Behind the Scenes, New Art, New Site, Gift Boxes and More

Tortie Girls tableset, The Goddess tablecloth and place mats.
Tortie Girls tableset, The Goddess tablecloth and place mats.

I’ve been working hard behind the scenes to make 2016 a year of new art and merchandise and activities. I’m so excited about my plans and how they are working out that I’m not even waiting until January to let you know about them.

If it hadn’t been for Charming Charmee and her wonderful kittens, meeting new friends and helping Scarlett and a bunch of cats on Academy Street and sending those cats and kittens and Bert and Ernie and Alvina/Selena to new homes, as well as fostering Basil and Bella and Simon and Teddy Bear, I’d be ready to open the door and kick 2015 right out into the street and make sure that screen door didn’t hit it on the behind on the way out.

Businesswise and artwise, it was a frustrating and disappointing year, and for me that was mostly because all the intentions I’d set into motion in the spring for new work and merchandise and business were just stalled or moving with agonizing slowness by mid-year and I ended up with almost no time for artwork. But I’m picking up where I left off with most of those intentions and headed right for 2016, and this will also help explain why I’ve been posting kind of irregularly some weeks. Here’s a brief outline.

Upgrade The Creative Cat

You’ve probably already noticed a change in the layout and overall look here, and I’m not quite finished yet. My hosting account is ten years old and my service provider had been urging me to upgrade to an account on a newer server. It wouldn’t cost more but the migration, changing emails, resetting old templates and managing my vintage HTML site just to keep things in working order were very time-consuming all at once. But things here on The Creative Cat nearly ground to a halt when I couldn’t upgrade WordPress and plenty of things on this site weren’t working, so I took the plunge in October.

Now the change is more apparent in the back end than up front, but I hope in time to be able to better organize all the articles, images and art I’ve posted here in nearly seven years of blogging. Once I get things to a certain point I’ll be posting a survey for your feedback. Some of the decisions I make here will also depend on getting the next item on the list designed, built and in working order.

New Ecommerce Website for “Portraits of Animals”

I decided to upgrade my hosting account so that I could finally build a comprehensive ecommerce website that covered my feline artwork along with all my other artwork and merchandise, including the books I’m planning. The site I’ve been planning for a few years would be for both retail and wholesale accounts, so a basic account wasn’t enough to cover the complications. Building this site had been one of my prime goals for 2015 but for various reasons it kept moving farther and farther out of reach. But trying to work with a display on my old HTML site, Etsy, Fine Art America, here on The Creative Cat and various other profiles as well as keep up with my local wholesale outlets was complicated, time-consuming and too fragmented to be profitable. And I had less and less time for art!

I’ve known for years the lack of this comprehensive site was a hindrance to my business, and not only did that financial lack hurt generally, it also starved my art and merchandise sales because that income pays for upgrades in that area as well as my art materials. Being able to have one site I can maintain and promote where I can list everything I have will be less confusing, less expensive, less time-consuming and I certainly hope more effective!

Daily Sketches and New Art

I pretty much stopped creating new daily sketches at the beginning of this year because I have so much art here, and little of it was moving. It’s hard to explain, but moving the art along is important not only in the physical sense but also in the emotional sense. I am always changing styles and experimenting and that’s difficult to do with all the things I’ve already done still here all around me—almost 1,000 daily sketches from December 2011 to January 2015. I couldn’t even get to new paintings I’d been wanting for years to complete, or even simple little illustrations. I wasn’t experimenting any more and felt everything I was creating looked the same as what I’d already done; this wasn’t true, and what did it matter if it was? But I just couldn’t move forward until I found a more comprehensive way to display my art and at least offer it for sale. The new website will help immensely with that, as will an upgraded Creative Cat where I can set up portfolios and offer art on various products. And the next item on the list will help to “move things along” too.

New Products

That brings me to an exciting part of what’s upcoming—all the new things I’m going to make! In part the lack of income from art sales held me back on these plans, but the real difficulty was literally a lack of space in my house to both store the materials and to work.

It’s hard to describe the size of my house, but when I began to purchase and stock the materials for the new art and products I’d outlined last spring I nearly ran out of space to work in my studio. And then I discovered that if I was going to create in all these new media and make all these new things that I needed either a bigger work space or another separate space entirely so that I could frame something and also paint keepsake boxes and let the paint dry at the same time for instance. I have an idea to modify my studio to accommodate that by replacing the standing cabinets with kitchen cabinets to provide an extra counter top without losing storage space, but there is also simply the issue of more space, period.

I’ve decided to move some operations to the basement, though I have to be careful of the dampness. This will be where I’ll be printing my block prints, screen prints, imprints, stencils and other such things I have in mind, and storing as much of the materials in the basement as will tolerate the damp conditions. In many ways that will work better because I can hang things to dry on my clotheslines where they aren’t in my way during the day, and I can clean up much easier in the wash tub. I had always used my bathroom to hang things to dry and to wash up while working, a constant activity with any printing, but using the bathroom as a foster room makes that inconvenient. It’s hard to get in the room with my hands full, and if I’m socializing traumatized or semi-feral cats, bursting in the door with a bunch of stuff and running lots of water and making noise scares them. I’m not going to stop fostering, so this works out better all around.

And where the fosters are concerned, being so crowded in my upstairs where materials and packaging also fill my bedroom and the landing, it’s confusing for kitties I want to integrate. There’s just stuff everywhere! I’ve been holding off integrating Hamlet and Ophelia for this reason, but hope to get them out a little at a time soon.

So here are the new products and media I’ll be working with in the coming year, in no particular year:

  • screen printing
  • more block prints, including some I’ve been planning for years
  • rubber stamps—made from my art—and products decorated with those rubber stamps
  • full color imprints with commercial-grade iron-ons
  • tote bags
  • t-shirts, aprons and other apparel
  • tea towels, tablecloths, curtains and other housewares
  • clay—both real clay hand-painted, glazed and fired and polymer clay for jewelry and housewares
  • batik
  • stencils, for sale and things made with my stencils
  • stickers, clings, magnets, notebooks and a myriad of small products
  • more keepsakes, wood-mounted art and other handmade gifts
  • crocheted items and crochet patterns for sale
  • other patterns for sale made from my art
  • kits to use rubber stamps, stencils and other items to create your own gift items

Gift Boxes

It seems like gift box programs are popping up everywhere. The idea really appealed to me because unique handmade things sell best when I can get them literally into people’s hands. I’d considered setting up a gift boxes program with just my artwork, like the “monthly print” or greeting card samples, but the thought of putting together boxes each month in addition to all I’m already doing just made it seem impossible. But when a few other people suggested I do this, including a local friend and business owner who’s been helping me with organizing and promoting my business, I decided it was something I needed to try. So I looked at what I have to offer and came up with a few gift boxes containing my works.

I actually have three other lists in addition to The Creative Cat Preview E-newsletter to which I send e-newsletters including one for animal professionals, one for art and merchandise that isn’t feline-oriented, and one for wholesalers. Soon enough I’ll also have the “Portraits of Animals” ecommerce site up and running where everything will be offered in one place. For now I’m going to offer a gift box with a single box, three month and six month box subscription to each of the lists. Each audience will receive the following items in a design appropriate to the audience:

  • an 8” x 10” print matted to 11” x 14”, ready to frame OR a small framed print, either an existing piece of artwork or a new one
  • two greeting or note cards, one a current design and one a new design
  • a handmade or other gift item—a small keepsake box or a little art sampler book, a crocheted item or rubber stamp or clay item, new art paper

These can be things you use for yourself or give as gifts or donation items to shelter or rescue or other fundraiser. Sometimes they’ll be little experiments and I’ll be asking for feedback. I’ll be happy that you get to see art you may have never noticed, and little handmade goods that work so much better in your hands than a photo on your computer.

New subscribers to each of the list will automatically get a complimentary gift box if they provide me with their mailing address, but I can’t leave out those of you who have been subscribers already. Once I get the program set up, probably for February, I will send a complimentary gift box to any current subscriber who sends me an email and gives me their address. This information will be in my next enewsletter along with a link to provide the information.

Out and About

I’m also planning on attending a few trade conferences, and I’ll be marketing directly to veterinarians and other animal professionals, especially those who specialize in felines. Once the new website is done I’ll be writing about it here so if you fit on that list you can sign up directly for for that enewsletter as well.

Whew! It’s a big jump into the future for me, but one I’ve been waiting to make for years. That’s probably enough for now, and I’d better get back to work on my new site and all the other things I’ve got planned, as well as feed my cats who are beginning to wake up after their afternoon naps…

Thanks for reading The Creative Cat and for following along with all this!

Seven black cats in the studio.
Seven black cats in the studio.

Read other articles in the category The Artist’s Life.


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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.


© 2015 | www.TheCreativeCat.net | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Weekly schedule of features: Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life
Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
Thursday: New Merchandise
Friday: Bok Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!

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Bernadette

From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, The Creative Cat offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats. From catchy and creative headlines to factual articles and fictional stories, The Creative Cat provides constant entertainment and important information to people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

4 thoughts on “Behind the Scenes, New Art, New Site, Gift Boxes and More

    • January 24, 2016 at 6:35 pm
      Permalink

      Thanks so much Layla! I’ve been trying to keep up with things on your end as well, though I still can’t successfully comment. Thanks for visiting, and I’ll look for a message.

      Reply
  • December 28, 2015 at 4:22 am
    Permalink

    It all sounds very exciting, Bernadette!! I hope that in 2016, you will go from strength to strength! xx

    Reply
    • January 24, 2016 at 6:34 pm
      Permalink

      Austin, sorry I missed your comment! Thanks so much, and it’s getting off to a good start.

      Reply

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