cindy a. stephens: Blog en-us (C) cindy a. stephens (cindy a. stephens) Fri, 05 Jan 2018 17:20:00 GMT Fri, 05 Jan 2018 17:20:00 GMT cindy a. stephens: Blog 80 120 My adventure in China Traveler Photos

By Cindy A. Stephens

It’s still true, I think, what Samuel Johnson said many years ago about traveling: “The use of traveling is to regulate imagination with reality, and instead of thinking of how things may be, see them as they are.”

Shanghai, 2017

Shanghai, Copyright 2017 by Cindy A Stephens

For instance you need to see firsthand, in modern China, the ear cleaners who go to teahouses in the People’s Park in Chengdu and offer ear cleaning services.  Yes, this is exactly what is sounds like! People can get their ears cleaned (in public) while they enjoy afternoon tea!

Zhujiajaio, China, 2017

Zhujiajaio, Copyright 2017 by Cindy A Stephens

You might imagine a bustling, modern China with is myriad factories and populous cities.  But what of the reality in the village of Fengdu where dental services are offered in the street?

Fengdu, China, 2017

Fengdu, Copyright 2017 by Cindy A Stephens

The China I saw was admittedly only a small sliver of how things are.  The reality I saw is what I was permitted and encouraged to see and experience.

Fengdu, China, 2017

Fengdu, Copyright 2017 by Cindy A Stephens

The underpasses in major cities were pristine and planted with beautiful gardens.  I didn’t see homeless living underneath them as I did in neighboring India.  Is this because China has done such an amazing job at creating economic growth that there aren’t any homeless in cities whose populations surpass 20 million?

Fengdu market, China, 2017

Fenggdu, Copyright 2017 by Cindy A Stephens

The cities of Beijing, Xian, Chengdu, and Shanghai that I visited are thriving cosmopolitan centers.  A friend put it best when she said they looked like “legos”.  Each city center was chock-full of apartment buildings as far as you could see.  One building, then another, and another.  Each apartment building appearing like its neighbor with little outward individuality.

Gianta panda breeding center, Chengdu, China, 2017

Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center, Copyright 2017 by Cindy A Stephens

Laundry adorned nearly every balcony of Shanghai’s modern apartment buildings like ornaments.

Rice noodles, China 2017

Rice Noodles, Copyright 2017 by Cindy A Stephens

Hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty and now live in apartments in major cities. Children who earn enough money dutifully send it back to their parents who may still eke out a subsistence living in agricultural communities where the retirement age is mid-50’s.  A small house in the historic, traditional, hutong district of Beijing might sell for $1 million.  The family uses a public bathroom across the street, shared with many neighbors.

Along the Yangtze River, China, 2017

Along the Yangtze River, Copyright 2017 by Cindy A Stephens

My visit to the Terra Cotta Warriors in Xian was a highlight of my visit. I was surprised to learn that it is still an active archaeological site and see the team of scientists at work in pits.  I was amazed that over one thousand yeares ago an emperor was so concerned about his afterlife that he commissioned an army of 8,000+ soldiers to be built and buried across 30+ acres

Village life, China, 2017

Village life, Copyright 2017 by Cindy A Stephens

It is true what they say, China is a land of contrast. I visited a city with more than 6 million vehicles; a bustling financial center in Shanghai; a village relocated due to the Three Gorges Dam;  a hanging coffin along the Yangtze, centuries-old Terra Cotta warriors; and a traditional family home without running water and modern apartment buildings.

Along the Yangtze River, China, 2017

Parasols, Copyright 2017 by Cindy A Stephens

I enjoyed wonderful food, including Peking duck in Beijing, noodles in Xian, and a traditional hot pot dinner in Chengdu.

Muslim Quarter, Xian, Copyright 2017 by Cindy A Stephens

I learn something on each of my world travels that informs my perspective and world outlook.  On this journey I came away with the strong belief that there is more “gray” than “black and white” when examining different political and economic situations. 


Millions of people are no longer living in poverty and help other generations. This progress has come at a price, though, as farmlands and the environment have been eradicated to make room for cities as they expand ever outward.  And the constantly grey, polluted skies are a reminder of the many inherent trade offs of rapid economic development.


You might also be interested in Tibet Travel Diary and Photos.

]]> (cindy a. stephens) fine art prints for sale travel photography asia traveler photos travelgram Thu, 04 Jan 2018 23:03:59 GMT
Tibet Travel Diary and Photos Eyewitness Account to Tibet

By Cindy A. Stephens


The first thing that struck me after landing in Tibet was the sky - how sunny and blue it was!  Having spent the prior week in Beijing, Xian and Chengdu where the sun was barely visible through a thick haze (a.k.a. smog), Tibetan blue skies were a welcome change.  The second thing that I noticed was the amazing scenery.  The third thing, was nausea.


I had been at high altitude without incident while travelling in the Andes so I was unprepared for what hit me in Tibet, which was really unpleasant.  Enough said.  Despite the altitude sickness that I experienced I would happily return to Tibet!  The three nights I spent in Llasa, Tibet were the highlight of my two week journey.


Potala Palace, Llasa

Copyright 2017, Cindy A Stephens


Tibetan Growth

If you’ve read my other travel photography posts, or follow me on Instagram, you know that I love to experience places where the cultures are different from New England culture.  As a traveler I try to keep an open mind and immerse myself in unfamiliar cultures and experience them from multiple vantage points.  It isn’t always easy.  In Tibet, I couldn’t help feel that I had come too late to experience traditional Tibetan culture and was left asking myself: is Tibetan growth creating a better quality of life for the Tibetan people or erasing centuries of tradition?  Is it possible to do both at the same time?


(You might also be interested in this travel blog: Zambia, Botswana and South Africa: Photos from Africa)


Copyright 2017, Cindy A Stephens


Tibet’s growth and modernization were visible in bold and subtle ways.  It was evident in the construction cranes building modern apartment buildings that juxtaposed with snow-covered Himalayas.  Also too in the paved airport expressway that wound through tunnels blasted into the Tibetan plateau.  It was clearly visible in billboard advertisements that dotted the expressway beside lakes and golden-leafed Apsens.  In a more subtle way, it was present with the tree plantings designed to oxygenate the atmosphere.


I didn’t have to look beyond my hotel, though, to see signs of development.  The luxury Shangri-La hotel in Llasa is a scant few years old.  The number of tourists visiting the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) is difficult to pin down but it seems clear that tourism is on the rise. (Read this Washington Post article for more on calculating visitors.)  A stroll through the narrow streets surrounding the historic Jokhang Temple in downtown Llasa now feature a myriad of wares and trinkets for sale to passersby.  This commerce center has sprouted within the past couple of years.


Copyright 2017, Cindy A Stephens


Much of the influx into Tibet is from the Chinese people who see opportunities for personal growth in Llasa.  Our local guide told us she visited Tibet on vacation and “it was like a dream”.  Many are attracted to clean air, blue skies, modern housing and job prospects.


Non-Chinese tourism is on the rise too, though, and I can’t help wonder what its impact is having on traditional Tibetan ways.  In quantum mechanics our very act of observation can influence what is taking place. Is that happening in Tibet?  What am I influencing with my presence?  Money from tourists provides jobs and a higher standard of living while at the same time bringing visible changes to the landscape and culture.


Tibetan Traditions

Tibet is full of history and tradition.  I struggled out of bed to see for myself a few of the spiritual and historic sites. 


I feel very privileged to have visited the Dalai Lama’s summer palace.  Norbulingka has been lovingly preserved as it was when the 14th Dalai Lama fled in exile to India in 1959.  The expansive gardens and palace are stunning. Rooms are a rich tapestry (literally and figuratively) that depict the history of the world and also highlight the smallest of details. For instance, a clock is stopped at the precise time the 14th Dalai Lama fled in exile.


Copyright 2017, Cindy A Stephens


I am also thankful I visited the Johkang Temple in the center of old Llasa city.  After passing through metal detectors at the perimeter of Barkhor square I was greeted by a feast for the senses that included colorful prayer flags, the distant Himalayas and pilgrims prostrating themselves outside the Temple.


Copyright 2017, Cindy A Stephens

Johkang Temple is the holiest destination for Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims.  Inside the temple there are two informal paths, one for pilgrims and the other for tourists.  Pilgrims, often wearing or holding white prayer scarfs, bring yak butter from home to pour and leave behind as an offering and in respect.  Among the many statues that are inside the temple is one (Jowe Rinpoche) that is purported to have been created during the lifetime of Buddha Shakyamuni during the 6th to 5th century BCE. It is believed to have been blessed by Buddha himself.


Copyright 2017, Cindy A Stephens


It’s hard to describe what it felt like to be inside this Temple and to be standing in Barkhor Square.  The best way I know how to describe it is to say that I was completely at peace and for those moments didn’t have another care in the world.  I was at once overcome with the smells (e.g., lots of yak butter) and sights (e.g., Buddhist statues) and sounds (e.g., soft Buddhist prayers). It’s a humbling experience to be allowed into the holiest of Buddhist temples.   


Mingling of Old and New in Tibetan Culture

In my view Tibet is at a crossroads.  Traditional Tibetan culture continues to co-mingle with Chinese ways and also other Western cultures.  I was told by one guide during my visit that of the three million people in the Tibet Autonomous Region one million are Chinese.  Whether these numbers are precise is not really the point.  More to the point is that Tibetan culture is changing, and changing fast.  China is driving its growth.  But so too, are the Western tourists that come in increasing numbers to experience for themselves what life is like at the roof of the world.  Tibet is not alone in this situation.  Case in point: during my visit to Antarctica I was acutely aware of the potential influence of humans in this fragile ecosystem.


Copyright 2017, Cindy A Stephens


Change is inevitable.  It will bring with it better standards of living as well as a melding of culture, values and ideals.  As a traveler my aim is to explore with my eyes wide open and question – exploring the good and the bad along with the ugly.  I’ve often said that I wish it were mandatory for every American to visit at least one place that is culturally different from our own so we can each broaden our perspective.  Maybe though, that’s unnecessary.  After all, America is already a melting pot of dozens of cultures from across the globe.  And in the end, isn’t that part of what makes America great?


You might also be interested in reading The Pink Monks of Myanmar: Eyewitness to Life as a Buddhist Nun or Pictures from Kathmahdu, Nepal


Stay tuned for another post soon on my travels to mainland China!

]]> (cindy a. stephens) fine art prints for sale my travel photography original art for sale online travel travel blog travel blog photography travel blogger travel photos travel pictures Thu, 14 Dec 2017 23:22:10 GMT
How to Build a Successful Fiber Arts Business Art marketing conversation with textile artist Susan Levi-Goerlich

By Cindy A. Stephens


Textile artist Susan Levi-Goerlich stitched her first fiber painting in 1984 and never looked back.  In the 30-plus years since then, Susan’s fiber paintings have been featured in The Crafts Report as well as on Maryland Public Television’s Artworks This Week and HGTV’s Sew Much More.  She’s a successful artist whose work has been featured in newspapers and magazines and included in the book Artistry in Fiber: Wall Art.


Becoming a successful artist isn’t easy.  “When you decide to be an artist you are really opening a small business,” Susan said. “The amount of time I spend in my studio creating is a fraction of the time I spend with everything else that goes along with running the business.  I didn’t realize that at the beginning. I just wanted to make stuff.  But it’s a business.”

















Copyright Susan Levi-Goerlich


In this post we discuss the Four P’s of Susan Levi-Goerlich’s fiber arts business:

  • Susan’s fiber art and business [Product]
  • How Susan prices her fiber art [Price]
  • Susan’s thoughts on using social media to promote her art business [Promotion]
  • Craft shows [Place]


Susan’s fiber art business [Product]

Susan’s medium is fiber.  She uses a combination of free-motion machine embroidery, silk and needle-felting.  She uses photographs as a reference to create landscapes using layers of richly colored silk.  She may use the same photo more than once as inspiration but, as she told me, “the individual stitched paintings based on a specific photo are more like siblings than identical twins.  There is a strong family resemblance but they’re not exactly the same.”











Copyright Susan Levi-Goerlich


Glance at Susan’s website and you’ll see that her business consists of making and selling fiber paintings, commissions, book sales, as well as teaching and lecturing.  Phew!


Teaching, Susan said, “tends to be an extra leg on the stool that we all need to support ourselves,” adding that “…if one leg gets wobbly the stool will still be supported by the others. Teaching is an additional leg for my stool.”


Tip: If you are interested in teaching you might also be interested in this blog archive - How to Make Teaching Art a Full Time Profession: One Fiber Artist’s Story


In terms of book sales, Susan started making books nearly 10 years ago and now has four self-published books to her credit. (You can read more about them on Susan’s website.)  They started initially when her husband suggested Susan create a book of her work.  Her first book, Stitched Impressions, was intended to showcase her pieces. “The book served as a portfolio,” Susan said. “[Buyers] could narrow-down what types of images they liked.”  Her next book, Garden Portraits, was developed to show customers that she could do a commission based on their gardens. It showed photographs of gardens and how Susan interpreted the photos to create stitched paintings. Originally, Susan had both books with her at craft shows for informational purposes.  When customers expressed interest in buying them, she had more printed.


How Susan prices fiber art [Pricing]

Figuring out how to price art correctly is one of the most challenging business activities for artists.  My regular readers know that I ask the artists I speak with to share their pricing approaches because it is tremendously helpful for other artists.  [One side note:  while each art medium has its own unique pricing considerations, I firmly believe that some ideas are universal and apply equally well to any artistic endeavor.]


In terms of how Susan prices her work, she has a pretty good idea of what she can charge because she’s been a fiber artist for over 30 years.  For instance, Susan doesn’t track the hours spent on a specific painting. “What I try to do is have a wide range of prices, from under $100 up to $5,000 or more,” Susan said.  “The little pieces are good because while the big pieces make a big splash when you sell one, you have to wait longer [for a sale].”


Susan likes to be busy.  She would prefer to be making (and selling) work regularly so she has a lot of smaller pieces. These are what she sometimes dubs “starter art.”  In her experience, buyers of starter art/the smaller work “often come back in future years to add to their collection or start moving up to larger pieces.”  In this way, she’s taking a longer term approach to building her business by encouraging smaller sales now for potentially bigger sales in the future.


For beginning artists Susan's advice is, "It is more fun to sell stuff than not. Even if you think a piece is worth $1,000 you also have to figure out whether you want to sit and look at it for a long time or move it on out so you can make more pieces.” She adds, “You can’t go backwards with your prices.  If someone buys a piece for $1,000 you are stuck.  You can’t sell a similar piece for $250 [next time].”















Copyright Susan Levi-Goerlich


There’s another reason that Susan likes to make art available within a wide range of prices. “If I have a piece that is $2,000 and another that is $5,000, the $2,000 piece doesn’t look quite as expensive when it is compared with the $5,000 piece.”


Case in point: “If have a $250 [piece] and a smaller [one] that is $100, a customer might feel like they can’t afford $250 but can spend $100.” 


This pricing approach does have implications for the way she works.  Susan simplifies her fiber paintings for the smaller pieces, and usually offers them in framed dimensions ranging from 8”x8” to 16”x20.” She makes sure that if she uses a certain technique for a smaller piece, all of her work with this technique and size will have the same price.


“You have to be consistent with your prices,” she says.  “If there is a discernible difference between pieces it’s okay to price them differently, but you can’t price things willy nilly.”  Her prices are standard whether she shows her work in a booth at a craft show, on her website, or in a gallery.


In terms of how to get started setting an initial price for a large piece (20”x24” framed and up) Susan uses a formula to figure out a square inch price.   This is similar to what Lesley Heathcote told me that she does with pastels (You can read more about Lesley Heathcote in a blog archive).


Using social media and the web to promote fiber arts [Promotion]

When it comes to ways to promote an arts business, opinions differ.  Commercial travel photographer Ken Kaminesky shared with me how he’s used Twitter extensively to build his business. (You might be interested in reading the full blog post, How can you use twitter to promote your photography business?).


In Susan’s case she feels it is “really important to make room in your life for work and for play.” This philosophy applies to her use of social media too.  In terms of her business she says “It [social media] is not something I’m willing to make the time for.  I know it could be useful but I know that it can also be a huge time suck.  I don’t want to get caught in that vortex and end up spending even more time on the computer than I already do.  I know that to do anything effectively I would need to put a lot of time into it and I’m not willing to do that with social media.”


Susan was willing, though, to spend three months revamping her website so she would have a site that she could update on her own (instead of needing a web designer to do it).  She says she “was willing to put the time in because I knew it was important, whereas with social media, it isn’t that much a part of my life.”


This traditional approach works for Susan and her art business, in part because of her medium – fiber/textile arts.  She feels that buyers needs to see her art in person to really experience it.  This is why craft shows are a great venue for her to sell work.  More on that in a minute.


“I am most comfortable using the web as a follow-up for people who have already seen my work in person. Otherwise they aren’t exactly sure of what they will be getting,” she says.  “My work is not captured well online.”


This may be somewhat unique to fiber/textile arts.  For photographers and other artists, it may be less of an issue to need to experience the work up close and in person.


So, how does Susan promote her work if it isn’t through digital means?  Teaching she says, can be a good medium for promotion. When she teaches at a craft school she brings samples of her work and often sells them.  Also, she’s open to having a show at a gallery.   Her primary means of promoting and selling work, though, is at craft shows.


Selling fiber art at craft shows [Place]

Susan started selling her fiber art at craft shows and they have been a constant in terms of how she has sold for the past 30 years.  She still participates in six to eight shows per year. She also deals with galleries but not that much.  Susan no longer sells her work wholesale because she said having to repeat pieces took the fun out of creating the work. 
















Copyright Susan Levi-Goelrich

Interestingly, craft shows give Susan something besides sales.  They also give her feedback, feedback that she says “is a whole lot less filtered when someone is standing in the booth [versus on Instagram].”  She believes that delivering comments in person in a booth trumps “likes” on social media sites. “At times, people in my booth have made fairly random comments that have sparked an entirely new body of work,” she says.  “I listen with open ears.  I also have developed a thick skin.”


Time, Susan says, is a finite resource. “With the business of making and selling art, you wear lots of hats—you either do everything yourself or you contract out tasks.”  The four “P’s” of her textile business (product, price, promotion and place) work for Susan.” Susan allocates her time on the things that matter most for her and give her the in-person feedback, ideas and motivations she needs.


“Doing craft shows, I have colleagues spread across the East Coast.  When we come together it can be a really fertile time to share ideas. There have been times when an artist friend solved something for me in an instant that I had been stuck on for days.”


I hope you’ll use Susan’s story as inspiration for your own art business and tailor it to what works best for you.  For instance, if you are a photographer and don’t have an original piece in the same way textile artists or painters to, you still might consider offering a range of work at different price points by having fine art prints as well as ready-to-hang canvas art or glass prints. Or, you might choose to spend some of your time meeting potential customers face-to-face instead of only promoting work using social media.  There’s no one-size-fits-all approach.  Do what’s right for you to build your successful arts business.


You might also be interested in this blog archive, Finding Customers for your Fine Art Business.


Susan began selling fiber artwork when she was living in Munich in the mid-1980's. Then, as now, stitching played a primary role in her work and she used the sewing machine as others would use a pencil or paintbrush. While in Munich, she learned the art of silk painting which prompted her to begin experimentation with different weaves of silk. Designing silk collages from layers of colored silk was a natural progression.  Her current work combines her passion for gardening and garden imagery with free-motion machine embroidery. 


]]> (cindy a. stephens) art business art marketing contemporary textile art how to build a successful fiber art business how to price fiber art how to sell fiber art Tue, 05 Dec 2017 22:42:58 GMT
New! Fine art photography on Instagram @cindyastephensfineart

You can now see more of my photographs on my Instagram account.  I've been showcasing images that are currently available on my website and my shops on #ArtfulHome and #Zatista. 

I'll also be posting never-before seen photographs from my archives along with brand new inventory.  I hope you'll follow me and see at least one new pic each day. See what I've posted already, here




]]> (cindy a. stephens) fine art on instagram fine art photographers on instagram fine art prints for sale instagram photography Fri, 20 Oct 2017 19:58:55 GMT
How to Make Teaching Art a Full Time Profession One Fiber Artist’s Story

By Cindy A Stephens


Contemporary basket artist Jackie Abrams has taught in Australia eight times, given a workshop in New Zealand, volunteered to teach in Ghana six times, and run numerous art workshops across the United States and Canada.  Teaching workshops has become Jackie’s primary source of art income but it wasn’t always that way.


Standing in Strength, Copyright Jackie Abrams

For many years (more than 40) Jackie’s primary markets for her fiber arts business were sales through galleries and craft shows.  She traveled as far away as Washington, DC and Philadelphia for craft shows, which required hauling pedestals and other materials that were needed for her booth.   It was, she told me, “a major thing to do a show in terms of time and money and exertion.”  The effort was worth it though due to the way people would come into her booth and respond to her work as well as the sales she made.  Jackie had a solid selling price point between $200 and $600. “Pretty much if it was a nice piece I could sell it,” she said.


Unfortunately that all changed in 2008 when the economy changed.  “Basket sales are unreliable [now].  Up to 2008 you could count on making a certain amount of money.  Then, sales just went down.”   The mid-market that was the backbone of her sales (between $200 and $600) disappeared.  Jackie was single and suddenly had to earn more income.  That’s when “teaching became a real profession,” she said.


Jackie’s journey from full-time basket maker to basket-educator, is uniquely her own.  Nevertheless, this fascinating story is full of tips for other working artists looking to make money teaching art and craft classes.


Hidden Memories: The Ravages of Dementia, Copyright Jackie Abrams

9 Ways Jackie Made Teaching into her Main Source of Art Income

1.Became expert in her craft.  With a career in contemporary basket arts spanning the decades since 1975 Jackie was already a skilled artist when she returned to teaching basket making techniques in 1993 after raising her daughters.  Her work had already been displayed in galleries from Vermont (her home state) throughout the United States and Canada.

2.Remained passionate about education.  Jackie had a passion for education and a head-start in terms of knowing how to teach.  Before Jackie began making baskets she was a classroom teacher with a Master’s in Education.  In terms of fiber arts teaching specifically, Jackie says that she started teaching early on in her career to have a connection, to share what she was doing, and connect with people and other teachers.  When sales slowed in 2008 Jackie had already been teaching for many years and was poised to make teaching a much larger part of her business to give her added income and the ability to travel.  Even with a significant head start Jackie nevertheless found that her journey had its ups and downs.

3.Offered bonus materials to earn extra income.  “My plan was to teach each of the six major [basket making] techniques and make a DVD - two per year - which would be my retirement money,” she said.  Jackie ended up making only one.  “It was very expensive. It wasn’t pleasant.”  And on top of the production experience Jackie still had to market these DVDs.  Now, she has a steady dribble of orders for DVDs that fluctuates between selling zero and six in a single month.  In months when she goes to a conference she may end up selling a few more.

4.Paid her dues and worked her way up.  Jackie started by teaching at basket conferences and worked her way up in terms of teaching jobs.  During the past 10 years Jackie has become more selective on which teaching assignments she wants to be involved with.  “I took [teaching] jobs that I wouldn’t take now,” she says.  In some instances, as with Arrowmount School of Arts and Crafts in Tennessee, she still teaches there because she loves Arrowmount.  “It is financially barely worth it to go there [but] you know it will be a great week.” 

5.Loved meeting people!  What Jackie enjoys most about teaching at Arrowmount and other places is meeting people.  She was asked recently if she’d like to have a juried show of her students’ work in British Columbia.  The answer was a resounding YES! Jackie really loved seeing her student’s work particularly where they went beyond what she had taught them.  “What’s exciting is that they take what I have to offer and go crazy with it and take it in another direction.”

6.Knew what to charge based on the going rates.   In terms of making a living from teaching art Jackie began by setting her price for workshops and other assignments based on the going rate, which is different for individual fields.  “Jewelry workshops can command a higher price than rug making for example and I can ask less than they [jewelry workshops] do.”  She learned about these going rates from attending basket conferences and meeting with a lot of people (many of whom are now close friends).  Jackie also joined a group of national basket teachers that had an active email group, which meant Jackie could reach out to a community to learn more about going rates.  Establishing her network has proven to be very important for her business.

7.Developed her professional network. Jackie’s teaching has given her the opportunity to travel and make many friends, all over the world.  She’s woven together a rich tapestry that now includes fellow educators, other fiber artists, customers and mentors.  This desire to connect with people and meet other teachers has proven invaluable and according to Jackie “… turned out to be a fabulous community.”  It has also proven to be serendipitous.

8.Pursued new teaching opportunities.  When Jackie turned 50 she travelled to Australia with a group of friends for a basket gathering.  This is where she met one of her two mentors.  It was also where Jackie mentioned off-handedly that “if you are ever looking for an American basket maker who teaches let me know.”  Jackie got hired and has since been back to teach in Australia seven times.

9.Found two mentors.  As I just mentioned, Jackie has two mentors.  Steve is the other one.  This relationship has helped her get involved with craft development in Africa.  Initially Steve started out by visiting her at shows and buying her work.  A few years into it, Jackie told me, they realized that they had a common interest in Africa and in Ghana specifically.  Steve connected Jackie with a woman who was looking for someone to go to Ghana and work with people making objects out of paper that could be sold for money.  While this initial venture wasn’t successful it did lead to another opportunity at a woman’s trust teaching women a craft skill so they could make money.  Jackie was hired and did that trip three times.


In Conversation, Copyright Jackie Abrams

Lessons from Jackie’s transition to fiber arts educator

Jackie’s decision to share her passion for basket making has opened up many opportunities for her art business.  Expanding a business internationally isn’t easy.  And, doing this in the arts is perhaps even harder. 


It seems to me that these opportunities have also “taught the teacher”.  Her craft development in Africa and time spent with women in Ghana has had the profound effect of simplifying her art forms and distilling them to precisely what she wants to say – letting the work speak for itself.  And it does speak, loudly!  Her Women Forms and Spirit Women portfolios are elegant in their beauty and simplicity.   


Jackie’s students also get to benefit from these experiences.  “My newest classes are about simplifying the technique.  [It] is about what I want to say, not the technique.”


If there’s one lesson that you can apply from Jackie’s story to your own it may be precisely the sentiment Jackie eloquently expressed: have something to say!  When you combine a passion for teaching with something unique to say and hard work it can be a winning recipe for success.


“My favorite story [about craft shows] is the booth was busy and I was talking to someone. I turned away to look at another woman and she was crying [after reading my] few words about what the work meant to me.  Those reactions are what I miss.”


In the end having someone respond to your work either as an artist or as a teacher is a powerful motivator for doing what we’ve chosen to do.


You might also be interested in this blog archive, my discussion with award winning freelance photographer and photo-educator David H. Wells: How to build awareness for your work


Jackie has been a fiber artist for over 40 years, using and adapting well-practiced basket-making skills. Her materials include silk and cotton fabrics, archival paper, wire, sand, thread, buttons, encaustic wax, and acrylic paints and mediums.  She works intuitively, the colors and textures of the materials informing the vessels she creates.  You can read her complete artist statement on her website.

]]> (cindy a. stephens) art business art marketing contemporary basketry fiber artists jackie abrams Tue, 29 Aug 2017 11:00:00 GMT
How to Sell Wearable Art Jewelry [Conversation with Designer Chris Lann] By Cindy A Stephens


Contemporary jewelry designer Chris Lann has spent the past 14 years pursuing metalsmithing and creating one-of-a-kind and limited-production jewelry.  He told me that “A lot of people buying art are really buying a piece of the artist, so letting them have that and knowing that each piece is individually made — strictly speaking one of a kind — helps a lot [in building a business].  It becomes a signature thing.”


Serpentine Lariat, Copyright Chris Lann

I couldn’t agree more. People are building a connection with a specific artist when they purchase an original painting, a fine art print, or a signature piece of jewelry.  It is why many collectors choose to buy an original fine art print directly from the artist instead of buying an anonymous, mass-produced item at a home goods store. 


Developing relationships with customers has played a role with many other artists I’ve spoken with, including Karin Rosenthal, Lesley Heathcote and The Lone Beader.  All of them have built successful art businesses.  The “Holy grail is people who come back again and again,” Chris said.


The critical question for artists to answer, then, is how do we find these potentially loyal customers and develop relationships with them?  Or to put it another way, where do customers go to buy handmade contemporary jewelry and other fine art?  Answering this question is something that Chris has grappled with since leaving his career as a newspaper editor and layout artist to pursue metalsmithing full time.


Selling Wearable Art Online with Etsy: the Accidental Marketer

Chris lives in Vermont and setup his contemporary jewelry studio in 2010 in West Brattleboro.   He estimates 90% of his jewelry sales are to female Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.


I asked Chris about his artistic presence on Etsy, Instagram and Facebook and how he thinks about them in terms of reaching these potential customers and building his presence.  "All my effort goes into making jewelry, marketing gets short shrift," Chris said.  "I'm always up against a deadline to have inventory to take to a show.  Marketing ends up being expendable."


Having an Etsy shop hasn’t come about as a way to reach collectors who are looking for the very best place to shop for jewelry online.  In fact, when it comes to Etsy, Chris said he “sort of feel[s] obligated to do it. It feels almost accidental.  In truth, having the website at all has been a lot like that.”


Cornucopia, Copyright Chris Lann

Chris thinks about his online web presence more as a way for people who already know him to reconnect, which is important because a lot of his business relies on repeat customers.  The integration of Chris’s Etsy shop with his own website came about purely because he used Wix to create a new website that he says “was slick and easy.”


“Etsy offers a page for your site to link to your shop, to plug Etsy into the furniture of the site. In [my] old site, it was setup like an online store. That was a lot of work to maintain, and was clunky.  [The] new site is sort of a gallery [for people] to become acquainted or get in touch for custom orders or know when I am doing shows.”


It is much the same with Instagram and Facebook.  Chris said that he feels like he has to have a presence on them but isn't sure he knows what he is doing with them yet.  He uses Facebook in particular to promote the art shows that he does and let people know when he is going to be at one of them.  This is important because selling jewelry at craft shows is a very important part of his business.


How to Price Jewelry for Craft Shows

Chris primarily sells his contemporary jewelry designs at craft shows and face-to-face from his studio.  His model is to stay within a 100-mile radius of his studio when going to a show.  That’s how Chris picks which events he’ll participate in. 


According to Chris it is “not the golden age of shows that it was in the 70s/80s when you could expect to make $10,000 at a single event.”  When he’s doing a show now, he said, he is primarily interested in meeting and speaking with several thousand people and in the process selling some jewelry. 


When it comes to craft shows, I asked Chris how he thinks about how to price jewelry for them.  How to price art for sale is always a hot topic. In fact, a reader of mine, Steven, contacted me a few months ago to ask my opinion about pricing his panoramic photography for an art show:  “Do you think I should charge a slightly less price at the art shows I will be doing, rather than what I normally charge?”


Here’s what Chris had to say about pricing:  “It seemed logical that I would have lower prices at a show or in the studio.  If I go to the source, I expect for it to cost less. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that isn’t the model.  Not only do galleries not want to deal with you if you do that; there is no reason for them to sell your work if you sell it for half price. They have no incentive to work with someone who will undercut them. That is not a good model.  It is better to find a price that is reasonable, which is a source of a lot of thought and grief.” 


Chris uses a formula that takes into account his overhead (which is low) and the hours he spent on a piece, but he often lowers the resulting price to what he would expect to spend if he were buying it.  The result is that he feels his jewelry is often underpriced. 


Unfortunately, I am beginning to see a trend about under-valuing work based on my conversations with artists across many different mediums.  For Chris, his current approach seems to work, though, because he has many repeat customers and doesn’t spend as much time finding new ones as much as selling more to current customers.


How to Get Repeat Customers for Jewelry

When it comes to selling his contemporary jewelry designs, one of the things that has helped Chris the most has been doing demonstrations at art shows.  He will be working on a piece and knitting silver chains when he is at an art show to demonstrate what the work entails.


“A lot of times people won’t think about how it is made, but if they see it made and see there is more work involved than initially thought, it is a chance to connect,” Chris said.


Building this personal and face-to-face connection with his customers is important. Chris was in a gallery for several years in Brattleboro and said he didn’t have the personal connection with buyers in that setting.


Flat Weave Bimetal Ring, Copyright Chris Lann

He found that the gallery had a different motivation to sell pieces and they eventually parted ways. “They want to bring people in the door,” he said, and aren’t necessarily motivated to do what is in the artist’s best interest.


For example, Chris has a piece he uses for demonstrations at art shows that is one of his most popular designs. He sells it at every show. At the gallery, he surprisingly found that people didn’t respond to it in the same way.   Chris may go back to a gallery at some point.  For now though, he also creates interest in his work through his involvement with Brattleboro-West Arts.  Chris currently is chairman of the Brattleboro-West Arts PR Committee.


As a former newspaper editor and designer, he helps write and produce BWA’s promotional materials.  What's neat is, because of his investment of time on PR, he feels that it has increased overall awareness and traffic to the Brattleboro-West Arts site that features all of the member artists. According to Chris, “being in a group can you get more traction.”


In the end, building your artistic presence and a successful art business may have as much to do with creativity and passion as it does good business sense.  According to Chris, “[You] have to follow your inspiration for the art, and if you create things you are passionate about, people will connect with that.  If you aren’t passionate about it, they won’t connect with it. Stay excited about what you are creating.”


Taking cues from nature, Chris employs techniques used since the dawn of metalsmithing to create pieces of wearable art that are at once organic and contemporary. From twigs and branches that seem to have grown to fit your body, to delicate hand-knit silver and gold chains, each item is made individually, completely by hand. To learn more about Chris visit:

]]> (cindy a. stephens) art business art marketing buy jewelry online chris lann contemporary jewelry contemporary jewelry designers how to price jewelry for craft shows Thu, 20 Jul 2017 01:14:32 GMT
American Flag Wall Art Banner Yet Waves

Banner Yet Waves


There are a LOT of pictures of American flags!  I've brought together a few of mine starting with the most realistic.  According to Wikipedia realism in the arts "is the attempt to represent subject matter truthfully, without artificiality and avoiding artistic conventions, implausible, exotic and supernatural elements."  That couldn't be more evident in Banner Yet Waves with its fading flag, peeling paint and Summer sunflowers.


American Symbolism


We don't need to see an entire flag to immediately identify the national icon.  Sometimes, red, white, and blue stripes are enough to conjur a memory of the American flag.  This fine art photograph is from my Reflections from Main Street collection and doesn't show a flag however, it still seemed fitting to include it because of its strong symbolism: an American Eagle and an obvious red, white and blue color scheme.


American Flag Grill

Craving more contemporary flag pictures?  Fire trucks feature an American flag grill that makes a slightly abstract picture of an American flag.


Autumn Breeze


Sometimes it is fun to see just how little information we need to convey an American flag.


]]> (cindy a. stephens) american flag photography flag pictures for sale pictures of american flags Sat, 08 Jul 2017 21:30:03 GMT
Boat Pictures Rowboat



Boating season is here. I find myself drawn to taking photographs that involve water, which are often accompanied by boats.  I've curated several of my boat photographs that involve strong patterns/textures, colors, and bold compositions.  


Sandals at Sea in a Multi-Colored Boat

Sandals at Sea in a Multicolored Boat


 These pictures of boats conjure carefree lifestyles and hint at a sense of adventure.


Italian Boatscape

Italian Boatscape


Speaking of adventure, each of these photographs was taken in a very different part of the world.  Can you guess where each was taken?  Hint: They span four different continents!




Shipwrecked (Prints available on request)


This last boat picture is one of my personal favorites, in part, because it brings back memories of a very special place.  Although it seems like a black and white photograph it is actually a color photo.  If you look closely you'll see numerous shades of white, grays and browns.


These photographs are available in limited edition prints that are made to order and then individually signed and numbered.  In contrast to wall decor/wall art that is available in local home goods stores, each print is made on a fine art paper for a very high-quality presentation.


]]> (cindy a. stephens) art pictures of boats boat photography boat prints for sale Thu, 15 Jun 2017 01:38:17 GMT
How to become a successful full time fine artist [Interview with Animal Artist Lesley Heathcote] By Cindy A Stephens


Lesley Heathcote always dreamed of being a full time artist.  For many of us, that dream feels just out of reach.  Let’s face it, it’s hard for many working artists to earn sufficient art income to warrant leaving their “day jobs”.  Lesley’s journey from an architectural photographer’s assistant in New York City to full time pastel artist in Vermont shows that with skill, determination, perseverance, smarts and a bit of luck you can make it work.



Brothers, Pastel, Copyright Lesley Heathcote


Unconventional Journey to Full Time Artist

Lesley’s spell in New York City after graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design (as a photography Major) was interrupted when she returned to Vermont to care for her parents at the end of their lives.  She got a lucky break when it came to selling her NYC apartment. Lesley says “My apartment had been in a rough neighborhood that gradually became a nicer one and so I made a chunk of money from the sale that enabled me to work part time and also have time to develop my art form.”


Knowing no one in Vermont she joined a cooperative gallery where she met other artists and developed friendships.  Through the people she met she was offered a job in the design department of a local stuffed animal company.  As her bio goes on to say, she took the job despite having no training in the field and found that the work further developed her design and drawing skills.


Gradually Lesley began to exhibit more and was able to grow her sales but they weren’t where she wanted them to be.  It was then that due to a series of personal issues she decided to leave the part time job (that involved a lengthy commute) and get a job closer to home.  As fate would have it, that job closer to home didn’t materialize.  Although Lesley still had money from the sale of her apartment to draw upon she was nevertheless thrust into being a full time artist.


“Suddenly I was without a job, she says.” “Art was what I had.  I kept pushing it and was able to bring sales up enough to get by.  Obviously this isn’t how I would advise anyone to transition to full time.”


Thrust into art business in a full-time role Lesley shared with me that art is different when you are suddenly focusing on it as a job.  “It is a transition in how you think about the work, the amount of hours and the discipline you put into it,” she said.


No doubt this resonates with all working artists – we have another source of income to rely on and aren’t 100% dependent on the art business to make a living.


Lesley says “If things had unfolded differently I would work part time and do more art, which is important because it is different when focusing on it as a job.”


Becoming a successful full time artist (building her art business)

You may be wondering at this point, how Lesley became successful having been thrust into a full time role earlier than expected? How did she learn the ins and outs of running an art business?  How did she develop her client base?


Lesley has always had a deep appreciation for animals and the natural world.  In her bio she says this appreciation of nature has always been a part of what inspires her work.  Lesley has also had a lifelong love of animals.


Snowy OwlSnowy OwlPastel

Snowy Owl, Pastel, Copyright Lesley Heathcote


One of the first series of animal portraits she did was of feral cats.  Lesley told me how she put together a show with information on them and showed the images in a variety of local libraries.  “I viewed it as educational as well as artistic,” she says.  “I wanted to drive awareness of what they go through and how they need our help and assistance.” To her surprise Lesley ended up selling some of the portraits and the exhibitions generated inquiries for animal portraits.


Sometimes serendipity plays a strong hand in our lives.  But it is more than that, too. Lesley’s motto was to say YES! “I said yes to any opportunity wherever it was.” She advises to get the work out there.  “The more you do the more it builds.”


After getting inquiries about animal portraits she put up signs in the community – in the pet store and different public areas letting people know that she did portraits. She also held open studios and art fairs. (Quick aside – I first met Lesley at a Vermont Open Studio weekend.  I wrote about open studios in my post on how to find customers for your fine art business.)


Gradually Lesley built her business.  She says that like many artists though, she initially had a lot of rejection.  “You need to learn how to handle that,” Lesley told me.  


Learning how to price fine art

Perhaps the hardest part of becoming a successful full time artist is mastering the aspects of running an art business in addition to your craft.   For example, how do you price your art?



Watchful, Pastel, Copyright Lesley Heathcote


How to price fine art is the most popular topic I’ve written about. Posts on this topic have more views than any other, such as How to Price Fine Art Photography and Tips on How to Price Commercial Photography.


In Lesley’s case she began by researching other people who were doing similar work and looked at how to get hers in the mid-range, a range that she said felt reasonable. “Once I was selling more I got a feel for where things will sell in this area,” she says. 


Importantly this research didn’t just happen when she was starting out.  Lesley told me she recently did research as to what pastel artists are selling at in nearby galleries.  “If you go too low people may question why it is too low.”


Lesley’s approach involves using a pricing formula.  As a pastel artist she has a base price that covers framing costs and uses a price per square inch beyond that. It didn’t always used to be that way though; she started with a more haphazard approach. 


“It has made the biggest difference having a pricing formula. Having a system is really helpful because it takes some of the emotional stress out of it.  Art is so arbitrary in a certain way with some artists selling at very high prices and others very low prices.”


Her advice is to find artists at a similar point in their careers, artists who are actually selling of course (presumably those in a gallery).  “Use their prices as a gauge to build your own pricing formula,” she advises.


Lesley’s advice is markedly different from the advice she was given which was “just sit with the painting and the price will come to you”!!


Here’s one other tip on how to price your art.   She also feels it is important to keep the price the same no matter what the venue is.  This way, your clients don’t see similar work at a lower price point than what they paid. I recently had a question about this very topic.  The artist was preparing for an art show and thinking of offering work at a lower price than it is available elsewhere. 


Winter FieldsWinter FieldsPastel

Winter Fields, Pastel, Copyright Lesley Heathcote


The Advice She’d Give Her Younger Self

Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. I was curious, what advice would Lesley give her younger self?


She said that the first thing that came to mind is that it has been so important in her development is to be exposed to, and work in connection with, other artists.  “It has been tremendously helpful in terms of the development of my work, and style, and skill levels, and being an artist, the business and professional aspects of it.”


Her advice to others is to get involved in artist groups and organizations, at whatever level possible. In her situation she found it very helpful to join a cooperative gallery upon moving to Vermont.  Lesley is also a member of critique and community groups.  She finds it very stimulating to have interactions with other artists.  “It has helped bring my level of artwork up,” she says.


I hear this often from other artists and business professionals.  For instance I spoke with Stephanie Sammons about this a few years ago in terms of building your online presence. It is really important to build your network.  I’ve been a member of a critique group for many years.  I find it really valuable for staying motivated and getting candid appraisals of my fine art photographs. 


Lesley has also learned about bookkeeping systems and exhibition opportunities through these relationships.  She is now involved in a group collaborative opportunity as a result.  “It gives an infusion of new energy,” she says about staying involved in these groups.


Each of us will have to find our own path as artists.  Maybe it will be similar to Lesley’s unconventional journey and serendipity will play a starring role.  Or perhaps we’ll use Facebook and other online avenues to build our business like The Lone Beader (I interviewed Diana L. Grygo for a post on Starting a successful art business online).  Or, maybe we’ll continue as working artists and nurture our creative passions on weekends and evenings.


What are you doing?  I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment and let my readers know about your successes and challenges.  Until next time …


Lesley HeathcoteLesley Heathcote Heathcote works from her own reference photographs and loves spending time outdoors exploring and photographing nature and animals and doing plein air studies.  Lesley Heathcote’s work combines accurate rendering with deep feeling for the natural world. Colors are heightened, light and composition adjusted, to reveal a poetic vision. The work conveys her sense of wonder and love of nature and the animal kingdom.  Animals and the earth are portrayed with sensitivity and grace.  To learn more about Lesley visit: 

]]> (cindy a. stephens) Lesley Heathcote animal artist art business art marketing how to become a successful full time fine artist Sun, 14 May 2017 19:36:39 GMT
Skies Photography I'm delighted to have two fine art photographs in the "Skies" 2017 show with the Colors of Humanity Art Gallery.  The theme seemed to be a perfect fit for a collection of mine!


The show runs March 1 - March 31, 2017.  There were 94 accepted works that came from 17 states in the USA and 12 other countries.

Silver Sea

Silver Sea

Copyright 2016 by Cindy A Stephens


Twilight at the Beach

Twilight at the Beach

Copyright 2016 by Cindy A Stephens


More photographs from this collection are available in the Cindy A Stephens store on Zatista.


Artists -- you  might be interested in this post from my blog archive: How to build awareness for your work.  It features an interview with photographer David H. Wells on how to build awareness for your work.  Submitting to shows is one great way!


Don't forget to #Lookup

]]> (cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens fine art prints for sale skies photography sky photography Sat, 18 Mar 2017 23:20:57 GMT
Zambia, Botswana and South Africa (Photos from Africa) A friend called Africa my "spiritual home".  According to the Cambridge Dictionary this refers to a place where I feel I belong because I have a lot in common with the people, culture and way of life (even though I was not born there).  


Regardless of its precise definition I can tell you that I have felt moments of absolute peace on my visits to this wondrous continent; a hunger to know its people, culture and way of life; respect for its inherent risks; and a passion to see its natural wonders.  I'm completely enthralled.


Leopard, Botswana

Copyright 2016, Cindy A Stephens


Last July I made my third visit to the African continent -- it won't be my last.  For me, visiting this magical place is not about checking a box to visit another continent or add another country(s) to my tally.  Africa is a continent of some 50+ countries, 2000 languages and more than one billion people.  Visiting "Africa" and only seeing one country would be like visiting America and not stepping foot outside New York City.  You'd have a feel for NYC but no clue about what the rest of the country was like.


On my most recent journey I decided to visit countries in the southern part of the African continent because it was a region that I hadn't explored.  Botswana, in particular, offered the chance to see the Okavango Delta and Makgadikgadi (one of the world's largest salt pans).


Almost immediately this visit felt very different from my trip six years ago.  At the river crossing into Botswana (where Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe meet) there were long truck lines loaded with copper and other cargo waiting to cross.  This active commerce was a sign of a more prosperous economy.  Nevertheless, as with many experiences in Africa, this hopeful scene was punctuated with a bridge that lay unfinished and lazily tip-toed from the river bank as if testing its temperature.


Zambian sunset

Copyright 2016, Cindy A Stephens


I could say more about the economy of Botswana (regarded as one of the most stable and democratic African nations) but I am reminded of Alexander von Humboldt. My current Audible selection is The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World.  Alexander explored South America and the Pacific during the later 1700's.  His letters home spoke of how it felt to be where he was as well as what he observed. Let me try to do the same.  


I felt:


  • pure joy the afternoon we came across a leopard sunning itself on a dead tree
  • incredibly privileged to see African wild dogs and their pups in their natural environment.  There are only an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 remaining in Africa.  On this day we raced back to the den in time to watch adults feed their pups after a morning feast (these dogs regurgitate food for their young).
  • at peace walking in the desert with a Meerkat family as it foraged for food.  There were no cars.  No noise.  No buildings.  I was truly in the midst of the Meerkat world -- and these amazing animals live only in a few regions of southern Africa.
  • apprehensive to be out at sunset when the mosquitoes were more apparent as I was unable to tolerate the malaria medication.  I was understandably relentless about applying mosquito repellent and covering up, particularly at night.
  • lucky to be among the few who are able to sleep outside under the stars in the Makgadikgadi and watch the Milky Way and southern night sky, followed by a beautiful dawn and sunrise
  • happy to see absolutely amazing sunsets.  When the sun is setting the sky is dressed in its finest tapestry.  This is only a tease though for afterwards, when it seems to burn the most vibrant colors imaginable.


I often need time to reflect on my adventures before I am ready to share them.  Perhaps my photos will more adequately convey what this trip felt like even more than these words have.


See more African fine art photos in this gallery


“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

]]> (cindy a. stephens) Fine art wildlife photography african photography for sale botswana fine art photos from botswana fine art pictures people and culture Sun, 12 Feb 2017 23:21:40 GMT
Selling your art online (Tips from the Working artist) Originally published on the Working artist (Thanks Crista!)


In April of 2016, art insurance company Hiscox released its fourth annual report detailing the state of the online art trade. Their findings show the general cooling of the global art market has not affected online sales - in fact, the global online art market is exploding!

In the last year, online sales jumped 24% to a high of $3.27 billion, online marketplaces are overtaking online auctions as the preferred method of purchasing art, and existing online art buyers are buying more.

So you can see, online art buyers are out there.  But in a complicated online world, how do you find them?

There are ways to succeed!

As with almost anything, you need a strategy...and I have laid mine out below.


]]> (cindy a. stephens) Crista Cloutier art business sell art online the Working Artist Tue, 27 Dec 2016 23:05:16 GMT
Original Art Online in my New Store on Zatista Dear readers, I am writing today with some exciting news: I now have a store at Zatista featuring a new collection of original photography!


If you've been following my blog you know that I've written many times about selling art online.


Blog Archive: Building an Art Business: Is selling online right for you?


It seems natural to me that I would choose to offer my photography for sale online.  After all, I've been a digital marketer for many years.  I enjoy reaching people outside New England with my photography and making it available to many more households than I would if it were offered solely in traditional galleries.






New Collection

When I look back it is clear to me now that the seeds of my new collection were sown a long time ago. It wasn't until I stood on Antarctica that they took root, though, and the inspiration for this collection was born.


Irawaddy Sunset Sunset over the the Irrawaddy River in Mynamar is punctuated by the gold spires of stupas.

Copyright 2015, Cindy A Stephens


Walt Whitman said "The sun and stars that float in the open air. The apple shaped earth and we upon it, surely the drift of them is something grand."

Tweet: The sun & stars that float in the open air. The apple shaped earth & we upon it, surely the drift of them is something grand @tweetsofgrass


That's how it felt to be surrounded by open air, ice, sea and penguins. I began shooting using the widest lens I had to convey the massive scale of my surroundings.

Inspired by my experience on Antarctica I wondered if I could emulate that feeling and those types of images at home. We look down so often and walk bowed and hurried deep in thought or on the phone.

What do you see when you look toward the horizon nearest you?  What's at the edge of your sky?

Tweet: Don't forget to #lookup @cindyastephens






]]> (cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens fine art prints for sale original art online photography Mon, 17 Oct 2016 11:30:00 GMT
Finding customers for your fine art business By Cindy A Stephens

Fine art for sale
I was waiting in line at one of those big home goods stores recently when I spotted a very large canvas print sticking out of a shopping cart ahead of me.  It was probably $99 for a 4-foot square canvas print.  How, I asked myself, is an artist to make a living when inexpensive wall art (many, poor quality prints) is readily available?

That moment came on the heels of a completely different experience -- the Vermont Spring Open Studio Weekend.   In case you aren't familiar with the open studio weekend it is a wonderful event when Vermont craftspeople open their studios to the public.  Many of these studios are in their homes or in close proximity (e.g., a barn).  You navigate the main streets and back roads of Vermont going from studio to studio relying on: 1) your map listing individual artists who participate in the event and 2) your GPS (essential gear). You meet directly with the artist in the environment where s/he makes art.  It's an intimate event that brings the artist in direct connection with potential buyers.


I criss-crossed the Bennington, Vermont area visting with craftspeople making pottery, jewelry, encaustic paintings and pastels.   One said to me "... the weekend isn't about selling it is about speaking with people."  Interestingly, his display case was almost empty after the 2-day open studio event.


You probably can't make a great living selling your art unless you have customers willing to pay more than what they would at a home goods store or low-end online marketplace (unless you sell a huge volume of art).  And there's the rub -- why would someone pay more for your art than a cheaper imitation?


How to Be Laser Focused on Customers

1) Decide who you want for a customer!

The answer to that question is that not all customers are equal and not all are right for you - the right customer for you will value your work and be willing to pay a fair price!  Don't try to sell your art to just anyone - you need to have a focus.  The person who buys inexpensive canvas prints at the local home goods store may or may not be the customer you want.


As a marketer for a technology company I can tell you from first-hand experience that one of the most challenging things you'll do is identify the customers you really want.  You are looking for the perfect marriage of your interest in them and their interest in you.  A few potential customers to consider for your art are:

  • Individuals (located where? what age ranges? what income ranges?)
  • Casual art collectors
  • Serious art investors
  • Interior decorators and designers
  • Corporate buyers
  • Creative Agencies
  • Photo researchers (for book covers)
  • Stock photo agencies
  • Other craftspeople
  • Friends, family, neighbors
  • Associations
  • And more....


2) Get to know these fine art buyers

Being laser focused on customers means more than simply identifying them. It means truly understanding their needs.  As marketers we often speak of buyer personas.  I recommend this Hubspot blog for anyone interested in learning more about personas: The Definition of a Buyer Persona [in Under 100 Words].  


What you want to do is try to really personify your customer.  For example if you are primarily interested in selling to interior designers dive a bit deeper. How old is your target interior designer? Where does s/he live?  Does s/he have a certain style or aesthetic (e.g., rustic, traditional, modern, shabby chic)?   What are her areas of specialty?  Does she do urban makeovers?  Work in the suburbs?  Houzz, an online platform for home remodeling and design, can be a great resource for better understanding the market by reviewing its designer bios and profiles.


Now, you may ask: is all of this really necessary?  Yes!  How will you know where to find buyers for your art and what price to charge, if you don't really understand them?  Case in point: where are you most likely to find them?


3) Come up with a plan for where to reach them

Assuming that you have professional-quality art that is priced right, you'll be rewarded if you spend some time to figure out where to find these ideal customers. (You might also be interested in this blog post: How to price fine art - tips for emerging artists).  Let's take the interior designer example we used earlier.


Is your designer likely to be looking for pieces for the latest assignment at traditional high-end galleries?  On Etsy?  On Houzz?  Does your art fit with his/her style?  If your art would work best in a chic, contemporary residential setting there isn't much point in reaching out to designers who focus on corporate clients or those who do breezy, seashore makeovers for beachcomber clients.  


Depending upon your desired customer here are a few places where you might get started looking for them:

You might also be interested in this earlier blog post: How can you use Twitter to promote your photography business?


Remember: it is about them, not you!

Identifying and finding potential customers is only half of the equation.  Selling your art will come after you build relationships with them (either virtually or in person).  How to do this is worthy of its own blog post.  For more on this you might check out what professional photographer Karin Rosenthal had to say in an earlier blog post: Building relationships with art collectors.


I am a marketer.  I am also an artist who deals with these same challenges as my readers, every day.  If something has worked well for you I'd love to hear about it.  Please leave a comment and share your tips.



]]> (cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens art business art marketing finding customers for fine art business how to sell fine art Tue, 28 Jun 2016 02:08:15 GMT
How to price fine art (tips for emerging artists) By Cindy A Stephens


“It’s a nightmare”, Elizabeth told me when I asked her about how she sets a price for her original paintings.  Knowing how to price fine art can be one of the most difficult business tasks artists have to do.  Maybe this is why a blog I wrote on the subject – How to price fine art photography - is the most popular one I’ve written.


I was looking at pieces by English pop artist Sir Peter Blake, Robert Mars, and Damien Hirst in a modern gallery when some advice from my old blog post - telling artists to look at comparables to figure out what price to set – hit me as incomplete.  To be honest, this is something I’ve been thinking about for a while.


If you are an art collector there is software to help you manage your inventory, resources to help discover new artists, and databases where you can research recent auction prices and determine what you can expect to pay for art. 


What tools do artists, particularly emerging artists, have to help us set prices?  How do you know what a comparable is for your art?  How do you find a reasonable comparable if your work isn’t in a gallery (online or traditional)?  As artists, we need a better approach to pricing fine art – a more systematic one.


So, I’ve laid out a step-by-step plan to help emerging artists in figuring out how to price their fine art.  Importantly -- this is just a starting point!  Obviously the price will also be determined by your costs, demand (have you already sold a piece at a certain price point?); the audience you are targeting, your medium, your location and so much more.  I’ll have more to say on these in later posts.  For now, let’s get started.


Step 1: Collect relevant art profiles

When it comes to understanding what price to charge for your fine art print, oil, watercolor, sculpture, jewelry, furniture or anything else - be systematic.  Start gathering the most relevant facts about art in your genre.  You may find this art online, in traditional galleries, artist co-ops, art fairs, shows at local art associations, or in a catalog.  Don’t worry yet about trying to set your prices.  Just gather information.  And don’t try to remember it.  Write it down!


Sample Art Profile Template Profile Database TemplateDeveloped by Cindy A Stephens, Last Update March 2016


Here’s the data you’ll want for the art profile:

  • Location (name of the gallery, art fair, art show, etc.)
  • Date (when you saw the piece)
  • Artist name
  • Artist Level (I’ll describe this more in a minute)
  • Title of the art work
  • Series (if available)
  • Edition (if there is one)
  • Medium (e.g., mixed media, sculpture)
  • Dimension
  • Year
  • Asking Price
  • Selling Price (if available)


Think of step one as putting together a puzzle: get the pieces out of the box, put all the outside edge pieces together and look at the picture on the top of the puzzle box to see what it is that you’re trying to create. 


Step 2: Organize your art profiles


Take all of the art profiles you’ve assembled and begin to organize them.  I recommend a simple Excel spreadsheet for this. 


You can download a PDF sample of my Art Profile Template here:

Download Art Profile Database Template

Here are two techniques for how to organize the art profiles:

  1. Group by Location.  Assign each of the ones you have collected into a “Location” Category – where you saw the artwork.   To keep it simple start with perhaps 1-5 choices:
    1. Online gallery
    2. Traditional gallery
    3. Art Fair
    4. Show
    5. Etc.
  2. Group by Artist Level.  We all recognize that some artists have already mastered their craft and are well established. Others are just starting out.  Keep it simple.  Use a tiered approach and assign each that you have collected into one of these categories below. Just make an educated guess.
    1. Amateur
    2. Emerging Artist
    3. Established Artist
    4. Master Craftsman


Don’t forget to add your own work to this list too.  If you’ve sold a piece or two, write down all that information.  Actual sales are the best indicator of the minimum price you want to set for your work (notice I said minimum as you may be leaving money on the table and need to set a higher price).


Step 3: Look for patterns in the art prices

If you’re someone who loves Sudoku, crosswords, or puzzles you’ll enjoy this next part.  For others it may be out of your comfort zone.  You want to look for patterns in the data you’ve collected. 


Italian Boatscapeby Cindy A Stephens

Italian Boatscape, available at The Artful Home


Here are a few questions you might try to answer:

  • What is the average asking price of work that is most similar to yours (similar in terms of artist level, quality, medium and dimension) for a specific location?
  • How does the asking price vary by location?
  • How much do asking prices vary based on the dimension of the piece?
  • Have you sold pieces around a certain price point already?
  • What is the average asking price of work by artists at the “level” below you?  What about above you?


The idea is to use the information you’ve collected, along with your intuition, to find the right price range for your work – the price you want to start testing at.


Case in point: I have fine art prints available at The Artful Home and so I often look at other comparables at The Artful Home and other online galleries.  


Step 4: Set an initial price for your fine art

Keep in mind that the art profile data you’ve collected is not the whole picture when it comes to pricing your work.  You don’t know if the pieces you’ve seen are actually selling!  You are just looking at the asking price.  Maybe the artists whose work you are seeing are charging way too much for the quality of the art.  Or, perhaps they are undervaluing their work.  I suspect that emerging artists are not charging “market value” for their work and leaving “money on the table”.


Also, you’ll need to consider your cost for creating art – your time and materials.  For some artists this will be more of a factor in setting prices than for others.  And as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, you’ll want to consider the buyer for your work and other factors.


Having said all of that, you have to start somewhere.  This is a simple method for getting started.  That’s all.


Step 5:  See and be Seen

The Darkroom Gallery in Vermont offers a unique option to photographers who submit work for upcoming shows called View and be Viewed.  You can see entries from others in that exhibit who are willing to share.  These include entries that were accepted and also those who were rejected.


It’s a great learning experience and one that’s inspired me.  Let’s share the art profiles we collect with one another!  Let’s build a rich database of art asking and selling prices to use, independently, to price our fine art.


Leave a comment below with the information you’ve seen, or email it to me at  and I’ll add it to my Excel Spreadsheet and share it back with my readers.


Let’s see and be seen!  Together we can help each other with the business of fine art and build our artistic presences.

]]> (cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens art business art marketing how to price fine art photography Mon, 14 Mar 2016 12:00:00 GMT
The Pink Monks of Myanmar: Eyewitness to Life as a Buddhist nun It was easy to become enchanted by her.  Her unabashed smile was captivating.  And she seemed to radiate calmness, happiness and confidence.    


What do you know about Buddhist nuns?  You may have seen photos of Myanmar’s Buddhist monks in their saffron colored robes. Or, you’ve seen or heard his holiness the Dalai Lama. Nun, Saigaing HIlls, Myanmar

Copyright 2015, Cindy A Stephens


Before my visits to Nepal and Myanmar I had read about Buddhism, which has always fascinated me.  Most of the books are written from a male perspective, however, and don't illuminate the lives of women in monastic orders, either Theravada or Mahayana Buddhism.


The 'Pink Monks' of Myanmar

The ‘pink monks’ of Myanmar are girls and women ranging in ages from around 10 upwards.  They wear light pink robes and have shaven heads. Myuk told me she had been at the nunnery in the Saigaing Hills for 30 years, since she was a girl of just 10 years old.  (Note, I may not have the correct spelling of her name). 


Myuk spoke excellent English and pointed out their learning room where they receive a free education.  The 100-150 nuns receive two meals per day and clothing.  For many young girls joining the monastic order is a way to escape poverty or worse situations. 


The nuns in this Theravada Buddhist order do not farm or sell small handicrafts.  Like their male monk counterparts they rely on almsgiving - the generosity of others - for their food and goods.


My brief conversation with Myuk, and the opportunity to get a glimpse into her life, was a real privilege.  These types of encounters and memories are the reason I travel to countries and cultures that are different from mine (spending 20+ hours on planes!).


Khachoe Ghakyil Ling Nunnery, Nepal

In 2013, on my prior journey to Asia, I visited the Khachoe Ghakyil Ling Nunnery in Kathmandu.  According to the Kopan Monastery website the nunnery is home to around 360 nuns many of whom are refugees from Tibet.


Whereas the monks of Myanmar practice Theravada Buddhism the monks and nuns in Kathmandu follow Mahayana Buddhist practices.  If you’re interested you can read more about the difference in these two schools here.


Incense at the Khachoe Ghakyil Ling Nunnery, Nepal

Copyright 2013 Cindy A Stephens


One of the things I remember most about my visit to this nunnery is learning about the incense the nuns make and sell to support the nunnery.  I had never seen incense made before and certainly never experienced anything like this.


I went inside a small room where four or five women were patiently bundling the incense that was drying on shelves near the room’s entrance.  Gift boxes of incense were sold in the monastery shop and used to support the monks and nuns of Kopan Monastery and Nunnery.


The day I visited the nunnery happened to also be an exam day for the nuns and I was privileged to get a brief glimpse of that part of their world too – becoming an eye witness to this important passage.


What I’m Reading

Often when I return from my latest main street or back road journey I find myself drawn to personal accounts of living in these exotic lands.  One of the next on my booklist is a story about the woman of Nepal called The Violet Shyness of their Eyes: Notes from Nepal


I've just finished reading a memoir by Inge Sargent (Twilight over Burma: My Life as a Shan Princess) about her days as the Mahadevi of Hsipaw upon her graduation from a university in Colorado and marriage to a Shan prince.


More photos

You can see more photos of many of the people I’ve met on my journeys: here

You may also be interested in:


]]> (cindy a. stephens) Myanmar fine art prints for sale photos of Myanmar people Sun, 24 Jan 2016 00:08:11 GMT
Generosity at Chauk Htat Gyi (Photos of the Myanmar People, Part I) Dear Friends: It has been several months since I posted a blog with new photos and I feel I owe my readers an explanation.  While “sometimes life gets in the way of the best laid plans” is apt in this case it isn’t a very specific answer.  During the past year I journeyed to the Antarctic Peninsula, my technology company was acquired by a large firm, I changed jobs to return to a small tech company, and I became the curator (e.g., legal guardian) for my Aunt.  The last of these was the most challenging by far.  If I’m being truthful though, on top of all of those things (which reduced the time I had available to devote to my art) I also needed a “creative break” – a time to step back and re-energize.  As we approach the end of 2015 I feel rejuvenated and am looking ahead to the New Year: to my new photographic collection (working title: “At the Edge of the Sky”) and to more journeys to main streets and back roads.  And with that, I'd like to tell you about a few of the wonderful people I met on my latest journey to Myanmar….


What I remember most fondly about my visit to Myanmar this Fall are its people.  As my readers know I am a traveler, having journeyed to six continents and dozens of countries. So, I’m not looking at this experience from a limited vantage point.  And I can honestly say that the openness, generosity, and warm nature of the Myanmar people set them apart in my mind from virtually every place I’ve been privileged to experience.  Remember too, this is a country that was occupied at one time by the British and the Japanese among others. And today Myanmar is a country of some eight major national ethnic races.


I can show you photographs of the Myanmar people and you’d get some sense of them.  You’ll get an even better sense of the people and culture of Myanmar if I share a few personal stories with you too.

Cho Myanmar, October 2015

Copyright 2015 Cindy A Stephens

Chauk Htat Gyi

Arriving in Yangon from Bangkok I felt a bit like the imaginary Dorothy when she set foot in Oz – as they say, I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. It can take a while to get one’s bearings in a new country, particularly in one that has been closed to Western tourism for most of its existence and is about to hold its first General Election since 2010.  I had a few butterflies as I removed my shoes and socks (a Buddhist custom) to visit the enormous 64 meter-long reclining Buddha image at the Chauk Htat Gyi pagoda.


While I began to look around I caught the eye of a beautiful young girl who was looking my way.  She was smiling.  I walked toward her general direction.  When I got closer she thrust out her hand and in perfect English introduced herself to me with a sweet smile.  Her Mum and brother were with her, “picnicking” on a blanket near the Buddha image.  She introduced me to her family and we spoke for a few minutes before I said good bye.


Buoyed by this experience I continued along the edge of the reclining Buddha image.  On the other side I saw another girl, about 13 years old, also dressed in a beautiful dress – her holiday finest.  I motioned with my camera to ask if it was ok to take her photo.  Once again, she was with her Mom and was simply enjoying the day together.  After taking a few images and chatting I thanked Chou and turned to leave and rejoin the others I was traveling with. 


Here's the really amazing part -- a few moments later she came running up to me and handed me an origami flower that she had just made for me!!  Imagine that – I took her photograph and ought to be the one to give her thanks.  And, she gave me a present.  Then, she made another for my friend whom I raced toward to tell her what had just happened.  


Chou gave me a present in more ways than one.  This encounter occurred on my first day in the country and put me at ease about travel to this very far away place at a time of great change.  I immediately felt that this was a special country and one that I would enjoy visiting. 


In the next blog post I'll share a story about my visit to a nunnery.  Until then, you may also be interested in:

]]> (cindy a. stephens) Myanmar fine art prints for sale photos of Myanmar people Wed, 30 Dec 2015 12:00:00 GMT
Black Friday Sale: Save 25% on fine art prints Black Friday Sale!

Save 25% on fine art prints*

Starts Friday, November 27, 2015.  Offer ends Monday, November 30, 2015.  


Dear friends, celebrate Thanksgiving with a SALESave 25% on fine art prints*  


Order online at

Please note: Prints ordered on or before November 30 are expected to ship on December 21, 2015.



*Offer  expires on 11/30/15 (11:59 PM ET).  Offer is good for 25% off one qualifying order. This particular offer code cannot be redeemed more than once per account and/or billing address.  Taxes, shipping and handling will apply.

]]> (cindy a. stephens) Black Friday Cindy Stephens Fine art prints buy photography online Wed, 25 Nov 2015 02:17:45 GMT
Starting a Successful Art Business Online [The Lone Beader’s Story] By Cindy A Stephens


This Thanksgiving one of the things I am grateful for is having the opportunity to connect with, and learn from other artists through the tremendous reach of the Internet and social media.

The Lone BeaderYorkshire Terrier

Case in point: my recent conversation with The Lone Beader (a.k.a. Diana L. Grygo).  I didn’t know Diana until I reached out to her via Twitter.  I was intrigued with her artistic presence and wanted to learn about her experiences with #Etsy, her new iPad app, her experiences creating an art blog, building her Facebook following, and more. 


In short, I wanted to know:  how did you do it?  How did you start a successful beadwork business?   She graciously agreed to chat and share her story.


One thing that I immediately learned from The Lone Beader is - if you want to get free advice from other artists who have struggled to figure out how to price art, sell it and create a successful art business, then just ask them! Most people are willing to share their stories.


How The Lone Beader started a successful beadwork business

The Lone Beader is a self-taught beadwork artist currently working in Boston, Massachusetts.  She primarily sells her work through Etsy, her website, and some custom orders on Facebook.  She has some 2,700 followers on Facebook and more than 2,000 admirers on Etsy.


The Lone Beader is the culmination of a journey that began in 2006 when a friend suggested that Diana should start a blog to promote her beadwork.  She had sold a few pieces already and decided to try blogging. Diana began documenting progress of her beadwork, blogging every day.  While she knew that there is a huge community of beaders, what she hadn’t realized is how they’d help her build her business.


Side note:  I wrote about the importance of blogging in an earlier post: Building your online presence


Diana joined a forum online and connected with other beadwork artists.  A few linked to her and mentioned her blog.  Gradually her following began to grow.   Eventually, someone requested a beaded pin of a dog so she made it and sold it directly via her blog.  Other people began reaching out too via her blog.  


The Lone Beader

Image courtesy of the Lone Beader

“Someone commented ‘I was looking for you on Etsy’,” says Diana.  “I didn’t know about Etsy at first, but after doing some research, I learned that it would be a great place to sell my work.”  Diana opened her Etsy shop in 2008.


You might also be interested in:  Building an art business: is selling art online right for you?


Diana shared with me that her shop is slowly growing.  She worked hard to promote her name and started her Facebook and Instagram business pages.  She used her blog to promote them and vice versa.  Diana said that people looking for something unique will find her on Google through online searches – her use of keywords and hashtags help people find her.


“I use a lot of hashtags in my posts,” she says.  “They help a lot now.  Hashtags weren’t very common several years ago.  They became big on Twitter, then Facebook started to utilize them, too.  So now if someone is searching for #poodle, for example, my beaded poodle will show up in the hashtag feed.”


Diana says she has found two target markets for her business.  The first is the beadwork community who wants to learn what she is doing.  She now offers patterns for $10 to beaders who would like to create their own beaded dog pin.  She tells me that “others might worry about someone else copying/selling their design, but I don’t.  What I do is labor intensive.  You have to love it and want to do it over and over again.”  The second market is dog and cat lovers.


That brings me to the next chapter in her story, pricing her beadwork.


How to price art

The first time Diana sold something seriously, she told me, was in 2004.  She created a flamingo painting.  “The piece was being photographed for a publication and someone saw it and said he’d like to buy it.” 


The Lone BeaderFlamingo Beadwork painting

Image courtesy of The Lone Beader

Diana said she could make him a new piece and came up with pricing based on an hourly wage.  She asked for 50% up front.  Diana tracked the hours spent and billed her client for the remainder when the 8x10 painting was complete. The flamingo painting sold for $1,000.  She says it helped her gauge how much to price her work.


The majority of the cost for creating Diana’s beadwork is time.  She says that beads don’t cost very much.  Most of the beaded dog pins and pendants take her a full day to create due to the amount of sewing involved.


One of her most popular pieces is the beaded Yorkshire Terrier.  Interestingly, Diana started at a lower price and focused on building a following.  Eventually she decided to raise the price.  “As soon as I raised the price, it started selling,” she says.


Here’s Diana’s advice on pricing:


  • “If you are selling one of a kind work that isn’t easily duplicated, come up with a fair price that reflects the quality.  Customers associate price with quality every time.”
  • “If you believe in the work and it is as high quality as you can make it, and the customer can see exactly what they are getting, then they will be willing to pay that price.”
  • “It is hard for artists but they have to decide when they have popular items, to keep raising prices to keep up with demand.”  In fact, in terms of common mistakes artists make Diana says “try not to underprice the work in an effort to make a sale.”


With the busy holiday shopping season upon us I asked The Lone Beader if she does any special promotions this time of year.   Diana is planning to run a Black Friday promotion and another one a couple of weeks before Christmas for her ready to ship items.


Side note: You might also like my interview on pricing with commercial photographer Scott Indermaur:  Tips for how to price commercial photography or my blog on How to price fine art photography


Launching a mobile app based on her art

Diana’s art business continues to evolve.  She recently released her iPhone app in the iTunes store.  Diana has embraced social media and the beadwork community and patiently created her artistic presence and art business from the ground up.  She is a self-taught small business owner who learned about tax IDs, business bank accounts and the components of running a successful business.  In the next chapter she may take the plunge and make The Lone Beader her sole source of income and full time career.


One of the gifts that social media has brought to all of us artists is the opportunity to tap into a community – connecting artists from all disciplines, across all geographic boundaries and all stages of career.  Want to get free advice from other artists who have struggled to figure out how to price their art, sell it and create a successful art business?  Ask them!  Embrace it and tap into this rich artist community.


Trademarks or registered trademarks mentioned in this post are the property of their respective owners.

The Lone BeaderDiana Grygo The Lone Beader is a self-taught beadwork artist currently working in Boston, Massachusetts. She loves to create extremely dimensional beaded paintings by stitching glass seed beads to felt. Her work also combines images from history with ideas of the future using mixed media. Her current pieces are inspired by pop culture, classic cars, and rock'n'roll music. Join her on a journey and let her beadwork take you for a ride. Please visit for more photos & news, and please stop by The Lone Beader's blog to follow the progress of her bead embroidery.


Download my FREE iPhone app today!



]]> (cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens The Lone Beader art business art marketing beadwork how to price art marketing Sat, 22 Nov 2014 17:49:05 GMT
Providence Cityscape


The morning after Waterfire in Providence


]]> (cindy a. stephens) cityscape fine art fine art prints online providence skyline waterfire Tue, 14 Oct 2014 00:37:03 GMT