Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Not Enough Heads For All My Hats!

Feeling chaotic....
Some of my artist heroes are/were reclusive people who lived long into the modern age with hardly a TV or telephone (or, in some cases, even an automobile) in sight. They wrote stories by hand and illustrated them at their kitchen windows and were left alone to draw and dream and not be disturbed by technology. And their examples were everything I ever wanted to be when I grew up.

I've finally gotten to the point where I'm living that dream. Sort of. Because as much as I'd like to be spending my days happily writing stories by hand and illustrating them at my kitchen window, I can't if I expect to pay any bills. A self-employed artist these days (in my opinion) has to be a big old multi-tasker. First and foremost: they must have an online presence. And it can't be just a little one, either.

So this old dog has been trying to learn new tricks of the eCommerce variety. But good grief! Creating a virtual storefront? Adding shopping carts and checkout plug-ins? Following traffic feeds? And just what the heck is HTML and Search Engine Optimization, anyway? As far as I'm concerned, anything more complicated than sending an email might as well have a sign around its neck saying, "Here Be Dragons." And by the time this slow learner has figured out how to do something as (apparently) simple as posting a photo to Facebook, all those hours in the day that could've been spent sitting at my kitchen window drawing are gone....

Many of my artist heroes were still creating when the Internet came along, and it was their adoring fans who brought them into the Social Media age by designing their websites and maintaining their fanpages. I'm sure those artists would've lived just fine without them. As far as I can tell, every last one of them had little use for an Etsy account.

Plus, I suspect another reason why my heroes were left alone to draw and dream was because they had a host of others who did the rest for them -- the printing, the selling, the advertising, packaging, shipping, copy writing, website designing, public-relations-ing, fill-in-the-blank-ing. People like me have to do all that ourselves in addition now to blogging and tweeting, posting and linking, and being the ear-to-the-ground individual who is simply there to monitor online feed related to our happy little businesses. Not much time in a day anymore to draw and dream let alone anything else.

Of course people can be hired to do all of the above, but that would take money I don't have and employer skills I don't possess. So it boils down to just me -- the person who can hardly figure out how to add an attachment to an email. And let's not forget that some days it's hard to just be let alone be me (or, in this case, be everything); when Life suddenly adds a big dose of crazy to the mix, growing a business doesn't just become an afterthought, it goes right out the window....

At the moment I'm trying to create a new website in addition to my original one (created for me by my James and I love it, but it definitely looks its age; plus, I wouldn't know how to correct a typo on it to save my life!). And supposedly websites are so easy to make now that a person should be able to create one in their sleep. Not me....

And, of course, it's pre-Fest 'crunch time' now and printing is happening (or trying to happen). This means reminding myself why Photoshop is not always my friend.

Let's not forget my Etsy store either. Wait; it appears I have forgotten it! (Should I forget it? Things have changed there since I visited last; should I move to a different platform?)

So here's where I'd love to sum up my defense and justification of everything that I'm currently not doing (or not doing well) as it relates to Mayfaire, but I won't. Instead, I'll hand the keyboard over to my inner Beater-Upper and allow her to do the talking, as she's been trying to wrestle the dang thing away from me all this time anyway. And she says, "No one said being a self-employed artist would be easy. You know this, so suck it up already. Gah!"

She's right, of course. Guess I've been told.

(Note: The awesome hat in the picture is actually a Cthulhu tea cozy created for me by my friend Becca Leathers, owner of KnitNax.)

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

For YOU from ME

This little post
Has 'you' written all over
It. Because
Not a day goes by that I don't
Keep you in my heart, hold you
In my thoughts, and wish only
Nice things for you. Please
Give yourself the gentlest and warmest

Of hugs and be extra kind to yourself, OK?

You are one
Of my cherished readers! And for you I am
Unbelievably grateful.


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Good Question

Last week I stayed with my parents at their house Up North, and at the end of my visit my dad drove me home again. Too late I realized that we'd passed the turn-off to the Rum River Art Center and my little studio, and I said so aloud, adding, "If I'd thought about it sooner, I would've had us go there so I could show it to you." I knew he was in a hurry, so I didn't expect him to turn around and really go there! But it was an enormous pleasure for me to unlock the door to the Art Center and invite him in, the guy whose opinion matters more to me than I can begin to express.

I showed him the large classroom space as we approached my studio door, and I heard him chuckle when he saw my busy window full of my drawings and comics and doodles. And he chuckled again when I opened the door and turned on my light. "So this is it! Well, you sure have a lot of stuff...." I do. And I expected a comment like that. My little room is cluttered with art supplies, show materials, product displays, and art on the walls that I find comforting and inspirational. It's somewhat of an 'organized' mess....

Inside the door on a little table were some leaflings that I'd recently created, spread out on craft paper and awaiting more of my attention. Dad said, "So you work on your leaves here...." And then after a pause he said, "Do people really buy these?"

I get that question a lot, usually from well-meaning family members (and my tax guy, who I suspect is surprised that anyone buys anything from me at all). The first time I heard it I was a bit offended, but now I understand.

With his question, Dad was trying to wrap his head around why someone would buy a leafling because THEN what do they do with it? I've been asking myself this question ever since the first customer picked one up and asked me how much it was. But I've since gotten lots of answers. And I would've shared them with Dad that day if I thought there was time. So instead I just laughed and said, "They do. And no one's more surprised by that than I am."

I've had people purchase leaflings for all sorts of reasons. Many have gone on to frame one or display it in a shadowbox or tuck it behind a picture on the wall. A friend of a friend bought five and hand-carried them to Glastonbury Tor as gifts for the other attendees at a spiritual get-together. Three siblings who lost a nature-loving sister to cancer bought one to leave at her gravesite. A young woman toted one on a hike to the Grand Canyon and then made a wish before sending it over the edge. Another left her purchased leafling on the Gun Flint Trail in memory of her father, who enjoyed hiking it. And these are just a few of the stories I've collected over the short period of time that I've offered these creations....

I wonder just how satisfying these explanations are, really, to anyone but myself. Do they really address my dad's query?

People who follow me online respond to my leafling images in a way that both pleases me and surprises me. And when they hold one in person, the reaction it gets is too heartwarming for words. What IS it about them?? I have no idea....

But I'm just the messenger, the middleman, the conduit. What do I know?


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Would This Be Missed?

Oh dear. I'm not sure how to proceed....!

I'm just learning bits about the General Data Protection Regulation, which is a new data privacy law being introduced by the European Union.

It affects businesses and bloggers everywhere (not just the EU), and it comes into full force tomorrow, May 25.

Because of this deadline I've been hearing more and more about it over the last week, but I know little except that it applies to anyone online who processes 'personal data,' like names and email addresses. And non-compliance can amount to some staggeringly butt-biting fines. Like gabillion-dollar fines.

Some well-meaning sites offer 'easy' ways to make sure one's biz and blogsite are compliant, but I swear those ways are written in Klingon. Seriously, I am so stumped it's not funny. I want to do what's necessary and I want to do it immediately, but I'm so confused by it!

I can't imagine I've amassed any 'personal data' outside of the names and e-addresses of the handful of followers I have who get these occasional posts emailed to them. But I'd hate to be wrong and then get busted.... In the grand scheme of things, I may be a tiny blogger with a tiny business and a tiny online footprint, but I still have to comply....

I enjoy blogging, but you wouldn't know it to look at my 2018 posts. The year is half over and I think I've written once if I've written at all.... But it's not because I have nothing to say. You're in my thoughts every dang day, and I have dozens of draft posts to prove it. Rather than send you something all rambling and mind-numbing, I prefer to have a topic. With an appropriate title. And some photos to break up all the type and give you something to look at. Something that looks professional. Something that looks like it's been proofread and spellchecked. And that takes time (and I'm a perfectionist as well as a procrastinator)....


I wonder....

Am I worried about making a blog GDPR compliant that is doing nothing but taking up space, shouting into the void, spinning its wheels? Is it worthy of keeping around? Or is it time to dispense with it?

This is one time I really need you to comment. Please. So what do you think?

Would this be missed?

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

It's a Whole New Year!

Happy New Year, my friend! I hope great things for you in 2018.

How was your holiday season? It was a rollercoaster for me, as always, what with some traveling and last minute art sales. The seasonal flu hit my little circle hard (not me personally, thankfully), and this year's strain is the pits. My holiday gatherings were minus a number of dear faces as family members hunkered down to recover. I used to be rather ambivalent about getting a flu shot until the season I went down hard with it, thinking it was just a bad cold at the time. And in the midst of a serious fever I can recall being fearful for my life, and I never want to experience that kind of a 'cold' again. I know flu season hasn't peaked yet. If you experience it at all, I hope its visit is brief and gentle.

Tax Season has arrived here. (Ick...) But because I did some additional art shows in 2017 and vowed at each one to let customers Pay What They Wish, my annual sales were up for a change, and I never get an opportunity to show my Tax Guy that I can make more than 50-cents a year. (I hope he's proud of me. I'm proud of me.) Because my year-long experiment was interesting and fortunately worked out in my favor, I want to try it again for another year -- just to see if the surprising results I experienced were just a fluke. Fingers crossed! I would LOVE to make this Pay What You Wish platform a forever thing.

As I write this post, I'm busy gearing up for the North Artists Studio Crawl (Studio G on the map again!; last year's experience was wonder-filled) and the St. Paul Art Crawl (Carleton Lofts location). And I'm creating Leaflings as fast as I can. Sharing them this past year with the public has warmed my heart and given me hope for the future.

So there! A bit of news to begin this year's blogging. I look forward to keeping you updated! And I hope that 2018 is grand for us all.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Touched by Magick

Unbelievable. I just got off the phone and am still in a place of awesome, and I have to share it with you....

A bit of a back story: last Fest season a woman adopted one of my Leaflings, carried it home in its little black origami take-out box, and gifted it to her mother who lives alone. And her mother pored through the info that was enclosed, checked my website out online, and today ordered prints. It was while she was placing her order that Magick seemed to happen.

We talked about our unusual names and where they came from (her Swiss grandmother named her, isn't that cool?). I learned of the hand-carved wooden leaf she's had displayed on her wall for ages, one with a smiling face on it. She explained to me that her adopted Leafling sits snug in a candleholder on her table, so that she sees it every morning as she sips her coffee. And I learned that today is her day off; she cleans houses for a living, a job she describes as 'working with energy.' (This definition makes my socks go up and down; when I heard it, I began to sense that I was communicating with a Kindred Spirit.)

I wrote down her order and we exchanged addresses. When she heard mine, she immediately asked if I was aware of an old building here in my village that has been made into apartments over the decades. I knew just the one!, and we had a long talk about how I used to live there (loved it so much I wept when I left it), how her brother still lives there (he left once but couldn't help but return), and how the place is haunted. (I could write this whole post about that place, but I'll save it for another time.)

Our conversation was brief yet I found it so meaningful. I told her how pleased I was that we got to talk like this, and she said that there was a reason we connected instead of doing business-by-voicemail....

And now as I reread this post I realize how 'meh' I make this event sound, when really it was wonder-filled.

I rarely answer the phone because I fear it, yet today I answered.

And I'm glad I did.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Experiment Continues

I did it. And I'm still doing it. I've taken my PWYW social experiment all the way to my biggest-ever show -- the MN Renaissance Festival.

And I wasn't sure what to expect.... Last season when I shared my leaflings there and asked interested customers to simply make a blind transaction (put whatever they wanted into an envelope while I packaged up their leaf), I was amazed at the results. The whole thing was just so interesting -- the good, the bad, the generous, the occasional empty envelope (!), the stories, the interactions -- it was a learning experience for me, and it tapped into what I've wanted to do with my art since Day One: Use it as a way to make a magickal memory through an engaging interaction, one that hopefully allowed me financially to continue to do so again. And again....

At the beginning of this year I asked James if it'd be OK if at every show I did -- big or little -- I asked my customers to pay what they wish for my work. Just for a year. Just to see what would happen. And if I noticed right away that this was a bad idea, I promised to immediately go back to selling my work at price-tag value. He gave me the thumbs-up without hesitation.

Since then, every show has surprised me. I've surprised myself! Talking to strangers has become easier (since I don't feel pressured to groom them for a sale), and my spiel never fails to start a conversation, one that I'm obviously passionate about. As folks listen to the explanation of why it is I'm doing what I'm doing, I watch their expressions change. They come right up to me and pay attention. Some are delighted, some are confused, some are shocked. Some think it's noble of me, some think it's 'ballzy' and immediately make a joke. One woman last weekend said, "You're either clever or very, very stupid." And I understand. Some seem afraid for me, especially when they hear that I'm a full-time artist and that I rent a studio and own a house that isn't completely paid for.

When asked what prompted me to do this, I tell them that right now my faith in humanity needs a shot in the arm, and that usually gets me a nod and a smile (because seriously, whose doesn't, right??). One tipsy gentleman found my words hilarious and assured me that no matter what I do, humanity is going to disappoint me. And to apparently prove his point he reached into his pocket and put something into one of my envelopes, saying, "Tomorrow when you open your envelopes and say to yourself, 'who's the asshole that gave me just a buck??', you'll know that that was ME." And he handed it to me as though it was an insult or a joke or something. Like he was somehow proving to me that everyone's a jerk just waiting to take advantage of naive people like myself. And yet, he'd just given me money without purchasing anything.... He wasn't an asshole at all. He was generous and supportive without asking for anything in return.

See? So interesting....

What that man doesn't know is that his lonely dollar wasn't the smallest or most surprising thing I discovered.* And his dollar donation to my social experiment said way more about himself than it ever said about me or my work or my naivete. I've thought about him often since then. And I hope that someday he quits thinking of himself as an asshole....

Each Fest weekend so far has surprised me by being more profitable than I have any right to expect. I've compared totals to what I would've made had I priced and sold my work as usual, and I've so far been coming out ahead. (Knowing this still gives me a little shiver. Is this just a one-time thing? A novelty? Could this possibly -- *eyes closed, fingers crossed* -- be my business platform going forward?) Even the weekend that I was absent and had someone else behind the counter, someone who isn't Me the Artist, someone who had nothing to lose by exchanging my work for an anonymous envelope -- even that weekend's totals surprised me. Biggest shocker: although I apparently sold all sorts of things for 50 cents, there were no empty envelopes. And although someone took home close to $300 of my work for far less than what it was priced at (no envelope held more than 10% of that total), the end results were still positive.

I've been fascinated. And people have been receptive. And I've been lucky. And people have been GENEROUS.

Two more weekends remain of this Fest season. Weather permitting, they're crazy busy weekends, ones that usually bring in the bulk of my seasonal income. And I'm going to continue with this experiment all the way to the end. If the remaining weekends follow suit, this will be one of my most successful seasons. And it has been less about selling my work than it has been about meeting new and interesting people and getting to better know my customers.

I am having the time of my life.


*(To YOU: please know how brave you were to write that letter telling me how much my work means to you and how apologetic you are for not having anywhere near the kind of money you thought it was worth. You thought I was brave, but you are the brave one! I love that my drawing went home with you, my dear. Enjoy it! And expect a big hug when we meet again.)