TCL: Supplementary Material, IV: Andrea

I first met Andrea Scher through her blog, Superhero Journal. Within days of roaming through her posts, I was hooked. Being hooked meant more than just loving her photos and learning so much from her wisdom and compassion. It meant that I became a customer when I bought one of her beautiful necklaces for Patti. Andrea’s blog is certainly not designed to be a crass storefront but the more immersed one becomes in her sense of style and her appreciation of every day, the more you trust her and want to own a piece of her.
As we corresponded, I learned that Andrea had spent several years as a gift product designer/book production manager working with SARK, a woman I admire a great deal for the enthusiastic inspiration in her lovely colorful books. SARK is another good example of someone whose creative spirit reaches in many directions, and someone who has made a decent living not through galleries or mainstream marketing but by designing her own sort of company, her own sort of way of making a creative living.

So many people seem to want to know about alternate paths to creative self-sufficiency beyond the Major-Hollywood-Studio, Major-Publisher, Major-Label-fantasy-that-will-probably-never-come-true-as-one-imagines-it sort of thing. The Internet and one’s own imagination seem to offer so many opportunities and Andrea seems to be plumbing many of them. She is a talented photographer and painter, she designs and sells a great line of jewelry and t-shirts . Last year she was trained as a life coach and started a practice, working with creative people all over the world. She plans to focus more and more on the coaching in the coming years.

Andrea and I spent some face time in San Francisco, where I stayed in a lovely little guest house on Balmy Alley, surrounded by incredible murals. Here the gist of what she told me then:

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ANDREA: “I was reminded today of an important turning point in my creative life. A woman wrote to me and asked, “How do you keep your confidence up (without letting it dissipate) to keep living your creative dream?”

What came to mind is something a friend of mine told me years ago. I was saying something self-deprecating and insecure about my artwork and he turned to me and said, “When are you going to take it for granted that you are a talented artist? When are you going to stop trying to prove it? Assume it. Take it for granted and imagine what you could create from that place…”

My whole life changed that day.

I finally saw how much energy I was putting into becoming an artist. I thought I had to somehow earn the title, that there was some special magic attached to it. I thought I had to be plucked from the crowd, that someone from the outside (who? I have no idea) would say to me, NOW. You are good enough.

What a bunch of crap.

I think the label of “artist” is loaded and has a strange sort of baggage attached to it. People say, “I’m not an artist! I can barely draw a straight line” and I always cringe when I hear this. What’s so interesting about a straight line anyway?

It is not an exclusive club, this artist thing. It’s just a bunch of people who like to play, to make things, to dream up ideas, to color, to sing, to build, to string words together. Don’t we all? I think it helps to remove the labels.

Another part of keeping my confidence up has been learning to honor and trust my own unique way of doing things. I have to make peace over and over again with the fact that I run my business differently than others. I invent it every single day. It is very intuitive for me. I don’t read books about business, I don’t have a business plan, I don’t use spreadsheets and I don’t have a marketing program. To most, this is highly disorganized and BAD. (There is an evil voice in my head that reminds me of this all the time.)

Your dreams are living, growing things. There will be times when you think, “This is never going to work! What the hell am I thinking? Who am I to do this anyway?” And then a few days later you will get a call from someone who wants to hire you to design their CD cover or shoot their wedding or DJ their party and although you are tempted to say, “Me? Are you crazy? You should probably call someone more qualified.” You will instead grin, nod your head graciously and say, “Great. I would be happy to do that.”

Living your dream doesn’t mean you are always confident. It just means that you keep on going…”

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Things I do to make money from my work:

1. Sell off of my web site SuperheroDesigns.com Sell my jewelry online on my web site.

2. Urban Fairs Attend retail shows such as craft fairs, trunk shows and small “urban fairs” such as Feria Urbana.

3. Home shows Small home shows at your house or at a friend’s are a great and really fun way to get your work out there. You can invite other artists to join you as well! Because they will be inviting their list of clients just like you will be, everyone wins. This is a great way to expand your client base. There are also people organizing home trunk shows professionally, such as Relish at Home.
4. Corporate trunk shows A newer venue for me is the corporate office trunk show. A friend who works at a big magazine publisher in town proposed a holiday trunk show at their office. I set up my wares in the boardroom during the lunch hour and employees stopped by to shop for holiday gifts. I was delighted at how much money I made in one delicious hour!

5. Sell my work off my body. When I first started my business, I was sure to wear a really fabulous (and new, hot-off-the-press) necklace when I went out on the town. Inevitably, someone would comment on it and I would tell them that I actually made it and that they could purchase it right off my neck. (I also had a small inventory in my bag to show them as well) This worked for me on many occasions!

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For more, read this recent article by Andrea called “Superhero Guide to Designing a Creative Business” and this profile on GirlAtPlay.

Jack's deck

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Of all sports, I think I like the aesthetics of skateboarding best. I like the graceful gymnastics of top level boarders. I like the come-as-you-are aesthetics of their (un-)uniforms. I like the exhuberant thrashing and driving basslines of their music. And I like the synergies between skateboarding and graphic design that seems as old as the sport is. Skateboarding magazines, logos, and deck designs have been around for decades. Maybe it’s a SoCal thing, just like car customization, another grass roots aesthetic movement.
My boy, Jack, turned 11 last week. He has given himself a fine birthday present this year by painting the underside of his board with a group portrait of his favorite cartoon characters in various states of debauchery. Jack worked fairly long and hard on this piece, drawing the design, then transferring it onto the board by scribbling pencil on the back of his drawing, then carefully painting the whole thing in acrylics and then polyurethaning the whole thing to preserve it against New York puddles. Our pal, Tom Kane, provided technical advice and encouragement.
When we went to the skateboard store to get trucks and wheels, the staff was incredulous that this little kid had created such a great board. Now Jack is busy scratching and scraping his masterpiece on the rough asphalt of Washington Square Park.

Cataloging colors

catalogcolorsWhat does it take to name a color? Manufacturers do it every day for their own convenience. It helps them keep track of what they’re making and how it’s selling and distinguishes one season from another. Apparently, it also makes colors more desirable, forming associations between random hues and exotic places and objects and values and flavors and anything else that might help sell.
Still, there’s something presumptuous about assigning a title to a particular color, like naming a star or a species or a mountain. Who gave Old Navy that right? And what a sloppy job they do too, giving very different colors the same name or vice versa. Crayola and Pantone are a lot better at it.
All this cavalier designation helps to compromise what we see. The names are meaningless because the relationship between the names and the colors are so inconsistent. These blues aren’t the same when they are printed in our catalogs, or on our computers screens, or dyed into yarn, or worn in sunlight, or washed ten times.
What matters in the end is not these ill-fitted names but the fact that we recognize and appreciate the many hues we see all around us, that we don’t become desensitized through commerce’s clumsiness and yen to market everything under the sun, and start to mistrust the incredible abilities of our eyes and brains. When we try to shoehorn colors into chip and swatches, we diminish our environment and blind ourselves, just a little bit more, to the infinite subtlety and wonder of the universe.