#163 Carrie Schmitt: Painting the Story of Every Flower

Aartist Carrie Schmitt lives near Seattle, Washington. I first spoke with Carrie way back in August, 2018 in Episode #21. Two years later, and I’m talking to Carrie again. She’s accomplished so much with her art business, and I was happy to hear what she’s working on next. Carrie paints beautiful flowers on canvas, and she has put those designs on many items including home goods and clothing. For almost a year, she’s been working on her second book, called The Story of Every Flower, which will be coming out in September of this year. When we all went into lockdown, she created an e-course called 30 Days of Creative Blessings, and she just launched a second one about painting called Floral Bouquet and Pattern Play.

Listen here or use a podcast app, such as Apple Podcasts, Castbox, Spotify, or Stitcher.

Carrie Schmitt in Rosie the Art Bus

Wonder in Our Presence
Light with the Darkness
Carrie's book The Story of Every Flower can be pre-ordered now from her website.

Here are some of the things we discussed on this episode (click on the names to follow the links):

Carrie’s website: carrieschmittdesign.com

Her Instagram

Carries’s new book, The Story of Every Flower, is being self-published and will come out in September, 2020. If you would like to pre-order a copy, you can do that on her website here.

Carrie mentioned a Toolkit that she purchased to help her with self-publishing her book. You can find that here.

Her online classes can be found here.

Here are some great takeaways from our conversation.

  1. Some artists have seen a stop in sales at the beginning of the lockdown, but then sales have gone up. Don’t be afraid to try to sell right now.
  2. Lower price point items are selling very well. People really want to support artists.
  3. I’ve said this so often in my takeaways lately, and I will repeat it here: Now is the time to start online courses. People are in their homes and looking for fun things to do, whether it’s an art class, or a class about well-being, or a class to learn a new skill.
  4. Self-publishing is a great option if you’re writing a book because you’ll have complete control over your book’s content, title, and format. Carrie found a toolkit online that told her all the steps involved with self-publishing. I’ll include a link to that toolkit on the Show Notes for this episode.
  5. Carrie created an online class called 30 Days of Creative Blessings. It didn’t include art projects, but it turned out to be a perfect class for this time. Not all of your courses need to be straight art project classes. If you have a large group of followers, they will like it just because it comes from you.
  6. Carrie dealt with some technical issues when she was creating her first online class. Keep in mind that during this time we’re all trying new things, and we’re having to use different technologies to get things done. Remember that we’re all going through this, and it’ll be such a sense of accomplishment when you figure it out and get it done.
  7. Carrie believes that everybody is creative, they just need to decide if they are using their creativity to enhance it or diminish it.
  8. Carrie tells her students, the easy part is the painting. That’s just putting paint on a canvas. The mental part is the hard part, and that’s what you need to get past. Remember that when you’re trying to start your next painting. Do the easy part and just start with some paint.
  9. Another thing she said is, you can’t control the experience, but you can control how you respond to the experience. I think that’s great advice, especially during this time when so much is out of our control.
  10. Carrie is self-employed, but she likes to stay accountable by giving herself little goals. You can connect a goal to a milestone like she did. For example, she wanted to paint her car like one of her paintings once she reached 100,000 followers on Instagram. Goals will keep you interested and motivated to keep working your business.
  11. Carrie’s online painting classes have a separate community so the students can post their own work and encourage each other. Most online classes have that in some way, whether right on the website or in a separate Facebook Group.
  12. The other benefit of being a part of the class group is that you get to where you need to be faster because you’re following along with the other students.
Rosie the Art Bus

#162 Deborah Engelmajer: Helping Makers Sell in a Struggling Economy

I’m talking with Deborah Engelmajer from Australia. Deb has a vibrant online community called Tizzit where she helps creatives develop a successful handmade shop. Since we’ve all been staying closer to home, Deb has encouraged makers to keep marketing their handmade items, even if you have to pivot and offer different items or different versions. We still need beautiful things in our lives and people are wanting to buy from small businesses. Deb also offers lots of free resources on her blog and through her Youtube videos. You can also go to her website to get The Maker’s Roadmap, which she created to break down the steps needed to dream, start, grow, and scale your handmade business. 

Listen here or use a podcast app, such as Apple Podcasts, Castbox, Spotify, or Stitcher.

Deborah Engelmajer’s business is called Tizzit and her website is tizzit.co.

Click here to go to the Tizzit HQ membership community.

To get your own copy of The Maker’s Roadmap, click here.

You can find her Youtube Channel here.

This is her Tizzit Facebook page and her Instagram.

Here are some great takeaways from our conversation:

  1. Deb said that one thing that has helped her get through this crazy time is that she helps other people, and that makes her feel good. Her clients are coming to her with their worries for their handmade shops and she’s able to help them. She has followed the attitude of when you feel helpless, then be helpful.
  2. Deb helps shop owners tackle their business tasks in the proper order. For example, you don’t want to get on Pinterest and start promoting your products before you’ve taken good photographs of your products.
  3. It’s a good idea to provide some videos and resources for free on your website so that people can try you out and get to know you before they decide to buy your service. That would apply if you are providing coaching services and also if you’re providing classes.
  4. Deb offers a membership with lots of content and monthly coaching calls. During the downturn of the economy, she has allowed her members to pause their membership for a month or two until they can afford to join again. That’s a great option if you’re able to offer that. Just make sure you have all your business policies clearly defined on your website or the material that you give your members or students.
  5. After the first month or so when Deb lost members, she found she then gained new members because people had more time on their hands to create handmade shops. Some may have lost other jobs and they wanted to supplement their income with a handmade shop. Realize that even in a slow economy, coaching services will still be in demand.
  6. Deb emphasized that even during this crisis, it’s OK to sell. You’ll probably adjust your marketing a little, but go ahead and keep selling. You’re not a bad person for being in business right now.
  7. Your marketing should include a story. For example, on Instagram, don’t just post a photo of a product and write a caption that says the product’s name and price. Write a story and tell people why they might want this product right now.
  8. You need to adjust your message to what people are living through right now. That includes your social media captions, your emails, and your product descriptions.
  9. In a struggling economy, you can pivot with your business. A little pivot, as Deb says, is when you offer different products or offer them in a different way. You’re looking at what you’re already offering, but can you offer it a little differently that will help your customer more in this time?
  10. You also may feel you need to do a big pivot. That may mean changing your shop, or going into another niche. After the economy recovers, you could return to your original business plan or you could stay with the new plan if that is working well for you.
  11. If business is really slow, you can use this time to work on your administrative tasks. You can catch up with your financial tasks, like your taxes, or you can update your product inventory, or you can learn new systems for recording your transactions or scheduling social media posts. These are just a few examples.
  12. If you’ve found you have extra time on your hands right now, you can also use the time to develop a new product or line, or anything else you’ve wanted to do but didn’t have the time for before.
  13. Even if your products are not selling right now, you still need to keep up with your social media and email list. You don’t want your customers to forget about you during this time. You can still share the behind the scenes of making your products, your works in progress, and give people valuable tips related to your product.
  14. The last thing Deb said is to find your tribe to support you through this time. It can be her membership group or a Facebook group or anything else. But talking with other makers will help you to stay positive so that you can get through this strange time with your business.

#161 Seth Apter and Kristin Williams: Where Does the Art Community Go from Here?

Seth Apter is an artist who teaches mixed media classes all over the U.S. and overseas. Kristin Williams is an artist who owns a retail shop and workshop space where Seth and others teach called Ephemera Paducah in Kentucky. After Seth and Kristin realized they had to cancel a lot of their in person classes for the year, they wanted to know, Where does the art community go from here? When can they offer in person classes again, and how do they do it? We talk about their survey results and what they both have been doing while they shelter in place. It’s all about community and connecting with your artist friends, and it’s still possible even from home.

Listen here or download from iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, CastBox, or Stitcher.

Seth Apter and Kristin Williams

Possibility by Seth Apter
Light the Way by Seth Apter
Dreamer of Dreams by Seth Apter
These are Seth's Mini Books. He recently offered a Facebook Group class showing how he made these.

You can go back and listen to my interview with Kristin Williams in Episode #160 of the podcast. 

Kristin’s website is ephemerapaducah.com.

Be sure and sign up for her newsletter so you can be the first to know about her workshops and offerings.

She has two Facebook pages:

Ephemera Paducah

Ephemera Paducah Workshop Peeps (where you can find out about her upcoming workshops)

You can also find her on Instagram @ephemerapaducah.

Seth Apter’s website is sethapter.com and you can find him on Facebook as well under Seth Apter.  

Seth does many Facebook Lives. Some are demos, some he talks about what’s going on in the art community. Search for his May 14 Facebook Live to hear he and Kristin talk about the results of their survey. He also answers questions on his May 15 Facebook Live.

You can find the PDF with the results of their survey here.

 Seth mentioned that he has had success selling his art through a Facebook Event. I talked about one way you can do that in Episode #62 of this Podcast.

Here are some great takeaways from our conversation:

  1. I’m going to repeat a takeaway I mentioned from last week’s interview with Kristin. If you want to know what your customers want, a survey is a great way to find that out. It doesn’t have to be long, it can just be one or two questions. Sometimes we think we know what our customers want, but sometimes we just think we do, and they may want something completely different.
  2. An overwhelming majority of the respondents to their survey felt that this time during our lockdown has strengthened the art community. Many artists are doing Facebook Lives where they just talk about what they’re feeling, or they do demos of their art. Others are flocking to this virtual community since they have lost their live community.
  3. Artists have had the time to come together, since they have lost their live community. While they also need to make money, many are coming together just for the community right now, and the get togethers with the purpose of making money will come later.
  4. People remember who was offering free content, and will remember that when they’re ready to pay for things later. The goodwill you develop by gathering your art community together will be measured by their loyalty later.
  5. We talked a little about the refund situation when a venue or an instructor has had to cancel classes. This has definitely been an unprecedented situation, not one we ever could have predicted. But now that we’ve had this, moving forward you need to clearly state what your cancellation policy is on your website so that there are no misunderstandings in the future.
  6. Kristin and Seth found in their survey that almost half of the respondents get their art-related information and events from Facebook. You can say that makes sense because this survey was promoted on Facebook, so of course you’d get a lot of users of Facebook responding. But they promoted this on Instagram too and Kristin sent the survey to all of her email list. My point is, don’t discount this response. Facebook seems to be the place where people go when they’re looking for a community, and it’s a great place to offer Facebook Live demos or Facebook Group classes to the community you’ve created. We also talked about Facebook being the platform that reaches the demographic of 50-year-old women who like to take art classes.
  7. Seth just recently offered a paid class through Facebook. He set up a new Facebook Group for the class, and the paid participants received access to the Group through a password. He advertised the class heavily on Facebook in advance through posts as well as Facebook Live events.
  8. Facebook Live events are a great way for your potential students to get to know you and your style, and it’ll help them to determine if they want to invest in one of your paid classes later.
  9. Facebook is also a great place to have a sale of your art. You could set up all the items in an album on your Facebook page, then choose a specific time to start your sale. You could even let your email list start an hour or so earlier to give them the first dibs since they are your biggest fans.
  10. If you think you may do some form of online class in the future, start working on your email list now. Ask people to join your list, make it easy to join from your website, and start sending them emails with updates about your business once or twice a month.
  11. Seth has found that when he demos a product or a technique, and just kind of hangs out with his viewers through Facebook, that’s much more effective than just trying to do a post that ‘s purely a sales pitch. He gets a much better response when he’s just being himself with his viewers.
  12. One of the most surprising things from their survey was the answer to the question: What is the earliest month you’d go back to an in person class? 41% of the respondents said not until 2021. That’s a long time from now, so you really need to start thinking about offering online content and classes.
  13. When thinking about what needs to be done to reopen in person classes and keep all the attendees comfortable, they talked about things like requiring masks. But the biggest response was providing more space between students, possibly putting 1 student per six-foot table rather than 2. That’s a big change that needs to be evaluated by the venue owner and the instructor, because cutting the number of students in half will also cut in half the revenue from putting on this class. There are a lot of expenses to consider on both sides, and you don’t want to have to increase the class fee to cover these expenses so much that you’ve made the class unaffordable for most students.
  14. You also need to think about how each state is handling things differently. Students coming from all over may not know what the rules are in your state. They also may not want to leave a state with a low population density to take a class in a state with a high density or even take a class from an instructor that has come from a high density state.
  15. You don’t need to plan the rest of your year at this point and put things on the schedule. It’s O.K. to just plan one or two months at a time because as we’ve seen, things are changing daily and weekly.
  16. Seth also mentioned that he works with companies that carry art products of his. They’re partnering together to do a class so that he can teach people the techniques and the other company can be the provider of the products. This is a great way to partnership with the companies that have worked with your business over the years.

Seth has had success offering an art class through Facebook. You can also how art classes right on your website, and these online platforms can help you. You’ll need to evaluate their cost and benefits to see what works right for you:

Teachable

Ruzuku

Thinkific

Simplero

You can also host your classes on another site and they will market the classes to all their thousands of students. One that is popular for artists is:

Skillshare

 

#160 Kristin Williams: Owner of Ephemera Paducah, a Workshop Space and Retail Store

Kristin Williams is the owner of Ephemera Paducah in Kentucky. She hosts artist instructors for weekend art classes at her shop. Her students come from all over to learn painting and mixed media techniques from art experts. The artist instructors rely on her location to bring them many students for their classes every year. In March, these classes had to abruptly stop when we all sheltered in place for the coronavirus. Kristin is still offering goods from the retail side of her business, and she’s evaluating how she can restart the live classes in the future. She tells me how she started this business and what she’s doing now.

Listen here or download from iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, CastBox, or Stitcher.

Kristin's mixed media stitching

Kristin’s website is ephemerapaducah.com.

Be sure and sign up for her newsletter so you can be the first to know about her workshops and offerings.

Also, why not treat yourself to a Sussie? You can order one by calling the store.

She has two Facebook pages:

Ephemera Paducah

Ephemera Paducah Workshop Peeps (where you can find out about her upcoming workshops)

You can also find her on Instagram @ephemerapaducah.

Kristin offered a survey with one of her artist instructors, Seth Apter. His website is sethapter.com and you can find him on Facebook as well. You can listen to my conversation with Seth and Kristin about their survey and its results in Episode #161 of the podcast.

Here are some great takeaways from our conversation:

  1. When Kristin first thought about opening a class and retail venue, she would pop into other shops and ask the owners how they did things. You’ve got to have the attitude of, it doesn’t hurt to ask, and you’ll find that many people enjoy talking about what they do and sharing what has worked for them. She also interviewed teaching artists to find out how they get their teaching gigs.
  2. When Kristin schedules instructors to come in for the year, she plans the classes for weekends when people can fly in to take the classes. She also shuts down for the two most wintry months since travel can be a little iffy then. Think about the region you’re in and take these things into consideration when planning your schedule for the year.
  3. Kristin has a patio area on site where her students can do lunch in the middle of a day-long class. She’s found that this is better and quicker than letting her students go out to lunch in the middle of a class.
  4. We talked about the supplies that you bring with you when you go to attend a class. Often, students will bring way too much with them. Kristin said that she’s found she’s much more creative when she limits her supply choices. I’ve also found that you can get the task done quicker if you’re not spending a lot of time sorting through all your supplies.
  5. Kristin told a story on a Facebook Live one day about how her Mom used to give her a sussie, or an inexpensive but meaningful gift just when she needed it. Kristin’s now offering sussies through her store. People can order one, give their preferences of art supplies or colors, or even just let it be a surprise, and Kristin will send it to them. These retail purchases of sussies have been a huge success and have helped keep her business going during the time when she hasn’t been able to offer art classes.
  6. To keep connected to your customers or followers, a lot of artists and shops are doing Facebook Lives or Zoom get togethers. We’re all at home looking for some kind of community, and this is a great way to engage with your people.
  7. You can also go beyond just talking on these Live events and actually teach a class using that platform. Using Zoom, you can talk with all the participants and they can make the art with you and show you what they’ve done.
  8. If you’re hoping to return to teaching or hosting in person classes, you need to determine if you can spread the students out further in your space for safety reasons. If you have to reduce the maximum number of students, you’ll need to analyze your costs as the host or as the instructor to determine if the class will still be profitable for you.
  9. As you start to offer classes again, you need to clearly state what your refund policy is. You’ll have to consider what you’ll do if a student has to cancel at the last minute because she’s sick or because a family member is sick. You’ll also have to consider what your policy is if someone wants to cancel just because they’re worried about being sick. These are two different things but you’ll have to think about how you’ll deal with them.
  10. In this unsure time, it’s hard to know how your business will need to change when you reopen. Kristin partnered with one of her teaching artists, Seth Apter, and they did a survey to ask what their students want when coming back and what they will need. A survey is a great way to figure out what your customers want. The survey can be about anything, like what kind of products they’d like you to offer, what size paintings they are interested in or whether they want prints, or if they’d like to take online classes from you. You won’t know what they want unless you ask.

#159 Connie Solera: Rebranding a Business and Maintaining a Community

Artist Connie Solera was known for many years as the genius and creative force behind the 21 Secrets series of online art classes. She was also known as the owner of Dirty Footprints Studio. About a year ago, she rebranded herself as just conniesolera.com and she retired 21 Secrets after 10 years of success. She’s continued with her Painting the Feminine online class, and recently was a guest teacher with the Get Messy Art group. Let’s hear what she’s doing now and how she’s reaffirmed her love of painting as well as her desire for an artist community.

Listen here or download from iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, CastBox, or Stitcher.

Connie Solera

Here are some of the things we discussed in this episode (click on the names to follow the links):

Connie’s website is called conniesolera.com.

You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram.

Connie’s Painting the Feminine online class will start October 12, 2020 and registration will begin September 9. 

You can also hear a podcast episode with Connie Solera on Caylee Grey’s Get Messy Podcast. You can find that on most podcast apps.

Connie is offering an online class called Deep Conversations through Jeanne Oliver’s website. You can find it here.

In June, 2020, Connie will be offering a new online course called Night Visions. Visit her website to find this class.

Here are some great takeaways from our conversation:

  1. Connie made some major changes to her business last year. One involved rebranding from Dirty Footprints Studio to just using her name Connie Solera. One reason she changed the name is because the word “dirty” caused some of her emails to end up in Of course, there were other reasons to change the name too. But keep this in mind when you’re thinking of names for your business. Is there any way the name can be misconstrued? Is it hard to pronounce or spell so that it might be hard for people to remember it or find it? Is it a name you’d like to be known as for many years?
  2. After 21 editions of Connie’s 21 Secrets art classes, Connie was ready to end it. It may still have been very successful for her monetarily, but it wasn’t fulfilling her spiritually any more. Realize that there are many reasons to offer a program and many reasons to stick with it. Analyze all of them and expand your definition of what a successful program means to you.
  3. This is such an unsure time, and you’ve probably had to cancel some of your art business offerings. People understand, and you have to do what works for you. The reverse may be true too. Connie gave an example where she ended something just before the coronavirus hit, and made a big announcement about that. But then when this did happen, she decided to bring it back and offer it again. Don’t be afraid to change your plans around. Everything is uncertain, and surprisingly, people are adapting to that uncertainty and the multitude of changes it causes. Do what’s right for you and people will respond if it’s right for them.
  4. Connie talked about having a daily creative practice as your anchor during this uncertain time. It seems like weekly the rules change and we’ve got more demands, so I think it’s helpful to have something solid like making a little art every day. It will be something you can count on and go back to when everything else is stressful.
  5. When Connie did her Painting the Feminine online course, she did it as a Zoom meetup. She talked and painted so that everyone would have the experience of observing her painting, just like they would in a live retreat. Through Zoom and Facebook Live and other online platforms, you can replicate the live experience fairly closely.
  6. Because the future is so uncertain, Connie’s of the attitude, then just do what you like. Don’t worry about rules and what you think you should do. It’s such a changed time, you can really try anything. You can take this attitude to the art that you’re creating or the business products that you’re making.
 
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