Why meeting people (especially women) is a really good thing

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When I typed out the title to this post, I had a strange image of what type of odd spam comments and SEO hits I might get. But I wanted to do a quick share of some fun news which revolves around meeting women, staying in touch with them and being FOR them, behind them in all their endeavors. I was so touched by all your comments on Friday’s post when I announced that I am jumping back into making art and opening an online shop.  I felt a collective “hooray!” from all of you. One of the things that prompted me to get it together after mulling it over for what seemed like forever was that Grace Kang, owner of  Pink Olive, asked me to put some watercolor work (greeting card) in the Olive Box. I interviewed Grace sometime back and she had just launched the subscription based Olive Box.  That meant 100′s (more than 100′s!!) of cards printed, packaged in cello and sent out in about two weeks time. I did it and it FELT good. I felt good.  Meeting Grace and keeping in touch with her makes me feel good! I am so happy to see Grace’s businesses thriving. If you remember Grace-she likes things in 3′s so she recently announced she is opening her THIRD retail store!!

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Next up is Betz White! Betz and I met years ago at the Creative Connection event, we have stayed in touch, I interviewed her when I first started. Recently, she hopped into the Smart Creative Style Course and WOW! She just wrote the nicest write up on what the course did for her! This is a GREAT POST! If you want to know about the course, go read it! I am so happy for all Betz is up to, I was excited to see her launch her new website. I am BIG fan of her books,  her shop and her creativity in general!

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But that’s what it is all about, right? Being a fan of other people’s creativity! Knowing that there is room for us all, building a community of people that say “hooray” for you when you launch something, have a break through, get a dealRealizing that the competition we create is so often a figment of our overactive imaginations! (You know I am right and trust me, I have done it too!) We are all in this together And it is FABULOUS!

If I would have remained a private stalker (mixed with a tad of envy) in these women’s lives, I would not have been so blessed by them this week! When I meet you all in person or online, it enriches my life in countless ways! I know I don’t get a chance to meet all of you, but when I see exchanges like this one below from my Instagram post from this past Sunday, it warms my heart! I adore the fact that you all can meet each other via Smart Creative Women in whatever form it takes! I love it when we put isolation, discouragement and judgment behind us and realize that meeting each other is a really good thing!

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Here is my interview with Grace Kang.

Here is my interview with Betz White.

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Who and What I am into this Week: Finally! I opened a shop!

 

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If you follow me on Instagram you might have seen peeks of what I have been up to in my spare time (spare time?) I finally got some watercolor prints into an online shop!!!!! I opted for Etsy, which was easier since I had a shop (MonicaLee) just sitting waiting to be used! I have been really excited to launch this for a couple of reasons!

1. I am feeling very creative and needed to carving out time to paint exactly what I want to paint! My very own point of view!

2. I actually have a bit of a PLAN behind it all. This is the first step in a 3 pronged plan to get Monica’s point of view out in the world :)  Granted, it is a plan still taking shape in my head, but that is how I work. I wrestle it all out internally until it makes sense, then I plot a course of action.

The e-course Smart Creative Style let me wrestle it out visually first. And I was designing the course, I saw themes in all the things I was surrounding myself with  and I started to refine them. What did I REALLY love?  I sat on my conclusions for a couple of months as I sorted how whether to just jump into wholesale, licensing or selling directly to consumers (yes, I am thinking big.) I have been pondering the idea of storytelling and evoking a mood.  Honestly, my brain is so in this story, I cannot seem to leave it!  That is how much I love it which is exactly what it is supposed to feel like!!

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Every time I run Smart Creative Style, I gain something new! The women in the course help push me along as they unpeel layers about themselves and their own brands. Towards the end of the course, Michelle Strazec did a screen capture of her final brand board and her Etsy shop side by side to see if they evoked the same feeling. Brilliant idea! I utilize screen captures all the time, but I loved the side by side element. I have a secret brand board that I have been working on and so I tried this same exercise. This is a snapshot of the result!

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I am happy! In this secret board I had been accumulating a lot of imagery with dark romantic backdrops. I struggled with taking pictures for my Etsy shop (oh! Photography skills!!) but I think seeing a print in some other form than just digitally is paramount for me. I wanted to show my items in a setting.  I see an increasing amount decor shots like these below,  I do think this is an upcoming trend of rich, dark backdrops suits my Monica Lee brand well. (Insert sigh)

darkwalls We talk about trends a lot in the course, when they are a good match up for you and when they are not. While I know white, white, white everything is appealing, it felt too safe for me and the story I want to tell. I wanted a different a different kind of allure than just gold glitter on white (What? Crazy Monica! You love gold glitter!) Yes, and a good glass of champagne, have you seen my party board?

While I try to capture good light on gray New England days in my house (near impossible) I also wanted  do  very little color photo editing. Hard!

The GOOD news and other big news in the world of Monica is…I am moving my studio!!! (New photography space and adventure space in my future!) I have convinced the men in my life to do a giant room rotation and I am moving into the upper floor of our craftsman style house. This will mean  500 square feet for MEEEEEE! Pitched roof, short walls and all, it is a go! Hardwood floors go in soon! Lots to do!

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So that means I am leaving the pink walls behind!! I took some shots of my art on the pink walls before we paint over them!

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Right now I have art prints in the shop BUT I did manage to sneak in some sweet note cards too! As I continue to populate the shop, I wanted to say THANK YOU!! As I have been talking about doing this (seem like forever) and sneaking images onto social media (feel free to grab images and share) your encouragement has MEANT SO MUCH. I can hardly believe how good it feels to have a community of  creative, skilled, beautiful, talented, upbeat women like those of you who listen in to Smart Creative Women. Thank you for letting me be me!!

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From sketchbook to the street: A look at Kelsey Montague’s passion

Meet Kelsey Montague, one half the talent behind the Nikita and Vesper brand. Kelsey has teamed her skills up with her sister’s skills, and they are on the move to make the world a better and more fashionable place! They sell a mix of vintage and new items, some of it featuring Kelsey’s art. I love the sister collaboration, and the bio info: 2 sisters. 2 styles and ONE GOAL – To provide YOU with the best curated ethical fashion out there. 

Today Kelsey talks about how she discovered  a style of art that she loves and why she almost didn’t focus on art at all. I was curious as to what tools she uses (please, let’s talk pens!!) and  if she sketches her detailed work in pencil beforehand. You will be surprised by her answers. She has recently been commissioned to do some street art, I like what she has to say about it!

P.S. You have got to follow her in Instagram, I think she keeps it really interesting! @kelseymontagueart You can also follow the pair of sisters at @nikitaandvesper

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Who and What I into this Week: A trip to Paris!

I have been wanting to go to Paris for some time now. Somehow I convinced BJ Lantz to ditch her Fall travel plans and to go to Paris with me for my birthday! Ok, my birthday is in Sept and we are going in October but still! How exciting is it to have something like this on your calendar?? I had been talking to my friend,  Susan, trying to get her to go. She’s a flight attendant, so not a lot of planning is necessary. This can be a good thing and a bad thing. Sometimes flight attendants get the time off, sometimes they don’t. It makes it really tricky to plan ahead. She is super adventurous and I hope she comes along! I am going no matter what! Then I mentioned it to another girlfriend (two small children) who shall remain nameless since I am not sure she has mentioned to her husband yet and she might want to join us.

Turns out it is really no that hard convincing people to at least consider a trip to Paris.  When you look at these pictures wouldn’t you consider it? And these are just cafe shots! Talk about mood! I have to drive a half hour (Providence, RI) to get anything that comes close to setting a relaxing mood like this. BJ has THE best Pinterest board titled Armchair Parisian! Ack, I love it! If you love Paris, you HAVE to follow her. She has been to Paris many times before (and is quite the photographer) and I am thrilled she is so familiar with the city. While I spent a lot of time in Paris myself as a flight attendant, it was never for an extended stay.

These cafe pic came off her board Paris, cafes, bistros and restaurants. A nice way to end the week, don’t you think? Do you have an coffee shops or cafes near you that set a particular mood?

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Editor Sarah Schwartz from Stationery Trends Magazine!

When I was in NYC judging the Louie Awards (like the Emmy’s for greeting cards) I met THE most lovely people and one of them was Sarah Schwartz. She is the editor of Stationery Trends Magazine! You will hear me gush about the publication.  When I attended Surtex and the National Stationery Show last year, I picked up a copy of this magazine and immediately thought, “Surely this is not a trade publication!” It is really PRETTY! It is also well thought out and well laid out so when I found myself sitting behind her judging 900 greeting cards (that’s right, 900!!) I knew I had to have her on the show. Sarah has a good eye for sure! In this interview you’ll find out how she became an editor, how the magazine works (including submissions) and about her letter writing campaign! Oh, I love a girl that takes the time to put something pretty on the mail! Over at her blog The Paper Chronicles, she has started a letter writing campaign!! Ok ladies (and gentlemen) I KNOW you have some REALLY pretty art to show Sarah, so let’s send her some mail! What do you say? Are you up for it? Her address is below!

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Sarah says, 

“Participating in my campaign is easy. Just send me a letter, card or postcard on your favorite paper and tell me what makes it so. My address is: P.O. Box 22133, Beachwood, Ohio 44122. I will share it here, and then send you some writing papers along with a note for your efforts.”

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Marketing your work: Turning pain points into joy points

My version of a walk through Madison Square Park, NYC. 

monicalee_umbrella There is a popular theory  amongst marketing  experts to meet  what they call customers “pain points” to help bring your goods and services into the market place. It goes something like this, someone needs help with their social media. You can write blog posts that help them understand the inner workings of Facebook (good luck) and then make a chart so they know what size images to use for Facebook. You can even create cute icons so they can add buttons to their website. We see this all the time regarding diets, yoga, and just about any how-to video ever created. Meeting someone’s point of pain and helping them. Filling a need in their lives. Enter an artist and their work. What “pain points” do their customers have and how does that play into an artist’s marketing plan? Let’s take art for products out of the equation because I could tell you that when you buy a phone, you need a case to protect it. Pain point, “I don’t want to break my new phone.” You could even say, “I want my new phone case to be super adorable.” Pain point, I want  at least a few compliments when I use it. Do you see how getting inside a “pain point” of a customer can be really beneficial in how you market your work? It definitely has merit. I find many creative people often do not think of their customers at all so anything thinking beyond what they are producing in their own corner of the world is a really good thing. So let’s narrow our discussion to fine art, not for a “useful” product, but just for the sake of being. You could run through the basics, saying, “People need art for their interiors.” Hello, can you paint me something that matches my couch? That is just painful for everyone.  Anyone who has studied art history as asked themselves if Henri Matisse was ever asked that. Anyhoo… I would like to insert my marketing theory that you think about your customers “joy points.” Storytelling with art has been going on for centuries. Artists often find themselves in a dilemma with how or why they are telling their particular story, they often feel it just needs to be told. I think that this can be called “joy points.” Often an artist needs to show the world how they “SEE.” Just like a filmmaker creates a complete vision to show who he sees a scene playing out, a visual 2-D artist can do the same thing. They have a driving need to tell a story or show people how they see. Any person in a creative field can do this. Does that criteria meet a “pain point” for marketing purposes? I would have to say not always. I honestly believe your work can tap into the emotion of joy in another person. It can be a mood, a setting, something that makes you remember something or an image that makes the viewer “SEE” differently. So my marketing tip today is to understand the “joy points” of your customers as well. Understanding that your view of an umbrella may be a good joy point for someone. We have all used umbrellas and sometimes in the hushed rain, we see the first signs of Spring, we get a romantic feeling, we think of childhood or we just take joy in the shape of them! That can be a really good mental space to create from and market from.

What about you? Do you put yourself in your customer’s shoes? Does it help you market your work?

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Party like a Lulu (and a smart business woman)

Want to throw a party? Jessie Senese has got what you need! Her online store Shop Sweet Lulu has everything you could possibly want to surround your special event with a dose of fun and pretty! Turns out event planners and prop stylist like to party like a Lulu too, she has a BIG customer base! I find her story fascinating, it is the one-small-idea and the guts to do it part that I like! She was a  creative mom and blogger with an idea to sell some party supplies becausewell, she likes parties! In this interview she talks about her small start on Etsy (and why she got kicked off!) She has grown GROWN GROWN. From a bedroom office to her basement to a 10k  square foot warehouse and 14 employees, she has learned how to run an online business from the ground up! Tune in and see what she means by products having the “squeal” factor, how she keeps up with trends and her companies best social media tools! Jessie’s story is inspiring to say the least! She is one smart party girl!

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