Time to Create…A Business Plan

img_0688-e1552705468977.jpgJoy Poe, “Key Lime Pie” Graphite, Encaustic and Acrylic on Panel, 2015

My mom always tells me that every new skill learned is a specialized tool for my toolbox. For a long time I lamented that my art degree didn’t help me do the things I had dreamed. I drew nudes for goodness sake! (My dad still doesn’t quite get it!) How does a visual understanding of the human form translate into a useful tool in the “real world?” Well, for ten years that understanding helped me build a thriving massage therapy practice. My knowledge of the body was informed by years of drawing, long before I ever sat through an anatomy class for my licensure.

Massage therapy helped me develop my natural curiosity as I researched how to help my clients with injuries and discomfort. Perhaps more importantly, massage created a strong sense of empathy for others, which in my humble opinion, is so important to just being a good human.  In the dark, over hours, years and two presidential elections, I learned how to talk comfortably with people from all walks of life. I can see, now,  how art and massage mixed to grow a strong business. I hardly knew what I was doing, and I succeeded (for the most part)!

fullsizeoutput_1b3bSupremely pregnant with my second child at the Transylvania Farmers Market, Brevard

After some bucket-list level things happened in my life, (think marriage and children)  I found myself yearning to return to my first love: art-making. I had never really stopped making art, but I had never really pursued it with intention.

I started making felt flowers as a way to cope with post-partum anxiety, and discovered the world of creative entrepreneurship. Esty stores, pop-up shops, farmers markets, and festivals became testing grounds for business skills I never knew I possessed. I recall thinking, “If I can find success making felt flowers, I wonder what could happen if I pursued the art I am passionate about?”

When Heartfelt Flowers began to have scaling issues, I knew I needed some new tools. I began the Masters of Entrepreneurship at Western Carolina University with the dream of finding out what I could do if I followed my passion for making art and supporting others.

Now, the time has come to combine my ideas for Worthwhile Studio into a strong business plan. The excitement of finishing school is outweighed only by my hope to launch Worthwhile Studio. It will be small at first, to allow me to learn how to use these new entrepreneurial tools. What has continually surprised me throughout this program is seeing how much creativity and innovation go in to starting a business. I guess my mom was right. You never know what tools you might need in the future.



Introducing The Co-Creative Challenge

Hello Studio Mates! I just wanted to share an exercise for one of my final classes for my masters in entrepreneurship. We had to create a product introduction video to discuss a minimum viable product to consumers. After all my interviews, conversations, research, and personal experience, I have created a potential program for artists interested in arts business consulting. I call it the Co-Creative Challenge. Give it a watch!

Connecting Art and Business

As an artist, do you feel that sense of discord when someone tells you to learn how to market yourself? I know I do. Thinking of myself and my art as a product makes my art spirit raise an eyebrow and slowly shake my head.

Business-minded people see the importance of having a viable product, and more importantly an interested buyer. A business-minded person might very quickly tell an artist to change their product to meet the desires of potential customers. (Thus begins the eyebrow raising.)

Most artists, however, need to make their art without considering who will buy it upon completion. Such is the nature of creating authentic work. Believe me, the world needs the art that is made without profit in mind. Imagine if Vincent Van Gogh had never made Starry Night! Indeed, Van Gogh only sold one of over 900 paintings in his lifetime, Red Vineyard at Arles.

Surely there is a disconnect between selling art and making art, but the good news is that authenticity wins in both business and art-making. Especially now, as modern consumers seek out products and services that have personal stories. Buzz words like handcrafted, artisanal, local and ethical attract modern consumers, but art has always been these things and so much more.

The key to selling yourself is not making art that everyone wants, but finding the people who like your very unique, once in a lifetime voice.  Art buyers are looking for art that speaks to them. You make art to say something to the world. Finding where that conversation takes place is how you will create success for your art.

The Business of HeARTwork

A hobby in art is not the same as an artist who has a creative practice along side another career. For some artists, authentic heART-work requires a multitude of outlets to both be with their work and separate themselves from the challenge of creating authentic work. Therefore, artist’s, more often than not, have a variety of interests and activities outside of making art. These activities feed the artist, both literally and figuratively. What I’ve noticed is that artists can relegate their creative endeavors to “hobby” status either by refusing to do the heart-work required to make compelling art, or by allowing themselves to believe that making art part-time while working at another job precludes them from being a true artist. 

In my opinion, the amount of time an artist dedicates to making art does not define the quality of the work. Part-time, full-time, or as the mood strikes as long as the work is deep and authentic. My job as an arts business consultant is not to help you make quality work, but to help you learn how to support your work with income. Worthwhile Studio will help you set goals that define your vision, discover and learn about the people who support your work with purchases, and understand how to manage the financial aspects of being an artist. 

If this sounds like something you would like to have under girding your creative practice, then send me an email! I will keep you up to date with my progress in developing this service for artists.

Flights of Fancy

In my interviews this week, I’ve stumbled upon a stereotype about artists that I despise: Artists are flighty, flakey, and full of themselves. Yes, perhaps there are some underdeveloped creative spirits out there who fail to follow through, who agree to a commission they never complete, or believe themselves to be the most talented individual in the room. As my graduate studies come to a finish, I am considering how to help artists develop their creative careers, but I have concerns that this creative group can be unwieldy and troublesome to work with. However, I’m pretty sure this kind of person can be found in almost any profession. People more readily accept this stigma about artists because the creative process can seem so mysterious.

Artists are full of creative ideas. That’s why poets keep journals, painters keep sketchbooks, and bar drinks come with cocktail napkins. In Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic (which I highly recommend to any artist no matter your medium) she talks about how she believes Ideas find artists to bring them into the world. When an Idea comes to an artist asking to be created, the artist has the choice to work for the Idea or let the Idea move on to another artist. There are myriad reasons why an artist may pass on a particular Idea, and work diligently on others. This is one of the best concepts I’ve ever read that can explain the nature of artists and their flights of fancy with creative Ideas.

Going back to arts business mentorship, I believe it is imperative for an artist to answer to the question, “Is making art your business or your hobby?” Please consider this definition of hobby from Dictionary.com:

HOBBY [hob-ee] Noun, Plural Hob-bies. An activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation.

If making money as an artist is not your goal, if you would prefer to create only what you will as the Ideas come and go, then perhaps art is your hobby. Please know, hobby is not a bad word, and does not mean you are not a true artist. It just means your activities surrounding your creative practice are different than someone who plans to support themselves entirely as an artist. If making art and selling it is important to you, then your activities must include more than art creation. The good news is that building a business around art can also be a creative process. Sure, there are finances to consider and websites to be made, but there is also branding, maketing, networking, and so many other creative tasks. Perhaps working on your business can help you take a break from a heavy piece or give you insight about your next body of work. You never know where Ideas come from, but you do have to be ready to accept their offer to bring them into the world. Working on the business side of your art will allow you the opportunity to accept more creative Ideas because your work will be moving out into the world and supporting your next idea with the finances needed to support your studio.

If you are a working artist intent on selling your work, then perhaps an arts business mentor can help you take flight on your journey as a creative entrepreneur.

Mirrors and Mentors


I’ve interviewed a lot of artists and makers for one of my final courses in this master of entrepreneurship program. There are a few things that really touch my heart as I speak with these vibrant and creative individuals. They each have an inspiring passion for creating something. Painters, fiber artists, jewelers, every artist I’ve spoken with talked at length about their ideas for new creations, their collection of art materials, and the exciting journey of innovation they’ve taken as artists and entrepreneurs. When I inquired about who they ask for help in their creative endeavors, most artists told me they look to other creatives for support. One artist told me that although there is business help available to her, most of the time she has to translate traditional business advice to the specialized needs of a creative business. All of the artists I spoke with are interested in some form of arts business mentoring. The overwhelming answer to my question about their creative business strengths and weaknesses was they felt most confident in creating their products and least confident managing their business in the fast-paced world of internet search engines and social media presence. A lot has changed (and very quickly) for artists since the internet became a more accessible and acceptable place to sell and purchase art. Art schools have not adequately addressed the entrpreneurial needs of artists during this technological disruption of the art world.

What I have enjoyed so much about interviewing such a range of artists, is that I see myself and my artistic journey reflected in their stories. This mirror lets me see that the struggles I faced just out of art school, the disorientation I felt having to navigate the technology that changed as quickly as I learned it, they were not signs of my failure as an artist, but more a lack of understanding the process of building a business around my talents. I went back to school thinking I wanted to understand the business side of selling my work, and have come out the other side hoping to mentor other creatives based on what I’ve learned in this program. Creating art will always be my first passion, but seeing other artists succeed by doing what they love has taken a close second.