Posts tagged Social Media
Marketing ourselves

I've been a little quiet on social media for the last couple of weeks as I am building myself a new website. A photo of me banging my head against a monitor doesn't make for a good Instagram moment! I have been thinking about upgrading my website for a while - it is a basic Wordpress site that has served me well but I feel like I have out grown it. And seeing as I am resting between jobs (aka unemployed) it seemed like a good time.

I want a site that looks more contemporary, that allows me to display my work in lots of ways, that allows me to sell my work online, that can house a blog and that can 'grow' with me. Oh and I also want it to be a lot easier to use than Wordpress. My research fell into two categories - finding the best set up (site host, e-commerce provider etc) and looking at lots of sites to help me decide how I want mine to look. The first part was easy. I picked Squarespace as it is a one stop shop that is cheaper than other options. It is very easy to use and I can upgrade my basic plan if I need more functionality in the future. The Help section is really good and, if I get stuck, my daughter and her partner having been using it for years for their shop Good Press.

The second part - looking at other people's sites - was very enjoyable as I've seen some great art but it was also a bit surprising. Very, very few of the textile artists have a shop function or even list prices. And yet many of them will list a price when they exhibit work in galleries or at shows and I'm sure are as thrilled as I have been when somebody buys their work. So I wondered why not? Maybe it feels like setting up a shop is too much effort given that the number of sales is always, unfortunately, going to be small? (Which maybe it was before sites like Squarespace made it quite straightforward). Or are we worried that the audience will see us as less serious about our art if we put a price on it? Do we worry that it will be seen as craft rather than art? Are we concerned that viewers will scoff when they see the price of the work?

I hope not. I am deadly serious about my art. It is a passion. An obsession. I am going to continue to make art even if I never sell another piece. But let's get real. Making art costs money - if you add up everything you have spent this year on materials, on submission fees, on postage, on running costs for the space you work in, on your website, etc, etc, how much does it come too? And then there is time. I approach my art with the same professional attitude I use in my day job - my time has value and I want to be rewarded for the investment I make in my art. Being curated into shows is fantastic, thrilling and a big motivator. But somebody liking my work enough to spend money on it - now that is in a different league so why wouldn't I make it as easy as possible to buy?

My 100 (week) days of making (small) art

I have long admired those artist who publicly take up '100 days' challenges or '52 week' challenges. Committing to do something, whether it is making a text collage (as per Kathleen Loomis), making a finished small work of art everyday (as per Lisa Call) or only wearing clothes you have made for a full year (as per Maria Shell) is rather brave. It is also a great way of motivating yourself. A bit like declaring to the world that you're going on a diet or going to run a marathan.

Now some people who know me would say that I am pretty motivated / committed to making art. I set myself a target of spending 20 hours each week in the studio based on spending 2 hours each week day evening and 10 hours spread over the weekend. But when I spent some time recently assessing what I had, and had not achieved, over the last six months I realised that I am slacking during the week. I also realised that I had only finished one large piece of work during that 6 months and that I needed to be more productive if I am going to complete everything I want to over the coming 12 - 18 months.

So after much thought I have decided to declare to everybody who reads this that I am going to do the following starting tomorrow:

  • Spend a minimum of 2 hours in the studio every week day evening.
  • Spend those evenings creating small works of art only.
  • Complete at least one piece per week.
  • Post a photo everyday.
  • If the day job / family mean I miss an evening I will make up the hours within that week.
  • Spend my weekends doing 'admin', printing cloth and working on large scale pieces.

Here goes ......

Coming up for air

One of my goals for 2017 was to increase the number of blog posts by posting at least once a week. I've noticed that I get more 'traffic' when I put out posts close together. But I'm failing dismally. Why? Probably because I feel like my posts should have a proper subject, ideally something I've not covered before. It was easy last year when I was making and submitting lots of pieces. I could write about each piece, about my sucesses and my failures.

But this year is different. It is a 'making' year. With the exception of a piece for Fine Art Quilt Masters (submitted today, horray!) everything I am making is for the two exhibitions I have scheduled with Helen Conway in 2018. Because I have a long leadtime I'm working differently. I'm focussed right now on printing all the fabrics I am going to need. This will go on for another two to three months and whilst I can Instagram some nice images there is not a whole lot to write about that I haven't already covered. In between printing I am also developing some small works and some hand made books. I can, and will, write about these but have accepted that this is one goal I won't achieve.

Looking back on 2016

Sun setting over Arran (June 2016) It is that time of year when we look back at what we have done and, possibly foolishly, make promises about what we will do in 2017. So today I am looking back at 2016 and tomorrow I will look forward.

2016 has been an amazing year for me as an artist. The big stuff: I had pieces selected for Breakout: Quilt Visions 2016, SAQA Wide Horizons V, Fine Art Quilt Masters, Quilt National 2017 and SAQA Layered Voices. My piece Ruins 5 won the Art category at Festival of Quilts and I made my first 'proper' sale just before Christmas when Ruins 4 sold whilst on show at Quilt Visions in San Diego. I had two exhibitions as part of the Etcetera group, have had older work touring with CQ 'Elements' and had a couple of pieces shown in Visions Art Museums on-line exhibitions. WOW, not sure if my head will squeeze through the studio door!

I have made a determined effort in 2016 to increase my presence on social media. Having resisted for many years I have embraced Facebook, and to a lesser extent Instagram, and made many new friends along the way. I think this has really helped drive traffic to this blog and my website. This piece will be my 63rd post in 2016, a nice increase compared to 52 posts in 2015. But the real growth has been in visitors and views. In 2015 I had 3069 views by 652 visitors. As of this morning I have had an amazing 9635 views and 2262 visits in 2016. 66% of views are from the UK and 21% from North America. Another WOW!

So have I been successful because the planets have been aligned or the gods have smiled down on me? No, it is a combination of hard work and luck. As of this morning I have spent 964 hours in my studio this year - that is an average of 18.5 hours per week. I put in extra hours during the 3 months that I was 'between jobs' and this compensated for the hours lost whilst I went through the shock of redundancy and whilst I focussed on my new day job. I didn't keep accurate records in 2015 but will continue to do so in 2017. I completed 18.87 square metres of work in 2016 compared to 9.57 square metres in 2015 but this is somewhat misleading as I started 2016 with 2 large Ruins pieces part made and a large stack of printed fabric ready for other pieces. Working in series definitely increases output.

2016 has been a pretty awful year for many, many people with loved ones lost and a frightening surge in voilence and hate around the world. There is much to be miserable about much to take comfort from. A hug, a memory of a beautiful sunset, a fragile pattern and wonderful colour on cloth ... Happy New Year everyone!

The N word .... networking!

Those of you who read my blog will know that my day job became 'unsustainable' a short while ago so I find myself unemployed. I hate that word and prefer 'taking a career break' or 'taking time out to spend with my family' or 'taking a sabbatical to take advantage of an artists residency (in my own studio)'.  But whatever I call it the reality is that I need to find a new job. And apparently the most successful way to do that is by networking. Even the word fills me with horror - I am hopeless at small talk, generally useless at blowing my own trumpet and suffer a big 'I am not worthy' moment when I contemplate approaching somebody to give me a job. Does this sound familiar?

To give myself a head start I attended a workshop on LinkedIn and now have my profile set up and am busy making connections. Please feel free to look me up but don't be offended if I don't connect with you ... I'm trying to keep it limited to day job contacts initially. However the workshop did get me thinking about networking and my 'other life' as a textile artist. Whilst networking in this context isn't aimed at getting a job I am ambitious about my art and do want to get my work 'out there'. Building a network might lead to opportunities to exhibit or towards getting commissions. Although I didn't think of it in terms of networking my website, this blog and my Facebook page have been a good start. Being a member of CQ and SAQA was also a good start.

But one of the key takeaways from the workshop was to actively do whatever it takes to become visible, to be at the top of the list when somebody searches for you. Which, in terms of me as an artist, means making my Facebook page 'public', sending friend requests to people where we only have one or two mutual friends and not just those where we have lots of mutual friends. It means taking time out to steward on the SAQA exhibition at Festival of Quilts. And it means stopping being a 'lurker' on yahoo message groups and starting being a participant. It probably means starting to use Twitter and / or Instagram and / or Pinterest! Which definitely means I need a very large cup of very good coffee ... and probably some chocolate!!

Just one part of creating Art

I love creating Art. I love the dyeing and printing of fabrics. I love the cutting and composing. I love the layering and stitching. I even love adding the bindings, labels and hanging sleeves. But Art is not Art in my mind unless it is seen by others. And that means spending time on administration and on self-promotion.

On activities like writing this blog post.

On refreshing my website - I have updated the About section and added new images to the Hidden Message and Storm / Still pages. I've also updated the 'Latest Works' image with one of my minitature quilt 'Vestiges'.

On getting together with other Etcetera members to finish preparations for our next exhibition at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery - the exhibition runs from Saturday 10th September to Saturday 15th October. Yesterday we used a scale model to work out the layout of the exhibition. We discussed critical details of the Preview Evening (Friday 9th September from 7pm to 9pm) such as how to distribute invitations, how much wine to buy, whether we should have music etc.

On researching potential opportunities to exhibit, on keeping my database of completed works up to date, on monitoring my progress on projects against key deadlines, on answering emails etc etc.

In fact all of the types of activities you would work on if you ran a small business because that is what being an exhibiting artist is.

Updated Website

I was going to update the website over the New Year holiday. Then it became over the Chinese New Year holiday .... so it is a good job that I didn't make this a New Year Resolution! At last though, it is done. I've updated the 'About' page and added pricing to many of the pieces shown. I'd like to add 'buy now / paypal' buttons to each page but haven't figured how to do that yet. I've also added a new page on my Storm / Still series. But the biggest change is the removal of the page on hand dyed fabrics with the link to my Etsy site. I've sold very little fabric since setting up the site - in fact I suspect I have paid more in listing fees than I made in sales - so I have decided to close the shop and focus on making art!

Hope you like the changes and please feel free to point out any typos!

Still 2


Virtual Studio day with the Etcetera group

One of the ways members of my exhibiting group, Etcetera, support each other is to hold occasional virtual study days. We always have a great time when we meet in person but busy schedules limit how often we can do this. So we set up days where we each work in our own studios and 'talk' with each other through the day. Ideally they are days when we can shut out the world and really focus on making art. We share our thoughts, our successes and our failures. In the past we have 'talked' to each other through a yahoo discussion group. This time we decided to use a private Facebook group. Which, for me, meant getting a Facebook account! I had one years ago for keeping in touch with family but got feed up of seeing photos of my teenage kids and their friends getting up to stuff that parents wouldn't normally (pre-social media) see. This time around I've decided to keep it 'art' focussed. I set up the account on Friday evening, 'friended' my Etcetera colleagues and wrote my first post yesterday lunchtime. And then kept nipping back to my computer to see if anybody had commented on my post .... I commented on other peoples posts then kept nipping back to my computer to see if they had replied! My goodness Facebook is distracting!!!

So I am not quite sure if it is something I'm ready to go 'public' with just yet. But watch this space!

I did manage to complete 2 more Dunure samples between visits to my computer. I like both of them, especially Dunure 6. Although it taught me that I should maybe have stitched with parallel lines prior to adding the circles rather than having to stitch around them. But that is the whole point behind sampling.

Dunure 6

Dunure 5