As I reread my post from yesterday (Mixed Feelings and Better Choices) about Christmases past and present, I couldn’t stop thinking about the Yankee Swap part:

Back in Keene NH, we enjoyed a Yankee Swap in addition to our regular celebration. Each guest brought a wrapped gift. (It could be used/regifted/a white elephant kinda thing, but not half-eaten or broken. You could not believe the people who didn’t get that….) Everyone draws a number, the number one goes first, picks a gift, and opens it. Number two the same, except they can choose to swap gifts with Number one. It continues, until the very last person gets to swap with ANYONE. (Um…it did invoke some pissed-off guests, but almost everyone eventually enjoyed it as the wacko experience it was meant to be.)

I’d forgotten a powerful insight I had:

Every single “white elephant”, “I hate this thing, YOU take it!” “Why would anyone want this??” gift found a good home.

We’ve heard “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”, but we could see that happening right in front of us. There was almost always at least one person who thought that “ugly/useless/silly” thing was wonderful. Not only that, but the worst “fights” involved a couple-to-a-bunch-of people who all wanted the same item! (The person who brought it to the swap was always amazed by that!)

I’ve written about Regretsy a few times over the last few years, here and now I can’t find the others. (I’ll update this once I do.) I love how even horrible, awful artwork April Winchell found on Etsy had a place in the world. Here’s a summary of the original blog before it disappeared, and here’s where you can buy an affordable copy of the book.

In fact, once a seller’s work was featured in her blog, their shop was flooded with buyers.

Even more astounding, Winchell could tell when someone was sincerely proud of their work, and when someone was “faking it” with horrible art, trying to be featured on her blog. She said there was something about the work that, no matter how awful, had authenticity she could sense.

How powerful is that?!

And my final point: Look how popular ugly Christmas sweaters have become over the years! (Google “ugly christmas sweater trend” and find some wonderful articles about its history.)

So when we feel bad about our creative work, when we think it’s not good enough and that’s why we can’t sell it, make a living from it, we can take the time to rethink those sad thoughts.

We need to keep it in our lives because we love making it. It helps us deal with everything else we need to do.

And somewhere in the world is someone who will love it just as much as we do.

Oh, they could live on the other side of the world, they may never see it, and who knows? Maybe we’ll be famous after we die. (If you have not yet watched the Netflix comedy special “Nanette” by Hannah Gadsby, please give it a whirl. She breaks the standard opinion that Vincent Van Gogh’s multi-million dollar art sales means anything. “He’s so famous! Look how much his work sells for!” Gadsby: “Yeah, but he’s dead.” And my favorite quote: “The reason Van Gogh is famous today is because he had a brother who loved him.” Theo Van Gogh is the reason any of Van Gogh’s work is around today, because he had a gallery (where only one of Vincent’s work sold).

In ancient times, cave art wasn’t hunting magic (a theory that prevailed in the 50’s and continued for decades.) They were communal ceremonies, often led by female shamans, to create unity, healing, connection.

And when we make our art, we create healing…for ourselves.

When we share it with the world, we create connection. Maybe not sales, but people will see it, some people will like it, and some people will be better for it.

When we participate in art events, open studios, etc., we create community.

When we realize all people have a creative streak, if we simply broaden the definition, we create unity.

Trust me, if a crazy flower pot at a Yankee swamp finds a loving hope, your creative work can, too. Make room in your heart, and your life, no matter how small a space you have, and know that your creative work has a life of its own in the world.

Someone loved this enough that they bought it, and it then it ended up at an antique store. Where it sat for ages until it finally sold.



ALL THIS SOCIAL MEDIA and Still Nobody’s Asking Me to Dance

Why it’s okay if you aren’t Twittering/Facebooking/meta tagging/Stumbling/LinkedIn or otherwise filling your social media dance card this week.

A quick sidestep from social media (Facebook 25 Random Things topic) to social media in general.

Sometimes I beat myself up that I’ve been slow to use social media to promote my art.

Other times I’m glad I didn’t get sucked into the whole thing with “meta tags” and “SEO” and that other crap.

I’m blessed to have a net-savvy husband. (When asked what he does, I just reply, “He’s an internet visionary.”)

He’s not only responsible for my lovely web site, he’s also guided me
on my entire online journey the last ten years.

By that I mean he told me from the start that whatever I said or did online would stick around for a long, long, long, long, LONG time.

From my very first email correspondence, my earliest postings to usergroups, then email lists, forums, blogs and now Twitter and Facebook, I have always been hyper aware of what I say, how I say it, and who I’m saying it to. (Or as Lily Tomlin would say, ‘the party to whom I am speaking….”

I’ve taken advantage the internet gives me to stop and think before I post; to reread what I’ve written before I hit the send button; to consider my flow of thought before I publish an article. I sort through my words to make them more clear. I wait til anger has passed before I react to a snotty remark. I ask myself what my intentions are before I jump into a discussion.

Saying what I care about. Sharing what I’m trying to do. Not just talking the talk, but walking the walk.

Telling you what tribe I belong to.

So I’m always amazed at people who flame others on discussion boards; people who spam their entire email list with warnings about AIDS-infected needles stuck in gas station pump hoses; people who try to leave spam on my blog comments; people who think they can boost their web presence over bajillions of other web sites by using clever tags and search terms; people whose only correspondence with me is to get me to buy stuff from them.

Here’s an IttyBiz blog post on why social media is dead.

Naomi Dunford states that broad, untargeted, shotgun-style marketing has destroyed a lot of what used to work with social media.

In a recent telephone seminar, Naomi said, “Integrity is the coin of the internet.” (And we know Naomi’s cool because, hey! she and I wear the same glasses…)

This is what my husband hammered into me from the very beginning, and it’s still true:

People will respond to my authentic self.

And that’s why a boring everyday I-had-eggs-for-breakfast style blog won’t work, too. Nobody cares if I have chickens…

…unless I share with you a valuable story about what I learned when I twisted my knee chasing my chicken.

I don’t care if I have 10,000 hits to my website, or 10,000 blog readers. I don’t care if I have the world’s attention.

I just want to find my tribe.

I want my tribe to find me.

As people come by your online presence, they will either be attracted and intrigued by who you are and what you offer–or they won’t.

People who agonize about manipulating content and tagging to get mega hits are fishing with the biggest net they can find. It’s purely a numbers game.

Maybe with certain kinds of product, that will work for you. But what I what to accomplish is not about a numbers game.

So don’t stress about what the latest social media hotspot is, or how to stand out among 20,000 other Etsy artists. Quit talking about how to drive traffic to your website.

Instead, treat each venue as a way to connect with an audience that would care about you and your work.

Use each venue as a way for the people that care, to stay connected to you.

Do what you can, in a way that is authentic for you and your business. Be who you are. Make the work you are proud of.

And dance like nobody is watching you.

Because then you don’t have to wait for somebody to ask you.


Once again, I’ve been inspired by thinking about someone else’s problem.

Someone posted on a professional forum awhile back. They’re just starting to sell their work online, and they’re having trouble with keywords for search engine optimization..

Their art is unique and indescribable. It takes a lot of words to even begin to describe it. So how do they compress information about this incredibly unusual work into a few keywords that will shoot them to the top of a Google search?

Thinking about an answer helped me a lot.

I started setting up my first Etsy shop last night. Filling out all the boxes (a welcome section, an intro section, etc.) quickly overwhelmed me.

I struggled over how to introduce myself to an audience who has no idea what I do or how or why I do it.

Then I realized that’s not what I have to do.

There are two approaches to selling your artwork on the Internet:

1) Marketing and selling to people who don’t know your work.
2) Marketing and selling to people who do.

In the first case, your focus is figuring out how to rise, even for an instant, above a sea of other artists and competitors, all hawking their unique, unusual, desirable work. That’s what the artist on that forum was trying to do.

In the second case, you already have an audience–your current customers. That’s who I want to to sell to.

I thought to myself, “These people are not strangers to me.”

My customers already follow my work and my writing. We’ve met and talked, at shows and online.

They already admire my work and want collect it. They may even already know what they want to buy. They don’t want to wait another year for my next retail show. They want to buy it now. They’ve hinted, nudged and outright bonked me on the head to start selling online. They’re waiting for me to get going, because the holidays are coming and they know what they want to give–and get!–for Christmas.

My initial marketing plan is simply letting them know they can now buy from me online, anytime, day or night, winter, summer and fall.

I don’t have to work my way through the tens of thousands of other vendors on Etsy. I just have to let my collectors know I’m there.

Of course, as time goes on, perhaps my marketing will grow and change. But so will my work, and so will my customer base.

The internet will never totally replace personal interactions at shows or open studios. But the internet can support, and encourage, and expand upon that.

And once those bonds have been formed, it’s up to me to make it easier for the people who love my work, to have it.

P.S. If you are someone who loves my work, I would welcome any suggestions about what you’d like (or expect) to see in my Etsy shop (both artwork and words). It’s great to have your perspective!

%d bloggers like this: