Carol McDonough and the Journey of the Green Man

As a kid, I loved rolling out clay on the oversized wooden tables of my Aunt Carol’s light-filled art studio. From the Swamp Studio of Columbus to the spacious countryside of Rutland, Ohio, Carol McDonough’s ceramic and glass pieces are absolutely breathtaking.

Tell us how you got started in art. What made you pursue ceramics?

Carol: I became fascinated with astronomy pictures in high school, and I convinced my Dad to build me a darkroom in the basement- I spent many happy hours in there. That’s also when I started selling my work- my Mom was one of my first customers. I sold her pictures of my baby brother Mark for $5!

A young Carol works diligently in clay.

A young Carol works diligently in her clay studio.

I dropped out of photography school at Ohio University to get married. Eventually, we pursued my husband’s life long dream of living in the country. I thought about how an artist could make it in the middle of nowhere; before I had ever laid my hands on a piece of clay, I picked pottery! Six weeks into throwing 101 I still couldn’t center the clay– uh oh! It all worked out OK though, and I learned the importance of hard work and putting in the time to improve skills.

How has living in the countryside of Southern Ohio impacted your work?

Carol: Prior to living in Rutland, my work had an “Art Deco” feel, and my business name was “Swamp Studio” because whenever it rained, water seeped up through the floor of my basement studio!

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Carol’s Art Deco pieces, prior to moving to the farm

Carol's Art Deco pieces, prior to moving to the country. Please write her for details!

A promotional postcard from the Swamp Studio days. Please write her for details!

Once we moved to the countryside, my business name changed to “C McDonough Designs,” and my work got more organic as I was inspired by the rolling hills, woodlands and lush green pastures of the countryside. I am an avid gardener and I have developed a line of garden pottery for my own needs including bird feeders, bird houses and planters. I learned how to make and install tile for our 100-year old farmhouse, using my kitchen and bathroom as a testing ground. Have you noticed this pattern? I was selling pics to my Mom, now I’m selling tile to my husband!

This little bird helps out with Research and Development for Carol’s handmade feeders!

The cats on the farm “testing” Carol’s kittie food bowls

Tell us a little bit about your Green Man.

Carol: The Green Man is an ancient symbol of man’s connection to nature. The process for making my green men and women are basic hand building techniques. Each face is individually hand formed and up to 36 real leaves (Sacred Oak, Bacchus, Paw Paw Sun) are pressed into clay slabs, cut out and attached.

Carol’s “Green Man”

Any secrets you’d like to share with us on your process?

Carol: Check out how I make a Green Man on my blog.

Describe your dream art studio.

Carol: My dream art studio is mine now with free heat and more windows! I might get an upgrade when Jay (my husband) retires.

The Perfect Art Studio: Mother Nature’s finest leaves included!

What advice do you have for artists that want to take their storefront online?

Carol: One of the first things I did on Etsy was check out page 12,346 to see what was there. Some of the most atrocious photos ever seen, out of focus, busy backgrounds, dark, yikes!!! You have a sixteenth of the screen and about a nano second to grab the attention of your potential customer. Once they click on your item you need four more good photos with close ups, the backside of the piece, and a great description and background story. Give it some time, work on it regularly, look at what others are doing.

Natural lighting and attention to detail make this closeup of “Bacchus” a great example of The Perfect Shot; you can practically taste the grapes!

Are You involved with any online storefronts besides Etsy?

Carol: I have another online store with Storenvy. The site is like Etsy but San Francisco based. It is a little more edgy and you can have a custom store for free, but I have had many more Etsy sales.

A more esoteric work, Carol’s Silica-based life-form fish has been making the rounds in the Ohio art loop

Is any of your art currently on display? If so, where, when and for how long?

Carol: I currently have a sculpture in the Athens Voices show at the Dairy Barn Art Center and five sculptures at the Multicultural Center at Ohio University as part of the Women of Appalachia Show. I am waiting to hear if this is my year to get into the Ohio Designer Craftsmen Best of 2015 Show!!


Can’t make it to Ohio for either event? Check out Carol’s Etsy shop from the comfort of, well, wherever you are right now. Want more info on how to run your Etsy page? Check out my breakdown of Etsy analytics and how it can help you reach your customer base. Psst! There are Etsy coupons at the bottom of that blog 🙂

Click the menu button on the top right (3 horizontal lines) and scroll down to Follow Blog Via Email.

Inspire, Connect, Promote Your Art Through Blogging and Twitter

When I went to art school, we were taught that our artist websites should include samples of our work, contact info, a bio, CV, and perhaps a blog. Back in those days, spam comments were rampant so we learned to disable them, reinforcing the fear of allowing the public to connect with us, the creators. Nowadays, the idea of providing blog content that consistently reads like a press release is stuffy and outdated. When it comes to using social media to talk about your art, it’s important to create compelling blog and Twitter posts that energize your readers in order to elevate your brand.

Inspire
show your process. What are you working on?

Be transparent. Share an industry or trade secret. You’re an artist and people are fascinated by you. They also usually have NO IDEA how you do what you do, and sharing that process with your readers is an incredibly intimate peek into who you are. Are you a jewelry maker? Show us how you use resin and original photography to make a necklace. Don’t worry too much about someone stealing your process; you’re an artist because you’ve got talent, and most people will readily admit that they could never do what you do, even if you provide a step by step guide! This may also help them understand your pricing, and why your work is so unique and valuable.

Not to worry! Your fine-tuned photography talents, lighting knowledge, and photo editing abilities will never be reproduced by an iPhone user and a crying baby! [via Pinterestfail.com]

image via [http://craftfail.com/2011/10/epic-stepping-stone-craft-fail/]

Connect
Your fans want to hear from you!

While strong blog content should be the base of your social media tactic, it can be tempting for artists to think of the blog solely as a way to document their art instead of using it as a way of engaging with their readers. Maybe you’re a creator, but not much of a conversationalist. This type of blogging doesn’t encourage a two-way dialogue with your readers, or sharing amongst your readers through other social media outlets. The best way to get connected is to include other industry leaders into your social media tactics. Starring a tweet, mentioning a person back who mentions you in their tweets, following people back who are enthusiastic about your brand are all ways you can generate enthusiasm within your blog and Twitter posts. Some helpful tips: –Reply to your followers when they comment on your blog. This lets them know that you care about what they are saying, even if it’s just a simple “thank you.” It also helps to keep the blog alive for a longer period of time after you initially post it. -When you mention other artists in your blog post, hyperlink their name so that readers can check that person out. -When you tweet the link to your blog, make sure you @ mention the artists you’ve highlighted in your blog and any industry thought leaders to a) grab their attention b) show them that you think they’re awesome. If they love your post, they’ll star, retweet or both, which helps you gain targeted, quality followers (and is also fun and gratifying when they acknowledge you):

retweets

I @ mentioned the artists from my “3 Philly Artists who Rock Instagram” post on Twitter, and all three of them starred and/or retweeted my post to thousands of followers!

Promote

Address your fear of being over-connected, annoying, and spammy Because no one wants to be coined the “look-at-me” generation, some artists have a knee-jerk reaction to sharing about themselves and their work, and may feel discouraged from participating. Stick to the virtues of offering genuine helpfulness, and ensure your posts contain meaningful, interesting, and entertaining content and you’ll have nothing to worry about! Figure out a creative way to link to your storefront as a part of your Call to Action (CTA) as you wrap up your blog post. For instance, in my blog post demystifying the Sell on Etsy app, I highlight my own store for readers to check out–now that I’ve shared the stats from my items for sale, they’re probably wondering what those “Nora Nude Coasters” look like, and they’ll be more inclined to visit the link. I also offer a link for 40 free listings for readers wanting to get started on Etsy, and a $5 coupon for those who love shopping handmade at the bottom of that same article. What’s that called again? Authentic helpfulness! What did I just do? Link you to my original content! *          *          *           *           *             *           *            *            *             *            * This is my final post for my Social Media Marketing class through Southern New Hampshire University. After this, I’m into the wild on my own! I would like to thank my professor, Dr. Jessica Rogers, for an awesome and intriguing semester!

The Zero Dollar Art Show: Utilizing Social Media and Alternative Space to Sell Your Work

Curating your own DIY art show doesn’t have to be complicated OR expensive. In fact, you might be surprised at how easy it is display and sell your artwork for no cost to a solid audience of art lovers. Finding an alternative space to display and sell your work (and your friends’ work!) and using social media to promote the event are the two key ingredients you need to maximize profit at your Zero Dollar Art Show. 

CONNECT WITH A LOCAL BUSINESS 

Do you have a friend that works at an independent coffee shop, restaurant or bar? Talk to them about hanging your work and having a have a show opening. You can also check with the owners of businesses you are a patron of. For example, I had already built a mutually beneficial relationship with the owners of the nearby bar by painting seasonal artwork onto their windows in exchange for some of their goods (ok, ok, a few free beers). They were happy to host my event and run drink specials for the evening! Whether you can offer graphic design or photography, your artistic talent is sure to be a valuable resource for your business partner.

 PRE-PROMOTION THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA

Create a Facebook Event. This is what really gets the bodies through the door. You’ll want to do this about 2-3 weeks in advance. Make sure the event is public, and that the page has an attractive custom photo for the background. Be sure to include links to the artists’ websites and online storefronts. Be specific about the date, time, location; food or drink specials; anything that makes the night unique. All participants should invite their friends and share the event on Facebook. You can make sure the invitees see your event pop up in their feed after the initial invitation is sent by having the participating artists post photos of their works in progress onto the event page. This generates excitement in the days leading up to the show. Unless someone has turned off notifications for the event, this will pop up in the feed of everyone who has been invited so they don’t forget. Check back every day, and you’ll see that RSVP YES number inch upwards every time someone posts!

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Encourage your participants to post pictures of what they’re working on to the Facebook event in the days leading up to the event. This generates excitement and reminds people of the show

Post on Instagram. Because art shows rely heavily on visuals, this is super important for artists to use to pre-promote the show. Pick a short, memorable, yet unique hashtag for your event that you and your fellow participants can use when they put up pictures of projects they are working on or of artwork they are going to display. People will be able to find your event easier before, during, and after the show with this. Make sure to include it on any graphics promoting the show info as the “official” hashtag, and include it in your Facebook event and/or blog post. Tag people on these photos that you think would enjoy your show, and tag the artists participating as well. Not everyone is going to comment or like, but just know that they are definitely looking.

Post on Twitter. Use the same hashtag across social media sites for continuity, and use it every time you talk about the event. You can tweet links to your artist’s websites, and pictures before and during the event to ramp up interest with your followers. You will also want to “mention” (@) local community, news, or art accounts. If they think your event is cool, chances are they’ll retweet it for you. Share the Facebook event link on Twitter and watch your “going” number grow even higher.

OTHER TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL ZERO-DOLLAR ART SHOW: 

-Try a group show first. This will maximize your number of visitors.
-Partner with a local print shop. Ask them to print posters and postcards for free in exchange for their logo or a coupon on the flyer, and mentions on your social media accounts.
-Get your friends involved. A friend in the beginning stages of a food or music career might want to set up at your event as well. They can entertain or feed people, and make a few bucks too. Anything that adds spice to the event is always a plus!
-Have realistic price points. It’s great to have some bigger pieces to showcase your talent, but smaller, functional, less expensive work tends to sell easier depending on your audience.
Let the Bodies Fill the Room!

Let the Bodies Fill the Room! #artistsofthekeep

Need help planning your art event? Feel free to reach out to me!