Category Archives: Being self aware

I am an Artist


Facing my reflection

Today I had what I think they call a Damascus moment. I’m no spring chicken, next year I turn 50, half a blimmin century and I think I’m going to have a Croning ceremony as I embrace my status as an older  Feminist woman in our society. But this post isn’t about that. Although it does have something to do with my Feminist stance.

Let me explain…

I grew up believing my  ultimate goal as a woman was to grow up and get married. Some day my prince will come… I used to go to sleep as a young girl of 6 or 7 with my hair spread out beautifully on my pillow just in case my prince came in the door at night.

I did grow up and get married, not before having a stint in art school and discovering that I had a talent for drawing and painting. My tutors and colleagues really believed in me. It was a pity that I somehow never shared their belief.

Why didn’t I believe?

I think it was because my mum repeatedly told me that I was not an artist and never would be because I could only copy.

Those words would burn deep into my psyche and end up echoing round my head as an adolescent, then right throughout my adulthood. Until now.

But I’m running before I’ve learned to walk. So I got married and had two beautiful daughters who have now grown up to be wonderful young women, one of whom has a daughter of her own. I’m now a proud grandma.

I’m no longer married. Nobody told me that the Disney princess prophesy ended like this.

But I moved on and I grew. I now don’t believe in marriage. My goals in life have changed. When I grow up I want to be an artist instead.

Well, today I think I grew up.

After spending a day with my eldest artistic daughter at the BP Portrait Awards at the National Portrait Gallery it suddenly struck me. I should have my work on the walls. There was no reason why I couldn’t be amongst this fabulous display of diverse portraiture. What was I waiting for? I had already painted a portrait of a street drinker friend I had made about 10 years ago that I think would be worthy of submission. Jimmy1 Jimmy2 Jimmy3 Jimmy4For over ten years this painting had been rolled up in a corner, hiding. Today I took it out and looked at it with new eyes.  The word started to bubble up.

ARTIST.

I was waiting to embrace the word. The word that for almost 40 years had felt far too big for me to handle. ARTIST.

It was hard to say. ARTIST. ( You’re not an artist, you can only copy) Shut up mum.

ARTIST. ( You’re not an artist … )

ARTIST. I AM AN ARTIST.

I went around my flat with my little camera, taking photos of myself , not smiling. Not posing. Just being me. Being serious. Taking myself seriously.  Just being me, the artist. Not the woman, not the mother, not the children’s entertainer, just me. THE ARTIST.

IAA IAA1 IAA2 IAA3 IAA4 IAA5 IAA6 IAA7 IAA8 IAA9 IAA10 IAA11

Then I started to feel like including myself and my work. My flat is full of my work. From painting and drawing to soft sculpture. It is a veritable private temple of my creativity. It’s time to go public and stop being afraid of showing the real me.

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So  Mum. Now what do you think?

I’m a mother fucking artist.

Yes I am. Oh yes I am.

And today is the beginning of my artist journey as an artist. Not an apologist.

Unlike the adolescent me who had the ability but nothing to say with it, I’ve got so much to say now , it is hard to know where to start.

I’m starting tomorrow. Tomorrow I paint.

I am a woman and I am an artist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Turning Fairies into Scaries


 

I’ve always had a soft spot for fairies.

My childhood ambition was to grow up to be a fairy. I almost achieved it ( read about that here)

I have a very scruffy looking gothic fairy sitting stiffly on a cloud tattooed on my left breast/upper chest. It was a moment of madness, literally.

I was a lady of a certain age going through a difficult emotional time when I stepped into that tattoo parlour on a whim.

Most people would look at it and think that I’d regret getting such a clumsy piece of skin art, but I don’t. Like many people’s tattoos , it symbolises a time that I like to remember to keep me grounded.

Not the best piece of skin art in the world but it works for me.

I think most people go through a period in life when things go dark : if you don’t, you’ve lived a charmed life. We can’t avoid darkness in our lives, be it bereavement, loss, relationship breakdown  and so on. As painful as those things are , I believe they still play a part in the rich tapestry of life and can sometimes be our making rather than our undoing; character building stuff.

So I suppose you might say my tattoo predicted how my love for fairies would also, in time, include my love for ‘scaries’. I have been walking around with a prediction marked into my skin for over 10 years.

This

My favourite flower fairy. She flew away some time ago now.

has managed to turn into this:

My L’il Devil. Now with a new owner.

 

I’m not saying the Scaries have replaced the fairies, not a bit of it! I’m saying they’ve balanced the world out a little.

I’ve got to shoot off and be a children’s entertainer now in my incarnation as Diane’s Puppets.

I’ll be back to show you what else has crawled out  of the shadowy dark side that is Crochet Dark and Decadent 
very soon.

Toodle pip.

 

 

 

 

 

Self Esteem and the Pricing Debate


As most of you lovely regular readers of my blog know, I’m fairly new to the crochet game. Despite my clear addiction to crochet which would indicate that I’ve been crocheting forever ( I have loads of stock now) I’ve only really just started on my crochet journey at CROCHET BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL

I may be new to crochet , but I’m not new to business. I’ve been running my children’s entertainment service business Diane’s Puppets  now for 20 years and I’m still in business, right in the middle of a double dip recession , despite my job being a dispensable luxury service ( I’m not strictly essential really am I? ) which should indicate that I’ve got some sort of a business brain in my skull. ( As well as being rather silly, don’t ask, it’s a skill!)

So where is this all leading, you may ask?

Well…keep the business thing in your head and let me tell you a story.

I made this bag the other day:

Black and bright granny square tote bag

Large Granny square tote bag, she’s a beauty.

I think she’s a beauty. She’s made of 33 individual squares ( no two squares alike ) in very bright colours, with gold yarn detailing , fully lined in black cotton with pockets, button fastened, nice long strong matching striped shoulder strap and finished off with a pretty large red crochet rose.

This bag came about as a bit of an afterthought. She started life off as a scarf commission. ( Well I say commission, no money was ever decided on as I didn’t want to commit to such a large piece without giving the pricing structure really good thought. ) Actually, let me explain this properly.

I meet lots of wonderful people when I occasionally work my market stall.

Crochet Bright and Beautiful market stall

I get many admirers. It is certainly a massive ego boost to have strangers stop and admire your work. This one time was no exception. I had a young lady stop and ask me about my granny square cushions and she explained that the latest trend on the high fashion catwalks across the globe was bright crochet colours in crochet granny squares edged in black. She pointed out the very bright colours in my granny square cushions and asked if I could make a scarf for her in the up to the minute fashion trend of black and bright. I said that was certainly possible. She then went on to explain that she would like a scarf approximately 2 1/2 ft (70cms) wide and REALLY long as in when she wrapped it around her neck, she wanted it down to her mid calf. In my head I was thinking , my goodness, that’s not a scarf, that’s a blanket!

Now I had my cushions on sale at the time which this lady was clearly carefully checking outThis one , for instance was clearly marked at £20. It is made of 9 squares plus a large square at the back. It takes around 2 days to complete. I have a pricing structure for granny squares that goes like this: £1 per square plus 10% for joining and finishing. That would make 2×9 squares plus £2 = £20.When I compare it with similar cushions on handmakers sites like Folksy and Etsy the price compares favourably, indicating I’m doing something right.

So I had made a mental calculation that this gargantuan scarf that this lady had excitedly requested would cost a pretty penny to create. She did keep pressing me for a quote on the spot , but knowing I needed time to work this out before committing to a price I gave her my card and asked her to call me back.She kept reassuring me that ‘Don’t worry, I’ll pay” . I thought to myself, well she’s seen the price of the cushions…

Well, it worked out that the scarf would take around 85 squares to complete… and would cost around £90. Ouch!

I don’t think the lady was that excited anymore as I didn’t hear back. I was left with some gorgeous squares that I could now transform into something else.

And so my bag was born.

Using my formula, I worked out the cost to charge on the large bag. It would retail at £65 which although wasn’t cheap, I think it represents the amount of work that went into this original bag.  It took at least two weeks solid work  to make this. This was not a massed produced  item, but a handcrafted one-off; the person who likes this bag would be liking something totally unique.

I took photos and popped it onto Pinterest. How I love Pinterest! For a visual person like myself, there is nothing more contagious than collecting images and being able to organise them into ‘taste boards.’ I’ve found it indispensable as well to gauge public taste and the marketplace. If you haven’t jumped on the Pinterest train yet, hurry!

Well this bag proved to be very popular and got lots of likes and ‘repins’ ( when someone copies your pin and puts it in their own collection of desired images) in a very short space of time.  I noticed that someone had commented on the bag after liking and repinning it saying:

They’re selling these for £65!! I could make the same for under £20 and still make a profit!

That stung initially. But then I started to think, well if she liked it, if she could do  the same for less, why didn’t /hasn’t she? I replied :

Sure? Depends if you are charging for your time… This is a large tote bag .

And I got this answer:

Rough estimate of cost, without seeing the exact size. But, pretty sure. All depends on how much you consider your time is worth, I guess 😉

This made me think about the whole hand making and pricing situation and how it is inherently connected with your feelings of self worth. Maybe a decade ago when I wasn’t in a good , solid place emotionally, I may have been tempted to lower my prices in an attempt to placate the lady  but now, I wasn’t going to do any such thing. I responded:

To be fair to me, a bag this size would cost at least £20 in Primark and I’m certainly worth more than sweat shop rates…

That seemed to kill the argument/debate/ commentary stone dead.

Now this morning I received an email from two wonderful ladies who started me on my blogging journey in the first place, who run Ace Inspire , a company that encourage small business. I’m going to replicate the entire email because it is so relevant my story.

Dear Diane,

My personal theme right now is ‘honouring your time and worth’.  It’s really forced me to think about the work I do, what I charge, my own self worth and how that affects my pricing.

One of the main human fears is rejection: in fact I heard once that it was the number one fear.  Being rejected by our fellow human beings can be one of the most hurtful things that can happen.  It comes from our ancient background, our need to be an accepted part of the ‘tribe’.

To avoid rejection many people choose to go ‘under the radar’. They never step up and do the thing that they were meant to do because they’re too frightened they might be rejected.

To grow a business, even to start a business you need to face your fears around being rejected.

You see, when you’re in business, you don’t want to supply everyone, especially if you have a service business.  Your marketing and pricing is your tool box to help you encourage people to reject you!  What’s that?  We actively want people to reject us?  Well yes, we can’t possibly serve everyone, and we don’t want to have to spend every day assessing each potential client one by one to establish who is the right fit for us.  This is the purpose of marketing, and pricing is the equivalent of the hammer in your toolbox.

Negative rejection based pricing

What is it?  It’s when you price your services very low as you fear rejection.  You don’t want to hear the word ‘no’.  You’re frightened that some people can’t afford what you’re offering and that makes you feel uncomfortable.  Your own self worth might be low and you’re using your business and pricing to bolster that – you need to hear ‘yes’ to build your confidence and self-esteem.

Positive rejection based pricing

What is it?  It’s when you realise that you can’t serve everyone in the world and that there is an ideal client for you and to reach that ideal client you have to use your toolbox.  Pricing is your hammer, and you have to use it to get rid of everyone that isn’t the right fit.  You need to actively seek rejection and realise that it’s a positive thing.

The ‘right’ price is the price where YOU are fairly remunerated and where your CLIENT feels they’re getting VALUE.   Your job is twofold;

•             Work out at what price attracts those clients that find the appropriate value in what you do.

•             What do you need to offer to achieve the VALUE at the price you’re charging.

Once you’ve done this you have the perfect pricing strategy for you AND your clients.

If you enjoyed this article, it is just a taster of the sort of thing you’ll be getting in the new ACEInspire course for Summer 2012. Watch out for the email on 8th May that will tell you all about it.

Antonia Chitty and Erica Douglas
www.aceinspire.com –
www.becomeamumpreneur.com

I read this and smiled. Thank you validating angels. I knew I was right but it was great to have that reassuring pat on the shoulder. After all, I do sell my work even though some people do think that it is expensive. Well, hand crafting does appear expensive when you put it next to mass produced sweat shop produced goods.

Please check out Antonia and Erica’s sites. They are  really clever ladies!

To end this rather long post, I have to leave you with this :

These monkey shoes were purchased by a very lovely fella I met at Brixton Makers market. He didn’t appear to be terribly well off, in fact at first glance he appeared to be a street drinker. ( maybe it was the can of beer in his hand). He fell in love with these shoes and asked me to put them aside for his grandson while he went to the cash point to get money. I duly did, despite thinking he may not be returning.

But he did, and he paid the full price of £9.  When I remarked that some people had said my stuff was pricey, he shook his head and said of course they aren’t. Just look at the work that went into these! What do people expect to pay?

Thank you Mr Monkey shoes angel. I hope your grandson gets many happy days of wearing the magic monkey shoes.

If you’re a facebook person, please like my page on Facebook . Ta!

UPDATE:

I’ve had such incredible response to this post,  thanks everyone! By far the most interesting response was a lovely lady below who linked me to this post, I just have to share it with you. It really does put everything I said into sharp relief.

Please PLEASE check it out. It was an OMG  moment for me.

http://www.purseblog.com/fill-in-the-blank/fill-in-the-blank-dolce-gabbanas-miss-sicily-crocheted-bag-is.html

Living life in beautiful greys


I love bright colours. Anyone who knows me or who has stopped by this blog will know this. I’ve even written a blog post  in my party blog purely devoted to bright colours .

I’ve largely ignored the greys and the subtle as I’m so seduced by the vibrant , the hot and the punchy. I like stark contrasts and clash. It excites me.

Holding the towel, 3 studies

I’m aware that this penchant for contrast and bold relates directly to my character type. For years I lived life in black and white , in contrasts.

Looking at life in stark contrast

For many years, because of my upbringing, I believed that life was full of black and white choices, that there were good and bad. I was either a good girl

Good Diane

 

or a naughty girl,

Bad Diane

I was an angel or a devil. I never considered that there existed something in between called normal, and that the good and the bad aspect were just choices on the extremes of the normal spectrum. This blinkered belief system really limited my outlook on life and my behaviour causing me to become one of life’s ‘pleasers‘. I sought approval through being good, I had to be in the good zone otherwise I was bad. I thought of myself as ‘nice’, I found it hard to take criticism as I thought that all my actions were altruistic ( of course they weren’t) and that if I ever did anything for myself that would make me a selfish, bad person.

In the black and white world

Living in the black and white contrast world of the pleaser type personality is very frustrating. Trying to be good leads to frustration and resentment when others do not either recognise your intentions or take advantage of the pleasing behaviour and ask the pleaser to do everything and anything knowing that the pleaser is bound to say yes.

Self portrait at 23, called 23 and getting older. Hanging on to being good.

No isn’t a word a pleaser finds easy to say. Strike that, it is nigh on impossible.

So as a pleaser, you take everything on board, do everyone favours, say yes to all projects and the inevitable happens: breakdown. Anyone would become overwhelmed by this state, no one is capable of doing everything, especially not to the pleaser’s unusually high standards. When breakdown occurs, the pleaser snaps ( the black zone) The resentment that has built up over time breaks free and manifests as a massive fireball of anger which is hurled at the person who is being pleased, shocking them as they never saw it coming. The pleaser then feels guilty for this outburst and then instantly resorts back to pleasing behaviour again ( back in the white zone ) in order to pacify the recipient .

My eldest daughter Imogen expressing through photography

Not good huh?

This was me for years.

Until my back gave in.

My wonderful acupuncturist clearly recognised my character type and gave me a mantra to accompany my needle therapy. He told me to (shock horror!) start being selfish.

If I wanted to look after the world, I had to start looking after myself.

Then I discovered that the world wasn’t just black and white, but muted shades of grey. Most people lived in the grey zone and visited the white ( pleasing) zone and black ( anger) zone when it was appropriate to do so. I saw that saying NO became liberating, that people respected me more and started to press me less to do things. Life became easier. The resentment evaporated. I could do nice things for people without feeling that secret resentment underlying it, because I was doing nice things for the right reasons: because I wanted to!  There was no more veering from the white into black anymore, no more frustrated temper tantrum outbursts, but in its place was a new found self assurance and a sense of honesty that I had never felt before.

Grey is beautiful.

Muted grey beauty

Feeling whole

I still like a good contrast , but nowadays thankfully just in my aesthetic tastes.

So which zones do you live in? Grey or black and white?