I’m back from vacation feeling refreshed and ready to go, go, go! I thought I’d make a comeback by sharing an inspiring chat I had recently with talented Florida-based artist and decor8 blog of the week, Claudine Hellmuth.
For those of you trying to make a living doing what you love, you’ll find Claudine an excellent role model, and we all know how much we need more shooting stars in the world – people that don’t say they’ll do it, but actually set their life course on following their dreams. Whether it’s making the best grilled cheese sandwich you can make or painting a masterpiece, no goal is stupid or “not good enough” if it’s your dream and you want to pursue it. If you can dream it, you can achieve it, right? Yet, somewhere along the road of life, we toss aside our dreams and follow the natural progression of life and its stages. Fall in love, get married, buy a home, get a dog, have a kid, and continue working in a profession we dislike in order to support the life we’re not too keen on in the first place. Then you meet someone that leads by example, like Claudine, who shows you that you really can follow your own inner compass, and not the one society hands you, and find happiness and inner peace by going your own way. Ah, the beauty of that reality, huh? Would you like to meet Claudine?
decor8: Hi Claudine! I’m so happy to have a chance to “meet” you, if only through email, I’ll take what I can get because I find you to be quite an inspiration. I’ve watched all of your DVD’s from Creative Catalyst and read your recent book, Collage Discovery Workshop: Beyond the Unexpected, which inspired me to paint this during my recent vacation, so being able to take a moment with you is very exciting for me. Okay, so let’s get to talking! Being that your name is all over the web lately, and reading your website seeing your huge list of accomplishments, I have to ask, now that you are being recognized for your beautiful mixed media collage art, at one point in your journey did you wake up and feel like you’ve “made it”, you know, you had “arrived”?
Claudine: I am such a striver and pusher, that I wonder if I ever will feel like I have “made it” because there is always something bigger around the corner to “make it to”. Sometimes I wish I could just be like “ahhhh this is the goal I wanted, I am here now, I am happy”. But that usually lasts about 20 minutes and then I’m onto the next thing. I think it’s the chase of the goal that excites me more than reaching it. I have to remind myself to celebrate the steps along the way. I am seriously working with my coach on that!
decor8: Because so many questions I’ve had were answered in the various interviews I watched via your DVD’s and from the Martha Stewart radio program, I learned quite a bit about you. For decor8 readers that haven’t had a chance to learn about you and your work yet, I’d like to talk about the early years. You studied at the Corcoran College of Art + Design in Washington, DC. Looking back at your art school education, what 5 things did you like, and dislike, about the experience?
Claudine: The 5 things I liked: lots of studio time, being around other artists, new ideas, art history classes, living in Washington, DC. 5 things I didn’t like: critiques, typography (this was before computers), the wood shop, welding, and wheel throwing.
decor8: In one interview I watched on your DVD, Collage – MORE Textures and Techniques, you mentioned that you enjoy reading magazines that span many different genres, some that you aren’t even attracted to. I found this interesting because you said that this helps you to appreciate art and also to not focus just on one specific art form. Can you explain exactly why you think it’s important to stay open-minded as an artist?
Claudine: Sure. I think it keeps things fresh to look at a variety of different styles of art. Even if I come across a piece of art that I don’t like, I ask myself why I don’t like it. What is it about it that I don’t like? Is it the color, the shape, the message? You can learn just as much from looking at work that you don’t like as you can looking at work that you do like.
decor8: Wow, that’s a very unique perspective. I recently started buying altered art magazines and although all the angel wings and fairies do nothing for me on a creative level, I think you’re on to something when you say you can learn a lot by asking yourself what you don’t like about it. I have to start doing this! Next question… You love color and your paintings never cease to incorporate lots of it. Give us 3 color combinations that you swear by.
Claudine: That’s easy! Teal, red, and green is one. Then there’s orange, lime green, and yellow. Finally, hot pink, butter yellow, and turquoise.
decor8: Now let’s get down to business. You once said that artists need to either have good business skills or hire someone to represent them if they don’t. How does an artist go about acquiring business and marketing skills if they aren’t a natural at it already, and cannot afford to hire someone to help them?
Claudine: From personal experience, I really enjoy the business side of working on my art because it’s all about my work and my career. What’s not to like when it’s all about me!? Everything I do works toward bettering my business. I have recently found The Switchboards and they have a forum there which is very helpful for indie crafters and artists. They have lots of great advice on there. I also read a lot of business/PR blogs like The Publicity Hound and Art Biz Coach.
decor8: Thanks for pointing us to those resources. I know they must be working for you because you seem to be a lady about town – you’re all over the internet! You’ve written a few books, teach workshops, you have several amazing DVD’s through Creative Catalyst, and you’ve even been on Martha Stewart Radio and HGTV! In addition to all of that, you accept commissions and paint constantly. You’re married, maintain a home/office, have fur kids, and travel a lot. (I’m out of breathe already!) Being so busy, what 5 key things help you stay on top?
Claudine: Number one is being organized. I have a calendar and I stick to it. Second, to answer emails promptly and check email a lot. Next, I try to blog every day. Fourth, I work every day. There is hardly a day where I take off completely. I like to stay in my bubble and keep on making the kind of art that I like and keep moving forward. And fifth, I have a business coach (Feisty Females) and she helps keep me on track, especially when I feel overwhelmed.
Claudine: Well, when I feel a rut coming on, it means I need to play more and relax. So I try get out of the studio, read, watch movies, and just take a little break. Even if it just for a day or half a day. Something!
decor8: I heard you work from home, out of your living room. Can you describe your workspace and provide some images of it so we can take a peek?
Claudine: You heard right, Holly! My current studio is in our formal living room, so it’s the very first room that you come to when you walk in the house. It used to drive me crazy that it was there and everyone could see my stuff, but then one day I realized that no one comes over but family anyway so why should I worry about it. Now I really like it there. BUT my dream studio is a little tiny matching house in the back of my “real” house and that little house can be my little studio. I can imagine if I do get that one day, I might feel lonely out there in the little house and want to be inside! So now I have come to terms with my current studio!
decor8: You said in one of your interviews that all artists should be online either blogging or with some web presence. I couldn’t agree more. Especially when it comes to blogging, as it’s a very easy and inexpensive way to voice yourself and show your work. What are some tips you can give to artists that want to start a blog but have been told, “Serious artists go straight to galleries, you can’t sell art online!”
Claudine: I love the Internet! Everything that has happened to me has been BECAUSE of the Internet. I actually sell my work better online then I do in real life. I think through the Internet you can find your right audience, the people who will love your work. Locally I have a much harder time selling my work because it limits that audience. Blogging is magic. It opens you up to a whole community of people that are also blogging. I love it way more than I thought I would. My blog feels like a little community to me, and I am checking it a million times a day to see if anyone has commented about my posts. :) If you are starting a blog, the best way to get the word out about it is to post comments on other people’s blogs. Thoughtful posts. Not just “Hi! Check out my blog” because that is the equivalent of spam. Also make sure you post often to your blog. If you start a blog and then only post every once in a while people who visited your blog will forget to come back. I try to post at least six times a week and sometimes more.
decor8: Great advice. And finally Miss Claudine, what are 10 things that you can’t live without.
Claudine: Hmmm…1) Crystal lite – I gave up diet coke a year ago and now I drink lemonade crystal lite ALL the time. 2) pets 3) gel medium 4) my wonderful husband
5) PITT pens 6) my computer! 7) email! 8) Tylenol PM 9) Thai food and 10) 10+ hours of sleep a night!
Thank you Claudine!
You can visit Claudine’s blog or website to learn more about her and to inquire about her commissions or classes. If you’d like to know more about Claudine and how she grew her business from the ground up, visit her website and make sure to listen to her interview on Martha Stewart radio (click here).
You absolutely must read Anna Torborg’s new book, The Crafter’s Companion: Tips, Tales and Patterns from a Community of Creative Minds. Let me tell you why.
I discovered the book, not via a blog or surfin’ the net as you’d expect, but the old-fashioned way. At a bookstore. As I navigated my way towards art/design (where else?), I passed the crafty section and there it was, the Barnes & Noble featured title. With a juicy apple green cover and a to-the-point title, I was lured in instantly, so I grabbed it and started doing the anxious flip. As I flipped, the more excited I felt because I recognized so many of the artists featured inside. Some I’ve even blogged about. I had to buy it, and so I did. Sure, I could have found it for $13 on Amazon, but I wasn’t feeling patient enough to wait and order online.
The Crafter’s Companion takes the reader on a terrific journey into the minds of creative types that sew (either by hand or machine) beautiful wares ranging from dolls to pillows and everything in between. These artists also talk about crafting via their blogs/websites where they form creative connections, making new friends, exchanging ideas, and offering encouragement. Anna Torborg pulled together a beautiful read, combining heartfelt text from each artist along with inspirational images, pulling in the most beautiful shots of studios, inspiration boards, work surfaces, and handmade items. The flow of the book is very easy to follow, it profiles one artist at a time — Each with their own images, name, location, age, url, why they create, what inspires them (my favorite part), and information about their workspace (another great feature). But that’s not all.
An added bonus is when each artist wraps up their profile with a mini project, so you can try getting crafty yourself. Lisa Congdon shows how to make a log cabin pillow, Wee Wonderfuls demonstrates the art of making a pillowcase apron, My Paper Crane crafts up a quick “house” tissue cover, Angry Chicken teaches how to create a quilted throw (I want to try this one), or learn how to make a library tote from the fabulous Fiona Dalton. With 17 crafter profiles and projects, The Crafter’s Companion will motivate everyone, from the experienced artist to the closet crafter, to reach out and create something from the heart. It will also inspire you to blog, and although you may not thought it possible, when you finish reading the book, you’ll appreciate handmade wares on a level you may not expect.
I appreciate how the artists reach deep inside and express exactly why they craft. Not for money or to win some popularity contest, but often for spiritual and emotional reasons, and for the friendships they make through online networking. Of course, some are able to supplement their income from their craft business, but none of these ladies are rolling in the cash – for them, money is only a small piece of it. Their work is from the heart. What does this really mean to them? It seems that each hopes to use their talent and energy to put a stamp on something unique, to gain the approval of others, feel appreciated, form friendships, bond with others, and make money doing what they love. Certainly a different approach to the mission of most companies today. Isn’t that refreshing? Of course, they also appreciate the value in owning something unique and handmade in a world that has become so commercial and, flip over any object you buy these days, is stamped “Made in China”. So it’s a combination of things that encourage the modern crafter to do what they love, but the common theme is that they all seem to use crafting as a creative outlet to balance the boring, mundane things in life that can sometimes crowd out the creative side (i.e. working for a living and taking out the trash). These ladies make room to craft because it helps them stay balanced and happy. A good lesson for all, isn’t it?
I’d like to give a little shout out to each one of these talented women because they put so much of themselves into this title. I hope you click on their links below and visit their sites. But first of all, a huge shout out to the energy and spirit behind the book, the editor, Anna Torborg from Twelve22. And then, in order of appearance in the book:
Alison Brookbanks, 6.5 st, Australia
Amy Karol, Angry Chicken, Oregon
Cassi Griffin, Bella Dia, Idaho
Fiona Dalton, Hop Skip Jump, Australia
Heidi Kenney, My Paper Crane, Pennsylvania
Hillary Lang, Wee Wonderfuls, Illinois
Juju Vail, Juju Loves Polka Dots, England
Katey Nicosia, One Good Bumblebee, Texas
Lisa Congdon, California
Lyn Roberts, Molly Chicken, England
Maitreya Dunham, Craftlog, New Jersey
Mariko Fujinaka, Super Eggplant, Oregon
Myra Masuda , My Little Mochi, Hawaii
Sarah Neuburger, The Small Object, South Carolina
Tania Ho, Chocolate a Chuva, Portugal
Tania Howells, Canada
Congrats ladies on the powerful, positive message that The Crafter’s Companion sends. Excellent work! And if you’d like, listen in on a podcast CraftyPod had with Anna Torborg. It’s all about crafting + blogging and how Anna selected each artist, the message she is trying to send through it, and her feelings about blogs in general.
Psst: If you’ve read this book and created something inspired by the patterns in it, feel free to post your project to the The Crafter’s Companion Flickr group.
(images from individuals linked above)
Have you heard of DaWanda? They recently launched online out of Berlin mitte (my favorite place in Berlin for shopping), and offer a free store to newbies that sign up before May 31st. After 5/31, a standard rate will apply, so try to sneak in during this special offer. DaWanda is somewhat of an Etsy operation, they offer storefronts to sellers on one condition, that you make whatever it is that you’re selling. Even a great big table like the one below, which I love.
“Dawanda is a new online marketplace for artists, designers and artisans across Europe to set up their own shop to sell their handmade products.”
The site is in English (British), French, and German, you select the language by clicking on your flag of choice in the upper right hand corner of the homepage. You can browse by color, tag, technique, materials, or category. You can even create and organize wish lists and vote for your favorites.
Why does the world need DaWanda if Etsy is already out there? I think that for most Germans without credit cards (not the norm in Germany), they prefer using their bank account to pay for things and DaWanda gives sellers that ability so it makes things a lot easier. Most of my German friends and family do not even have (or want) Paypal accounts, so I think DaWanda offers them the chance to engage in a little e-commerce in the way they are most comfortable with, via their bank account. Plus, unlike Etsy, the site is in 3 languages, including German.
Check out DaWanda and let me know what you think. I’m interested in hearing what my pals in Europe have to say about this site.
Psst: Bridget Davis has some great pillows!
Jasna Janekovic is a very talented lady that lives in K?ln, Germany and has some of the most gorgeous images on Flickr that I’ve seen in awhile. Very relaxed, uncomplicated, simple. I love the lighting, softness, there’s just this vintage beauty about her photos that makes me want to spend a weekend on my grandparents farm drinking peach iced tea and collecting wildflowers in a basket. Jasna has her own little store online selling beautiful homemade delights created by her own hands. Everything in her store is completely Jasna, step inside, you’ll see. Completely charming.
(images by jasna janekovic)