MAYBE LANGUISHING ISN’T SO BAD?

 

 

The Elk Horn Gate
I don’t know why I picked this image, I just like it, so there.

Let me tell you about my frustrations with social media marketing.

It’s a sad story. On one hand, I applaud the internet, blogs, social media sites. I think of the people throughout history, okay, even before history, people of different cultures, races, times, gender, who had the chance of a snowball in hell of having their work read, seen, shared. I’m pretty sure Emily Dickinson would have given almost anything to have her work published. Vincent Van Gogh finally had his day in the sun, but he died before he actually saw it. (This Doctor Who snip always brings tears to my eyes.)

And for awhile, it was great to be able to share my work and my words so easily. The day I started my first blog at Radio Userland, I felt a surge of freedom I’d never felt before. I didn’t need an editor, a publisher, an agent, nada. All I needed was the courage to tell my stories, share my thoughts, give insights based on my own experience selling/marketing/making and hopefully offer validation and hope to others who felt less-than-successful with their own creative work.

I love Pinterest, because I can create an online scrapbook of images that inspire me, intrigue me, give me ideas for my own projects. ) I love Instagram too. It’s a great venue for artists, I’m told, and I have a pretty big audience there, too. I can share all kinds of images of my work, inspiration, process, etc.

Then Radio Userland died. I moved to WordPress, but I did some great writing on Radio Userland. For awhile, I couldn’t even access my own articles there, until my hubby used his tech skills to create new urls for my blog there. Now I can find them, and republish them occasionally on my WordPress blog.

Then Facebook got bigger, and then it was/is immense. It also became all about the money. Facebook bought Instagram, and now it’s headed the same way.

I read a transcript of a Zoom video by Dave Geada, marketing guru at FineArtStudiosOnline (FASO.com) where I have my own website, and where I wrote a regular column for 12 years for Fine Art Views until a couple months ago. I still love the support structure of FASO for artists, and I’m glad to hold on to my website there.

Dave is as heart-centered as I am when it comes to marketing, I love almost everything he has to share on how to up our marketing skills, and many of the Zoom meetings are free to all. He loves Instagram, too, and has created many videos on how to use it effectively. I’ve gotten great tips and insights about social media markting (especially Instagram) from his Zooms, and many are free to ALL artists. Check out their Art Marketing Playbook here: AMP

But I’m beginning to feel lost in a huge dust storm that is suffocating.

Dave points out that Facebook regularly introduces new algorithms that block who can see our posts, forcing us to consider buying ads so we can grow our audience.  Suddenly, a thousand followers shrinks down to a handful in my Facebook business page. 

Instagram hashtags are a hot mess for a creative like me. I’ve tried hundreds of them over the years, tags that sound extremely descriptive of my style, my subject matter, my materials, etc. And yet, when I take the time to test them out, not very many put me in the company of other work that’s anything like mine.

In other words, it’s a blessing to be making work that’s unique, easily recognizable as mine, etc. But it’s frustrating to realize the tags I use regularly either throw me into a bottomless pit with hundreds of thousands of other people’s images, most nothing like mine, and ensuring I’ll be in someone’s feed about ten thousand posts down. (So, almost zippo visibility.) I’m lost in the shuffle. Or worse…More finely-tuned tags find me in a pond that’s way too small (although the images will hang around longer.) One example: I use #blackhorse for my faux soapstone horses. But I’m the only little handheld black horse sculpture in a sea of images of REAL black horses.

In the end, I can’t think of any way someone could even imagine my work, and look for it, unless they already know it, or they know my name. (Don’t send me suggestions unless you’ve researched them yourselves, okay?) (I mean, thank you for thinking of me, but it’s just not that simple.)

And the biggest surprise of all? I just found out that two superstars in the polymer clay world have quite modest followers on Instagram.

Ford and Forlano have been megastars for decades, two of the first polymer clay makers to hit it big with their work. It’s fabulous, beautifully made, expensive, and carried by the finest galleries in the country. Their Instagram following? 1,500 people. About the same as mine, a relatively-nobody/not nearly as famous nor successful.

Cynthia Tinapple is a polymer clay artist/teacher who has curated polymer clay work for decades with her Polymer Clay Daily newsletter, and her weekly subscription-based Studio Mojo newsletter. (WOW! I just tried to see when PCD first started. It looks like the first post was published on September 11, 2005. MY BIRTHDAY!!) She knows all the top makers in the pc world, she scours the internet for makers old and new, innovators, and whoever is making something intriguing, different, powerful, featuring around 250 makers every year. Her following? Well under a thousand. (To be fair, it looks like she’s just getting started on Instagram. But if every person she’s featured in her newsletters followed her, she’d easily be classified as an “influencer”!) (Six days of incredible posts for closing in on 16 years….) (OH, even more, because Studio Mojo usually has at least half a dozen little features on artists and resources.)

Next, my frustration with most hosting sites for artists, including FASO: Almost all of them focus on 2-D art: Painting, drawing, etc. I took a survey on mine, to get a “roadmap” for my marketing plan, and the first question was, is my work abstract or representational. (Um….jewelry?? And is anyone looking for my work going to use either of those terms to describe it? I don’t think so.)

Last, photographing my work is really, really tricky. Oh, photoing jewelry is okay, and the shrines come out well, if a professional photographer is doing the picture-taking. But decades ago, another polymer clay artist said, “Your photographer is one of the best, and yet they still can’t really capture the look and feel of how wonderful your little artifacts are in person.” That was true then, and it’s still true today. In fact, I believe the biggest factor in building my audience is when people come to my studio, and can actually pick up a little bear, or a horse, and hold it in their hand. It’s magic.

To sum up: I have a powerful creation story. I’m pretty good at telling stories. I’m good at the work I do. Good enough, anyway. I’m good at interacting with studio visitors, and engaging them with my work. I take a lot of pictures, I get professional ones when I need them (and can afford them!), I’ve gotten better at editing them, etc. I’ve done some major fine craft shows in my art career, my work’s been published in dozens of magazines and newspapers over the years, I grew a loving and loyal audience at the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Annual Craft Fair, and I have some wonderful followers and collectors here in California, too.

But if I’m struggling on how to get my art to cross the path of people online,struggling to find more people who might also become fans, and maybe even collectors some day, then how is everybody else doing?

I know Cynthia occasionally feels ‘less-than’ as she comes across astounding new, young polymer clay artists. She wonders if she’s doing a good enough job, if what she posts is interesting and relevant. (YES, YOU DO AND YOU ARE, CYNTHIA!)

And in writing this, I just remembered my very first blog post at Radio Userland on December 1, 2002: What Meryl Streep and I Have In Common

Okay, this just blew my mind: I started with how, reading that Meryl Streep struggles to own her own skill and body of work, made me realize this is “normal” for creatives. We all have that little voice that says we’re not good enough, we aren’t as great as others think we are, that we are doing it wrong.

So let’s just kick that little voice outta the park today. Or at least let it out into the backyard so it can take a pee.

I believe, so far, that my art has brought many, many people a bit of joy and wonder into their lives. I love that, and I’m grateful.

I also believe that, from how people respond to my articles and blog posts, that hundreds, maybe thousands of people gain hope from something else I offer the world:

  • You matter.
  • Your creative work matters.
  • It matters because it helps you be the best person you can be. It lifts your heart.
  • And when you share it with the world, it will lift someone else’s heart, too.

I’m not the wisest, kindest, smartest, most talented cookie in the box, not by a long shot. But I know how much my creative work means to me, and I know it will call to me until I die. (Or dissolve, or lose my marbles. Whatever. It could happen.)

But I know this:

It’s not about the money.

It’s not about the likes.

It’s not about the number of followers, the number of comments, the awards, the sales, the money.

In fact, the more I learn about “influencers”, the more I don’t want to be one. And let’s face it, some dynamics rule the game. Actors are going to get more publicity/fame/likes than the people who actually help put movies together, right? We just see the actors more easily. There are plenty of people behind the curtain, people who do incredibly powerful, good work in the world, and it’s rare we ever even hear about them.

It’s not about how to game the system, because the system is too big, and makes too much money for the people/corporations who created them.

It’s simply about using the systems to share your work with others, as often as you can.

It’s about doing the work that matters to YOU.

It’s about supporting the people, the causes, the programs that help others, that heal others, that heal our planet.

It’s about doing what you can to be the best person you can be. Even if, like me, you suck at it sometimes.

So use social media to help share your work with others. If you find strategies (and hashtags!) that work for you, good on you! If you don’t, you are not alone. But you can still have a voice in the world. Your audience may be huge, or it may be small. But they love you and your work.

Sales are wonderful, but there are a thousand reasons why people don’t buy our art, probably because there are more artists/creatives in the world right now than in all the rest of human history. If you’re work isn’t selling, don’t take it as a measure of your worth. You just haven’t found your peeps yet, and they haven’t found YOU yet.

Don’t count the likes. Just hang on to that feeling when you realize something you’re working on is finished, and it turned out well, and how happy that makes you.

Works for me!

Now go make something.

(Ahem. If it’s cupcakes, I’d be honored to taste-test them for you.)

 

 

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

30 thoughts on “MAYBE LANGUISHING ISN’T SO BAD?”

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on finding your audience. It is an ongoing struggle for all of us creatives and it is nice to hear the voice from someone I admire and who has been in the trenches a long time and has survived and thrived!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Chris, thank you for that! It breaks my heart when people think they aren’t good enough, famous enough, earning enough $$, when most of us are in that same boat. It’s okay to WANT more from the work of our heart, of course, and I love it when I can help someone take a step or two forward in their creative work. But in the end, it’s something that soothes our soul and brings us joy and satisfaction. And that can be enough.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Cheryl, thank you for your patience, just found your comment, and I’m so glad I did, because it’s beautiful! I promise to keep being honest, I never want to mess with people just to make myself feel better!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A breath of fresh air. Thank you! We are all sidestepping the dance and tapping our foot to rhythms that don’t jive with our souls. Gotta live from the center of who we are, not who we aren’t, or who other people want us to be. It’s as simple as that. Thanks for the reminder. Please keep writing. Truth always. Just say it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Christi, thank you for YOUR patience too, just found your lovely comment. YES, your dance metaphor is spot on, and I love it. My superpower with my art came from understanding that if one person in a million loved my work, that would be enough. It set me free and lifts my spirits even when things get hard. Glad this resonated with you today!

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  3. I could not love this more. Creating art, particularly using polymer clay, feeds my soul in ways I can’t even describe. But creating art also results in a ‘thing’ that has mass, large or small. The next issue is what to -do- with all those ‘things’, and if you’re not selling them they start taking up space (and energy). Selling my art would be lovely (and ego building I don’t deny), but I absolutely -loathe- the business part of keeping track of material costs, taxes, advertizing, etc, etc. I have not completely solved this conundrum. But letting go of the idea that I need to sell, and realizing that the creating is what gives me pleasure, has allowed me to be much more at peace about it, and just enjoy the creating for the creating.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. First, so glad this post gives you the peace in your heart to keep doing the work that’s meaningful for YOU. Second, you’ve just inspired my next blog post. So thank you for your comments, see what an impact your words have for ME? Now imagine your work inspiring someone else in the world, right now. How does that feel? I hope it feels empowering. Third, consider teaching, tutorials, donating, trading with other artisans, etc. Fourth, maybe having an open studio (when it’s safe!), A swap meet, a once- or twice-a-year sale, something that creates a little urgency for your audience to purchase, but doesn’t weigh you down. All of these tactics are built on COMMUNITY, one you probably you have already created by sharing you work online. And remember, these are strange times we live in. Either we will get to some form of “normal”, or we will get to a NEW normal. Keep hope in your heart. You are a force for good in the world!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I LOVE love love love love that piece! I love it for the triptych design, the antlered person, the critters in the wings. The color scheme seems unexpected.. i don’t know what I “expect” your “Durable Goods” art to look like, but these colors seem… ? brighter? Waterier? It’s beautiful. How old is it? I aspire to someday luck into finding just the right antlered-Luann-artwork at a time when I’ve just lucked into some money. Hey, one can dream.

    I think you summed up a number of significant issues beautifully. (And btw you’re hardly an almost-nobody. I can’t be the only person who has been following you since those Crafts Report days.) So many “venues” start out eclectic and special and useful: even eBay was nifty once (Ghost in a Jar anyone? or Toast in a Jar?)…. FB and Etsy and IG and all the others started out constructive and personal and manageable, just like almond milk, and avocados, for example, and then we overdid it and they got all commercial and awful and bad for the environment. I blame our Boomer generation for taking so many great, unique, special things, like wolves and dragons and sf/fantasy, and tattoos and tarot cards, etc., etc., and making them trend.

    No idea how we can fix any of it, but I sure love your work & your writing. Stay safe !!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lizzie, I always love your comments, your insights, and your enthusiasm, thank you for joining the conversation today! That piece is old-ish, I think I created a couple years before we moved to California. So…ten years, maybe? Yeah, it’s expensive, but a) if and when you’re ready, let’s talk! (I do layaway, too.) 🙂 I love it, too. I didn’t intend for that shaman figure, but as I was laying out the pieces, I “saw” her! (Yes, many of the shamans who led ceremonies and created prehistoric cave art were women.) I hope you get a chance to see it in person someday, it has a permanent home at the end of my studio, and every day it lifts my heart. (My wall hangings do not sell very quickly, but eventually, the do. Yay!) Big big hugs to you!

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  5. Here’s a comment from Susan Makov:
    Dear Luann,
    After reading this wonderful entry, I have to say that your attempts at everything that you have tried in the marketing world are valiant and much more than I could ever imagine doing. I thought that your move to California would be the thing to help you kick it up to where you want it to be. So now I am thinking MAYBE I was wrong that one has to be in a place (city or state) that welcomes creative people. But, I think our audience may be growing older and not collecting so much any more. And then there are SO MANY artists out there. About 15 years ago I was pretty successful in Santa Fe, but not due to my own efforts. My then husband was REALLY good at selling my work, getting me a show there, he could sell anything by anyone, except sadly, his own brilliant work. He did have many connections, but he could not sell his own art. He died not living up to his own expectations.

    As what you and I have said, as well as others, that we must do our own art for our own pleasure. Indeed, I am convinced that times and audiences have changed. HOWEVER, one thing that I HAVE noticed recently is that when regional groups of people, like Plein Air painting people, get together for activities for a few days, that not only do they enjoy one another’s company (as they do similar things), but audiences seem to enjoy going, looking and buying. As being a singular marketer seems to be just very difficult, the annual Indian Market in Santa Fe always seemed to be an exciting event, and most artists sold enough to last them the whole year.

    For me there is some truth in what I just said, but I am not sure I know how to apply it to my own situation. I am looking forward to the second Salt Lake City open studio visit which happened the year before COVID. It was fun, people had a map of the 125 or so artists who opened their homes or their studios to people on one 3 day weekend. It was successful for many of the participants. Perhaps next year.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Susan, you’ve raised some good questions, and I have several insights about your observations. First, the one about your husband being able to sell YOU work (but not his own), and you being unable to sell yours. The second is about the group of painters who attracted attention and engaging spectators to the point of actually making some sales. The third is about open studios, and the last is about community. Stay tuned!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you Luann, your posts are always confirm the good whispers in my head. Early on I realized that I am not an ‘all-singing, all-dancing’ artist and I will just have to let things grow organically, with as much care as I can manage. I paint small-sized oil paintings on board as I work from home in our spare room (guest room) and, even then I’m running out of room! In 2019 I painted one small floral posy per month using seasonal flowers, many of which came from our community/church garden, with permission. I proposed to the parish office that I hold a small exhibition in the church and provide a portion of the sales to the upkeep of the garden which they were keen to do. Unfortunately, the exhibition was postponed three times due to Covid but will finally happen this September. After a brilliant suggestion from the parish office manager, we have been timing the exhibition to coincide with the Chelsea Flower Show (London) which is close by to the church. Hopefully, this will lighten my storage load and be charitable at the same time. Plans are falling into place. Perhaps this will spark an idea with someone else!
    Since the posies, I have become rather besotted by glass jars and now have the Glass Jar Series of paintings……not sure if there’s a market but, I love painting them. 🙂

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    1. Madeline, you are doing it right! You’ve made space in your life, and your home, for your art, it lifts your heart, you’ve found a beautiful way to share it that will (hopefully) benefit you, AND a cause you care dearly about. Win/win/win/winw/win! And we can use social media to grow organically (love that) without worrying about how many likes/upvotes we get. Good on you, and thank you for your insights here today!

      Like

  7. You speak my sentiments as if they are coming from my own mouth! Frustration doesn’t even begin to describe social media for me. Personally, I refuse to jump thru hoops to try and be seen. I know as soon as I figure out how to navigate the hoops, the game and rules will change and I’ll have to figure those out next. Not worth the frustration on my end. It makes me laugh as these big companies always denied that it was them changing the algorithms and causing viewership changes. Money, money, money……yes that’s what it’s all about. I understand that, but I really want to enjoy a simpler format for sharing our artwork. That all mighty Benjamin!

    I so enjoy reading your words and thoughts about everything. So often it is as if you are sitting next to me sharing your insight. Keep sharing, as I feel I have at least one other person that feels exactly the same way I do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Traci, thank you for your insights, and I hope this helps us see how CONNECTION is more important than likes. I posted this on my blog (social media), shared it on social media (FB, IG, LinkedIn) and because I shared my thoughts, you feel validated, AND hopefully will continue to make your creative work despite not “mastering” the latest algorithms. You go, girl! 🤗

      Like

  8. I tried a few things to increase my followers. Then I decided I didn’t want quantity, but quality. I use a couple of hashtags to find other people, and then follow them if they have an ethos that resonates, are unfailingly kind and / or create craft or art I love. Typing my reply make me realise that I haven’t used those hashtags in any of my posts myself!!! Perhaps this week might be a good one to do so.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So you are another creative who I admire, whose work is delightful, who doesn’t bury themselves in hashtags, and made the decision not to measure their “success” with typical social media “counts”. Good on you, Dawn, and thank you for sharing your own experience and thoughts here!

      Like

  9. Luann, I have always admired your work but didn’t know you also had a blog! Of course it was through Studio Mojo and Cynthia Tinapple this morning that I clicked the link and got here. And read your words today. Never was advice more needed than now, so thank you for taking the time to express yourself and give voice to what (I am sure) many of us needed: Direction!

    I’m one of those people who was making jewelry – and I loved what I was creating. Only handmade ear wires, good metal to go with good polymer, and what I considered art jewelry, not cheap. At the end of that run, I was asked to do a show (“there will be lots of money flowing, it will be worth your time, we need your type of art”) where no one wanted any of it until one of the organizers came up and made a purchase. It felt like a “mercy-xxxx”, to use a crass phrase. And so my jewelry studio closed. I went in a different direction. And every time I look at the rack of leftover earrings or the bracelets I wonder why no one but me thinks they are fabulous. And while I am happy with the direction I went, I still wonder why not the other.

    My studio is in huge disarray and undergoing a big cleanup. I’m looking forward to getting back into it, and you’ve helped me get there. -Joey

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    1. Joey, I just typed out a long, enthusiastic replay and hit the wrong key and everything was lost! (And “undo” didn’t help.) Argh!
      To repeat, I’m glad you “found” me today, I’m glad you alerted to me I’m on Studio Mojo today (I hadn’t gotten there yet!), and I’m honored my words have lifted your heart and encouraged you do do the work YOU love. FWIW, my studio is filled with “product”, too. Some days I get discouraged and think, “Why should I make more?? No one wants it!) But then insight pops up: I make my work because it means so much TO ME. If ANYONE else likes it, that’s wonderful. But making it gets me back to my happy place, and when a piece sells, it feels great. Because I put my whole heart into making it as wonderful as I could. If it’s any comofort, we may both (all of us??) be famous after we die. It only took 11 years for Vincent Van Gogh’s work to soar in popularity (and price!) after he died. (I wish I could put a laughing face in here, to alleviate the somber tone….) And for me, just knowing that I wrote this when I was feeling low, and it helped YOU? That was worth it! Best wishes for your studio clean-up, and for having the courage to pick up the work of your heart again! Big big hugs to you!

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  10. I got some very good advice years ago from an older, wiser craftsman…you are the only appropriate standard by which to measure your own success. If I wanted to get into one gallery show and I did…then I succeeded. It didn’t matter what other people were doing. If I needed to make $3000 at a show and I did…then I succeeded. It didn’t matter what my neighbor made. So I come back to that advice over and over again. I decide what I want my quality of life to be and then that creates my goals and is the measure of whether or not I have succeeded.

    Like

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