Tag Archives: art business

Motherhood and the Creative Process

Inspiration strikes. I rush to find paper and pencil. Lines flow from my hands and I am entering the zone. That place where the rest of the world falls away and I focus on the task at hand. Time has no meaning here.

Then the baby cries. The sound that no mother can ignore. I rush to his side, all thoughts of what I was working on fade away. My baby needs me.

I have two beautiful children. They have introduced new levels of joy and chaos into my life. Sometimes the chaos side can be overwhelming. The holiday season, the busiest time of year for my art, is here. It is also the busiest family time of year, with birthdays and family gatherings in abundance.

When I first started my business, I remember reading blogs from successful craft business moms who somehow managed to produce high quality and quantities of their craft while being amazing mothers. I thought, I can do this too. It should be a piece of cake. I only work part time at my “regular” job. That’s plenty of time to balance motherhood and both my job and my business.

The reality is that it is not as easy as it looks. Finding balance is the key. Sometime that means that my house isn’t as clean as I think it should be or that I take on fewer commissions than I would prefer. Sometimes it means splurging on a babysitter before a craft fair to make sure I have time to produce enough inventory. Sometimes it also means having a table at a craft fair that is a little sparse. Sometimes it means getting a couple hours less of sleep a night.

Working long stretches at a time aren’t possible anymore. I have to be ready to jump into a project the moment the youngest is napping. I have to be ready for the inevitable interruptions.

I’ve found that I am a mom, not a super hero. I’m human and that is ok.

Here are some of the things I have learned:

1. Don’t compare yourself to others – Every parent has their challenges. Even the ones that make everything look easy. Do the best you can do. Don’t worry about everyone else.

2. Find balance – We all know and feel that our kids should come first. But unless we are going to close down shop, we need to remember to give some time and attention to the business. Sometimes it feels a bit like juggling knives. Sometimes everything just falls into place. Honestly, to me this is the hardest thing to do. You have to find what works for you and your family. Take one day, one moment at a time.

3. Share your creativity with your kids – Inspiration can fizzle if you don’t cultivate it. Some of my best ideas have come out of what we call “special art time with Mommy.” My eldest loves to draw and paint. Nourishing his artistic spirit also nourishes my own. He has reminded me how much the act of being silly can inspire creativity.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – There is this myth of the super mom. She is someone who is so together she can do anything. She doesn’t ever break down. She is so amazing that she doesn’t need help.  Here’s the thing – she doesn’t exist. Everyone needs help at some point. there is no shame in asking. People wont look down on you if you ask. That help might be what you need to succeed.

5. Don’t forget yourself – This can be said to any parent, not just those pursuing their creative business dreams. If you are over extended and worn out, you wont be able to take care of anyone or anything else.


The Habit of Art

In college I overheard two professors talking about a student. One was laughing about how this student hadn’t turned in their assignment using the excuse of not having enough time. The other made a quip about how this student would never succeed because artists never have to find the time for art. Art should be like breathing.

I remember being a little insulted by this conversation. I was not the student they were talking about, but I was struggling to fit art into my schedule. Sure I doodled anytime I had a pen and paper, but I was having trouble finding the time to do formal studies and finished pieces.

The thought that “real” artists naturally do art all of the time was something that has haunted me for a long time. The more I became involved in the art community, the more I realized that I wasn’t alone in my struggle. Art takes work. You have to practice.  You have to be dedicated to be a successful artist. You have to continually grow and develop your skills. You have to learn about business and marketing. All of this takes time. In many cases, you have to try to fit this all in with other responsibilities (family, second job, etc). You kind of have to really want to be an artist.

So, were those professors right all of those years ago?If you don’t instinctively do art all of the time, will you fail?

The answer isn’t that cut and dry. If you don’t make time for it, you probably wont succeed. You can learn how to make doing art a habit. However, making and breaking habits is difficult work. You have to change the way you think of things. It takes time.

I’m still working on changing my habits. I want to up the time I spend on formal studies and not just finished pieces.

If you are interested in how to make or break habits, I recommend this book.

Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don’t, and How to Make Any Change Stick by Jeremy Dean

It talks about the science behind making and breaking habits and gives you some ideas on how to change habits. I’ll warn you though, that Mr. Dean points out that we are not as in control of our brains and habits as we might think. Changing isn’t easy.

I have no affiliation with Mr. Dean, the publishers, or sellers of the book. I actually started reading it to see if it could help me develop better fitness and nutrition habits. The more I read, the more I realized it could help me with my art too.

Obvious Outdoor Event Lessons

I did my first outdoor Farmer’s Market today in Keene, NY and I learned some lessons about outdoor venues… lessons that should have been obvious in hindsight.

First, it is windy outside. If you have a tent anchor it. Luckily, mine was adequately anchored for the light wind we had today. My display, however, was not. I work with wood. Wood is actually pretty light. Some of my bowls took flight. None were damaged, thankfully.  The other problem with my display was with the metal grid I use to hang some of my pieces from.

A gust knocked it over. One of my pieces was damaged. I potentially lost customers because I had to fix my display.

My first idea to fix the problem was to put the walls to my tent up. This worked for a while, but it was insanely hot. Again I potentially lost customers, because no one wanted to stay long enough to browse. Even with the walls, the display was knocked over again.

My final attempt to fix the problem was to stabilize the grid. I don’t think it looked as good. If I had thought of it earlier I would have rearranged my entire display around it.

Now I just need to figure out a more stable way to display my bowls outside. .

Why All Artists Should Take a Photography Class

One thing that I have become painfully aware of the last few months is that I am not a photographer. I have read tips and tutorials on how to photograph art, but my photos never seem to capture my work.  Take this piece, for example –

Bloodwood Pendant, copyright Christina Kester 2011

This is a bloodwood pendant with a tree design done in pyrography. I took about 10 pictures of it and most were completely unusable. In this picture (the best of the bunch), the background is washed out and the pendant is too saturated and lacks the rich complexities of the wood. I can fix some of these errors in Photoshop, as I did here –

Bloodwood Pendant, copyright Christina Kester 2011

I adjusted the levels of the photo and I played with the saturation of the pendant itself. It is a better picture, but it still falls far short of the actual piece. If I wanted to sell this piece online (using one of these photos), I would have to make a disclaimer that the photograph is not representative of the piece. Otherwise, I could end up with an unhappy customer, since the pendant is darker, richer, and has more depth and luster than in the photograph. For now, it is back to reading how-to’s and maybe even a basic photography book.

In short if you want to be a successful artist or crafter, it is a really good idea to learn photography. It will save you a lot of time and headaches down the road.

Craft Fairs

I now have two small craft fairs under my belt. While that does not make me an expert by any stretch of the imagination, I did learn a few valuable things from my experience. Before my shows, I did some online research on what to bring with me and how to stage my display.  For my checklist, I used a list by Bazaar Bizarre and adapted it to my needs. It is important to keep in mind that the fairs I went to were small, local events. If you were going to a bigger festival, you would probably need more things.

  • Information and directions to the craft fair – For Applefest, I needed to find the person who ran the festival to see where to set up. For Colors of Fall, I was given a map and my spot was marked.
  • Inventory – I brought everything I have to both events. I highly recommend bringing more than you think you will need. It can be hard to gauge how much you will sell, particularly if it is your first show in that venue. At the smaller fairs I went to, I learned that I need to have more lower priced items and fewer higher priced items. I brought a portfolio of work I had sold to Colors of Fall. The people who were really interested in my work would take the time to look through it.
  • Inventory List/Price List – All of my items had prices clearly visible, however they were not affixed to the items. It was nice to have a list of prices so that I could make sure the tag was next to the right piece if someone had set it down in a different spot after picking it up to look at it. Having a complete inventory list will also help you keep track of what you have sold. I marked an item as sold immediately on my inventory list.
  • Change –  For the small fairs I went to, I had $100 in $5’s and $1’s. I kept it in a locked cash box. Some people like cash aprons or cash bags better because it is easier to take it with you if you have to leave your booth for any reason.
  • Display – This was something I put a lot of thought into. Your table (or tent) is the first thing your potential customers are going to see. Make sure that you cover your table with a cloth at the very least. I also added some seasonal elements (leaves and gourds). Don’t forget your sign. You want people to know who you are. Here are some pictures of my display. There are a few things I want to do differently next time, but it isn’t a bad start.
  • Helper – For me, this was important. I really wanted the moral support for my first show. And having someone around to mind your table/booth while you go to the restroom is a life saver. Here are some pics of my awesome helpers.

  • Business cards – Customers may want an easy way to find you again.  I went through a couple hundred at the very small fairs I went to, so bring a lot.
  • Receipt book – I didn’t actually use the one I brought, but I really want to use it next time especially with the larger purchases.
  • Cell phone – Always a good idea to have
  • Packing materials and bags –  I used the paper that my unfinished bowls were shipped in to wrap purchases. For bags, I used ones I kept from the grocery store.
  • Snacks and water – To help keep your energy up
  • Miscellaneous supplies –  Pens, paper, tape, sewing kit etc.
  • Business license and tax permits – It is the law. Make sure you are conforming to it.
  • Camera – It is a good idea to take a picture of your display for future reference and for marketing
  • Portfolio –  If you have room on your table, it is nice to bring a portfolio or even just a photo album of work you previously sold or didn’t bring with you.
  • Craft Supplies – Work on your craft during downtime… besides the fact that people are curious and may ask you about it, it keeps you busy.
So far my experiences have been positive. One of the fairs was not high in sales, but was full of information. I learned which of my designs seem to be the most popular and what price range people were more likely to buy.  I hope my next craft fair in Tupper Lake, NY on October 15th proves to be a good one. 
Cheers and good luck in your own artistic endeavors.

Thoughts from a Meeting with the SBA and New Work

A couple of weeks ago I had a meeting with someone from the local Small Business Administration (SBA). I got a lot out of the meeting and would recommend that any artist who is having trouble with or just needs some advice on the business side of art give it a try. My meeting was specifically about writing a business plan. It is something you have to do if you want to get funding, but my goal  is to be able to provide myself with a road map with some clear goals.

I went in concerned that I was crazy to want to dive into a full-fledged craft business in a rocky economy. One of the first things that the counselor told me was that the art and craft market is a little different from other sales markets. In part, this is because people buy the connection with the artist as much as they are buying a unique item. So one suggestion she gave me is to make myself, not just my product, stand out.  A bad economy is not necessarily a bad time to start a craft business.  Planning and hard work can make it viable.

Another suggestion the counselor gave me was to go over my prices carefully.  She said artists and crafters tend to undervalue their time. I am certainly guilty of not tracking my time very well. It can be difficult to do when balancing working at home and caring for an exuberant young child. But I have started recording the time I sit down to work and the time I get up, even if only for a moment. It has been an eye opener.

Finally, the counselor gave me some great general advice on craft fairs. She said that each craft fair is a different market. What sells at one may not sell at another even if they are close geographically. It can take some trial and error to figure out what to bring to each fair. She also suggested bringing a portfolio of my work that includes items that I have sold or that I didn’t include in the fair. With this customers can see the full range of what I can do. If I advertise that I take commissions and do custom work, I may be able to get more sales.

My first craft fair is coming up soon (Applefest in Peru,NY on Sept 17 and 18). I hope that I can use what I have learned and make it a successful and enjoyable experience.


As for new work, I have a lot of it. Here is a sample of some of my most recent.

copyright Christina Kester 2011


copyright Christina Kester 2011


copyright Christina Kester 2011

Wood Bowl Design Preview

Starting in late September to early October, I will be decorating wood bowls using pyrography (wood burning) and offering them for sale. Here’s a sample of some of the designs I will be offering.

copyright 2010 Christina Kester

By the time I start production, I will have many more designs to choose from. I have already received a lot of interest, including some pre-orders. I will be posting final designs and prices when I start production. If you are interested in purchasing a bowl with one of my designs and would like more information (including prices), please e-mail me at fireoakstudio@gmail.com.

Taking a Break

I’m going to be taking a break from the business side of art for a few months and just do art for me. My schedule at my full-time job, which I must have to pay the bills, leaves little time for the necessities of life… like sleep, time with my family, and art. The stress of it all is making it so I am getting sick frequently. So, I’m dropping a few things in order to recuperate. I will still post new art on occasion and I will pop in to my favorite sites every now and again. My plan is to get back into my quest towards becoming a professional artist no later than the start of the new year. For now, I’ll be focusing on staying healthy and stress-free (or at least stress-reduced).


A Good Resource

Just a quick note today. I stumbled across a really good resource for artists aspiring to make a living doing what they love  – http://arts-careers.com/success/

If turning art into a career is something you want to do, please check this out.


Sun and Festivals

The past two weeks have been busy. I have a couple of new ink drawings, which I will post by the weekend; I celebrated my anniversary with my husband; I caught a nasty little stomach bug and recovered, mostly; and I continued working on my goal of becoming a full-time artist.

 The Boulder Creek Festival was last weekend. It was fun and sunny, but too busy to really get a chance to speak with artists. I did get some ideas on how to present my art at an art fair like this and what types of equipment I will need.  

I am still taking inventory of my art and supplies. It surprises me how much I actually have. I even found a rather large, at least large for me, blank canvas that I didn’t know I had. When I get the time and space where I can paint again I am totally going to do something fabulous with it.

After doing some more research on local art festivals, I think I have found a few that I might be able to do this year on my limited budget. I’m looking into the Celebrate Lafayette festival on September 25th, the Louisville Labor Day Festival on September 6th, and the Longmont Farmer’s Market Holiday show in December. All of them have entry/jury fees of under $150. I will keep you all posted on which ones I end up going for. I was planning on doing the Longmont Art Walk again this year, but unfortunately, I missed the deadline by a day.

I have an even bigger list of events to look into for next year.  Now I need to see what the cost difference is between renting a tent versus buying a tent is.

For those of you interested in art festivals, here are some useful resources:

A list of what you need, plus some tips – http://www.lifetime.com/tipssolutions/organization/article.aspx?postid=174

Overall Advice – http://www.squidoo.com/art_festival

An older thread at wetcanvas forums that has some useful information – http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=169893