Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Since today is Halloween, talking about transformations seems like the perfect topic. Often we think of the undead, or the dead rising to some kind of life during the dark hours between Oct. 31st and Nov. 1st. You know the drill.

Cities talk about bringing themselves back from the dead and we will all witness New York City do that from one of the worst storms to  ever hit it. New Orleans too is literally back from the dead. Who will ever forget the chaos at the Super Dome those days after Katrina and now watch a football game being played in that same arena today?

Art has transformations, and unless we talk about the Armory Exhibit in the early 1900's, which set the New World on fire, art tends to move at a glacial pace. And since Armory, many have questioned whether what has followed IS (even) art.

On a simpler note, anyone who has tried to write a book, pen a song and yes stared at a black canvas, they are also transforming something that can be seen or heard and in the process maybe transform themselves as well.

Here is an example just about any tole or craft painter sees every time they start a new project. The blank birdhouse on the right is, well, blank. The possibilities are endless.

I had enough birdhouses and refused to buy yet another just to get a wreath over the door. I couldn't find some of the additional pieces I wanted to make this a Christmas Birdhouse so added what I had and painted on the rest. Actually it does create three dimensions and the addition of the painted parts completes the picture. You can be sure NO ONE will have a birdhouse like this nor can they buy one. I don't even have any of the parts I used. Next year in Vegas I'm getting them by the handful. Birds, trees, snowmen, stars and anything else that adds to the blanks we purchase that help us make the creation our own.

Many of us are creative at transforming ourselves in costumes today, use that same ingenuity with your crafting! 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

When Are You Good Enough, If Ever?

The hardest thing for me is to expose myself to criticism. We all dislike that. Artistic criticism that reflects on something you've created and may even be proud of is harder to accept. Yet that happens each and every time I let someone see what I've created. In my case that would be each time I post a new item on my Etsy store. On the store you don't actually hear the comments but the number of views, favorite views or postings on Pinterest tell the tale. In fact after a discussion with a friend today, his comments caused me to check my Etsy Hearts. This is a compiling of all your item views and if they gave it a heart or favorite. They even give you a ratio of hearts per views. The paintings hands down had the fewer views and even fewer "hearts." As an artist I was a failure.

Oddly, the paintings that I considered minor, learning paintings, had more hearts than larger, more finished, more fully realized paintings. What gives?

Even more puzzling was the fact that craft items I painted were wildly more popular than any of my paintings. Yet, just like the paintings, I realized they didn't sell either. So the dilemma is and I guess remains until I finally give up, what do you do? Crafts? Paintings? Nothing?

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Work In Progress

Yesterday, trying to decide what I should paint next, I got into a discussion with a friend. He said that I should find a theme of painting and work on it to improve and excel in that genre. Again, the 10,000 hours to master something. I protested that all of the great artists painted a variety of things...landscapes, florals, still life, portraits. Even my beloved Van Gogh painted a very wide spectrum of subjects. However, I had to pause when he asked me to tell him without thinking what paintings of his do you remember most? I responded with "Sunflowers" and "Iris's"

There were many more, "Starry Night," his self portraits, his mother, the room he lived in, "Yellow House," but those flowers are what I remembered most. In fact I saw my first of his three "Sunflower" paintings as a child at the Portland Art Museum where I was taking art classes. That was his point. Van Gogh painted many subjects but a few stood out from the rest.

So we discussed flowers and floral subjects. He felt at this point florals were my strength. I had an ability to give flowers vibrancy, a voice so to speak. I decided in class that I would put the landscape aside for now and try to paint the plumerias in my yard.

As you can see, this is a work in progress. It is strange but I find the beginnings of paintings rather ugly. The under paintings are jarring. Odd colors colors are often used; they appear to be discordant but if you look closely at a scene, you will find a cast, a tint that somehow ties the painting together. I noticed the profusion of subtle pinks in my cactus painting and built the entire painting around that. There are many greens but pinks touch every part of the painting. Here I found an undercurrent of peach tones, in the flowers, the edges of the leaves, the surrounding color.

Using acrylics it is easy to add layer after layer building up colors without worrying about the color below. I sometimes miss the smearing around with oils but have a new appreciation for being able to go back and add a transparent layer and see if I like the effect without having to wait for it to dry and being able to quickly remove it if I don't.

I guess in many ways, we need to find the underlaying "color" of our lives. We are a work in progress and remain rough images until we begin to flesh in the details. In adding these details we flesh out a our lives just as we would a painting. It is these colors, shadings, nuances of color that flesh out and complete the whole.

The same can be said for an artist. A good artist is always a work in progress. Each creation is an attempt to create an iconic image of the world. Create something we love or hate; the hate being a symbol of something amiss with the inherit beauty of the world, the love being the beauty, something we appreciate and want to share with others.

Art is never in a void. Much art is created every day. Yet of all the art in the world, there remain those pieces that move us, if not sometimes to tears by the shear beauty of what they represent.

I was able to hear Steve Wozniak the other day, the co-founder with Steve Jobs of Apple Computer. He urged the audience to never give up. Do what your heart wants to do. This from a man who in many ways singlehandedly created the computer that revolutionized the world. He was saying again what Joseph Campbell said in his books about the myths of man, "Follow your bliss."


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Artist's Lair

I know artists and crafters and I am always surprised at their work spaces. Well, that is the name but the reality is often quite different. In fact, despite all the books that show you a famous artists or quilter or crafters working space, and I have a dear friend who has a room like that, the reality is anything but.  As an example, here is my nook in the den where all of my crafts are painted. We can all agree it is NOT pretty but it does have just about everything I need pretty much in easy reach. Paints are behind me and those I am using are left on the work table. Brushes are there in a rotating caddy along with a variety of files, clamps, glues, trays and palates to mix and use my paints. I use fingernail paints for details and wooden chopsticks to get the right sized dots!

I have shelves for idea books, art books and folders where I keep ideas already tried. I haven't been very good yet about keeping printed photos of my projects though the computer does have pretty good digital files that are backed up on another hard drive just in case. The amount of books have been reduced as well. If I haven't looked at it or used in for a few years, it probably wasn't needed. I parted with about 10 years of "American Artist" when I realized they were taking space on my shelves and after a year or two tended to repeat themselves. New artist and photos, same theme.

Also, I looked at those paintings and knew, at least at that time, I would never be that good. I didn't go to art school, train in Europe or wherever, and most likely would never try.

Fortunately, that wasn't what happened. Kicking and screaming, years of frustration finally led to a few breakthroughs and finally I was able to do what I saw in minds eye. Don't give up. As Malcolm Gladwell said in his book THE OUTLIERS, anyone can do anything and do it well if they are willing to put 10,000 hours into it. I don't know about you, but I have a few more hours to go!

Be sure to check out my Etsy store: Hard as it may seem, I might even inspire you.

Sunday, October 21, 2012 is WIRED!

The October issue of WIRED magazine has a truly fascinating article about The fact that WIRED, "the" geek magazine for years now, would be covering the artsy, fartsy world of artists and crafters makes for fascinating reading all by itself.

The article titled "ETSY: Goes Pro" asks the questions - can a marketplace for crocheted blankets and hand-beaded necklaces infiltrate the shelves of your local mall? A good question indeed especially in light of the recent questions and discussions of those who have ETSY stores and have seen their sales drop off a cliff. Here is a recent quote from a discussion about dropping sales, "The new browse thing has affected a lot of shops, I think... Views are down over 50% with me, and if you aren't seen you're likely to make less sales (usually...) Also intro of Google shopping may have had an impact..?"

The article of course does not cover that worry. No, in fact it covers primarily a story of one person (symbolic to be fair) who has been fortunate enough to need to expand beyond what they can do themselves and would need to find another site or create a web site and hire additional people to expand. The conditions of being a crafter on ETSY are fairly strict and that has always been a bone of contention. What IS handcrafted and what is not. It appears this is going to change.

ETSY, for those who are uninformed, was a site created in 2005 by a group by twentysomething techies who had drifted in the DIY crafter circuit. The foremost founder was Rob Kalin who remained at the helm until recently and by the time he was ousted was felt by some to be a hindrance rather than help for the crafting community. He was seen as more interested in ideology than business. Quoting WIRED, Kalin said, "I see Etsy as an art project." He saw Etsy as a cultural movement that could revive the power and voice of the individual against the depersonalized landscape of big-box retail.

Today the site is said to attract 42 million unique visitors a month who browse the 15 million products of the 800,000 sellers who use Etsy as their store front. As a seller myself I find these figures highly suspect especially when I mention the site to friends, acquaintances, or just about anyone I meet when I tell them what I do. Etsy they ask? What's that?

I didn't realize there were so many sellers and in many ways explains the battle all sellers are having just getting their items seen. This is a constant battle and much discussion goes on about how to get your products on the first few screens in a search. In fact, I think that some of these sellers make more selling books and such about how to sell on Etsy than selling items. Has Etsy reached its limit?

It IS highly profitable. With listings of 20 cents an item for four months and a fee of 3.5% of each sale, they get at least $9 million a year in listing fees alone. That doesn't include the selling fee and a whole bunch of other potential costs for special placements and the like.

The article goes on to say that the new CEO, a dedicated business type, wants to tweak the rules allowing people who "design" something outsource their designs and sell them on the site. Currently this is forbidden. But of additional worry is that Etsy is buddying up with brick and mortar stores such as retailer West Elm. This comes on the heels of their purchase of Trunkt which gives sellers tools to get their products "into the world in brick-and -mortar stores, catalogs and other online stores." Does that mean you could see handcrafted items at your local JCPenney? Maybe. Are these Etsy sellers manufacturing? The majority are not and could resent those who do yet retain the title "handcrafted."

I think the average sellers on Etsy are more worried about getting traffic to their stores and making a few sales than the few who have done extremely well and, as many feel, should move on. There comes a point when what you make is not your own and becomes your design but is not your creation anymore. Visit any craft or kitschy Christmas store. You see unique items that when inspected give you the creators name and then at the bottom say "Made In China." Yes there was an original but it has been duplicated a million times and can not truthfully be considered hand crafted. This is sort of like a Thomas Kincaid painting. There was one original and 10,000 copies.  The images of sweat shops in central Los Angeles and Southeast Asia quickly come to mind. Its not grandma knitting in front of her TV watching her favorite soap opera; its a factory where they may be knitting but the conditions would be deplorable.

Reading any of the books about being sellers on Etsy paints a grim picture. You would have to just about work 24 / 7 marketing your site just to make a living. And then, where is the time to create?

To be fair though, Etsy is still the gold standard if slow to innovate and when it does often at very awkward times. Competitors like ArtFire and TheCraftStar are even less known. In the latter's case it took months to come online after the posted start date. It has been rife with downtime, and after poor communication I never opened a store there.

I have no solutions or answers. It has been a year now for me and sales are almost nonexistent. I feel that I would be better off finding a local craft fair and seeing if my ROI would be better spent there. If you're interested here is the link to the WIRED article: .


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Cactus Flowers

You never know where you will be when you come across something to paint. I walk my dog everyday and with rare exceptions its usually the same route. I like my route because it doesn't require a great deal of thought.

One day, several weeks ago, one of the huge cactus plants in a side yard we pass often was blooming. The lighting, the bees, everything was just perfect except I didn't have my camera. Then I remembered I had just received my iPhone 5 and the camera was supposed to be much better than my old 3Gs. So I took out the phone and took a few shots. Continuing my walk, I forgot about the photos until I synced my phone. There they were and in such detail I was stunned. You could even see the pollen!

Looking for a painting to do in my class I decided to give the flowering cactus a try. The print was beautiful but I thought it would be too difficult to paint because of the complexity. So many lines and shades of green. I was surprised by the very pink cast of the cactus. In fact I was amazed at the amount of pink there was.

I started the under-painting using a black and pink background on archival polyester canvas. The outlines of the cactus and dark spaces were black and then I filled it in with pink. It looked like something a child might paint. It was awful. On top of that mess, I had decided to use only DecoArt Americana craft acrylic paints, something I don't do often with paintings as I find acrylics dry to fast. You don't have much time to blend. With SO many colors DecoArt makes it far to easy to become obsessed with colors. I like the idea of mixing paints and soon realized that is what I would have to do if I didn't want to spend all my time finding the "right" color.

If anything, as much as I like my classes in Las Vegas, this obsession of teachers using 10 colors when you could mix a little of this and that, bothers me. Where is the creativity? And, as everyone knows, while we may paint the same subject, no two paintings are ever the same. Never! Ever!

This painting took me longer than usual, probably nine hours. I built up the cactus first, then when the background and the cactus were right I added the flowers that had to float over everything else. This took awhile as it required first a greenish petal, then layers of white, accenting again with green and finally the wash of alizarin red for many of the tips. The centers also required layers. Green, then white and yellows, even a few strands of beige all to create the variety of color the flowers had. I have learned to love the Americana paints and enjoy that it is easy to build up layers as the one before is dry so quickly. I especially like the idea of taking home a dry painting. I guess, I will have to try the DecoArts Traditions paints as they are supposed to be much closer to professional paints and they have a wonderful feeling when painting them.

I think this turned out quite well. Especially for a grab shot while walking my dog. I urge all artists to keep an eye out for that scene that has potential! Considering that just about everyone has a cell phone today and that well over 50% of all photos are now taken with them, you will never have an excuse NOT to capture that perfect painting!


Monday, October 15, 2012

A Yard Sale Item Renewed!

In a earlier post I mentioned that with careful looking you could find some real treasures to work with in your crafts at yard sales, flea markets and other venues where others peoples junk is your treasure.

My wife picked up a handmade note holder at a yard sale. I considered it for a long time before doing anything with it.  After painting several of my crazy quilt designs on trays and such, that were admittedly rather colorful, I came across this item once again and thought, well, why not? And why not in more muted tones?

It had been given a walnut stain on basically pine wood by the maker. It was still well made and as I discovered still very useful. If it was near a phone, it would save many a dash for pen and paper. Here in one place was what you needed. It held a pencil or pen and had a looooooong roll of adding machine tape to write on. Once the note was made, you pulled down and tore off the paper. How much better can it get? Writing on paper is still faster than some digital device I believe.

Adding machine tape is available at any Office Depot or Staples store and pencils and pens are always hanging around. To make this work though, make sure you put the writing instrument back.

It is always a wonderful experience to bring something back from the dead. I hope this gives you all a sense of inspiration when you are looking for things to work on or recreate.

Space Art

Ever since I was a kid, I was fascinated by space. I read all the great sic-fi writers of the 50's - Bradbury, Heinlein, Asimov, Dick...the list went on and on. Even the comics were far less violent but far more inventive as well. I don't think I ever dreamed that the many gadgets of Dick Tracey's era would be a reality in mine today.

I can't even begin to count the hours we would stay up all night to watch a rocket launch only to have the first few Vanguards go up, and then disastrously come down in front of our weary eyes. The month before my father died we were at the Seattle World's Fair and they told us that soon we would see live television from Europe. Sure enough we did. Those were heady days.

As a Peace Corps Volunteer stationed in the jungles of Liberia, West Africa, I would get a projector and movies from USAID and showed my village Apollo 11, plus several of the space walks. A few had been to Monrovia and seen movies so to think that man had flown there, as the NASA film of Apollo 11 clearly shows, to them it was well, a movie!

I missed the premier of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" and waited until I was home to see it. I think I must have watched it 50 times over the years and each time find something else I didn't notice before. The idea that man could go into space, was probably not alone (consider all the planets that have been discovered just this past year alone) fascinated me. The early Hubble photos of space were stunning. All those stars until you are told those are not stars but galaxies, just like our own that seem to go on forever. If that doesn't make you humble then nothing will.

The space shuttle is in some ways man's attempt to learn more, not only about space but about ourselves. The shuttle, created and built in California shows a more confident and maybe a more naive America. The last of the shuttles, one where we even knew people who helped build it, returned home. We watched it wing by on its mother ship and waited eagerly to see it move through the city to its final resting place this last weekend.

Last Friday was moving day and that seemed to go well. Saturday we were told it was moving and in fact arrived near the Forum ahead of schedule. We piled into the car, went down Crenshaw and decided the mall at the corner of Martin Luther King Blvd. and Crenshaw was the place to be. At 10 the crowds were light. After a bit we decided to go down Crenshaw and found a tiny triangle of a park with grass, trees and shade. It was perfect. So we and a few other souls camped out. It was about an hour away, we thought, what better place to be. Finally, after lunch at one and then the report that it was still miles away (it took 90 minutes to go five blocks) I calculated the time and realized that at 26 blocks away it would be dark by the time it arrived. We had better go south. And we did.

At 60th and then Florence we saw it. I loomed over the street like some huge dinosaur. A beautiful, scarred but regal creature that man created. It was beautiful. I am sure it had many design decisions in its creation to make it safe and able to enter and return from space, yet there was a symmetry that was truly beautiful. As we walked further south it disappeared. Finally we stopped and waited for it to come to us. And it did. We could see a wing, then the nose and then the tail and finally, there it was.

Slowly it lumbered towards us and was going at a pretty good clip as if at four hours late it had to make up for lost time. It loomed over us and then was past when suddenly it stopped. They blocked the sidewalk and then looking up I could see why. The wing was maybe a foot away from the building to the side and there was a stand of trees up front.

Carefully the remote operator walked her down the street and once clear of the building turned her left to miss the trees. Everyone clapped.

Walking along beside her and then past her there were many beautiful things occurring. The operator was performing one of the most intricate ballets I would ever see, and we were seeing a truly functional piece of equipment that was also one of man's most beautiful yet functional pieces of art.

There is beauty around us and often it may not be beauty of its first viewing. I don't think scientists ever worry about such things, yet, nature itself often demands that the things we create will be beautiful because to be functional there often is a symmetry that is inescapable.

While art may be in the eyes of the beholder, it is often art that we clearly did not expect. Create!


Be sure to check out my store at:

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Artist and the iPhone 5

I have had an iPhone since the day they first arrived...June 29, 2007. In January 2007 I walked into MacWorld just after Steve Jobs announced the first iPhone. It wasn't like anything else in the marketplace and certainly not what all the pundits thought it would look like or would do. Here was, well, a computer the size of a phone. A computer that oh-by-the-way you could make a call on.

When you walked in a 50 ft. high photo of the phone greeted you. There were about two models of it in a glass covered dome rotating much like the Hope Diamond does at the Smithsonian. After listening to the spiel I had my doubts as did just about everyone else around me. Jobs was right though, just about everyone hated their cell phones. I certainly hated my "state of the art" Motorola Razor. If I wanted to do anything with it, even find basic information, I would look around for a teenager and have them find it for me. It was that bad.

The O'Reilly books booth had signed up David Pogue of the New York Times to talk about the phone and it turned out he was about the first non Apple or AT&T person to get to use one. In fact he played with the one Steve Jobs had. Finally at the end of his talk he said that "this will be the definitive device of the 21st Century. This will change everything." We listened to him but had no clue what he was talking about. After all, it was a phone that could do a few more things. How clueless we were.

I had been ill the month before the phone was to arrive and the day before I stood in line with the hordes to get my phone, my wife had flown to Kenya.  iPhone in hand, I had lots of time to learn to use it. By the next day, going to a class a friend had signed me up for, I discovered I knew as much as the kid teaching us how to use it, in fact a bit more. After all, he hadn't had his hands on it much before me.

I had a 3Gs that was showing it's wear in that it was dropping calls, was getting slower and slower and had declining battery life. Excited about the iPhone 5 and the camera it had, I ordered mine at 5:30 am the first day you could online. It didn't arrive until two weeks later and well, it has lived up to all its hype. And sometimes in ways I hadn't planned for.

One of the features that everyone talks about, especially professional photographers, is the great camera it has.  In fact, many of them carry and use their iPhone for know the kind you and I usually take. With 8 megapixels, it gives a sharp, and very clear image even allowing for a small amount of adjustments in the phone itself. If that isn't enough, there are many free and purchasable apps to enhance your photos before you ever use them.

In fact, I am painting a photo I took while walking my dog. Cactus flowers where you can even see the pollen on the bees! It is a wonderful tool that you should have with you always. Be it a scene you would like to paint, an idea you want to remember even a label or email address you want and can't find a pen to write it down. Snap a photo. After you use it, delete it.

While I know people are making art from their camera phones, for the serious painter or crafter, this is an important tool to have with you at ALL times. It is a recordable device that can play music while you paint, send ideas to fellow painters or crafters, make movies of you that you can send to YouTube, email, and a whole bunch more with a device that is literally in your hand.

If you haven't, visit an Apple, AT&T, Verizon or Sprint store and play with one. Apple stores are best because the employees REALLY know their stuff and you can play to your hearts content. You will find, like I have, you can't leave home without it.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Day With Kathie George

I write a newsletter for my art teacher, Diane Trierweiler, owner of the Tole Bridge in Norco, CA. It has been a wonderful learning experience in many ways. One of the perks is that I get to find out about the latest materials, books and in this case learn all about visiting teachers.

Saturday I took a class taught by Kathie George, a well regarded artist and teacher both in this country, Canada and Europe. She was going to teach four classes over four days and I was able to attend the one on Saturday... DOORWAY IN FRANCE, a multi-media painting using Golden paints and mediums on Arches watercolor paper. Since I had never used either that brand of paint nor the mediums on paper of all things, I looked forward to learning all about them. As it turned out, I could use them on my own paintings and even some of the crafts I do. Golden is also famous for creating a type of acrylic paint that mimics oil based paints in that it takes several days for it to dry allowing you to come back and work the paint again the next day. It cleans up with water, not Turpenoid! This day, the acrylic paint dried in minutes!

Kathie, like Diane, is a wonderful affirming teacher. You can't help but like her bubbly spirit and the zest she brings working with you. No problem is too great that it can't be fixed. With great patience she worked with us showing a variety of ways to either do or, in some cases correct, a mistake you might have made. I certainly had my share. However, that is why we are learn. I don't think there was a person in the class who didn't learn something new and for me, using these materials opened a whole new range of possibilities.

I had never used crackle medium before and looking at my painting today, a day later, not sure I used it right. Some of the paintings showed quite clearly the effect and I can see a birdhouse or three using something like that soon. You spread it across a surface just like icing a cake. You can guess how many cakes I've done that to hence the lack of success! It gives it another look, one that I am eager to try again. And being an acrylic product it needs only water clean up and dries to a paintable plastic film. 

I clearly see the textured medium on my painting and love the way it gives an old world painterly look to the painting. There is no reason it can't be used on a canvas or wooden surface. Oh, the possibilities.

If you have never taken a class and have always wanted to try, go for it. Find a teacher that creates the type of things you want to do. Paintings, crafts, knitting, whatever. AND don't get discouraged if you fail on the first few tries. I don't even want to discuss my first class series of oil painting. In 14 tries, it was only the last painting, done with a subject no one else would touch, and completed even with the underpainting in 45 minutes that it all came together. I have never looked back. 

Also, never let a teacher discourage you. There are many who might. Keep looking for the teacher who like Diane or Kathie encourage you to try, stretch your abilities after every painting, who help you with suggestions and point out things that will make your projects stronger.

While I will attempt to teach my first class next year in Las Vegas at the Painting Convention, you should realize that every good teacher takes classes from other teachers. A good teacher never stops learning! The same goes for every student. NEVER stop learning.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Selling Online Redux

In my last post, I commented about how different sales were between a small craft fair in the town where I live compared to a year long attempt to sell many of these same items on my store. Seven sales in a year compared to four sales in four hours.

ETSY is not the only store I have tried online. I also heard about and tried ArtFire and the sales were even worse after six item and that was to a friend.

Though I have asked the question and have seen the same question or variations of it in the "team" posts on ETSY, other than my daughter (who urged me by the way to try and sell my items there) and my wife, no one has ever heard of ETSY. Now, if you ask them about Amazon or eBay everyone has heard of them. With many independent shops that Amazon and eBay manage for small sellers, buyers rarely realize they are not buying directly from these giants.

You never see ads, and rarely references to ETSY though they boast over a million items for sale and ten of thousands of sellers. In my mind its the best kept secret on earth. Meanwhile, the 20 cents per item for four months and the 3.5% on any sales keeps mounting. One sleepless night I figured it has returns in the millions. To be fair, eBay and Amazon charge fees, and while not particularly cheap are a big step above a brick and mortar store and have a marketing presence felt around the globe. No seller in a store in Rosemead will ever have that reach.

Being a senior, this computer gig and the steps that are required to set up stores and manage marketing and such is difficult. i won't even start on trying to set up a YouTube movie today even following a book that managed to have settings changed since it was printed. Yet it is amazing that from the very first day they came out, I was completely able to master the first iPhone and all the versions since. In fact, other than a few pages, the iPhone comes with just about no detailed instructions. Kids and old folks manage to use them just fine thank you.

So the conundrum is do you break out of your home shop? How do you reach potential buyers? I tell you, I really would love to know and I know that I am not alone.

The ETSY community is interesting. They are helpful, kind and of course artistic. And that could also be the greatest weakness. A friend observed that views to my shop are from other sellers looking at the competition. And looking at the source of views to my store, I have rarely had less than 90% of all viewers that didn't came from ETSY. Now its true you don't have to be a seller to buy on ETSY. However, it is the majority of viewers.

It is tempting to say this is sour grapes. and according to the authors of the books I have read about selling on ETSY, they are selling like gangbusters. A closer look at the average, non author seller tells a different story. Many sellers have few sales and ask why. Others have seen their sales drop by over half over the past year. The authors? I am tempted to say that the reality is they sell far more books than crafts. Meanwhile, the rest of us continue to look for a way to break out from the pack.

The answer may well be to take those items and pound the pavement finding a suitable brick and mortar shop that is willing to buy or sell on consignment these very same items.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Using The Internet To Sell Your Art

As I investigate "this selling your crafts" process, it is very apparent that in the early 21st Century, crafters who sell their crafts are of two minds. One vision is to sell in person at a craft fair or in some kind of brick and mortar store. The other vision, and usually by sellers who are under around 40, seem to have no allegiance to this brick and mortar vision and are comfortable and willing to sell online.

However, my experience has been, and I am guilty of this as well, its one thing to "see" it, but there is no more satisfying experience than being able to touch and feel an item. I noticed it at the craft sale Saturday and have noticed it over the years. So it is a dilemma.

The other problem with online selling for many artists and crafters is the fear that your original creation will be "ripped off." By that I mean that someone will copy your design and then sell it as their own.

Here is an example of what I mean. Hearts have always been a favorite theme of mine. I usually include one in just about all of my craft items and sometimes a painting as well.

Many artists use this theme as well. Am I copying another artist if I see something that uses hearts in an organized way such as this? I don't know. But I do know that I have seen vividly designed boxes that stretch the limits of what would be called the decorative arts. The concept is not original with me. How I execute it though, is.

Art is very derivative. An artist cannot escape being influenced by others. In fact, a teacher I go to made a comment that struck a chord with me when she said, "When I am working on a project or have projects in mind, I try not to look at what other artists are doing so I will NOT be influenced by them." To me, that is a telling comment. It is a very real realization that we are influenced by others. I have heard authors say the same thing. They are voracious readers but when they are writing, other than possible research they do not read any other competitive authors.

So, crafters are at a kind of crossroads...whether to sell online AND expose their work to others (and risk being ripped off) or to only sell in a brick and mortar or craft fair environment. And to be honest, after this past weekend I sold more items in those few hours to a minimal audience that I have almost sold all year online.

Now I am at a kind of dilemma, is it better to continue to sell on a site such as ETSY or make the commitment of getting the tent, tables and the paraphernalia that you need to go to fair after fair? At least items sold. This waiting online for a hit and if you are lucky a sale is, for me at least, increasingly frustrating.