What it feels like to launch a collection (not what it looks like.)
Nov 30, 2021
Twice a year the Michaels store has a 3 for 1 sale on canvas. It’s always a hell of a day because I buy 30- 40 canvases for my Christmas collection. Two things about Michaels - 1 - I have almost purchased six very damaged canvases in all different sizes from that store. So I am like a lunatic laying every single canvas I am going to buy flat on the ground in the middle of everything to make sure it isn’t warped and lays flat, bent, or cracked. I always order anything larger than a 16x20 from Blick’s so I have the box it came in to ship it back out.
The other thing about Michaels is their carts are tiny. I’m talking 4 10x10 canvas and it’ll be full. So it becomes this game of stacking as many as I possibly can on top of the cart and painstakingly driving the cart to the check out, which is a football field away and located behind a maze of walls of crap you might want to buy at the last minute.
But three for one is three for one. This particular sale was in August. It gets kind of like moving a small apartment, buying that many canvas in that kind of heat - getting them back to the truck, packing the truck, and unpacking them all and finding space in our tiny house for them. Then I have a stack of blank canvas up to my head. If that doesn’t signify some kind of faith in myself and my Muse I don’t know what does. Over the next three months, slowly but surely - they are born, resin coated, named, written, signed, photographed,videoed, documented and wrapped. Late at night, in the glow of just a few lights in my dim studio, I will watch them in their stacks and imagine where in the world and to whom they will go. I will wonder who I am, and how this happened. I was never “starting a business.” I was doing what I loved and taking the tiniest baby steps I possibly could so I didn’t have to go back to serving. And it just kept going.
I spend a lot of money on marketing for my winter launch. I make personalized thank you cards and a post card that explains everything in the package. I got new stickers and had to buy more boxes. I was in the home depot the other day with one of the giant flat bed carts getting a giant box and bubble wrap, which I drove into like 50 things. That thing was not stable. It is really hard to get something hand wrapped with care these days that is purchased online - it is extremely important to me because it is a dying art and invokes something inside of us that is important to hold onto. 14 days to launch I built the collection in shopify, which is tedious but not terrible now. A week to launch I have 6 more paintings I have created because I can never stop. 3 days to launch I’m painting 35 boxes hot gossip pink in my backyard. All 20 paws in my house are hot pink. My patio is full of hot pink paw prints. My back hurts. My headphones are dead. And I’m still not sure if I am even going to sell a single painting. It’s always a free fall really. All of this. Is just getting my sense of direction and purpose in a free fall - and knowing that no matter what happens I will be ok. I am free. I will always be free. Even if I fail.
I fear that I sound like I’m spamming people on social media but oh well. 98% of my job has been walking through insecurities anyway. 24 hours to launch I am fighting with a fedex account trying to get my certificates printed. That was three hours wasted of my life but it got done in the end. I’m up until 3 that night, my forehead in my hot pink spotted hands because I am so overwhelmed. I can say it’s all the tasks, but that’s a lie. I am overwhelmed with fear that I will be rejected, or ignored, or that I will have put in all this work and nobody will care. And I won’t make back the money I spent let alone a profit. This will all be a hobby, and there will be proof that I am a fraud and I have no idea wtf I’m doing. I’m afraid I will put all of that art up and nobody will see my babies or care or want them. (Social media and captions just don't portray this whole part very well, so I’m laying it out here like this.)
It doesn’t matter how wonderful people are that love me. How many people collect my art. It doesn’t matter that I’ve sold 98% of anything I have ever been brave enough to put a price on and put out there. It doesn’t matter what I have overcome in this life - walked through, learned from, and who I’ve gotten to become anyway. None of that matters when I choose that fear - that choice blocks everything that is all around me that matters. The whole point of every single thing I am doing is to just learn to walk through that fear anyway, become what and who is on the other side, and feel the love and support that is all around me.
The morning of the launch I woke up, feeling sick. Literally it feels like my wedding day where Kevin and I just had mutual panic attacks together all day with our family and friends and held onto each other's hand as tightly as we could. I pace around the house for an hour, obsessed with how I have “scheduled” the release time but I’m not positive it will do it correctly. But in the end, it did. The clock struck 11:30 and it went live without any issues. I cried a lot because I was so relieved that all of the prep was finally over.
Kevin brought me a club soda in these really fancy crystal wine glasses his work got us for Christmas last year (I don’t drink.) and we sat there, making a toast, watching the dots on the map and guessing who each person was in each country. My website has a world map of who is visiting from where. They show up as a blue dot in whatever city / country they are in. At one point there were 25-30 dots at a time, from all over the the planet. Budapest. Melbourne. Scotland. Texas. Florida, Canada. I refused to watch it all day but for the first hour I did. It felt like when you hit a bonus on a slot machine. The “daily sales” tab kept going up and up.
People were texting me which ones they picked and why. Half of the collection sold on the first day but there was this worried part of my head thinking.. What about the other half? Was there something wrong with the ones that didn’t sell? What was it about them? - Because that is my mind. I make myself sick by analyzing everything and it’s opposite. Anything that will prove “Seee you are not good enough.” Anything to take away the joy, if I let it.
I didn’t do anything else that Sunday except pick up my certificates from the fedex and make soup. I was up at 6am on Monday and worked until 4am with one 90 minute call as my break in between. I went to sleep that night with 18 boxes packed with their cards and shipping labels. The next day we hiked five miles up a mountain and I had to stop every 300 feet and nearly cry because I was battling in my head so bad if I could make it to the top of or not. In the end, I did, but only because there were hard boiled eggs and rice crackers involved once we sat down at the top. The next morning I took those 18 boxes to the annex to be shipped. Got them all behind the counter, got into my car, and just cried to myself in the sun. Thinking back.
In April of 2020 the 3 for 1 sale was happening. I had no job and decided I would try to sell my art. Kevin and I had some money saved. For the rest of my life I won’t forget him saying “No. No. You’re going to do it. You’re going to go buy whatever art supplies you need and sell your art. You will be successful. Just try that before you start filling out applications at restaurants that murder your spirit.” So I did. The fear of rejection and failing was finally smaller than something - the fear of working in public during a pandemic.
That day, I went and spent $3000 on all sizes of canvas. I was so overwhelmed by moving all of the canvas and buying it I didn’t pay any attention to what I had been charged. (When I’m buying big ones I rent a truck too so there's that part.) Somehow the cashier had made a mistake and undercharged me by about $1,500. My initial reaction was ‘awesome!!” when I saw the receipt later. But as I sat there the rest of the day there was this sinking feeling. It just didn’t feel right. I feel like I was being given an opportunity to do the right thing. I didn’t understand it then like I do now. The next day I called the store and explained to them what had happened. I asked if I could come there and just pay for what I had not been charged for. The manager thanked me and said of course. When I got there he only charged me $157, and told me that I gave him a small shred of hope for humanity. Which for a middle manager, speaking from past experience, is a big deal. The shred of humanity part far beyond the inventory.
I had this nagging feeling in my mind that if I kept all of those canvas without paying for them, they would be cursed. Any frequency I would try to create within the portrait would have the foundation of me trying to get something for nothing. I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back, that is the day I learned that my art is about frequency much more than it is about physical matter. Everything that has made up my life - and the foundation I have built as a result - allows my art to be what it is to who can feel what they see at the same time.
In April of 2020 I didn’t know how to mail art. Or price art. Or even what my signature would look like yet. I didn’t know how to properly document art and I didn’t know yet to use my love for writing to write the stories of my paintings. I didn’t know how to use a shopify account, or photograph my art. I didn’t know I was capable. But I knew how to do the right thing. And I knew how to walk through fear, especially when I am afraid. So I guess I’m just here. Lol writing it all in case anybody cares. We live in a world today where things look very different then they probably feel. So here are all of the feelings - a few lessons (don’t climb a mountain after working for two weeks straight) - and a reminder that the fear isn’t real - it’s just an illusion to walk through and learn from.