Saying “Yes” to the Mess

This pandemic been hard for everyone, no question about it, but one group I haven’t really heard mentioned is artists. Many of them, my wife included, relied primarily on art/craft/vendor shows to sell their wares. It is now August, nearly 3/4 of the way through the year, and nearly every show that she did or would have signed up for has been cancelled. She does sell some paintings through her website (shameless plug: and Facebook page, but shipping any kind of reasonably large painting is prohibitive. Because of that, she hasn’t been painting much. What she has been doing, however, is diversifying. She’s becoming a “Swiss Army Knife,” if you will.

She always did some jewelry work, but now she’s trying new techniques and styles because, well, jewelry is incredibly easy to ship. And people are buying it! She’s pursuing new distribution channels: partnering with a school fundraising effort, and exploring B2B options such as working with realtors to create custom closing gifts. She’s also in the process of starting a “box” program where customers will be able to order supplies and pre-recorded instructional videos, then she will mail it to them so that they can make their own painting or art project. Think like a “subscription box” but with no recurring commitment.

Recording videos, however, is something WAY outside her comfort zone. She’s tried it a few times just using her phone and a cheesy bracket to hold it, but it’s always seemed janky and she’s never happy with the results. One time the phone even ended up in the art piece she’d spent countless hours on… we try not to think about that one.

So, now /I’m/ pulling out /my/ Swiss army knife capabilities. I spent the evening turning her painting studio (fka the garage) in to a video studio. I broke out the photography lights, unboxed the boom we ordered to mount a webcam looking down at her table, set up an old laptop to record the feed… I even commandeered one of my surplus monitors so she didn’t have to stare at an impossibly small laptop screen from across the room. Is it cutting edge tech? Absolutely not, but she is able to take better videos (and photos) of her work than she ever has before.

Note: I hesitated to post the photo of this setup above because, frankly, my “work bench” is a disaster. In my wife’s words “Out of the mess comes the masterpiece,” however so there’s no doubt I’m gonna have an awesome and amazing project emerging at some point in the future.

I’m afraid this turned in to an ad for my wife, and that really isn’t my point. What I’m trying to say is that one day she WILL be going to shows and festivals again. She might even be able to return to her prior business model, but why would she do that? The changes COVID has forced her to make won’t suddenly be useless… she’ll be emerging with a stronger and more resilient business.

So, in short, we can’t just give up. There’s no doubt we are all making sacrifices right now: wearing masks, avoiding gatherings, embracing remote learning and remote work… it can feel disheartening. I think these concessions are necessary, however, and we can’t just dwell on what what we are losing or have lost. Instead, let’s focus on the growth opportunites we are being afforded. If we do this right, the new skills we can learn, the connections we can make, the new distribution mechanisms and the innovations we create will carry forward, for years to come. I’m confident that we can emerge from the other side of this as stronger people, more robust businesses and maybe even a better society as a whole.

She calls this one “2020” and I think that speaks for itself.