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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.

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I’m a Jerk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again. I digress.

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

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

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

This post brought to you by the following links:

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

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

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

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Bears!

(Left to Right) Mielikki Abella, Ursula Humla, and Kuma Bumbar

Hello! I have finished six tiny bears and have added them to the dolls that I have for sale! They are 30€ each, plus shipping (I ship world wide!). These bear dolls are aggressively cute, even if I do say so myself! Each doll is approximately 6.5 cm (approx. 2.5 inches) tall including the base (made from part of a bottle cork). The dolls can be removed from the base, and have posable arms and legs. They are not intended for children under the age of five. Please contact me via Facebook Messenger, Instagram direct message or email (Katiekinsman.fi@gmail.com) if you wish to purchase one of these tiny bears! First come, first serve!

(Left to Right) Farba Björn, Barva Oso, and Umbala Karhu
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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!

 

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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.

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Apples and Oranges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Todd Rundgren: ‘Day Job

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

Santigold: L.E.S. Artistes

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

Henry Rollins: The One Decision that Changed My Life Forever