Monday, April 22, 2013
One of my favorite books is Barbara Winters’ “Making a Living Without a Job”. I read this book many years ago and recently find myself referring back to it for inspiration and information as I develop my artist’s life. Something that Barbara talks about has stuck with me all these years-the concept of creating multiple profit centers.
Barbara leads you through exercises to identify your interests and passions and then suggests ways you can use them to develop income generating activities-really little micro businesses in essence. You test out one idea, spending most of your time in the start-up phase and once it’s running smoothly you begin mobilizing another idea. Eventually you create several avenues to earn money while exploring what you most enjoy in the process. Your ideas can be related (such as different art products that you sell) or incorporate a broader spectrum of your talents (like your skills in event planning and auto mechanics).
I think this is important whether you currently have a full-time job or are creating a different way of living and working in the world. To consistently be generating new ideas and never relying on only one source of income. I also love that it gives you the freedom and flexibility to try out smaller ideas without putting the added pressure on that it has to succeed or else.
My friend and fellow artist, Shannon Crandall continues to amaze me with the creative avenues that she is pursuing. In addition to the things we discuss in our interview below, she has plans to attend the Surtex show in NYC in May to approach reps for a licensing contract. She's interested in launching a home decor line and I believe she can make it happen. She is preparing to take her work to the next level and just launched a campaign to raise capital to get her there. I stand in awe of her gusto. Here's what we talked about last week:
KD: I think you are such a good example of how people can pull together their many skills and talents to create a job doing what they love. How do you support yourself as an artist and entrepreneur?
SC: I have multiple income streams going. I sell my artwork, prints, and handmade jewelry in a local co-op called Artisans' Corner in Clinton, NY. I also teach jewelry and mixed media painting workshops. I just recently re-opened my Etsy shop and I continue to sell my work on my website.
KD: What's a co-op is and how do you get into one?
SC: A co-op is a group of like minded business partners that share a retail space and the common goal of marketing and selling their work. We each pay rent to cover the costs and take turns working in the store as the retail sales clerk. The co-op I am a part of requires you to be juried in ....in other words your work must be up to the co-op's standards of quality and craftsmanship. I was asked by the co-op's owners if I would be interested in jurying into their shop. They saw me at a local art show.
KD: What have you had the most success selling?
SC: Most recently I would have to say that my jewelry and art prints are selling the most. I have sold several paintings in the shop as well.
KD: So another income stream for you is teaching. What does that look like for you?
SC: I have designed my workshops to help others develop their creative intuitive spirit. I feel as though when I teach students my techniques I am sharing a part of me that gives us a great connection. I always learn something from my students and that's why I feel drawn to teaching. It is a two way street and for me there is no better way to connect and understand each other.
KD: I've taken your classes and love them. You teach jewelry making and painting- both using an intuitive approach. One of the unique things that you also do is travel to people's homes to teach groups as well as teaching at Artisan's Corner. You are like an intuitive creator on wheels!
SC: Yes I like to travel and in fact that is another future goal.....to travel and teach. Seeing and meeting new people and places feeds my creativity and my imagination! That's a great way to put it....Creator on wheels.
KD: I can see you doing this for businesses, women's groups, kids, local art events, so many opportunities. Speaking of which, you also sell you work at various shows. How do you find out about them?
SC: I have done art shows for many years and in the beginning it was word of mouth through other artists then when the internet came along it became easier to find show listings online. I still have to say though that word of mouth is great because you get a better sense of how the show is run and if your work would sell there. So I generally do a little bit of both. I just recently sent an email to an artist who I didn't know and asked her about some of the shows she had listed on her website. She was very kind and directed me to a couple of shows. She even went as far as to give me contact info for one of them.
KD: That is good advice-I love to see artist’s working together to help each other. I see that you've just launched some new products, a tote bag, pillows and prints. How did you figure out how to get your art work made into these products?
SC: I sent an email to another artist on Etsy who I didn't know and asked her where she manufactured her products.....she was really great and gave me a list of places that she uses or has used. I also have been logging in lots of hours on the computer doing my own internet searches for what I wanted to create. There are no shortcuts...you just have to do your homework.
KD: Yes, I think that's a really important message. Show up and do the work. That's a recipe for success if ever there was one. I also love how you collaborate and have the courage to just ask. I feel that so many of my questions have been answered by just asking the right person. So now that you are having your artwork printed in a variety of forms, do you use a special camera or lighting to photograph your paintings for printing?
SC: I use my digital camera....it is nothing special. I use natural light and no flash when I take my pictures. Usually my images are about 300dpi....anything less than that will not print well onto any product.
KD: I think it's important for people to know the power of diversification-that you can design your life around many interests and talents and they can help fuel you as an artist. In addition to your art, you also have a skin care practice.
SC: I am a licensed Aesthetician...or skin therapist if you like. I help my clients with acne, rosacea and anti-aging issues. I also do full body treatments and waxing. This is a part-time business for me and in a way it is creative because each client is unique and I must come up with a specific regiment for their individual needs. It is bodywork and is hands on just like creating my artwork and jewelry....and when I am giving a treatment I am actually very relaxed and again connecting with my clients and learning from them as well. This actually fulfills my healing nature.
KD: That is perfect Shannon, how caring for other in this way is another way you add beauty in the world. Do you have any advice on pricing your work?
SC: Pricing is always the hardest part. I have set up what I think is reasonable for me. Basically I charge a set hourly fee and then I add in the materials cost. So as the years have gone on I have slowly increased my rates as my experience has grown.
KD: I have to tell you I find it so difficult to charge friends and family to come to my classes.
SC: You have to see it as a business. They would have to pay to go to someone else’s classes’ right? You can always give some things for free but still charge for the class. You could give a discount on further classes if they sign up for one. Maybe you offer a scholarship program or something along those lines.
KD: Yes, there are many possibilities. I love talking with you Shannon, it always turns into a brainstorming session! Thank you so much for sharing your story. I think you are such a light to others who are putting this type of life together for themselves. Your ability to share is a gift and is appreciated.
You can stop in and visit Shannon here.
Sunday, April 14, 2013
We Paint! And we try out different art supplies. For this project we made trees with Acrylic Paint and Oil Pastels.
We Play! This was the kids favorite part! We have fun games mixed in to get to know each other and to keep us busy while our paints dried.
We Explore! We visited the horses while we waited for all of our group to arrive and fed the giant fish in the pond. We hiked up to the yurt and had the wood stove going. We were warm and toasty in spite of the damp, drizzly, CNY weather. We had a great day!
I asked one of the kids what his favorite part was and he said “All of it! I loved all of it!”
I can’t wish for better than that!
The next Saturday Art Adventure will be on May 4th. Come join us! See the Events Page for details and to sign up.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant
day into the answer.” -Rainer Maria Rilke
I've been going through a period of clarifying and really drilling down to what it is I really want my life to look like and what I most want to share. I've been using a process of asking myself many questions, but differently than I have before.
My Question Mandala
I learned about "Question Mandalas" on Heather Plett's site. She explains that you can begin with an image that represents your questions in the center (like a butterfly for transformation) and then spiral out questions from there, adding the patterns of the mandala. I just began with a main question in the center and branched out with more questions.
I put the questions down in my mandala but did not attempt to immediately answer them. I let them rest on the paper but I've visited them over the past week. I mulled them over as I drove in my car, as I waited in line at the store, before I fell asleep at night. Then yesterday, the answers started to flow in this little Q & A with myself. As I asked the questions, the answers emerged.
Q) Do I want to teach kids?
A) See how the Saturday Art Adventures go and do not ask again until they are over. Until you have a chance to be fully in it and feel if it's right for you. The only thing you have to go on right now is the experiences you have had up until this point. Gather more information, then decide. (And revisit this impulse you have to want to know things before they happen)
Q) What do I have of value to offer others?
A) It turns out, you've been building up to this your whole life. You already have exactly what you need. You know enough (despite those gripping moments of fear.) You already have the tools to build a business, now just refine it. It's powerful stuff that can propel people to succeed and it's really exciting. Get your thoughts organized and test them out. On yourself. On your friends. On anyone who will listen.
Q) What do I most want to learn?
A) To know yourself as you truly are. To follow what most excites you. To share in a way that uses and builds your strengths and inspires you to grow and expand creatively and exponentially. And beyond that, you want to learn about everything you possibly can that interests you and fuels you.
Q) What do I get most excited about sharing?
A) Painting and teaching others (specifically new or beginner artists and kids) the joy that can be found in expressing yourself creatively. Learning to trust your own intuitive wisdom, without judgement. The juicy part of painting and creating is what is reflected back to you when you take the time to process your experience and listen to what it's showing you. You love to watch kid's eyes light up when they learn something fun and new. You love collaborative brainstorming with other artists and helping them to move forward in their own businesses too.
Q) How much time can I devote to this?
A) As much as it takes. This work feels like play and is a natural unfolding of what you've really been working up to all of these years. Re-order and prioritize to give it the time it needs to grow.
We all have unresolved questions that can keep us stuck. They keep rattling around and around and make us anxious and unsure. Why not invite them in? Spend some time with them in a new and visual way. Dress them up with ink and frills. See what they have to teach you. You might ask these questions again next week and get different answers, but that's a sign you are growing, evolving and changing.
Try out the question mandala and see where it leads you...
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
I met Pam Brewer Varacek through an online class that we both took.
|Artwork by Pamela Brewer Varacek
She’s the first one to holler out “Europe Anyone?!? Who’s with me?” You can just see her big heart and her warm approach in the way she encourages others and creates her art. I was so glad that she decided to share with me about the giant leap she just took. She's left behind the land of the regular paycheck to pursue her dream of being a full-time artist:
KD: Hi Pam, thank you for taking some time away from painting to chat. Not too long ago, you announced that you were leaving your full-time job to pursue making a living through your art. I think this is something many artists think about, how did you know it was right for you and how did you know the time was right?
PBV: I had a children’s clothing store for 10 years and I loved it. I didn't really do much art making except painting on kids furniture-but it was creative and I loved being my own boss. After my business closed, I worked at a gourmet shop and then most recently at an oyster company doing accounts receivables-Ugh! I was miserable because there was no creativity. I kept saying I didn’t belong there. Finally I begged my husband to let me quit. Financially it was a hard decision because we would be losing my income but I felt in my heart that it was time and that it would all work out so I would be able to do this.
KD: You have the heart of an entrepreneur and the soul of an artist-the best combo! I can just imagine that Accounts Receivable didn't really light you up like art does. So what are you dreaming of with your art venture?
PBV: I’m trying to keep an open mind and let the possibilities present themselves to me-so far that keeps happening...I have sold 6 paintings since December, was asked to show my art at a local restaurant and last week I was asked to hang my work at a church, of all places! I have been invited to join a group called Live Art Fusion-where artists paint while musicians perform and I had a friend ask me to send my work to her as she knows someone that works at The Huntington Art Museum on Long Island. I’m keeping my fingers crossed on that. It feels like it’s all in sync right now so I am trying not to think too much about any of it or react to it. I love it though.
|Artwork by Pamela Brewer Varacek
KD: You're approaching the process intuitively, just like you do with your painting. That's fantastic and inspiring. I love how the world is rising to meet you! So how, after working for yourself for 10 years, did you find that you are an artist?
PBV: I always thought of myself as an artist even as a little girl-my older brother Michael was an artist and he inspired me. I knew in first grade that I wanted to be an art teacher and so I eventually went to Nazareth College for art education and then went on to teach for about four years. I lost my job and decided to try other things such as selling hand painted items at craft fairs. When I became a mom, everything creative pretty much came to a standstill in my life. I didn't do any art for a long time and I longed for it but never allowed myself the time to do it. Two summers ago I felt this overwhelming urge to paint again and a friend from college posted an online course called “Get Your Paint On.” It really opened something up in me. I ended up taking the course twice. Something inside started stirring and I was craving more. That's how I discovered Flora's class-it has changed me completely. I feel like it has woken up my spirit.
KD: I can see your spirit awake and shining in your artwork! You seem to be living the perfect artist’s life, complete with an upcoming trip to Switzerland and Paris?
PBV: Yes, I’m going to Switzerland on the 19th to see my brother and then maybe to Florence and Pisa, I would love to go to Tuscany too. On the 29th I will take a train to Paris and meet up with someone I met on the Flying Lessons Group-she is from France. I’ve never been to Paris and it's been a dream of mine to go!
KD: That sounds amazing and it’s great that you now have the freedom to travel without worrying about what’s waiting for you back at the oyster place. I said your life seemed like an ideal artist’s life, but it's got some rock star elements too. You've been painting on stage while a band plays? That is so wild, what was it like?
PBV: I have painted onstage while a local band called Soundswell played-that was an awesome experience. It was such a high to be up there with great music and have people watch you create. People kept coming up to me after the show to tell me they enjoyed it. Many wanted to see the finished result too. It was hard though because the lighting was dark and the colors kept changing so you had to work around that but there was great energy!
KD: That is serious pressure to perform, it’s definitely not for everyone but that's one of the things I love about you! You are just out there grabbing life by the bawls (as they say in LI)!
PBV: It’s so funny you say that because I don't think of myself like that, I feel like I'm not grabbing enough bawls hahaha! I see others in our group and feel like they are so brave and doing so much already and it’s always baby steps for me.
KD: I see you as one of those people, and while we're on the topic of our online group, one of your greatnesses is the support and encouragement you give to others. Is teaching in your thoughts or plans?
PBV: Teaching adults scares me but I do love being able to help others out by telling my story and maybe my process will help someone to be inspired-that's what its all about. I love and treasure our little community, it’s been such a huge part of my growth. I am hoping to get going with a painting/art night at a local restaurant and then I am definitely kicking around an online course at some future point.
KD: Do you have artists online that you follow or who have influenced your work?
PBV: Dan Casado is one of my faves at the moment. I have a lot of people whose work I love, here is my Pinterest link to see some of my influences.
|Artwork by Pamela Brewer Varacek
KD: You mentioned that you have sold 6 paintings since December. How are you getting the word out about your artwork?
PBV: I have sold paintings to people on Facebook and the restaurant where I have them displayed. My friends and someone I met on vacation have also bought paintings. It's encouraging that I haven't spent a dime on advertising and I am selling them.
KD: I think your art appeals to many people-I think they're going to sell faster than you can paint ‘em. So where can people see and buy your artwork now?
PBV: Right now only on my facebook page. I've got someone coming over this week to work on my website too.
KD: It's good to know where your time is best spent and what to enlist the help of others with. I'm guessing you have a great sense of this after years of owning your own business. Thank you Pam, for inspiring us with your art and your actions! I can’t wait to see where this new journey leads you!