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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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