Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Mystery Revealed....

I alluded to a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) in my last post. The thing about BHAG's is that they are a bit scary. Big + Hairy = Scary. And Audacious. As in, "What are you thinking?" Or, "Who do you think you are?" So is it any wonder that I was not quite ready to reveal the exact nature of my BHAG?

Well, I have begun to let a few people peak under the covers. I have made a few tentative steps to let a little air around the idea. And in the process I have learned something. As Big, Hairy, (Scary), and Audacious (Bold) as this idea may be, or any BHAG for that matter, without letting it out into the air, it will probably never happen. Trying to protect ourselves by keeping the idea close only makes it less likely that the idea will move forward. Sending those first few e-mails emboldened me. It made me realize that the only way that this idea would happen is if I let the BHAG out of the bag, and let the universe give it some momentum.

If you know anything about me, and my work, you may have suspected that it has something to do with cranes. And you would be right. When this BHAG first started to form in my head, it was the idea that I would love to see 1000 cranes made from polymer clay, all together in an installation. It immediately went into the "Nice idea, as if that would ever happen" file. But every now and then, I would bring it out and reflect on the idea. Yep. It would be cool. Back in the file.

But recently the idea has taken a bit of a turn, and given it some new propulsion. It feels like something I have to do.

My BHAG is this; I want to create a crane for each soldier who has lost their life in Iraq. Each crane will be made from translucent clay, and on each wing their will be a name, the date the soldier died, where in Iraq they died, and how (hostile/non-hostile, IED, mortar, illness, ....). I want to have all these cranes, at least 4000 of them, all together in one space. Ideally a white room. Arranged by date. As you pass through the exhibit, you pass by the lives that have been lost. Each one ennumerated in a crane.

The crane is a powerful symbol for this idea in my mind. As a symbol of peace, and a symbol of long life, it will honor each of these men and woman. Regardless of our feelings about the war, or the soldier's feelings about being there, they are lives that need to be recognized and honored. A decision was made that led to this massive loss of life, which pales in comparison to the loss of Iraqi lives. The war has faded into the background. It goes on in spite of a general sense from many that the continuation of the war makes no sense. I want a visual image of these lives. I want to recognize them, and recognize the price of this political decision.

Some will hate this idea. That is okay. This is just something that I know I need to do. It comes from my heart.

I plan to start a new blog. One that will track this project. The ups and downs and ins and outs. The count of lives. The count of cranes. I will eventually start a way to raise funds to support this project. More will come about that later.

The biggest obstacle, .....aside from making all those cranes!! finding a place to install a project like this. This is the universe part. I am making this public so that as this project unfolds, a place may emerge. Perhaps several.

I will still post here.

I know.

"How does she find the time?"

I don't know. I just don't worry about that. The time will take care of itself. I will fold the cranes, as I continue on with my other work and the rest of my life. Stay tuned.....

Pretty Big and Audacious, huh? I think the hairiness diminished a bit by letting it out of the bag. I am more sure I need to do this, and that eventually it will happen.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Idea that Won't Go Away

Have you ever had an idea for something, something so big, so impossible, that you want to be able to just walk away from it? I have had just such an idea for about two years now. And every time it comes up, I think, "Well that's silly. How in the world would you make that happen?" And I move on. At least for a while.

What seems to happen, is that the idea keeps resurfacing. And each time it takes on a little more substance. In the last few days, it has gotten bones. A structure. It doesn't look quite so impossible. Or so outlandish.

Now this is one of those "BIG" ideas. What some people call a BHAG. A Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal. It means stepping into completely unfamiliar territory to make it happen. It means it has been hard for me to wrap my head around how I could possibly make it happen.

But then, at the same time, I know that others have done things that are comparable. Knowing this doesn't mean it is easy, or that it will ultimately be doable by me. But it does mean that it is possible. And if it is possible, and it keeps coming back to me, perhaps I need to take it seriously.....and in the process, take myself seriously too.

Isn't that what we are doing when we have an Impossible Dream. We may want to believe it is impossible. It means it just can't be done. Because then we can comfortably walk away. But each time this dream comes up for me, I know, somewhere in the back of my mind, that others have done comparable things. It is possible, and it is not going away. But, I have just not been ready. And that is where the truth lies. Having these dreams means stretching outside what is familiar and known. Holding on to them means we want to see if we can make them happen someday. We recognize our current limitations, but we are not silly to dream these dreams. Even if we dare not admit the details of our dreams to anyone!

As this idea is taking a more concrete form in my head over the last few days, I am seeing various pieces of things that have been out there floating around as vague ideas, starting to coalesce. It still feels pretty impossible. But I also feel like I want to start to push the idea from an idea into becoming something more tangible.

I am researching things like installations, venues, fundraising, grants. The actual art work is completely within my capabilities, although it will be time consuming, and I may need to enlist some help because of the simple scale of this idea. How to take this idea, this thought, and make it into a reality is the challenge. It may never happen. But I am going to begin to take some steps to try to make it work.

My first step is to write this here. To admit to myself and the world, that I am ready and willing to begin to explore this new territory. The details of the dream are less important than this shift that has happened in me. That is where our greatest barriers often lie. Inside. I will admit to being scared, and overwhelmed. But, I have to say there is also a certain amount of glee and sheer excitement about simply saying "yes". Yes, this is worth exploring. This is worth investing some time and energy to see where you can take it. Wish me luck! And if you know of any grant money around.....

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A New Focus

I have made a decision to focus on selling wholesale this year. My decision has come from several vantage points. First, I have seen terrific growth in this area of my business, and I want to be able to continue that growth. Second, retail shows have been more problematic for me.

Retail shows are a terrific way to get a first hand reaction to your work. This can be misleading and confusing though. I have had shows where the work flew out of my booth, and another show with the same work was dismal. Which information was correct? Both, most likely. Demographics, flucuations in the economy, weather, and many other factors can effect the outcome of a show. My energy level, or my display can also have an effect.

And retail shows are time consuming. Before the show I typically will do a mailing. This means updating my mailing list, printing out labels, and stamping postcards. A day to pack things up and organize. A day to travel and set up. Three days at a show, tearing down and traveling home on that last day. Crash and burn for at least a day. A week out of the studio. If the show was great, this was a week well spent. If not, it was a week away from family, and out of the studio. Then there are sales taxes to be paid, credit card sales to be entered, unloading the van, and putting everything away again. And more names to add to the mailing list.

In the past, I have felt unable to really think through, and follow through on developing a consistent and cohesive marketing plan for my work. It has been catch as catch can. Part of why I want to try focusing just on wholesale this year is because I want to be able to give enough attention to marketing that it can be more effective, and opportunities are not dropped or lost for lack of follow through.

Here is part of what I want to do;

1. Mailings. I still will do postcard mailings, but now they will be to galleries, and planned to promote some sort of special offer. A call to action, if you will. I also plan to mail out my new catalog to anyone who as ordered from me in the past or has asked for information. It will build on the past interest, and perhaps generate some sales. Too often in the past, I would send out a catalog after an inquiry, but leave it at that. I will make use of the mailing list of galleries I have built up over the last three years.

2. Newsletters. This is a step I have already begun. I sent out my first e-newsletter this week using Mail Chimp. They have a 30 day free trial, and flexible pricing plan that works for my volume and frequency. And it works! I had an order within 12 hours of my first mailing. I plan to send one out every other month, alternating with the postcard mailing. Not all galleries even use e-mail. But for those that do, it is a great way to stay in touch and let them know what is new with your work. These newsletter services would work well for retail as well. The nice thing about services such as Mail Chimp, or Constant Contact, is that they tell you how many people opened your email. How many times, and which links people clicked on. They clean up the list automatically, removing bounced e-mails. You could do this your self with a standard e-mail, but the background information is helpful to gauge the success of your newsletter.

3. Advertising. One of the tenets of effective advertising is repetition. Some people will contact you with the first advertisement. But others will have to see your ad repeated times before they take action. In the last year, I focused my advertising dollars on the Buyer's Guide put out by It is open to anyone who is on their site, and it goes out four times a year. I had planned to only do two ads last year, but ended up going with four. I also increased the size of my ad. The results were well worth the expense.

This year I plan to run ads in at least one, maybe two periodicals on an on-going basis. I am starting with Niche magazine, put out by the Rosen Group, and sent to galleries. I can run a co-op ad, again through, and gain broader exposure for my work.

What I have learned in the last year of running the ads in the Buyer's Guide is that I get a different clientele contacting me as a result of these ads. I get phone calls from galleries who do not visit the website, and do not want to place an order on-line. They prefer to talk to me on the phone. Perhaps have a catalog to peruse at their leisure. Some customers love the flexibility of ordering on-line, but others prefer a different approach. Being able to respond to all the various styles of your clientele is important.

4. Wholesale show(s). I will be doing the ACRE show in Las Vegas again this year. This show gave me exposure to buyers who like to come and see and touch the work in person before placing an order. Doing the show last year took me out of my comfort zone, but was well worth every minute of anxiety.

My approach to this is pretty much like it has been all along with my business. It is a trial. An experiment. I will allow myself this year of focus and see what happens. I may even do a retail show or two this year. But maybe not. I like the idea of traveling only once this year to do the wholesale show. I like the idea of taking the money I would have spent on retail shows this year, and using it to boost my advertising, and exposure.

I will let you know how this experiment works out. I am sure I will have more adjustments to make next year, but I feel like I have a map for the coming year. Each time we try something new, we learn new things. We may learn that it doesn't work for us, but we know it with certainty rather than fear.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Facing the Absolute Truth

Fact. We will all die eventually. A woman who has crossed my path in recent days has me thinking about how we come to terms with that fact, may just affect how we live the time we have.

Kimberly is my hero right now. Kimberly will be turning forty in February. In spite of doctor's predictions. I first met Kimberly, in passing, at a retreat last year. This was a day long retreat focused on personal growth and healing. At the time, she was not expected to live another year. Yet, she was spending a day, reflecting, examining, and opening her heart to the possible. Now you might expect given the circumstances that she might have spent that time in agonizing about how unfair it was, and why was this happening to her, and she had so many things she still wanted to do.

Kimberly was there to live her life, long or short, in the fullest way possible. This year when I went to the retreat again, there was Kimberly. I can't tell you how it made my heart lift to see her. Her hair was thin, and her face puffy from the ravages of the medications she has been taking. But her spirit was clearly alive. Her smile lit up her face, and her voice was one of hope and optimism.

We got to talking over lunch, and at one point we began talking about the cranes. I shared a few of the stories I have heard over the years from people about their connections with the cranes. This was when Kimberly exclaimed that I may have just solved her problem. She was planning a birthday party, for herself, in Key West, Florida next month. She and a dozen of her friends would be meeting up to celebrate her life, and the fact that she was still here to celebrate this birthday. She wanted to give a gift to each of her friends. Something that they would have, long after she was gone, that could help them remember her, and what her life was about. The cranes were the answer.

I will be making a dozen cranes for Kimberly in the coming days. They will have her birthdate under the wings. They will be small enough so someone can hold it in their hands, and remember Kimberly....and just how cute, and wonderful, and spiritual she is,... or was.

I have been blessed to have people like Kimberly come into my life. The cranes have brought these stories to me again and again. And each time I am connected to something way bigger than me.

I can only hope that I can face life with the courage, spirit, and joie de vivre that Kimberly does each and every day. I think of her, and I smile. Life is challenging and full of bumps and bruises. But, are we embracing the potential that it has to offer, everyday? Do we embrace life enough to want to work on our personal growth even as we stare down death?

Have you ever wondered what kind of art would you make if you were told you only had six months to live? Have you ever thought, maybe you should not wait until then to begin to make that art? Maybe, you won't get the six months warning.

Send your prayers and thoughts of healing Kimberly's way. The world could use someone like her a while longer. And go make some art like your life depended upon it. The world will be a richer place because of it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Does Being in Business Make You a Better Artist?

I am teaching a class at the Synergy conference in Baltimore next month, called "Should I, or Shouldn't I?" The class is about how to decide whether or not you should try and make money with your craft. In preparation for that class, I sent out some surveys to various artists to get a sense of how being in or out of the business side of art has affected them. What did they learn? What did they wish they knew? How do they make money with their art/craft?

I received an e-mail back from Elise Winters that was full of insight. One of the things she said that has had me thinking all week is that is that sometimes artist believe that they must be in business to be taken seriously as artists. It is Elise's belief that sometimes, the business can become a diversion to developing as an artist.

The subtitle of my blog, "the collision of business and art" implies that there is not always a comfortable alliance between these two worlds of commerce and creation. Many firmly believe that you cannot be true to your art, and be successful in business. I guess I would like to believe that there are no hard and fast rules in this regard. In fact, while being in business did not make me a more authentic artist, it did help me develop as an artist in other ways.

For one thing, it got me in the studio on a regular (daily) basis. And I absolutely believe that you must spend time in the studio to develop you skills, and to develop your voice. Neither of those happen without time in the studio. You can hone other skills, like your powers of observation, without being in the studio. But ultimately your hands need to connect with your medium. You need to be able to know intuitively the limits of your medium. You don't learn this by reading about it, or by spending a few hours a week creating. You learn it by getting your hands dirty.

It also forced me to pay attention to details. Details that are often referred to as finish. Present your work to a gallery owner, or at a craft show, and the first thing someone does is pick it up and start turn it this way and that. Inspecting the finish. How does the back look? How does it feel? How does it fasten? What types of materials are you using? It is easy to ignore these details when you are starting out. Stopping work on a project before attending to these details. Hoping no one will notice that glob of glue on the back that you used to attach the pin back. Under the scruntiny of another person's eyes, you will look more critically at your own work.

But business can become a trap. You can find financial success with work, and get stuck in that style for too long. Long past the time that the public interest has peaked, and your own inspiration has faded. You may find yourself looking too much to external sources of, someone else's success....rather than internally to your own creative well spring.

Time spent building a business can be time out of the studio. If you want to create "art" for "art's sake", selling your work can be a distration. But financing that pursuit might be a bit more challenging.

In my own case, I had been looking around for what I was going to be doing in my life. I was half-heartedly trying to enter the world of children's book publishing. So when polymer clay fell into my lap, and I fell in love with the possibilities of this medium, I was soon thinking that I wanted to figure out how I could do this as a business. I had already run a business. I had a business background. I didn't know what form the business might take. But I knew that eventually that was my goal. Perhaps as someone who has a degree in business, and not in art, it was more comfortable terrain.

But first, I had to learn as much as I could about what I could do with this material. At one point my husband referred to this time, and money, spent on experimenting and learning as my art school tuition. I guess you could say I was "home schooled in art". A business professor might have looked at this time as one of research and product development. I probably dove into the world of commerce prematurely. But, as many have said before me, I would rather regret the action taken, than the opportunity passed. And once I dove in, I learned far more than I would have continuing to work away on my own. Even if what I learned was that I was not ready for prime time yet!

It is a delicate balancing act, juggling commerce and creation. And each person has their own tipping point where things go too far one way or another. We must know what our own motivations and goals are before we know if we are in balance.

If your in my class in Baltimore, I have much more wisdom from Elise and others to share. I hope I see you there!

Friday, January 11, 2008

"How Did You Think of That?"

Or, "Where did you get that idea?" I have heard those questions often. And usually the answer is so mundane or ordinary, I am sure it is less than satisfying for those posing the question. But it is the reality.

The ideas are out there everywhere, all around us. What is important is honing your ability to notice and pay attention to the inspiration that surrounds you. Kim Cavender quotes Grant Diffendaffer in her blog.

"Making something you have never imagined will greatly increase your ability to imagine things you have never made, and then go on to make them."

Kathleen Dustin talks in her blog about being inspired by tall grasses in the wind to create a fabulous new purse design. As she says in her blog entry, she sees her job as an artist is one of paying attention.

So many times I have come upon a good idea, on the way to something else. Something unexpected catches my eye. If I had not learned to pause at this moment, the inspiration would have disappeared into the ether, gone for good most likely.
I think I have always been someone who just can get caught up in the simple act of observation. I can destract myself from the discomfort of dentistry by "analyzing" the ceiling, or some other thing within my view. I used to take a bus back and forth to school when I was in business school. I remember passing the time on the ride by doing drawings in my head. I would study the back of someone's head as if I was trying to draw it. Noticing shadows and details. The wrinkles on the neck. The hair, or shape of a head. When I was following the exercises in The Artist's Way, and writing my "pages", I would sometimes write what I saw out the window, especially the sky. I would try to describe the color and light as best I could in words. Here are a few of those excerpts;
"I can hear the birds outside this morning since the windows are open. It is such a different scene outside the window now compared to the winter. Green leaves everywhere. There are only tiny bits of sky visible between the leaves. Even the tree trunks are partially or largely obscured by the leaves. The leaves cause the sunlight coming in the window to dance."

"The sky is a hard silvery blue right now. There is a small band of peach colored sky along the northwest horizon. It is getting darker out as I sit here writing this. It looks more like evening than morning."

Do you give yourself the time to pause and reflect when something catches your eye. You may stop for half a second. But do you then think about what it is that made you stop?

What if this power of observation is not something that you have honed quite yet? If you want to work on this ability to notice, I recommend spending a few minutes every day observing one thing, the same thing, everyday, and try to put into words what you have seen. The sky is great because it is always changing. But pick the same time each day, and you will incorporate the passage of time into your observations as well. Days lengthening or shortening will change the quality of the light.

Have you ever seen those film clips on YouTube of photos that people take of themselves each day? The pictures flash by, with clothes and hair changing, but little else. Glasses seem to float on the face as they move around just a bit each day. If writing is not your thing, maybe you could do a portrait each day of a spouse, yourself or your pet. They don't have to be super refined or finished. Just the same thing, every day. If you do this for a month, you will find yourself noticing things by the end of that month that you never saw before.

Learning to pay attention takes practice. And once you are paying attention, it won't automatically translate into a new body of work. It may mean that you will start to find inspiration in the ordinary and everyday. It really is out there for all of us to access. We just have to notice.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Competitive Advantage

In business school, especially in marketing, there is a lot of talk about competitive advantage. Positioning yourself or your product to achieve competitive advantage in the market place. In the world of art or craft, no one uses words like that. But, an issue that is always able to stir up interest actually may be all about competitive advantage.

Voice. Your creative voice. In the end, finding your own voice, your style, your own unique way of expression is ultimately the best way to create competitive advantage.

Let's step away from art or craft for a minute, and talk about cola, or tissues, or diapers. Do you think of Coke(TM), Kleenex(TM), or Pampers(TM)? Each of these companies created an identity so strong for their products, that their brand name is virtually synonymous with the product name. Certainly, we can all name products that compete with each of these businesses, but they do not spring to mind as quickly as these.

Back to the world of art. Vincent Van Gogh, Monet, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollack. Do you get an immediate visual image with each of these names? I do. These artist each have a voice that is strong and recognizable, that in business terms could be called brand identity.

When I started out selling my work, my focus was on technique. I thought it was all about being good at doing something. Well, that only carries you so far. What truly creates competitive advantage in the business of craft is having a distinctive voice. Kim Cavender is actually running a contest right now that is all about this very thing. Identify the artist for the images shown in her blog post.

By developing a strong and distinctive voice, you will not only have your work become recognizable, but, anyone copying your work will be seen as doing just that. There are painters who are masterly at creating technically accurate copies of another artists work. And much can be learned in that process. But, it is the difference between Coke, and the store brand cola. It will never have the same perceived value in the broader market as the original. Sure, there are plenty of people who might be very satisfied with a brilliantly executed copy at a reduced price. But, will the copyist every reach the same degree of satisfaction in the creation of the work as the originator? And, it will never be valued as highly as the work of the originator.

This past weekend, I attended an open house for a school we are looking at for my younger daughter. This school is very unique in it's approach and philosophy. It follows the guidelines of an essential school. Students do not get letter grades. They build a portfolio of work. They get a narrative assessment of their work. And they are evaluated on a gradient of learning....a learning curve if you will. Everyone starts out as "Just Beginning". You are not expected to master the work when you are just beginning. Mistakes are welcome. They are part of the learning process. Things are learned with practice and experience. Eventually, typically over a period of two years, a student will reach a point of mastery, where expectations are met, and they are ready to move onto a higher level.

When we start our in our craft or our artwork, we are just beginning. We practice and refine our skills by copying that which has come before us. Eventually, we may tire of a technique we master, and then move onto another technique and master that. I recently heard an interview with Nick Lowe, the musician, who described this process beautifully. He talked about how as a musician learn, they mimic the work of other musicians whose work they admire. There is something in that artist's work they connect with. Then they move onto another artist, and another, and another. But at some point, they stop looking outside to learn. They take the pieces that they have learned, and start taking parts of them and putting them together in new and different ways. It is not always about reinventing as much as rethinking. Combining things together in a way that others may not have explored. Taking the pieces that speak to your heart, and inspire you, and putting them together in a way that feels right for you.

I think this quote from Marc Chagall sums it up nicely,

"If I create from the heart,
nearly everything works.
If I create from the head,
almost nothing."

Where are you on the continuum of just beginning to mastery? Have you begun to discover your competitive advantage?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Attention Polymer Clay Artists!

You have a wonderful opportunity to generate some free publicity for your work. Polymer Cafe has a new editor, and she is looking for submissions, now! Yesterday even. But tomorrow will do.

The secret that many people don't know is that editors need us to send them our work, and our ideas. That is what fills all those pages of the magazine. And in return we get publicity we could not otherwise afford. Editors do not use every item that crosses their desk, but without those submissions, there is no magazine. Editors do not base a magazine solely on hunting down quality work and begging the artist for the opportunity to feature them in their magazine. Editors have time constraints like the rest of us, and they depend upon the majority of what goes into the magazine coming from submissions from artists.

It is just these sorts of opportunities that we need to have a press kit, with a CD with images of our work, ready to go out the door, or at least put together quickly. Even if you do not have that, maybe you have an idea for an article that you have thought about writing, or some great pictures of some recent work. Submit it! Take advantage of this opportunity. And, know that these opportunities exist all the time. Waiting for us to take advantage of them.

Chop, chop. Time's a wasting.... What are you waiting for? You know you want to see your work in print. Go for it. I can't wait to see what ends up in the magazine.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

"Time, Time, on My Mind..."

"Yeess, it is."

If there is one commodity I could use more of, it would be time. And that scarcity of time is what is driving some of my decisions and choices in the coming year. It is easy to lose track of time when I get engrossed in my work in the studio. Or to have a relatively simple task take much longer than expected for any number of reasons,....interruptions, distractions, equipment or material problems, name it.

In many ways, time is one of the main ingredients in our work. How we value that time depends upon the skills and experience we bring along. But ultimately, for many artists, (excluding those working with metals these days!), the cost of materials can be insignificant compared to the time put into creating their work. Yet, it can also be the most undervalued component by the new artist starting out.

Several things got me thinking about this issue of time. There was a great post I found through Alyson Stanfield's ArtBiz blog about tracking time spent in the studio. I have tracked how much time it takes me to do a particular task, but I have not tracked my overall studio time quite the way it is described by Lisa Call. She has been writing down her hours in the studio each day, in her sketchbook. I love the sketchbook idea, but I am afraid I would fall into the judgement and evaluation of the numbers if I had them. Knowing this about myself might be why I was particularly struck by her goal to not judge the hours she had spent (or not spent) in the studio. But instead, her goal was acceptance that the hours spent there were the right amount for her.

Too often we are looking externally for cues and measurement comparisons. How much time do they spend in the studio? How many hours? Days? How many shows? The probem with these comparisons is that they are always missing essential information. No one else is where we are with our work, or lives. We all bring different experience, and baggage, to the party. And we all have different styles of work. Trying to adapt yourself to another person's work style or schedule so that you can perhaps achieve what they have done will only end in frustration.

Several other discussions in on-line forums have caught my attention when they touch this issue of time. One was about how people track time to price their work. One artist had a price per minute that she factored in for labor. Another had calculated how many pieces she could produce during a week. By adding together a weekly overhead cost, her materials, and her "weekly salary", she could then calculate a wholesale price without worrying about her hourly rate, or the exact number of hours it took her to produce an individual piece of work. One person was more exacting, and another more global in their calculations. Both had figured out what worked for them.

Another discussion centered on retailers' concerns about artists undercutting them on websites or at retail shows. This has become more and more of an issue as there are more and more direct outlets available to artists to sell their work. Without getting into the pricing discussion, a comment made in the thread resonated for me. I will try to paraphrase the comments. One retailer commented that many artists she represented had stopped doing retail shows after they did the math and saw the true cost of the retail show...beyond the booth fee, ...and found that it did not pay. An artist chimed in with her experience that reinforced this observation. She had found that she made more money, and had more time at home, and in her studio when she went to two wholesale shows a year, supplemented with on-line wholesale sales.

This reflects where I am coming to as I look at my goals for the coming year. Sales at retail shows, with just a few exceptions, have been dismal for me this year. I am not ready to write off retail entirely, but I am backing away from it. I like the idea of making work to fill an order. I like the idea of more time at home, and less of my time spent selling. I want to spend my time in the way that is most efficient and enjoyable for me. Too often this year I would spend three or four days away at a show while I had wholesale orders waiting to be filled. This just added to the frustration of a disappointing show.

As I make this choice to focus even more on wholesale, I know that there are many others out there who are leery of wholesaling their work. We all need to look and find the right combination for our time, our temperament, and our work. The balance or approach that works for me might feel completely out of balance for you. But maybe, like me, analyzing the mix in the context of time might just be what you need to help make a decision that feels right.

Enough time out of the is time for me to get back to work!

Thursday, January 3, 2008


How often do you start a sentence about an idea with "I can't", or "I am not ready to..."? You are in a conversation about your work or your business, or whatever. A thought pops up, and suddenly you find yourself uttering those words.

The problem with these words is that they often leak out before we had time to consider them. Could we do it? I can't begin to tell you how many times perfectly wonderful opportunities landed in my lap, and my first reaction was to push it right off. Oh, no. Not here. Not now. I can't. I don't want to do that. No. It isn't right for me.

But, fortunately, I have reconsidered my initial response in some of those cases, and found myself thinking maybe I spoke too quickly. Maybe, I could. Maybe, I should. Maybe I would be a fool not to. When you do that enough times, you start to slow down that knee jerk response of immediate dismissal. You start to realize that often times what is happening is that you are protecting the status quo, rather than listening to your heart. You are making a decision based on emotion and fear rather than any good rationale. Nowadays, I am more likely to say, "I'll have to think about that," if I am faced with an idea that seems out of the question.

If you find yourself in this "I can't" mode, stop for a minute and play with the idea of "What if....." What if you said yes? What possibilities might open up to you? Maybe no was the right answer. But make sure what you are turning down or rejecting is really not a good idea. Or allow yourself to at least begin the journey, with the knowledge that you can return to more familiar ground at any time. Just because you put your foot in the water, it doesn't mean you are committing to a mile swim.

Susan Lumoto is doing some wonderful exploration with polymer clay right now and sharing it in her blog. Exploring textures and forms. Not sure exactly where it is going, but knowing that she needs to just say yes to the exploration, and she doesn't need to know where or why just yet. Her daughter made a suggestion about making the forms into jewelry, and rather than rejecting the suggestion, and saying, "No, I hadn't planned for this to be jewelry," she went ahead and listened. She played around with the suggestion, and a gorgeous bracelet emerged. I hope she continues to play with the the vessels...they are very cool! But clearly, Susan is onto a wonderful new path, full of new discoveries.

She is just one example of someone who has opened themselves to the possibilities. There are many, many more. Try to pay attention when you find yourself presented with an opportunity that "doesn't make sense for you." Give yourself permission to rethink your initial response. Maybe the next time some wonderful opportunity lands in your lap you will embrace it rather than shoo it away! Or at least give yourself time to think about it more fully. It is scary sometimes to realize how often the very things we want and need are presented to us, and we push it away. Fortunately, those chances have a way of coming around again, and again, in new forms. Eventually, if we are lucky, we begin to open ourselves up to the possibilities.
Maybe 2008 can be the Year of Possibilities.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Something in the Air?

Have you ever noticed that at certain times you have an idea or thought, and all of the sudden it seems like you see it reflected everywhere?

I was thinking about a post I wanted to write today about goal setting for the new year. Actually about the mindset to have when you think about setting your goals. The word that came to mind for me was being "Fearless". How often do we set goals we already know we can do? Certainly most of our goals will fall into that territory. But what about listening to the goals your heart has it's sights on? Yes, they may be scary, impossible, or out of your range. But maybe, just maybe, you only think they are. Maybe, your heart knows better than your head.

As I sat down to the computer to begin to compose this blog, I checked my e-mail first, and had an email from Knitting Daily, about Knitting Fearlessly. Of course, this got my attention. As I read through the post, I was more and more engaged. She was saying what I was thinking, and saying it so well. Here are a few of my favorites from the post (with my alternative noun/verb in parentheses):

"Did you Knit (Create) Fearlessly? What would you knit (create) in 2008 if you were really the knitter (artist) you've always dreamed of being?
Here's some things to think about:
• Is there something you haven't tried because it seems Too Scary?
• Is there a technique you want to learn, or learn to do more skillfully?
• Is there something that stumps you?
• Is there something that you are dying to try, in your secret knitter's
(artist's) heart, but haven't dared because you think you're not a good
enough knitter (artist)?
• Are you always knitting (creating) The Same Old Things, and you'd
like to try something new?

I think we all have things we shy away from simply because we have not put on our Fearless Hat or Fearless Cloak....or whatever it is that we need to don, in order to take on that Fearless Attitude. In the end, that is what it really is about, .....attitude. It is the willingness to just try. Maybe it will not work out. But most of the time, the risks are far less than we imagine them to be.
There is something about fear that makes magnifies our worries. It is as if we look at the possible consequences of something going wrong in a fun house mirror....full of distortion and magnification. When we can set that fear aside for just a little bit, and start looking at the facts, the real risks,often they are far more than manageable than we imagined.

My big accomplishment last year was doing my first wholesale show. To say I was anxious about many aspects of doing a wholesale show would be an understatement. But the feeling that I wanted to do a wholesale show kept surfacing. When the ACRE show came up last year, the question about whether or not I wanted to do it came up again. At first I decided against it. Too much risk. But it just did not feel fully settled. The question kept coming up again and again in my head.

I sat down and wrote down the costs. Wrote down what I was worried about. Wrote down what the potential gains of doing the show would be. And when I was all done, my decision was made. There was no question. I needed to do the show. As the time came closer to get ready for the show, the anxiety surfaced again, but in the end, it was all very doable. After it was all over, I saw how much I made a big deal out of something that really wasn't. I did my homework. I was prepared. And it turned out great.

So, what will I do that will scare me this year? I am not sure. Maybe setting the goals at the beginning of the year is a bit arbitrary. Maybe it is more about being ready and open to the opportunities that present themselves, and being ready to say "yes".

So, shall this be the year of creating Fearlessly? What scary goal will you take on this year? Will it be applying to your first show? Or making an appointment with a local shop to see if they want to carry your work? Or, exploring some new ideas that you are not sure about? Maybe, like me, you don't know right now how you might be fearless this year. But we can work on the attitude. Maybe knit ourselves a Fearless Hat for when the time comes! Of course, Fearless Hats don't have patterns. They come from our hearts.