Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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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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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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Creative Every Day Week 2: Theme-Body

My goal with CED is to dedicate part of one day each week to an art activity inspired by the monthly theme. If I’m able to fit in other non-art related activities inspired by the monthly theme, even better!

Monday: Started the week off nicely with a treat for the body-a hot stone massage.

Tuesday: Keeping the body healthy with the annual mammogram

Wednesday: Exercised the body with a half day of skiing.

Thursday: A mind-mapping teleseminar with Julie Stuart; good for the brain and the business

Friday: Friday is the day I try to dedicate to an art specific project using the CED theme for inspiration. During the week I finished sculpting a head following the Creager’s head sculpting DVD. Heads always look a little scary before going in the oven and before the eyes are added.

Front of Head

This head also shows my first attempt at sculpting ears.

Left Side (My What Big Ears You Have)

Right Side (Do these ears make me look fat?)

And I completed this little guy, “Man in Turban.” This piece will be sent to the sons of a gallery owner. The boys helped in the construction of the head.

On this particular Friday I pulled out Cate Coulacos Prato’s book Mixed Media Self-Portraits and worked on a warm-up exercise called “Color Your World.” Through this exercise you create a self-portrait using one color.  The portrait can be literal or abstract or expressive.

Prior to creating my self-portrait, I meditated for a few minutes to get clear on which color was “me” this morning. I repeated the names of several colors over and over and the one that came to me most prominently was orange.

Orange? (Prior to the exercise I was focused on the color blue; my inner voice obviously thought otherwise.)

Okay; I spent 15-20 minutes gathering materials including colored pencils, markers, oil pastels, paints, construction paper, and tore orange colored images from several magazines. Then I got to work. I started by scribbling in a background and then glued the large image with the words “Find Your Center” on the middle of the paper. The woman meditating was glued on top of this background.

From here I worked intuitively, not really stopping to think about my choices. I just cut, scribbled, tore, and glued paper. Sometimes I would flip the image upside-down to see blank spaces that needed filling. During all the activity I remembered my paper punches and used them on the magazine images as well to make leaves and starbursts.

Here is how the piece turned out:

Color Your World-Single Color Self-Portrait

Find Your Center-Top Half

Find Your Center-Middle Section

Find Your Center-Bottom Half

Impressions

The piece seems to have no rhyme or reason. I started with the woman mediating because I like to meditate though I don’t do it as often as I used to. Ironically she was wearing an orange top! I also liked the words on the background image (Find Your Center) because I’m always working on learning more about my intuitive, spiritual side.

One thing I learned while working on this piece is that some personal symbols are emerging for me. Between this piece and last week’s creation, I find myself incorporating circles, dots, rough edges (torn paper), curly-q’s, and swirls, lines ending in points, stars or starbursts, little falling images (here falling leaves & starbursts; last week was falling stick figures.)

As I finished this piece I applied a wash of orange watercolor and thinned orange acrylic paint. As the piece dried, I spontaneously added a small strip of orange construction paper over the woman’s eyes. For some reason I didn’t want to focus on her eyes. I added a couple more strips of construction paper on the upper left corner and the right side of the piece. And then I glued the words “Guide Us” over the woman’s paper covered eyes. This represents my intuitive side, the part of me I’m trying to open up and learn about. Finally I addded the words “Success” and “In every possible situation” to complete the piece.

So I guess what this piece tells me is that I’m trying to find my center to guide me to success in every possible situation.

Meanings for Orange

Orange is a blend of red and yellow. It symbolizes stimulation, success and attraction. Orange is associated with orange fruit which symbolizes fruitfulness and fecundity (capable of producing offspring or vegetation; fruitful; marked by intellectual productivity.) Orange is the color of the sacral chakra which is associated with nurturing, receptivity, and emotions.

Orange is often used to depict the sun. It symbolizes happiness, socializing, abundance in career, projects, and matters needing an added push.


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Monday Reflection

What In Your Life Is Calling You?

What in your life is calling you?
When all the noise is silenced,
the meetings adjourned,
the lists laid aside,
and the wild iris blooms by itself in the dark forest,
what still pulls on your soul?

In the silence between your heartbeats hides a summons.

Do you hear it?
Name it, if you must,
or leave it forever nameless,

but why pretend it is not there?

-Terma Collective


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Just Tell Me What To Do

As part of this transition period and potential new journey, I asked a dear friend if she would do a Tarot card reading for me. We used a lovely deck called the Tarot of Transformation by Willow Arleana and Jasmin Lee-Cori. Out of the three decks presented to me, this was the one I was most drawn to. And I could definitely feel an energy from the deck in both of my hands as I shuffled the cards, spread them on the table, and repeated my question over and over in my head.

We did a three card spread which included reading the interpretation of my chosen cards, asking questions, and lots of discussion.

Now I know the intention of doing a Tarot card reading is to assist or guide the receiver as she deals with the situation that lays before her. That is why the cards are interpreted and questions are asked. The cards are not supposed to tell you what to do, though perhaps the cards might confirm something you already know deep inside.

And that is part of what this reading did for me.

But oh how I wish they would just tell me what to do!

I come from a long line of years of doing what has been expected of me (don’t we all, especially women?) or doing things based on other people’s advice or suggestion. So to think about truly doing something because my inner voice is rising up and poking at me and getting antsy with me is scary and overwhelming.

What if I fail? What if this still isn’t the right thing to do? What if I really don’t know what I’m doing? What if…what if…what if…

Smudging

Last week at the health food store I bought a 3-pack of mini-smudge sticks.  Smudging is a ritual common among Native American tribes that involves burning a bundle of sage, cedar, or sweetgrass and gently waving the smoldering stick around the area (or person) to clear negative energy. You can read one explanation about this ritual here.

I’m not sure what prompted me to buy the sticks that day but I’m glad I did as I used one of them yesterday to clear my studio. I chose a sacred white sage bundle, lit it from the flame of a candle, and as it started to smolder I walked around the studio asking for the negative, old energy to be cleared and to welcome new energy and creativity.

I cleared all four corners of the studio and my desk area. In the process I also cleared the space around me as the smoke had a tendency to envelope me as I moved about the studio. When the ritual was completed, I extinguished the sage in a small polymer clay bowl filled with sand and set both items on my altar.

Poor Pippin wasn’t too happy with this ritual. He laid on the floor the whole time watching me move through the studio. When I was finished and I bent over to pat him, he scrunched up his little furry face and seemed to say “Mommy, you smell funny.”

The scent of the white sage stayed in the studio for quite some time. While it was a little overpowering at first, I gradually got used to the smell and found it rather soothing.

More Messages Along the Way

One of the cards in the Tarot spread indicated that I need to spend more time in prayer, meditation, and in opening up to my intuitive nature and awareness. Going away on vacation took me out of that daily schedule/structure I had started. I did return to my seated meditation yesterday after almost three weeks of absence. It can be so hard to get back into this habit, even though I know it is good for me. It is like restarting (or starting, for that matter) an exercise program. Certainly a few minutes in silence is better than nothing. And I’m returning to reading my affirmations and writing daily in my gratitude journal.

Ironically, my Daily Om horoscope for yesterday was titled “When Opportunity Knocks.” One line in the horoscope said “It may be that an optimistic mood coupled with the belief that your prospects are thriving has opened your eyes to avenues previously hidden from you.” and “…consider reexamining your current goals so you can be sure that they are reflective of your aptitudes and outlook for the future.”

On Twitter, two quotes caught my eye:

Don’t deny your “gut feeling” it could be your calling trying to keep you focused on what’s important. (posted by Paul Peixoto)

Today’s Practice – Let go of the need to explain yourself. (posted by Jackie Walker)

Perhaps these are more small messages for me to become aware of on this journey.


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Monday Reflection

The secret of making something work in your lives is, first of all,
the deep desire to make it work;
then the faith and belief that it can work;
then to hold that clear definite vision in your consciousness
and see it working out step by step, without one doubt or disbelief.

—Eileen Caddy


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Daily Tarot: The Moon

tarot-the-moon

Today’s Tarot card is The Moon, a complex card because it represents illusionary situations, possible deceptions and feelings of uncertainty.  Emotions are highly charged and fluctuating at the moment.

When the Moon is drawn, feelings of intuition and gut instincts are heightened; dreams become more vivid as the subconscious reveals itself to us.  It may also indicate that we are so wrapped up in our emotions that we don’t have a clear, rational view of the truth of a matter.

The Moon warns us to be watchful but to not act in haste.  We should take our time until the situation has revealed itself more clearly.  It is important not to jump to conclusions.  On a positive note, the Moon tells us to trust in deeper realms and to remember that mystery permeates life at all times.

Zodiac affinity: Pisces


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Daily Tarot: The Wheel of Fortune

tarot-wheeloffortune

Today’s Tarot card is The Wheel of Fortune which is also known as the “destiny” card.

The Wheel of Fortune represents the cycles of life, showing the transient nature of change.  Typically, this card brings positive change and indicates the commencement of a new cycle when progress can be made.

When you draw this card, it is up to you to make choices that will lead to improving your sense of well-being or lifestyle.  Destiny is about taking responsibility for your actions rather than blaming those actions on fate.  Lack of taking responsibility for who you are often causes problems.

The Wheel of Fortune tell us to make the most of the fortunate time as change is always around the corner.  We should not fear change but embrace it and take action for future happiness.

Zodiac affinity: Jupiter