The Art of Business, The Business of Art, Part 2

There’s a reason “starving artist” became a clichéd phrase. I read a murder mystery once where one of the (many) deaths was an up-and-coming artist. The motive: Kill the artist, destroy 80%-90% of his work, and own the rest, which will naturally skyrocket in value. How can you be an artist, stay alive, and and live a reasonably comfortable, stable, life?

Obviously, some people make it work. There is the work-many-jobs option. And there are the lucky/talented/hard-working ones who “make it.” But it seems a bit like kids who are stellar high school athletes and believe they can make it in the pro leagues, not quite recognizing the statistical improbabilities. We just see the ones who make it, we don’t see the thousands who don’t. (Apparently, this is also similar to drug dealers–the difference between the low-level neighborhood street corner pushers who aspire to be the head kingpin. They’re never going to make it, but the allure of the perceived lifestyle is too attractive. I want to say Malcolm Gladwell, or someone like that, wrote something about this.)

Anyway. Entering the world of e-commerce and POD sites (e.g., TeePublic, RedBubble) or those for small businesses (e.g., Etsy), it is abundantly clear that they are flush with really talented people. It’s also clear that people who started early and became well-established have a huuuuuge leg up on everyone else. (I’m looking at you, shops with 10,000+ purchases.) I’m trying anyway, but what do you do? Again, per my “I want an Intern” post, I’m not all that interested in the self-promotion activities that seem to be required. At first, I (naively) thought it would just be a matter of posting to Instagram–hey, that I can handle. Oh, foolish, foolish, past self.

Putting on my MBA hat, I figure it basically comes down to solving one or both of two issues. 1) Per above, finding the right way to reach the people who would like what I make. 2) Figuring out who I can most easily reach (preferably that others are not) and make what they like. The latter would be called “selling out” by some. Or “practical” by others. I imagine in some artistic circles “commercial” is a dirty word. I’m not so highbrow. But, that also isn’t what I love about art, because it’s not expressing me and my vision.

Recently, I was working “on spec” on some graphic designs for some corporate swag. It’s a great opportunity, and perhaps one path to pursue over the long-term as something a little stable. But oh, it did not satisfy my creative needs. And as someone pointed out (intentionally ungrammatically), “thems that pays the bills gets to decide.” But it was a little bit painful to have to execute on someone else’s choices when I thought something else would be better. I think there has to be a high ratio of time spent on truly creative art versus “commercial” art to make up for it.

So. Where does that leave me? Us? Pretty much where I was at the start of this post. I’m still trying different things to see what might work in this overly saturated market. Trying to find out if my actual interests might overlap with a hidden empty niche. Trying to figure out how to reach what is apparently my demographic, according to Instagram—hey ladies, roughly ages 25-40!. And continuing my art class, to make things, and just keep going…

While I’m doing this, if you’d like to help me out and like what you see on my website or Instagram (@frommytwohands), please share it with your friends and family (or strangers, for that matter). You could consider the pieces of mine that you see examples–I’m truly very happy to make custom pieces, especially of my alphabet collection given the personal nature of initials and then design preferences.

Oh and follows, I could really use some of those if you are so inclined, particularly on IG…. thank you!

New year, new look, new plans…

It turns out that starting a business, even a tiny one, is really hard to do while also moving to another state. My elves went on strike.

While they were on strike, it did give me the chance to reconsider what, exactly, I wanted to be doing craft-wise and potentially Etsy-wise.

You may have noticed a slightly new look to the blog. It describes in broad strokes what I’m interested in making…in some ways, it’s much broader and more experimental than before, and in others a lot more clearly focused.

The shop is on hiatus while I figure more of this out and do some R&D and potion-brewing, so the blog will mostly be about things I’m working on, or aspire to work on, someday.

Stay tuned!

Too many ideas!! (with addendum)

I have deep familiarity with analysis paralysis. I had no idea there was a non-information based equivalent when there are SO MANY shiny ideas ping-ponging in your brain leaving little trails of “I should TOTALLY make that.” Even though you KNOW the smart decision is to pick ~4-5 types of things to focus on (each having a little variety in sizes or styles) and see what does or doesn’t do well first.

But SHINY.

But I am ONE person.

But SHINY.

But I have NO STORAGE SPACE.

But SHINY.

This inner dialogue could continue for quite some time. I am at my weakest late at night and think, “well, it couldn’t hurt to make just ONE of these….”

img_0307-1

Speaking of shiny.  My dad and I visited with some dear family friends this weekend, and one of them (Hi Debbie!) gave me some lovely cross-stitch and needlepoint magazines/books that she’s been saving.  It was so thoughtful of her.  And yet–did you see the picture of my head exploding?

I want to make ALL of these.  Plus items that you can’t see, but I found while browsing through the magazines.  Last Christmas, I haunted Etsy looking for 12 Days of Christmas ornaments for my tree, and I couldn’t find any I liked and it just didn’t even occur to me to make them myself.  And now I can.

Except, the point is kind of to make things for OTHER people to buy, not to keep for myself.  Hmm.  I can see that this may be a slight flaw in my business model.

Addendum:  Spending four hours doing laundry to pre-wash, dry, and fold all the fabric has put a tiny dent in my enthusiasm.  This dent is much smaller than the dent caused by the prospect of ironing all of the fabric.

On the other hand, those four hours gave my plenty of time to think of MORE ideas.  It’s a vicious (virtuous?) cycle, clearly.

 

It’s beginning to look a lot like…

You know how irritating it is when stores decorate for Christmas 🎄 before Halloween 🎃? I complain about it ever year. Time to eat crow.  (Also, I have to make a Halloween costume for my dog.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Last year she was a mad scientist.)

I have a degree and transcript and everything to prove I went to business school, but rather than doing a ton of market research and business planning yesterday I just decided to try a variety of products on Etsy and see what happens.

And yes, I’m starting with Christmas-themed items. Specifically, some very cool (if I do say so myself) Christmas tree skirts, and some other secret goodies.

Here’s a snap of the skirt I made for my tree lasts couple years ago year–fully reversible!

 

 

Poor lighting notwithstanding, doesn’t a pretty skirt look SO much nicer than the ugly plastic bag that will dispose of the tree after the holidays? Not to mention the hideous tree stands? Yup, that’s all under there!

Now I have some fun ideas to get creative with the skirt pattern (and size, of course), and am eagerly awaiting some amazing holiday fabrics to get started.

 

Some will be available as solid, single-color tree-skirts, and others will only be available as special piecework skirts, due to limited supply of fabric. (All will be reversible!)

So please keep an eye out for the opening of my Etsy store–better yet, sign up to be emailed when the grand day arrives. There will be more goodies, and doesn’t everyone like goodies?

I promise all that stuff about privacy.

When you don’t know what to do

My hands itch. I want to make something. But not something I’ve already started. Something NEW. Maybe not even something I’ve made before. It’s driving me bananas, because I don’t know what IT is.

It’s times like these that I want a craft laboratory. Someplace stocked with odds and ends that might be useful someday, a day like today that’s made for experimenting.

Or at least has a really big table so I can see all my projects in their entirety at the same time. Which really would be ginormous, considering one is a king-sized quilt. But as long as I’m wishing, the tabletop would also be treated so I could iron on it and use a rotary cutter without damaging it.

But I digress.

What I will not be making today: I had this idea of making gravity blankets for Etsy, but as it turns out they fail the Venn diagram test.

Apparently a gazillion people already recognized an arbitrage opportunity when the original company stupidly priced its (ugly) product at hundreds of dollars.

Hmmm. Maybe something with all the scraps from other projects… we’ll call this Project Frankenstein for now.

Arriving late to the (e-commerce) party

I was in 9th grade when I got my first email address (courtesy of AOL).

I once used Netscape middle school, and remember discovering Google for the first time in college.

I remember when downloading mp3s didn’t seem illegal, and was shocked when my friend’s sister got in trouble.

I remember a time before Apple was a big deal, and just made boxy computers that played Lode Runner. (OK, I was maybe 3 years old, but I remember.)

My point is that I remember a lot of firsts, but was never an early adopter and didn’t hop on bandwagons.

So here I am, contemplating Etsy, years after it became popular, and trying to solve the worst Venn diagram ever to come up with viable product(s):

That yellow circle is killer. My poor, blessedly naive father once offered to buy yarn if I would knit him a sweater, and buy yarn for me to make myself one, too. $400+ later… They’re very nice sweaters, and I did try to warn him, but…

Do you think it’s too late to get a refund on my business school tuition?