Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Begin at the Beginning

As I start this new adventure, I find it can be good to look back at where I’ve come from. Some people believe everything we’ve done in life leads us right to the specific moment we find ourselves in currently. Sometimes I believe this and other times I can’t wrap my head around it.

How did my decision to get a degree in Speech-Language Pathology lead me to want to teach and run workshops as an artist?

How did I get to this point?

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who like to pretend she was a teacher, a dancer, an actress….

Okay, we’re not going back that far.

Let’s just go back to when I started my business, back in 2003.

Business Begins

In 2003 my studio was being finished and I was making jewelry in a spare bedroom. Yep, jewelry; the place where I think many polymer clay artists begin. Jewelry; because it is pretty popular and usually sells well. I remember going to the local hardware store to pick out cabinets for the studio. The woman in the cabinet department asked me if I made my jewelry (funny that I don’t remember what I was wearing but it caught her eye.) And then she asked me if I sold my jewelry.

Cue that anxious pit in the stomach. Cue the ego.

“Yes” I replied (Inner voice: Are you crazy? You don’t know what you’re doing. Why would she want to buy your jewelry?)

And so it began. My very first customer. I didn’t ask for it to happen this way. Sometimes opportunities fall into your lap whether you want them to or not. Looking back I know I wasn’t planning to sell my jewelry; not right then and there. Someday, maybe, but on this day?

Specific details are a little fuzzy but I remember she bought several pieces over time. And then her job was eliminated and I lost my first customer.

But by this time I had been bitten by the selling bug. Making money? good; working hard to get it? not always so fun.

Early Jewelry: Assorted Pins

Early Jewelry: Earrings

Early Jewelry: Bracelets

Selling and a crash

Early on I hosted two open studios. The first one was quite successful. The second one bit the dust. I started exhibiting at small, local shows. I moved away from selling jewelry because my heart wasn’t into it. It was (and still is) a very competitive art category and it seemed like everyone made jewelry. And I don’t like doing what everyone else is doing.

I made switchplate covers, pens and pencils, keychains. I tried my hand at making bowls. Some items would sell moderately well for a period of time and then not so much. It was very easy to get discouraged. Shows ran the gamut from decent to absurd (painted hermit crabs and make your own pixie sticks at “juried” shows?) But when I experienced my first art show where the customers told me they came to find handmade gifts, I learned then the kind of venue I needed to target.

Flashlight Keychains

Red Bamboo Switchplate

Blue Nature Switchplate

"Alligator" Pen & Pencil Set

I began to sell my artwork in consignment stores. I started making wine bottle stoppers, business card cases, and perfume pens. Soon these items would become my bread and butter in terms of sales. And then I was turned on to the wholesale market.

Yowzah!

Wholesale was a very good venue for me. I acquired gallery customers across the United States, from east coast to west coast and down to the Caribbean. During this period of time the number of consignment stores I worked with grew as well. Cumulatively I had over 60 contacts. Just me, myself, and I.

And I burned out. After a couple years, I was tired, bored, and not so happy. When the economy started to wobble and sales became less certain, I, like many people, started to re-evaluate.

Renewal

When I took the art doll workshop in 2007 my interest in art was renewed and opened up another side of me. I continued with wholesale and consignment but a shift was happening. 2009 brought the trip to France and my awakening to the fact that I need community; an art community where I can do meaningful work.

Overtime, as I’ve started to shift my intentions, I’ve cut loose those sales venues that no longer fit with where I’m heading. Some were initiated on my part. Some on the part of the gallery or shop. Sometimes there is sadness. Sometimes there is relief. At all times I keep in front of me the direction I’m going. I’m jumping and I hope the net will open.

Right Brain Business

This week I started Jennifer Lee’s Right Brain Business Plan E-course. I was reading our first week’s assignment again last night and had an a-ha moment when I read this sentence:

As a right brain entrepreneur, if your values are not reflected in your work, your work will lack meaning. Are you being authentic in your business? If you’re compromising your values in your work, you’ll feel resentful, upset, burnt out and frustrated. When you’re aligned with your values, you’ll feel fulfilled and energized and that is what people will resonate with most.

Values. Authenticity. Alignment. Not something I necessarily considered in my business. That is about to change.


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Transitions and New Beginnings

It has been some time since I blogged with any consistency. My heart just hasn’t been into it. In fact, I find myself shutting off several forms of connection including Twitter and email. I just need a break.

During this period, I find myself thinking more about what I want to do as an artist and where I want to go with my business. I’ve traveled through a few careers (speech-language pathologist, technical writer) before turning to art and now I feel like I’m at another fork in the road.

The First Stirrings

Some of this started after taking an art doll workshop with Dayle Doroshow in 2007. Expressing my spirit through the creation of interesting characters sparked something inside and set me on a path to learn more. These inner rumblings also created much frustration for me when I had to return to making production artwork. I was realizing that production work wasn’t holding much meaning for me.

The world opened for me when I started participating in the Paradise City Arts Festival shows. I witnessed the impact my Spirit Messengers had on customers. How the faces and colors attracted their interest, drew them into my booth and made them laugh. My customer mailing list grew and so did the desire to make more Spirit Messengers.

Sometime during the early part of 2009 I picked up The Creative Entrepreneur by Lisa Sonora Beam. I began to work through the visual prompt questions. My answer to the following question caused me to stop: What does your deepest creative longing look like? What do you want to be doing more than anything else?

My answer: “to combine art and spirituality as a means to developing one’s independence and creativity and goal attainment. I just had a vision of a woman’s retreat center or gathering spot for art, creativity coaching, spirituality; all forms of expression and a means of attaining independence, gaining self-respect and respect from others.”

Sometime after those words appeared, I remember giving my vision a name. A name that encompassed all that I wanted to do with this idea.

Desire Grows Stronger

In July of 2009, I spent two weeks in southern France. (You can read about that here, here, and here and oh, one more, here.) It was a wonderful experience and when I came home I went through a period of depression and withdrawal. I longed to find the same experience, the same feelings here at home. But I couldn’t put my finger on what is was that was missing.

Shortly after coming home I accepted an offer for a free coaching session from Quinn McDonald. Through my conversation with Quinn, I learned that what I missed was the sense of community I experienced in France. I shared with her my a-ha moment with the visual journaling exercise and she guided me through more areas to think about with a set of exercises and more questions.

And then in August I attended a one day seminar on how to get my artwork into galleries. It was an informative session. Between what I learned from Quinn and this one day seminar, I was pumped and ready to move forward.

Alternate Reality

In the later part of the year, reality settles back in. I still need to make money with my art. I return to production work to fill some wholesale orders and meet the holiday needs at my local consignment stores. I participate in a few retail shows which leave me a little depressed. The economy is improving but very, very slowly. Overall, my expenses are greater than my income. And I know I’m not the only one in this situation.

I back burner the vision I had for teaching, coaching and potential retreats. It all seems silly. Who am I to say I can do that? What great experience do I have to do this?  Do I really want to start back at the beginning?

But I can’t shake my deep desire to teach, to coach, and to host retreats.

New Beginnings

Earlier this year I read The Instruction: Living the Life Your Soul Intended by Ainslie MacLeod. As I worked through the exercises in Ainslie’s book, I continued to find almost all my answers leading me to several things: creation, education/teaching, spirituality and connection. And I have a few weakness: difficulty making decisions and a failure to grasp opportunities.

Last year, I told myself I was going to take a year off from retail shows so I could focus on my art and other areas of interest. That didn’t quite happen as I did do one 3 day show this spring. Sales were slightly better but I’m still not covering my expenses.

But recently other opportunities and successes came my way:

  • Artwork that I submitted for use in a book was accepted. My artwork will appear this fall in Four Word Self Help by Patti Digh.
  • I was interviewed on a local cable access program, On the LAM: Literature, Art, & Music in Hudson & Beyond, where I talked about art and our local artisans guild
  • I was given the opportunity to submit more artwork for another upcoming book to be released in the late fall, and
  • I applied to participate in an art exhibit at a local art museum.

And I’ve decided to push ahead on my desire to start teaching and coaching. I can’t wait any longer.

To reinforce this decision, I start Jennifer Lee’s Right Brain Business Plan E-course on Monday, May 17. My focus is this new beginning; to teach, to coach, to host retreats.

I’m also writing class and workshop proposals and plan to offer classes this fall.

I’m clearing out old inventory to make way for new art.

I’m embarking on a new beginning.

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