I am always doing that which I cannot do in order that I may learn how to do it...Picasso

Sunday, November 6, 2011

What's Goin' On?

It's been a while. 

NellsBelles continues to shape shift all the time as I work and grow as a craft artist.  It seems like it's a constant push/pull between the glorious work of making my products and the mind numbing labor of growing a business.  I don't mean it that way.  Growing a business is a wonderful experience but there are some mind numbing tasks involved in the process and the gear-shifting that has to take place is often difficult for me and not always a smooth process.  Creativity for me comes in waves and it seems I am either lost in my studio working, neglecting the computer, correspondence, my Etsy team, whatever is not "the work" or I am fretting about being "dry" and only minding the store.

In the mean time I want to let you know about some upcoming shows that I am doing.  On November 12th I will be at the Suffern Farmers Market with some of my Etsy team mates doing a Hudson Valley Handmade event for holiday shopping.

On December 2nd I will be at Bard College for a Holiday Craft Fair which is about 3.5 miles north of Rhienbeck, NY on the eastern side of the Hudson river.  I'm really looking forward to this one.  Hoping to make some inroads with a younger market with items like "Eyes On The Top of Her Head"!



Eyes On the Top of Her Head Headband

On November 19th I'll be in Chappaqua, NY and I'll have more details on that soon!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Trip and Learn

Life piles up.  We get it straightened out, organized, manageable and we feel powerful.  In control.  We just know it's all going to work.  Work just the way we want it to.  To the T.  We can do anything we put our minds to.  Goal post here I come.  I can hear the crowd cheering already.  Yeah.  Alright.  Just a little push, a rally here at the end and I'm over the finish...

I trip on the finish line.  Well actually just before the end zone on that divot on the field, and down I go.  What the fuck?  Life, as they say, happens and I am ass over tea cup, dazed, confused and really pissed off.

Life has genuine passages.  Infancy, toddler hood, preschool, preteen, adolescence...middle age.  Every phase has it's requisite challenges and sometimes they all converge at the same time and no matter how prepared you are, no matter how  certain you are that you are going to whoop the odds, they nevertheless crash into your groomed and manicured life and knock you sideways like a stunt right out of a Jackass movie (one of my more embarrassing little life pleasures).  You can lay there and cry and cuss or you can laugh out loud and get up and limp back to life.  Sometimes a little of both is realistic.

So here's my situation.  NellsBelles is my passion, my baby, it's what I want to be doing.  I want to grow this business into a serious entity.  A money maker.  A creative endeavor that has it's own place in the world that carries my signature.  I want you to be able to recognize it as a Neely McCormick piece.  I want NellsBelles on the map on some level that is satisfying to me.

I have a life though.  And in my life is a husband who has been promoted in his job (good thing) and will be basically be in NYC for 4-6 weeks and a week in LA.  Repeat (maybe a good thing).  Then there is the chronically ill teen aged son who is recovering from major shoulder surgery and is trying to decide between three colleges before May 1st and so we are spending the month of April traveling to the three, each for one last look.  In the mean time, Dakota is trying to make up all the work he has missed while recovering and traveling and my husband and I are in financial limbo between a state school offering  enough scholarship money that our piece of it can be out of pocket to having to borrow $250,000 - and points in between.  Those decisions will determine whether we put our house on the market immediately or know that we have breathing room to do that when we feel more settled and prepared.  Oh, and did I mention that my husband has just lost one of his brothers after a struggle with cancer and I struggle on a daily basis with chronic neurological issues that cause me to be in pain every single day.

I tell you this, not for pity or excuse.  Good god, I don't have the life of a Haitian family living in a tent or a Japanese mother trying to figure out what to do with no husband, 2 kids and a radioactive house.  I have perspective to be sure.  No, I tell you this because I have a serious scheduling problem.  After I schedule the appointments with all the doctors and physical therapists.  After I adjust our activities because my husband will be out of town.  After I meet with the attorney and the accountant and the real estate agent and book hotel rooms and print out Mapquest directions to Acceptanced Students days and RSVP to Scholar Breakfasts.  After I  drag my tired teenager around campuses and try to get him to show a little enthusiasm for something about one of the institutions where he will be spending the next four years of his life and pop him another hydrocodone to push him on because he is in pain.  After I try to get 4 or 5 hours of sleep and get to the grocery store, try to make the house look clean when it's really not, do laundry and did I mention I have 2 dogs and an iguana that need to be feed, bathed and otherwise entertained - well then I get to put all my extra time into my beloved business.

There are 24 hours in a day and 7 days a week and we all know they are just not enough.  I remember when we all became time conscience and got our Day Runners and Filofaxes, we started telling ourselves in that EST-ian way that time is made, not found.  An effective person, someone who is destined for success makes time for all that matters.  That way tasks get accomplished and goals are met.  Yet, if memory serves me, I had no kids - not even a husband and a mortgage and the only thing that determined my comings and goings was me, myself and I.

I have noticed that smart phones do not have an app to create more time to get shit done.  Nothing about the computer saves me any significant time except when it comes to exchanging information with people and the lack of phone calling does streamline the communication process.  But even with all my new found technology, I have no new found extra time.  There's more traffic than there used to be and waiting for a light can be an agonizing existential moment of what I could be doing if I didn't have to wait for other people to get to where they are going, just as frantic and frazzled as I am.  And when was the last time I walked from one place to the other instead of dashing and running and poking elevator buttons angrily as if it had any affect on time at all.

My New Year's resolution was to grow NellsBelles.  To take it beyond (but not away) from Etsy and into some new venues.  Promote myself.  Get my name out there.  Get some press.  Make some connections.  I've been able to get to a few trade shows and met a few people that are nice but not the people I am looking for to work with.  I'm still creating work (tho that has slowed significantly) but I feel like I am struggling not to fizzle out and wake up one day and think, "Remember when you had that little web site and you were selling the things you make?  Whatever happened to that?"  I don't want to be a...a...a.  Okay, I don't want to be a looser.  I want to scale this mountain of taken time and still be able to make this work.

One of the greatest books I ever read, back in the hippie days, was called The Lazy Man's Guide to Enlightenment.  It was written by a guy in Berkley who was tripping on acid most of the time but the message of the book was plain, simple and the wisest advice I've ever gotten.  In times of challenge I repeat the mantra to get through - NO RESISTANCE.  Take that in for a moment.  When life is pushing so hard that you just know it's going to win, stop fighting back and go with the flow.  You don't walk toward a tsunami.  Allow there to be no time.  Accept that you are sick and tired of everything.  Acknowledge that what is going on right now is not about what you want but what you must do.  Admit that you are not super woman and believe that the status quo is not an immediate indicator of failure. 

My time will return.  In spades.  Before I know it I will be sitting in this chair with no one in the house but me and the animals.  The boy will be away at college and hubby will be in California.  I will have nothing but my own time.  Time will be all mine to use.  NellsBelles will be my baby, my life's work.  It will be what gets me up in the morning.

My life is calling for change.  If I don't do this how can I get that?  Not resisting means understanding that the things that frustrate us the most are often our greatest educators.  Somewhere in this cluster fuck of troublesome activity is knowledge and wisdom that will be handy in the months and years to come and if I pay attention now, I'll have it handy in my back pocket.  I'm in the process of finishing something I started 18 years ago.  Yes, I will always be his mommy but for both of us, on a deeply emotional level, he is leaving home.  He will always be my sun and moon and will be the reason I press on when I'd really rather not.  But he is leaving and NellsBelles is still a pregnancycy.  She will get my undivided attention very soon.  In the mean time, I have to attend to one of the most important things I will ever do.  Make sure he settles into a place where he will be comfortable and grow and then say goodbye.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sharpening the Saw

Sharpening the saw.  Remember that?  You know, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  All the rage in the 90's.  Give me a show of hands.  Who read it?  No?  Yes?  Anyway...

If you think about the phrase it is pretty self-explanatory.  You have to stay sharp in order to achieve and you have to do things to keep sharpening that edge.  Reading, learning, expanding your horizons and keeping what you have in shape. 

Picking up the thread of my last posting we are back in my serenity room in the upstairs of my house.  The window looks out onto a splendid patch of woods with a small river running through it and a feeder stream connecting a Y of water that is winding its way through the snow, all sparkling in the sunlight of this crisp, clear  winter's day.  A foot or so of snow remains on the ground with only a few critter prints marking the clean white sheet.   The stark simplicity of it all makes my chest fill up with joy.

I am about to turn on the music to move my body around and I am just not in the fucking mood.  Really.  I would rather be downstairs doing the laundry!  That is how much I do not want to bend my knees and lift my arms up over my head but there is a voice in my head that won't let me out of this room.  It's the voice of my 17 year old son.  He and I have joined forces and hands to tackle the hindrances of our respective bodies.  He, a young budding rock star who, after loosing the 50 pounds he gained while doing an extended stint in a wheelchair, is determined to get rid of the last 10 pounds that has dogged him for a couple of years now. I, as I have told you, am out to reclaim, not the body of my youth but the body that represents the youthful spirit I still experience, even in my middle ageness.  Part of this joint venture is that we have hung a huge erase board calendar in the kitchen and we have to write down all the pertinent information regarding what we do each day in pursuit of our goals. 

As I kicked off the year, I was gangbusters, like we all are with first of the new year resolutions.  The second week, I hung in there like the champ that I am and pushed through the sloth that begged me to do something other that work out.  The third week - well, let's see.  There was the 2 day migraine (ok, a pass for that) and then there was the doctor's appointment in the city that took all day.  Oh, and I had that long day of errands - Fairway, the post office, bank, cleaners, TJ Maxx, Starbucks...okay the last 2 were me stalling so that I could be assured that there would be no time left in the day for me to get my way-too-wide behind into gear. 

"Dude.  What's up with the workouts?"  (Yep, my son calls me "dude".)  Well...blah, blah, blah and then blah, blah, blah - "Mom!  WTF!"  (Yep, he said the whole phrase.)  "Excuses!"  What's up with that?"  I had no answer but just what it was.  Excuses.  Nothing real (except the headache) nothing acceptable, just a whole lot of blah, blah, blah.  "I don't know.  I just bagged out on it, I guess."  "On yourself, Ma.  You bagged out on yourself".  I have found that nothing makes me feel more naked and exposed than to be lectured by my teen aged son, and he nails me dead to the truth.  Damned you!  "I'll tell you why you're slacking off, dude.  You don't believe in yourself."

Uncomfortable pause.  "What did you say?"  "You don't believe in yourself.  That's why you didn't work out.  If you believed in yourself you'd keep it up."  "You're absolutely right, Monk."  (Yes, I call him Monk and not for no good reason.)

I walked away to think about this simple of statement.  Of course.  If I truly believed in myself, I wouldn't let myself down by not keeping my word to myself.   Hard and simple of questions were at hand.  Do I truly believe that I can shed this tonnage and be light on my feet again?  Do I really believe that I can bridge that gap between my kneecap and my chest?  Will I really ever trot down the long driveway to the mailbox or try to outrun the dogs around the yard?  Will I ever regain some of those dancing chops so that I can bust a move for my son that will make him proud and amazed?  I have the vision but do I really believe my own eyes?

I've been feeling a little lost in my NellsBelles business as well, since the holidays.  After taking time off, resting and doing all the things that are expected of me at Christmas, I felt at a crossroads with my work.  I've been at this long enough now, a little more than a year, and I have certainly come a long way in that time.  I am proud of what I have accomplished.  But the accomplishment of launching my Etsy store, building up enough stock to be in business and doing a few craft shows is a finite endeavor.  Selling, building a brand, gaining a consumer following- that is the business.  It requires an additional skill set and a renewed determination to step into the unknown of art in commerce.  Now I have to promote myself.  Now I have to present my work with pride and confidence and believe that others in the position to raise my profile will agree with me.  Now is the winter of my self promotion.  Do I believe my own eyes?

I'm attending the winter New York Gift Show next week and plan to attend a series of seminars presented by CRAFT (Craft Retailers and Artists For Tomorrow).  The topics include Moving to Inbound Marketing, Media Marketing and Using Facebook to Build Your Business.  I'm hoping that what I learn from these few days will give me some know-how and inspiration to move in the direction that I think suits where I believe I belong in the marketplace.  I am hoping to be inspired by other artists that are living their vision.  Mostly, I am hoping to be inspired to believe in what I do.  I want to live my vision.

So here we are, back in the serenity room.  Facing the window and its photo worthy view, Adam Lambert is playing on my boom box (don't judge me - we all have quirks) and I hear my son's voice.  Dude, you have to believe in yourself.  I inhale deeply, raising my arms over my head.  My palms come together and as I exhale they come to prayer position at my heart chakra.  (Okay, I spent a lot of time in the 80's at Crystal Magic and the Flotation Room.  We all have a past.)  In the moment before I inhale again, I feel it come over me.  Not the warmth of the sun but a wave of sureness and calm.  I believe.  I know I believe because I am here, breathing and moving and planning and being.  I can move forward because I simply choose to believe in myself.

To sharpen the saw can be like walking the razor's edge.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Long and Winding Road

Happy New Year!  I sort of dropped off the blogosphere for a while.  I've been getting comfortable and confident in my techno endeavors and looking forward to what comes next in the business of NellsBelles.

The other day, my BFF elbowed me into violating one of my social principals.  Years ago, I swore off anything that even vaguely looks and feels like a "chain letter".  I caught on quickly to the gifts and games on FB and told all my friends I wouldn't be playing or exchanging gifts with them - ever.  When political statements come along with the proviso to "copy and post to your page", no matter if I'm with you or not, I will not follow.  So when the BFF sent me a FB note to declare my New Year's resolutions and forward to 10 friends, I winced and acted against my better judgement.  Now, this is the place where I let you know that most everyone I know has also taken a stand on the ole' pass it on and you'll get rich, happy, peaceful - whatever, thing so my well intentioned pals wished me luck, some told me I was brave to pull my panties down in public, and no one declared their ten things even for just me to read in reciprocity!  My face, she is red.

Okay.  The damage is done and I have now publicly exposed my goals for 2011.  I always do it anyway.  Every New Year's Eve, I look back on the previous year's New Year's journal entry, review my successes and failures, how things shifted and (hopefully) grew and set out an action plan for the year to come.  However, no one ever looks at my journal but me so guess how many people know what I'm up to.

I have been at war with my body for my entire life.  (This really does pertain to my business.  Bear with me.)  Therefore it follows that every New Year's Eve I make some commitment to myself to take action to change myself physically.  Some context:  in my first life, I was a dancer.   In my teen aged years, I was considered a chubby dancer at a size 7 junior.  As an adult I was always chasing 5 more LBs even as I dipped below 100 pounds.  I was put on my first diet in the third grade and I have fasted as long as two weeks.  (That was so I could bear to climb into a shiny white unitard and be seen in public performing.)  You get the picture and don't 'cha know, number one on my list this year was to stop being fat (pregnancy - 18 years ago).

Step number one for me is always to get moving.  Now I do do exercise.  After all, it was my religion as well as my profession for many years.  It's just that I don't push myself too hard and skipping a day or a week or a month just doesn't get under my skin as much as it used to.  But I have declared, in public, (damn you Kate!) that I am going to stop being fat.

I play no sports.  I used to take 1o:00 class every morning, for decades, on top of whatever other classes I took that day, classes I taught or whatever I might be rehearsing.  Not doing this was not an option.  Not taking morning class was like deciding not to show up at your job at the bank until after lunch - just because.  With this in mind please know I have a little chip on my shoulder and I get bored easily.  I hate being bored.  I have a lot of tricks I play on myself to get into motion from drawing random cards from yoga decks to switching off between 10 Minutes a Day to 8 Minutes In the Morning.  Clearly my heart isn't in it and my commitment to it all is drudgingly difficult to maintain.  But without motion and movement there is no hope for me to alter my appearance and shop for a different sized clothing.

I shall suck it up.

So.  Here's the business part.  This morning I drew some cards from the yoga deck.  One of the poses was a bendy-stretchy kind of thing on my back and when I went to reach for my leg, I couldn't get ahold of it!  I used to be a veritable circus act of limberness.  I could drop down into a full split in the blink of an eye and sit down on the floor with my legs out to the side, put my chest on the floor in front of me and take a nap.  Not being able to reach my own leg to perform a little stretching exercise did not make me happy.  BreatheBreathe.  Breathe through your limitations and accept where you are now.

Whoa.  There I lay, with my yoga strap around my leg so I could hoist it toward my chest trying to accept my limitations.  But wait.  What if, I said to myself.  What if the distance between my knee cap and my breast is potential and not a limit?  What if I see that space as useful and productive?  What if that distance is the opportunity to travel?  Breathe and be happy you have somewhere to go! 

My husband took some left over vacation days during the holidays and I decided that we were both going to rest, sleep, nap, watch movies and probably not vacuum up all the dog hair for a week.  During this time, I decided that the next step I need to take in moving NellsBells forward is to promote myself.  Put myself out there.  Make a splash.  Be the gal whose work shows up in Lucky magazine as the next great find.  I decided to go back to all my books and reference materials and begin the process of having something like a press package, put out regular submissions to blogs and magazines and perhaps do a little advertising here and there.  Last year's goal was to get the business up and running.  This year I want to put it on the map.

I got a great new year gift yesterday.  Someone sent me an email asking if I was interested in purchasing some of her jewelry scraps.  She had seen a picture of one of my necklaces in New Jersey Monthly magazine in an article about the Craft Lounge (a shop that sells some of my work).  What?  Me in a magazine?  I ran to Borders and bought a copy and stood in the middle of the store, giggling to myself.  I couldn't stop staring at the picture of my necklace, professionally photographed and printed on the glossy page of a magazine.  Ask and ye shall receive.

So as I was trying to pull my knee to my chest and not being very happy with the results, I really, really got that we have to begin and once we begin we have someplace to go.