That’s Great, But I Want To SELL Something!!!!!

It’s been several banner days in a row for my Etsy site, Magic Carpet Dance Arts.  My items got four ‘shout outs’ in 3 days.  What’s a shout out, you ask?  When someone else mentions you on their blog or website.  Free publicity and a bonus serving of encouragement.  And the Etsy website has its own internal shout out system, called Treasuries.  Anyone can create an Etsy Treasury, which is simply a selection of up to 16 items listed anywhere on Etsy.  (Because the idea behind Treasuries is to showcase other people’s work, if you’re an Etsy seller you’re only supposed to include one of your own items in your Treasury.)  The Etsy staff regularly look through the thousands of Treasuries, and select ones they like, and feature them for an hour at a time on the Etsy home page.  Making it to the Etsy home page generally means a LOT of sales.

In the past 3 days, my work was mentioned on two different blogs and two Treasuries.  And one of my items ended up in someone’s earlier Treasury.  (Click on the images to follow the links.)

I love these Treasuries.  The whole idea is to create a collection that looks beautiful and has a theme.  Here’s one I created a while ago.

But I still want to SELL something!!!!  I love all the encouragement, and it’s helping me to keep going, but as an artist (and this applies to my writing too), if my work doesn’t get sold/published, the communication loop isn’t complete.  I haven’t shared what I need to share of myself until the moment when someone reads this blog or Get A Klu, or until we (Anam Cara Dance Company) dance in front of an audience, or until that moment in the future when someone will buy my novel.

And the desire to share is a burning, passionate, frustrating, fierce presence in my life…


Two Lessons Learned – Julia Cameron Was Right All Along

My lessons:

1.  Just because I’m artistic and creative doesn’t mean I can sit down with a new medium and expect to make quality art without practice.  (What arrogance!)

2.  When I start focusing on selling stuff while I’m creating a piece, I don’t create so good.  (Duh!)

My story:  I’m going to be vending Magic Carpet Dance Arts items on August 28th at the D-Note in Arvada, at the Belly Dance Swap and Extravaganza.  This will be my first time ever of live vending, so I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what my table will look like.  Most of my pieces are rather 2-dimensional, and I wanted to add some 3D to the array.  I decided, hey, it would be simple to paint a couple of mugs with henna motifs at a pottery place.  It wouldn’t matter if they sold — they would just add interest to my table.

I went to paint at a pottery place one Saturday, full of ideas in my head for henna patterns like the ones on my Etsy shop items.  But I haven’t painted pottery for a year or two, and I had forgotten how liquid and runny the paints (glazes) are.  (I’ve been painting a lot with acrylics and thick fabric paints, and they’re totally different to work with.)  And I’d forgotten how you can’t tell what color you’re getting until after the piece has been fired.

I sat there at my table getting more and more frustrated as the runny paints refused to cooperate with my imagination.  I couldn’t draw the delicate lines I wanted.  I couldn’t tell if the colors were coming out how I wanted. But I NEEDED these items to come out.  I NEEDED to be able to add them to the things I will be selling.  And my frustration grew as I tried hard.  Too hard.  I left feeling completely disgruntled.

When you paint pottery at one of those shops, you have to wait a week or so to get your fired pieces back.  And during that time, I thought a lot about the lessons of Klu the Bear and his blog, Get A Klu.  Klu and I have been writing his blog for 5 years now, I think, and it’s been effortless and delightful.

Klu and I started Get A Klu in response to an exercise on playfulness in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.  And the blog has had staying power because it’s always been playing for me.  No pressure.  No thoughts about making money off of it.  I just play in a medium I love:  words.  And have fun with my camera and my little bear friend.

When I sat down in the pottery place that Saturday, though, I forgot all about playing.  I forgot about delight.  I forgot about experimenting.  I forgot to ENJOY making my art.  I was too busy creating a product.  And I didn’t have fun.  I ended up cranky, disgruntled, frustrated.  And it shook my confidence in my abilities.

Thank God for Klu.  Thank God that his little face looks at me with accepting eyes.  Thank God for reminders to live out of a place of freedom and delight and love of life.  Thank God that my inner artist is a forgiving child.  I said a heartfelt apology for my arrogance, for trying too hard, for forgetting to play, and we were reconciled.

And to my complete surprise, when I went back to pick up my pieces, they had actually come out a whole lot better than I expected.

Today’s Offering On My Etsy Site, Magic Carpet Dance Arts

Just thought I’d do a quick post about a new item I just added to my Etsy site. Dang it, when am I gonna be able to be a full-time artist and writer? Or at least a half-time one? I have so many ideas, and not enough time!!!!!!

Magic Carpet Dance Arts

This is a gauntlet cut from soft kid leather.  The texture is luscious — so much fun to work with.

More soon…gotta get back to my making…


Crushing Rejections Are Looming

A couple months ago, when I started going through my novel manuscript for one final edit, I promised myself that when I was one month away from completion, I’d start my agent search process again.  This morning, I reached page 177 of 430.  That’s 41% of the way through.  (Yeah, I just did the math.)  I can’t put it off much longer.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the publishing world, if you dream of having your novel published by a mainstream publisher so that it will be sold in places like Barnes & Nobel and read by the general public, you have to get a literary agent to represent you first.  Many of the editors at the big publishing houses will not even read a submission from an un-agented newbie.

So you have to send queries to literary agents and ask them to represent you.  Sounds reasonable, right?  Except it’s crazy-competitive.  I’ve read statistics that say most reputable literary agents receive around 1000 queries a month.  And they might be looking to represent one to three new authors a year.  (Your turn to do the math.)

The literary agents are so busy that you often have to wait six or eight weeks to hear back.  And it’s usually a form rejection letter.  You read the polite words that say your work is not a good fit for their agency, and you know it really means, “YOU SUCK!!!!  YOU CAN’T WRITE!!!  GET A LIFE!!!”  My worst rejection letter ever, back before all this was done by email, was my own cover letter, returned with a big red stamp across it that said “REJECTED.”  And I’m supposed to keep writing after that?  Keep trying?  Keep putting my artistic babies out there for the world to eat up and spit out?

Sometimes, once in a while, you get a request back to read the first 50 pages, or maybe the whole manuscript.  Then you wait even longer before you get that rejection letter, and it hurts even more because they’re rejecting the real thing, not just the summary of your novel that went in to the original query letter.  And once in an even longer while, the agent writes a personal letter and tells you your manuscript is definitely publishable quality, but the market is saturated with that type of books right now.  (I submitted a young adult fantasy right at the beginning of the Harry Potter era).

I DON’T WANT TO FACE THIS AGAIN!!!!!!!!  It hurts too much.  It makes me doubt my inner artist.  It makes me feel like shit.

I’m stalling.  I can feel myself avoiding.

I want to summon up the courage.  I need to, if the dream is going to come true.  But right now, at this moment, I’m not sure I can.

Laurie Maves, the “Lolllipoppy Painter” — Live Art

A few months ago, Anam Cara Dance Company was invited to perform at a First Friday of the Art District on Santa Fe in downtown Denver.  It was close to Valentine’s Day, and the evening was benefiting the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk.  We dressed in reds and purples and pinks, and danced on a red carpet in a studio with a vivid red wall behind us.  Crowds packed in for each of our sets, and radiated their appreciation and delight.  We didn’t even ~really~ mind the guy with the foot fetish, who took photos of our bare feet all evening.  It was an evening of love, an evening dedicated to the heart.

The thing I didn’t know was that Laurie Maves, a Denver live artist, was busy painting us while we danced.  I love this woman’s work, and I love the concept of a live artist!!!!! You have to check out her website, Laurie Maves Art, but I’m not sure any website or video quite captures the experience of being painted by her in person.  Squashed into that  small, crowded, really hot studio space, we danced with so much joy that night.  And while we danced, Laurie turned each one of us into a lovely lollipop with a wavy belly dancer stick.  The painting captures a memory of that night, being part of something really special.  Belly Dancers With Love, she called the painting, and that’s what Anam Cara Dance Company is.  And Laurie became part of our troupe for that evening, part of our sisterhood.

(The image or the link above will take you to the Fine Art America website where you can see a bigger version.  It’s also on Laurie’s website, under her Shop.  It’s quite an honor to see Anam Cara Dance Company on the same page as The Fray and Phish.)

When we finished dancing and Laurie finished the painting, she had each of us sign our lollipop stick.

I wrote in a post a few days ago about the icons and talismans in my own personal space.  Belly Dancers With Love is one of those icons for me, holding all the joy of dancing with this special group of women.

Laurie dares to make her art while people watch.   She dares to paint as a live performance.  And I’m touched and inspired.

The Longing To Perform, To Get Published, To Sell My Artwork

I don’t want to be famous.  I can’t think of a worse lifestyle.  Even fame on a small scale, like that of local celebrities — news anchor people, resident sports stars, etc. — seems awful.  I don’t want people to recognize me in the grocery store.

But I long to perform, to get my novel published and on sale in the bookstores, to sell my jewelry and belly dance costume items.  I long for people to read this blog and my blog for kids, Get A Klu.  Why?  Because I want to communicate.  I want to share.  I want to connect with someone as they receive the gifts that come out of my deepest being.  I want to give.  I create sparkle and shine because I can’t help it, but I sell it because I want to brighten the lives of others.

I want to be known, but not famous.  I want to communicate.  I want to give.

I hope I sell something today.



Talismans and Icons

A talisman (from Arabic طلاسم tilasm, ultimately from Greek telesma or from the Greek word “telein” which means “to initiate into the mysteries”) is an amulet or other object considered to possess supernatural or magical powers.

An icon (from Greek εἰκών eikōn “image”) is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, from Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Catholicism. More broadly the term is used in a wide number of contexts for an image, picture, or representation; it is a sign or likeness that stands for an object by signifying or representing it either concretely or by analogy.

For years, I’ve gathered objects around me that have meaning and power.  My own art and the art of others.  Pebbles collected off the beach of Iona when I went there for a personal retreat.  A fountain that spills water out of two terracotta pots.  An Uzbek tea set that I received as a gift.  My office/study/dance studio space is filled with them.  And for some reason, it’s time to tell their stories.

On the same bulletin board with the calendar for my writing stickers, there are two objects that inspire me daily.  One is part of an ad ripped out of a magazine and given to me nearly ten years ago.

My best friend taped it on my bedroom door when we were flatmates in Scotland.  “Enjoy the exciting life of a published writer.”  Those are prophetic words to me — I WILL enjoy that exciting life one day.  I WILL get published in the real world, by a real publishing company with a real editor. I WILL find my books on the shelves of Barnes & Noble and the local independent bookseller.

The other is a scrap of paper with a quote from Angela Cartwright, in which she says, “I call myself an ‘unruly artist’ to remind me that letting go is a big part of the process.”  Have I been unruly enough lately?  Have I splashed with abandon into the pool of my artistic endeavors?  Have I experimented with anything?

Tomorrow I will work on my novel some more, and begin summoning the courage to send out a query letter to a certain agent soon…very soon.  Tomorrow I will be an unruly artist and experiment with cutting gauntlets out of supple black leather.

Tonight, I will go to sleep as the fresh night air wafts in our windows.



The Neighbors Must Think I’m Crazy, But It’s Just My Inner Child At Play

Me and Klu were busy just now takin’ some photos for his blog, Get A Klu.  In order to get the photos he wanted of him looking at the place behind the trellises where we saw the baby bunny this morning, I had to do some crawling around and crouching in the bushes around my neighbor’s patio.  Wilbs came along too, so we might have looked a little unusual.

I used to feel a little sheepish about people seein’ Klu out in public, but now I just let them think I’m crazy.  Cuz I know it’s just my inner child at play.


Cynthia (and Klu the Bear)

An Odd Sense of Let-Down

I was driving home just now from my belly dance practice, and I felt an odd sense of let-down.  Not strong enough to be called loss, but almost. As I drove, I tried to sit with the feeling, as Jolene always used to tell me to do. To feel it. To stay there.

I feel this feeling often in the moments just after I’ve stopped doing something creative. When my writing session is over for the morning. When I have to leave my jeweler’s bench because it’s bedtime. When belly dance practice is over. When I have to leave the magic and return to the real world.

Here’s the magic. Here’s Fáinne , the student troupe of Anam Cara Dance Dance Company, recently performing at Elevation 2010. We put in hours of time on rehearsals and costume-making and practicing individually, and then we created magic that night.

Here’s the magic. Here’s Klu the Bear’s blog, Get A Klu,and the knowledge that a small tan bear (my inner child) and his friends are delighting a lot of people.

And here’s the magic. Here’s my online shop, Magic Carpet Dance Arts, where total strangers occasionally buy a piece of my artwork.

But then it’s time to cook or go to work or clean the toilet, and I have to step out of that place of magic and imagination. And I feel that odd sense of let-down.

How do I learn to hold the magic in my heart until the next time?

Making Declarations Using “The Creative Entrepreneur” By Lisa Sonora Beam

I used to be part of an intense evangelical/charismatic Christian community, and we spent a lot of time making declarations. We made declarations about the nature of God, such as “God is love.” We made declarations about ourselves: “I am loved. I am beautifully created and wonderful.” I used to get kind of, well, very sick of it at the time, because why did I need to keep saying out loud these things I already believed?

Later, in a completely different context, my counselor, Jolene, made me say things out loud (sometimes loudly, even) that were true about me. More declarations. I am a strong woman.  I am powerful.  I am a volcano.

And dang it, there’s something in the concept. Declaring what I know is inside me, in order to give it space and power to expand.

And now I’ve come across an amazing book for creative, artistic types who’d like to make money from their art.  It’s based on the concept of visual declarations. The book is The Creative Entrepreneur, by Lisa Sonora Beam.

I bought it without realizing that it was a workbook, and I was very cranky when I discovered I actually had to DO something. Exercises. But they’re working. I’m declaring. I am a creative entrepreneur.

I’m declaring the things that come easily to me, and the things that don’t.

I’m declaring how the parts of me fit together, and which ones are strong and which ones need tender development, especially in terms of business skills.

I’m declaring my five-year plan for my writing, my art, and Magic Carpet Dance Arts.

I’m declaring my mission for my business.

If Amazon hadn’t fired all their Amazon Associates in Colorado (but that’s a whole nother story), I’d have a button right here for you to buy the book. But I trust you’ll track it down if you want it. 🙂

And now I must go paint another panel of fabric that will be turned into a temple skirt something like the one in the picture at the bottom.

My little buddy, Klu the Bear, always signs his blogs with some variation of, “Love, Klu the Bear.”  Somehow it feels incomplete not to sign this grownup blog of mine.


Cynthia the Creative Entrepreneur