#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.
 

#158 Jessica Hitchcock: Keep Making Art and Share What You’ve Learned

Artist Jessica Hitchcock lives in St. Louis, Missouri. We first talked on the podcast about a year ago, in April of 2019. She had just quit her day job in February to be a full-time artist. She had been painting for a few years part-time, showing and selling her paintings as well as doing the occasional live painting. She went all in, and in a matter of a year she has offered a few collections of her artwork, in her vibrant and bold color style, she’s painted live at a wedding and other events, and now she’s sharing what she’s learned through a year of hard work with others on her blog. She’s adapted to this strange quarantine time by moving forward and sticking with her original plans for her year.

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

Jessica Hitchcock

Jessica Hitchcock

Jessica Hitchcock
I Flew My Colors Like a Sail
Jessica Hitchcock
Peppermint Tea
Jessica Hitchcock
She Believed She Could
Jessica Hitchcock
Jessica Hitchcock
From the Primavera Collection
Jessica Hitchcock
It's the Small Things
Jessica Hitchcock
Start Today

Jessica’s website is jessicahitchcock.org

You can sign up for her newsletter list right on the front page of her website.

You can find out about her online course Art Business Evolution on her website here.

Jessica can be found on Instagram @jessica_hitchcock

and Facebook at jessicahitchcockart

Jessica will be doing Facebook Lives weekly on her Facebook Group called The Creative Business Convo.

You can find out about her online course Art Business Evolution on her website here.

Jessica Hitchcock

Here are some great takeaways from our conversation:

  1. Jessica is doing regular blog posts about helpful tips for artists. Blog posts are a great way to regularly give content to your customers.
  2. A great way to decide what kind of online class you’d like to teach is to think about what the most common questions your viewers are asking you. Respond to those common questions by putting them into a class or a Facebook Live event or a Youtube video.
  3. If you’ve done live painting or other art making and you’re comfortable with it, then you will be able to offer live online videos or online classes. And the reverse is true. When we get back to doing events with others, if you’ve gotten good at painting and talking during videos, why not try live painting?
  4. Don’t worry if your videos aren’t perfect. The important thing is that the viewer sees your personality.
  5. During this uncertain time, Jessica is following the mantra “Keep moving and don’t retreat.” She believes that this is the time to keep following your purpose. And if you don’t know what your purpose is yet, now is the time to double down and figure out what your purpose is.
  6. Jessica has continued to create art, in fact she has created a series of paintings. Creating in a series will help to give you direction in your artmaking.
  7. Don’t be afraid to try to sell your artwork right now. People are still buying.
  8. As part of Jessica’s plan for the year, she plans to put out new collections of art a couple times a year. Don’t let this time change a plan like that. Evaluate what you can still do and what you can’t and continue with the business you have planned.
  9. Jessica has a newsletter list, and she considers those people to be her biggest fans. When she made her new collection available for purchase, she put it out to her newsletter list a little bit earlier as a way to thank them for following her.
  10. Online classes are a great thing to offer right now since we can’t do classes in person, but they will be a great thing to offer from your website even after we are done social distancing.
Jessica Hitchcock

#157 Dina Wakley: A Teaching Artist Adapts to Online

Artist Dina Wakley is a teaching artist who keeps a full calendar of art classes in the U.S. and beyond. While she’s canceled upcoming classes and is hopeful for the second half of this year, she’s started offering online classes on her website. She’s also appearing in Facebook Live videos a couple times a week. We originally spoke in November of 2019, where she told me about her travel and teaching plans for the upcoming year. We spoke again on March 31st, a few weeks into everyone’s self-quarantine, and she told me about her plans to offer online art classes. She also has plans for the volumes of artwork she’s created over the years.

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

Dina Wakley

Dina’s website is dinawakley.com.

Her Facebook page is Art of Dina Wakley.

You can find her on Instagram @dinawakley.

You can listen to our earlier conversation in Episode #127.

Here are some great takeaways from our conversation:

  1. OK, if you haven’t realized this yet, I’ll say it again: now is the time to start teaching online classes. Many artists have had to cancel their in person classes. They can take that content and create online classes that are either live online, or students can do them at their own pace.
  2. I’ve talked with a lot of artists who are offering online classes and I’ve asked them which platform they’re using, like Teachable or Skillshare or Ruzuku. Dina has put her classes right on her website and is not using a third-party platform. That’s an option too, you just need to know a bit more about programming in order to do that.
  3. One of the advantages of using another platform is that some of them market your classes to thousands of people. Skillshare is an example of one that does that.
  4. Dina is keeping herself out there by doing live artmaking on her Facebook page for people to see her techniques and get engaged with her art. That’s a great way for you to keep in contact with your customers.
  5. Dina pointed out that local, independently owned art stores and scrapbook stores need your business more than ever. A lot of them are offering online ordering and shipping of their products, or you can pick up the products at the curb. That’s a great way to support these stores.
  6. It’s important for Dina to support these stores because that’s where she teaches a lot of her live classes. She wants these stores to be around when all this is over so that she can go back to teaching there. Try to support the locations where you have taught classes and encourage your customers to do the same.
  7. Another good reason for getting art supplies from smaller stores is the items will be touched by less hands than they would be from a warehouse supplier, and therefore they’re potentially safer.
  8. Dina has had to cancel a lot of in person classes as well as larger retreats. One of the things she does when she receives deposits from people for retreats is, she puts those deposits in a separate bank account. That way they are available if she ends up not canceling the retreat or if she just applies the deposit to a retreat at a different date.
  9. When Dina does a Facebook Live, she uses her camera to film it. She also has it open on her iPad so she can see the comments that people are saying and she can respond right away. Dina also saves all her Facebook Lives to the video tab on her Facebook page so you can go back and view any of them. She also puts them on her Youtube channel.
  10. Because Dina uses a Mac, she can airdrop her videos from her phone to her laptop. Then she uses iMovie to edit her videos for her online classes.
  11. Because Dina has done so many classes and made so much art over the years, she has piles of artwork in her studio. She’s going to sort through them and sell some as another source of income during this time. Go through your class samples and daily art making and see if you can do the same.
  12. She’s decided that if she puts out a lot of her art for sale, she will do it as a popup sale through Facebook and Instagram rather than taking the time to put them all on her website. That’s a much easier and faster way to sell some art.
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