Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Soloprenuer Wednesday: Business Values

So you’re working along at your little business, maybe it’s just a hobby, maybe it’s just a great idea. And someone asks you “why are you doing that?” Or perhaps they say “You want to do what?” (And why is the emphasis always on the last word?)

Have you asked yourself why you’re doing this little business you’ve started?

Dreams and Visions

In my last Soloprenuer Wednesday post, An Introduction, I ended with it by saying I had no idea what I was doing when I sold my jewelry to my first customer. I was stunned that someone wanted to buy my jewelry when I hadn’t planned to sell anything. Guess I was just in the right place at the right time.

So I made up a price on the spot (or shortly thereafter when I brought more pieces for her to look at.) I certainly didn’t know much about how to correctly price a product back then. But I’ll save the pricing discussion for a future post.

After selling a few pieces of jewelry to this person, she asked me if I could make something for a friend. Sure, why not. I can do that. Toss out another price. Isn’t this cool, my ego tells me, you’ve got your first customer who thinks your work is great and you’ll do anything to keep selling stuff to her.

Sure, great, but where is this taking me? Did I really enjoy making all this jewelry?

And what do I do now with all these extra pieces when my first customer tells me that she’s being laid-off and can’t buy my work any more?

My ego was very disappointed.

Having an idea of what I wanted to do with my art might have prepared me a bit better.

Visions and Values

It’s possible that had I mapped out a plan before landing my first customer, it would’ve been quite some time before I sold a piece of anything. It’s possible that if I waited for perfection, I might never sell anything. I’m not saying that what happened in my case is the wrong way to do it. Serendipity has a way of presenting itself whether we’re ready or not. I am suggesting that having an idea or vision about why you want to sell your art (or whatever your product is) can make life a little easier.

How do you do that?

One way to understand why you are jumping into this little business of you’ve started is to think about values-values that are important to you and in a business. This can include any number of things from loyalty to honesty, community to connection, good customer service, hard work to happiness. Look at companies you admire. What values do they promote?

Think about times in your life when you felt fully alive. Who were you being in those moments? What was going on around you? How can you bring those elements into your business?

Make a list of all those values. Are there any themes you notice?

Knowing your core values helps you make better business decisions because those values are honored in the decision making process.

Lessons Learned

Reflecting back on those early days, I think my only value then was to make as much money as possible. However the luster of making money wore off at some point.

Why?

Because I eventually learned that if my values were not reflected in my work, then my work lacked meaning. I got tired of making functional art items. I didn’t enjoy making.

I realized that there was more to running a business than just making money.

It would’ve taken quite a bit for me back then to say “I’m sorry, I’m not selling my art at this time” or to turn down a commission piece. Now I know better because I make those decisions in conjunction with my values.

What values are important to you in running your small business?

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Solopreneur Wednesday: An Introduction-How Did I Get Here?

The 5th anniversary of this blog is fast approaching. And there are a number of new subscribers to this blog. So it seemed like a good time to slow down, take a step back and introduce myself to my new readers and re-introduce myself to those who have been following my journey since this blog started.

Who Am I?

If you look over to that column on the right, you can see my picture. That’s me, Amy —->

Nice to meet you.

What do you do for a living & how did you end up doing it?

I’m in my third iteration career-wise. I am a polymer clay mixed media artist. Before working with polymer, I tried paper arts, wood stuff, painting, fabric. None of those really stuck. In 1998, I learned about polymer clay, bought a crafty book and some clay at Michaels and gave it a go. My first piece was a pair of earrings, a bunny & a carrot. I still have those earrings too.

First polymer earrings (scanned image).

But as I said, I’m in my third career. Amy 3.0? Before discovering polymer clay I had always played around with artsy-crafty stuff. I took art classes all through high school but never gave it a thought to make art a career. Let me rephrase that. I had no intention of pursuing art as a career.

Instead I got a degree in Speech-Language Pathology and a minor in Communications from Michigan State University. Then I got my Masters in Speech-Pathology. I worked in the healthcare field for almost nine years. Got laid-off. Went back to school. Got my certificate in Technical Writing. Got laid-off again and began to think about what else I wanted to do with my life.

At that time, in 2002, I thought about the things I might want to do if I wasn’t going to work in cubicle-land. The three things I liked most were gardening, cooking, and making art.

Gardening & landscaping are very physical careers. So I scratched that from the list.

Culinary school required many early hours as you work through the coursework. I’m not a real early-morning person. And I realized I mainly like cooking for family & friends. Scratch culinary school from the list.

That left art.

What are you influences or sources of inspiration?

My art is inspired by nature, animals, the spirit of ancient cultures, and my travels around the world. I’m drawn to texture, movement, color, and faces.

I’ve created work that draws from the Celtic, Egyptian, African, and Asian cultures. Symbolism plays a big part in my art when I create my Spirit Messengers.

Anam Cara (Trio)

More recently I’ve focused the subject of my art on animals, such as my Ornimals: Sculpted Animal Ornaments.

Cat Ornimals 2012 Group Shot (Amy Crawley)

Those who have influenced my art include Laura Balombini, Dayle Doroshow, Gustav Klimt, Joseph Cornell, Alexander McQueen, El Anatsui, Dale Chihuly, Tim Burton, and Cirque du Soleil.

How did your art become a business?

It didn’t become a business by blatant choice. After being laid-off, and thinking I’d like to work more with my art, I started playing around with polymer clay even more. I was at a local hardware store looking at cabinets and wearing a piece of jewelry I made. I was talking to a woman who worked in this department and she asked if I made the jewelry I was wearing. When I told her “yes,” she asked if I sold my jewelry. One thing led to another and my business began. That woman became my first customer.

When I say it wasn’t by blatant choice, I mean that I had thought, someday, it might be fun to sell my art. But it wasn’t my intention when I started making jewelry. I didn’t say “I’m making this to sell it.” Apparently the Universe had other plans for me. Maybe the best way to put it is that my art became a business through the back door. Add a little ego into the process and there you go. I really had no idea what I was doing or what I was getting into.

Next: My intent with Solopreneur Wednesday posts is to share what I’ve learned about running a small art business. If you have questions about working as an artist and/or running a small business, please leave your question(s) in the comment section below. We’ll be enjoying the 4th of July holiday next Wednesday so our next post will be in two weeks on Wednesday, July 11.