HOW TO BE A HERO

Yet another creative person who works at Sebastopol Center for the Arts, Ronnie Smart, who designed this signage for me when I couldn’t be in my studio for all the Art Trails hours!

And so many ways to be a creative!

Although I’m not able to be fully open both weekends of our county-wide open studio tour this month, I was able to fulfill my volunteer commitments at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, the organization that hosts it.

Volunteering is so rewarding! We can help fill in the gaps for non-profit organizations. We get to assist the very people who help us get our art out into the world. And my favorite? We get to peek behind the curtain, just like Wizard-of-Oz Dorothy did. (Er…in a good way.)

I got to meet a member of the staff I hadn’t even met before, due to the pandemic precautions.  One of them triggered a powerful memory for me.

When we lived in New Hampshire, I became a juried member of one of the oldest fine craft organizations in the country (some contend the oldest), the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen. Among other events, they hosted a highly-popular nine-day fair called the LNHC Annual Craftsmen’s Fair. I served on the Fair’s steering committee for awhile, and that deepened my relationships with the League’s staff.

And one conversation simply blew my mind. Here’s that memory:

I was talking to the woman who was in charge of accounting and finances. (I don’t remember her name, but I’ll share it if I find out!(Found her! Joan Hubbard!!! And thank you to Melinda LaBarge for her detective work!) She was always patient and kind in all our interactions, and at some point, we talked about her work history.

Her income came up, and somehow, it was clear she could have chosen to do the same work at our non-profit craft org,  at a much higher salary from a corporation or for-profit company. I was curious, and asked her why she’d chosen that.

She said, “I’m not creative, but I’m in awe of people who are! So I consider my work here a way of supporting the artists and arts I love.”

Take a minute to let that sink in.

In a culture where money is the measure of our “success”, often the only measure, and where someone who is good with managing money can make a lot of money doing that…. this person gave up fortune because of her ideals. For her love of creativity. Her respect for creative people.

I thanked her, of course, and shared that story with others whenever the opportunity came up.

But I wish I could have that conversation again, today. I would take the conversation a little deeper, and perhaps have honored her life decision even more by lifting her heart.

I know now that almost every human being is creative, in their own unique way. Creativity, innovation, the desire to be part of a tribe, and to be seen as a unique individual, are all powerful human traits. If you’ve followed my blog or my email newsletter, or my past articles on Fine Art Views, you know this is a common theme for me!

My heart has opened wide to respect many, many ways people are creative:

Whatever you love to do, (whether it’s hard or challenging or easy and relaxing, earns you a living or not), if it lifts your heart, and helps you make better decisions and be a better person…

And you share it with others, with the world (whether is selling, donating for a good cause, lending, or simply sharing it on social media, etc.)…

And it lifts the hearts of others (because they love it, or makes their life better, easier, richer, or helps them physically/mentally/emotionally/spiritually)…

And makes the world a better place…

That…is creative work. 

So “art” isn’t the only form of creativity. It can be any form of making. It can be healing, teaching, creating community, mending, restoration, repair, building, care-taking, gardening, feeding, etc.

I now know this is all creative work. Even badly-done, with good intentions and a loving heart, has its place in the world. (Here’s my blog post on Regretsy and the power of awful art.)

Today, I would tell this woman this:

“The work you do for us is creative. It makes you happy that you can support our work, and it helps us soooooo much. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you do!”

But I would also go deeper. I would ask her what her creative work is. If she protested she wasn’t creative, I would dig a little deeper: What is the hobby/pastime/activity that lifts her heart? I would gently walk her through my new “rules” of creativity.

And I hope it would give her more support, more confidence, in her own superpowers.

Unfortunately, she died far too early, even before we left New Hampshire. I’ve shared her story with her daughter, and she loved it.

But I deeply regret I could not share my deeper insights at that time.

And the person I briefly met at SebArts fills the same role as this wonderful woman at the LNHC. I hope to talk with her again, soon.

In her honor, I ask you one small favor today.

If you are a “traditional creative”, you know, a “real artist”, take a step back.

Let’s not fight anymore about whether pastels are “just chalk” ( that’s what cave art is made with), or argue about whether pottery is art or craft.

Let’s look deeper at all the organizations, the small businesses, the companies, the people, who support the work of our heart, in so many ways. By sponsoring it, displaying it, promoting it, buying it, or simply letting us know how much they enjoy it.

Let’s be grateful for all the reasons we can even do our work, and all the ways we can get it out into the world.

Let’s work hard to be a force for good in the world, and honor the work so many do, so we can do our work.

LANGUISHING: Finding Our Way in the Dark

Fortunately, my little critter artifacts usually get along very well together.

 

(6 minute read)

It’s not just you. We’re all feeling little (or a lot) out of it these days. I came across the new diagnosis for this a few days ago, as I wrote about my own lost-at-sea feelings here.

This New York Times article explains this “middle child” of emotional health, between depression and joy, as “languishing”. (I was relieved to read this is a ‘thing’, and I hope it helps you, too.)

The problem is, it always does feel like it’s just us. Social media can help us stay connected even during pandemics and shut-downs. But it can also portray “everyone else” as having their sh** together, when we don’t.

I’ve shared my own experience getting through this in my last few blog posts. And I admit, after writing about them, I did feel better. For awhile.

Tiny steps forward in the studio, ala Garfield’s 10 days of 10% effort, which equals 100%.

One day, or ten days…It’s ALL good!

I committed to making one….ONE….new artifact a day. And shared it on Instagram/Facebook.

Realizing deadlines can inspire action, but reading about deadlines doesn’t.

Realizing some problems have very simple answers.

Realizing small acts of kindness and appreciation, which led to others engaging this way, helped, too.

Yet every day, I still go to bed exhausted, and wake up just as if I haven’t slept at all. My dreams are about trying to solve insurmountable problems, striving to achieve one step forward, without success.

What’s up with that?? How do I get back to my happy place? And who even cares if I do???

Welp, turns out there are even more ways to feel better than I thought!

First, while reading similar articles on emotional health, I realized one of my standard practices is considered the easiest, and the best: A gratitude list. Sometimes I’m just not feelin’ it. But when I make myself take ten minutes to list ten things I’m grateful for, no matter how hard it seems, it doesn’t take long to recognize the things that are actually going well for me: Having a loving, supporting partner. Having a studio to go to. Having a home. Access to physical therapy for pain and discomfort. I could go on….

Simply recognizing what’s good in our life doesn’t “fix” the bad. But it can shine a little light at our feet so we can take one tiny step forward, in the dark. (Now I can’t find this quote by Ann Lamott from her book, BIRD BY BIRD, but here are some others that are just as great!)

Second, my second favorite advice columnist (after Captain Awkward), Carolyn Hax , responded to a letter writer who said they can’t tell if their relationship with their partner is still based on love, or if it’s become merely “transactional”. We tend to think it’s one or the other right? Either things are great, or things are “meh”. Hax said that hitting such points can happen. But in the end, we can simply decide to choose love.

Choose love.

Yes, our ancient lizard brain tends to see the world in black-or-white, good-or-bad, happy-or-sad, etc. Human nature. Hax reminds me that we always have the power of our choices. We can be overwhelmed by everything that’s wrong with the world, and we can choose to be a force for good in it. We can seethe with anger and resentment, and we can choose not to act on it. We can have compassion for someone, and we can still set good boundaries.

For some reason, in spite of my exhaustion, my sad, hopeless thoughts, my “meh” outlook, I realized I can choose love. (I feel a little better already.)

Last, the Tokyo Olympic Games. My husband is an avid fan. Me, not so much. But I’ve learned a lot this year from this world event. So many firsts, so much empowerment, so many surprises. And so much controversy.

Simone Biles drew sympathy, compassion, and support for her own recognition of the “twisties” (aka, “the yips”), those moments when our brains disconnect, muscle memory fails, and our greatest efforts can turn into embarassing flops, or even horrifying injuries. (LINK? I was going to link to a horrible injury in a competition a few years ago, but it was TOO horrible. We don’t need that right now!) It took courage for her to take that stand of standing down when she knew it wouldn’t serve her, nor her team.

She also faced a vicious backlash of scorn and insults, being called lazy, cowardly, etc.

In an incredible article in the Washington Post recently, Kate Courtney, world champion mountain biker, shares her own experience with bombing at the Olympics this year. The self-doubt and ensuing criticism was devastating, it was humiliating, and it crushed her. She says,

At the Olympics, in particular, uncertainty and loss become visible and visceral. The challenge is clear, the emotions raw, and the outcome broadcast for the world to see. It takes courage for athletes to offer up true, heartfelt participation, knowing that very few will leave triumphant. And when the battle is over, those fallen competitors do not need to be kicked–they need to be carried. They need to be allowed to rest for just a moment and mend their broken hearts, so they can continue to bravely share their gifts with the world…. (Emphasis is mine.)

Her last paragraph speaks volumes to me today:

This is not the story I hoped to be writing about my Olympic Games. Like many others, I was searching for a sign that we could return to everything just as it was before the pandemic. But as I navigate my challenges around this experience, I am reminded that there are seasons of struggle and seasons of triumph–and that you don’t always get to choose when you jump from one to the next. Sometimes, you need help to keep going until the leaves change color. Exhaustion is not evidence of a lack of courage, but of its abundance. To deny the struggle is to deny the very thing that allows us to triumph in the end.

As I read more articles about successful artists in our area, the major sales others have made from our open studio tours, even scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest and seeing the jaw-droppingly beautiful work of others that my own work will never achieve…

I realize my own struggles are simply mine. They aren’t created by others, they can’t be solved by others. I can only sit with them, sit with uncertainty, until Clarity makes her presence known. (Words of wisdom from a wise woman friend, Sheri Gaynor.)

We all matter, in big ways and small, in great acts of courage and in tiny acts of kindness.

We all have the power of our choices, to hide our gifts or share them with the world, to choose love over resentment, resilience over despair, to embrace our broken selves because it shows us how truly human we all are. Perfection doesn’t make us a better human, but compassion–for ourselves, and for others–does.

To all the people who reached out to me over the last few weeks, who sent me their own acts of kindness, purchased my work, gave me words of love and encouragement, thank you from the bottom of my heart!

If you have your own work-arounds for getting back to your happy place., please share in the comments! What works for you might be just what works for someone else.

And if someone shared this with you, and you found it useful, you can either follow my blog (upper right corner), or sign up for my email newsletter (at the top of my website home page) for more random (but free!) advice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Still Here!

 A single act of kindess,

Like a stone thrown in a pond,

Sends rings of ripples outward

That travel far beyond;

And joining other ripples

Flow outward to the sea;

A single act of kindness

Affects eternity.

–author unknown

 

I never thought that life AFTER the worst of the pandemic would be just as weird as DURING it. But here I am, having a rough summer and a crisis of faith.

Earlier this year, I walked away from my longest paid writing gig, 12 years of writing for FineArtViews.com. It wasn’t my highest paying gig by a long shot. But the weekly deadlines encouraged me to get regular in my writing habits, and my goal was my highest purpose:

  • To encourage creative people to keep making the work that brings them joy/solace/restoration rather than focusing on fame and money.
  • To not let others judge them on their medium, their process, their skill, etc. To embrace what helps them deal with everything else in life, whether they earn a living by it or not.
  • To persevere no matter how much, nor how little recognition they receive from it.

Because like a pebble in a pond, when we share our work with the world,  someone else’s heart might be lifted, too, though we may never have the privilege of knowing that. I also know that the most powerful connections created through my artwork, come from in-person contact (shows, studio visits, etc.)

When that goal was superceded by the financial goals of the company, I knew it was time to go. Yes, I believe in social media and social media marketing, for many reasons. It allows ANY creative person to share their work with the world, whether that leads to fame, fortune, or simply recognition for the work they do. As my favorite comic strip put it so powerfully, making the work of our heart isn’t about having an audience. It’s about having a voice.

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

 

But I cannot let someone else stifle my voice, either. (In their defense, that’s a normal practice in almost every biz, and they still support my website.)

Walking away from that gig felt like I’d lost both my audience and my voice.

And of course, knee replacement surgery in late June, complicated by a debilitating fall in my studio just before my surgery, has resulted in chronic pain and discomfort for months.

It didn’t help that I’d finished my year-long shrine-making series just before. Or rather, I reached a place where the next step was rather daunting, and I still haven’t figured out how to move forward. It had gotten me through the entire pandemic, but now I’m stuck again.

So I’ve been mopey, tired, constantly uncomfortable physically, whiney, and lazy for months now.

But now I can see a little light at the end of my tunnel.

What started the light was making “thank you” pearl earrings. It’s been a thing with me for years. I LOVE real pearls, and I LOVE making pearl earrings. But they hardly ever sell. So I usually give them as thank you gifts to people who are doing good work in the world, or as a thank you for something someone has done for me. I’ve donated three dozen pairs to volunteers who work at a local art center’s gallery shop, folks who work at a wonderful coffee shop back in New Hampshire (because we still mail-order coffee from them, and one person always sends a lovely, uplifting handwritten note in our package), etc.

A few months ago, I went on a pearl earring-making rampage. And it’s not gonna end anytime soon.

First, I checked in with a homeless shelter a few hundred yards down the street from my art studio. Their shelter, the largest in Northern California, is the first step towards getting a homeless person into permanent shelter and supportive services.  I asked what kind of donations suited the needs of their clients. (Now that I think about it, THAT inquiry began when I offered some food and medical supplies left over after we lost our dog Tuck a couple years ago, and offered it to a vet. They said they couldn’t take them, but that there are plenty of homeless folks with dogs who could use them. And this shelter actually lets their clients keep their dogs, an issue that’s often a deal-breaker for homeless people.)

Turns out their greatest need is individual personal hygiene items: Small packets of shampoo and conditioner, toothbrushes and toothpaste. This was harder to accomplish than I’d thought, as individually packets are being banned in some states due to massive use of non-reuseable plastics. They suggested a work-around for the former, which worked. But I was stumped by the dental care thing.

So I reached out to our family dentist, asking where they purchase their toothbrushes/toothpaste sets we get at our appointments, and could I piggy-back an order (paid) on their next order.

Their response? They donated…DONATED…a bundle of them.

So I made earrings for the dentist and their staff.

After delivering the items to the shelter, I realized I could also make thank-you for the shelter staff. A few days later, I delivered a few dozen earrings for the staff and volunteers there.

I shared this with a fellow artist. (I’d made several pairs for them, because they’d done something very kind for another artist.) They said, “OH, I have a friend who’s a dentist, I’ll see if he can donate that stuff, too!” (I just realized I should let her know I can make earrings for that office, too!)

We also rescued not one, but two oppossums this spring, and delivered them to a county wildlife rescue shelter. (One survived it, one didn’t.) It was so wonderful to find an organization dedicated to this, and it turns out they are overwhelmed with injured/abandoned baby critters this year.

So I also delivered several dozen pearl earrings to them, enough for the entire staff, interns, and their volunteers. (We also donated $$$ because that’s just as important as pearl earrings!)

Then the fall, then surgery, and now, major ennui.  I’ve been in physical therapy for my knee for almost a month, but I still have to wait several weeks for physical therapy for my fall. I’ve been achy-breaky, down in my mood, not-so-hopeful, and totally uninspired.

And yet….

I realize I really, really like recognizing our unsung heroes in life.

Recently, I learned a friend back in NH was going through a terrible loss of a loved one, and it broke my heart. On an impulse, I reached out and offered to make them something, a small fiber piece, and they reacted with great enthusiasm.

So I’ve been in the my studio several days this week, almost 3 hours a day. (That’s a record-breaker since my surgery!)

As I worked on it, I realized they were one of the folks who showed up during a very hard time in my life. Yes, I’d gifted them something back then. But it still felt great to be able to alleviate their pain in a tiny, tiny way.

As I worked, I realized I’ve also been in a position to help another good friend back there, who was also there for me during that time.

Ironically, this particular person also had great words of wisdom for me during that time.

There were people I’d gone above and beyond for, in our almost 30 years in NH. But there were a few who were NOT there for me during that difficult period, even as I had been there for them. I complained about that to this friend. And they told this powerful thought:

When we help others during their hard times, the universe sees it.

When we need help, it may come from those we helped. But it may not.

The universe, however, will provide that help, through other people, and other means.

I’ve learned over the years that hard times are….well, HARD. And when we’re in them, it’s not easy to see the good things, the gifts.

It’s only when I look back that I can see the people who did show up, the passing acquaintance, or even complete strangers  who crossed my path with a story that helped me take one step forward. The people whose wisdom helped me stay grounded, if only for a day, or even just an hour.

They are the people who helped me make a tiny shift in perspective, what I now know is an effin’ miracle.

And today, I had to share that with you.

Being grateful for the people who help us move forward. Other people being grateful for us helping THEM move forward. Others joining in. It’s a beautiful cycle that restores me to my better self.

Rambling, I know. It’s how I roll. I could shorten this, but as I wrote, more and more insights popped up.  Plus I write to get MYSELF to a better place, and this is how I do it. For example, I can’t wait to get to my studio today, because I’m am THIS CLOSE to finishing my friend’s project.

If this helps YOU today, well, that’s a gift, too! If not, no worries, I’ll be back soon with useful info, good strategies, and thoughts for hosting a successful open studio event.

But I feel a little bit better today, and I am grateful. And Garfield supports my theory that it doesn’t matter how long it takes to get our 100% out there.

UPDATE: I just found out this condition of “blah” is called languishing! And here’s a good article about it in the New York Times.

One day, or ten days…It’s ALL good

OPEN STUDIO, OPEN HEART

 

 

I miss my old studio in NH, but not the winters!

OPEN STUDIO, OPEN HEART: Open Studios Help Me Be a Better Person in the World.

People visit our studios for many different reasons, and all of it is good!

(This article originally ran in Crafts Business magazine, Feb/Mar 2005. Still holds true today, with a few minor edits!)

You know what we hope for when we open our studio to the public, especially in December. We hope everyone in town decides our work will make the perfect Christmas/holiday present. We hope hordes of shoppers will descend upon us, buying up everything in sight.

It doesn’t quite work that way, though. In fact, this was my fourth open studio of the year, and true to form, there was no form. No rhyme nor reason, either. Like life itself, it was the usual mix of the predictable and unpredictable.

There was the unexpected spat with my teenage daughter. She used to beg me to let her help with these events. Now she wants to hang out with her boyfriend this weekend, instead. Her boyfriend! Heck, I gave her life! (Just kidding.) (NOT.) I won the battle this year, but I foresee humiliating defeat in the years ahead. Time to look for a new show assistant? (n.b., this turned out not to be true, and my daughter joined me for shows until she left for college, and beyond.)

Then, moments before we opened, I got a phone call. An eager customer asking for last-minute directions? Yay! Yes, she was asking for directions, but no, she was not an eager customer. She had a box of sewing goods she thought I might be interested in buying. (This is just one of my pet peeves as an artist: People trying to sell me something during an event where I’m trying to sell something, especially an event like the major shows I did that cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars to participate in. I can attract a Mary Kay consultant from 500 miles away just by setting up my booth.)

I felt a sharp retort bubbling up, but held it back. I offered them an appointment for the day after the open studio.

Saturday morning was brisk. One shopper spent quite a bit of time browsing. First they wanted to buy a rubberstamp I’d carved. (Nope, not for sale.) Then they wanted my handmade buttons. (Nope, not for sale.) “One of those people!” I thought to myself. But again, I told myself, “Be nice, be nice.” I’m glad I held my tongue, because eventually they bought several items that made up half my sales for the weekend!

There was the art teacher who wanted me to tell them exactly how I make my artifacts, so they could use it as a school art project. (I get that all the time, too.) My response is to either give them online resources for working with polymer clay, or point them to my book shelf and the comfy chair corner, and to let them sign up for notices when I offer classes on polymer work.

There was the couple who traveled for hours to visit my studio. There was the person who happened to be walking by, saw my sign, and came in. The person who showed up to ask if I could replace their lost earrings they’d purchased a few years ago. (Yes, I will replace the first lost earring free, but not the second!) There was the person who decided they couldn’t live without purchasing another necklace from me. (I LOVE IT WHEN THIS HAPPENS!)

There was the person who couldn’t find anything of interest at all in my entire studio, except my private collection of turquoise nuggets. One person came by only to visit my guinea pig, who was part of my promotion to encourage families to visit. (They made me promise to come and visit their guinea pig someday.)Our new neighbors dropped by. The boy spent the entire time rubberstamping a card calling for a victory against a rival hockey team, while the mom and daughter oooh-ed and ahhhh-ed over every single piece of my jewelry. Something for everyone!

Finally, as the last hour of the last day of the event drew to a close, there was one woman who had stayed forever, looking at everything but buying nothing. She finally asked hesitantly if I would look at her artwork.

I was totally exhausted. Again, I could feel that sharp retort rising to the surface…

But I resisted.

The look on her face. I know that look. I remember it well. It’s on the face of the kid on the outside of the candy store window, looking in at all the wonderful sweets they can’t afford and can never have. I used to have it, too, when the idea of being a “real artist” seemed like an impossible dream. I remembered, too, all the kind and wonderful people who helped me along the way, offering encouragement, insights, and support. They were the ones who told me, “You come on in here! Step up!”

I did look at her artwork. It had promise. I told her that, what I liked, what could be better, made a few suggestions for better presentation, and told her to keep making her art. I was so tired, I don’t even remember most of what I told her. But I remember she was happy when she left, so I must have been kind.

The woman with the box of sewing goods? She showed up right on time the next day. It was a wonderful collection of vintage sewing goods, just the sort of thing I’m always on the look-out for, and the price was right, too. I bought it all, and we both were very happy.

Open studios are a miniature version of our own life. When we make what we love, we are restored to our highest, best self. When we share it with others, in any way (not just sales!), it brings joy to others. Encouraging everyone to make room to do the work they love is good for everyone.

And we always have the power of choices. We can choose to react with frustration, resentment, anger, fear, disappointment….

Or we can choose to believe we can be a force for good in the world. To believe we all have a right to be here. To believe we can all benefit in making the work that matters to us. To offer the same encouragement and recognition we needed so badly when we first started our own art journey

USE YOUR TURN SIGNAL! Another Life Metaphor for Drivers and Artists

My “New England Autumn” art wall.

USE YOUR TURN SIGNAL!

Keep your audience and collectors in touch with your art/life changes!

 On my kitchen wall, the wall that shows up in my Zoom meetings, is a bright red maple leaf. Not a real leaf. It’s hand-carved and painted, in wood. It joins a collection of fall landscape paintings, and like them, holds many memories of living in the Northeast/New England.  (A friend in New Hampshire told me that only three countries in the world host these amazing, colorful trees: The United States, Canada, and Japan.)

There’s a story behind this leaf. (Of course!)

It took place many, many years ago, at a huge 9-day show in New Hampshire, The League of NH Craftsmen’s Annual Fair.

I was still pretty new to the show. Across the aisle from me was a longtime craftsman, who worked in glass. In between the previous year’s show and this one, he switched medium. He now made marvelous nature objects, carved from wood, and painted.

I loved his work, he loved mine, and we had several lovely chats during the show. He had a huge audience, having participated in the show for a long time, and always did well with sales.

Not this year!

His collectors and followers came to his booth. They were stunned to find a completely new body of work. And most of them left fairly quickly, without purchasing anything.

He was stunned to the point of having a panic attack near the end of the first day. (We were told at first he’d had a heart attack, which can mimic the same symptoms, but fortunately a panic attack is non-lethal!) A friend came to cover his booth, (he’s the one who filled me in on the backstory) and a few days later, the artist returned.

He was devastated, of course, and we had a lovely talk.

I told him his new work was beautiful, and in time, he would either regain his audience, or grow a new one. It wasn’t the quality of his work that was failing him. It was catching his long-time audience off-guard. He needed to give them time to adjust.

I know this phenomenon all too well! My work has never fit into anyone else’s “box”, and new work takes time to sell. (Okay, ALL my work takes time. That can get discouraging in hard times, but it has never stopped me.)

He was grateful for my encouragement and insight. The next day, he brought me my maple leaf! And sure enough, even by the end of the fair, his sales were inching up. (Many were new people who were unfamiliar with his former body of work.)

How does this relate to a turn signal while driving? (You know I’ll find a way!)

One of my biggest pet peeves while driving is, when people don’t signal a turn, or a lane change, until they’re actually acting on it. Which isn’t helpful or useful for those of us passing, or approaching an intersection.

Turn signals are for letting others know our intentions. We need to activate that turn signal to let others know we’re going to get into their lane, or slow down to turn soon. (Yes, some people leave them on, which is also confusing. But it’s better to slow down when we don’t have to, rather than maintain our speed, not knowing what they plan to do.)

If this artist had prepared his audience, alerted them of his intentions…

If he had send out a postcard, or an email newsletter, letting them know he was switching gears/directions/media…

They would not have been so surprised when he showed up with a totally new body of work.

Instead, he caught them off-guard, unsure what to say, being disappointed the work they’d grown to love was no longer available.

In fact, he could have even staged a sell-off of his other work from his studio. (This was before the days of online shopping and artist websites!) It would have given his faithful collectors a last chance to purchase his work, and generated some excitement and interest in his new work.

Of course, in these days of social media and our intense use of email newsletters, more people can be aware of our own life lane-changes. We can use these powerful tools to keep our audience informed: New work. New media. New techniques. New studio location.

That little red wood leaf is a powerful reminder for me:

Stay in touch!

Problem-Solving for Creatives #5: Call in the Experts!

PROBLEM-SOLVING FOR CREATIVES #5: Call in the Experts!

Making jewelry with my artifacts is a LOT easier than mounting them in a shrine!
Making jewelry with my artifacts is a LOT easier than mounting them in a shrine!

 

We don’t have to know everything. We just have to know who knows what we need.

(5 minute read)

This series is dedicated to opening our perception of what a “team” is, and how our team support us in our art journey. We’ve covered the skills that got us here, the beliefs that keep us going, and the people who value us, and our art. Even the ones who are toxic have value, when I realized the only person who can stop me from making my art is ME.

Today, let’s talk about the experts.

First, of course, there are the artists and teachers (and people who are both!) who shared their art-maiking skills and education with us.

Then there are the people who help us get the word out about our art. In FASO’s (Fine Art Studios Online) unique AMP (Art Marketing Playbook), we not only get to hear Dave Geada share his insights and expertise about online marketing (websites, Instagram, etc.), we get to hear from experts he’s brought in for their take on things, too. (You can enjoy a 30-day free trial of this program by signing up here. Trust me, it’s worth your time. I’d say it’s well-worth the money, but…it’s free!) For the record, I don’t share just because it’s a feature of FASO where my own website is hosted. I’m sharing it because, even though I’ve used social media for years, I learn something new every single time. (Ask me about my pages and pages of notes I’ve taken on every AMP zoom meeting I’ve attended!)

There are other experts available, online, too. Other views on art marketing, instructional videos for art-making, etc. It seems like I search the internet almost every day looking for the expertise of others to help me move forward with my work.

But what has helped me move forward in leaps and bounds have been friends and acquaintances who have unusual skills I need.

I’ve written before about my New Hampshire friend Gary Spykman, whose creative work is hard to put in a box. (Literally! Woodworker/furniture-maker only begins to cover it.) Gary helped me move forward on some big projects, and what he taught me is reflected in my latest shrine project.

And now here I am in Northern California, far from old friends and fellow New England artists, still working on that big project, still getting stuck regularly on my journey.

This next step is hot. Literally. I need to make my own museum mounts for displaying some of the artifacts in the stacked boxes I’ve put together. I took an online class about this, just before we moved to California. But it involved welding/brazing with much bigger torches than my mini-torches, and I never felt safe trying this on my own. I found a maker space here in Sonoma County with classes, but the pandemic shut that down. I tried to purchase mounts that might have worked, but they are expensive. I’ve tried other methods of display the artifacts, with not much luck.

But I think I’ve found my expert!

And in a beautiful twist of fate, it came from me sharing MY expertise with THEM!

Our local art organization that hosts two open studio events a year is on a strict budget this year. We’re actually using older road signs from previous events, borrowing some from people who aren’t participating this year, and cleaning/restoring damaged signs.

One of the people in charge of the sign committee shared the difficulties of removing decals (arrows, studio numbers, etc.) during our steering committee meeting (Zoom!). Aha! I can help with that! I volunteered to bring my bottle of Undo and some other glue debonders to restore these signs. We met up in his outdoor workshop, fully masked and distanced, and tried them out. They worked! This reminded him of other, similar, chemicals he has on hand that removed every trace of Sharpies, too.

It wasn’t until later that I realized, this is a guy who’s been into welding and metalwork since forever. And he might be the perfect guy to help me figure out this mount-making issue.

And in another twist of fate, once I had some hope for learning how to make my own mounts, I gained more insights into other aspects and issues, like how to drill a hole inside a tiny box where a drill (even a small hand drill) won’t fit. I won’t bore you with the details on that, except that JB Weld glue will be involved. So even though that wouldn’t work for connecting the boxes, because of how I put them together, it has huge potential for artifact display. (No, I’m not gonna glue the artifacts!) So here’s another shout-out to Chris Fox, customer service rep at JB Weld.

Just like the glass artist I mentioned in last week’s article, whose partner can build a shipping crate for them, these experts are often right under our nose, in plain sight.

So what holds us back from asking for help?

For me, I’m afraid they’ll say no.

Yup, a grown woman afraid to ask for help. Yikes!

But for some reason, because I’d already done them a favor, it felt okay to ask for a favor in return. And he said yes!

I’m calling Rick Butler, metal sculptor, as soon as I finish this article.

Turns out that many, many people are happy to help others in their creative work. We may fear giving away our “trade secrets” (though very few of us are actually using processes that only belong to us.) We may fear of giving too much away, or having our work being copied in the process. (That copy fear again!)

And yet, if we open our eyes and look around, we may find the exact expert we need to move forward with the project dear to our hearts. Or at least gain a step forward on our journey.

Your shares and comments are encouraged! You can post in the comments (at Fine Art Views or at my blog) if someone has helped YOU move forward in your skills and projects. And also if YOU have helped others in theirs! What goes ‘round, comes ‘round. When it comes to creativity, that is so true.

And if this article helped you, you can read more of my articles, and the expertise of others, at Fine Art Views. Search for “Luann Udell” in the “Topics” drop-down menu, or your favorite FAV writer!

 

PROBLEM-SOLVING FOR CREATIVES #4: Your Team Is Bigger Than You Think!

I don’t create in a vacuum, and neither do YOU.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your Team Is Bigger Than You Think!

We have a lot of people who support our art, if you know where to look!

 (4 minute read)

 In my Fine Art Views column last week, I shared how our experience, expertise, and perseverance with our art, helped us get to where we are today.

A commenter must have read my mind! They wrote:

“While this article was very interesting, it kind of perpetuates the whole artist as lone individual toiling away. In addition to all the mindset attributes you mentioned, the reality is none of (us) work alone. We do have a team and it is helpful to remember it. It may be those who encourage and support us literally and figuratively. It is certainly other creatives who are willing to share ideas, techniques, and resources. It is all those who help us, whether it is FASO support, the suppliers and shippers we use, or those who share their experiences. We all have a team. No one creates alone.”

 To which I replied, “Amen, sister, and stay tuned!” (Thank you, Nancy Allmand!)

My intention was to share my next column, “Call in the Experts!”, including all these ‘team members’ Nancy mentioned. But I realized there’s a step in-between, including many NON-experts:

We do not create art in a vacuum. Many, many people have helped us along the way.

Some are obvious, and some may be ‘hidden’ until we look back at our own ‘creation story’ and see those crucial influencers.

Obvious: That art class we took, and its inspiring instructor. The art degree we attained, with many, many more classes and instructors. That online workshop we took that expanded our horizons. FASO web-hosting for artists, and their AMP/Art Marketing Program, available even to non-subscribers. The books, magazines, newspapers, websites, etc. that featured us and our work, and helped us grow our audience. And of course, as Nancy mentioned, our customers, who support us by actually buying our work. The gallery owners/managers who took on our work and market it to their audience. Even the calls-for-entry/exhibition proposals that give us opportunities to share our work with a new audience.

A little less obvious: That person who always saw the artist in us, and who gently encouraged us, even as we constantly heard family members exhorting us to “get a real job”.. Our audience, who many not have the money nor the room to collect our work, but who truly appreciate it—and constantly let us know! The people who taught us how to make, market, and sell our art. The people who share our work, our words, and help us grow our audience. The art supplies store that struggles to still serve artists during the shut-down orders, and the on-line retailers that fill in where they can’t.

The hidden: The people whose hearts have been lifted by our work, our painting/jewelry/music/teaching/creative work, who we may never hear from. (But when we do, what a gift!) Our partners, who may graciously lift the burden of making tons of money from our work (or at least allow us the time and space to get there!) The challenging instructor who doesn’t pull their punches, who tells us exactly what we’re doing wrong, and shows us how to fix it.

In her comment, Nancy even mentioned the companies who ship our work. So true! In one of those oddly-synchronistic moments, I met a new artist in our complex last week. She was packing a huge wood crate in our shared parking lot, and I asked her about it. She said, “Yeah, it’s a huge order of glasswork. But I didn’t make the crate, my partner did!” What a great team member her partner is! And whatever shipper will deliver it, yes, that’s part of her team, too.

The more deeply-hidden: The people who told us we weren’t good enough, who pissed us off enough for us to finally see them for what they are: Unappreciative, simply unkind, or who were envious of what we have. I’ve had many incidents of people, some with good intentions, some not so much, who caused me pain in my art career. But when I look back, I can even see their gift, in a positive way.

They made me realize that the only person who can prevent us from making the work of our heart, is US.

 Next week, inspired by my latest shrine-building project, I really will talk about the experts to call! But until then, I’m grateful to Nancy, because we are on the same page when it comes to recognizing our team.

And your homework, should you choose to accept it, is to take a few minutes to consider your own team. Think back to what, and who, kept you on this heart-based path to making, and sharing, your art with the world. Behind every tiny decision was a person who made that happen, even if some can take us years to truly see. For extra credit, share some that I’ve missed, in the comments!

Your shares and comments are always appreciated, and you can check out my blog on my website for more articles on creating.

 
Luann Udell, artist/writer
“Ancient stories retold in modern artifacts”
Jewelry, sculpture, fiber art, assemblage
Studio: 33Arts 3840 Finley AVE (Bdg 33) Santa Rosa
Mail address: 621 Brown ST Santa Rosa CA 95404

 

 

PROBLEM-SOLVING FOR CREATIVES #2: What’s the Hard Part?

Fortunately, having enough artifacts will NOT be a problem!
Fortunately, having enough artifacts will NOT be a problem!

What’s the Hard Part?

(5 minute read)

I had a problem this week. I didn’t know what to write about for my next column.

Last week, I wrote about how I got through the roadblocks that held me back from a project I dreamed of years ago. When I wrote it, I was at the end of a major first part: Building the wood box shrines that will showcase my handmade artifacts.

Here’s what I wasn’t prepared for: I didn’t know how to solve the next step. And I felt like a loser once again. Overwhelmed, no energy, self-doubt up the wazoo.

In fact, I felt even more pressure on myself! After all, I’d just joyously announced I had plenty of shrines constructed, and now I was ready for the next step. Except now I could see there would be even more trial-and-error aspects ahead. It felt like I’d climbed one mountain, only to see that I was only on the first peak. I still hadn’t actually reached the top. (I looked this up, and yes, a mountain can have several peaks, points that are individually higher than the surrounding/adjacent areas. But only one is the actual summit, the highest peak. Huh.)

So I hit my first peak and was a little dismayed to realize there were more ahead.

Today’s blog post by Seth Godin clarified my dilemma neatly:

“What’s the hard part?”

The title alone helped me move forward. Because getting through the first ‘hard part’ taught me something important:

Trying to solve things in our heads is doing it the hard way.

 What we really need first is a foundation to build on.

My husband is a writer/journalist/programmer. Quite a mix, I know! He taught himself coding back in the 1980’s, and though he says he’s not “the best”, he’s mastered it enough to achieve his current career goals.

He’s been working on a project for a year now, and last week, he had a major breakthrough, too, like I had six months ago with my own project.

Today, I asked him what brought about the breakthrough.

He didn’t understand at first, so I asked, “Did you have an inspiration, like a dream (like Elias Howe, sewing machine guy) or while thinking about something else (like Archimedes taking a bath)?

He said, “I had to build the foundation first. Everything I want to do, depends on creating that first.”

Aha! Like a building. The foundation not only holds everything up, but it determines the size, shape, and function of the structure. A skyscraper office building requires a totally different foundation than a house.

He finished the foundation. And then he realized he was ready to start making the functions that depend on that foundation. (He also hit a wall, just like I did with my shrines!) (Yes, we’re both recovering nicely, and moving forward again.)

A foundation means we have a vision of where we want to go, and we have concrete (sorry!) ideas of how to get there, even if we don’t have everything else figured out yet.

Even those famous inventers had a deep understanding of what the problem was, before they could experiment with solutions. They had to know what was missing before they could fill in the blank spaces.

Archimedes’ “Eureka” moment didn’t come out of nowhere. He understood the problem was identifying pure gold from gold-and-silver. His bathtub gave him an insight. In fact, a list of dream-inspired insights show us that all of the inventors/writers/creatives were already working on the problem/mystery they wanted to solve. I love how Wikipedia even has a section on “activation synthesis hypothesis” in the dream-inspired insights article. It acknowledges that our conscious brain plays a huge part in these insights, even when we’re asleep. Even if the dream seems metaphorical, our conscious mind will actively seek and identify that “metaphor”.

In my case, a shrine series started with how to find enough boxes, how to pair up those boxes efficiently, how to distress, paint, and antique those boxes. And the hardest part, how to connect them together in an efficient, strong, aesthetically-pleasing way.

And once I’d made “enough” shrines to get started on actually putting artifacts in them, I stalled a bit. But now I have air beneath my wings again.

What’s the hard part?

The biggest one is setting aside our fears and our self-doubt. Whether our projects involve coming up with a new series, a new process, a new technique, a new approach to our art, even exploring social media marketing, trying to do it in our heads may only take us so far.

At some point, we have to simply try.

And if it matters to us, we have to keep trying.

 Hold in your heart my favorite quote by Thomas Edison:

“I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”

Fortunately, getting adept at using social media marketing is not nearly as difficult! It can sound daunting, and it can take time to get there. There are plenty of great resources available to us, including FASO’s own AMP (Art Marketing Playbook) series of recorded Zoom workshops hosted by FASO’s Chief Marketing Officer, Dave Geada. (I did not realize you can try this program free for a month. Nothing stopping you now, right?)

But in order to get results, you simply have to try. When it comes to social media marketing, you have to actually take pics of your creative work (so much easier now!), upload those images, get comfortable talking/sharing/connecting online, and then get better.

Our first foundation is creating those accounts, and getting started. We have to stop worrying about how hard it seems, set aside our worries of being copied, what to share and say, worrying about how to get 10,000 followers, etc.

We have to get over counting the “likes” and focus on simply getting our art out into the world.

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

 Seth’s blog talks about “the team”, which through me for a moment. Until I figured that out, too! Stay tuned for next week’s article in this series: What is our team, and what is our team effort?

Your comments are always welcome, often insightful, and sometimes inspirational, too! Shares, the same. You can find more of my articles at Fine Art Views, and/or visit/subscribe to them at my blog at LuannUdell.wordpress.com.

NEWSLETTERS (AND BLOGS!) 101: #27 Small Things Matter!

Tuck inspired me to create dog artifacts..though I usually stick with what an ancient dog looked like, I made a floppy-eared dog for a custom order.
Tuck inspired me to create dog artifacts..though I usually stick with what an ancient dog looked like, I made a floppy-eared dog for a custom order.

NEWSLETTERS (AND BLOGS) 101: #27 Small Things Matter

The tiny thing that keeps me subscribed to this no-longer-needed newsletter….

(4 minute read)

 “Success is not final.

Failure is not fatal.

It is the courage to continue

That counts.”

          Winston Churchill

We lost our beloved dog Tuck in 2019, about an attack of pancreatitis that resulted in diabetes, which led to other complications, and ended with that sad truth: All dog stories begin with laughter, and end with tears.

He was our first dog, and I learned so much about our human history with these beloved companions. Turns out they been with us a looooong time. The love we feel for them (and them for us!) is a partnership that follows us even into the darkest places.

I had to find affordable syringes for his insulin shots, and finally ordered hundreds from AvaCare Medical. But Tuck died before we used them all, and I still get the newsletters from this company.

I could unsubscribe, of course. Every time they land in my mailbox (about once a week), they rekindle some sad memories.

But I don’t.

Why?

Because of a tiny thing that I might have overlooked, if I hadn’t noticed it last year.

Every newsletter contains what they call a “Candid Quote of the Week.” And I absolutely love them!

They always carry a hopeful message, one of kindness, insight, encouragement. Last week’s was “Every day may not be good. But there is something good in every day.” (No accreditation in that one! But it rings true, for me.)

The quote above, from Winston Churchill? That one arrived today.

And like a horoscope, I can find some truth/alignment/insight/inspiration, if I want to look for it. (I usually do!)

So a newsletter I get because of a one-time purchase for Tuck’s diabetes, is still a treasure. A newsletter with a reminder that our time with our beloved pets is never long enough, still brings me hope. A newsletter from a company I sincerely hope I never have to purchase from again, is something I stop and check out every week, without fail.

If a company specializing in syringes and wheelchairs is so meaningful to me, during these strange times, how powerful can our newsletters be, to our audience, our followers, our collectors?

 

I know for a fact that we artists sometimes lose track of what our place in the world is.

We despair when sales drop, or are slow to come. We are frustrated when our work isn’t accepted in that exhibition, or that prestigious gallery. We may envy the success of others, wondering what we are doing wrong. We may doubt the value of the work we do, and wonder if all our effort is even worth it.

It’s easy for me to say, “YOU MATTER, dang it!” But where’s the proof??

The first proof is that our work should matter to us. Yes, there may be a delicate balance between making what sells, and making what brings us joy. If you make a living from your art, you know first-hand the struggle there. (If there’s no ‘struggle’, good on you! You’ve found the perfect balance! And if you’ve found it, you give hope that the rest of us can, too.)

The second proof is when we share it with the world. This can be through sales, of course, and those used to happen through gallery representation, and our open studio events.

In our lifetime, and during these trying times, we can even leap over these often-constructed/restricted venues, with the help of social media marketing: Through our email newsletters, our Facebook biz page, our Instagram accounts, on Twitter, even LinkedIn. It’s free, it’s easy, it’s generous, it’s effective.

If one person’s heart is lifted because I share, that’s good enough for me. When one person lets me know they love my work, or my words helped them through a hard day, I feel it’s worth it.

I’m grateful for this skill, the ability to tell my story through my artwork. I’m grateful it’s easier than ever to share it online. I’m grateful I get to curate my own work: What will I share today? An idea? A work-in-progressMy latest finished work? My workspace? A solution to something that was holding me back? A resource for other creatives?

All of these can be welcomed, appreciated, enjoyed by others.

And it all is built on my artwork, which healed me, which gives me a voice in the world, which is so out-of-the-box (literally!) no one ever knows what “category” to put me in.

 

From prehistoric times, art/music/healing/teaching has been a powerful way to create community, and to celebrate the individual.

That is exactly what creative work does, and why it’s such a powerful force for good in the world.

This made me realize I should write back to AvaCare Medical today, and let them know that they matter. I’ll tell them that their little quotes, focused on us feeling better, doing better, having hope, have lifted my heart.

And I hope this newsletter does the same, for you!

Your comments are always welcome, often insightful, and sometimes inspirational, too! Shares, the same. You can find more of my articles at Fine Art Views, and/or visit/subscribe to them through my blog.

NEWSLETTERS (AND BLOGS) 101 #25: Share Your Wonder!

And we get used to ?normal', we don't think of it as unusual at all.
And we get used to ‘normal’, we don’t think of it as unusual at all. Swift birds bring songs of hope from the far corners of the earth. They urge me to tell more stories.

NEWSLETTERS (AND BLOGS) 101 #25: Share Your Wonder!

You may offer new joy to those who take such things for granted!
(4 minute read)

 I have lived in the Midwest, the East Coast, New England, as far north as New Hampshire and as far south as Baltimore.

In over sixty years, I never saw a hummingbird at rest. Never once.

Oh, I get there could be “reasons”. We’ve had bird feeders, but never hummer feeders. I don’t think they winter over in places like Michigan, Massachusetts, or New Hampshire, though I could be wrong. (I could stop to research this, but that’s not the point of this article. You can, though! And let me know.) (Never mind, I did look it up, and no, they don’t winter over in northern climates.)

Then we moved to California six years ago, and that changed.

The first house we lived in, we still had no feeder. But we soon learned that a hummingbird came to a tree in front of our porch, every single night, at the exact same time (relative to sunset) to sleep for the night. He sat in exactly the same spot, too, though he would take different routes/paths to get there every night, too.

We could set our watches by his pattern, and we often ran to the porch to see him “turn in” for the night.

Then in October, our little neighborhood had a Halloween parade. It was joyful and noisy. It annoyed the hummer, and he left for the rest of the winter.

Now, in our new rental home, we have feeders, and so do neighbors. I see hummingbirds all day, every day, at rest—and everywhere else!
They perch on telephone wires. They rest in trees, one that’s outside our bathroom window. I get to brush my teeth and watch the little guy groom, scritch, hop around from branch to branch, and fend off intruders and rivals regularly. One had residence in a shrubby space outside my old studio door. He would duke it out regularly with the California scrub jay and the mated pair of Steller’s jays that hung out there, too.

A little bird that used to be a complete (visual) mystery has now become a wonderful part of our everyday life here.

Others have even more intimate experiences. A hummer-lover here has one of those hand-feeders, and the patience to get hummers to sip the nectar from her hand!

Sharing that here in California, maybe that would get a “meh” reaction. Because it’s ‘normal’ here. But I’m guessing much of my audience back in those states we used to call home? Would be gaga at what I’m sharing today.

Now, if you are someone who paints/draws/writes about birds regularly, you might already be sharing stories like these.

But if you’ve relocated once/twice/a heckuva lot in your life, you have a powerful access to what is unusual, intriguing, and different. You experience first-hand a whole slew of little miracles, every day. (My first was having to go for a run in Baltimore at 6 a.m., in April, to avoid the heat. IN APRIL. If you grew up in Michigan, like I did, your jaw may be dropping right now.)

Every place/time/state/city/etc. has its own ‘normal’. And we get used to ‘normal’, we don’t think of it as unusual at all.

When we realize what we’re experiencing is special, in and of itself, it widens our appreciation of life. It lifts our heart. It can bring joy in hard times. (Remember that little maple seed pod in SOUL?)

And what better way to share that little insight in our social media? In our email newsletters, our blog posts, our Facebook and Instagram posts?

Bonus feature: Do you hate starlings and pigeons because they are ‘useless, annoying city birds”? You might have more respect for pigeons after reading this article and more awe for starlings after watching this stunning video. (Watch this full-screen for the best experience.)

Your shares and comments are always welcomed!

Share this link from FineArtViews.com or view my blog at luannudell.wordpress.com.

If someone shared this article with you, and you’d like to read more in this series, visit my articles at FineArtViews.com.

PS:  Help stop the Salmonella epidemic during migration season!

NEWSLETTERS (AND BLOGS) 101 #24 and a half: Don’t Do This!

NEWSLETTERS (AND BLOGS) 101 #24 and a half: Don’t Do This!

When it comes to email newsletters, asking for permission is a heckuva lot more professional than asking for forgiveness!

(4 minute read)

Show your subscribers that you "give a hoot"!

A couple of things that really bug me popped up in my email inbox lately. They are related, but separate.

And I realized, if they annoy me, they will probably annoy your fans, too.

The first one is:

Don’t cc everyone on your email list! Use bcc instead, please!

Lately, I’ve been added to some unusual email lists, ones I didn’t sign up for. (More on that below.) They were mostly friends who wanted to ‘get the word out’ about something specific.

They included everyone’s email address in the “cc” section.

This may seem like a harmless issue, or perhaps even too picky.

But this IS an issue for several reasons:

  • Some of those people might be very protective of their privacy and contact info. And you just shared it with dozens, maybe hundreds of people they don’t even know.
  • Someone may be protective of their privacy because of abuse, physical harm they’ve suffered, scammers, etc.
  • There may be someone in that group they want to avoid, for many reasons, large and small.
  • And some people may be tempted to do the second thing I hate:

Please don’t sign me up for your email newsletters unless I specifically ASK to be signed up.

When people ask a question about my articles, I usually ask them to send an example. And since I’ve been writing about email newsletters, that’s what I get.

Except, many people signed me up for their newsletters, permanently.

And other people included in that “cc list” may do that, too.

I know for sure this is what happened to me. I signed up for a workshop a couple years ago, with a local artist hosting a meet-up for a nationally-based art consultant. The consultant and the host sent updates. I ended up not being able to attend.

But the host added me to their email newsletter. And that really, really annoyed me! I signed up for something they were hosting, not for their work.

Now, emails don’t take up much space on our desktops, nor even our laptops. They are usually very small in size. So deleting them doesn’t really save any space.

And I’m not one of those people who deletes everything (except accidentally!), and I usually keep stuff I think I might want to refer back to someday.

But:

  • It’s still a lot of stuff in my inbox, and can be distracting if I don’t have time to read them.
  • Though I support everyone’s creative work, that doesn’t mean I want to hear from them every week.
  • And there are people I simply don’t like, who I’d rather not hear from.
  • I hesitate to unsubscribe, for the reasons I listed above. Though I know I shouldn’t get upset when some people unsubscribe from MY newsletters, it makes me hesitate to unsubscribe, even from the folks I don’t like.

So don’t put your email subscribers in this position.

I know sometimes we have to go out on a limb in order to build our email list, especially at the beginning. Every article about email newsletters suggests great ways to get people on board, telling us reaching out to friends, family, customers, studio visitors, etc.

I know it’s easy to unsubscribe, too.

I know it’s easy to ask for forgiveness rather than to ask for permission.

But there are consequences.

FASO’s email newsletter service is very ethical. Even when you add someone who’s TOLD me they want to sign up, it will still ask that person if I have that permission. Unsubscribing is clear and easy, and sometimes people will even share why they’ve made that decision.

Most of the ‘professional level’ email programs follow the same guidelines.

But when it comes to forgiveness vs. permission, go with the latter. Please.

Protect your followers’ privacy, and respect their boundaries.

Use “bcc”, and only sign up those who ASK.

As always, your shares and comments are welcome!

Link back to it here on Fine Art Views, or my blog at luannudell.wordpress.com. I repost my FAV articles on my blog, so if you have trouble leaving a comment at FAV, you can subscribe to my blog here and/or leave a comment on my blog.

If someone shared this article with you, and you’d like to read more in this series, here are all my articles at FineArtViews.com.

NEWSLETTERS (AND BLOGS) 101 #24: Share the Generosity of Others!

Natalia's necklace
Natalia’s necklace

NEWSLETTERS (AND BLOGS) 101 #24: Share the Generosity of Others!

It’s a powerful way to honor the kindness of others.

(3 minute read)

In an earlier article, I mentioned that a friend back in New Hampshire reached out to me re: my newest series of box shrines. She had one of those beloved handmade parts storage boxes, so common on the East Coast. (Maybe other places, but that’s where I’ve spent most of my life, and that’s where I collected most of them.)

These are little boxes, usually made with scrap wood: Cheese boxes, pallets, cut up and nailed together to make tiny drawers.

She sent me a photo and asked if I’d be interested. Me? YES PLEASE.

Natalia’s little box drawers, repaired, painted, waxed.

I asked her how much $ she wanted for them, and she said they were free. Then she said shipping was free, too.

I was gob-smacked. I protested that was TOO generous. She told me I’d given her a beloved wooden horse marionette (from Bali, I think) which I’d totally forgotten about. She treasured it, and wanted to reciprocate in a way that would help me move my artwork forward.

So she sent me the little drawers, and I sent her a horse necklace as a thank-you. (See how that circle keeps on giving?)

Insights: When WE are generous, it sparks kindness and generosity in others.

When WE are the benefactors of the generosity of others, it sparks the same in US.

Caveat: Not all gifts/generosity/kindness is directly reciprocal. As a very good friend told me years ago, when we give others our love and generosity, the UNIVERSE will give it back. That is, the person we helped then, may not be the person who helps us now. Someone else may step in. (Hence, the universe/whatever higher power you have faith in.) It may not be the same person, it may not be the same kind of help, it may take a while. But accepting this wider definition of give-and-get can help overcome any resentment or sadness we may take on. It REALLY helped me during a hard time in my life, when people I thought would show up, didn’t. And people I never expected to show up, did. (Thank you, Roma!)

In this case, Natalia and I are in a circle of kindness. It doesn’t have to go on forever, of course. But this month, it was exactly what I needed, just in time.

So a shout-out to Natalia Gorwalski of Walpole, NH! We met through a mutual friend, and we all share a love of horses. Natalia owns a horse, our mutual friend rescued/adopted a horse from the riding stable I rode at, where I leased a horse. Those long, long rides we took along the Connecticut River trail, from farm to farm, were among the best times of my life. (Natalia is working on her own art project, and sent me a lovely image of her first metal horse sculpture!)

I’m sharing this because a) this is someone who helped me move (literally!) and b) has now helped me move forward with my art. People who love my work might be happy to hear that story.

And I love the opportunity to share that love with my readers.

Cheese boxes.

Shrine series, with a big thank-you to Gary Spykman for HIS generosity!

I bet YOUR audience will enjoy hearing about YOUR story of generosity, too! And sharing it in our email newsletters, on our blog, on social media platforms, will help spread the joy.

Your shares and comments are always welcomed!

Share this link FineArtViews.com or view my blog at luannudell.wordpress.com.

If someone shared this article with you, and you’d like to read more in this series, visit my articles at FineArtViews.com.

NEWSLETTERS 101 #22: Share Your Galleries

Artpark by Luann Udell
SUNSET by Luann Udell

NEWSLETTERS 101 #22: Share Your Galleries!

Your chance to support your customers AND the small businesses that support YOU!

(4 minute read)    

 Today’s big insight for me: All these newsletter topic suggestions will also work for blog posts!

And today’s column will also be a lot shorter, because I won’t have to go into deep explanation mode on why this would be such a great topic for your email newsletters. Because it’s pretty obvious!

I wish I’d thought of this back in the day when I did wholesale fine craft shows, and my work was carried by galleries all across the country. Dang!

But it’s not too late. I still have galleries in New Hampshire, and several here in Sonoma County that carry my work. And now I can help promote them!

  •  I can talk a bit about the owners/managers. Like the co-managers of the League of NH Craftsmen gallery in Littleton (except pandemic shut-downs have addled my brain that I can’t remember Beth’s partner-in-crime art! Ack!) who brought homemade chocolate chip cookies to all the craftspeople at the week-long Annual Craftsmen’s Fair who had work in their gallery. Let’s just say I was always glad to see them, not just because they are awesome people, but because homemade chocolate chip cookies!! 
  •  I can share the gallery location. Not only so people know that my work is available nearby (and certainly closer than California!), but I can also share where they can stop for lunch, other cool shops nearby, sight-seeing, etc. Because usually when I made the trek to delivery new work, that’s what I did, too.
  •  I can share pics of the work available. Soooooo much easier these days! Yet another gift of online marketing/social media.
  •  I can share my gratitude that they’ve chosen to carry my work. Corrick’s is just one of the wonderful stores that carry my work here in Sonoma County. Corrick’s is a highly-respected family-owned biz (four generations!) here in Santa Rosa, whose history goes back generations. They are avid art-lovers in all its forms (opera!), and they are terrific supporters of the art organization that sponsors our open studio tours. (In fact, they have an entire gallery for those artists!) They offer custom framing, and quality gifts, office supplies, books, and collectibles. Their employees are stellar!
  •  They deserve a shoutout during these difficult times. Although some people complain about “visual art exhibits” not being as engaging, and many artists complain that their sales have suffered from them, all my galleries are making tremendous efforts to support us all while also keeping us safe, often a thankless job. I consider them heroes!
  •  We are “vetting” these great galleries for other artists. Galleries are always on the look-out for artists whose work would be a great fit. And both galleries and artists value our validation that these are good people to work with.
  •  A prestigious gallery is good for OUR reputation, too. For years before my work became better known, people would ask me what kind of art I made. And when I described it (which was and still is hard, because it’s out-of-the-box), they’d go, “Oh, okay.” Then they’d ask what galleries I was in. I’d say, “I’m a member of the League of NH Craftsmen” and their whole attitude would change from, “Yeah, sure” to a heartfelt “Wow! Where can I see it??” (This was before smart phones, so I couldn’t easily show them my work.)
  • Sharing our personal experience is seen as more ‘truthy’ than an ad. Anyone can purchase an ad, which is why most of skip over ads in newspapers and magazines. But an article is seen as having “outside validation”, and that’s the role our email newsletters play. In other words, we artists validate our galleries, for our audience.

Sharing our galleries is a win/win for everyone!

 Speaking of sharing (hint, hint) if you found this article helpful, share it!

Link back to it here on Fine Art Views, or my blog at luannudell.wordpress.com.

If someone shared this article with you, and you’d like to read more in this series, here are all my articles at FineArtViews.com

NEWSLETTERS 101: #20 Share the BIGGEST Gift of All!

Otter's story is a good one for 2021!
Otter’s story is a good one for 2021!

NEWSLETTERS 101: #20 Share the BIGGEST Gift of All!

This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….”  For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines, and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.

What a Disney movie did to lift my heart!

(8 minute read) (Spoiler alert! If you haven’t seen Soul yet, wait to read this til after you do!)

 In last week’s column, I shared why sharing a family tradition (or one we’ve modified) can show our audience our human side.

For today’s column, I thought about discussing New Year’s Resolutions (which I rarely make, and keep even less.)

But instead, I’m sharing what I realize is the greatest gift of all:

We’re here, right now. Alive!

 Enjoy every moment, and look for the tiny little miracles that are EVERYWHERE!

Sorry/Not sorry for yelling. I’ll back up a bit. This came from a lot of ‘little thoughts’ that piled up into a massive mound this past week.

A few days ago, I was thinking about how desperate we all could be about sales.

Like it or not, “sales” is a powerful desire and goal for almost all creatives. I’ve always advised against pursuing sales as the only measure of our success. (I could create an entire series with the articles where I’ve mentioned Thomas Kinkade!) But we can’t help wishing and hoping to be successful with our creative work, and strong sales are hard evidence our work is popular.

Unfortunately, as you know from how many times I’ve mentioned Vincent Van Gogh’s work, we may never truly know how others will value our work. And being famous after we’re dead is…well, a nice thing to hope for, but we’ll never know.

Exactly how did “famous artists” in the past become famous? They had collectors with the money and the means (and the beautiful spaces) to purchase and display their art. And eventually, those works made it into museums around the world, “proof positive” that these were, indeed, great works of art.

But what about the artists who didn’t have that kind of audience? At first I thought of the work that wouldn’t even make it to any market: Artists of different cultures, different races, etc., especially those deemed “primitive” in nature. Then I thought of women artists, who were—and still are—under-represented in museums, art history, and even galleries today. Soon I was a little embarrassed for wanting fame and fortune, when so many people may have never had the chance to make their work, let alone show it, let alone sell it.

Even those artists who did make the cut, what about those works of art that never survived into our times? Entire cities, cultures, etc. were destroyed by fire, war, famine, pestilence, volcanoes. Cave art wasn’t a thing until Alta Mira, a prehistoric cave full of beautiful images of animals, was discovered in 1868. Even then, it aroused no curiosity for another decade, and it was actually Maria, the 8-year-old daughter of the caves owner, nobleman Marcelino Sanz de Sautola, who discovered the beautiful artwork within. (And even then, the work was often dismissed as modern forgeries by gypsies, until more caves were discovered in the early 20th century.)

Even then, such artwork was again dismissed as “hunting magic” by modern “experts”, whose unconscious bias limited their understanding of what was right in front of them. This bias continued. Mary Cassatt was a “real artist” whose work took a long time to be classified as such. In this article, the author says she had three strikes against her, “…her gender, her foreignness (she was an American living in France), and her reputation as a painter of motherhood.”

Even if we do achieve a decent reputation, a strong audience, some good sales, does that seal our fate? Nope. I can’t find this artist for the life of me, but one session in my art history classes in college focused on an extremely successful Victorian artist, the Thomas Kinkaid of his times, whose popularity tanked soon after he died. Too sentimental, too trite, did not stand up over time. (Could it be this guy?)

In our modern times, with a changing-for-the-better consciousness that all people matter, that all people have creative talents of some kind, that we all yearn to be “seen” in the world, and especially in this year of pandemic and unrest, how do we pursue our goal of being a successful artist?

I went to bed too tired, too sad, on a dark Christmas Eve, without an answer.

Until Disney+ tossed its newest Pixar animated movie, Soul, into our lap on Christmas Day.

I’d read a review that considered it “meh”, but for some reason, it still called to me. It’s about a musician, a music teacher, who’s always dreamed of making it to the big time, who finally gets his chance…

And falls down a manhole and dies. His soul is desperate to find a way to ‘go back’, to get the opportunity to realize his dream-of-a-lifetime.

In his efforts, he crosses the path of Soul 22, who has refused all efforts to get her to live a life on earth. Her cynicism is impressive! Even the souls of Mother Theresa, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, and many others can’t encourage her to even try.

After many failed attempts to not only recapture his own life, but to encourage hers, a tiny miracle happens.

Let me repeat: A tiny miracle.

I found this beautiful quote in an article about Soul today:  “Instead, Soul was left to be about the little moments that make up our lives rather than where we end up, and that’s ultimately what makes the movie resonate so well.”

My own greatest joy comes in persevering until I find a solution to whatever is blocking my way. I keep track of my progress in my notebooks and journals, capturing the tiny moments of joy and wonder I encounter in my day.

When I write my way through episodes of despair, when I find myself at the mercy of destructive, negative people, when I begin to doubt my own worth in the world, my gratitude list lifts me up again.

Those tiny moments add up!

When I make my work, I feel my purpose. It’s to share what I find beautiful in the world. To share where I’ve found meaning, solace, peace in my heart, if only for a moment. And it’s so easy to do that today! A quick photo, a caption, a few tags on Instagram, and my insights go straight to my artist-and-writer page.

I find as many ways as I can (writing for Fine Art Viewsmy blogTwitterFacebookmy email newsletter, etc.) to share what I’ve learned, what has lifted me, with others, quickly and easily. (The gifts of social media, when used as a force for good in the world!)

And you can too! Include your audience in those moments of inspiration as part of your marketing process. Sharing those moments of light, beauty, awe or sorrow will also help to connect your art with others.

Including these shares in our newsletters — whether it’s posting an image of our latest work, or writing about a flock of snowy egrets catching a random ray of sunshine, silhouetted against dark and stormy clouds, or including these moments on social media –is not only a gift to others, but a great marketing tool too.

When we make the work of our heart, we are lifted, even if just for a little bit. When we share it with others, maybe their hearts will be lifted, too. Whether they buy it, or share it with others, the ripples in the pond of life continue.

More than this, we can’t expect, nor count on.

In closing, a dear friend and I talked together on Zoom recently, soon after watching SOUL. She was struggling with her own “next steps”, what would get her to her goals, and I felt so helpless regarding advice. Fortunately, it turns out she didn’t really need advice. And she is already so many steps ahead of me!

One little (hah!) story she shared with me: She has a school history and a longtime interest in ecology, and she loves going for long walks, being immersed in nature and all its wonders.

Over time, she realized that on every walk, at some point, a tree would “wave” at her.

It could be a branch, a twig, sometimes just a single leaf. But it was independent of any noticeable wind or animal action. And she began to wave back.

Just a tiny wave, so if she weren’t walking alone, her companion wouldn’t notice.

Because who waves back at trees, right?

It hit me. There’s a powerful moment in SOUL that involves a tree. An insignificant, perfectly ordinary moment, actually less than a minute, that changes everyone. And everything. Something I’m betting every single one of us has experienced at some time in our walks and travels.

I told my friend about this moment, without giving away what it was, and encouraged her to watch the movie. She did. She cried. And she was happy again.

This year, make your art, especially if it makes you happy.

This year, share your art, because it will make others happy.

This year, pursue your goals, but don’t let them define you, or limit you in any way. Don’t worry about being “good enough”.

We are enough.

This year, live your life. Live it fully. Live it deeply. As my little animal artifact Otter told me many years ago…

“Oh, be joyful! Play! Enjoy every moment of this amazing life.”

 Oh, and this morning, I looked to see if a tree were waving at me. One did, but it was because it was full of two different flocks of birds, finches and Brewers Blackbirds. So maybe it was waving, but maybe it wasn’t.

But I waved back anyway. And somehow, I felt a little happier.

Your shares and comments are always welcomed!

Share this link FineArtViews.com or view my blog at luannudell.wordpress.com.

If someone shared this article with you, and you’d like to read more in this series, visit my articles at FineArtViews.com.

NEWSLETTERS 101 #18: Love (and Art) in the Time of Covid-19

Bear tells me, "Be strong when things get hard. Listen more. Think slow. Love deep." Perfect advice for 2021!
Bear tells me, “Be strong when things get hard. Listen more. Think slow. Love deep.” Perfect advice for 2021!

There’s no perfect way to get through 2020 and beyond. So just do what works for YOU! 

(8 minute read)

I’ve never sought out positions on boards or steering committees, despite being involved with quite a few art organizations in my life.

I don’t have a “head” for leadership. I hate bossing people around. I mean, I love having my own way, but when I think I know what’s best for others, I fail miserably.

But over the years, I have volunteered for many these same orgs. Oh, I’ll complain along with everyone else about rules and regulations, how things are done, etc. But then I realize that the best way to find out the WHY is to join that committee, and learn.

I love peeking behind the curtain to see what’s going on!

It’s tempered my entire approach about shows, galleries, art groups, organizations, etc. And it also gives me a new perspective about the people who complain, but never take the time to find out WHY.

 My all-time favorite was sitting next to another fine craftsperson at a gathering during a major show, and listening to them complain non-stop about the committee I served on. After addressing almost all of their complaints, with the stories behind the decisions, I said, “Hey, you should join us, maybe you have some great suggestions for us!” (I said this with a straight face, too.)

They said, “How much do they pay you to serve?”

I nearly died laughing.

Apparently, it had never occurred to them that committees in art organizations are rarely, if ever, compensated for the dozens, or even hundreds of hours they put in, as a volunteer.

This year, despite my misgivings, I did join as a member of a steering committee. I’ve been given a relatively-easy committee to head, one that I actually might be okay with.

It was eye-opening on so many levels.

First, I was truly impressed by the quality of work this group does to pull off some pretty major events here in Northern California. I couldn’t believe all the details, permutations, roles these people played, how well they remembered every step of the process, and how quickly they reviewed and updated them.

Me? I forgot this article was due yesterday.

 I couldn’t help wondering what I brought to the table, if anything.

I soon found out. I had to take part in a phone tree to make sure artists had gotten the invitation to participate in our next event, an open studio tour mid-year, in 2021.

I hate making phone calls. I don’t even call friends or family members. (I just found out this year this is a major sign that I am an introvert at heart, though I can fake extrovert for short periods.)

I didn’t know what to expect, but I got the whole gamut of responses.

This year’s event had been cancelled shortly before it took place, due to (duh) Covid-19. Every effort was made to offer refunds for those who opted out, and a lot of planning and work went into making it a virtual event. An entirely new website was created, the event was pushed back and combined with a similar event. I was asked to volunteer with that, and put in easily 50 hours of work.

I made zero sales. I did two more virtual events that same month, and they all tanked for me.

Many of the artists I called had had the same experience (without the volunteer time.) Some accepted the new normal going forward. Some weren’t sure if they were willing to commit. And a few were quite angry over how this year’s event (that was cancelled) was handled.

I get it. I really do. And yet…

I chose to look at the gifts instead of the loss.

 Years ago, I did some major wholesale and retail high-end craft shows on the East Coast. I knew I had to put in a few years for each one before they would pay off.

But first came 9/11. Sales tanked for everyone. And every year after that, it seemed like a couple months before that show, we would invade some country in the Mid-East. I barely paid for my expenses. My last year, all three major wholesale shows tanked and I was in debt up to my eyeballs.

It was hard. But I learned so much.

I learned that there is no guaranteed success with any business venture we undertake. Even my writing, which used to bring in $300-$450/per article, tanked. I now make about 10% of that, and most of those opportunities have disappeared anyway.

I learned it takes time to build an audience, even in “normal” times. My very first open studio in New Hampshire, with a prestigious art group, I had zero visitors. The second year I had one, a nice young man who was very stoned. We had a very nice chat. I hope he remembers that! The third year, my studio was packed every day, and I made about a third of my income from one event.

I learned that an event with a catalog costs a lot of money. In those days, before the internet became a key component of my marketing, I would place ads in magazines associated with those events. It cost a minimum of $350 for one quarter-page ad, in a magazine that had a shelf life on 1-4 weeks.

So when I learned that a catalog accompanied my participation in this event, for the same money, a ‘magazine’ with a shelf life of a YEAR, I considered it a bargain.

 A great show/event catalog is worth its weight in gold.

 I’ve also learned that when we pay our fees, that money is used almost instantly to pay for all the resources: Design work for website modifications and ads and the catalogs, salaries (salaries for non-profits are usually at below-market rates compared to commercial businesses), etc. When an event is cancelled, the org does not get that money back. Design costs alone for this year’s catalog were almost $10,000, not including printing.

Our org has learned what works and what doesn’t with this process. Everyone involved has worked really, really hard to not only keep the organization going (which supports so many different kinds of creative work), but to improve the experience for its artist members.

And here we are today, at Fine Art Views, which dedicated all its efforts towards assisting us with the “new normal” and focusing on social media marketing.

It can work. For one thing, I had an uptick in sales in August, a very nice uptick. I couldn’t figure out where they came from, as none of them came through any of the online events. All of them came from my Etsy shop. Finally, I realized they were from my audience in NH! I haven’t been back in person to do the show. But since the entire show was virtual this year, I was at the same “level” as everyone else. I am so grateful to the League of NH Craftsmen!

In short (I know, it’s too late to make this short!) things are different. “Sure things” aren’t solid right now. Sales are off, it’s hard to connect with people/customers in person, and we all hate the loss of paying customers, and hate not knowing how, or when this will all get better.

But in a way, my life as a creative has ALWAYS been all over the map.

I’m grateful these art orgs are trying to stay in place, so they can be a support and outlet for us. I’m in awe at the people who work so hard to keep us moving forward, from a non-profit’s show committee, to the team at FASO.

I’m grateful I have an online shop, my own website, and system for marketing my art online.

I’m proud to be contributing to the safety of our country and part of a culture that values customer safety over profits.

I know if I can’t sell my work, 10,000 years from now, archeologists will have a blast when they unearth my studio.

I feel lucky that I still have a studio to go to, especially during these dark cold winter months.

And I am grateful that I can still make my work, because it brings me joy when I finish my latest projects.

As I shared some of these insights I’ve had over the years, many people softened re: their anger, their fear, their uncertainty. (That, or I bored them to tears and they said they’d consider joining just to get me off the phone!)

What are YOUR tiny blessings you’ve found in the moment? What have YOU learned in a lifetime of making your art? Doing shows? Sharing your art with the world?

What have YOU done to show your appreciation for what others have done for you, and for your passion for making art?

What are YOUR hopes and dreams for 2021?

If you enjoyed this article, if you enjoyed this article, share it! Link back to it here on Fine Art Views, or my blog at luannudell.wordpress.com.

If someone shared this article with you, and you’d like to read more in this series, visit my articles at FineArtViews.com. 

NEWSLETTERS 101 #17: Share an “Aha!” Moment

My biggest "aha" moment was what put me on the path to becoming a "real" artist. Still powerful. Still works.
My biggest “aha” moment was what put me on the path to becoming a “real” artist. Still powerful. Still works.

NEWSLETTERS 101 #17: Share an “Aha!” Moment

This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….”  For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines, and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.

Was there a moment when everything changed for you? Share it!

(4 minute read)

One of the taglines in my Fine Art Views (and elsewhere) is this:

“I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….”

Yep, I’m hoping it made you laugh a little. But I am also here to reassure you, that when we have our own “aha!” moment, aka “the Eureka effect”, that miraculous gift of insight where we see what’s really going on, what the solution is, how to move forward from a stuck place, it’s good to share it.

It may be just what someone else needs to get out of a hole today.

Here’s one of my favorites I love to share. It’s about fear. How fear can dominate our lives, inside and out. How it can paralyze us.

And ironically, how shallow it can really be. (Yes, pun intended!)

This story is over 15 years old, and the fear I described was already almost 15 years old. If my husband hadn’t cajoled me to take a dip in the lake on that hot summer day, I might still be holding that fear in my heart.

My intention in sharing this story was to encourage others who are in the same boat. Paralyzed with fear, palpable fear. Impossible to ignore. Only “diving in” (figuratively and literally!) helped me get to the bottom of that scary lake. (Again, pun intended.)

As I linked to the Dublin Lake story, I found another related story in the sidebar, entitled “Breakthrough”. Here is where a bunch of fears, and one random comment, came together into one beautiful solution.

Now my latest insight, that came from revisiting my old blog, today:

Radio Userland was an early blog hosting site (now-defunc) site. I wrote on it from 2002 to mid-2007. (I couldn’t even access it for ages after I left, until my techie husband recoded all the urls into something I could get to easily.) (Thank you, sweetie/love of my life!)

In five years, I got maybe three comments. THREE.

Was it because I was a terrible writer? Or an uninteresting writer? I’ll leave that for you to decide! But I do know the platform had its drawbacks, for me.

It was hard to comment. I don’t even know if I could have responded to those comments. I had no way of knowing how many people visited my blog. I never thought to ask the ones that did, to share it with others.

So: No comments. No likes. No way to measure “hits”. No way to know if anyone ever even read anything. No way to know if what I wrote, helped someone else.

And yet, I wrote. I process hard places in my life, through writing. So I wrote for myself, first. I love having had all those ‘lessons learned’, insights, and free advice.

I love it when I come across them again.

Because I still need them.

As a good friend said a few years ago, “I love all my life lessons! I love them so much, I learn them again, and again, and again.”

And when I share them with the world? Priceless. As in, “free” because you get to read them here at no cost to you.

And “priceless” as in “powerful”, as in “if it helped me, and when I shared it, it helped you, then that has incredible, endless value.”

Is it coincidence that I had this realization so soon after last week’s article, on how the numbers ultimately don’t matter?

I don’t think so.

So consider sharing an insight that helped you move forward in life. An insight that helped you find your way in the dark, towards the light, and a mug of hot milk.

If it helps even one of your subscribers do the same, well, that’s pretty cool.

One suggestion: Stick with the positive, or at least end on a positive note. Not all life experiences are good ones. But when we learn something fundamental, something beautiful because of them, that inspires hope.

Of course it okay to share something we’re struggling with right now, too: Health issues, difficult life events, etc. Believe me, if you’re going through something really hard, someone else out there is, too.

And it’s okay to just gritch now and then. (That’s a word from an old high school friend, a blend of “gripe” and “bitch”, and I love it almost as much as “blort”.) In fact, it might be an opportunity for readers to make suggestions or express sympathy, which may or may not help.

But just knowing they care can mean a lot to us, too.

But don’t be too much of a Debbie/Danny Downer, either. Yeah, we all have our moments, but we also all have enough on our plates.

What is one of YOUR favorite “aha!” moments? Try it out on us, in the comments!

If you enjoyed this article, if you enjoyed this article, share it! Link back to it here on Fine Art Views, or my blog at luannudell.wordpress.com.

If someone shared this article with you, and you’d like to read more in this series, visit my articles at FineArtViews.com.

NEWSLETTERS 101 #16: The Numbers Don’t Matter!

If I measured my success by how fast my work sold, I would be at zero. One of my best pieces didn't sell until the month before we left for Cali.
If I measured my success by how fast my work sold, I would be at zero. One of my best pieces didn’t sell until the month before we left for Cali.

NEWSLETTERS 101 #16: The Numbers Don’t Matter!

Do what you love, share what you want, and put down the measuring stick.

(4 minute read)

 In last week’s Fine Art Views article about possible newsletter topics (sharing our resources), I mentioned Thea Fiore-Bloom, PhD’s website, which is where that idea came from.

I ran the article by Thea first, to make sure I got it right. She mentioned she was inspired to create a resource page by another artist, Sara Paxton, whose most popular post was about how to speed up the drying time for oil paints. Which is logical and inspiring, right?

But my most popular post was about repairing a huge chip in my spongeware bowl with polymer clay.

And Quinn McDonald, a highly-respected artist/writer/life coach/corporate trainer? Her most popular post was about how to cook steel cut oats faster in the morning.

Irony: Last week’s post also had one comment. One. Comment.

But then I had more than half a dozen responses, from people who a) subscribe to my blog, where I republish my FAV articles; and b) got my newsletter referencing that article, with a link to my blog.

That number of responses is new for me, in a good way. My subscriber numbers are big-ish, but nowhere near “influencer” levels.

Until Thea told me THE NEXT DAY that her website visitors hit almost 1,000, resulting in a ton of new subscribers to her blog. She made a guestimate about the number of people who’d probably READ my article/blog/newsletter, but didn’t ‘respond’, and estimated I am truly at those ‘influencer’ levels. Which is….stunning.

The moral of this story is, numbers are everything. And…nothing.

 Sometimes our ‘most popular’ numbers can reflect our true audience.

Or they can have nothing to do with our true audience. (Trust me, Quinn has given the world huge gifts over the years, and cooking steel cut oats is not her greatest legacy. Not in my book!)

Sometimes our numbers can seem so abysmally low, we question our own worth.

And 24 hours later, we see the actual impact we have in the world.

Or not. As I’ve said so many times in my articles, we do the work of our heart because it matters to us.

Then we put it out into the world, whether by selling, teaching, or sharing on social media. This is the proverbial toss-a-pebble-into-the-pond, not knowing where, nor how far, the ripples will go.

Money is lovely (yum!) and numbers can be reassuring. But they are not the only measure of our success, with our art, with our influence, with our lives.

Case in point: There’s one reason I now love to attend memorial services for those who have passed on.

It’s the stories people share about that person.

 A funeral service draws people from every stage and arena of our life: Family, relatives, groups (neighbors, co-workers, customers, fellow church members, etc.) If they’re well-known, or even famous, even people who never knew them in person, may have a story.

And when they share their memories and stories, we have a peek into a life we never fully knew, or appreciated, or understood. We see moments of kindness, generosity, humor, and grace.

Even then, we still won’t know the whole story.

 Because…that’s life. Even we can’t see our whole story.

 When we rely on pure metrics, it can muddy the story.

 In fact, when I looked up metrics, I found this:

met·rics  /’metriks/

noun 

1.     the use or study of poetic meters; prosody

2.     a method of measuring something, or the results obtained from this.

Do you see it?

The first definition is a form of art.

How do we measure our art?

How do we measure our worth? Our life?

How do we measure the impact we’ve had on others? Whether the good we do outweighs the mistakes we’ve made, the hurt we’ve caused, the things we’ve left undone and the things we ought NOT to have done?

We can’t.

We can only do our best, with all our heart, and let the rest go. Make amends as we can. Try to better. Help others do better.

Social media and social media marketing has been a game-changer, especially during this pandemic. It allows us to stay connected, and create connection, despite everything.

But how we measure our ‘success’ with that, is another matter altogether.

If you enjoyed this article, if you enjoyed this article, share it! Link back to it here on Fine Art Views, or my blog at luannudell.wordpress.com.

If someone shared this article with you, and you’d like to read more in this series, visit my articles at FineArtViews.com.

NEWSLETTERS 101 #15: Share Your Resources!

I'm sharing this for all my studio visitors over the years who ask me if I actually work in my studio space. Mmmmm, yup!
I’m sharing this for all my studio visitors over the years who ask me if I actually work in my studio space. Mmmmm, yup!

NEWSLETTERS 101 #15: Share Your Resources!

Help your readers take a step forward, just like someone did for YOU.

(4 minute read)

 In last week’s Fine Art Views article, I wrote how the gift of laughter is a precious commodity in our world right now, and how easy it is to share. This week, let’s talk about sharing what’s helped US move forward, in our art and in our lives.

Today, let me share another writer/artist from the FAV team, Thea Fiore-Bloom, PhD, creator of The Charmed Studio blog. I first met Thea through her Fine Art Views columns. (Actually, Thea just reminded me that our paths crossed years ago, before either of us wrote for FAV! Thank you for the memory reboot, Thea!) I found articles both endearing and powerful. She gets right to the heart of what she writes about, and all of it is geared to helping artists and writers get better at writing/making.

But what really blew my mind was her website.

It’s not just filled with generous helpings of articles, offering insights for creatives.  She also shares links to websites and articles she’s found to be game-changers. She’s opened a window on how we can create more powerful and connect-able blog posts and newsletters. (Disclaimer: I just found out I’m on her resource page! Thank you, Thea!)

The generosity of this, Thea sharing what’s worked for her, is a game-changer in and of itself.

I’ve written blog posts of how-to’s in the past. Some of them I published, others languish in the sea of forgotten ideas. But after discovering who Thea is at heart—authentic and generous—I find I now want to follow her example.

I’ve given little ‘peeks’ into my process from time to time. Lately, I’ve gone a little deeper. On Instagram (which reposts to my Facebook biz page, Luann Udell, Artist and Writer, I’ve shared more of my process (restoring vintage and antique wood boxes for my shrine series). A reader messaged me, asking me for my sources for these boxes, and I wrote a reply that will probably become a future blog post.

Why have I hesitated to do this in the past? Perhaps it’s the fear we all have, that someone will snag our ideas and make them their own. That someone will take our process and do it even better. That someone will gain more fame and fortune than we do.

But isn’t that what I’ve done? (Albeit on a good level of integrity.)

I did not invent my faux ivory technique. Tory Hughes, who unfortunately died in 2018, was a pioneer in exploring and creating imitative techniques with polymer clay: Faux ivory, turquoise, amber, coral, etc. Yes, I’ve made my own adaptations and created some of my own as well. I’ve taken it new, very personal level, too.

But I have always acknowledged Tory as my first inspiration and as a great resource for information. Now I’m realizing it might be even more inspirational to create my own Resources Page, to honor her memory, and those of others who have helped me ‘up my game’ over the years.

Also, in my humble experience, it’s really hard to exactly copy another person’s techniques. And it’s almost impossible to copy another creative’s story. Our energy is better spent on our work, and the knowledge that a copycat can’t create new ideas like we can. They can only follow, and therefore, will always be a step behind.

To reiterate: This isn’t about ‘having to share’ our ‘how’.

It’s about sharing what helped us get to where we are, today, through inspiration, clarity, insights, and okay, a couple trade secrets here and there, and/or acknowledging where we got OUR trade secrets from, especially if they’re actually public knowledge. Share a teacher, a class, an art organization, where we grew our own skills. Share the writing that inspired us, and kept us moving forward until we got where we are today—or will be tomorrow.

Be a big-hearted person like Thea. Share what makes you, YOU.

 Your words may help another creative person move forward with THEIR work, and bring light, and good, and joy into the world. What a beautiful gift!

If you enjoyed this article, share it! Link back to it here on Fine Art Views, or my blog at luannudell.wordpress.com.

If someone shared this article with you, and you’d like to read more in this series, visit my articles at FineArtViews.com.

And if you decide I would be a good fit for YOUR resource page/next newsletter, go for it!

APOLLO 13, FREE ADVICE, AND YOU: What a Failed Moon Landing Mission Can Teach Us During These Hard Times

What a Failed Moon Landing Mission Can Teach Us During These Hard Times.
What a Failed Moon Landing Mission Can Teach Us During These Hard Times.

APOLLO 13, FREE ADVICE, AND YOU

Topics: art marketing | FineArtViews | Luann Udell

This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….”  For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines, and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.

What a Failed Moon Landing Mission Can Teach Us During These Hard Times.

 (5 minute read)

 We interrupt this series Newsletters 101 for this public service announcement…

 All Fine Art Views writers have been encouraged to focus on online marketing/social media marketing during the pandemic. It gets harder to keep that up as time goes on. I’m weary of it, and I’m sure you are, too.

This week, I struggled to think of a fresh idea for a column.

So here we are in a situation that has not happened since the Spanish Flu, more than 100 years ago. It has changed everything, worldwide. Everyone on this planet has been affected, some more harshly than others, for many different reasons.

For artists, that means virtual events instead of gallery shows, open studios, or art fairs. For many of us, it means not even being able to go to the studio. Sales have fallen drastically. And there’s no end in sight, yet.

Yesterday, for some reason I can’t even remember, I paged through my daily schedule/to-do list notebook. On September 7, I’d written a few thoughts from one of my favorite advice columnists, Carolyn Hax in the Washington Post newspaper. (I think I must have gone on a Hax spree through the archives, because the mention of Apollo 13 was actually from her April 4, 2017 column.)

In discussing how good marriages aren’t about a perfect fit, but are about couples working with what they’ve got, Hax said this:

“In a memorable part of (the movie) “Apollo 13,” engineers have to build a carbon-dioxide filter with only material (the astronauts have) on hand. That applies to marriage, too: Understand what you need, see what you actually have, then try to build something that works.”

Let me repeat that:

Understand what you need. See what you actually have. Try to build something that works.

Bingo!

What do we need right now?

What we need is connection with our audience. Yes, we want sales, too. But that comes from the connection, right?

What do we actually have?

Let’s see…. Open studios? Nope. Gallery shows? Nope. Art fairs? Nope.

What’s left?

Social media.

 Facebook. Instagram. Email. Our websites. Virtual events.

This is why we’ve been asked to focus on social media insights for you. It’s all we got!

So what can we do with it? What can we build that will work?

 We can create a website.

We can create a website on a platform that is specially built for artists. (FASO!)

It will showcase our art, yes. But we can also tell our creation story, how we came to do what we do, why we do it, and how we do it.

We can create email newsletters that lets our audience stay up-to-date about what we’re up to.

We can show stages of where we are with our new works-in-progress. Instagram is PERFECT for this! This week, I had a breakthrough that’s held me back on several big projects for years. I’ve been posting updates on IG. (Okay, today I realized I haven’t actually solved the holding-me-back thing, but I’m excited by how close I am to fixing it!)

We can share on Facebook, especially our business page. We can share updates, thoughts, stories, images, etc. (And you can post on Instagram, and have it re-posted on Facebook.)

Virtual events are more common. Do they work? Yes and no. I participated in three virtual events in August and September. I didn’t think I’d made any significant sales, especially with the two that took place here in California. But afterwards, I realized this strong uptick in several larger-than-normal online sales during that period came from…a virtual event in New Hampshire!

The people that have followed me for years suddenly leaped at the chance to buy my work, and it was very satisfying. (The sales didn’t occur through the online channels of those events, which is what threw me. People found me there, then went to my online store and made their purchases directly from me.) These virtual events didn’t cost much, and I consider what fees I did pay, as my online marketing budget.

Social media marketing is what will get us through this ‘new normal’, until something like the ‘old normal’ returns.

And yet, from some of the comments made during this time, Fine Art Views readers often remind me how tired they are with all this focus on social media.

I try to remember to check back on where commenters are coming from, so I check their website and their work. Seems like the unhappiest folks didn’t have an online store/shop, or even prices on their work. Some don’t even have a website.

In my volunteer work for one major virtual event, I created captions/sentences for over 140 artists, describing their work, their inspiration, and what made their work unique.

I was shocked how many of them didn’t have a website. Or they didn’t have a correct link to their website. (I had to Google them.) Or they only had a bare-bones website, not even featuring more than one image of their work.

So many people had ‘resumes’ instead of actual artist statements. I had to dig deep to find anything of interest to say about their work, or simply go with what I thought of their work. (Don’t worry, I was kind to everyone.)

So many people didn’t have any social media accounts—no Facebook, no Instagram, even though Instagram, based on images, feels made for visual artists.

Even in

I know hundreds of artists and craftspeople. Yet in my own email feed, I get email newsletters from less than a handful of fellow artists. And some of those are not newsletters I signed up for.  They got my address from events I signed up for, or a group activity I was in. (DO NOT sign up people without their permission!)

And some artists didn’t even share their email address.

To continue the metaphor, if these folks were astronauts, they’d be dying for lack of oxygen.

Now, if your intention during this pandemic is to step back, focus on your work, and let go of sales and marketing until the ‘old normal’ is back, it’s okay, and I don’t blame you. It’s definitely a great time to dig in and make our art. Fewer distractions, fewer obligations, and I can’t go thrift shopping. (Did I say that out loud??)

But if you want to boldly go where you’ve never gone before, now is the time to bump up your social media marketing game.

Don’t complain, up your game!

If you enjoyed this article, share it! Link back to it here on Fine Art Views, or my blog at luannudell.wordpress.com.

If someone shared this article with you, and you’d like to read more in this series, visit my articles at FineArtViews.com.