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Time for Changes

What brought me here today:

I wanted to talk about making new artwork today. But I can’t. Because I’m up to my rear-end in Instagram problems. These problems are highlighting other problems that I’ve needed to work on for some time. So, let’s just get down to brass tacks, shall we?

More like brass knuckles:

Like I said, I wanted to talk about making art. But the business end of my entrepreneurial efforts are just smacking the crap out of me around right now. Those of you who are regular readers of my blog know that I’m very active on Instagram. I post there every day in two separate accounts; Katie_Kinsman_Artist and Go_Marielle_Go.

My Marielle posts range from a single panel, to as many as twenty panels. Today, I have an eighteen panel story that I want to post. The post has to be divided into smaller posts. Which is no big deal. However, over the past few days, Instagram has simply not allowed me to post anything in my regular feed for my personal account or my Marielle account. The account just hangs.

I did manage to get five panels of the eighteen panel story posted to the Marielle account. But directly after posting them, I wasn’t able to post anything else. I resorted to posting eight of the eighteen panels on Marielle’s Twitter account, @Go_Marielle_GO_11. Don’t EVEN get me started with the insanities of my Twitter problems as regarding Marielle.

Control:

Many of the problems I’m encountering with Instagram and Twitter, as well as my online shop, are highlighting the lack of control that I have regarding my sales and marketing. At any time, Instagram and Twitter can keep me from posting. Either by blocking me completely. Or by having an algorithm keep my posts from showing up in feeds.

Part of me thinks that the reason with the shadowy monkey-wrenching of my Instagram accounts has to do with Instagram wanting me to pay them to promote my work. And I don’t have any intensions of doing that. When I discovered that I was shadow-banned due to the hashtags I was using, I simply stopped using them. And my views increased.

Money-Talks-A-Lot:

What I know is that there is nothing I can do to get Instagram, or Twitter, or any other social media platform to work in my personal best interests. Lesson number 1 in using social media platforms: if they’re free, then you are the commodity that is being bought and sold. The only thing Instagram and Twitter are interested in is how much money I can make for them. That’s either by paying them to promote my artwork, or by selling my data.

I don’t want to pay Instagram to promote my artwork. It’s not worth the money. All of the frustrations that Instagram is causing me right now are just pushing me further towards Patreon. They will take a cut of what I make. But when balanced with the level of control I will receive. I don’t think it’s a bad deal.

Art creation:

Okay, there’s a little bit in this post about creating new artwork! My order from Benzie arrived yesterday, via UPS. I’m very excited to use the felt I ordered on Elodia and Daria! Part of the reason I ordered from Benzie is because I wanted to order from a small business. The other reason was the prices. Having the option to ship UPS was also a bonus. Our USPS isn’t great at delivering packages correctly, or on time.

New items in shop:

I’ve also added six new items to my online shop! Kaṭṭippiṭi, Klem, Kyssa, Suudella, Penelope, and Ystävä Tyttö are now listed in my shop! Go and check them out! They are incredibly cute, even though I say it myself. While you’re there, take a look at the Teensie Doll Brooches! They come in three sizes!

Remember, when you buy artwork from a one horse business like me, I do the dance of happiness!

So, now what?

I have so much planning to do for so many different businessy-type things. They are all things that are a long-time coming. But I’m confident that they will be beneficial to my continued entrepreneurial success.

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

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Depression

What brought me here today:

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

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

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

If wishes were horses:

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

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

So, now what?

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

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

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Marketing is Hard

Marketing is…:

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

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

Head scratching:

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

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

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

Exhibiting my artwork:

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

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

Cost of exhibiting:

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

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

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

And then…depression set in:

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

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

It’s a trap:

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

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

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

Machete:

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

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

So, now what:

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

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

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

 

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New Daily Journal

In the first blog post of this series detailing how I organize my time, materials and ideas for art making, I wrote about the daily journal that I maintain. Having my daily journal keeps me mentally focused and moving in one direction. At a glance, I can easily see what I’ve gotten done, and where I need to apply more of my time and energies.

My daily journal is last thing that I touch on my desk at night, and the first thing I touch in the morning. It’s important that it be at my right hand when I sit down to work in the morning. This morning, I finally had to come to terms with the fact that my current daily journal will ‘run out’ as of the 31st of March. My new daily journal would have to be put together. The sooner the better!

New daily journal:

A few weeks ago, I picked up a new blank journal at Suomalainen Kirjakauppa. It’s a little different from my current daily journal. The book itself is a little larger. The paper is thicker, nicer paper too. There’s also a dot graph, instead of a grid on the pages.

The covers are hard book board, with a large wire spiral as a binding. The spiral is large enough for a pen to fit into, which I like. There are red roses illustrated in red ink on the covers, which I’m not fond of. But, it’s not a big deal, because I can just cover it with something I like better.

Large wire spiral bindings aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. My husband detests all spiral bindings. He’s left-handed, so they can be terrifically frustrating for him to write in. I like how the spiral binding allows the book to lay completely flat. I just can’t seem to trust the bullet journals bindings. There’s a part of me that feels as though it’s going to snap shut while I’m writing in it.

Additional parts:

This particular blank journal holds only four months of the year. Believe it or not, this was a point in the books favour. I knew that I would be adding a few new features within my daily journal. These four months give me some time to see if I like the new categories and slightly altered layouts without committing to an entire year.

I’ve added a page at the beginning of each month that is simply a list of the days of the month. There’s also a sticker with the month for 2021 for reference as well. One of the things that I wanted to become better at was long-term planning for the different projects that I work on. This page will let me know (again, at a glance) when I need to post the twice weekly blogs, Go Marielle, a new monthly newsletter as well as other yet to be revealed projects.

The layout for each individual day has also been altered. I’ve added new, separate sections for Go Marielle and the monthly newsletter. And I’ve changed around some headings for each of the different sections so that they better reflect what they actually are about. “Computer Work” was too broad a term. It’s now “Social Media and Marketing”. This just makes more sense.

Colour coding:

Colour coding has always been something that I delight in creating. My favourite element of art is colour. I know when I see green in my daily journal, it has to do with art production. I’ve made yellow the colour for the blog entry category. There are a few new colours have been added for the new categories too.

When putting together my new daily journal, one thing that I wanted to make neater was the colour coding for my categories. My previous daily journal was a little scribbly and less precise than I wanted it to be. I use Stabilo highlighters to colour code my daily journal. Sometimes the highlighters smear the ink if I write first, then highlight.

The solution was to create a template that I would use to add the coloured highlights to each individual page first. Creating the template wasn’t difficult. A page from the back of the new journal was removed. The grid on the page allowed me to easily see where I wanted to create the rectangular holes in the template. The paper template was transferred to a heavier piece of paper and was ready to use.

Blue, green, purple, pink, yellow, yellow, repeat:

The template came together quickly. It took much longer to add each colour to four months of pages. The template was cut so that I just had to align the bottom edge and the first vertical row of dots. Then I added the highlighter colours. While the colours are applied in a much neater manner than my current daily journal, it doesn’t bother me that they aren’t perfect.

The paper is thicker in this new daily journal, so the highlighter doesn’t show through. This made me happier than I thought it would. I use the bright shades of Stabilo highlighters. Sometimes the ink can pop-through the paper a little, especially when you go over something twice or more.

Writing in everything:

By the time I had finished using the template to add in my colours for different sections, they were dry enough to write on. Here again, I decided to make some changes. Stabilo Point 88 Fine Line pens in colour are being used to write over top of the highlighter in each section.

I’ve written each individual day of the month at the top of each page in black permanent fine line pen. I’m also using this same pen to write the list of days as well. I need to add the numbers of the week on the individual pages. As of the time that I’m writing this blog post, I have a lot to write into my new daily journal still!

So, now what?

Well, I need to finish all of the writing for starters! There are also some additional design elements that I want to add, like divider lines between different categories for one. I’m confident that I’ll be ready to use my new daily journal on 1 April 2021!

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next Tuesday!

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Wanted: Art Criticism

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

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

Simple truth:

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

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

The struggle is real:

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

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

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

What?!

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

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

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

Digging for a compliment much?!

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

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

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

Now what?

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

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

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2021 New Year Sale!

I’m having a super-duper big sale to kick-off the new year! If there are any pieces of my artwork that you have been wanting to purchase now is the time! There will be pieces of my artwork pulled from my online shop on January 11, 2021 and no longer offered for sale. So, to reiterate, if you’ve been wanting to purchase a specific piece, you have ten days to do it!

Every piece of artwork in my online shop will be 50% off from 12 (Eastern European Standard Time) January 1, 2021 until 12 (EEST) January 10, 2021. Prices for pieces of artwork remaining in my shop will then revert to their previous prices.

All sales must be made through my online store. The discount applies only to the total cost of the items purchased. Shipping and handling are not discounted.  Given the current states of international shipping, please know that there may be some delays in shipping that are completely out of my hands. Package tracking is available. If interested, please contact me directly for details. All purchases shipped through Finnish Posti.

If you have any questions at all, send me a message through my Contact page!

Thank you for reading, and I’ll talk to you again Friday,

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Emotional Lows and Lack of Traffic

Currently

The last week hasn’t been the best emotionally speaking. Everything I’m doing regarding my business seems to be wrong. And if not exactly wrong, sideways at least.

The reasons for my current emotionally low state is that I’ve been watching my views on Instagram drop, and then drop again (katie_kinsman_in_finland and go_marielle_go). This is also true for my website and shop traffic as well. If you have a website that you post on regularly, and see that not a single person has been to your site in over a week…well, then you know what I’m talking about.

To be very blunt, it all makes me just feel like crap.

Every artist is in the same boat!” No. Nope. NOPE. We’re not going to talk about that right here and right now. That’s another post for another day.

Setting up the mental equation

I don’t like my current state of mind. Petulant and childish is how I categorize it. I call it my ‘kindergarten self’. A large part of me wants to stamp her feet, gather up all of her artwork and yell, “FINE! I’ll just take all my things and leave!” For a person my age, it’s not a pretty picture.

When I’m feeling like this, there is a part of me that seriously wants to pile all my work up down on the beach and light it on fire. The petulant emotions rationalize this by saying, “If the work isn’t ever going to sell. Then get rid of it permanently.” Thoughts like this don’t sound rooted in reality, do they?

My weird logic

I’m not saying that any of the above makes sense. But there is some logic to it, at least when I examine my emotions. In past blog posts, I’ve talked at length about how the creation of artwork for me is therapy. A great deal of therapeutic good is gained by me in the creating of my artwork. Making art and taking my medication keeps me functional. Instead of curled up into a ball and crying all day.

The artwork itself almost becomes a byproduct of my never-ending, vigilant defense of my sustained good mental health. Selling the artwork would seem like a good idea then. To be blunt, it’s the artwork serving double-duty for me. I’ve already gained personal mental health benefits. The monies gained by the selling of the artwork then gives me means by which to contribute to my other physical needs, like food, clothing and shelter.

Win-win, right?

Results

When the artwork doesn’t sell. And doesn’t sell. And it still doesn’t sell. Well, then the positive mental health benefits of creating the artwork begin to fade away. The artwork begins to mock me. It becomes a physical reminder or my personal failure.

Dark sticky thoughts begin to creep into my mind, like “If your art was any good, it would sell.” and “You’re not an artist. You’re a hack.” These thoughts leave their mucky little foot prints everywhere inside my mind. Making me feel more petulant and more childish.

It should be stated, I’m in no danger of losing my grip on reality. Remember, I take my medication every day. And am constantly monitoring my mental and emotional states. What I’m experiencing right now is just the frustrations of an entrepreneur who lacks customers for her product.

As always, I’m not that special.

Action required

There is nothing special in my circumstances at present. I know that I’m simply weathering something that every small business owner has weathered before me. Some manner of action is required to alter the direction of my sales and website traffic toward something more positive.

Fortune has granted me a husband with a degree in business and marketing. Any questions that I have, we discuss at length. He knows me, my artwork, and where I hope to take my business in the future. The advice he offers is priceless to me. I cannot imagine trying to start a small business without having someone on whom I can rely for good business and marketing advice.

My husband and I have discussed several different avenues of action over the past few days. I’ve chosen one to begin working on this week.

Patreon

Yup. I’m going to be creating a Patreon account. I’ve been working out how I want to construct a Patreon account for a few months now. There are things that I want to do that I think may be successful on the Patreon platform that I’ve outlined.

Starting a Patreon account is going to require me to shift some things around. But I hope to fold-in some of the other big projects on my desk into a Patreon account. In this way, I won’t be doubling or tripling my work load. It’s my hope to have the Patreon account up and running by the middle of next week.

Why Patreon?

Again, I am under no illusion regarding the ability of Patreon to make me tons of money. As with many entrepreneurial ventures, it’s more or less a crap-shoot. It may work. And it may not work. I could make no money at all, and have to close the account entirely.

The world, such as it is right now (gestures broadly at everything) means that a lot of artistic and creative people are opening Patreon accounts to see if they can at least make a small amount of money to contribute to their living expenses.

I keep referring to Theodore Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena“. I know I’m not attempting some deed of daring do. But the fact of the matter is, I need to do something. If Patreon doesn’t work. I’ll have to “make-up something quick

Now what?

There are other things that I will be working on along with a Patreon launch. All of them in hopes that something sticks. That something actually works.

Thank you for reading, and if you’re still reading at this point, I will offer the first person who contacts me (via email: katiekinsman.fi@gmail.com) a 30% discount on anything they wish to purchase from my shop. The offer is valid for 24 hours only and ends at 12:15 EET, 20 October 2020. (THIS OFFER HAS NOW EXPIRED.)

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Fresh Hell

Instagram:

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

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

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

It was time to do a little research.

Shadowbanning:

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

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

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

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

What’s wrong with my hashtags?

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

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

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

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

Selling Online:

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

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

Is this an upsale?

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

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

So…now what?

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

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

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

Links:

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

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

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

Hootsuite The Top Instagram Updates

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

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

 

 

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Value & Cost

Recap:

If you read my post from on 21 September, you know that the idea of where and how I can best spend my time as an entrepreneur. Social media platforms that are taking up too much of my finite time and creative energies are going to be dropped. Those social media platforms that I feel are worth the time and effort I expend to maintain will continue to be used. With the hopes that my small business will continue to grow.

That all being said, there are adjoining concepts regarding time, energies, costs and value that are never far from the forefront of my mind. Some of these concepts and ideas bleed off into other sociocultural areas that I feel ill-prepared to navigate. In many cases, my personal beliefs are at odds with the current zeitgeist.

Value:

There have been many times in the past in which I’ve stated that being raised in the US has impressed upon me certain beliefs regarding how I personally interpret buying, selling, marketing, consuming products, etc. “Eat quickly, drive faster, and make more money now!” (1) is a lyric that comes to mind when I ponder how being a US citizen consumer has shaped my personal and professional perceptions.

To that end, it’s been imprinted upon me that a thing is valued if it’s popular. If everyone has one, and you’re the only one without it, that’s bad. You need to fall in line and buy those things that will make you part of the larger group. Being a teenager during the 1980’s really hammered some of this home to me.

There’s an initial psychological buy-in that happens. Mostly without a person being completely aware of it. You see a an object (clothing, car, house, toy, food, etc.) everywhere. Advertising via print media, through the radio, internet, television. Even the movies, television and music deliver advertising. Soon, buying these things seem like your idea. And not something that has been put into your mind.

What is the Value of an Object?

The value of an object is determined by a lot of different factors. In fact, it seems like something that is ever-changing, especially when it’s related to the products of visual and performing artists. Trends can make something popular one minute, and out of style the next. Fashion is a good example of that.

The availability of an object also determines its value. This can easily be seen at an auction of fine art at an auction house like Sotherby’s. Vincent van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet was sold for $82.5 at Sotherby’s in 1990. Society has decided that van Gogh’s work is extremely valuable. Van Gogh is dead so there are a finite amount of pieces of his work. Scarcity can make for high prices.

What does this mean for me as an artist?

First of all, I’m no freakin’ Vincent van Gogh. I’m not even within the same art-making universe as him. What it does bring to mind is that I’m constantly creating artwork. Constantly. Regardless of whether it sells or not. Does this mean I’ve flooded the market? Too many original Katie Kinsman artistic creations out there in the world perhaps?

No. I don’t think that’s it. I do sometimes wonder if there are people who want to purchase my work, but are just waiting for me to have a  big honkin’ sale. Or, my work may be selling because people just don’t like it. There are also (gestures with hands at relatively everything going on in the world right now) economic reasons why people are not buying things like artwork right now. Many other things are taking precedence over purchasing artwork. Food, clothing and shelter come immediately to mind.

Cost:

The cost gets me coming and going as an artist. There is the up-front costs that I pay to create the artwork that I do. I don’t mean just the cost of the supplies. My time is a large hunk of that up-front cost, as well as my creative energies.

Material and supply costs are easy to figure. It’s all numbers. I keep track of what I spend on my materials and supplies, as well as shipping and handling for any pieces I do sell. Time is another that’s easier to calculate. But as I’ve written about previously, trying to make sure that I get even a US minimum wage from the time I put into my artwork isn’t possible. No for a non-entity like me on the art stage.

When it comes to creative energies, which I will agree is also related a to the expenditure of my time, that’s something that less quantifiable in strict numbers-sense. It’s where the ideas come from, intertwined with my knowledge and experience. Those creative energies are very much part of who I am as an individual. It’s difficult to attach a number to that.

Yeah, but what do I get out of it?

But the important thing is, I will continue to to create artwork even if I never show it on social media platforms. Or if I never sell another piece of artwork. I make the artwork that I do because the value to me, in the form of therapy, keeps me mentally and emotionally spackled-together. THAT is the value of my artwork to ME.

If there are other people who like my artwork and wish to give me money for it. Terrific! If not. Then. Okay. Go on then and do you then. Just not in relation to my artwork.

Then gate keepers determine value:

Gate keepers (2) are everywhere. In every type of work. They make sure that there are qualifications and credentials for professionals that must be attained before being a teacher, nurse, lawyer, architects, accountants, engineers, bankers, etc. In the art world, the gate keepers are gallery owners, shop owners, and museum curators to name a few (I’m leaving out the performing arts for now.). If an artists work doesn’t get past these people, then the art work will not be shown or promoted to the art viewing/ purchasing public.

The internet and the boom of social media platforms that have resulted have given artists a larger platform in general to share and promote their artwork. My artwork has been seen by more people in the past five years on Instagram than in the my previous thirty years of creating my art.

What I’ve come to realize in the past few months is that Instagram is just as much of a gate keeper as any art gallery owner. They just exert their gate keeping through algorithms instead of declining to show my artwork in their gallery. Instagram will show my artwork, but just enough. Then they would like me to pay to get greater exposure.

They want me to pay to advertise.

Back to costs and value:

Okay. I’ll admit it. From the beginning, I was näive as all get-out regarding Facebook and Instagram. As an creative art entrepreneur, I took full advantage of the free-ness of each of these platforms. Over the past three weeks, Instagram has become rather aggressive in it’s attempts to get me to buy ads on the platform. So far, I’ve resisted.

I’ve resisted because I have no money to spend on advertising. Zero. Zilch. Nada. None.(3) Not 20¢. Not 2€. Instagram has been putting a lot, and I mean A LOT of Finnish artists into my Instagram feed that are buying ads. I’ve noticed it. I know what they’re doing. And it’s gonna take a lot more to convince me to purchase ads on the platform.

Do I value the ads? I suppose so. I know that they are worth something. That something being, “more eyes on my artwork”. But more eyes on my artwork can easily translate into more likes of my artwork. The thing is though, likin’ ain’t buyin’. If I cannot be guaranteed a boost in my sales figures, then I’m not biting.

I will admit. I still have a lot of research to do on the subject of purchasing Instagram ads. I will rule nothing out at this juncture.

So now what?

This has been a long and rambling post. Value and cost, related to my artwork and the sale of it, are at times monolithic concepts that tread on an unsound mental and emotional path for me. Separating my personal value as a human being from the value of the artwork I create gets extremely complicated for me.

When a person tries to get me to come down in price on my artwork, it’s as though they are making me as a human being feel as if I’m of less value. In the past, I’v heard a potential customer say, “I could buy four dolls at Walmart for what you’re asking for one doll!” They value quantity over quality I suppose. But yeah, you go be you. Walmart’s waiting.

And on that less than upbeat note, thanks for reading. I’ll see you again next Monday.

 

Links and References:

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

(2) This is really a not great webpage to read, but it gives a pretty good idea of what an art gate keeper does and how they might be thinking. Mihaly Csiikszenmihaly is a good read if you’re interested in creativity.

(3) “Zero. Zilch. Nada. None.” is a line from a drag queen called Jiggly Calliente song called ‘I Don’t Give a Fnck‘. It is NSFW. NOT. SAFE. FOR. WORK. Or children, small animals or little granny ladies.

LA Money Train, Rollins Band, Get Some Go Again (2000) This song is a cutting review of American culture. Henry does not mince words in this song. I love Rollins. He’s an American treasure.

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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.