Thursday, June 23, 2011

Identity Crisis!

Don't know if anybody noticed, but I've been a bit absent of late. I had to take some time out to weather a "Shop Identity Crisis".

I have this shop on Etsy, you see. For anyone who doesn't know what that is, it's an online marketplace for Artists and sellers of Vintage goods. DO NOT GO THERE NOW - you'll never come back! It's HUGE. There must be thousands of shops offering millions of handmade and vintage items (stop drooling and continue reading). Yes, it's the stuff dreams are made of - or nightmares if you're a shopaholic or married to one!

I've had a shop there for years - since late 09 I believe. For most of that time it was mostly just an outlet for me; a place I could put my artwork for others to view and (once in a very blue moon) buy. It was certainly NOT a reliable source of income. On the other hand, I didn't spend much time on it. I was working full-time, raising a son, writing a book, and dreaming of that golden ship sailing into the harbor (you know the one - it has your name on it and your bust hanging off the front end).

My business plan could be summed up in this manner;
1. Create some art whenever I have time.
2. Throw it up on the online gallery wall and see if anyone likes it.
3. Sit back and wait for the orders (and offers of fame and fortune) to roll in.
4. In the event that #3 took too long, sigh and comment about how hard it is to make it as an artist.
5. Grumble.
6. Repeat #1.

Surprise, surprise - not a rocket ride to Success!

Well, as you know I have realized the error of my ways (well not all of them - I'm saving some for later) and have finally come to the conclusion that Promotion is Important. (Maybe that should be in caps.) So, I've been working very hard on promoting. (It may not seem like work sitting on my *** tapping away on the keyboard, lifting nothing heavier than a cup of coffee - but my aching back, squinty old bloodshot eyes and stiff fingers say it is. Good thing I built up a cushy backside. It's as if I've been preparing for this for years!)

But, I digress (another big surprise). This is about my identity crisis, not another rant about promoting! As I was filling up my Etsy shop with new and wonderful works of art (I got all the way up to 80 btw!) I began to notice something odd. The things in my gallery didn't "hang" well together. And that leads to a problem I've had all my life; I tend to go off in too many directions all at once.

(Flashback to me as a little girl. My arms are loaded with stuff; some of which is trying to escape. My mother, an exasperated how-many-times-do-I have-to-tell-you look on her face saying crossly:"Sheryl, stop trying to do everything all at once! Just do one thing at a time!")

As an artist and writer I tend to get a little - hmm, enthusiastic is a nice word. Spastic, dispersed, frenetic, are other words (not-so-nice). I'd think of an idea, or s/one would suggest s/g to me, and I'd get all excited & be totally convinced it was the thing to do - but b4 I'd even get started I'd immediately start thinking of another way to do it and another style it would work with and another thing to add, and another, and another... Then, if in the middle of this, I get an idea about an entirely different thing, or someone happens to mention s/g else they would like me to do or thinks I should try, I'd head off in that direction, and then if -  Well, you get the idea. At times, it resulted in inertia. It was like I was in the eye of a hurricane of ideas - suspended in midair, unable to move in any one direction. That was bad. Sometimes, it resulted in a lot of projects going at once, but none really taken to fruition. That was bad too.

Eventually I learned a trick to handle my little problem.
Yes, lists. Lots of lists. Ask my husband and my son about my lists. (Guaranteed eye-roll in case you're fond of those.)

I learned to pick just one thing, and narrow my focus on that, while keeping a notebook (or scrap of paper, or corner of the utility bill, or a gum wrapper...) nearby to jot down the incoming onslaught of ideas. I work like a madwoman on just that one thing till I feel I've exhausted it (all the while noting things down here and there). Now, I may never get to all of those things I noted down, but my mind, silly thing, is tricked into thinking I will! It leaves me alone long enough to get something fully accomplished. Then I look up and say (sometimes out loud, but just because my dogs like the sound of my voice) "What's next on the list?"

It works! I finished a full 10 piece set of illustrated Math workbooks, a 400+ page novel, wrote & illustrated several little storybooks for kids, and finished many pieces of artwork in this manner. However, it does result in some funny themes in my creative life. For example, I would get interested in creating beautiful Art Nouveau-style illustrations and would spend a week or so (sometimes more - whatever it took to satiate the artistic beast inside) just doing that. (Meanwhile I'm bombarded with new Coloring Storybook ideas, Abstract designs catch my eye and try to woo me away, interesting product ideas pop up and screech "Make me! Make me!"  "I will, I promise!" Note, note, jot, jot, quick sketch.) Then, suddenly, one day I'm done with it - I feel like I've taken it as far as I want to go. I look over my lists (gum wrappers, scraps of paper, etc) and whatever is screaming the loudest (let's say it's digital Abstract designs) gets my full attention.

If you're not totally lost by now, you may recall this had s/g to do with my Etsy shop? Yes! Because, you see, my poor Etsy shop reflected all of these various stages! When I started it, I was very much into Fantasy Art. So the banner had this rosy-fading-into-lavender background with a Celtic knot border, and a lovely somewhat blurry white owl (did you know that Guinevere is another name for owl?) hanging in midair under a softly, glowing moon and a single star. Awwwww. Too late! It's gone! You can't see it anymore - it is outta there! Why? It didn't play well with my (later stage) digital Abstract designs in bright, bold colors or the glowing Pop Art kids prints, or the black and white Kids Coloring Storybooks, or the retro look" Puppy and Kitty in the Garden" prints. Here, see what I mean? Be forewarned - it makes me queasy just looking at these next to each other!

See? And thus, we come (finally) to my Shop Identity Crisis. My shop is deeply personal. After all, it is a reflection of what I do as an artist. I tell ya, I agonized over this for days. I didn't want to get rid of anything - I love them all! Eventually, I knew what I had to do. The shop had too many personalities to fly under one banner. And so, I came to the painful decision to split them up. A new shop to hold all of the Kids Art. A new banner for the first shop that could accommodate varied art styles. And that's what I have been working on since we last "spoke". It took a lot of focus because even just the thought of a new shop dedicated to Kids Art got my wheels spinning and my gears grinding! (Focus, focus, note, note, jot, jot, sketch, sketch)

Aaaand, I'm done! New shop, new banners (altho the kids' banner needs some tweaking). I'm so happy! I feel whole again! And I have LOTS of new ideas for both! Look, look! You can go to Etsy now!
Original shop;
New Kids shop!!!

But you will come back, won't you? :)


Cindy D said...

I love that "DO NOT GO THERE NOW" haha. Also, if I get you correctly, I think what you are saying is that just throwing things up in my shop and waiting for the fame and fortune is not an effective strategy for success. I suppose I will have to re-think my art world domination plan.

I totally get you with the too many things at once. In my case I am also quite accomplished at procrastination, so I think you have actually completed way more things. Lists, for me, almost always turn into just another delay tactic.

I think you'll have to tell us (your burgeoning blog audience) more about this novel at some point? Oh, and speaking of Art Nouveau-style illustrations, those bookmarks you made are terrific. Have you done any larger pieces in that style? Do you have a favorite style or is part of the trouble that you cannot choose?

smacart said...

Hi Cindy! It's fun meeting up in different places on the web! And yes, part of my problem is I don't have a favorite style among those that I've tried. (Altho when I'm trying to concentrate on just one I also delude myself that it is the favorite! I am quite accomplished at Self Delusion.)

At one point I did a lot in the Art Nouveau style - paintings, drawings and t-shirt designs. Right now I'm doing more with the digital Abstract Art because I have a lot of black and white drawn that just need coloring to finish them off. But eventually I'll run out of those or lose interest and move on. Maybe back to Art Nouveau!
Re the novel - oh boy! That is my baby! When there is some news on that you will find me at my new address - Top O' the World!

Lisa said...

Hi from a fellow Posh Nursery team member!! I have the opposite problem to you - I am very naughty and spend far too much time social media-ing and not enough time creating! I hope our team helps out with your new promotion strategy and looking forward to seeing how things progress for you!

Sheri McClure-Pitler said...

Hi Lisa,
I am so excited about being a member of a team that creates beautiful environments for children! It i one of my favorite things to do. Thank you for stopping by. I looked at the team blog - it's wonderful! Added it to my links here.
Looking forward to working together,