Saturday, February 22, 2014

On Posing Nude, and Thoughts Half-Formed

Poster from Emma Bergqvist
Yes, I've posed nude for an artist before. Stick with me please; this is going somewhere. Last summer, while driving back from the Gorge I started thinking about another time I'd been there, seven years previous when I was part of a group of pregnant women posing for photographer Justine Kurkland's series of Utopian women communities.

Wondering what Justine was up to, I googled her and came across this profoundly sad article online. Well, to me it was profoundly sad, and brought up a concept I'd never thought of before: the pull specifically between art and motherhood. With two children, ages one and six at the time, I was struggling with this acutely, heightened by the ever-present gloom that comes from sleep deprivation.

So while Brian was driving back into Portland, I scribbled down my feelings in the form of a blog post, them promptly set it aside in my stacks of paper.

On my return trip from Camp Mighty I did the same thing: wrote down all my thoughts in article form and then promptly forgot them completely. In fact, as I scroll through my iPhone notes from the past year I come across all kinds of half-formed and complete articles that never saw the light of day:
  • How my issues around money and success tie into relationships in 6th grade
  • The "soul mission" of my business (to help people achieve their dreams)
  • Tips to increase creative thinking and problem solving (aka, how to overcome fears and bring your crazy ideas to life)
  • How to submit your work and not take rejection personally
  • On finding inspiration (especially during Portland's rare, beautiful summers)
  • My Ted Talk
  • CHA vs Disneyland
  • Oh, and a few random grocery lists and apparently notes to myself that just say things like "Joy. Apples. Diapers."
Image from the my Camp Mighty Talk, taken by Tia Lambert.

My secret hoarding of these stories can be attributed to two things:

First, there's of course always a lack of hours in the day. I have time to scribble thoughts on my phone or random scraps of paper while hanging out at the playground. But time to sit at my computer while fully awake is often a luxury.

But more importantly, and I think more happily, these articles never came to full fruition because they didn't need to. By the time I finished writing up my struggles with balancing creativity and motherhood, I had made it past that particularly stressful time and was feeling much more in sync. My experience presenting my Ted Talk on Getting 100 Rejections in 100 Days (which I gave at Camp Mighty) was so completely amazing and wonderful, I haven't yet felt the need to do anything more with the PowerPoint presentation still sitting on Brian's laptop.

All of which I think is a good sign. Anyone who's been a parent, or run a business, or probably just about anything else involved with factors both inside and outside of your control, knows that there's often lots of ups and downs. During the past year I've had plenty of both, but the down moments are being overridden by moments of joy more quickly, or perhaps that's just the Six-Full-Uninterrupted Hours-of-Sleep I got the other night talking. I can see the light at the end of the proverbial sleep deprivation tunnel, and have lovely dreams of more time to create and happy trips to Disneyland to come.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Make Art That Sells by Lilla Rogers: My Review from Week 1

Above is the vintage-inspired kitchen fabric I created for the first week of "Make Art That Sells."
Perhaps this is a bit too much information, but one way I can tell that I'm really excited about something is I don't even want to take a pee break I'm having so much fun. Right after college, this was what took up many of my evening hours and caused me to sit at my desk for hours on end without a break. Yes, I am a total nerd.

Which is why I can say without a doubt that I am really, really enjoying the licensing class I'm taking with Lilla Rogers and Beth Nichols since my "homework" has been keeping me happily glued to my computer until the wee hours of the night. To be honest, it's kind of surprising. I am quite picky when it comes to classes, and the last big one I took (with Marie Forleo) was not a great fit. That, combined with the fact that just about "everyone" I know loved Lilla and Beth's first class (yes, I know it's counter-intuitive…but when "everyone" loves something, I tend to be skeptical) means I went in with very low expectations.

A large part of the reason I wanted to take "Make Art That Sells" was to get a bit of my art mojo back. For most the past year I've been focusing on selling and marketing my printed collage sheets and completing my 100-day-quest. Making art took a back seat, even though it's one of my favorite parts of piddix. So I am just thrilled that designing is once again front and center and getting me all excited. Tonight I find out what my second assignment will be at 1 am and I am literally counting down the minutes….33….32….31… I'll hopefully post again once the class is all finished. But so far, so very good.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Old School Tattoo Designs by Norm Collins, aka Sailor Jerry

When you think of classic mid-century sailor tattoos--from swallows and hearts to skulls and tigers--the artwork that most often comes to mind is by Norm Keith Collins, also known as "Sailor Jerry," who is regarded by many as the most influential and important tattoo artist of the 20th century. For 40 years, Collins ran a tattoo parlor in Honolulu, inking his legendary tattoos on sailors on 48-hour shore leave. One of his famous sayings, "Good work ain't cheap, cheap work ain't good," echoed the care he put into his artwork, which featured clear, bold lines and bright colors.

Legend has it that Collins told his wife that upon his death, his shop should either be taken over by one of his protegees, Ed Hardy or Mike Malone, or burned to the ground with all the contents inside. Luckily, Mike Malone took over Collin's Hotel Street shop after Collins' death in 1973, renaming it the China Sea Tattoo Company. Over the years, Malone would occasionally sell off a piece of original Sailor Jerry tattoo flash--the cards of tattoo options that hung on the shop walls. These originals currently sell for an average $5000-$10,000 (if they can be found at all).

The piddix collection of Old School tattoos includes nearly 100 Norm Collins designs, all of which were scanned directly from the original Norm Collins flash from the Mike Malone collection. The ladies above are some of my favorites and I've never seen another copy of them anywhere. A note on the original (left) written by Malone in the 1990s reads "This is a sheet I'd ask $1500 for, it's the real deal from '49 or so, but some dunce used it for a dart board...lots of little holes, still it is something to see."

I've spent nearly two years collecting, researching and meticulously restoring the piddix collection of vintage tattoo flash. This artwork, along with many other Old School tattoo designs, is available for commercial licensing though piddix and as instant downloads for handmade crafters on etsy.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Announcing Wholesale Distribution of Piddix Collage Sheets

Years ago, when interviewing agents to represent my artwork, my licensing fairy godmother gave me some of the best business advice I've ever received: picture yourself sitting next to this person on an 8-hour flight. Would you get along with them? Would you enjoy the flight?

I keep these questions in mind frequently when choosing a wide range of business partners. That, combined with mutual respect for one another's work, impeccable integrity, quick responses to questions, and an impossibly high standard of quality are what often lead me to say yes to some and no to others.

Which is why I couldn't be happier to announce the official distributor of piddix printed collage sheets: Product Performers. Believe it or not, this relationship has been four years in the making, from the very first tentative email I sent to their president, Ken Petersen, to seeing 63 piddix collage sheets arrive in their online store.

At every step of the way both Ken and Dana (Director of Purchasing) have been the most professional and lovely folks to work with. I'm beyond thrilled. And yes, I'd totally sit on a cross-country flight next to them, and probably enjoy every minute of it.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

CHA 2013 Recap

Me and one of my cutie booth helpers.
CHA 2013 in Vegas was absolutely amazing. I am so happy I had a booth there (my very first big tradeshow). Okay, technically it was more of a table than a booth, but it was still all mine and had a steady stream of shop owners, distributors, sales reps and designers for 2 1/2 days. Response to the piddix collage sheets was wonderful. The Flora & Fauna and Paris lines were popular, and it seems that Steampunk is finally taking off outside of etsy. The big hit of the show were the piddix collage sheets sized especially to fit the new Spellbinders® Media Mixáge™/Susan Lenart Kazmer™ bezels. Thanks so very much to Annie, Stephanie, Brian, and Pennie for all their booth help and to Mom and Dad for thoroughly loving and spoiling the kiddos while we were away.
The very first person to stop by the booth was the one-and-only Suze Weinberg (designer and multi-media artist), who could not have been more supportive and kind. What an amazing way to start the show. Above is a necklace she made using the piddix Steampunk collage sheet (necklace available here).
I finally got to meet the lovely Annie Howes in person and she even helped staff the booth on Thursday.
Piddix Flora & Fauna image sized to fit the new Spellbinders® Media Mixáge™/Susan Lenart Kazmer™ bezels.

Author and designer Suzann Sladcik Wilson with one of two books she's authored that features piddix images.

Designer Melissa Mercer with pendant she created with piddix collage sheet and Vintaj brass bird.
Almost the whole set-up fit in one checked bag. Not too bad!

Monday, July 22, 2013

CHA Sneak Peek

Have you ever wondered what a tradeshow looks like on set-up days? I took these photos at CHA (the Craft & Hobby Association's big tradeshow) today, and it's hard to believe that just a couple of hours later all of the booths were finished. There were HUGE crates and cranes everywhere.
There's Tim Holtz and the people at Ranger getting ready.
When you first walk in and look to your right, you can see my table
(see the tiny piddix logo on the blue drapes?)
Sooo happy with my location.
There's Brian directing the crane above our booth.
A before shot.
And almost done. Tomorrow morning I'll finish up.

And did I mention yesterday was our wedding anniversary? Twelve years!
If you're in Vegas for CHA, swing by lucky booth #1001 (first table on your right) and say hi.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Jumping About

I love this awesome fashion print from the 1800s because the woman on the left looks like she's rolling her eyes, which has almost nothing to do with the article below.
I think a lot of creative types like to jump from one new idea to another. It keeps things fresh and fun, and we can always be dreaming, planning and imagining the next steps for the next big thing.

I try to keep this "jumping" in check a bit by deeply focusing on one new project every quarter. I might spend three months on licensing, then another three working on art prints. My 100-day-quest was (duh) about three months, and right now I'm in the middle of three months of new collage sheets through the piddix subscription. Which means I'm also in the middle of deciding what to do in September when the subscription ends for 2013.

I've been thinking a lot about writing a book. I learned a ton during my 100-day-quest and feel like it could help others who struggle with the fear of fully embracing their creative life. But I've been feeling an equally strong pull toward focusing on licensing again, possibly through taking Lilla Rogers' "Make Art that Sells" class." And tonight Lilla's book "I Just Like to Make Things" arrived at my doorstep and is definitely pulling me in that direction.

Writing my own book would be for others, doesn't fit within my business plan, wouldn't make much money, but keeps taking shape inside of me. I keep writing bits of it down on paper. It's most definitely struggling to get out.

The licensing fits completely within my business plan, would be a ton of fun (I love making new art) and could help piddix grown financially. Even just writing down the differences makes licensing seem like the obvious choice. But will "the book" quiet down? Or will it continue to struggle within me until I get it down on paper?

What to do; what to do….

Luckily, I have a big distraction in the form of a tradeshow in just TWO WEEKS. Plus, did I mention that this is finally happening? Many, many digital files to prep, print, package and send.

Often when I'm at this type of crossroads, a bit of time and serendipitous advice tends to send me down my path. I have a feeling whatever happens at CHA (tons of orders, none at all, new connections, etc.) will also help sway me one way or another. Being at a crossroads, and having periods of thoughtful indecision, have become a frequent theme over the last several years in my business. I can't decide whether I like it or not, but at least for the moment, it's an inescapable part of how I run my business. I wonder if there's another, better way to go about it, or if I should just embrace this jumping about as another part of living a creative life.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Getting Ready for CHA Vegas: 20 Days 'til Take-Off

Up until now, my entire CHA prep has consisted of shedding the last 10 pounds of post-pregnancy weight to avoid awkward questions of "when's the baby due?"

But last night I had my first trade show nightmare. I had set up my booth (which was 100% wet-clay-grey, for whatever strange reason), but then someone moved everything around, turned off all my lights, built walls around my area and hid me behind another booth.

I guess my subconscious is telling me it's time to get ready. Twenty days and counting.

For anyone who will be at CHA Vegas, please stop by Lucky booth #1001. First table on the right as you enter. I'll have free samples of the printed collage sheets as well as lots of examples of what you can do with them.  Plus, it is always so fun to meet people in person.

In the mean time, here's my prep list of everything still left to do:
1. Print catalogs (100?), order forms, and terms
2. Create and print postcards (1000?)
3. Send pre-show emails
4. Create and print booth graphics. Set-up sample booth at home.
5. Make samples (fun!) of jewelry and such.
6. Coordinate, print, and package new collage sheets for samples.
7. Find booth helper for Wednesday July 24th.
8. Update website with new online catalog

Yikes. Oh, and guests are coming into town this week, grandparents (aka, babysitters) are leaving town this week, my packager is also leaving town this week (what's with everyone thinking they can have fun this summer?) and one of the largest orders in piddix history should hopefully be coming in tomorrow. Add everything else in my beautifully-chaotic life into the mix and I think we're in for some late nights. Sounds like it's time for me to get to work.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

100 Days of Rejection: The Book

More than 100 days after my 100-day-quest is officially over, there's still three big dangly loose ends hanging out there.

First is securing my dream distributor. This one is so close I can taste it. But I'm afraid of jinxing myself, so until piddix collage sheets are in their online catalog--until I can visibly see them there--I'll keep holding my breath. I sure hope this one works out.

Next is getting some kick-butt sales reps (I'm looking at you, The Collins Group and MILLSREPCO). This second goal is 70% of the reason I'll have a tabletop at CHA Vegas in July. Even if I could just get a sit-down with one of them, I'd feel pretty good about the trip.

And finally I feel the need to document my 100-day-journey is some written way. My blog, website, and newsletter have always been places where I've shared tips and tricks. But every time I sit down to write a post or two summarizing what I've learned I get totally stumped. I try to summarize the experience in three to five pithy statements, but there's just too much to cover. The experience wasn't a clean-cut case of trial and error, i.e., "this is what I tried, and this is what worked and what didn't." It wasn't that simple. It was profound. It was deep and scary. And it was completely life-changing. I know others have the same fears I started with (fears of failure, fears of success, fears of reaching out in person or on the phone to the decision-makers in your field). So I keep feeling the pull to share this story in a way that can open up new worlds to others, and to do so in way that a simple blog post or two won't cover.

So, what do you think? First of all, can you relate to these fears? Is this a story you'd want to read? And second, is this a book you would pay to read? I'm considering starting a kickstarter campaign to fund the process (essentially the two months it would take to do this "right"), but was curious first if there's an audience out there that would be interested. Thoughts?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Making a Comeback?

The first collage sheet I re-listed on etsy this week.
Back in January I was fortunate to meet up with Jay Bergesen, Product Manager at etsy, and he asked me what would it take for me to come back to the site. I'd been one of the top 10 handmade sellers on etsy for three years, but with a new baby at home and not enough hours in the day, I'd pulled all my digital collage sheets off to my own instant download site and officially announced my "etsy graduation." So I cheekily replied to Jay that he'd have to make me the poster child for the "come back kids" or make piddix a featured seller because, honestly, I couldn't think of any reason for me to bring my collage sheets back. Even if instant downloads ever became a reality on etsy--thus removing a lot of the time constraints--I thought it would be through third-party coders, and I didn't want to have to wade through random add-on programs with additional fees of their own.

But then recently, etsy surprised me and announced they would be providing digital file delivery in-house. And what's even more interesting is that the new process is pretty amazing, especially from a customer's viewpoint. They get the files right away, they're all stored in a central location under your etsy login, and the files never expire. With more than a half-million items listed on etsy as "digital," and each file taking up to 20 MB (times five files per order, and each order is stored separately), I'm a bit nervous how quickly etsy's servers will become bogged down with all these files that never expire. But other than that all the research and testing I've done of the process has been promising.

I'm nervous about coming back. Okay, let's be honest, I feel like I'd have to eat a bit of crow since I made such an official split. But when I step back and analyze the situation, my nervousness isn't a great reason business-wise for staying away. Wasn't the whole point of my 100-day-quest to not be held back by my fears? Plus, I've really been missing the interaction and feedback I always received from my amazing customers. Just yesterday I listed a new subscription and folks are already sending me the absolute nicest welcome back emails. Feels a bit like homecoming.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Day 102: One More Member of My Dream Team

Ornamentea in Raleigh, North Carolina. Photo from here.
Once upon a time, I asked my amazing piddix customers for recommendations of bead and mixed media stores they like that might be a good fit for piddix collage sheets. I received a great list, but one really stood out.

Darlene wrote about Ornamentea: "I LOVE this store. It's about 4 hours from my home. The store sells beautiful, unique products for mixed-media artists. And it offers a very active class schedule. You'll love it too."

That's right, Darlene drives FOUR hours to visit Ornamentea, and the more I saw their website, pinterest, tumblr, and so on, the more I fell in love. What's even more exciting is they regularly have foodcarts (and cupcakes!) available at their store. I was totally sold.

So I am very, very proud to announce that Ornamentea now carries piddix collage sheets. Please head off to check them out in Raleigh North Carolina or online. Maybe you'll be lucky enough to swing by on a cupcake day.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Day 101: Don't Go Into the Water

Movie still from Jaws, Universal Studios.
Do you know the quote, "don't go into the water" from the movie Jaws? That's been going through my head all day. Except for me, it's "don't lower your prices" (but said in a voice that matches the terrifying jaws tagline).

Even though my 100-day-quest is officially over, I still have a few loose ends. Specifically, there's five more amazing places I'm trying to get my collage sheets into. Places I've been talking to, who've said yes or maybe, but nothing's wrapped up yet. So today I sent two of them an email update with a first-order coupon. Because I realize it's a ton of work to set up a new line, especially on a website where you have to upload photos, descriptions, sizes, etc., I wanted to offset some of that initial work with a discount. And once again, I'm reminded that it's not me, it's you. My guess that a coupon could help nudge them toward a purchase was totally off. It wasn't the initial work involved, or the prices that was holding things up. But rather, it's simply a matter of too much to do and too little time. Between holidays and tradeshows and everything else, new orders take time, something I should know by now but somehow keep forgetting.

The great news? It looks like one more dream website may be carrying piddix collage sheets soon. Something that would have happened with or without a discount.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Day 100: Getting Over My Fear of Rejection

Day 100 is here. Well, technically it's day something-like-114, but 100 days of posting about rejection, fear, contacting people, meeting people in person, "aha" moments, depressing lows and exciting highs.

And did it work? Am I over my fear of rejection? Can I pick up the phone and call someone without breaking into sweats and stomach cramps?


And that's pretty darn exciting.

You can see all the numbers over here, but the main goal of my 100-day-quest was to not let fear hold me back. I had a product (printed collage sheets) that had been all ready to go for a couple of years--tested, designed, printed, loved. But I was too chicken to ask anyone to sell them, or even to respond property to requests. I got a crazy idea in my head that trial-by-fire was the way to go.

So I embarked on a quest to get 100 rejections in 100 days. Numbers-wise, I didn't come close (which is surprising, since it sure felt like 100 rejections). But wow, what a difference it made in my outlook. Yep, I can pick up a phone and call people (even with kids and a dog running around the house). I can call them again, and again, and then email them and send them a tweet, because I've realized that other people are busy, too, and that the stores that started carrying my work took an average of three months and 8-10 requests before everything was finalized. I have a much clearer idea of what I'm selling, what words to use, and how to defend my pricing and product.

Most of all I don't completely fall apart when someone says no. Well, that's not totally true. It still sucks. And it might take a night of good sleep to get over it. But it doesn't stop me from moving ahead, from calling the next person on my list, and that's a huge difference from three months ago.

Thanks to all who have followed me on this journey and offered support along the way, especially my family, the lovely women who've supported me via my blog and twitter, and Go Mighty. While the journey went much differently than I had thought, I'm quite excited about where I ended up.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Day 99: I'm Not Going to Make It

Here we go. It's day 99 and I'm adding up all my rejections to see how I did and I got……


Seriously, just 33?

Off to count them again.

Yep, just 33. Huh.

In the past 100+ days I've contacted/submitted/entered/emailed/called:
15 stores
4 distributors
1 design contest
1 print magazine
6 design website submissions
1 industry newsletter
2 flash sale sites
7 sales reps
3 jewelry finding manufacturers
38 sample packs in person
16 sample packs mailed
2 speaking proposals for conferences
5 craft instructors
4 industry leaders
2 business coaches

And it seems, apparently (if I'm doing my math right) that a lot of them said yes, or we're still talking and figuring out how best to work with one another.

I'm conflicted about whether to be thrilled at all the amazing changes that have gone on, or super-bummed that I didn't reach my goal of 100 rejections.

Perhaps if I look at this from another perspective.

The Good
Probably the most exciting, dance-around-the-room responses I've received have been from the four big, awesome, amazing online stores I contacted. All four got back to me with very positive feedback, and two have officially placed orders so far (Rings & Things and Stampington). For me, that's huge. These are places I've dreamed about being in for years and now I'm there. Wow.

The Bad
I had absolutely no luck getting into big design websites (like Design*Sponge), and most of the tiny independent craft stores were just about impossible to connect with despite numerous calls, emails, sample packs, tweets and so on. The one time I heard an actual "no" on the phone, it honestly did suck. Shhh. I don't want to talk about it. But in both cases, hiring folks (a real photographer for publicity shots and sales reps for the brick & mortar stores) would make quite a difference.

The In-Between
There's also a ridiculous amount of work, contacts and major "aha" moments that occurred that I never expected. In the last 100+ days I:
That's not too shabby.

But what about my main goal in all this….to get over my fear of rejection? And am I glad I went through all this? Were all the late nights worth it? Those are questions I hope to answer in tomorrow's "Day 100" post after a little more thinking and a bit more distance.