Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Artwork Published in Right Brain Business Plan Book

I’m a little late in sharing the good news, but better late than never. Besides, its a good reason to celebrate again.

Last year, I participated in Jennifer Lee’s wonderful online class The Right Brain Business Plan E-Course. This was the first business plan course that I took that actually clicked. Why? Because it paired my creative side with my planning & organizational skills. It made crafting a business plan fun.

If you’re a creative entrepreneur like me, I bet you go running for the hills when you hear the words business plan. Yet, you know that having a plan is essential to your success.

This year Jenn has put all this wonderful information into a book aptly titled The Right Brain Business Plan: A Creative, Visual Map for Success The book was released in February through New World Library

I’m thrilled to share that I’m one of the 22 featured entrepreneurs in the book and my Right-Brain Business Plan made it in!

Through Jenn’s online class, and now her book, I was able to develop a vision for my business based on values that are important to me. Those values became the basis for my business plan. With Jenn’s guidance, I was able to identify and understand my perfect customers, make the leap into teaching, write financial goals in terms that made sense to me, and develop a sense of who my creative cohorts are.

You can read more about my business plan in this post on Jenn’s site: Spotlight on Amy A. Crawley

The other wonderful aspect of Jenn’s approach to writing a business plan is that I can pick up where I left off. When health issues became my primary focus late last year, I had to put my plan aside. Now that I’m feeling better, it’s time to revisit my plan, update it, and rework some goals. Having flexibility in your business plan is essential. It shouldn’t be a linear, static document.

So, what are you waiting for? The Right-Brain Business Plan has already been a #1 bestseller the Amazon Small Business Plans category. I highly recommend this book!


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Two Heads are Better Than One…

…And ideally three heads was the goal.

At the beginning of the month I set a goal to sculpt three heads per week. I haven’t created any new heads or Spirit Messengers in months and my artistic muse has been a bit all over the place. Of course, just as I set this goal, I started receiving wholesale orders and my schedule became a bit more complicated.

Anyways, I set aside some time over a few days to start sculpting heads. Every time I do this, I realize how much I truly enjoy this form of art. I can get lost in the making of a face and soon an hour, then two hours has passed.

I decided to start with some old heads I formed months ago for a demo. These were large, egg-shaped heads that I’ve kept wrapped in plastic. They have an aluminum foil core covered with a layer of scrap clay and then a layer of Super Sculpey.

I scraped the face off one of the heads, added a bit more clay, reformed the head, and started over.

My inspiration for these heads were characters from Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza The first head was inspired by the character “Innocent.”

"Innocent" (source of inspiration)

I was so happy when I saw how she looked that I completely forgot to take a picture of her sans headsock. The headsock is a baby sock that I found. On this piece, it reminds me of a long ski cap. I’m not much of a sewer but would love to learn how to make her a real hat. Any suggestions?

"Innocent" side view

“Innocent” has also been given the name “Snake lady.”

Now I don’t typically give my Spirit Messengers hair. I’ve always liked that bald, exposed head. But for the fun of it, I tucked a small amount of wool roving under “Innocent’s” hat band to see how this changes her look.

"Innocent" with hair

What do you think? Do you like her bald or with hair? I’m thinking she might actually be hiding a bed-head hairstyle under that headsock.

The next head was inspired by the King’s court clowns. First you’ll see how these heads look when they come out of the oven. At this stage I call them my empty souls.

(One thing I’m learning about Super Sculpey is that it does color shift slightly in the oven unless you cover it with foil. I lay the heads on a pad of cotton batting. If the head isn’t covered with foil, you end up with a slight “suntanned” face and a lighter back of the head. Might also try decreasing the oven temperature too.)

Empty Soul

I’d say this clown is rather excited to have his face now:

Bald Clown Head

And with his hat and hair. (Note-the hair and hat are not yet attached so I had to hold his head and take the picture. And yes, I used the vignette effect here to try and cover up my fingers.)

Clown with Hair & Hat

The Process

Super Sculpey is a flesh toned clay. It is soft, easy to condition and manipulate. I’m a big fan of the Creager’s and have been incorporating some of their techniques for coloring the heads. This involves using soft pastels to add skin tone coloring. I use a combination of small brushes and my fingers to apply the pastels.

Soft Pastels Palette

Then I use paints to bring life to the eyes and to highlight wrinkles, creases, and other areas of shadow, to add lip color and eyebrows.

Paint Palette

In Other News

I am honored to be the featured artist and business this week on two different sites.

On the Right Brain Business Plan (RBBP) site, my business and business plan is featured in the RBBP Spotlight Read about how this course and the business plan recharged my business. I also give some tips for budding solo-entreprenuers at the end of the interview.

Over at Park View Gallery, I am the featured artist on their blog. Check out my interview here and learn about my one guilty pleasure.


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To Market, To Market

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

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

Target Markets

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

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

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

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

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

The mid 20’s to 40 year old group

Customer Collage 20's-40 y.o group

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

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

The 40’s to 70’s group

Customer Collage 40's-70's group

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

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

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

Playing With Numbers

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

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

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

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

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

Next: Creative cohorts and goal setting


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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.