From the photo vaults: The blue haired boy. Mannequin by Ralph Pucci, based on drawings by Maira Kalman. Photographed at Pine Street Art Works ©Liza Cowan 2007. Used for advertising and display at store for many years.
From the photo vaults: The blue haired boy. Mannequin by Ralph Pucci, based on drawings by Maira Kalman. Photographed at Pine Street Art Works ©Liza Cowan 2007. Used for advertising and display at store for many years.
I bought this wooden dollhouse from a friend in Woodstock, NY in the early 1980's. She was about to move, and it was just too big to lug around. Now I have lugged it to two different houses in Woodstock, two apartments in Brooklyn, and one house in Vermont. I'm about to move again and was considering selling it, since I'm downsizing by a lot. I took it down from atop the fridge, where it has sat for 13 years, to take some photos of it. And I fell in love with it all over again. I guess I'm keeping it.
I was planning to teach a class at Winooski Circle Arts, a store I managed, about using Facebook for business. Since WCA is closed, I thought I’d share some ideas here. The examples are from two Facebook business pages I created: Winooski Circle Arts and Small Equals.
I've framed this for business pages but the ideas hold true for any professional pages: art, writing, publishing, theater, cooking classes, or anything.
The four key ideas are:
Image + Story
+ Acknowledgement + Engagement
1) Use images:
Use images as often as you can. It’s best if you can shoot your own. iPhone or smartphone pictures are great for this. Better still - take an extra few minutes to crop, frame, and add text if you want. Remember to add your logo, and add photo credit if the photos are not your own, or even if they are. I use online photo editing software, PicMonkey and think it's a great program. There is a free standard version or you can upgrade for more versitility.
Take pictures of your product, your office, studio, employees; take pictures at the craft or business fairs you attend. Take photos at events you speak at. Take pictures of the equipment you use to make your product, and the people who are using the equipment. Take pictures of your customers interacting with your product - but only use them with permission.
Old images are great too. Take advantage of google image searches to find a vintage image that is no longer under copyright. These are fun and people enjoy them. Do not use images that are copyright. Rule of thumb, stick to images made before 1925. That’s not precise, but good enough.
2) Tell a story.
Story sells. There’s always something to tell about your product or service. Do you make something that uses ingredients or components? Write a paragraph or two about them. In my business, Small Equals, I like to write about how my bags and placemats are made by Flashbags in Burlington, VT. Or about the boxes that are made for me by Vermont Wooden Box. Go to your supplier, ask some questions, snap some photos. Link to their websites. Do this often.
Did you start working with a new manufacturer, with a new tool, a different paint? How is it different? What does it look like? Where did you get it?
Unless you go into the woods and chew down trees to make your paper, your supplies are made somewhere. This is interesting when you think about it. Your customers will think so too; even more so if you actually do go into the woods and chew down the trees.
Did you read an article or see a film that inspired you? Even if it is only tangentially related to your business, your readers might like to know about it too. Remember, your customers are well-rounded people, and they want to hear about your ideas as well as your product.
If you’ve written a blog post about anything related to your business, make sure to link it on facebook. And, of course, make sure you have a facebook link on your blog.
3) ACKNOWLEDGE EVERYONE
No business, maker or artist works completely on their own, nor do they get their ideas out of thin air. Did someone give you a terrific idea that you put into production? Were there books that inspired you? Tell your customers about it. They want to know, and the person who gave you the idea deserves credit.
Is your product being sold in a local store? Go there and take some pictures, or at least write a little post about them. Make sure you link to their facebook page, too. This lets your customers know where they can get your product, and builds good relations with the store. This is very important. Do this often.
Did you consult on a project with someone? Tell your readers. You have an amazing accountant, fed ex driver, editor, publicist? A customer who was particularly encouraging or funny. Share the story.
Write about your employees, mention their birthdays, or if they got an award or had a baby or if they accomplished something interesting or important for your business. Everyone likes to be recognized, and your readers will like peeking behind the scenes.
This is all about building good will with your customers, friends and employees.
This is also known as building community. It matters. A lot.
4) ENGAGE WITH YOUR READERS
Don’t just post and run. Make sure to respond when someone comments on a post. A “like” will be the barely acceptable minimum. A “thank you, Sally,” is quick and easy. If someone asks a question, answer it. If someone’s comment inspires you to write back, do so, even if it's brief. Conversation is engagement. Conversation lets your customers know that there is a real person there and that you care about them. If you don’t care about your customers, you are in the wrong business.
Sometimes your readers will post a comment you disagree with. If it's truly offensive, if it uses slurs or attacks, you certainly have the option of deleting it, and often that is the best thing to do. But if readers are responding with a genuine concern or interesting idea, even if you don't agree, try to think of this as an opportunity for engagement. You lose credibility by ignoring or deleting comments that don't tell you how wonderful you are, or that don't parrot your own ideas. Eventually your readers will figure out that you do this, and will realize that what you have provided is not a community but an echo chamber. All but the diehard fans will leave, and this is not really something that will help you promote your business.
These suggestions mean you have to check in to facebook regularly. I’d say minimum of once a day. Keep posting, keep responding to your readers. Engage! This is an important part of your job. Just do it. And have fun with it.
Your business is not just about you. It is about relationships. Build them.
PS: I wrote a post several years ago about reciprocity in business that covers some of the same topics. Find it HERE
Winooski Circle Arts is not open right now, but here's the Facebook Page.
Find Small Equals Facebook page HERE
I can't imagine a more perfect blend of people, ideas and art. Here's a clip from the 1947 flim Dreams Money Can Buy, produced and directed by Hans Richter, Dada/surrealist artist. The film, which follows a story line about a man with the talent of seeing into people's minds to help them craft dreams, features segments by Surrealist superstars, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray and Fernand Leger. Here's the Leger segment:
Mannequins...Fernand Leger. Be still my seesaw heart. But there's more.
The song, The Girl With the Prefabricated Heart, was sung by Libby Holman, a Jewish, bisexual, broadway star and chanteuse and a huge supporter of civil rights, anti war and environmental causes. She may be obscure today, but in mid 20th Century America, she was a superstar. Known not just for her stage and recording performances, but also for a scandalous and difficult personal life, as well as for her serious and deeply held committment to political causes.
I'm just going to imagine for a moment that Libby Holman and my mother, Polly Cowan, must have crossed paths at least once in New York City or Connecticut, where they both owned homes.
The soundtrack in the clip above differs slightly from the one in the original. Same song, same singer, but a different recording. Both include Josh White, a now-famous African American folksinger, who Libby worked and sang with, sometimes at great peril to both of them.
More about Josh White here
New from my company, Small Equals, three new products using vintage images. These are made in Vermont by Flashbags, using recycled paper, plastic laminte and machine stitching.
Faithful readers of this blog will know that I have been collecting vintage ephemera for years. These images come from seed packs in my collection. The originals were produced using stone lithography, a process which, because it is printed using tiny dots of color, allows for enlargement beautifully. I think the images are very exciting as they grow larger. I hope you agree.
My love of vintage Jell-O images is well known. I have used these images for place mats before but they were out of production for a few years. Now back, in limited edition, these will certainly create conversation and inspire the appetite.
All products availble at my online store www.smallequals.com
My friend Jane's mother brought her these antique, hand carved, wooden spoons from her home in Germany. She brings little things that fit in a suitcase.
The dementors have been using the name and image of Minerva in their shenanigans for centuries. It's time for us to say NO! No more wars in the name of the Goddess...in any of her forms. Allons, Y!
Because I love cold drinks in the summertime, and I love coffee, I concocted this ridiculously easy and delicous smoothie shake.
It couldn't be easier. Just brew some coffee, or use your leftovers.
coffee- a few cups
spiru-tein vanilla powder
put into blender and whirl. That's it.
chock full of vitamins and protein, totally delicious, 100 calories. Let me know what you think.
While I'm working on a new project, please enjoy this freebie for July. This makes a nice screensaver and it's handy to have a calendar right there. Large file size.
For personal use only. Have fun.
image: detail from turn of the century postcard.
Way back in 1989/90 I studied Art Therapy with Dr. Erika Steinberg at The New School For Social Research in New York City. Dr. Steinberg had us all keep extensive journals of drawing exercises, dream and meditaion notes, and the process of drawing. It was an amazing class, with some extraordinary students, including a gifted and now- famous psychic/intuitive practitioner who subsequently became a best selling author, but during that year was just beginning her career, and, for those two semesters, was a good buddy of mine. Her insights amplified our work in many ways. The class met twice a week for two semesters, and it was the environment in which I rediscovered how much I liked drawing and the process of making art.
I chose not to become an art therapist, but the techniques of dream work and art therapy clung. I was reminded of this last night as I was listening to a radio broadcast that, almost in passing, mentioned feline guardian beings and goddesses. Of course, cats were goddesses in ancient Egypt and around the world, but I don't think I was thinking about them as I began this small series. Not consciously at any rate. The images came from dreams and meditation.
In our art journals, Dr. Stienberg had us keep notes, short ones, on three things: Environment, Process and Product. That is, what we were feeling and the physical space we were in while we were drawing, how we made the drawing, and a description of the work itself.
Product: Cat/woman #1. February 19th, 1990
She is facing the world, staring right into its eyes. I love drawing mouths as circles. Like she's talking and kind of surprised, too. The boulders are from a dream I had two weeks ago, just after we got our dream-box assignment. In the dream I saw huge dark boulders and received instructions that my job was to decipher the rocks. Like, that's one of my lifetime jobs. The water is fluid and reflective. Her feet are not quite in it, or maybe her toes are just touching that unconscious substance.
She is still a bit stormy, but a lot more peaceful. I love this drawing. She is a solid presence. Heat or emotions rising from her, intense but rhythmical.
( I don't know what the "stormy" is in reference to.)
Lion/woman. April 1, 1990. Woodstock
Environment: Hanging out at home in Woodstock
Process: I was looking through some magazines and came across this photo of a lioness and her cub, or a cub and her mother. I was moved by how they looked both peaceful and ferocious at the same time. I made a photo copy of the picture and drew over it with cray pas. I gave the mother lion my hair. I know that it is the male lions who have the mane, not the females, but in this case she, like me, has the tresses.
Product: Sometimes I describe myself as a mother lion when I am protecting people or things I care about. I can be ferocious in my guardianship, alert and calm. I love how the cub stands enfolded in her mothers arms and head.
The following drawing is from a week before the first cat drawings. I believe that the animals in this dream either were, or became, the cat figures in the subsequent images.
Product: This is a dream I had last night - from notes I took when I awoke from the dream at 5:30 am:
"I am at a Woodstock gathering, I have my video camera and am ready to tape, but nothing appeals to me.
Suddenly a small man is doing a "show" with strange looking animals, maybe marsupials, who are delivering ecology messages. They keep changing shapes and exit by disappearing into the ground. I get the whole thing on tape. I have no idea how this strange little man feels about my recording him. He comes over and smiles and hugs me warmly. Very lovely. He's glad I recorded it. I am going to give him my business card but suddenly everyone leaves the gathering in a big crowd and I wake up."
This drawing does not convey the eeriness of the dream. It was almost frightening, the animals were so strange and so was the man. But he was so nice that it ended up not being scarey at all.
I don't have a vivid image of the animals, so I just drew anything, figuring it was still accurate. The big eyes and stripes feel right.
Before I fell asleep I was reaing a Jungian magazine and I think it influenced ths dream.
The creatures are intense, especially their eyes, as they were in the dream. Their message was profound, but I forget it."
As summer approaches here in the Northern Hemisphere, we begin to think of trips to the beach. Here, from my collection of turn-of-the-century postcards, is a gorgeous beach scene.
The woman who sent this, Ethel W, found something funny about the card, which she set out to fix. Although the title of the card is "watching the bathers" Ethel noticed that there were, in fact, very few bathers present, none in the water, and mostly fully dressed folks sitting on the beach. So she drew some bathers into the water, and wrote on the face of the card, "I don't see many, do you? They forgot to put them in so I had to help them out."
Here's what she drew. Notice that many of the bathers are cyphers, literally question marks:
Mother Nature and the Flower Fairies have been busy in my garden making the flowers grow. My job is to take pictures of the results.
Organizing: a chore and a fascination. I've searched high and low for an easy way to orgainize an ever-growing collections cables and accessories for all those phones, players and games that can accumulate. My kids and I were always misplacing ours, so I had to figure out a way to keep track.
So far, this is my favorite. It's cheap, easy and quick. The only thing you'll need is a bunch of binder clips, available at stationery stores, and they come in an assortment of sizes and colors.
I borrowed these from the collections of Margaret Tramulonis. She gave me permission to scan and post them. Classic Barbie sewing patterns. Look at the detail, my goodness. When I was a kid I made lots of Barbie clothing, but nothing like these. I was more about drape and a quick stitch. These are formidable.
I love ginger tea with a real kick, and have been experimenting with making it for a while. All the ingredients I use are not only delicious but very good for your health. Here's my recipe.
water: about a gallon
one whole fresh ginger
4 tablespoons organic honey
dash of cayenne pepper
pot to boil water
container for finished brew
I use a hand grater. It's what I have. If you have some kind of machine, I'm sure that would be useful. Ginger has a lot of fiber, so grating is not as smooth as grating a carrot, but you can do it. There will be bits you can't grate, so just cut them up.
Some recipes ask you to peel the ginger, but I don't know why. You're not going to eat the pulp.
I use about a gallon of water. I usually measure by filling my carafe first then dump that into the pot.
Dump grated ginger into the pot and boil until it bubbles. Then let it sit for about 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cut two lemons in half.
I strain directly into the carafe, but you don't have to. But DO strain it.
Squeeze and strain the lemons. I squeeze/strain directly into the carafe, but you don't have to. But DO strain them.
Raw organic honey has healing properties. I get the best quality I can find. You don't have to, but DO make sure you use raw honey if you can.
I add about three modest shakes from a jar of cayenne pepper to the brew. I guess you could call it a pinch. This adds extra kick, and cayenne pepper is good for you. This step is optional and depends on your taste. Try it with and without, vary the amounts by trial and error, and decide which way you prefer it.
The honey and lemon bits will obey the laws of gravity, so give it a good stir. I use a long handled wooden spoon, but it doesn't really matter. I use it because it reaches the bottom of my carafe.
I like to drink ginger lemon tea hot in the winter and over ice in the summer. Hot, it is soothing and warming. Over ice, it is very refreshing.
For storage, I simply put the whole carafe in the refrigerator, and pour myself a cup when I want. Make sure to stir it up again every time you pour some because the laws of gravity still apply. I admit, I heat mine in a cup in the microwave.
I can't tell you how long it will last in the fridge because I drink it so frequently that I go through the gallon in a day or two. This brew is delicious and more that that, I think it's really healthful.
Let me know what you think!
My new photography show, Saki, Pug For Fun opens in two days but I'm still shooting for it. Crazy, right? Today I took four pictures I'm very satisfied with. One will go in the show, maybe two.
Recently I started painting old chairs. This was my first. It's been a lot of fun and I'm so pleased with the results. I paint on any surface, really. Glass, walls, wood, canvas. And in the past I've painted some furniture, but discovering Annie Sloan Chalk Paint really made a difference. That suff goes on so easily and covers so beautifully. And no smell. And water cleanup.
Today I decided to photograph the chairs, on a beat up old table in front of my living room wall. I painted the wall 11 years ago when I moved into my house. You can see I like spots. I'm shooting with my iPhone 4, using the Camera+ app.
Here's Saki on the spotted chair. Saki is a very good poser. For a dog who doesn't relax even when she's asleep, it's fascinating to me that she will calm down and pose as soon as she sees a camera.
And here is Stella, the doxy. Stella's not quite as happy in front of the camera but the floor was a long way down and she was not about to attempt a jump. So she sat. Here she was listening to the sound of a car outside. It's best when something captures their attention.
Most of these images will soon be available as greeting cards on my online store.
This was originally published in the Forbes Magazine Blog by one of their regular columnists, Laurie Essig. They pulled it after a few hours and fired Essig as a columnist. She named the unspeakable: Male Violence. I reprint it here with her permission so that it can be widely shared. December 17th, 2012
Many people are already commenting on what can and cannot be said about the shootings in Newtown, CT. Words like unspeakable evil and gun control are said and unsaid as our country struggles to make sense of the incomprehensible. But some of the words being used about the tragedy are perhaps even more important to pay attention to. Words like “parents” are dominating much of President Obama’s and the nation’s public processing of the event even as other words like “masculinity” and “gender’ remain unsaid.
As I drove home from work Friday with two colleagues who are not parents, I cringed when I heard Obama’s words:“I react not as a president, but as anybody else would as a parent. And that was especially true today. I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do."Our President was somehow suggesting that parents are more able to feel the pain and horror of this tragedy. This is in line with other ideological claims that people who are parents and are married are somehow better than and more deserving of rights than those who are not, but surely people who are not parents are just as grief stricken by the massacre at the Sandy Hook school.
It happened again yesterday when the President addressed the grieving community in Newtown. "With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves — our child — is suddenly exposed to the world, to possible mishap or malice. And every parent knows there is nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm. And yet, we also know that with that child’s very first step, and each step after that, they are separating from us; that we won’t — that we can’t always be there for them… It comes as a shock at a certain point where you realize, no matter how much you love these kids, you can’t do it by yourself. That this job of keeping our children safe, and teaching them well, is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community, and the help of a nation. And in that way, we come to realize that we bear a responsibility for every child because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours; that we’re all parents; that they’re all our children."
Although Obama offers all Americans the possibility of being “parents” he also continues to locate the need and desire to protect children in the role of reproduction and outside other roles like teachers or even adults who have close and binding relationships with children who are not their own.Yet even as Obama made the love of children about the reproductive family, he refused acknowledge the evidence that is before us: our love for children might in fact be far more about gender than about parenting.
Consider these facts:~There have been nineteen mass shootings in the past five years every single one of these mass shootings has been committed by a man~On the exact same day the massacre in Newtown happened, a man in Chenpeng, China walked into a kindergarten and stabbed 22 children and an 85-year old. This is one of a growing number of knife attacks in China, all committed by men against school children and young women.~ Far more women (and Blacks, Democrats, and residents of the Northeast) support gun control than men.
As terrible as it is to say aloud, we must acknowledge that masculinity, far more than parenthood, is what makes these tragedies comprehensible. Even as we discuss what we as a country ought or ought not to do about gun control and mental illness, we also need to look deep inside ourselves and ask if there is something pathological about a masculinity so deeply and fully rooted in violence. That violence occurs in play- whether video games or sports, but it also occurs as a measure of manhood, a demand that “real men” are willing to kill for their country or even to “protect” their family. And until our President and we as a culture are willing to talk about manhood, the twentieth mass shooting will undoubtedly be just ahead on an increasingly grim horizon.
The Amazons are still travelling. Digital collages by Liza Cowan. Here's a sample of where they've been. For the complete series check them out on Flickr
The Amazons are on walkabout, roaming the earth and skies, at work and at play.
You can follow the Amazons on Flickr
Four years ago I found the artist TMNK, The Me Nobody Knows. I was searching for art about Obama, because I believed in him passionately, and wanted to spread the word about him through art. I was running an art gallery at the time. I found "Nobody" on a google search for Obama art. Thus began a wonderful relationship.
Once again, I passionately support Obama for his second term as President. So here is a small re-visit of some of TMNK's Obama paintings.
In 2010, TMNK presented his work at my gallery during Art Hop, which is New England's largest art fair. Close to a thousand people saw his work during Art Hop, and over the next month. "Nobody" came to spend the weekend with me during the Art Hop, and to meet what turned out to be an adoring public.
This weekend (September 7, 8, and 9) is Art Hop in Burlington, Vermont. I no longer run a gallery. And Obama is running again. "Nobody" is doing phenomenally well in his career. Visit his website HERE, The painting "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" hangs in my living room.
And once again I say, Obama Or Else, 2012.