The Future is Farmers cup available at Liza's shop www.smallequals.com
Paleo Canteen is a catering and meal delivery restaurant in Glasgow, Scotland. They cook, package, and deliver high quality paleo meals throughout the UK. The owner/chef is Ally Houston. Ally has a background in science as well as in high end restaurant cooking, and has a lively and inquiring mind. So in addition to running Paleo Canteen, he also produces a podcast, interviewing fascinating people, mostly about sustainable agriculture, cattle and sheep farming, biodiversity, and the impact of food on the health and well being of humans, animals, and the land. As well as what the guest enjoy eating.
I was honored to be on Ally's podcast, and we had so much fun recording it. It will be available as a video at some point, but right now it's available as a podcast through the Paleo Canteen website, as well as on various streaming services like iTunes, Spotify and others.
Some graphics I've been making recently about soil. Healthy Soil = Healthy Planet. That means yes organic farming, no pesticides, no monocrops, yes pasture raised animals, yes controlled grazing, and yes to other eco-agricultural practices to work with Mother Nature to promote biodiversity and make the planet's soil healthy again.
What if all the school children and their teachers who went on the recent Climate Strike had spent the day creating organic gardens at their schools? And then gone home to help their parents and neighbors create community gardens, or front yard gardens or back yard gardens? If food availability or food insecurity is a part of climate change, then creating small, sustainable, local, organic gardens is part of climate solutions . . In my opinion, it would have been much more productive than marching with signs. Signs just end up in the landfill as paper waste. A garden ends up feeding the families and neighborhoods. And a good, organic garden helps feed the soil and sequester carbon. Win/win. . Poster by one of my favorite artists, Edward Penfield. Oh how I wish I owned this poster.
This means no more spending on anything that is not absolutely necessary. The only luxuries I allow are my streaming services. I admit, I'm a TV junkie. On the other hand, I have not been to the movies for at least two years, and going to the theater or a show are out of the question for me.
I also NEVER do anything like go out for coffee, or buy prepared or takeout foods. I have a meal out only once a month, and my budget is $15.
Here's a tip: you can sometimes renegotiate service contracts. I managed to reduce my comcast bill by $30 a month. It took a half an hour on the phone with a manager, who tried every trick in the book to keep me on my old plan, but I was adamant.
I am honored to be included in the GirlBoss series at Printed Mint, the drop ship company that manufactures the cups and pillows I sell in my online shop. They make other products besides cups and pillowcases...so if you are planning to make a product with your design, do check them out. And bonus...you can have just one thing made. One cup...one shirt...one blanket...one phone cover....one tote bag, etc. They have quite a variety of products. Print with your design. Sent right to you or to the friend or customer of your choice.
What year did your start your business and what inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
I’m almost seventy years old, and I’ve been in the business of creating and selling for most of my life. Each business is, in some ways, an extension of all the others. My first business was making and selling feminist buttons. That was in the 1970’s, and was quite successful for a pre-internet era. I’ve owned or managed three retail art venues, edited and published two magazines, worked as an artist and photographer, selling in galleries and shops. I had a business selling ad specialties, most of which I designed for clients. I worked as a sales rep at an ad agency. I even ran the Woodstock NY Chamber of Commerce for four years in the 1980’s. My inspiration has always been threefold: I have a lot to say, I love making and designing, and I think it’s fun to promote and sell my work. I enjoy doing this for myself, and I find it satisfying to help other people reach their audiences.
Tell us about your brand (business name, products you sell + services you provide, and the market you serve.)
I named my business Small Equals in 2009, when I opened a tiny, 90 sq. foot, retail shop. I spent days looking for a domain name that had not been taken, but made sense for my business. Small Equals made sense to me, but possibly was not the most obvious name for a business, so last year, when I incorporated, I did so under my own name, Liza Cowan Design, remembering Walt Disney’s advice — name your business after yourself.
After years of paying rent for brick and mortar shops, and years of collecting inventory, I realised that the best way for me to maintain any sanity, and to keep control of expenses and clutter, was to work from home, and work with drop ship providers.
I design and sell my own artwork as framed prints, buttons, and home goods. The great thing about my line is that it’s so eclectic. The downside is that it’s really hard for me to brand myself. I just cannot. I’ve given up trying. I realize that this is a no-no in contemporary marketing, but I surrender to the idea that I am a maverick. Unbrandable.
How did you come to learn what you do? (self-taught, education, classes, books, mentors etc.)
I had some stellar art teachers in my middle and high school years in New York City in the 1950’s and 60’s. They were all working artists who exhibited in well known galleries in NYC, and they loved teaching. I was so lucky, and they really provided the foundation for all I know about art. I went to art school for a year in the 1960’s but I hated it. After that, I decided that I would mostly teach myself the skills I needed, or learn them on the job or in small classes.
I learned how to design magazines by working informally with someone who was in the trade, and by years and years of magazine reading. I learned graphic design by scrutinising and enjoying print advertising and print media. I studied photography by taking some excellent classes, but mainly by looking at photographers whose work I loved, trying to figure out what made them work. My photography skills are crude, but my eye is good. I’ve taken classes in silversmithing, silk screen printing, and I even took a course for women in business. All my digital design skills are self taught. It’s taken years and years of practice, which is fine, because I love doing it.
These days, Youtube videos usually provide the answers I’m looking for if I have a technical problem. Goddess bless the internet.
In my opinion, the most important skill for product design is having a good eye: knowing what works in terms of color, line, composition and typography, I’ve spent years looking at art in museums, galleries, books, and online, and a fair amount of time reading books on design, art criticism, and history of design. If you don’t develop a good eye, your work will not stand the test of time.
What has been the most rewarding phase of your career?
I’ve loved most of my work, so it’s hard to say which has been the most rewarding. The most exciting and kind of odd experience, though, has been the explosion of the phrase “the future is female.” I was the first person to put this phrase on a button – in 1974 – and I took the 1974 photograph that inspired the reboot of the t-shirt, which became a worldwide sensation, and then a phenomenon with a life of its own. I’ve been interviewed and quoted about it in hundreds of online and print newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Elle, Marie Claire…and on and on. It’s been really odd for me to see this happen. But…it’s what inspired me to go back into business creating and selling my products. I had to seize the moment.
What is the most challenging part about being an entrepreneur?
Selling. I used to do craft fairs but now that I’m older these are too much physical labor, and they reach only local audiences. Selling online helps me reach an international market, but the competition is fierce. I used to send promotional emails, but I stopped doing this. I suppose I should start doing it again, but I probably won’t.
What do you do for inspiration? Do you ever hit creative roadblocks and how to overcome them?
I look everywhere for inspiration. I follow many wonderful artists and entrepreneurs on Instagram, I look at books, I look at artists and museums online, and in person when I can. I look in shops. I read blogs. My garden provides inspiration, and my collection of vintage ephemera is a constant source for me.
I don’t worry about creative roadblocks. They happen, and I always trust that something new will emerge. Worrying makes things worse.
What’s the secret to your success (personally/professionally/spiritually)?
I follow my heart and my passions, both visual and intellectual. I trust the universe to provide the inspiration and tools that I need in the fullness of time.
What advice to you have for other entrepreneurs just starting out?
Make things you love and that inspire you. Don’t follow trends – once something is trending, it’s on its way out. Avoid clichés. Listen to advice, but follow your own instincts. Make a budget and stick to it. Use social media to promote your products. Find a good online selling platform (I use Etsy.) Get your own domain name.
Do you have any tips or tricks you learned along the way that you’d like to share?
The obvious ones, I guess. Make good products. Take good photos of your work. Always respond to comments on social media, connect with your audience. If you have employees, feature them in your posts and of course, treat them well and pay them fairly.
What do you think the #girlboss / creative female community needs right now?
We need to promote each other.
One thing that always surprises me is that most online sellers don’t give any credit to the businesses that manufacture their products. Unless you are handcrafting, someone is doing the labor that makes your business possible. I work with two women-run dropship companies (Printed Mint and Framebridge) and one button and sticker manufacturer (PureButtons). I don’t think they are women-owned but they are great and I always tag them in my Instagram and Facebook posts. I couldn’t do my business without them, and they deserve credit.
I try to promote the work of other women artists and makers when I can. I’d love to have some face to face networking opportunities with other women in my business, but haven’t found any yet. Support women. Buy from each other when you can.
What are you working on now and what’s in store for your business in 2019?
My newest product is pillow cases from Printed Mint, and I love them. I like making things for home use, so the pillow cases and mugs are a perfect fit for me.
I’m going to buy an iPad Pro with part of this year’s profits, and I’m excited about that. I think that using the Procreate app will open up new design avenues for me.
From 2005, here's an interview with me about my FAKE! Series. Taped in Burlington, Vermont by Paul Larson at Mountain Lake PBS.
This interview was originally done on video, and after they had rebroadcast it several times over the years, the station switched to digital. The video went into the Mountain Lake PBS archives until Paul had it transferred to digital and posted it on youTube again. I'm so glad.
Take a clue from Nancy Drew. Get out there and be adventurous, follow leads, solve crime, help people, be best friends with a girl named George, drive a roadster, be smarter than your lawyer father, don't let anyone stop you, and every once in a while, stop for a nice luncheon.
The Museum of Modern Art has a major exhibition called "Is Fashion Modern?" Part of the exhibtion covers t-shirts.
Coordinating with the exhibition, the museum publishes ablog with some wonderful articles. I'm honored that they wanted to know the backstory of my photograph of Alix Dobkin wearing "the future is female" shirt from Labyris Books. Please read the actual blog...it's got some great essays. I've reprinted mine here.
The story behind the The Future Is Female graphic T-shirt is well known, both within feminists circles and outside them. In 2015, the Lesbian history Instagram account @h_e_r_s_t_o_r_y posted a photo of folk singer Alix Dobkin wearing a T-shirt with the logo in 1975, a piece of merchandise from Labyris Books, New York City’s first women’s bookstore. Soon after, the owners of Los Angeles–based boutique Otherwild approached Liza Cowan — the photographer and Dobkin’s then partner — requesting permission to reproduce the T-shirt. The garment and logo have since become an enduring symbol, worn by celebrities and civilians alike. It has also sparked numerous debates about the binary nature of gender and about the necessity for more inclusive discourses in mainstream feminism.
The story of the groundbreaking project that gave birth to the famous photograph is less known, however. As an artist working in the context of separatist Lesbian politics, Cowan was interested in the semiotic power of fashion to communicate identity. Years before costume and dress gained academic validation, Cowan developed a photo essay called “What the Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear,” an exploration of Lesbian dress and its role in the construction of identity. As part of our research for item #044 on the Items: Is Fashion Modern? checklist, the Graphic T-shirt, we spoke with Cowan about the project, the political implications of Lesbian dress, and the proliferation of identity-proclaiming merchandise.
You first published your photo series “What the Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear” in COWRIE Lesbian Feminist magazine. Can you talk a little more about what prompted you to work on this and the context in which it was developed?
COWRIE was a small magazine I started in 1972, originally as the newsletter of a women’s group on the Upper East Side of New York City. The group was called Community of Women, and our goal, unachieved, was to start a women’s center to serve the women in the neighborhood. By the third issue, in June 1973, the group had disbanded, but my editorial partner and I decided to continue publishing the newsletter as a magazine for Lesbians, renamed COWRIE Lesbian Feminist.
I had been observing how the women in the Lesbian community — as we called it then — were dressing. In 1972 I was inspired by a wonderful article in Rags Magazine, edited by Mary Peacock and Daphne Davis, called “What Gay Women Wear.”
I began to ask questions about clothing, both to myself and to my friends. I had just come out the year before, at age 21, and had started to dress like my Lesbian peers. I wanted to know why we dressed as we did, and what were the social and political implications. Mind you, this was decades before fashion, or even culture theory, was considered worthy of study as an academic discipline. In those days it was considered trivial, and I was often ridiculed for being interested in fashion. I knew it wasn’t trivial, and I knew that clothing carried a message. I wanted to decipher it.
In the seven-part series, I covered general observations, history of Lesbian clothing — including ancient Amazons — and contemporary lesbian clothing designers, hair, and shoes. In every one, I was trying to decipher the political and social consequences and meanings of our clothing choices.
My main theory, I suppose, was that contemporary Lesbians didn’t want to look like men, as we were constantly accused of trying to do, but we wanted to look like Lesbians — women-loving women — to invoke the styles of at least some of our foremothers. We wanted to honor our history and to wear clothes that would signal our identity to other Lesbians.
Why did our foremothers, some of them, dress in men’s clothing? Because of the power and freedom that men’s clothing both symbolized and allowed. Through the ages men have dressed for freedom, for comfort, and for power. Women have been forced to dress as second-class citizens and sexual objects. From hobble-skirts to corsets, from stiletto heels to beehives, our clothing has confined and constricted us. Lesbians didn’t want to look like men, they wanted to be free — free to move, free to play, free to run, free to work, free to catch the eye of other women, and free to mark themselves as off-limits to men.
Clothing — in addition to being necessary, sometimes fun, and always interesting — is about power and class. It always has been. Clothing is deeply symbolic. That is my interest. Writing about clothing was always an intellectual pursuit. I was not interested, or able, to tell women what to wear or where to shop, or what accessories to buy. I wanted to explore the meaning.
“The discussion I had with my friend [who had asked me why I wanted to look “dykey”] made me start thinking about the Lesbian Look. What the Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear. And why. I knew we look different from straight women. Is it a clothing style? A hair style? The movement Lesbians that I know, the community that shows up at conferences, women’s dances etc. all tend to dress similarly: comfortable clothes, T shirts, sturdy footwear, hair cut short, tied back, or loose au naturel. Women wear put-together suits, and blazers are always popular. But many of the women that go to bars (at least on weekends) wear outfits straight from Glamour magazine: platform shoes, tube tops, baubles, crimson mouths and plucked eyebrows. These clothes carry quite a different message.”
— Cowrie Lesbian Feminist, Vol. 1 #3, June 1973
“The clothes I wear help me to know my own power. So does being a Lesbian. I love the way I look. I love the way other lesbians look. I’m learning to rid myself of all straight patriarchal values and build my own world. So it’s a combination of clothes and attitude that make a woman identifiable as a lesbian”
— Cowrie Lesbian Feminist, Vol. 1 #3, June 1973
In 1975, along with my childhood friend Penny House, I started another magazine called DYKE: A Quarterly. The “What the Well Dressed Dyke” series continued there, but only for one issue. Our inaugural flyer for the magazine has become somewhat famous now, and exemplifies that Dyke look I had been describing in my articles. Decades later, in 2016, the flyer was featured in the book Gay Gotham, by Donald Albrecht and Stephan Vider, who curated the Gay Gotham exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York.
Penny House and I had read fashion magazines ever since we were young girls. We both came from upper-middle-class families in New York City, where fashion — and the fashion industry — was part of the air we breathed. We had one school chum who had moved to England and became one of the world’s first supermodels in the ’60s, and we also had other friends whose parents were photographers, fashion editors, or were featured in magazines like Vogue,Harper’s Bazaar, and the like. We thought it would be amusing to do a photoshoot of Dykes as a fashion image. Dykes — the famously “ugly” and badly dressed. We found a Lesbian photographer who had access to a fashion photography studio. Her dad owned it and she was one of his assistants.
Penny and I gathered a couple of women to join us in the shoot, including Alix Dobkin as well as Penny’s modelesque friend Val. The photographer’s girlfriend was also in the shoot. Alix and I were wearing jeans. I had just shaved my head and was wearing a bandana and a blue work shirt, the kind I’d loved since I was a “folkie” teen. Blue work shirts were emblematic of ’60s folkies, as were bandanas. Laborers’ outfits, appropriated by middle-class kids, had become trendy again within a subcategory of Dykes who had grown up as Beats and folkies. Penny, Alix, and I are wore vests. Alix and Penny’s were traditional, woolen “men’s” vests, which we used to buy at thrift stores. Mine was blue cotton with tiny white flowers on it, a kind of a vestigial hippy item. Val had on gorgeous tall leather boots with a folded-over top. Alix and I were wearing workmen’s boots and shoes, another leftie/folkie appropriation that was quite popular among Lesbians. Debbie and Penny seem to be wearing Frye boots, which were all the rage.
More than anything, though, it is our posture that says, “We’re Dykes!” Ladies just did not stand like that; hands on hips, standing squarely on two feet, balanced and ready, staring straight at the camera with no smiles. It would never be unusual to see a group of men with this body language, but a group of women? Highly unusual, and only could be read as Lesbian.
It was around this time, 1974 and 1975, that Alix Dobkin and I were contacted to do presentations at an event in California called The Lesbian History Exploration. I decided to make my series into a slide show. One of the photos I used was an image I took of Alix wearing The Future Is Female T-shirt from our friends at Labyris Books, the first women’s bookstore in New York City.
In the series, you explore what you call Lesbian “archetypes,” like the Amazons, but you also discuss certain stereotypes like “haute Dykes.” What was your research process like?
I prepared for the slideshow by taking photos of images in books of Lesbians from a particular era of Lesbian history, mostly American and British expats living in Paris — women like Gertrude Stein, Radclyffe Hall, Margaret Anderson, Djuna Barnes, Natalie Clifford Barney, Sylvia Beach, Alice B. Toklas, Romaine Brooks, Janet Flanner, Renée Vivien, and more. I relied heavily on photos taken by the legendary Lesbian photographer Berenice Abbott. These women had recently earned legendary stature among my Lesbian friends and colleagues.
Then I took photos of contemporary Lesbians, mainly in New York City. I created the categories of fashion expression, “DYKE Schlepp” and “DYKE Finery,” and set about going to every event I could find at the time. For a couple of months I went to many events for Lesbians including dances, workshops, conferences, networking gatherings, concerts, and even a fashion show by Lesbian clothing designer Morgan Zale, whom I had interviewed for COWRIE. I went looking for what women were wearing, and asking permission to photograph them. In that era, there were many such events every month in New York City. I did not go to bars, mostly because the lighting would be terrible.
DYKE Schlep was, as it sounds, our everyday clothing: jeans and T-shirts, pea coats, work boots, denim overalls, sneakers, and Frye boots. Pretty much an up-cycled workman/folkie look. DYKE Finery included the outfits we wore to mostly evening events: jeans, suspenders, blazers, Frye boots, wingtip shoes, and the occasional fedora or tie. The difference between Schlepp and Finery was not huge, as I recall.
There was a section on hair. We tended to wear our hair short, sometimes the very bold shaved their heads. I did it once, just to see what it was like, and so I could document it for the slide show. I also included categories of lesbian accessories, like feminist/lesbian political buttons, which everyone wore, and the ever-present bandana/kerchief, which was tied in many different ways. As I travelled around the country, I continued to add slides and would include them in subsequent presentations around the US.
The last section of the show was about the style evolution of a few Lesbian friends, showing how their looks had changed as they went from girlhood to adulthood. I made slides from the photos in their photo albums and then photographed the women as they were at the time I was putting together the presentation. Most had gone through a period of being heterosexual, which made the whole thing both interesting and hilarious to my audiences. I think only one woman had been a Dyke her whole life, but even she had a marriage of “convenience,” which she had documented and was in the show.
In addition to my live photoshoots, I also did a number of interviews for the COWRIE series. I spent a wonderful afternoon at The Metropolitan Museum of Art with Stella Blum, who was at that time the curator of their fashion/clothing department. I also tried to interview Dietrich Felix von Bothmer, curator of Greek antiquities at the Met when I was researching Amazon clothing. He scoffed at me and told me he would not do my “homework.”
“h_e_r_s_t_o_r_y” and Otherwild took inspiration from your photograph of Alix Dobkin for their first collaborative clothing collection, which gave rise to many Lesbian-history-inspired garments. What are your thoughts on the growing availability of queer identity-proclaiming garments and their popularity? What is the biggest change that you see when you compare this context to the radical Lesbian one in which you came of age?
I don’t know why garments with slogans are popular in general. I never wear shirts with slogans, no matter how much I agree with them. I never have. I don’t enjoy being a walking billboard, and I find it odd that so many women do. The only one in my household who wears slogan shirts is the Rootstein mannequin who lives in my dining room. She likes when people stare at her — it’s her job. If I were going to wear one, I’d wear the T-shirt from Old Lesbians Organizing for Change that says, in simple block letters, “This is what an old Lesbian looks like.” It’s an inspiring message, it’s a fundraiser for a great organization, and it would be really hard to appropriate it.
However, the fact remains that these shirts are now big business. There were plenty of feminist and Lesbian T-shirts, of course, during the 1970s. Enough that DYKE: A Quarterly was planning for a theme-based issue on Lesbian Media, including T-shirts and buttons. But most of the T-shirts of that era were decorated with slogans and symbols from women’s groups, events, or places. Bars, conferences, sports teams, political groups and actions, etc. had their shirts. They were popular, and they were a great way to fundraise. T-shirts commemorated a place, an event, a group, but usually not a free-floating idea. Even the original The Future Is Female T-shirt had the name of Labyris Books on the back.
The point of buying these shirts was to support the places, the women, or events that created them. Sometimes the shirt was a medium for communicating a political action or “zap,” like the day in 1970 when a group of radical Lesbians occupied the stage at a meeting of the Second Congress to Unite Women wearing “Lavender Menace” T-shirts, protesting the exclusion of Lesbians and Lesbian issues from the feminist movement.That was a defining moment in lesbian history, made more powerful by the shirts themselves. This was not T-shirt as commodity. The action and the shirt are entangled.
T-shirts also acted as a way to signal other women. Wearing a T-shirt that said “Amazon Expedition,” for example, was a cue to let other women know that you’d been at that wonderful event, and the word “Amazon” let other women know that you were probably a Lesbian without actually broadcasting a message to everyone.
It was not hard to find T-shirts that included words like “Lesbian” or “Amazon” or “Sister” commemorating a march or an event, if you knew where to look, but you’d rarely find a T-shirt without the name of the group that made it, and date of the event. There were, of course, times when you’d see shirts that were just a slogan without a corresponding place or event. One well known photo shows a pair of women wearing shirts, one of which said “femme” and the other “butch,” but I think those shirts were homemade.
The big change came when T-shirts went from being fundraisers, cues, and memorabilia for events or groups to being commodities in themselves. In the past, the only place to buy Lesbian T-shirts, buttons, etc. was at an event, or at a woman’s bookstore. So you were supporting either an event, or a feminist venue, or both. Today, there are only a couple of women’s bookstores in existence. In the past, there were dozens and dozens.
Today, e-commerce and the huge popularity of slogan T-shirts have changed the whole ballgame. Anyone can buy a shirt without ever setting foot into a women’s bookstore or a feminist or Lesbian event. The shirts are are now just free-floating commodities. When you see someone wearing a T-shirt that says “Feminist” or “Love wins,” it does not reference a particular event, group, or even timeframe. It’s just something you bought.
DYKE, A Quarterly, back cover, Lesbian t-shrits. Photo by Irene Young
I love when people say “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.” That’s all you need to know. Sure, the more you know about art history, art theory etc. the deeper your appreciation will be, but when you are buying art for your own home, your number one priority is to buy something that you like, something that makes you happy, something that pleases you.
I ran an art gallery for five years, and the worst customer was the art snob. The best customer was the one who stopped in front of a piece of art, caught their breath, and said, “I love this!” If your heart leaps when you see something, that’s your cue.
Other than that…here are some things to consider.
You can approach this as finding a piece of work to fit into a particular space. Empty wall above the couch? You can fill it with one large statement piece, or lots of smaller pieces grouped together. Your choice. It’s usually not a good idea to have just one or two small pieces randomly placed in a large space. Each piece should be placed with purpose. This is true of everything you put into your house.
Don’t know where to start? You can buy art to match your curtains or fabric on your chair, as long as you love those colors. I think this is a great idea, but don’t tell art snobs you did this unless you are prepared for a look of condescension. If you don’t love the colors, don’t buy anything else that uses them. Please.
I remember decades ago I had a bedspread that I adored. It made me so happy to look at it. When i decided to paint the walls of my bedroom, I matched the predominant color in the spread. It was a deep, deep blue. I never would have thought to color my walls such a deep color but I was ready to experiment and it was wonderful. The people who make fabrics are generally very knowledgeable, and it’s fine to follow their lead.
You probably know which colors resonate for you. If not, spend some time looking a the colors in nature, in photos, on fabric, on pinterest, on your clothing, in magazines, and take note of how you are responding. If you feel happy when you look at those colors, those are the ones to go for. If you want to go the extra mile, make a color board. I like to use pinterest, but you could tear out photos in magazines and keep them in a file. See if you keep liking them.
Some people love horses. Others love rusty old boats. Some people love to look at pictures of children, or of grandpas. You might love seascapes, or you might love old portraits. Maybe you love old woodcuts, or brand new shiny abstracts. When you are starting an art collection, you might think about collecting based on themes. You probably won’t stick to one theme, but it’s a place to start. You could have several vintage nursery rhyme prints all framed the same and hung in a group for a wonderful and inspiring wall.
Think of collecting art as a treasure hunt, and always be on the lookout for images of poodles, or boats, or rocket ships. You’ll have fun, and probably end up with a fantastic collection that not only resonates for you, but is also engaging for others to look at.
There may be one or two artists whose work you love. Even very famous and pricey artists usually are reproduced on posters, or open edition prints. Newer artists work is often affordable. If you love an artist, think about collecting their work. Go to local art fairs and craft shows. Go to open studios and art walks. Talk to the artists. You could think about buying one piece a year, for instance. There was one local artist whose work I liked a lot. She made very small paintings of chickens. I thought they were charming. I visited her studio every year during a regional art tour and bought one or two paintings per year. They were only about $25 apiece, but after four years, I had a nice little collection.
I had an obsession for paint-by-number paintings for a while. Yes, it was for an exhibition at my gallery, and I bought about 75 paintings over a five month period on ebay. That was so much fun. And it was the most popular show I ever ran. It practically sold out. But if you love a particular type of work, go for it with gusto. You don’t have to by 75 paintings. You probably shouldn’t unless you plan to sell them. But if you love black and white photos from the 1940’s, go for it. Or you love engravings of flowers. Or children’s book illustrations. Or you love collage, or manhole cover rubbings. Maybe you think kids art is amazing - I know I do! Or paintings on velvet, if that’s your thing. You like pencil drawings, or, well, you get the picture. Think genre.
You know your own price range. Generally art is not cheap, but it doesn’t have to be super expensive to be good. Original, unique pieces will probably be more expensive. Hand made prints, like silkscreens, lithographs, woodcut prints, monoprints, etc can be more expensive, but not necessarily. Some artists like making their work very accessible, which often means affordable. Others do not. It takes a lot of time, practice, and labor to make art. Artists often spend decades learning their craft, and should be paid well, but it’s up to you, the buyer, to be mindful of your own budget.
LOVE. Buy what you love! If your heart leaps, that’s the cue.
And keep these things in mind:
Let me know what you think.
PS: Be sure to check out all the art I have for sale at smallequls.com my shop.
PPS: sign up for my mailing list. You may get a fun email someday.
In the ten years I've been doing this blog, you've seen me introduce a host of new products. Some sold well. Others didn't. Running a business is always a process. Or, as the trendies say now, a "journey."
Now I'm introducing mugs. I found a wonderful printer in the US that manufactures and drop ships. That's great for me, because the last thing I want is shelves full of inventory and trips to the post office. That was fine when I was younger, but now...no thanks. But with all the advances in print technologies and online servicing, it's now relatively easy to do make a great product AND have it delivered to the customer's home in a pretty package, safe and sound.
When Women rule, everyone will be free. 11 oz mug from Small Equals
When Women rule, everyone will be free. This is a variation on a print I designed, first as a silkscreen and then as a digital collage. Now available in mug form. The girls are a highly altered version of a mid 20th century matchbox label. I just adore them, and use them over and over.
Lead Your Own Parade. 11 oz mug from Smallequals.com
Lead Your Own Parade. This little saying popped into my mind a couple of weeks ago, I thought it would be a cheerful idea to ponder with morning coffee or tea. I went on an image hunt, I found this illustration at a library digital collection, from a 1902 children's book illustrated by Maud Hunt Squire and Ethel Mars. It suited perfectly.
The Children Of Our Town. Carolyn Wells. Illustrations by E. Mars and MH Squire. 1902
I went ahead and cleaned it up in Photoshop, designed the template for the cup manufacturer, and then set about researching the artists. I found Ethel Mars and Maud Hunt Squire.
Lo and behold the Misses Squire and Mars were American artists who met in art school in Ohio in the 1890's, then moved to Paris where they became pals with Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas, and of course they worked and exhibited with many of the artists there.
During world war one they moved back to the US and lived in Provincetown, MA, then back to France, where they lived in Vence. During Ww2 they hid out in Grenoble, then went back to France until they died in 1955 and 1956.
The Gertrude Stein's word portrait "Miss Furr and Miss Skeene was based on them. .
And now they've landed on my cup. I'm delighted but no longer shocked by these everyday moments of serendipity.
Love Your Mother Earth. 11 oz mug from smallequals.com
Love Your Mother Earth. Yes, I use this phrase often in my art and products. Because it's so important! This design is based on another print I made as a silkscreen. The silkscreen design was based on a photo I took of a package of Easter Jelly Beans. I'm not a Christian, but Easter packaging always makes me happy. The colors!!
This digital version, quite different from the original, is now gracing a mug. My goal is to give you something happy and positive to absorb with your hot beverage of choice. I think it's so important to start the day with happy thoughts to set the tone for the rest of the day.
Here's what it looked like as a silkscreen. I made this and all my silkscreens at Iskra Print Collective in Burlington, VT.
I'm not a financial expert of advisor. These are just some things I've learned.
I started keeping a budget in July of 2015. I learned how to by reading books, blogs and online articles. .
I have saved thousands of dollars by having a plan, a roadmap, a blueprint. By cutting out things I don't need or can't afford. By spending less than I earn. By making sure I pay myself first, in my money market savings account. By learning how to say "no" and when to say "yes."
I don't have any debt - I've always been debt averse and rarely borrowed without definite a plan for a pay back date.
But for people who do have debt - how much of your money are you basically just giving to the bank by not paying down your debt?
The only way to get a grip on your money is to have a plan. Think if the money you will save! Is that worth your time? You bet!
These days, I am loving the online budget tracker from everydollar.com. It's free, and so easy to use.
I'm not a financial expert, or a financial advisor. These are just some things I've learned and think about.
Numbers can tell a story, but can a story help clarify numbers? I don't think so.
When you are thinking about numbers and budgeting, it may be helpful to think things through with a narrative. It may help clarify your motivation, needs, wants, patterns. But when it comes time to discussing the actual finances, story can get in the way.
Imagine this conversation about a proposed vacation:
"I work really hard all year and I deserve to go to Bermuda for a couple of weeks. Just because I will have to go into a little more debt to pay some bills coming due, that's no reason not to go to the beach. It's not that expensive, just air fare and a hotel, but I didn't book the most expensive hotel, and I really need to relax. Remember that time a few years ago that you wanted to buy a new refrigerator and I thought it was a bad idea? Did I tell you not to? No I did not. Well I want a vacation. You have no right to tell me how to spend my money."
Cool story. But where are the numbers? How can anyone make a financial decision based on a story?
How about this, instead?
The caveat. You have to make a budget first!
And, as Suze Orman would say ...."VACATION DENIED!"
I'm not a financial expert or a financial consultant. These are just some ideas I've learned and thought about.
My dishwasher died last week. It was one that came with the house when I bought it three years ago, and it was always just so-so.
I did some research on prices for a new one, found the one I wanted from a local dealer that I like. I picked a Bosch, because I have had good experiences with their appliances before. The cheapest one I found was about $600 installed. That's not so bad. I could have chosen another, cheaper brand, but in the long run, I don't think that's a good idea.
My short-term financial goal is to save or earn $5,000 by November 1st. I've already saved $2,000 by using my Piggy Bank System, and I've got the next few months budgeted. But $600 would take quite a chunk out of it.
My solution? A $28 stainless steel dishwashing rack (with a draining mat and a wire utensil holder.) Initially, I bought a cheaper one, but it was too flimsy and I'd have hated using it. So I splurged on the one I liked best.
I cook every meal at home, but usually it's just for me, so I don't accumulate that many dishes. Maybe I will buy that new dishwasher next year, but you can bet that I will be using my Piggy Bank System to save up for it.
I'm not a money expert, or a financial planner. These are just some things I think about and try to live by.
I have heard all of these...and I've said them all, too.
But an excuse is not a plan.
How does your spending affect your bottom line? Do you have a bottom line? Do you know where it is?
If you have spent too much on the things you DON'T need, and find that you don't have the resources to pay for what you DO need, you have robbed Peter to pay Paul. Sometimes you are both Peter AND Paul.
Make a budget. A budget is a plan, a map, a blueprint.
I'm not a money expert, or a financial advisor. The ideas I'm sharing are just a synthesis of things I've learned and try to stick to.
Budget is key. I don't use a lot of online apps, though they are available and some people love them. .
I use my credit union online banking service to keep track of my (non-cash) payments and my income. I pay all my regular monthly bills by direct pay. Before I did this, I'd always have a growing mountain of bills sitting on a side table, which I would avoid every day. The stress, plus the late fees, made my financial life a nightmare. Now I know they are paid on time, and I can track them easily.
To make my budget I started by making a list of every bill that comes in monthly or regularly. Insurance, taxes, utilities, cable and streaming services, garbage and snow removal, loans, etc. I added them up, decided which ones I could live without, and cancelled them. Add them up again and you have your monthly "nut." I subtracted the "nut" from my personal income. And voila, that's my spending money for the month.
BUT--- there are other regular expenses : the variables. Groceries, gas, dentist, appointments, vet bills.
If there are kids living at home, the variables can become intense. Mine no longer live at home, so that helps. College fees, though! That's a subject in itself. .
I'm not a money expert, or a financial advisor. The ideas I'm sharing are just a synthesis of things I've learned and try to stick to.
Keep a spending journal. In addition to figuring out your monthly "nut" (see my lat post) its important to know Where the rest of your money is going. You might be surprised to see how quickly the little things add up, and how often you pay for things things that you don't really need. .
I use an ordinary spiral, lined notebook. And a pencil. I write down each purchase, no matter how small. .
A daily $2.00 coffee x five times a week = $10. That's $40 a month on coffee. That's $520 a year! Buy a thermos, make your coffee at home, and use the savings to pay down your debt. Or fix a window sill. Or put it in a savings account. Or your kid's college fund. .
I use cash for almost everything, so its extra important for me to write things down each day. I forget where the money goes otherwise, and you probably do too. .
The first few months of my spending journal I taped receipts onto the page. It's good to know how much you spent at the grocery store. Even better to pay attention to what you are buying and how much it costs. .
Did you really need to buy a hardcover edition of a new book? Or the latest edition of a glossy magazine? Or that new pair of shoes? Maybe you did. Maybe you didn't. But you will be aware of how much they add to your weekly expenses. With that knowledge you can begin to make better choices and build a sustainable budget.
We all have things we need, and we need to pay for them. Healthful, nutritious food, A roof over our heads, clothing to keep us warm or dry. In this era, we need other basics, like health insurance, education, transportation. These are tangibles. And must be paid for. Sometimes directly, sometimes through taxes.
Other needs are maybe not so tangible, that is, we can't purchase them. Clean water, clean air, beauty, justice, friendship, peace, love, safety, respect.
And there are things that are for sale that we might want, but we don't need. I love cookies, too. And I love to buy things for my home. But buying these things without a plan is just reckless. Remember, the little numbers add up.
Make your budget, map out your wants and needs. Pay for the things you need. Pay down your debt. Figure out how much college will cost for your kids, if that's in their future. Decide if you really need that expensive vacation, or is there another way you can have fun and relax?
Do you have a "fun bank?" Do you have an emergency fund?
Learning the difference between want and need is one of the hardest lessons, and one of the most rewarding.
I use my "fun bank" for cookies. And sometimes, for having friends over for a little tea party. That's fun too.
Spending within your means is one way to be thrifty.
Putting money into a money market savings account, or other growth account, is another way to be thrifty.
But "thrift" must also include good stewardship, not only of your personal finances, but also for stewardship for your community. When you put your money into a Credit Union, your money works for the community. When you put it into a national bank, your money can, and probably does, go to invest in businesses like The Dakota Access Pipeline, or other environmentally destructive enterprises.
Likewise, if you invest in stocks, make sure that the companies you invest in are environmentally accountable, are not in the business of arms profiteering or other harmful shennanigans.
We are all connected.
The inverse of Extravagance is Thrift.
The root word of "thrift" is "thrive." What do you need to thrive?
Think of your budget as a map. Extravagance is going outside the boundaries of your budget. This will vary from person to person, family to family. The first step to staying within your means is to make a budget. Then stick to it.
For some, going to the movies will be extravagant. For others, a trip to Europe will be an extravagance. There are ways to budget for things, but ignorance, intentional or not, will take you outside the limits. Remember that every penny counts, and the little things add up.
Are you going into debt for the necessities because you have spent too much on the extravagances? It helps to know the difference between want and need, and to plan for the "wants" without going into debt for the "needs."
In other words, set limits. Boundaries are a good thing.
I'm not a money expert or a financial advisor. The ideas I'm sharing are things I've learned and try to stick to. .
You never know when an emergency will hit. Or if there will be a big ticket item you need to buy. When my 12 year old dog needed emergency surgery earlier this year, I was glad I had saved enough cash to pay for it. .
If you give yourself a weekly cash allowance (see my previous post) you might find, if you spend carefully, that you have extra left over. Piggy bank time!
I save cash in addition to the 10% of my monthly income that I put into my money market savings account at my credit union.
In addition to my emergency fund, I love my "fun bank." I only go to a movie, or to a restaurant, or order take-out, if there's enough in the fun bank to pay for it. If that's only once or twice a month, that's fine with me. I don't even buy coffee out anymore.
I don't know about you, but I love to watch my savings grow. As I age, the stakes are higher, and knowing I'm banking on my future is with its weight in gold.