One of the problems to an anti-marketing stance in art is that people do need to survive.  Personally I opt for not making my artwork the sole means of my financial survival. Though of course I do earn through my creative skills through graphic design, writing and other areas.  It is just that I don’t see my art/craft exclusively as a product nor a way to further my career. Plus, my focus in the arts tends toward its socially engaging, transformative and bridge building qualities.

I cope with my present low income by living simply, and this helps a lot.

At the moment the money versus art issue for me is up big time. (Yes, I know, for a lot of you there is no ‘versus’ but believe me, they are two different worlds). To help with the feelings of disempowerment and negativity I’m experiencing, I turn once again to ‘The Soul of Money’ by Lynne Twist.

What she says about appreciation follows on so well from the series a few posts ago about truthful, sensible marketing.  I’d like to share it here over several posts.

[Sarah’s note: In the book, Twist speaks a lot about ‘sufficiency’,:

…’sufficiency is a context we bring forth from within that reminds us that if we look around us and within ourselves, we will find what we need. There is always enough.’

Most of her examples of sufficiency come from extremely poor cultures and people with very few resources.]

In the context of sufficiency, appreciation becomes a powerful practice of creating new value in our deliberate attention to the value of what we already have.

What you appreciate appreciates. It’s true in our money culture, where a desirable house in a desirable neighborhood appreciates in value from year to year. It’s true in our personal relationships, where our appreciation of someone’s special qualities can make them bloom before our very eyes. It’s true in business, where a company’s commitment to its employees fosters pride and excellence in their work.

And this simple but powerful act we call appreciation expands the freedom, creativity, and ultimately the success we experience, particularly in our relationship with money. Appreciation is the beating heart of sufficiency.

Front view of my new 'Kamoekel'

Marcel de Jong graduated from art academy in fine arts and printmaking. After working as an artist for a time, he eventually found his way into sewing new soft toys from recycled ones. And in the process creating entirely new animals. My little flying bear’s wings are actually the ears of a larger teddy bear.

The evidence of his fine art training and devotion to craftsmanship is visible in all his ‘kamoekels’ (pronounced ka- moo’- kle). I wish you could pick them up and feel how soft and cuddly they are;  we sat across from one another at an art fair this past week-end, and people really responded to them and bought quite a few. I think he is going to be a hit when he gets ‘discovered’.

I’d check out Marcel’s site (it is in Dutch, but you can easily find his contact info and write him in English), and get some early Christmas or birthday gifts before there is a run on them. His prices are very reasonable and the quality is high.  Concerning the recycled factor, I was a bit worried about whether they would carry any musty odors from their former lives,  but they have been all washed and disinfected thoroughly and smell sweet and clean.

Important because once you have one, you’ll want to bury your face in it and hug it to bits.

Needle felted landscape

June 15, 2011

A soon-to-be brooch

The little trees are needle felted. The background is a rectangle of hand-dyed and felted wool I bought.

This was satisfying to do because even though I’m not painting or drawing at the moment, on my daily walks, my eye keeps registering the colors and textures of summer happening all around me. I’ve been wanting a way to express all this beauty visually- especially the sage green waves of grain and our wonderful lollipop willows that are so characteristic of this northern Dutch landscape.

Add blackbird song at dusk, and a cloud of warm, flower scented air with new mown grass thrown in and the picture is complete.

I’m getting ready for an art/culture fair as part of a 10 day Art and garden festival here in Groningen and surroundings.

I need to explain first that the title to this post is cynically meant. I don’t know what the next  3 marketing hypes are going to be, only that there will be a new wave of them that will make our current ones obsolete.

On the other hand, if you read this series, you will find many more than 3 tips that should serve you for your entire working life, and enable you to stay steady and focused regardless of  any new marketing wave that hits.

My cyber buddy Thea from Spoonful zine recently wrote me:

I went to a talk where someone was discussing marketing online businesses (he was from Etsy) and how they created a community and spread the word online etc… in his talk he showed a picture of a ceiling fan, and said that he’s all for online marketing and communities and spreading the word etc, but it’s all getting crazy. For example, if a ceiling fan company were to start a community and blog etc about ceiling fans and you could meet other ceiling fan owners… well,it would be silly and not useful at all really. And that it is important to market appropriately – I think a whole lot of people are getting a little inappropriate and this was a little extreme but cute example.


We’re in the middle of many different hypes, friends,

and the guy from Etsy has just pinpointed one of them. He’s lifted us momentarily out of this particular box so we can see it from the outside. AND see that it is just one of many boxes, or limited ways to think about something.
Everyone with a product or service to sell has been relentlessly badgered to ‘create an online community’ of customers through the use of blogs, forums, membership programs, freebies etc. This, in order to bind the customer to a particular firm. But this technique, like all the other previously new ideas, has saturated the market to the point where it no longer has any meaning.

Twitter, Facebook, and Linked-in will all suffer the same fate (people are already starting to question the hype around social networking as a purely promotional technique);  one day they will be overtaken by the really new innovative next idea or technology. And we, anxious to make our living, will all run after the next trend.

How do we break this manipulative, crazy making chain?
The title of this post is mostly a trick. If it has lured you here looking for ways to sell your art, I apologise, but this sort of thing is being done to you every day. Please keep reading because I won’t be talking about a new hype, but about solid enduring ways to think about getting your work to its best audience. See next post.

So how do we avoid being bounced from one marketing technique to the other, all with mostly empty promises about how quickly we can earn a buck from whatever it is we do or make?

People sense immediately if you are just trying something out to see if you can earn with it, or if you are doing it out of a deep conviction and commitment. Commitment tells people they will be able to find you again in 3, 5 or 10 years. Your product may have changed, but your calling and devotion to it hasn’t. Commitment radiates out respect for yourself and what you are doing, and this communicates to the customer. This is because commitment requires discipline and ,yes, sacrifice, in the best sense. You have let go of 10,000 other paths to follow the one you’re on.

Work for joy

“Don’t ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive, and do that,because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman

If you are working with your creative skills, there is probably a large joy quotient in what you do. But the context might not always be optimal.
Obviously we all have to do things we don’t like sometimes, you just need to arrange your life in such a way that they are in the minority.

Master the skills
There is no instant mastery of any skill that is worthwhile. It takes practice, discipline, research, exchange of ideas with others in your field and commitment to become really good in anything, whether painting, writing or playing an instrument. It is fine to have a hobby, but as James Krenov says, practicing something as a calling or as a pasttime are very different and should not be confused.

Never accept ‘good enough’
Go for excellence in everything you do. Doing something well gives so much energy in return. Compare that to the feeling of finishing a job quickly and at a lower standard than you are capable of. It keeps gnawing at you there is guilt after because you knew you could have put in that extra few hours to make it sing!

Make it your own
The combination of all of the above qualities will lead you to your own ways of seeing and interpreting the world. Your own (visual) vocabulary will grow . An unmistakable style will emerge organically out of these factors over the years. As you go deeper into your skill area,you will try out various things, keeping some discarding some. The end result of this is an ongoing work of art that is you…and your life. and absolutely unique.

continued in Part 3

last part of 3 part series

My bulletin board with the Wage Peace poem in 3 panels

It has to matter to you
To matter to anyone else, it has to matter to you first. Really matter.

If it doesn’t, then you will not be able to keep calling up the discipline, commitment and caring that are needed to bring an idea into the world.

I always wondered if I had anything to ‘say’ in my art. I basically just love materials and colours.Is that enough? But asking if I have anything to say as an artist may be the wrong question.

‘Do I stand for anything in my life?’is the question we need to answer first to make art that matters to us, and ultimately to others.

It should be for something else, too, besides you
This is a tricky one because it reflects the changing meaning of art in our times. Art is not just a product meant to further your career; it is a powerful force that can be used to bring renewal to a society, and transformation to an individual.

Yesterday I heard a writer say that he’d seen a modern interpretation of an opera, and when he walked out of the convert hall he felt ,’washed clean’. Art can do this for people. I feel that though your art first has to spring from your soul’s calling, that it may also need to have some social context. Maybe through the purity of the work, it will uplift people on its own.
But seeing art as in service to the community can open up all kinds of new creative channels for everyone. See Arts & Healing network for examples of projects where artists use their skills in a community, cultural bridging or healing context.

Do the footwork
Dream big, work hard, be nice.

This is the motto of a designer I recently heard interviewed. You need to do the work. Period.

Take the time to let it grow
How can you know, when you first start out as a sculptor, for example, where you will end up?

But traditional business demands a 5 year plan mapping out an unmappable trip.
Starting out as a creative person is like embarking on a magical mystery tour – every day. Your work direction may take you into sculptural therapy with blind people, it may take you into ecovention projects, you may team up with some architects and sculpt integral elements of buildings.  You need years before you know what it is you are actually doing. And building a business takes time because Read the rest of this entry »

Creative inspiration

June 5, 2011

Maize's frayed flower

Surfing around recently, I discovered two creative blogs I really liked. The first one is Maize Hutton’s . The image above is from is a great tutorial for a shabby chic flower which I’ve had fun making too.

What I especially like about her blog is her enjoyment of crafts and her generous heart in sharing them.

The other blog is Kirsty Macafee’s . I like the idea of a ‘Sometimes shop’ and I also appreciate the way she opens up to other crafters with her group,  our creative spaces.

Both of these women have an attitude toward selling that appeals to me. They make stuff because they love to and sometimes they feel like making more and it is available for people to buy, and sometimes they don’t so it isn’t!  So refreshing.

Check out this nice interview with Kirsty.