Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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My 2010 Word of the Year: Soar. A Look Back

In January of last year, I chose the word SOAR as my word of the year. I chose this word because I considered it an extension of the word Momentum. Momentum was the word I almost chose. But SOAR seemed to fit me better. I liked the sound of SOARING through the year. You can read more about why I chose SOAR here.

The idea behind choosing a word for the year, as opposed to making resolutions, is that a particular word provides you with guidance all year along. I admit that sometimes I forget that. Maybe that isn’t a bad thing. If I beat myself over the head with my word of the year, I probably wouldn’t enjoy the process any more than I like making New Year’s resolutions. So I often choose my word, put it out to the Universe, and then let it go.

How did I embody the word SOAR during 2010?

I embarked on a long thought about goal and started teaching polymer clay mixed media classes. We celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary by visiting Italy. I had mixed media artwork (on canvas) published in two different books by Patti Digh. I was interviewed by our local newspaper and a local cable channel. I dove more into social networking by finally creating a Facebook personal page and a page for my art business. I also created an online studio on ArtFire.

Many of these events and other accomplishments happened rather effortlessly. For most of the year, I felt like I was soaring on thermals. Opportunities appeared and I accepted or let them go.

My full phrase for 2010 was SOAR with MOMENTUM into ABUNDANCE and have FAITH.

And in the last two months of the year, FAITH came into play. Big time.

First I received a surprising notice that one of my galleries wished to end their contract with me. The loss of a contract is not entirely new. I’ve ended them in the past and consignment shops have ended them with me. In this case, however, the loss caused me to question the value of my artwork and my self-worth as an artist. Would I be resigned to create production artwork forever?

Then came the health issues. At 47 I expect to be facing some changes as I move closer to a new phase in my biological life. However, what I did not expect was several doctor’s appointments, a biopsy, blood tests, unplanned weight loss, and an ultrasound. As a generally healthy person, to be confronted with a body in sudden revolt over a period of several weeks not only made me angry, I was scared, tired, and crying. I found myself delving deep into prayers and searching for faith in my self and my situation. Faith that I was well, that I would be well, and that all would be well.

The sketch below sums up all the feelings I experienced during those weeks.

As the year drew to a close, my health started to return to an acceptable level of normalcy. Answers were received and a solution to the situation was found. The experience caused me to think deeply about several areas of my life. This has put me on a new path for 2011 and influences the word I’m leaning toward to guide me in 2011.

In some ways SOAR in 2010 was a mixed blessing. Much like the hawks that I love to watch, SOAR carried me on the thermals of success but it also meant I had to dive deeply to find the source of myself.


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Support Networks and Goals

Sigh. I’ve fallen behind in my posts on my progress in the Right Brain Business Plan. Oh well. All I can do is pick up where I left off.

The Right Brain Business Plan (RBBP) e-course ended last week. It was both sad and uplifting. Sad because I’ll miss the weekly emails from Jen with our assignments and her mid-week and end of week check-in. It was uplifting because I finally feel like I’ve got a much better handle on the direction of my business. It was also uplifting to see how far my online classmates have come in developing and growing their businesses.

Support Networks

A major part of any business venture is the support network. This can include people you look up to (as in mentors), your closest buddies, people you go to for advice (advisors), coaches, art reps, and so forth. This network can also include assistants, VA’s, accountants, bookkeepers, your web designer, and more.

Of course, one of the hard parts about forming your support network is asking for help. What? Me? Need help? I’m superwoman (or superman), I can do it all. You’ve heard the excuses, you’ve used them yourself I’m sure. My favorite “I’ll just do it because then I know it will get done.” Been there, done that control dance. It can be a lonely dance.

So how does one go about identifying and growing your support network? First, think about what your role is in your business. What do you WANT your role to be in your business? Consider the usual roles people assume in small businesses, like production work, bookkeeping, and marketing. Are there areas in your business that you aren’t good at or don’t like doing?

Be honest.

Bruce Baker once said when you are an artist (or any soloprenuer), you either assume all those roles (bookkeeping, marketing, etc), partner with someone who will assume some of those roles, or marry someone who will help with some of those roles.

Yeesh!

Granted all of us try to do it all at the start. And that works for a while. But then you realize your role is to make the art, not spend hours on the marketing or once-a-month bookkeeping. Then it is time to think about hiring an assistant in the studio, the bookkeeper, the marketing guru.

And this doesn’t mean you have to pay all these people. Perhaps you barter for services, trade artwork, take someone to dinner. Remember, you’re creative. All exchange of help and assistance does not necessarily require an outflow of money.

As part of this assignment, Jen posed several questions that helped us look at our roles in our businesses and our network. I admit to falling under what I call the superwoman category. I wasn’t totally surprised by this. But it also pointed out in black and white where I have some gaps in my support network.

Because this class uses our right brain creative skills, I created a simple mobile to acknowledge my support network. Each card is labeled with the particular support group and on the back I listed who I would turn to in each group. The cards are attached to each other with silk ribbon. This gives me the flexibility to hang the mobile in my studio or to fold it and carry it in my business plan vision book.

Support Network Mobile

Setting Goals

Once we developed our support networks, it was time to focus on setting some goals.

Yes, I hear you moaning. Goals. Ick.

After working as a Speech-Language Pathologist for several years, I had a very hard time writing simply stated goals. I had been trained to write detailed measurable goals in language that just seemed absurd for my business goals. However, business goals and therapy goals do have some things in common:

  1. You need to define the goal
  2. You need to figure out all the little steps you’ll take to achieve the goal
  3. You need to set an end-date for reaching the little steps and, subsequently, the big goal

I know lots of people don’t like setting let alone writing goals. I’ve learned over the years that I need the structure that goals provide. And I also need the support of other people to help keep me in line in achieving my goals.

(Psst, if goals aren’t your thing, check out Jen Louden’s “Satisfaction Finder” which helps us lovelies define the standards by which we’ll be satisfied; what some folks refer to as “enoughness.” This item comes recommended to me by a friend. I’ve not tried it myself nor have any affiliation with the product.)

I’m fortunate that I have two accountability partners to help me reach my goals: Sarah Marie Lacey, a wonderful painter, who I approached at the beginning of the year via our acquaintance on Twitter. We check in with each other every week, exchanging our goals for the week, and updating each other on how we did the previous week.

My other accountability partner is in the RBBP class. I sent a shout-out, asking if anyone wanted to work as partners and Beth responded. In this accountability partner relationship, I send Beth very specific goals with end dates (eg: Review 6 month revenue goals by 7/9/10.) And she is very good about checking in with me and asking my status on getting those goals done.

I typically write my daily priorities and to-do’s in a notebook that stays on my desk (just below my computer monitor so I always see it.) With the RBBP course, I was motivated to reuse an old white board and convert it into my Goal Board.

On my Goal Board, I drew a 6 by 5 grid. The first column (far left) is for my goals. Each goal is written on a separate sticky note. The other columns are for the to-do’s, folks I can turn to for support, target dates and actual completion dates.

Goal Board

What I love about this Goal Board is that it hangs on the wall directly across from my work table, so I see it everyday. With it being so visible, I can check it once a week, pull off stickies and update them or write a new one. I also love how colorful it is (love those brilliant colored sticky notes). That means I CAN’T miss it. It’s really in my face.


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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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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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It’s a Value Thing

Last month I started the Right Brain Business Plan E-course with Jennifer Lee. The online class has 23 creative souls supporting each other and cheering each other on as we work toward the creation of our business plans. We are supported and encouraged by Jenn each day through our periods of overwhelm, frustration, fear of the unknown, and battles with the negative inner voice. (Suggestion: tell your negative inner voice to go re-arrange the sock drawer. It seems to keep it pleasantly happy and out of your head.)

This is Week 3 of the class and I’m still working my way through part B of Week 2’s assignment. The beauty of online classes is that you can, more or less, work at your own pace. The frustration of an online class is that you might feel your pace is too slow. So while I’m playing catch-up on my homework assignments, I wanted to catch-up on blogging about the class.

Return to Week One

Way back in Week 1 we were asked to reflect on our values and the values of our business. This was a completely new concept to me. Not so much the personal values, but to actually think about the values I’d want for my business. I swear I’ve never seen this component mentioned in the traditional left-brain approach to writing a business plan. Curious.

I never gave this value thing a thought when I started my art business. Well, except for the “make money” value. Really. When I was put in this unplanned position (being asked to sell my art) what do you think the first thing was that came to mind?

Someone wants to pay me for my art = MONEY

And for a couple of years that really was the base goal: Make money. Make money to buy supplies. Make money to pay your bills.

There is certainly nothing wrong with making money. It feels good. Yet when the pressure (self or externally imposed) to make money is your main focus, the desire to keep doing that is going to result in a slow fizzle toward boredom, frustration, and asking “Is this all there is?” At least it did in my situation.

The Value Thing

Now that I am working on a business plan that focuses on expanding my business, I relish the thought of considering what I value in a business and how that influences my future business. After working through Jenn’s visualization exercise a couple of times and thinking about the questions posed during Week 1, here are the values that I find important:

  • Creativity & original thinking; originality, thinking out of the box
  • Acknowledgment & recognition; saying ‘thank you’
  • Independence
  • Community, networking, friendship, collaboration, teamwork
  • Communication, openness, being true to your word, being able to admit mistakes
  • Teaching, learning,growth, discovery, service
  • Empathy, encouragement, respect
  • Connection
  • Authentic
  • Spirituality
  • Adventure, exploring new frontiers
  • Leading, leadership, mentoring
  • Being open-minded and flexible
  • Sharing, helping, inspiring
  • Trust, support, secure environment
  • Happiness, laughter, fun
  • Contributing
  • Making meaning

I mentioned in a previous post a statement from the Week 1 exercise that caused an ‘a-ha’ moment for me. It bears repeating here:

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.

What values are important to you? How do you bring those values to your business?

Next: Having Visions


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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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Synergy2-The Banquet

In 2008 I missed the Synergy banquet due to illness. I vowed that would not happen this time around. This final post features pictures taken on the night of the closing banquet.

Before we sat down for the keynote, dinner and the auction, everyone gathered for drinks, a book signing, and conversation.

Socializing

Janice Abaranel and Sandra McCaw

Libby Mills and Karen Ottenbreit

Quassia, Diane, and Helen (CT Guild)

Libby, Janice, and Me

Dayle Doroshow and Carolyn Skei

Even the Food was Artsy

Around 6:30 the doors opened to the “Mirror Room” for the final event.

Lisa Pavelka introduced the IPCA’s secret handshake:

On one side of the banquet room:

All Eyes on the Head Table

And the other side of the banquet room:

Alison Lee of Craftcast was our keynote speaker. Alison shared one of her favorite books, Mike and His Steam Shovel as a reminder to take on a challenge, to think creatively, and develop alternate solutions. (This also brought back memories of watching Captain Kangaroo and listening as he read this story.)

The banquet ended with Tracy Holmes leading a rousing auction of wonderful polymer artwork.

Synergy2 attracted over 175 attendees representing several countries including:

  • The United States
  • Canada
  • The United Kingdom
  • The Netherlands
  • Spain
  • Israel
  • The Czech Republic
  • Germany

New friendships were formed and old friendships were reestablished. Synergy2 truly represented its theme of Exploring Connections.

For more thoughts on Synergy2, visit these blogs:

Iris Misly at Polymeri Online

Janice Abarbanel at Exploring the Art of Polymer Clay

Susan Lumoto at Daily Art Muse


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Synergy2 Days 2 and 3

Synergy Day Two

The day begins with continental breakfast and then it is off to another day of seminars. On tap today: Immaterial: Repurposed Possibilities with Jeff Dever, Ten Trends with Cynthia Tinapple, and Collaboration as Inspiration with Loretta Lam and Ronna Weltman.

I was looking forward to Jeff’s seminar and was not disappointed. Several key points standout: Think Differently, Plan Ahead (when using materials other than polymer), and Seek Inspiration. My head is buzzing with ideas and possibilities for using what I learned in creating future sculptural work.

In Ten Trends, Cynthia shared her predictions for the future of polymer in four areas: cultural uncertainty, manual competency, social activism, and new media.

And in Collaboration as Inspiration, Loretta and Ronna shared how their artistic friendship started and how it has grown over time into a collaborative relationship.

The Purposeful Marketplace

The panel discussion on Day 2 focused on selling in today’s marketplace. Speakers included Robert Dancik, Tamara Honaman, and Lisa Bayne from Artfulhome.com. Moderator Jeff Dever opened with an intriguing question: Is selling a form of validation? Is selling for everyone? This was followed by another curious question: How do you define recognition?

Hmm, certainly questions that are worth some thought. Other points from this panel included:

  • Feedback-who do you get feedback from and how do you integrate the information
  • Pitfalls-overextending yourself and not staying true to your vision
  • Creating a buzz-use social networking, blog, write press releases

Self Expression

Robert Dancik gave a lively presentation on Self Expression in the afternoon. Always inspiring, Robert started with the following quote:

Technique is what you know, expression is who you are.
-Michael Tracy, Artistic Director Pilobolus Dance Company

From here Robert shared ways to move out of left brain thinking and into right brain thinking, including:

  • working with new materials
  • changing your format (eg: small scale or large scale)
  • limiting your resources or color palette
  • letting your self feel things

He also reinforced what we all know to be true: ‘seat’ time improves creativity and artistic expression and to listen when something pops into our heads (and to write it down or record it.)

Synergy2 Day Three

The final day of Synergy always seems to go by quickly. Seminars are reduced to two during the day, the gallery and vendor fair close early, and the event ends with a banquet and auction. If there is time, a visit to the American Craft Council (ACC) show is also an option.

My final two seminars are The Impressionable Critique with Barbara McGuire and Mix and Match with Maureen Carlson.

In The Impressionable Critique Barbara explains how a critique can be conducted using the elements of design and the principles of design. These same aspects may also be used by art show juries. Barbara reminds us of two things:

  • to use the elements and principles of design to critique our own work, and
  • to focus on one aspect at a time when improving our work because focusing on too many areas at once creates overwhelm

Barbara shared her personal artwork to discuss issues that may come up in a critique (e.g. underdeveloped concepts, skill, edges and frames, unbalanced elements) and provided critiques of artwork brought in by fellow artists.

Maureen’s Mix and Match seminar was quite fun. Maureen explained the various modeling materials available to artists, including moldable wire, cloth/fiber, air dry clays, powders/fibers, and two-part epoxy resins. Samples of various products were shared which gave us the opportunity to feel and play with the various materials. Once again I left a seminar with a head full of possibilities and ideas for future work.

Clay Manufacturers Forum

The final panel discussion at Synergy2 was a clay manufacturers forum. Moderated by Seth Savarik, the panel included Iris Weiss from Polyform Products, Gerlinde Karg from Staetdler, Germany, Donna Kato for Van Aken/Kato Polyclay, and Lisa Pavelka and Bettina Welker for Viva Decor/Pardo Clay.

Clay Forum

Viva Decor/Pardo Clay is the newest player on the block. Pardo has been available in the US for about one year. It is made with beeswax, comes in jewelry clay and artist clay, and, instead of the usual block format, Pardo is extruded into ball shapes. There are six balls to a package and the package is recyclable.

Other tidbits from the forum included:

  • Polyform products are shipped on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays to stores to (hopefully) keep the clay from sitting on a loading dock through a weekend
  • Fimo should be kept in a cool, dark place to maintain quality
  • State of California law is stricter than German law regarding the manufacturing of polymer
  • By law, polymer clay products (plastic that is hardened in an oven) cannot be labeled “not for children”
  • Kato clay has one mixer that is used for all colors from white to black
  • Staedtler proposed that guidelines be developed for shipping and storage of polymer clay

Next: The Banquet

More impressions of Synergy2 can be found on the following blogs:

Kelly Russell’s Beadfuddled

Heather Campbell’s The Purple Door

Julie Eakes