Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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To Market, To Market

Continuing my periodic posts on my progress in the Right Brain Business Plan e-course, the next topic is determining your target market and finances.

Up to this point, we’ve discussed values and our business vision, the business self-portrait and the business landscape. However, now that you’ve got this great product or business idea, you have to think about who you’re selling to; your target market.

Target Markets

Unless your product or service is geared to a specific customer base, determining your target market requires a bit of educated guessing. Historically, I’ve known that women are my primary market. But which demographic of women?

Some areas to consider when determining your target market include the potential customer’s age, education, financial background, career, and location (urban/suburban/rural.) Those are the fairly straight-forward, easy to answer questions.

Then there are the demographics that might not be as easy to answer, such as shopping preferences, forms of entertainment, and likes and dislikes. We refer to those as the “I’m making up these answers” type of demographic questions.

As I started to write down the details about my ideal customer, I realized the description seemed to fit me. I guess it is good to know I might actually buy my own artwork. However, it is also important to stretch beyond the familiar.

To that end, I came up with two groups women for my target market:

The mid 20′s to 40 year old group

Customer Collage 20's-40 y.o group

I’ve defined the 20-40 year old market as those entering their professional or career world, D.I.Y, Etsy or handmade nation supporters/creatives; supporters of the green movement, including recycling/up-cycling. They shop online and are technology savvy. They have an interest in art/craft and learning something new and would like to earn some money using their craft skills.

These women are making a name for themselves and are entrepreneurial. They enjoy social networking, social media and have an interest in self-care and holistic areas. They are primarily college educated. May be dealing with debt issues, especially student loans. This may effect what they buy and spend money on.

The 40′s to 70′s group

Customer Collage 40's-70's group

This target group is comprised, primarily, of college educated, professional women who are questioning the “next step” in their lives. They want to express themselves creatively but may not know how to access and express their creative muse. Therefore they are seeking guidance on creativity; how to be creative, how to make art/craft.

Within this group are those who will be or are empty-nesters, including active retirees. All of these women want balance and fulfillment and seek how to make meaning in their lives. For the most part, these women are comfortable in their own skin.

I put the two collages shown above in my Vision Book in an envelope titled “Target Market.” On the back of each collage I wrote down some of the demographics as listed above.

Playing With Numbers

After we determined our target market, it was time to look at the finances. (Or, as Jen puts it “Making the Moola.” Doesn’t that sound more fun?) Not always a pleasant task and probably the one area that many creatives hate to deal with. We like to bring in the money; it is the money going out that pains us.

Way back, I used to keep track of my finances with an Excel spreadsheet. As my business grew, I switched to Quickbooks. QB is great because you can generate a variety of reports, depending on your needs. This year I was better about setting a budget for those costs which are fairly static and for some expenses I knew were coming up this year.

However, setting financial goals and writing them down has never been my strong suit. We all have our issues with money; voices and impressions from childhood that stick with us. Another reason this has been difficult is the feeling (an excuse???) that I can’t make someone buy my artwork. So how could I possibly set a revenue goal?

However, with encouragement through the RBBP process, I set a financial goal for the year. Then I looked at all the areas where the business generates revenue, including 3 new areas that I’m pursuing this year, and determined the percentage of income each area needs to produce. In July, I will review these goals, see how I’m doing and determine the appropriate follow-up action.

How about you? Who is your target market? Have you set any financial goals for the year? How do the money ‘voices’ impact your progress?

Next: Creative cohorts and goal setting


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In The News

I’ve been so focused on several different areas that I forgot to share some “In the News” updates.

Earlier this month I was the feature interview in the Bolton Common’s “UnCommon Conversation.” You can read my interview with Julia Quinn-Szcesuil here

This month I also signed up for HARO: Help A Reporter. This is a great, free resource where reporters (newspapers, magazines, TV, bloggers, etc) post information on stories that they are writing and are looking for experts. This gives you the opportunity to share your expertise on any number of topics and the possibility of your lead being published.

I recently had two leads published on dealing with time management. My tip is #75 on The Entreprenette Gazette and #43 on The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur


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Creating a Business Self-Portrait

The Right Brain Business Plan (RBBP) e-course is rolling into its 6th week. That puts us 3/4 of the way through the class. Hard to believe it has gone by so quickly…and that I haven’t been very good about keeping you up-to-date on my progress.

Last I wrote about the RBBP, I shared my business vision and the Vision Accordion Book that I created. Since then, we’ve tackled our business self-portrait, our target market, working the numbers, and determining sources of support.

The Business Self-Portrait

Developing our business self-portrait and business landscape was fun and challenging at the same time. This is where we determine where our business fits in the larger business landscape. We approached this from two directions, those things under our control (our strengths, challenges, and opportunities) and those things NOT under our control such as customers, trends, competition and barriers.

The self-portrait provided another opportunity to creatively paint a picture of my strengths, challenges, and opportunities. It was also a bit intimidating because we are asking questions about ourselves. While this is a hard task for anyone, I think it may be a bigger challenge for women because most of us are told not to talk about the things that we’re good at, not to talk about our successes and achievements. That is the sign of a bragger, an arrogant person, and an egotistical person.

Well, fat on that.

One way we were given to approach this task was to ask friends, family, associates, co-workers, and colleagues a series of questions such as “What three words would you use to describe me?” “What would you say are my natural gifts, strengths, and passions?” and “What would you say sets me apart from the crowd?”

It was humbling and heartwarming to receive people’s answers to those questions. Holding a mirror up to yourself is not easy. Asking people their opinion isn’t always easy either. However, the way you are seen in another person’s eyes can be very affirming.

Following another RBBP classmate’s lead, I entered the words and phrases into Wordle to create a word cloud. Then, inspired by those black construction paper silhouettes we had as kids,  I asked Eric to trace my head onto a large sheet of paper. This profile would become the centerpiece of my business self-portrait.

Business Self-Portrait

The self-portrait features the word collage in the center of my silhouette. Other components include my background and experience, skills and talents, customer quotes, opportunities and challenges.

Biz Self-Portrait Top Half

Biz Self-Portrait Bottom Half

The Wordle collage puts in bold typeface those words that appear most often. From this one might summarize that the words most often used to describe me are: knowledgeable, caring, creative, understanding, organizer, listener, thorough, and courage. These words give me insight into my strengths and skills and themes that could influence my business.

The Business Landscape

The business landscape is an on-going process. Creating the landscape requires a bit more detective work. It is here that you look at trends (social and economic), think about how big your market is, map out your target market, consider direct and indirect competition, take into consideration what you do well and barriers that you might encounter.

The fun apart this assignment is we can create SWAGs (Silly Wild Ass Guesses)  for those areas where we don’t have a definite answer right now. It is better to put down a SWAG than to get stuck and not move forward. And through research an answer, hopefully, will be found.

To help with this part of the process, I set up a fabric covered tri-fold foam core display board that I used long ago in my first art shows. At the top of the middle section, I’ve posted the name for this entire venture “The Creative Well.” This section is also for tracking trends and market information, including a map of Massachusetts and New England, information on population, numbers of polymer clay teachers in the area, and my business self-portrait.

The left panel is for information on the competition and potential collaborators. The right panel holds information on resources, such as places where I might be able to teach polymer clay classes. As I come across and collect information, it is added to the designated section with push pins or notes written on Post-it notes.

Biz Landscape Detective Board

I like this format because it is portable and collapsible. I keep the board on a shelf right across from my work table so I see it every day. When I add information or want to analyze the entire picture, I can lay it on the floor to get a good overview.

Next: Target markets and numbers


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New in the Studio: Going to the Birds

I’ve always enjoyed birds. I enjoy watching them fly overhead and hearing their songs in the morning. When I was a kid, many of my drawings and doodles had birds in them. Maybe I was a bird in a previous life. Maybe I raised birds in another life.

It was probably inevitable, then, that birds would make their way into my work.

The Drought

A few weeks back I was looking for a way to get the creative juices flowing again. After I delivered my last wholesale order in April, I took a long break from creative, art based activities. I can’t remember most of what it was that consumed my time (which tells me something…guess it wasn’t terribly important) but I was getting scared that I wouldn’t make art again. It felt like I was going through a drought. The other scary thought I had was that maybe I didn’t really miss making art. Maybe I’m really meant to do something else and this art making was just an interlude.

Not being entirely happy with that thought, I put my butt in the chair and started sketching. And out of these sketches came birds. I sketched silly looking birds, printed out pictures of birds, and then started making small bird sculptures and experimenting with various surface designs. It felt good to make art and do something different.

Here is what I’ve created so far:

Polymer Clay Bird

My first attempt was a polymer clay bird; polymer clay armature and polymer clay surface design. In my sketches and in my head, I envisioned making wacky looking birds with crazy hair and pointy beaks.

Red & Yellow Bird

Red & Yellow Bird-side shot

This was a start. The little head decoration is map pins. I wasn’t completely satisfied with this one. What I saw in my head and what came from my hands didn’t quite match.

Mixed Media Birds

The polymer clay bird wasn’t bad, but it didn’t quite click with me. After flipping through some art books for inspiration, I decided to try a mixed media technique on polymer clay:

Red & Black Bird

Red & Black Bird 2

Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. This guy is a bit more contemporary than the bright polymer clay bird. I was also experimenting with wire legs on both birds and having a dickens of a time. Either one leg was longer than the other (then I’d snip off some wire, now the leg was too short) or the feet were too big. Balance was also an issue. Birds were tipping too far forward or sitting on their rumps.

So I decided to eliminate the wire legs until I could get the shape and design down.

And then I came up with this:

Green & Blue Bird

Green & Blue Bird side shot

Now I’m starting to giggle. From what recesses of my imagination did this guy come from?

And then I decided to try another surface design:

Blue Bird

Blue Bird-side shot

I think this little guy is my favorite thus far. He looks like porcelain.

When I shared these guys with my art guild, the response was great. Lots of giggles and comments on the faces. Someone said “I don’t know where this idea came from, but they’re you. You started with faces and heads of people and now you’re putting them on birds.”

I guess that makes these anthropomorphic birds. Makes sense to me. I’ve always liked to think that animals have human characteristics.

I plan to make a some more of these little guys using the mixed media techniques on polymer clay and see where that leads me. I’ve decided not to give them feet because it was causing me too much frustration. It is better to let the piece tell me what it wants than for me to force something upon it.

I also envision making some larger birds with sculpted faces. I need to sketch out those ideas before they fly out of my head.

Thanks to this new found creative avenue I’m going to the birds.


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Artist Demo, Art Exhibit and An Interview

Artist Demonstration

On Sunday, June 13, I am demonstrating how I create my artwork in polymer clay at Fruitlands Museum as part of Fruitlands 2010 Artisan Series.

I will show you how I create my Klimt and Craze Collage patterns as seen on my business card cases, perfume pens and wine bottle stoppers. I will also demonstrate how I sculpt both my primitive and more realistic spirit messenger heads. To help me explain the sculpting process, I put together this storyboard.

Head Sculpt Storyboard

The demonstration runs from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm

I will also have free mini-bookmarks for people who stop by and a listing of my current workshops.

Art Exhibit

Sunday will be a full day. After my artist demonstration, I head over to the Nashoba Valley Winery for my art guild’s artist reception. The Bolton Artisans Guild has a new exhibit, Summer Dreams, on display at the winery. Summer Dreams captures the colors and memories of summer in the several mediums, including photography, fiber, polymer clay, paper, watercolor, and jewelry. The exhibit runs June 6 to July 5, 2010. The artist reception is Sunday, June 13, 3:30-5:00 pm. Light snacks and a wine tasting will be provided.

An Interview

Last Monday, I was interviewed by the Bolton Common for their Uncommon Conversation feature article. The interview appeared in this week’s edition and is available to read online here.


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Summer Salad Recipe

To me, preparing, cooking and serving food is another form of creativity. I think it starts when we are kids. How many times were you told to stop playing with your food as a child? Were you really playing with your food or being creative with it? Like Richard Dreyfus in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” when he starts building a mountain with his mashed potatoes. Wasn’t he just being creative?

Anyways, a while back I brought home a tasty salad from Debra’s Natural Gourmet. The ingredients were simple enough and using my creative skills, I gave a go at recreating the salad. It turned out pretty good and I thought you might enjoy it as well.

Marinated Artichokes, Chickpeas, and Cheddar Salad

NOTE: The ingredient measurements are guesstimates. I was not very exact in my re-creation of this salad and made it mostly to taste. Please adjust to your tastes accordingly.

Marinated artichokes-1 jar (6.5oz), drained rinsed, chopped
Chickpeas-1 can (15 oz) drained and rinsed
Peas-1 10 oz pkg frozen, thawed in the refrigerator (suggestion-use 1 cup unless you really like peas)
Cheddar cheese (small cubes) 1/3-1/2 c
Parsley (curly or flat leaf, your choice) 1/4 c chopped
Fresh lemon juice 1/2 c or to taste
Olive oil 1/4-1/3 c
Garlic 1 large clove chopped fine or to taste
Herbs du Provence 1/2 t to 1 T to taste
Sea salt to taste

Mix the first five ingredients together in a large bowl.

Mix the lemon, garlic, herbs de Provence and sea salt in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until the mixture emulsifies.

Pour the lemon and oil mixture over the artichoke, peas, cheese and parsley mix and gently stir.

Voila! Give it a taste and adjust the seasonings as desired.

Serve with whole grain crusty bread, your favorite bread, or pita.

Bon Appetite!

Marinated Artichoke, Chickpeas & Cheddar Salad


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Monday Reflection

To think of the immense wall of potential hidden deep within our being,
to understand that the nature of mind is fundamental purity and kindness,
and to mediate on its luminosity, will enable you to develop self-confidence and courage

-H.H. The Dalai Lama


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Having Visions

Our first major assignment in the Right Brain Business Plan course was to create a vision board. We were tasked with cutting out images that represented the overview of our company, our business values, the products and services we offer, our target market, our creative cohorts and supporters, our financial dream, and anything else we wanted to add.

The fun part, aside from following our intuition and cutting apart magazines, was creating our vision board in any format we desired. It could be a large poster, a book, a cube, a deck of cards. Anything.

I decided to make what I call a Vision Accordion Book.

The Book’s Exterior

To make a Vision Accordion Book, you need an old hardbound book that you’ll tear apart. A year ago, in preparing for my trip to France, the thought of tearing the covers off an old book sent chills up my spine. It seemed sacrilegious to deface an old book. This year, however, I had absolutely no qualms about ripping apart an old book.

I searched my studio and found a book that I used in a collage class several years ago. Nothing of value inside this book.

Future Vision Book

Using a sharp box cutter, I sliced along the front and back spine of the book until it was loose enough and I could pull off the covers.

These will become the Vision Accordion Book covers. At this point these covers are now called book board.

You can cover the book board with fabric or paper. I choose a fabric that I bought in Revel, France because it was during my time in France when I realized that I wanted to teach art workshops. Workshops and retreats are the focus of my business plan.

French Fabric for Vision Book

I cut the fabric about 1″ larger than the book board. Glue the fabric onto the front of each book board, flip the book board over, and carefully fold and glue the edges of the fabric, one edge at a time, onto the insides of the book board. After the book board is covered and the glue is dry, glue a contrasting sheet of paper (solid color, decorative, your choice) on the inside of each book board.

Note: The paper on the inside of the book board is going to be covered by the accordion fold pages of your book. So don’t agonize over using fancy paper or paper with text because you won’t see a lot of it once you glue in your accordion fold pages.

Covered Book Boards

I decided to use large sheets of watercolor paper for the book’s pages. I can’t tell you the weight of the paper because I bought it years ago (when I took that collage course I mentioned earlier.) I wanted my pages to be 5″ wide by 8″ long. I measured the paper accordingly and cut the paper. And when I tell you there is no such thing as a straight line, believe me. Even with a ruler and a pencil line on the paper my cutting is a little wobbly.

I cut two strips of paper and glued them together to form a really long piece. Then I started accordion folding. I measured and scored the paper with a bone folder every 5″ and then folded the paper. I flipped the paper over for every other fold to ensure the pages would accordion correctly. (There are simpler ways to make an accordion fold. But because I needed a specific width for each page this was the approach I used.)

Images

Since this is a Vision Accordion Book, I needed lots of images to glue onto the inside pages. This is a fun task and almost always results in an overabundance of images. I spent a few hours on different days going through Martha Stewart Living, Yoga Journal, Shambala, Women’s Day, and MORE magazines.

The tendency, when choosing images for your vision board or book, is to tear out pictures of things you like, things you want to have, places you’d like to visit, etc. Often we do this without any conscious thought about our intention for the vision board. And this means we may miss the very image that we’re really looking for. Martha Beck recently wrote an article on vision boards that you might enjoy. Check it out here.

Here are all the images I cut out and spread out onto a table in my studio.

Looks a bit overwhelming doesn’t it?

From here I sorted the pictures into various categories: Company overview and values, products and services, wealth and abundance, target market and creative cohorts and supporters. And then I sorted the piles again, removing images that didn’t quite resonate with me and the intention of this book.

Vision in Action

Once I sorted the images and felt good with my choices, I started to lay them out on each page, one at a time. I spent over 3 hours trimming, laying out and gluing down the images. Then I glued the first and last page to the front and back book boards.

And viola! My Vision Accordion Book was complete.

Vision Accordion Book

The first two pages explain the overview of my business.

Company Overview

Pages 3 & 4 show my business values and the products and services I’ll offer.

Business Values, Products & Services

Pages 4 & 5 explain more about my business and my vision for wealth and abundance.

Wealth and Abundance

Page 4 above also has a picture that I glued to the top of the page. Siddharta sits in the “No Fear” muhdra. The image folds over the page when the book is closed. The page 4 picture comes from a Soul Card I made a while back. It signified how I felt at the time “facing the unknown” and how many of us feel during a time of change and transition.  When I found the picture of Siddharta in the “No Fear” muhdra, it only seemed appropriate to add him to this picture. I’m moving ahead without fear.

No Fear

Finally, pages 6 & 7 represent my creative cohorts and supporters and my target market. Here is a shout-out to those people who are supporting me in this adventure, who offer words of advice and suggestions. As the small print under your pictures states “I can succeed by getting support.”

Creative Cohorts & Target Market

There you have it. My Vision Accordion Book. At some later point during this class, I’ll add some envelopes to the back sides of these pages for notes and goals. I’d also like to go back and soften the edges of the pictures with oil pastels. For now, however, it feels complete.

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