Saturday, October 8, 2011

An Update on the Business Side of Things

Midnight Trellis, a hand painted coat
Little Red Riding Hood, one of my art pieces.
I don't know if I'm simply part of a trend or not, and maybe I'm just more aware of them now that I'm doing it myself, but I seem to notice a lot of independent small businesses opening up lately...  And not the brick-and-mortar store front kind, but the small DIY'er stay at home kind.

I'm not sure if that's a sign of the economic times, or if it's a result of more and more people reaching retirement age, or whether it's a symptom of the rising Handmade/anti-manufacturing ideology... And it's probably actually a combination of these factors as well as a bunch of others that I don't know about.  But regardless, I'm feeling like I'm one among many nowadays.

It hit me that, being a blog about my wearable art business, I've rather "avoided" discussing my business beyond posting new stuff I have up for sale.  In the interests of being transparent and actually writing about what I said I was going to write about, I have to confess something: I'm a bit embarrassed.

A vintage fabric swallowtail vest
Relished Monarch, a "neck lace" choker
You see, my business hasn't really taken off like I thought.  I keep telling myself it's a sloooow process, and it may take a couple years.  There are lots of factors that have resulted in my lack of "business impetus", and I can outline them all for you quite articulately and concisely, but the bottom line is that I've simply not put into it what I could have.  It's interesting--there are days when I am all "gung ho" about it, and spend hours and hours making, then there are days when I simply can't tear myself away from Facebook.  I know that I have to have even more discipline as an entrepreneur than I would usually, and as an artist even more so.  But discipline is hard to develop when I've worked a life as an employee on someone else's schedule.  I have to learn how.  I have a feeling that's going to be harder than kicking crack...  <sigh>

There are different philosophies about how honest an entrepreneur should be about how their business is doing--how much do you share, how much do you keep quiet about, how much do you outright lie about...  I'm not one for telling lies.  But I worry about exposing too many of my foibles for fear of coming across as completely inept and naive.

Recycled Tin Can Mobile
Joplin, one of my Art Dolls
And ultimately why share anything at all?  What's the compulsion to tell others how well things are going for you anyway?  Who cares?  Why should they care?

Some say "for community and camaraderie".   Some say it's our obligation to support each other.  Some say because it's just the right thing to do, because one should always "do unto others as ye would have done unto you"...  None of that makes the embarrassment go away, though.

But if I can't be honest, what's the point?  You don't have to read this.  And I won't share everything, but I think a certain level of "transparency" is what's missing in today's business world, and I'm not going to be part of the problem by adding to the cloudiness.  So.

The state of Relished Artistry, LLC:  Pretty much the same as when it started.  Still working at home, still have both Etsy and Artfire sites, still have my blog, still flitting from one shiny idea to another, and still haven't entered any shows.  Still no actual website of my own.  Selling about 1-2 pieces per month, and have never paid myself (I'm glad my partner has a job...).  All the profit goes right back into the business.  I've made more money contracting my services out through Relished Artistry as a costume technician than I have actually selling any items I've made--but that's not a bad thing, considering that my work as a technician is part of my business, too.   My New Year's Resolutions from January have sadly been left unmet--the majority of them anyway...  I'm thinking maybe I made too many...  Haha!
Porcelain China Choker
Oriental Brocade Frock Coat

1) To participate in 2 Craft Fairs/Trunk Shows.

2) To develop a body of work that includes 150 pieces/items for sale, including garments, polymer clay items, and art pieces.

3) To enter a Wearable Art show.

4) To create 2 Art Exhibitions/Shows or enter my work into 2 juried Art Exhibitions.

5) To go to "Market" in Los Angeles and investigate what it's like.

6) To join professional organizations that lend themselves to my discipline--wearable art, art, and crafts.

Relished BrĂșn Swallowtail Vest
Satin Ringmaster Swallowtail Vest

7) To investigate the San Diego Art scene and community by attending exhibitions, openings, and asking questions at art fairs.

8) To create a stronger sense of community around myself by posting more open and engaging posts to my blog in a more regular fashion, investigating artist-oriented community websites and forums, and commenting more regularly on the blogs I am subscribed to.

9) To explore local boutique and retail spaces, finding out what it takes to sell my work in those venues.

10) To cut down on my television and computer habits by more carefully monitoring my time spent using them, recognizing when I am using them as a crutch, and replacing the habit with something more constructive.

At a certain point, a person just has to DO instead of talking about doing.

Princess Choker
Polymer Clay Mosaic Velvet Jacket
And so I go to do.  When in doubt, I go back to developing my body of work.  I purchased some new fabric for some frock coats and vests today, so I'm very excited about that.  I think I'm going to make some in a variety of different sizes, rather than just a mens 42.  Perhaps that will open up some sales opportunities.  I'd love to be able to "take orders" to make my garments on demand, but I can't afford to front money for the fabric I might need for potential orders and just have it sit there in my stock hoping someone will come along and order it...  And the possibility of it disappearing from my local stores is always there, as I discovered today--I bought three yards of a fabric from a bargain bin, went back for more this afternoon, and it was gone.  So if I don't buy in bulk, I'm sorta screwed if I can't find the fabric again.  Best to make individual pieces.

So I make single pieces of unusual character and (hopefully) artistic merit and pray that they will appeal to a certain kind of customer.  I'm not interested in making a "line" of clothing, and manufacturing them in a variety of sizes.  I'm more interested in the artistic aspect that comes with the creation of each piece of wearable art, with it's singular personality and definition.  I don't want to make dozens and dozens of exactly the same thing.  And I am looking for the type of customer that doesn't want to wear something that dozens and dozens of other people are also wearing, either...
Caramel Relish corduroy coat

Wavy Relish Asymmetrical Coat
Is it an uphill battle?  Probably.  Would I rather be doing this than anything else in the world?  Definitely.  So I can't complain too much.  Slow is better than backward, you know?

In this last year, I refocused my "corporate identity" and tried to start narrowing my style down into something that I could articulate in my head a bit better.  I provided myself some boundaries regarding what's "appropriately Relished Artistry" and what just won't work for the brand.  I've also developed more items to expand my range of price points so it's not all high-ticket items.  I've explored a variety of social networking venues, but I'm having a bit of a problem finding the right audience for my stuff...  It's all well and good to have communities of crafters and artists, but that's not where the customers are.  Awesome  and invaluable support, though!  : )

I'm sure there are others out there that are experiencing the same things I am.  It's a weird feeling isn't it?

But I'm not going to let this feeling stop me from Living Life with Relish, you know? And it shouldn't stop you, either.


  1. Corey, it's interesting to read your thoughts. I think a craft/art show is a step in the right direction. You need people to see and feel your products sometimes. Your brand needs to be visible. It's also a great learning experience. I find that each time I go out to sell, I get more followers/fans. Also, I get invites to sell at places I hadn't heard of. Recently I met a seller who's very successful on Etsy and he told me I need to take out adwords. He hit 8,000 sales recently so I think he knows what he's talking about! p.s I don't read blogs where everything is perfect, so great all the time. That's not real.

  2. Jane, that's a huge relief to hear that... I have been wanting to get into the craft fair "circuit" here in San Diego, but since I've never really gone to many of them, by the time I find out about them the registration deadline has long passed... I am getting together a list of shows I would like to apply to, but they're all a year away! LOL! I absolutely agree with you--my stuff needs to be actually seen in person. So I've begun to investigate getting a tent, but the good ones are pricey! LOL! Gotta save up a bit more money for that...

    I will look into adwords--I've heard of them, but always put it out of my mind as one of those things that I would get to "eventually"... Perhaps I need to look into them now.

    And I'm finding that I am frustrated with blogs that are all "smooth and perfect", too... And I certainly do NOT want to become one of those blogs where all they do is simply put out posts that are an excuse to direct people to their webstore... I'm terribly guilty of that, recently, but I am going to search out more topics that are "content-based" so I can write about something other than just what I'm making. It makes me feel really good that you are more interested in "real" blogs than the ones that are "polished and perfect"--there's something more authentic about them that appeals to me, too! : )

  3. I am in the same place as you are. I began my business several years ago yet have not put in the time or effort it would actually take to bring it to another level. It is difficult to work a full-time job and have enough energy to devote to a personal business. My resolutions were much like yours.Unfulfilled good intentions. For now I just keep trying to move forward one small step at a time. your work is lovely, BTW!


  4. Diane--Yeah I think I just made a bunch of resolutions because they sounded like the right ones to make... I think I have to step back a bit and realized they may have been a bit too ambitious! Haha!


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