought to you by the following links:

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

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

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

The Bugs are Taking Over!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Musical Links:

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

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

Elvis Costello and the Attractions  Radio, Radio (1978)

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

You Must Advertise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facebook:

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

Website:

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

Instagram:

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

Flyers:

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

YouTube:

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

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

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

 

Candle Holder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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