Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


The Daily Head: 4/8/11

This little guy, I’ll call him Fob, was inspired by a networking discussion and how sculpting heads might transform into a polymer clay class.

On the one hand, it may be too early to even think about something like that because this self-challenge is supposed to be fun. On the other hand, the whole idea of doing this self-challenge was to wake up the creative muse and maybe she wants me to develop new classes to teach.

Fob is made from a Skinner blend, rolled into a log and shaped. Simple face construction, texture, baked, sanded, acrylic wash, and buffed. Fob is almost 3″ long.

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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.


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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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


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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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


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.


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 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

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Synergy2 Kick-Off Event and Day 1

Synergy2 Kick-Off

It is hard to believe that two years have past since the inaugural Synergy event sponsored by the International Polymer Clay Association (IPCA). This past week I was in Baltimore taking in the fun and excitement of Synergy2 Exploring Connections.

I took my laptop with the intent of writing a synopsis each night. Right; that obviously did not happen. I got as far as writing two and a half sentences. Fatigue tends to set in early after a full day of seminars and socializing. So, instead of an “as it happened” update, I’m giving you a review of what took place during the conference.

Ford and Forlano

Synergy2 kicked off with a presentation by Steve Ford and David Forlano, better known as Ford and Forlano (or City Zen Cane in their early days.) Ford and Forlano have collaborated for over 20 years. In this presentation, Steve and David shared how their working relationship began, how it has evolved, and how they’ve maintained it over the years. They agreed that it is like a marriage with its ups and downs. Not only is this collaboration significant for the length of time they’ve worked together, but since 2006, they’ve worked separately with Steve residing in Philadelphia and David in Santa Fe.

A slide show accompanied their presentation which showed the evolution of their work. It was amazing to see the transformation of their art and the growth and development of their style. 

After their presentation, Charm City Cakes presented this amazing cake in honor of the IPCA’s 20th anniversary. It was quite tasty.

Synergy2 Day One

On Thursday, the seminars started. I attended seminars by Nan Roche (Inspiration from Scientific Imagery), Lisa Pavelka (Build Your Brand), and Barbara McGuire (Incredible Lightness of Learning). In between the seminars, two presentations were scheduled.

Collecting Polymer

The first presentation “Collecting Polymer” featured Elise Winters and Bruce Pepich. Elise is a pioneer in polymer. Bruce Pepich is the Executive Director and Curator of Collections at the Racine Art Museum (RAM) in Wisconsin. Together Elise and Bruce are working to debut a permanent polymer art exhibit (the Polymer Collection) at RAM. Elise and Bruce shared how this dream exhibit became reality. Bruce shared pictures of RAM, explained the museum’s philosophy, and discussed his exhibit aesthetic.

As with many artistic endeavors, money is needed to make bring this event to fruition. Please take some time to read about Bruce and the museum here, read about the collection here and here, and then consider making a donation in support of this exhibit here.

Intentional Evolution

In the afternoon a panel discussion was moderated by Jeff Dever and featured Rachel Carren, Bruce Pepich, and Kathleen Dustin. The panel discussed the evolution of polymer and how to push the medium to the next level. The pertinent points I took away from this panel were to:

  • increase the public’s exposure to polymer via education
  • view polymer as an alternative material that is used as a medium of expression versus technique
  • improve polymer’s credibility as a medium
  • have a vision and direction when using polymer
  • cross-pollinate polymer with other media
  • refer to the medium as “polymer” (and remove the word “clay”)

For more impressions on Synergy2, check out Libby Mill’s blog and Polymer Clay Daily

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Tuesday’s Business: Exercise Those Networking Muscles

The Money and Careers section of the Boston Globe ran an article recently on networking and compared it to exercise.  In other words, we all know that exercise is important for a healthy lifestyle and networking is important for a healthy career.  Here are the networking tips shared by Dave Sanford and how they can be applied to your art business

  1. Develop a targeted list: Put together a list of everyone you know and want to know.  Now is the time to put together your customer list as well as the list of galleries and stores you’d like to carry your work.
  2. Ask for introductions: Who do you want to meet that could help advance or support you in your art business?  Who in your existing network can help with these introductions? Part of networking is meeting influential people.
  3. Prepare multiple messages: Develop your “30-second elevator speech;” a consolidated statement about who you are, what you do, and what makes your art unique. Now, can you consolidate this statement into a five to ten second version that your networking contacts can use on your behalf?  Similarly, you may need different artist statements for different audiences.
  4. Attend events: Attend art events (exhibits, talks, etc.)  Join local art organizations and associations. Don’t forget state art organizations and associations. Get acquainted with those in local and state government and support arts initiatives.  The arts are often the first to get cut in down economic times.
  5. Use the power of online social networks: A lot has already been written on using online social networks.  Suffice to say that artists must continue to think outside the box and use a variety of networks to make contacts, promote our art, and offer support and advice.
  6. Overcome shyness: I know; easier said than done, especially if you’re an introvert like me.  Actually, one of the reasons I joined a local woman’s business network a few years ago was to help me become more comfortable with introducing myself to people.  Practicing your introduction beforehand is helpful.  When you find yourself in a room full of people, look for one person you can introduce yourself to and work from there.
  7. Set goals: Just as we set goals for our business, we need to include networking goals as part of our business.  Some examples include emailing x-number of new contacts a week, meeting with friends and new contacts once a month, attending art or networking events once a month, and sending email announcements or e-newsletters once a quarter.
  8. Networking is a two-way street: Effective networking relationships are reciprocal.  Sometimes you receive a lead or referral that may not match your needs but might be good for someone else.  Pass it along.  Remember it is nice to share.
  9. Be thankful and keep in touch: People are often best at networking when they need something.  However, the most effective networkers are those who continually find ways to keep in touch with their contacts.