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Independence Day: 4th Anniversary of Self Employment

Margaret Almon with Beverly Pepper's Vertical Ventaglio
Margaret Almon with Beverly Pepper’s Vertical Ventaglio , June 2014. Photo by Wayne Stratz. Vertical Ventaglio by Beverly Pepper in the Memorial Art Gallery Sculpture Garden in Rochester, NY. Vertical Ventaglio, 1967-1968 American Sculpture Stainless and carbon steel with automotive paint 104 5/8 in. x 43 1/2 in. x 86 in. (265.75 cm x 110.49 cm x 218.44 cm)

July 2014 is the 4th Anniversary of my Independence.  My employer closed the library in which I worked and let me go.  I am thinking about that phrase, “Let me go.” They let me go, and I went.  I was scared, anxious and sad.  I worried about money.  I felt unnecessary, obsolete and hurt.  They let me go, and I decided to let them go, and work for myself as an artist.

Now, I can’t imagine working for someone else.  It is both scary and exhilarating to choose my own path, knowing that each month I start again with the balance sheet.

Stratoz and I were on vacation in 2010 when the list of those who were laid off was announced(and which thankfully I did not know until I got back).   This photo is from our 2014 vacation trip to Rochester, NY, with the sculpture at the Rochester Memorial Art Gallery by Beverly Pepper.  I read a story about the artist which I admire:

Turning from painting to sculpture in 1960, Pepper first carved in wood, a plentiful and inexpensive material. Instead of hand chisels, she preferred power tools as appropriate to the modern Machine Age. In 1962 the organizer of the music and art festival at Spoleto, Italy, invited ten sculptors to use local steel factories as their studios for a month. Of the three Americans, two were well-established masters of abstract metal constructions: Alexander Calder and David Smith. The third was Pepper, who did not yet even know how to weld. So she apprenticed herself to an ironmonger and shortly thereafter made her first steel sculpture, nearly eighteen feet tall. Thereafter, Pepper sculpted only in metal on a monumental scale, preferably for installation outdoors in urban spaces. 

Beverly Pepper | Landmarks.

I admire Pepper’s confidence.  She didn’t know how to weld, but she wanted to weld, and onward she went.  Another independent spirit!

What is independence for you?

My visit to another Beverly Pepper work, this time at the Grounds for Sculpture

Swayed by Goats

Orange Graphic Oval Goat Tile by Hadley Clay
Orange Graphic Oval Goat Tile by Hadley Clay

I made it through the 2014 A to Z blogging challenge and this is a good time to take care of my blog.  There exists in me a desire to do things on my own, by myself, but also the desire to make art, and the art wins out.  I went searching for someone to maintain my margaretalmon.com blog as well as the nutmegdesignsart.com site.  Wordpress has made it possible for me to create the Nutmeg Designs site, but the nuances of keeping it in good technical shape is an art in itself.  I admit I was swayed by a goat.  When I finally formulated the phrase, “WordPress Maintenance Services,” GoatCloud came up and I had to check it out.  Cliff Rohde, Chief Executive Goat, donates a portion of his net profits to those who provide goats to those in need of, as he puts it, these remarkably sturdy animals.  GoatCloud is moving my sites about and consolidating them with hopefully minimal downtime.  Goats have an unfettered sense of play and exploration, and I am swayed into my studio.



Stitch Labs Inventory & Order Management for Artists and Craft Makers: Integrating with Etsy and Product Families


In March of 2012 I signed up for Alyson Stanfield’s Get Organized to Run a Successful Art Business online class.  l had a twinge of guilt when we got to the lesson on Inventory Management because I hadn’t been keeping track for about a year.  I had started with Artist’s Butler when I took my first class with Alyson in 2007, which worked well with my Mac but which didn’t integrate with my Nutmeg Designs Etsy Shop.  I made notes on each item as to whether it was on Etsy and if it had sold on Etsy, but then I started making mosaic pendants and quickly fell behind, because people were buying them!

This time around I fortuitously found Stitch Labs, which just started in 2011.  When I signed up in March of 2012, there was as $12.00/month fee for a basic Stitch account, which I gladly paid after the 30 day free trial.  In August 2012, Stitch Labs instituted a free plan for users who only have one “integrated eCommerce sales channel.”  In my case that is Etsy.  [In January 2013, Stitch revised their plans again, and grandfathered me in. Their target market is a bigger business than I am. In March of 2017, Stitch revised their plans to make my monthly plan $49.99/month, and I chose to close my account.]

Stitch is an web based system, and they  back up data regularly.  They add new features in response to customer input, and unlike Artist’s Butler, which resides on my Mac, I don’t have to download updates.

What I’ve Learned About Stitch as of August 2012

  • A unique one of a kind artwork can be a Product Family unto itself, so if there are no permutations like different colors or sizes, just go ahead and create one for each item.  In Artist’s Butler, I would add a new record for each artwork, and you can work with Stitch in this way, and upload a photo specific to this particular work.
  • If you have an item in production, which has variations, such as my mosaic pendants, a Product Family allows me to add options such as metal and color, so I can keep track of which colors are the most popular and what inventory is low.   I can add photos of new work to the  Mosaic Pendant Product Family that show the range of work, and then print a line sheet for retail or wholesale.  Making a unique record for each and every pendant in Artist’s Butler was part of what overwhelmed me.  My work ranges over both one of a kind works that fine artists track meticulously and production items which are more akin to prints.
  • You can manually link each new Etsy listing with its appropriate Product Family, but the process is quick, and when someone orders something from Etsy, it’s automatically accounted for in your Inventory, and the Order is imported, and the information is ready for you to create invoices, add packing slips and payment received, and add  address information to the Contacts database.   [At the end of 2012, Stitch added the option of having Etsy inventory flow directly into Stitch.  I have not switched to this yet.]
  •  When you have work at a gallery or on consignment,  at a craft show, you can create an open order for those items, and print the invoice as a record of the inventory  for both yourself and the gallery or shop owner.  Those works will be committed to that order, but not taken completely out of your Stitch unless you mark them as sold.
  • If you sell online, but not through one of the integrated channels like Etsy or Shopify, you can still enter orders manually.

What I have yet to explore:

  • Reports and Analytics.  There are lots of pie charts and graphs and data to explore.  [In preparation for 2012 taxes, I have finally downloaded reports into my Google Drive.]
Note: In 2017, with the increase in fees, and the fact that Stitch also dropped support for entering expenses, I chose to cancel my account. I purchased and started using Paper & Spark’s Etsy Seller Spreadsheet for my expenses and Cost of Goods Sold, Invoice Ninja Pro for my invoices, and the Inventory Spreadsheet for Google Docs provided free of charge by CERF+ to track my inventory of finished items. I had defaulted to only adding inventory to Stitch after it sold, and I didn’t need to know the location of items in the same way a mass producer of t-shirts might.
In 2018, I found ArtMoi art cataloging software which I’ve been using regularly to update my inventory records.


Joy and the Learning Curve: The New Nutmeg Designs Art Website

Joy Lotus Mandala by Nutmeg Designs.
Joy Lotus Mandala by Nutmeg Designs.

When I signed up for Tara Gentile‘s Website Kickstart class, I was nervous.  I had been interviewing web designers for a new Nutmeg Designs site for the collaborative work Stratoz and I do together, and didn’t even know what questions I needed to be asking.  In the midst of this, I got an email from Tara about the next Kickstart class, and I took this as a fortuitous sign.  At one point I attempted to start my own website, and the frustration was overwhelming, and the mass of details seemingly endless.  I eventually went with blogging software for my Margaret Almon Mosaics site, and assumed I’d never try the mysteries of FTP, HTML or CSS again, but the timing was right for Tara’s class, which included technical support.  I wouldn’t be going it alone.

Tara wisely begins the class with encouragement to Celebrate the Learning Curve, and even to rejoice in all that there is yet to be learned.  This goes against my belief that I must do things perfectly, the very first time, instantaneously.  I am aware that this is unattainable, that all human learning is by trial and error, but even though I understand intellectually, the old pathways are grooved deep.  But every action I take to learn something can take me closer to what I want to achieve, and that I can ask for help.

The Joy Mandala is our new favicon(that little icon that shows up on open tabs in your browser), which is fitting since it is a collaborative piece, and Stratoz and I are joyful that we can share our art with the world.

Nutmeg Designs Art