Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Perceptions or “That wasn’t what I expected”

Have you ever noticed how you form an image in your mind on how something will look based solely on a description? And then when said “thing” appears, you say “That’s not what I expected.”

That has happened twice today.

I ordered the Tomato and Mozzarella salad for lunch at Panera. Here is the description: Vine ripened tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, onions, fresh basil, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinaigrette over freshly baked focaccia.

What do you picture in your mind?

I pictured a round of focaccia topped with chunks of tomato, mozzarella, onions and basil.

What I received was focaccia that was cut into quarters and placed on their sides topped with many, many quartered tomatoes, way too many slices of red onion, and large cubes of mozarella. The balsamic vinaigrette was served in two small side containers. The salad tasted fine. I ate it at home and added mixed lettuces and removed all the onion. But what I envisioned in my head and what was presented didn’t quite match.

I recently ordered “very fine cut shred” from USBox.com. The smallest quantity available was a 10lb box.

Based on that description, what did you picture in your mind?

Now using my only reference point for shred, I imagined receiving a box filled with bags of shred; maybe 2-3 or 4 bags. I opened the box today and found the entire box filled with shred! The box measures 24″ long by 12″ high by 16″ wide/deep; a “10lb box.” If the shred were any more compact I could pull it out like a hay bale.

I know I’ll have enough shred for years to come.

Whenever these little “discrepancies” happen, I often think about my own work and how I describe it to people. When someone inquires about buying a piece of my art via email, I always send a picture of the item (the exact item or a similar one.) I want to make sure they have a pretty good idea how the piece looks.

I haven’t researched the psychology or physiology behind this but as humans we seem to need a visual representation of whatever it is we intend to buy. If an image isn’t provided, we form one in our heads.

And certainly this isn’t limited to things we buy. Think about the image you form in your head about someone you know by name but have never met. Or how about the behaviors or personality you envision about someone based on a word used to describe them.

Sometimes these discrepancies result in pleasant surprises. Sometimes we are disappointed or turned off.

As you think about how to define your art, think about the visual image you put into the listener’s or reader’s mind. Is it clear enough to give a good idea of what you create? Will it be a pleasant surprise or will they have to remove lots of red onions to get to the good stuff?


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Tuesday’s Business: Define Your Art

Last week we discussed writing goals as part of your business or dream into action plan. This week the focus is on defining your art.

As artists we often find ourselves working in many mediums; we like a little collage, we like wire, we like fabric and fiber, beads, paints, etc, etc. Bruce Baker has a great term for this: “Multiple Artist Disease” (MAD). However, when it comes to defining yourself and your art for the purposes of a business plan, all these multiple interests can make it confusing…for you and your customers. Defining your art requires focus.

Two things prompted me to start writing my business plan. The realization that I had to distinguish between my two lines of art and conversations with a friend who is also trying to find the next direction to take in her business. I had a few “a-ha” moments for myself during that conversation.

What does it mean to define your art? It means you are using words to stand in for your art when a visual isn’t readily available. Words help reach people (your potential customers and collectors). Words also help you to define yourself before someone else does.

When you define your art, you (hopefully) convey a clear, consistent message that makes marketing much easier. It can also help you focus on your target market. And if you haven’t determined who your target market is, defining your art may help you to realize who you need to target.

We’ve all been in situations where someone asks “What do you do?” Sometimes you can get away with saying “I make art.” Sometimes the listener will ask additional questions; sometimes they don’t. Perhaps you say “I throw pots” which may result in allegedly funny retorts. Then you find you have to explain and clarify what you meant.

So you can see why you need to be clear in your message.

The easiest way to begin to define your art is to take out a piece of paper or open a blank Word document and start writing all the words, phrases, and terms that come to mind when you think about your art. Here are some additional prompts:

Describe the size, subject matter, color, materials or medium, and inspiration used to create your art.

Think about the price range for your art.

What new bodies of work have you created? How about new products or services?

Do you know what sells best and why?

Now look at all the words and phrases and begin to craft a definition of your art.

Here is my first attempt from two years ago at defining my art:

I create small to medium scale mixed media home decor items with Asian and Celtic elements that sell for $20.00 to $150.00.

I guess that wasn’t a bad attempt. However, I was not very descriptive about the exact “home decor” items. And therein lies a bit of a catch. Do you leave your description a little vague so as to prompt (possibly) additional questions by the listener? This may not be a negative if you are speaking to someone; yet if it is going into a business plan, you may want to be more specific to give yourself a solid foundation from which to work.

Here is my current definition of my art:

Moonroom Crafts creates functional and fine mixed media art inspired by the world, ranging in size from 2″ to 2 feet that sells for $20.00 to $600.00.

It is still a little vague and I’m still working on separating Moonroom Crafts (functional art) from Amy A. Crawley (fine art). How does this sound:

Moonroom Crafts creates wine bottle stoppers, business card cases and perfume pens that sell for $20.00 to $35.00.

Inspired by world cultures, Amy A. Crawley creates spirit messengers and icons, in sizes from 2″ to 2 feet, that sell for $20.00 to $600.00.

Okay, I’m starting to like that. These definitions may change, expand, or contract over time but I’m pretty comfortable with these two statements.

Now you give it a try. How do you define your art?

Next Week: Know thy competition.


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The Secret Knowledge of Water

Our friend Emile Tobenfeld, aka Dr. T, is one of several featured artists exhibiting work at The Nave Gallery’s “The Secret Knowledge of Water” in Somerville, MA. The opening reception was held last Friday, followed by a performance by Dr. T and the Immersions ensemble which included Eric, our friends Dean Stiglitz and Ramona Herboldsheimer, and Rick Scott. The video and music performance was aptly named “Water Music and other Improvisations.” To hear the performance, visit Jamendo.

Folks gathering in the gallery.


Several photographs in the “water” theme.


Mixed media, video, and photography.

Painting and photography.

More photography.

The Nave Gallery is part of the Clarendon Hill Presbyterian Church. Dr. T and the Immersions ensemble performed in the Sanctuary.

Loved this stained glass window.

Setting up for the show.

Eric plays synth and the Harpejji. Dean plays Electro Flute. Ramona plays Hammered Dulcimer. Rick also plays synth.


No show is complete without Gwynnie, Dean and Ramona’s dachshund.


Or the bees. Dean and Ramona sell organic honey. They were selling the honey at a farmer’s market before the show. And you do not leave your bees in the car.

Show time (sorry for the low light; I did not want to use a flash to take these pictures.)

The Secret Knowledge of Water exhibit runs through August 17. For more information visit ARTSomerville.


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Twitter-bug

I’m not sure what motivated me to do it but I joined Twitter this weekend. Well, part of the motivation was to challenge myself to write short posts. Twitter limits you to 140 characters per post; that includes punctuation and spaces.

I’ve also been reading about using Twitter to promote your business, your web site, or your blog. All of which seem like good ideas. I’m still learning about this aspect of Twitter and will see what transpires.

The other idea behind using social networking sites is that you never know where you might connect with a potential customer or collector. Or someone might come across your Tweet or post and it could turn into a lead for a story for a magazine or newspaper article.

The reality is our life is extremely connected with technology. We must pick and choose the formats we wish to use and, hopefully, use them wisely. And when you run your own business, you have to consider both traditional and non-traditional venues for marketing and making connections.

Do you Twitter? If so, you’ll find me here on Twitter.


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Tuesday’s Business: Writing Goals

Last week I introduced what I intend to be a weekly post on different aspects of running a small business. Because I am currently in the process of writing a business plan, I thought that might be a natural place to start.

I am using the weekly topics presented in Alyson Stanfield’s Art Salon program as my reference point for writing my business plan. Essentially, if you follow through with Alyson’s program, you will have the makings of a business plan at the end of 8 weeks.

So where to begin?

We all have goals; sometimes we write them down, sometimes we keep them stored in our brains and sometimes we share them with our friends and family. In the last two years, I’ve learned that keeping my goals in my head is fine and dandy…but that doesn’t mean I’ll act on them. Sharing them with friends is great because sometimes they keep me on track by asking me how its going with that task I wanted to tackle.

Writing down goals, however, puts them front and center. When you write down a goal, you see it right in front of you in black (or blue) and white. When you write down your big, hairy, audacious goal, it stares you in the face and you may start thinking about how you’re going to accomplish it.

So what is a goal? It is a task you hope to accomplish that is measurable. And how do you make it measurable? By writing down all the little steps that you have to take in order to accomplish it.

And a big part of the business plan is all about writing goals.

Let’s start with sales goals. We all hope to make money at what we do. And we may even have a grand number amount that we’d like to achieve financially someday. But how are you going to get there?

If you’re currently selling your art, start with the income or revenue you generated last year. If you sell in multiple venues (consignment, wholesale, retail shows, studio sales, etc) you may want to take your total revenue from last year and break it down by venue. This will give you a good idea of which venue generates the most revenue for you.

If you aren’t selling your work yet but hope to do so soon, think about how much revenue you’d like to attain and what venues you need to pursue. Be realistic. A million dollars in revenue is wonderful…it just may not happen in your first year.

Next, think about the amount of revenue growth you’d like to generate for your business. This is typically done for a five year period. (And making these projections is hard for someone like me who doesn’t tend to think that far in the future.) When you make your projections, you build cumulatively off each year.

Example:

Let’s say you made $10,000 in 2007. You’d like your business to grow by 10% each year for the next five years. Your projections would look like this:

2008: $11,000
2009: $12,100
2010: $13,310
2011: $14,641
2012: $16,105.10

If you sell your work in different venues, you may want to make projections about the percentage of sales each venue will generate. Example: 25% consignment, 25% retail shows, and 50% wholesale. Again, make your projections over a five year period. You’ll begin to see which venues are more heavily weighted; which ones you might want to focus your energy.

Now here is the caveat when making these revenue projections. Can you make enough work to generate those sales? In other words, how many earrings, necklaces, bottle stoppers, card cases, paintings, bookmarks, or whatever your product is, can you make per day, week, or month?

Yes, this may mean production work. Yes, this may mean you work 7 days a week or perhaps you hire an assistant. Yes, this is a business.

As daunting as it appears, if you think about how much work you can realistically produce, you’ll have a better idea of how much revenue you can potentially generate. That yearly sales number is your big, hairy goal. You make it measurable by determining how many pieces you can sell in order to get there.

Now are these numbers written in stone? Not necessarily. Things happen; the economy swings, you get sick, a supplier goes out of business, or one of your gallery customers closes their doors. But these numbers give you something to work toward and you make adjustments along the way.

Next week: defining yourself and your art.

Book recommendations: Leah recommended the following books to help you with your business:

Craft, Inc

Right Brain Business Plan


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Airhead or Sieve?

Have you ever had one of THOSE weeks? The kind of week where you wonder if your brain decided to take a vacation and forgot to tell you? My week certainly started out that way.

Whenever I have one of those days or weeks, I hear Thomas Dolby singing “She’s an airhead” or “My brain is like a sieve; sometimes it’s easier to forget.”

Is this what being in one’s 40’s is like? You walk into a room, stand there, and say to yourself “I know I came in here for something.” Then you proceed to stand there for a minute; you stare at the wall, you stare at the furniture; maybe you look at your hands and scratch your head.

And sure enough, as soon as you walk out of that room, BANG, what you remember what you were looking for.

“My brain is like a sieve…”

Sometimes you’re talking to someone. They ask a simple question that requires a simple answer. But you begin by presenting two possible answers to the question, debate them to yourself, maybe explain why you gave two possible answers and then decide on the best answer.

In the meantime this person is looking at you and politely nodding his/her head.

“Cause she’s an airhead…”

A friend once told to wait until I hit my 50’s. If I think I have some-timers and brain farts now, well, well…

I guess in your 40’s you start to gently slough off your brain cells but in your 50’s…WHAM-O.

I know it is nothing to really worry about. It is all a part of that process they call, gulp, aging. I’ll probably forget about it anyways.


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Bats in the Belfry

Last summer we had a mouse that built a nest in our BBQ several times. One time I opened the cabinet doors on the BBQ and found a toad sitting inside the doorframe. We’ve even found a toad clinging to the inside of the patio table umbrella.

But a bat was the last animal I expected to find this summer.

As Eric started to open the umbrella, something caught his eye. There was a bat clinging to the inside of the umbrella! The little guy appeared sleepy and not quite sure what was happening. He moved around a bit, climbed to the top of the umbrella and settled back in.

Obviously we had awakened him.

Obviously he thought it too early (and too bright) to leave his quiet abode. He stared at us briefly and then tucked his head back into his wings.

We finished preparing our dinner on the BBQ and ate inside the house.

After dark, Eric went back outside to check on LB (little bat) and to remove him from the umbrella. But LB was a smart little bat and he’d already left for his nightly adventure.

Eric closed the umbrella tightly and secured it with a tie.

Ah nature. Simply fascinating.


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Whoever said…

…that art is glamorous hasn’t used a buffing wheel.

Goggles, a mask, and thou… (and I hate those little fuzzies inside the mask.)

Lets see your “art isn’t glamorous” shots. Take a picture of yourself working on your art, on the less glamorous aspect of art, post it on your blog and link back to this post. I’ll share your links in a follow-up post.

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