ANOTHER HOLIDAY MARKET but with a difference!

 

 

I love love love these! Colorful, lightweight, unique, and upcycled.

 

 

I know, I know…Yet another holidary shopping event.

This one is the Holiday Markett at Sebastopol Center for the Arts this Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 3 & 4, from 10-4.

What’s different about this one? I’m having a sale!

I’ll be there my upcycled jewelry: Vintage buttons and resistors, transformed into colorful earrings and necklaces, with antique and vintage trade beads. I’m discounting them about 40%-50%, so get ’em while you can! (Pic of resistor earrings below my signature stuff.)

Oh, and my freshwater pearl jewelry, too!

The weather is supposed to be lousy, but no worries if you can’t make it, especially if you live anywhere except Northern California….

…Because I will offer these for sale on my Etsy shop after the event!

Hope to see you there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And now for the ifs….

If you know someone who might enjoy this, pass it on!

If you’d like to share it, please be sure to share my name and appropriate links. Thank you!!!!

If someone sent you this newsletter and you found it helpful, sign up for more at my website (at the top of the home page): LuannUdell.com

button and resistor jewelry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

button and resistor jewelry

THE EYE OF THE STORM: VERMEER IN BOSNIA

This article was originally posted on my Radio Userland blog on Sunday, October 2, 2005. 

This summer, I created a special “artist’s table” for our local coffee house, Prime Roast. The owners, John and Judy Rogers (who also happen to be our good friends!) commissioned artists who were also regular customers to create “art coffee tables”. When the final table is completed, there will be a grand reception. I hope to post images of my table soon. (UPDATE: See all the images of my table at the end!) (Yeah, they’re out of order, so you could start from the bottom and work up…)

Last night, we had friends over for Bad Movie Night, a tradition where we find a terrible movie, invite friends over, have tacky (but yummy) snacks (jelly beans! caramel corn!), and talk and joke about the movie as we watch.

They had seen my table, and loved it! We got to talking about where I got the inspiration for it. (Bear with me, this is a meandering journey!)

Years ago, I read an article in THE NEW YORKER magazine by Lawrence Weschler. It was an excerpt from his book “Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet Of Wonder:  Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology“. You can read about this book here

The book is about an odd and intriguing “museum” called The Museum of Jurassic Technology. You can explore this unusual work of performance art here: 

http://www.mjt.org/

It’s a real building, with exhibits, in a strip mall in Culver City, CA. I hope to visit it someday. (UPDATE: We DID visit it a few years ago, and it’s even more fascinating than I imagined! If you go, go with an open mind, no judgement, and READ the exhibit information. Jon is pretty sure he saw Mr. Wilson while we were there!) It’s a fascinating mix of real and faux scientific exhibits, and inspired the “History of Coffee Part I” collage tabletop I made for John and Judy. (UPDATE: Judy told me a few years later that a customer came in regularly for weeks, sat at “my” table, and read every entry. Then they announced that everything on that table was false. I told Judy to tell them that almost 3/4 of the entries were TRUE!)

While searching for the link to send to people, I came across a second book by Mr. Weschler. Here is the Amazon entry for “Vermeer in Bosnia : Cultural Comedies and Political Tragedies“:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0679442707/

The first essay on the author’s musings about Johannes Vermeer (Girl with a Pearl Earring artist) and his world, juxtaposed against Weschler’s coverage of the War Crimes Tribunal judging the atrocities committed in Bosnia in the 1990’s.

Now, scroll down that Amazon page to the customer reviews, and read the review by G. Bestick of Dobbs Ferry, NY. (UPDATE: That review can’t be found anymore, and I’m so grateful I captured it here!)

This passage especially caught my heart. Weschler writes about a war crimes judge who retreats daily to a local art museum to restore his soul after gut-wrenching court sessions:

“Weschler shows us that Vermeer’s greatest achievement was to imagine a world of stillness and serenity at a time when all of Europe was being torn apart by national hatreds and religious persecution, and then to will that world into existence through his art. Those magnificent paintings are more than technical triumphs; they are triumphs of the human spirit. The distance between Vermeer and the murderers, rapists and torturers on trial is heartbreaking. Weschler makes us see Vermeer in a new light, and makes us feel in a new way the unique burdens of being human.”

Just a beautiful essay, one that speaks deeply to the artist in me today.

Art can be beautiful, but not always.

Art can inquire, and expose, and provoke. It can arouse us to look and think deeper on the world.

It can also offer respite and restoration, and peace.

It can ask, “What if?”

What a delightful journey Google and Amazon took me on today! I’m ordering the book now.

And now for the coffee table images!

CRAFT EMERGENCY RELIEF For the Rest of Us Part 3: “I’m Outta Ideas!”

Tolderance for a trial-and-error approach made allllll the difference in my new, smaller, shrine series!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last story from an article originally published in The Crafts Report (now known as Handmade Business) in July 2010. Backstory now included!

(Phone rings)

(Operator): “Craft 911, what is the nature of your craft emergency?”

(Caller #3): “I’m out of ideas!”

(Operater): “Can you give me more details?”

(Caller #3): “I’m in my studio and I’m wandering around. I just don’t have any good ideas for what to make. Is this fatal??”

(Operator): “Happens to everyone, ma’am. Tell me, do you have any upcoming shows? A big order for a gallery?”

(Caller #3): “Um…not really. Things are kinda slow this week.”

(Operator): “Uusally this kind of situation responds very well to deadlines. Are you sure there isn’t some kind of deadline coming up on your calendar? Something you’ve overlooked? Go look, I’ll wait.”

(Caller #3): “Let me check… Wait a minute, yes! There’s a special order here I forgot about! Okay, now what?”

(Operator): “Ma’am, I sugget you simply settle in to fill that special order. I’m sure you’ll be flooded with lots of new ideas once you get those craft hands of yours moving again.”

(Caller #3): “Wow! That’s great advice–thanks!”

(Operator): “It’s our job, ma’am. And next time this happens, try taking two days off from checking your email, then call me in the morning.”

I think this is a great idea whose time has come, don’t you?

And now for the backstory….

This was me! Er…this IS me, all the time.

It usually hits during a difficult time in my life, when I’m distracted. When sales are slow, when I’m feeling invisible in the world. “What’s the use?” “Who cares about my work? Obviously, NO ONE!!!” And other thoughts of no purpose and no use.

I’ve found not one, but TWO terrific solutions. The first, obviously, is a deadline. The minute I realize I HAVE to get something, anything ready for a show, a photo shoot, an article, etc., that’s when I’m swamped for ideas for…something else!

I either hold that thought/idea/vision until the deadline is met, or I start on it instead. (Some deadlines are flexible, self-imposed, or not as important as I thought.) This is the power of procrastination! When we don’t want to do a certain thing, we suddenly find the inspiration to do another thing instead. (Yep, I’ve written a slew of articles on this!)

OR I realize I’m trying to figure out that “thing” in my head before I start it. I think if I do all the thinking stuff ahead of time, I won’t hit any roadblocks.

Wait for it…..

Hahahahahahahahaha wheeeeee!!!!!!  (Oddly, I found this article today about getting things done,  while searching for….something else!)

At the beginning of the pandemic shutdowns, I finally realized that a project that had been in my heart for years, could only be accomplished by using…..yup, trial-and-error!…to figure stuff out. With all that time on my hands, I realized I had plenty of time to do that.

And it worked! I created enough new work to call it a new series.

Of course, as the pandemic measures eased, I’m back in my my “old normal”, and the dozens of small shrines I made are now works-in-progress. And without the deadlines of articles to be written for pay, it’s a lit-tul harder to make room for writing/publishing.

But then I remember how this helped me. And wondered if it might help someone else.

And hence, this article, with the addition of backstories.

I hope this gave you a giggle, and the realization that anything that’s holding YOU back, could be overcome with a little finagling, a deadline, and knowing it worked for me.

Now go to your creative space and make some stuff!

A VALUABLE ART MARKETING RESOURCE FOR YOU TODAY

Yep, like Dave, I’m allllll about the stories. Even sticks have a story!

One of the ‘free’ gifts I get with my FASO website (FineArtStudiosOnline.com) was the wisdom of art marketing expert extradinaire Dave Geada.

So much of the ‘expertise’ about marketing our creative work really gets my goat. “Branding”, “driving people to our website”, etc. are all cattle herding metaphors. I really wish there were more human-based conceptions available.

Oh, wait–there are!

Dave first rocked my socks off when he explained the value of a “creation story”. I’ve known mine for decades.

We’re all familiar with “hero stories”.But I didn’t realize mine was a CREATION story until I heard him share his.

After a near-death experience with a health issue, he realized that his place in the world wasn’t about becoming rich, or famous. It was about being a force for good in the world. And helping other creatives grow their audience (and buyers!) became his mission in life.

Dave gives funny, inclusive, heart-felt videos sharing his insights and suggestions. I always get something from them, too!

He’s now created a library of these podcasts and videos, with a reasonable $9.99 (okay, $10) a month plan, or $99/year, and a free 14-day trial period so you can decide if this is for you or not.

My only issue is, I don’t do podcasts or recordings of people talking. I WANT to. But I can’t do my creative work, read, or drive while listening to people talking. It’s just a ‘thing’ that doesn’t mesh with my brain.

So when Dave’s latest email hit my inbox, I let him know: I love his take on marketing, I love his insights, I love his sense of humor.

Would he ever consider providing transcripts with these? (I could easily make time for this, I could read them faster, and I wouldn’t be distracted by trying to take notes while he’s talking.)

And he said yes! Hurray!!!

Now, you don’t have to have a website with FASO to access these videos/transcripts, though you can sign up for a basic plan for $12/month. (Includes free email app, see-your-art-in-a-room options, sell from your website, etc.) Anyone can have access!

So check Dave’s work and see if it speaks to YOU.

(This recommendation is based on my personal experience with Dave’s skills, and I receive NO commission or rewards of any kind from this.)

 

 

CRAFT EMERGENCY RELIEF FOR THE REST OF US Part 2: “Show Organizers Messed Up!”

My show booth! (A very edited-down version…)

Second story from an article originally published in The Crafts Report (now known as Handmade Business) in July 2010. Backstory now included!

(Phone rings)

(Operator): Craft 911, what is the nature of your craft emergency?”

(Caller #2): “#*@!?(@*!!%!”

(Operator): “Sir, that kind of language is not helpful. Please state the nature of your craft emergency.”

(Caller #2): “Oh, sorry. I’m just SO MAD!! I set up my booth at this high-end indoor fine craft show, and there’s half an empty space on each side, and somebody says I’m in their space! The show floor is laid out wrong! These show organizers are brainless, stupid, #*?@*!!$#!!”

(Operator): “Seriously, buster, knock off the foul language. Okay, I think I know what your problem is. I want you to lift the corner of your booth carpeting and see if you see some lines of tape on the floor underneath. Go ahead, I’ll wait.”

(Caller #2): Yes, there are tape marks under my booth.”

(Operater): “Sir, by any chance are those marks running down the middle of your booth, from front to back? Right down the center?”

(Caller #2): “Why….yes! How did you know??”

(Operater): “Just an educated guess. Sir, you need to enlist the help of some sturdy people. I’m sure the show organizers would be happy to shut you…er…help you out. Have them grab your entire booth frame and carpet, and shift it halfway to either the left or right. Heck, there might even be a little marker on the floor with your real booth number to guide you.”

(Caller #2): “You’re right! I found my booth number! Thank you!!”

(Operator): “It’s what we do sir. Have a great show.”

Backstory: This is a true story!

Back in the day, I did several major fine craft shows, retail and wholesale. At one I did every year (sometimes twice a year!) for awhile, I got to meet many other creatives, and some became good friends. (Thanks to social media, it’s easier to stay in touch, too.)

I also got to know many of the show organizers/employees, and grew to appreciate their wisdom, their integrity, their skills, and their support.

And one year, an exhibitor did this exact thing. Set up their booth halfway in their space, halfway into their neighbor’s space. And then they complained loudly and often to everyone within site and range, especially the show managment. (They had been a pretty cool person before this incident, so we were all kind shocked at the awful things this exhibitor said about the show personnel.)

Especially when, later that day, from the staff that it was NOT the show peeps’ fault. The exhibitor had set up their booth in the middle of TWO booth spaces, despite the very-easy-to-see tape markings outlining their booth space.

The show staff handled it with kindness and efficiancy. They didn’t even tell the exhibitor that the EXHIBITOR had messed up their set-up, not the booth layout team. They just got the booth moved to one side, and reassured the exhibitor that they were always there to help.

Later, I learned more about the exhibitor’s personal backstory, and complicated family matters, and had empathy for them. But it still changed everything about how I viewed them as a professional creative, and as a grown-up.

Yes, there are jerks in every organization, every group, etc. But most show organizers DO want you to have a GREAT show! Most professional service providers are pretty good at their job. And obviously, in this case, they set aside the unfair attack against them, and simply fixed this person’s problem without adding to that person’s stress.

I thought that was pretty amazing! Still do.

What I learned:

It’s okay to be (understandably) frustrated when things go wrong. We all mess up, other people sometimes mess up, etc.

But making assumptions without exploring the “why” behind what happened, asserting blame without knowing the whole story, and telling complaining loud and long to everyone and everybody, is not okay.

And that person never owned their own goof. I asked the staff later, and no, that person never apologized, or even admitted to others that it actually wasn’t the staff’s fault.Either the person never realized that THEY had goofed up, or it wasn’t part of their nature to accept responsibility for their errors.

The temper tantrum was really, really hard to forget, too.

That totally changed my opinion about them and all the “professionalism” they claimed to bring to their career.

Short story: We all make mistakes.

But it’s never okay to blame others for ours. And being the only booth out of hundreds of booths, to be out of alignment? Shoulda been a clue….

Coming soon! Part 3!

 

 

CRAFT EMERGENCY RELIEF FOR THE REST OF US Part 1: Why Didn’t I Get Into That Show??

(This is one of my favorite articles I wrote for The Crafts Report, now known as Handmade Business, back in July 2010. (I split it into three parts, so stay tuned! And now I can add the backstory behind each ’emergency’, too.)

You probably all know about CERF, the Craft Emergency Relief Fund, an organization that aids craftspeople who have lost their studio or equipment to disaster.

It’s a great organization, and deserves our support. But I can’t help thinking we need a smaller, more immediate, more…intimate…emergency resource for artists and craftspeople. Maybe something that looks like this?

(Phone rings)

(Operator): “Craft 911, what is the nature of your creative emergency?”

(Caller #1): “Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!”

(Operator): “Please stater the nature of your emergency.” (More wailing in the background.) “HEY! Knock it off!!

(Caller #1): “Sorry, sorry….I’m just so upset!”

(Operator): “Ma’am, please calm down. Tell me what’s going on.”

(Caller #1): “I didn’t gent into that juried exhibit I applied to. My work is perfect, and they didn’t choose me! It hurrrrrts!

(Operator): “Okay, ma’am, calmdown. Are your really injured, physically? Or are just your feelings hurt?”

(Caller #1): “I guess….just my feelings? OH, and my pride.”

(Operator): “Well, fortunately, injuried feelings and pride are rarely fatal. You know that hundreds, maybe thousands of artists applied to that exhibit. And the curator has to put together a cohesive show out of those entries. Maybe it has nothing to do with the quality of your work. Maybe it just didn’t “fit in” with the rest of the entries that were submitted.”

(Caller #1): “Oh. Oh, yeah…. I guess I didn’t think of that. You’re right. It’s nothing to get all worked up over. Thanks!”

(Operator): “Happy to be of service, ma’am. Now go finish that new series of pots!”

Now for the backstory. 

I created a little artist support group decades ago in New Hampshire, and one of the women was an amazing, wise woman, Bobbye Sansing. (You can read a little more about her and her work here.)

This actually happened to her. She submitted her pottery to a highly-respected ceramics show, and was rejected. She was upset by that, as any of us would be.

But she decided to go see the show, to see if she could figure out why her work wasn’t accepted. And because she had the gumption, and the courage, to do this, I have another valuable life lesson in my backpack.

All the pottery on exhibit was white. 

Bobbye realized she wasn’t rejected for not being “good enough”. It was because the curator was a) obviously limited and limned by the venue’s space; b) had to put together a cohesive exhibit of the works submitted; and c) had gone with the white work because that’s what worked for them.

Her work didn’t fit in to that particular aesthetic. Her pottery work is pit-fired pinched pots, in dark shades of brown and black. (She added white to her repertoire after this, though!)

And yet, I’m always amazed at the number of people who don’t understand 100% that judging/evaluating/nominating is about who the judge is, and how that person feels about our work. Not necessarily how good our work is, how famous we are, etc.

Another example of how this works: An extremely talented artist griped to me a few years ago that a highly-respected open studio tour had rejected their application. They were offended, angry, obviously deeply hurt.

In this case, I knew a little backstory: Though there was a regular team that reviewed the artwork, there was also an “outside judge”–a curator, or a gallery owner, or an art critic, etc.–who was invited to the review process, every year.

And that the judge, (and even some members of the committee) were different every year.

“So one person’s opinion might have struck you out,” I said to them. “But there will be a different person every year. Why not just try again next year?”

They did.

And they got in, hands down.

Another story: I served on the steering committee of a major annual craft show in New Hampshire. The craft org had several awards at its annual fair, including one for best booth. Again, a different outside judge was added to the mix every year. One year, a lot of people got very low booth scores, and no one could figure out why. Until one exibitor overhead that judge exclaim loudly, “What’s with all the black booths?! I HATE BLACK BOOTHS!!” And they gave really low scores to all the people who had black panels, black displays, black carpeting, etc. in their booth set-up.

The moral of this story?

Do your best. Persevere. And don’t let the opinions of others keep you from making the work of your heart. 

I am forever grateful to Bobbye for her wisdom and insights, and her courge to set aside anger and disappointment in favor of learning more and doing more.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Bobbye Sansing’s beautiful handformed, pit-fired pottery vessels.

WISE WORDS THAT ACTUALLY HELPED ME TODAY

My customer loved my big green bear necklace, but wants a smaller version. So, little green bear!

 

…And maybe they’ll help you, too!

I’ve basically recovered from six weeks of ongoing agony this summer/fall. (Two back-to-back kidney stones and diverticulitis, ugh!)

The last stone passed a day before I was scheduled for surgery. I recovered enough to participate in this year’s Sonoma County Art Trails open studio event. Yay!

And yet I’ve felt blah ever since. Just not back up to snuff yet. (Why is something “up to snuff” a good thing? Inquiring minds want to know…) (Actually, not really.) I feel useless, irrelevant, unproductive, and purposeless.  Tired, down, unseen, unheard, unenthusiastic. I could go on, but you get the general idea.

I have a custom order in the works for a long-time collector back East, but nothing seems to be sticking in my brain for how to proceed.

I finally had some ideas for beads that might work for that necklace. I made several versions, put them in my convection oven in my studio, and fired it up. About 30 minutes later, I added more, and reset the timer. (It doesn’t hurt polymer clay to have it “cook” longer.) I couldn’t wait to see how they turned out!

I took them out of the oven the next day. And they were literally a hot mess. They looked like scorched blobs o’nothin’ much.

I freaked out. I thought the new Kato clay product, Kato “Blackout” polymer clay* I used as a bead base, had somehow leaked through the lovely colors I’d layered on top. Had I ruined every single batch of colors I’d made with it??

I went home with a heavy heart.

This morning, I found a great quote in my news feed:

“Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.” (Will Rogers)

Hmmmm…..that hit home.

I was ruminating about my miserable yesterday, and it was not helping. So I decided to get to the studio even earlier than usual, and get to work.

But the doldrums set in again. I puttered around, but couldn’t stop the ruminating. What’s the use? I don’t matter. Nothing I do matters. What do I have to offer the world? Nada….yada yada yada.

Then I got a notice a package I’d been waiting for had been delivered, so I took it as an excuse to leave, and high-tailed it back home.

The new (old) beads I’d ordered were lovely, and for some reason, they lifted my heart a little. So I decided to go back to the studio, if only to drop them off. And I’m so glad I did!

First, I made more beads without the “Blackout” clay, to see if that’s really what had made my previous batch look scorched. And when I put them in the oven, that’s when I realized….

On my second batch of beads the day before, I hadn’t turned up the baking time…

I’d turned up the temperature! (My oven is at least 20-plus years old, and some of the markings are wearing off.) They really were scorched! I literally burned those beads.

I reset the temperature, set the timer, and decided to call it a day, with a happier heart.

And on my way back home, I saw a minor accident along the road and was able to help everybody get back to their feet. (Literally!)

If I hadn’t come back to my studio, they would have been in a bad place.

So bead emergency solved.

Helping hands available to those who needed it.

And an insight that was perfect for me, today. (Yes, I’m feeling a little better!)

*Kato “Blackout” clay is a super-saturated black polymer clay to mix with leftover scraps. It’s so intense in color, I used half a bar to turn 5 pounds of scrap clay into well-conditioned, solid black clay! Read more about it here.

Kato Blackout clay

I’M STILL HERE! AND READY FOR ART TRAILS!

 

 

My goal this year: More big necklaces, and more small shrines!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first weekend of our Sonoma County Art Trails open studios event is coming up fast! As in….this weekend!

My studio will be open Saturday and Sunday, from 10-5, September 24 & 25, and October 1 & 2.

You can check our website to see work by 125 Sonoma County artists.

And you can see MY listing there, too! I’m #63 on the tour. #61 is Cynthia Jackson-Hein, painter of quietly-aging landscapes, in the building across the parking lot (Studio Santa Rosa, bldg. 32), and #62 is Serena Hazard, abstract artist extraordinaire, on the 2nd floor of my building, 33Arts, bldg. 33 at 3840 Finley Avenue. (NOT the community center, we’re in the buildings formerly known as “the Barracks”, the housing units left over from a former Naval air base.)

Yep, I’ve been out of the picture for awhile. Several severe health issues took me down and made my life miserable. (Not fatal! Just painful and exhausting as all heck.) Now I’m on the other side, grateful for everything and everybody who helped me get through.

So my studio is even messier than usual, but don’t worry, I kinda like it that way! Some artists like to make their creative space look like an art gallery, or museum. Me? Not so much.

I work in a mess, I create in a mess, and I’m never sure exactly where I’m going with each new work of art. Sometimes all the options are overwhelming, but eventually, I get to where I want to be.

It’s my process, and that’s never gonna change. What I love about it? You get to see EVERYTHING involved with making my artwork: The equipment, the materials, even my process. (I have a couple works-in-progress.)

There’s no single way to be an artist, a creative in the world, and I’m living proof! 

So come on by, say hello, explore, open drawers, pick things up, try things on,ask your questions, and have a good time! 

Hope to see you there!

And now for the ifs….

If you know someone who might enjoy this, pass it on!

If you’d like to share it, please be sure to share my name and appropriate links. Thank you!!!!

If someone sent you this newsletter and you found it helpful, sign up for more at my website (at the top of the home page): LuannUdell.com

Luann portrait

Luann Udell, artist/writer

“Ancient stories retold in modern artifacts:
Jewelry, sculpture, fiber works inspired by ancient art.”

Visit: Studio: 33Arts 3840 Finley AVE (Bdg 33) Santa Rosa

(text only, or leave a message) 603-352-2270

LuannUdell@gmail.com

LuannUdell.com

Luann on Facebook Luann on Instagram

By appointment on StudioDoorz.com

Professional advice: My past columns at Fine Art Views

Today’s Quora Answer: How Do I Achieve My Goals?

Well, first I’m going to assume these are all things you want to do, have to do, and that ethically they are a good thing to do.

It is very common to have a to-do list that hardly ever gets done. I’ve written a lot about what can help and I’ll share it here with you today. Here’s one strategy:

First, pick one task/goal to do and write it down.

Next, write down what has to be done before that can happen.

For example, let’s pick something simple:

You want to buy a gallon of ice cream.

What has to happen for that to happen?

You have to go to a store that has ice cream. Write that down.

What has to happen before that?

You have to get to that store. Write that down.

One has to happen before that?

You have to find a way to get to the store, either by walking, driving, bus, etc. Write that down.

What has to happen before that?

You have to have the money to buy the ice cream. Write that down.

What has to happen before that?

You have to have the time to get the ice cream. After school? After work? On your lunch hour? Write it down.

See what’s happening here?

When we write a to-do list, what we’re actually writing down is our ultimate aim or goal.

But it’s really all about the intermediate steps where the issue lies: We don’t make the time, we don’t have the money, you don’t have a way to get to the store, or maybe we know deep down we just don’t need to get ice cream today because we’re still on that low-fat diet.

Working backwards from our goal to each preceding step always helps me get clarity on what’s really holding me back. There may a part where I don’t actually have the knowledge or skill set, or time, to take the next step. And aha! I can research that, or practice that, or use trial-and-error to get to the next step.

For more articles I’ve written on how to get things done, you can check out my blog at LuannUdell.wordpress.com and search my articles for “procrastination.”

And excuse me, I’ve put off going to my studio today, and writing this makes me realize it’s time for me to go. 😄

A QUORA QUESTION ANSWERED: How to Write???

Why can’t I just start journaling??

My best guest: Because you are trying to do it perfectly.

Because despite being inspired by someone else’s words, loving them, wanting to be like them, when it comes to being yourself, you freeze.

Here’s what turned me around:

When I started out on a new journey in my life, I had some doubts and confusion in my heart. An online friend gave me a coaching session. The game-changing question she asked me was, “Are you a perfectionist?” Yep, I have that tendencey. Her reply?

“When we are a perfectionist, we are full of knowing, and nothing new can come in.”

WOW. That blew me away. It still amazes me, years later.

I decided to trust my heart. To move forward one step at a time, to ask “stupid questions”, to be open to something new.

It changed everything.

So back to your writing block:

Every writer on the planet has—or has had—a writing block at some point in their life. (Okay, PROBABLY every writer.) There are many reasons, but I’m guessing most are afraid of doing it wrong. Afraid it won’t matter. Afraid it won’t be good enough.

I’ll share what often stops me:

Not believing that what I have to say matters to anyone else except me.

Not believing I can sort out my thoughts, and tidy/tie them up into a pretty little package with a bow on top.

Not believing I can figure out where I’m going, let alone how to get there.

And right now, not having a paid work commitment with deadlines, which FORCES me to write SOMETHING, even when I’m having these thoughts.

But what I’ve learned over the years is, this is a time in history, when no one can stop us from having a voice in the world.

Your gender, your color, your religion, your views on life, cannot be used against you from writing, nor from publishing your words online: On Facebook, on Twitter, on Reddit, on your blog. (Unless, of course you use your words to incite violence, to slander/libel, to scam people.) (I’m assuming you don’t intend to do that?)

And then what helps me is to start writing. Even if it’s “I just don’t feel like writing today.”

Because then I go into, “WHY don’t I feel like writing today?” Oh yeah…because of that thing that happened, or what that person said to me, or how I’m feeling ‘less-than’ today.

I write that down. And I keep recording my thoughts, even when I get frustrated and simply write “blah blah blah” a dozen times.

Sometimes I have a point to make, and I get this all sorted out in my head before I even begin.

But sometimes, I have no idea where I’m going, and writing is how I get there.

My goal started from a writing support group that required I write three pages a day, even if it were only several hundred “blah blah blahs”. Now, I just make myself write one page.

In your case, aim for 100 words, maybe.

In my case, I realized I need to get it all out, then edit to get it more clear.

So stop reading “how to” stuff, just for now.

For now, just write down what’s in your head, and listen deeply to what’s in your heart.

If you really do freeze up, write down ONE SENTENCE that describes how your feeling.

Every day.

Be yourself.

Be the scared, uneasy, feeling less-than person you are right now, and be your authentic self.

Write about where you are right now, what you want to do differently, where you want to go, and where you want to be in a week, six months, a year, a decade.

Because YOU are the only YOU in the world.

It’s not about having an audience, it’s about having a voice.

TODAY’S QUORA QUESTION, ANSWERED

Luann Udell

Seth Godin, a long-time marketing blogger, often writes articles that are less than 100 words.

Captain Awkward, one of my two top fave advice columnists, will write as much as it takes to thoroughly address someone’s issues, and walk them through every step. A thousand words or more. (NOTE: Most people can read about 200 words per minute. So even a thousand words is just a 5-minute read.)

Me? I’m known for being very….um….wordy.

Go with what works for YOU. Do you tend to write sparingly? Make your points clear and don’t worry about it.

Do you tend to go long? That’s okay, too. Make it a great story, and most people won’t mind.

And if your piece gets TOO long, then break it up into a small series of posts.

As for what the average is, I have no idea, and I don’t think anyone really cares.

I suspect you’re either a) just starting out, and aren’t sure what’s “too much” and what’s “not enough”, or b) you wrote an article and someone criticized you for writing too much.

If the answer is A, just write until you’re done. Edit to make it clear, and let it go.

If the answer is B, ignore the trolls who are merely out to get your goat. Delete their comments if they didn’t have a real point to make, or information to add, etc. Or respond to their criticism with adult-iness and good will, making the point that you don’t have to go to every fight you’re invited to. Then block ‘em! 😀

MY WONKY CREATIVE CYCLE

There’s no single right or wrong way to be creative. It’s what works for YOU!

I beat myself all the time when I hit a slump in my creative cycle.

I think, “What’s the use, nothing’s selling, everyone’s telling me I’m doing it wrong, I’m out of ideas, NOW WHAT??!!”

When I’m in this part of my cycle, it feels pretty hopeless, and I feel pretty useless.

Today I had an ‘aha!’ moment.

This. Is. NORMAL.

I’ve written before about my amazing experience in Lyedie Geer‘s Theory U workshop. (Theory U represents a business model, but Lyedie’s presentation focused on this also applies to our creative work.) (Also synchronistic: As I looked for a link to her blog, I found another great article that helped me today!)

In any creative cycle, there are periods of intense productivity. And also periods of intense confusion, frustration, trial-and-error, and self-doubt.

It’s only when we define ourselves by that second half of the equation that we lose hope. Lose faith in our process. Lose respect for ourselves, as an ordinary, often brilliant, sometimes lost in confusion as a human being.

During the Covid-19 shut-down, I went into a major productive period during the Covid-19 shut-down (my latest shrine series). I always want to figure out how to make something in my head. Does. Not. Work. Instead, I took a deep breath and went with trial-and-error. It DID work!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then some exhibition deadlines came up. More inspiration! And I made two more Shaman necklaces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then the deadlines were met, the creative surge ebbed, and I was in a major period of lull.

I went into a major period of sifting and sorting through my supplies: Sorting my artifacts by size, use, and color. Moving on items that I will never use, and won’t need for classes. Organizing seed beads (yup. I KNOW.) was the biggie. And I’d berate myself for wasting valuable time when I could be doing something more productive.

The rewards of this period? I got a lot of sorting done! And it was very soothing indeed.

The downfall? Long periods of sitting and repetitive motor activity resulted in tendonitis, loss of muscle tone, and not much else getting done.

Finally, last week, I told myself, “ENOUGH!” My goal: Make one thing today. One horse. Or an owl. Or a blue bear.

And I did.

But it didn’t swerve me into full artifact-production-mode. I still felt “meh”.

And then, yesterday I had a huge insight/inspiration:

I want to make more Shaman necklaces. The really big ones, with big beads, big critters, statement pieces.

They don’t sell quickly, that’s for sure. And my goal has always been to make at least one a year. To remind myself that the MAKING is what’s important, not the selling. To encourage myself to “go BIG”, no matter what the outcome is.

But I made a big blue horse yesterday. And as I made it, intending it to be a small sculpture, I thought, “This would make a great Shaman necklace!”

There it was. There was my answer, my next step forward.

Today, I’m actually excited to get to my studio again.

Today, I can see that the “fallow” period was not a fluke. It was not useless. It was not a drain of my resources.

It was a period of rest, and restoration. A time to let the next inspiration find ME, instead of demanding it show up RIGHT NOW.

I’m feeling better today.

And I hope I’ve made YOU feel a little better today, too.

What is your creative cycle? Similar? Vastly different?

Do you recognize it when you’re in it? I’d love to hear what other creatives experience!

 

TODAY’S QUORA ANSWER:

Let me start by saying this phrase really annoys me.

Our readers and followers are not fish.

Just like strategies that claim to “drive people” to our websites, etc. or establishing our “brand”, which are both cowboy metaphors, this usage sounds like you are only interested in “snagging an audience”.

Your first reason to write a blog is to have a voice in the world. You have something to say, you have something to share, you have interests and opinions based on your experience and world view, and you want to get them out into the world.

Instead, some people want to have an audience. A big audience. A HUGE audience.

Which is understandable. Heck, I wish I had a huge audience!

But not at the expense of adapting MY VOICE IN THE WORLD to appease others.

There are plenty of experts out there who can advise you about SEO, ads, sites to promote yourself, etc. etc. etc. Know that most of these people may be sharing their own experience and knowledge, but they also hope to make money off YOU. After all, if there were a sure-fire way to grow a huge audience in a short amount of time, we would ALL be jillionaires.

There will be a fortunate few who can gain fame, likes, a huge audience, sponsors/sponsorship, etc. My favorites are the people who have gained great insights in how to live our best life, and how to be the best person we can be. The influencer crowd? Meh.

So follow your own path, but please consider what is really important to you in life.

Wealth? Influence? Adoration?

Or becoming your best, authentic, heart-driven self?

Your choice.

HOW TO SEE THE WORLD Part 1: What Made Me Put On My Rose-Colored Glasses This Week!

Can you tell I’ve been feeling saggy lately? Go figure (says the rest of the world who are also feeling saggy.)

Last week, something happened that made it worse.

I got my husband his dream Christmas gift this year, a little Sharing Library. (It’s like a Little Free Library. Ours is from the same family but a different company, hence “Sharing Library.) It’s been up for six months, and we restock it every week or so. It had just reached the point where people were adding as many books as were taken. Yay!!

Then one morning, my husband sent me this picture while I was at my studio:

No more books :-{Yup. Someone had taken ALL of our books. (Turns out the two remaining were actually left by a neighbor’s kiddo, who saw that they were all gone and generously added two of theirs. Love love love you Nova!)

My heart went to a sad place. Who would do such a thing?? And WHY???

I checked in with NextDoor, and with a Facebook group of fellow Little Free Library members in Santa Rosa.  At least two other people said this had happened to them, too. People shared their thoughts:

 

Was it someone with a mental health issue?

Was it someone who thought “free” meant “take ’em all!”??

Was it someone who realized they could resell them to a used bookstore???

Fortunately, I’d stockpiled some books to move on, and half-filled the library again. But it left me in a bit of a huff. As in, do something kind and look what happens! Ugh.

And then the light poured in.

Someone in the FB group offered to bring us more books. Someone else did, too. Soon we were swamped with offers of books.

One person brought theirs over immediately, and totally restocked the box. I met another person who meant to do the same, and gave me their box to store. More people did the same. Soon people from NextDoor chimed in, too.

Dozens of people offered books, brought books, left books on our porch, and left books on THEIR porch for me to pick up.

We now have enough extra books to fill up that library for months!

So one tiny act of greed/misunderstanding/poopiness resulted in hundreds of words and actions of kindness and generosity.

So what do I want to hold onto this week?

An empty giving library?

Or a little world of good deeds?

Yup. You guessed it!

If this lifts YOUR heart today, too, then I’ve done my work for the day….

When good people do good things.

 

MY QUORA ANSWER TODAY: “What Made You Write That Post Today?”

Today’s answer to a question on Quora:

“What made you write that post today?”

Something happened that triggered me. Maybe in a good way, maybe in a bad way.

It might have been something I read. It might have been something someone said.

It might have been directed at me, or had nothing to do with me.

Or I may be feeling “something” today: Feeling down. Feeling ‘left out’. Feeling ‘less than’.

Or maybe I’m feeling uplifted, relieved, happy.

Maybe I experienced a lovely little miracle, a moment of synchronicity, something that made me pause and go, “WOW!! I needed to hear/see/experience that today!”

In almost every case, writing that post was a way for me to find clarity. Or humor. Or simply peace in my heart.

And whenever that happens, I’ve realized that, if that’s what I experienced today, writing that post was my way of working it through to my highest, best self, again.

And it my words got ME there, then maybe someone, somewhere in the world, would find the same reassurance, the same clarity, the same grounded-ness, for themselves.

Even when I’m feeling down, miffed, angry, sad, scared, left out, unseen, unnecessary, I still want to believe I have a place in the world. That my creative work matters, IF ONLY to help me be a better person in the world.

Sharing those thoughts, those steps, may help someone else feel the same way.

It’s not about the likes, the numbers, the followers, the sales.

It’s not about having an audience. It’s about have a voice in the world.

And encouraging others to have theirs, too.

HOW TO OPEN STUDIO #20: Art Events Aren’t About Making Money TODAY

I am reprinting an article I wrote a few years ago (July 13, 2019), because it’s worth repeating. AND should be in this series. What a coincidence that I came across it on Pinterest. And an hour after I read all the bitter, disappointed comments collected for our recent open studio event, Art at the Source.

Creating our artwork takes time. Getting good at it takes time. So does an open studio! And giving up after one slow event–especially in these strange times, when EVERYONE is struggling….well, I’ll just keep my mouth shut. For now.

If money is your only measure of success, you may be missing out on the longer game…

I learned years ago that even a “bad” art event has its value. I had to learn that the hard way, by having a lot of poor sales at shows, exhibitions, fairs, open studios, even high-end fine craft shows across the country.

It started when I first did small local art fairs and craft shows. I never did well enough to go back, if my work wasn’t a good fit with other vendors.

But at each show I would a) have one good sale that paid all my expenses, b) made connections that grew, and c) always got a good tip, insight, experience, that convinced me not to give up.*

I began to realize it took time for folks to “get” my work. It wasn’t painting, it wasn’t pottery. It didn’t fit into any “box”. Almost every visitor did, and said, the same thing. They would stop, come in my space, and gaze at my work for several minutes. When they were ready to talk, they all said a version of the same thing:

“I’ve never seen anything like it, and it’s absolutely beautiful.”

So the work was good enough to pull people in, but different enough that they had to really think about it. I realized I was laying groundwork for something bigger, and better, down the road.

It kept me going, and eventually, I leaped into bigger, juried shows. Those people began to show up for other events: Open studios, art tours, art walks, etc. Gradually, my audience grew. I started doing wholesale fine craft shows, and was juried into a major fine craft show (retail) that same year. I did both shows for years and a couple of open studio events.  My audience grew every year, until I left for California in 2014.

I’m still relearning those same lessons over and over.

Last month, I joined another open studio tour, as the guest of another artist. Attendance was good, but sales were not.

It would have been easy to feel sorry for myself. Heck, I didn’t even get that many newsletter sign-ups.

But I realized I had accomplished my main goal: Introducing my work to a brand new audience. I had rich conversations with amazing people, who I know will come back. Only few dozen people signed up for my email newsletter during the event. But I gave out a ton of business cards and postcards, which paid off.

When I checked in after the event, I found a LOT of people had signed up online. (I think they wanted to see more, and liked what they found!) And I had the rare opportunity to get to know my host artist, and their other two guest artists, better. They are all remarkable people! (We drank a lot of Prosecco at the end of each day.)  (A LOT of Prosecco!)

 A few days ago, I was at the kick-off meeting for this year’s Sonoma County Art Trails open studio event, (Both tours are under the same umbrella organization, but focus on different areas in our large county.)

I was sitting at a table with the new manager of this particular 35-year-old tour. I mentioned that I had few sales at the other open studio tour the week before, not even covering my entry fees, but I was satisfied with it, all-in-all.

Then the new manager said the magic words that summarize this entire article into seven truth-filled words:

“Art events aren’t about making money TODAY.”

Perfect! “I’m gonna write about that!” I exclaimed as I scribbled her words down before I could forget them.

Maybe my very own experience of making something positive out of the ordinary made me realize this early on. How to share the essence of this with others in seven words? Thank you, Tenae Stewart!

Art events are about introducing our work to an audience, especially if it’s a new audience. It’s about inviting our visitors and attendees into our world. Open studios are especially powerful, because they see our work and our environment in full. (Well. It’s a little less messy, but I never get my studio perfectly clean anyway. Artistic mess, people!)

It’s like what a friend told me once, at my old studio space, when I complained about how few people actually came by my studio on an average day. They replied, “It’s not who comes by, it’s who comes BACK.”  And as I look back, I see that the most amazing people DID come by, often when I wasn’t there. But my studio’s sidewalk window let them see a sample of my work, and they did indeed come back.

Now I’m on a crusade, encouraging artists who, for many reasons, don’t like open studios. They may believe their studio is not interesting/too small/too messy/not “professional enough” to open to the public. They may have tried it once, then gave up because it wasn’t worth it.

It’s hard to gear up for an event we didn’t have much success with. But there are events we need to give a second, or even third chance for.

I share my own experiences, how very small open studios tours back in New Hampshire grew from one visitor my first year, to scads of visitors during the second year, who didn’t buy anything, to folks who came in droves the third year—and bought enough to rival my sales from major shows. (And I didn’t have to drive anywhere or set up a booth!)

I share how powerful it’s been to give people permission to “go deep” in my making space. I share how I give them the chance to look while making myself easily available for their questions: (“Hi, I’m Luann, and I make all the artifacts that look like carved bone and ivory. It’s okay to touch my work and pick things up. And if you have any questions, I’ll be right over here!”) Rather than saying, “No thanks, just looking”, people say, “Oh, THANK YOU!!!!” and dive in. When they’re ready to talk, they ask their question, and the conversation begins.

I recently encouraged another artist in my new building to open their studio during our first major event here. They made the usual disclaimers: Their studio is too small, it’s too messy, they don’t have a body of work yet, they’ve never sold a painting, etc. etc.)

I told them their small space might encourage some visitors to realize they don’t need a huge room to do their own creative work, just a spot they don’t have to clear for dinner. They will love looking at that work in progress. It will captivate them, with the photos, preliminary studies, the rough sketches, and the work-in-progress. They will love the subject. Best of all, this artist is comfortable talking to people. They are full of energy and enthusiasm without being overbearing, and visitors will love that.

And last, I said, “Bruce Baker once said, “To regular folks, artists are the people who ran away to join the circus!” Other people wonder and dream about doing their own creative work. To see someone actually doing that work is powerful medicine for all of us in our torn and tattered world.

Open studios aren’t for every artist. Some galleries restrict their artists from participating in them, perhaps for fear they will lose sales, or the work will be undersold. (If you are represented in stores or galleries, NEVER undercut your gallery prices.)

Some artists have privacy or safety issues. (Ask a friend to keep you company, and safe, or ask another artist to participate with you.)

Some see them as too much work. (Me? It’s like having company for dinner, it forces you to clean up a couple times a year!)

Bottom line, art events are essentially about connection: You with your potential audience, them with you, and with your work. Sales certainly help! But know that sales usually follow after laying the groundwork for a mutually-respectful and satisfying relationship.

Don’t worry about the sales you didn’t make today. You’re laying the groundwork for something bigger, tomorrow!

HOW TO OPEN STUDIO #19: Why Should I Have an Open Studio Anyway??

 

I’ve made very few “people” figures in my art. But my handprints appear all over the place!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Happiness is the only thing that multiplies when you share it.”

I was thinking about my dad today.

Yeah, partly because it was Fathers Day. And mostly because of the grief I’m reading/hearing about how unsuccessful people were with our recent Art at the Source open studio event this month.

My dad was a diligent worker. He took over the family business (a dairy biz, processing milk into ice cream, cream, and…well, milk), incorporating a dariy bar, and eventuallly a family restaurant. (My first job was washing dishes there, when I was in…4th grade??) Then he sold the biz and became a state dairy inspector. (He sure liked cows.)

He also loved flowers. Our house was surrounded by rigid rows of organized, meticulously-spaced flowers. In the spring, he would give each of us kids a soup spoon, and we would dutifully plant daisies, marigolds, and petunias. He diligently watered all our houseplants daily, too.

But when he retired, he also took up woodworking. He spent days in his garage workshop, planing, mitering, sanding, staining. He made furniture for me and all my sibs over the years.

And if you expressed delight or sang his praises, he would also diligently point out every error he’d made in the making. (It helped me to NOT do this with my own work!)

What does this have to do with having an open studio?

I don’t believe he ever sold a single piece of his work.

He’d made his money WORKING all his life. His gardening and woodworking was for FUN–relaxation and enjoyment. He called it his hobby.

Hobby, vocation, and avocation. What’s the diff??

I used to have a distinction between avocation and hobby, but the older I get, I can’t remember. And it doesn’t matter so much to me, either.

Here’s what my dad taught me: Find a way to earn a living. You can be an artist when you retire.

What I taught my kids: Do what you love, and the money will follow. (Robin and Doug, I apologize from the bottom of my heart. Love, Mum)

What I wish I’d told my kids, and what I’m telling you today:

Do the work that supports your lifestyle. At best, it’s work you enjoy. Hopefully, you don’t hate it, or at least don’t dislike it too much. Hopefully, it’s something you’re good at, that you’re proud of, and it’s wonderful if it pays well, too.

But if it’s not the work of your heart, make room for THAT in your life, too. It will help you manage everything else.

My dad never sold a single piece of his woodwork. They were always gifts, or filling requests for furniture–coffee tables, sofa tables, display pedestals, coat racks, etc.–for friends and family.

In my art career, financially, I had some good years, some really good years, and some years that totally tanked. Most of those tank years were obviously the result of events totally out of my control: 9/11, war in the Mideast, inflation/recession, pandemic. We’re right back there, today, and there’s no escaping the consequences that affect our entire planet.

And yet, I was surprised at how much people complained (in an online forum) about their open studio event this year. Surprised at how many people are considering not joining next year. Astonished at how some people are considering actually walking away from their art-making. “What’s the use?!” (Why can’t I make that shoulder-shrug emoji??)

TBH, I was a little down that last day, too. Until I started to write about it. Writing helps me sort out the dust bunnies in my brain, and get to center of my  (he)art.

What helps YOU get centered again? I’d love to hear!

My take-away:

There is no figuring out exactly what will make us rich. I can’t even figure out how to cover the cost of my materials anymore.

Won’t stop me.

There is no single, sure path to fame and fortune.

I’m pretty sure I don’t even WANT to be famous anymore.

It takes time to build an audience, especially when our work is really out-of-the-box.

I tried through shows (wholesale and retail), art fairs, and open studios. I learned that it time and engagement for people to really see what I was doing, what my story was, and how labor-intensive my process was.

Open studios are the best at this! See my workspace, look at my tools and materials, let me show you what inspires me….

I stepped away from wholesale shows, and eventually made all my income from one major fine craft show in New Hampshire, and two open studio tours. They, too, started out slow. My visitors steadily grew, though there were still set-backs, dips, etc.

Then I moved to California, and had to start all over. Again.

How do I feel about that?

I’m actually okay.

Today, I can sell my work online, though it’s almost always to current customers and people who have followed my work for YEARS. (Again: Connection, achieved by outreach and availability.)

Today, I can easily share the backstory, my creation story, my inspiration, process, and animal stories. especially in my studio.

Today, I am reminded of my most recent open studio event, too. Yes, a little disappointed in the number of visitors, and that my sales were low.

And then I remember the blessings in my life:

I HAVE A STUDIO. I can do the work of my heart.

I have people who love my work. Maybe they can’t afford to buy it. Maybe they’ve downsized, and don’t have room for it.

But they can still come and look at it, and marvel, and engage with me.

I can encourage people to make room in their life for what brings them joy.

And I can write about it, hoping to do the same for YOU.

The good part in that forum thread: Some people griped, but when they realized so many other people were feeling the same way–in other words, it wasn’t just them–they got more clarity.

They, too, found the good stuff amidst the pile of disappointment. They got their mojo back. They will continue to make their art. Yay!

I think of my dad. I’m sure he would have been happy to make some money from his late-in-life hobby.

But that wasn’t WHY he did it.

He did it because it kept him busy (he hated doing nothing). He did it because he could make something for people he loved. He got better at it (because he was a bit of a perfectionist.) (DAISIES AND MARIGOLDS ALL IN A ROW.) It was flexible: He could work all day, or he could stop at any time and go for a drive with my mom.

It made him feel like he still had something to offer the world.

In my open studio, I listened to people telling me about their new life paths, their new interests and pastimes, their latest life disruption, their still-painful losses and sorrows.

My creative space became a safe place to share stories of hope, dreams, sadness, and joy. And healing.

My creative work carries stories of how every person has a place in the world. Including me. Including you.

I just realized my studio is my own unique version of a miniature Lascaux Cave.

The art of the Lascaux Cave was not about achieving fame or fortune.

The Ice Age was coming to an end, and so a people’s entire way of life was, too. They didn’t gather to start a war, or to assess blame. They gathered as a community, hoping to find a way through to the other side. And each handprint represents a single person present.

I can’t even imagine putting a price tag on that.

Today, try not to measure your sucess with only money.

Today, see your true value in the world, made with the work of your hands, and of your heart.

It’s not about having an audience. It’s about having a voice.

THE MARSHMALLOW CONUNDRUM

Who knew marshmallows could be so scary??

My favorite marketer blogger let me down today.

They discussed why some people are wealthy. It’s because they made a decision to purchase stock in a new company 20 years ago, instead of spending the money on eating out at a restaurant. As in, wisdom and foresight vs. random self-indulgence. Long-term value over short-term amusement.

They compared to to getting a grilled cheese sandwich today, or being able to get two grilled cheese sandwiches next week. As if the people who invested in Google in 2004 are smarter/better than the people who chose to go out to dinner instead. Twenty years later, the dinner is forgotten, but the shares are worth thousands of dollars.

I get the point (I think.) It takes time for money to grow, and not much time at all to spend it on worthless/useless/petty things instead. The people who are willing to wait, gain more.

Or is it?

It sounds like the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment in the 1970’s, when 32 children were given a marshmallow, but told they would get TWO marshmallows if they didn’t eat the first one. The study declared that the children who could wait, were more successful in life, their SAT scores were higher, etc. Repeated studies seemed to support the power of delayed gratification.

This is the simplified version, of course, but the one we’re most familiar with: People who have self-discipline do better in life.

Until newer studies found the major flaw in these results:

Children of “lower” social class, who were more vulnerable to food insecurity, whose families were struggling, were the ones who “couldn’t” wait for that second marshmallow.

Not because they aren’t as smart, not because they had no self-discipline, or because they were less patient.

It was because they had already learned to grab what was available when it was offered. Because that second “reward” might NEVER come.

I never truly believed in the original findings. Something just felt wrong. It felt more like an issue of trust in the people running the experiment than the ability to “go without”. In fact, these kids that “failed” were probably already “going without”. Without the same support, advantages, opportunities that wealthier families offer.

And about stock options vs. a dinner out….

Yeah, we might forget the dinner out, twenty years later. It might be a better choice to invest in our future.

And yet….

What if that dinner is the first date with a person who became our partner? Or the one where our partner asked us to marry them?

What if that dinner was a celebration? A birthday, a milestone reached, a graduation?

What if it was the last time we were able to spend time with a loved one or a dear friend?

What if it was the dinner where you had a huge fight, and realized that was NOT the person you wanted to be with for the rest of your life? A decision you would never regret?

The article probably has a valid point, and maybe it just landed wrong for me today. We’ve all made poor financial decisions we wish we could do over.

And yet…

Investing money has always been a gamble. Some people make good investment decisions, yes. But a lot of those decisions aren’t. We never really know which ones will pay off, and anyone who says otherwise is either very very lucky in theirs, or they’re full of bullshit.

Sorry, I don’t know where I’m going here. Except even gentle criticism about people not making smart decisions about the future drives me crazy. I still remember a coworker 40 years ago. She and her parter had the perfect investment/retirement plan in place with her husband.

But her husband died suddenly way, way before they got there. And she had to keep working long past her retirement years to support herself.

Her greatest regret? That they had put off all their travels and good times, so they would have a rich, perfect retirement.

And then they never had the chance to enjoy it, together.

My own favorite “predicting the future” story is the year where the price of oil skyrocketed (our heating fuel in New Hampshire), and we had to decide whether to prebuy at the current prices, or hope that they would fall before winter. My husband said, “If only I knew what the price of oil was going to be in six months!” And I said, “You and ten billion other people.”

Yes, it’s good to be frugal, and set aside money. Yes, it’s good to have hope in our hearts that things will work out, that everything will be okay, that we will always be safe, that we have everything under control. It’s good to wait, and get that second marshmallow as a reward.

But it’s bad to blame people who have less, who strugle more, who battle discrimination, ridicule, distrust, disgust, and who are never seen for anything more than their gender, skin color, nationality, religion choices.

Only when ALL people have money to invest, when ALL people don’t have to worry about where the next paycheck will come from, when ALL people can have an income, health care, respect, love, when ALL people can feel safe and cared for….

Then, and only then, will I take that investment advice seriously.

Er….pass me that marshmallow, please?

 

 

 

 

HOW TO OPEN STUDIO #18: The Power of Connection and Community

First day of Art at the Source was so slow, I got this necklace made!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It really, really helps if money is not the only measure of your “success”.*

*Thank you forever, Alisha Vincent!

On the brink of the last weekend of our Sonoma County Art at the Source Open Studio Tour.

I posted on Facebook mentioning that my first weekend was rather slow, with a pic of a necklace I made during the lulls. Another participant shared their studio visitor numbers, which were higher than mine.

Here’s why that didn’t bother me at all:

First, numbers come and numbers go. The first two years I did an open studio in New Hampshire, no one came. (I was the only participant in my neck of the woods.) It was a little discouraging but my studio was clean, and I got a lot of new work done.

The third year, my studio was filled to the gills with visitors, and it never stopped until we left New Hampshire.

Second, an original founder and long-time AATS participant (30 years?) who’s well-known in these parts, and whose work is popular, said numbers come and go, rise and fall, over the years, and usually for no discernible reason. “I don’t worry about it,” she said. “It is what it is, and I’m comfortable with that.” Thank you, Sally Baker! (She’s a true grown-up.)

Third, though my numbers were low, those visitors were amazing, each and every one. One woman brought me a box of beautiful abalone shells!

My last point is one that just came to me today:

My visitors created their own in-house community, in my studio, during the tour!

Somehow, I ended up showing two visitors the lovely gift of abalone shells. They were so amazed, I ended up giving each of them one! It just felt like the right thing to do. They were delighted. I know they’ll be back someday.

One long-time fan came in, we had a nice chat, and she gave me an idea for one-on-one mentoring/tutoring with polymer clay. While she was still there, another long-time fan and her studio-mate came in. The three of them hit it off. I offered them comfy chairs, and they sat in a little circle and talked avidly for awhile. (It was still a slow day, people could get around them easily, and I was totally okay with that.) It was wonderful to see new friendships created, right there in front of me!

Another visitor talked about losing a sibling last year, and then the tears came. On impulse, I opened one of my storage drawers and gave them an older bear artifact.  Then I gave them a card with the bear’s story: “Be strong when things get hard. Listen more. Think slow. Love deep.”

(No, I don’t just hand out free stuff to people randomly. There’s just something inside me that says, “They need this….”)

It took me a few days to see what was happening.

These people all had at least one thing in common: They like my work. Some LOVE my work.

They felt safe enough in my sacred creative space to open their hearts, to my stories, to my work, to me. And also to others in that space.

It was amazing.

I’m still unwrapping that, figuring out why it affected me so deeply. But in the end, I can just say I’m glad this all happened.

Oh, I also made a few sales, enough to restock new supplies for my next projects.  Some weird questions got asked, some people weren’t interested and left quickly. Tomorrow’s going to be really really hot, and I don’t have any thoughts about what that will look like.

But I’m not worried.

I’ve already had my share of beautiful little miracles. And I’m grateful for them all.

It’s not always about numbers.

It’s not always about the money. 

It’s about using our creativity to bring out the best in ourselves, and in others. We are truly blessed to be able to do this with the work of our heart.

 

 

 

 

HOW TO OPEN STUDIO #17 Tears for Fears: What if someone steals my stuff??”

Yeah, I could worry constantly about theft. But I actively try NOT to.

Hah! I TOLD you a series is rarely ever “done”!

Just before our latest county open studio event (LINK), an artist reached out with a terrific question: What if someone were to steal their work?

In this case, it was a portfolio of very small “studies”, their way of experimenting before taking on a large project. These studies could easily be pilfered. Should they be worried?

Yes. No. Maybe?

Unless we make huge stone sculptures that have to be hauled away in a wheelbarrow (or similar), yes, we are all potential victims of theft. And you know who is the MOST vulnerable creative/maker for theft? Jewelers, especially those working in precious metals/gemstones. When they do major shows, they often take down their ENTIRE INVENTORY every night. And set it up all over again the next day. OMG!)

But making that the biggest issue with opening our open studio is a sure-fire way to unconsciously let every single visitor know you do not trust them. And that will destroy the very reason open studios are so powerful:

Our visitors want to know more about our work–and US.

Treating each person as a possible thief, destroys any potential connection. Which defeats the entire purpose of inviting them into our creative space.

How do I know? This happened to me, as a studio visitor.

In this case, the person was open to my previous suggestion, ideas for having samples, tools, etc. that are okay for visitors to touch or hold. People are extremely experienced about being told NOT to touch in so many environments. Providing a display, something they CAN touch, is powerful!

Hence this person’s idea of presenting a portfolio of small studies, which they would hate to lose.

Here were my thoughts. (Be sure to add yours in the comments!)

Fears of having our work stolen cements everybody to the ground, as in, a bad way. We all worry about such things. In my lifetime, I don’t recall a single thing being taken, but I have so much stuff, I probably wouldn’t notice if it were missing 🥴
If the worry about losing your portfolio is giving you nightmares, consider a way to display it so that it’s not a small thing somebody could pocket easily.
I’m not a painter, so I don’t know if you’re talking about individual sketches, first drafts, or illustrations in a notebook, etc. You can send me more details and we can figure out a way to keep your work safe.
Maybe only exhibit a few of the pictures you were experimenting with, or have all of them on display in a case, or hang on the wall.
But what’s more important than that is being comfortable with people in our sacred creative space.
I have not had any (okay, not MANY) issues with people being rude, aggressive, sneaky, etc. and I’ve learned over the years that being afraid of these things create anxiety.  And that anxiety can destroy our ability to connect with other people. Yes I have a story about that! 🥴😄
I visited someone’s studio who was obviously afraid of me stealing something. I loved their work, but their suspicious demeanor and them trailing me around their studio made me very uncomfortable. I finally left as soon as I could.
People meeting us in our studio, seeing our work in person, engaging with us, learning more about our process, our inspiration, our techniques, our story, is the single most powerful way for us to gain an audience.
I don’t want to dismiss your fears as being totally unnecessary, but the chances of someone stealing something major from you are pretty slim.
And your fear of having something stolen will create a barrier between you and the very people you want to connect with.
So for your sake, try to set your fears aside.
Consider some of the suggestions about securing your portfolio so no one can just simply walk off with it.
If you can, it’s always nice to have an assistant available, someone who can take care of processing sales, wrapping and packaging, someone who can keep an eye out and help allay your fears.

Yes, they wrote back to let me know they found this helpful. Yay! In fact, it’s not something that’s been an issue in their own art career. Just something that popped up and got stuck in their head. And they already had a helper lined up, and came up with a display plan that worked for them.

And of course, after talking to them, I began to worry about MY work being stolen! (Fears are an easily-transmissible disease with no vaccine….) (Okay, there IS a vaccine: Embrace it, tell it we know it’s doing its job–keeping us safe–and say “Thank you!” Then tell it to scram until it’s time for dinner….)

Next article: How to prevent visitors from throwing cake at our artwork. (JUST KIDDING!!! I have no idea how to stop people from doing that. Apparently, neither does the Louvre….)

How have YOU secured your valuables, and still provided a comfortable place for visitors to engage with you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

 

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