Posts Tagged ‘woodcarving’

I love this show and the fine women that run it, but it didn’t look like I was going to be able to participate this year.

Good news–Circumstances have shifted a bit and 50 Little Birds will be on hand.  We are a late entry so please do what you can to let the folks of Bloomington know the birds will be on hand!

Bloomington Handmade Market

Bloomington Convention Center

Saturday, April 7, 2012

10:00 – 5:00

Thanks to Sally, Nicole, Mia and Jessica!

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Thursday I am delivering a webinar through Traditional Arts Indiana–Social Networking for Artists and Performers: Developing and Maintaining an Online Presence.  In order to offer links referenced in the webinar and to drive traffic to this blog (That’s what I’m teaching folks to do, right?) the links are listed below.

I want to thank my daughter, and Traditional Arts Indiana intern, for roping me into offering this opportunity to share this information.  She prepared the fantastic graphics filled with screen shots of my social media sites and pages.

I want to make it very clear.  I am not an expert on social media.  I’ve never made a study of best practice or explored all of the options.  My strength is that I’ve been at it for a long time.  I’ve always had a need to reach out to other artists and to the folks that appreciate artists.  In college I wrote letters to individuals and to magazines.  When the internet emerged I was right there on listservs, in “old school” chat rooms and forums.

Through these efforts I learned the secret techniques of chalkboard signwriters in Australia, spent a summer living on a wooden boat, spent two weeks in Hawaii building ukuleles, hosted a major ukulele festival and now I’m developing a strong group of followers that are collecting my bird carving series, 50 Little Birds.

Setting Up a Website/Blog


WordPress offers all of the tools required to develop a blog.  But don’t think of it as a blog.  Think of what you build at WordPress as the fastest, cleanest and most flexible website builder on the web.  Best of all is that it is free.  It’s also pretty easy to get started.  Just jump in.  Read the tutorials and directions.  Try new things.  You can–and will–learn on the fly.

Getting People to Read your Blog

Maybe the best thing about starting a new blog is that no one will read it–really.  It takes time and it takes effort to develop a following.  So start posting and don’t give a thought to who is reading it and what they are thinking.  There is no one out there.

Posts can be short or long.  I mix it up.  Some bloggers just post pictures.  Don’t worry too much about content.  It will come with practice.

Purchase a nice web address and follow the directions so that it leads to your WordPress site.  They are cheap and are one of the many ways to gets folks to visit.  My web address is 50littlebirds.com.  Everyone that knows my product will remember it.  (While you’re at it get a gmail email address that matches your website address.  Mine is 50littlebirds@gmail.com.  Again, no one will forget it.  If you don’t want to give up your regular email address you can forward mail one way or another so you don’t miss a thing.)  Add your blog address to your email signature so folks are reminded to check it every time they open your email.

When you are ready, tell folks about your blog.  Send out emails.  Tell your friends on Facebook (More on that later).  Print it on your business cards, your hangtags and your flyers.  Make it easy for folks to see, find and use.

You will begin to get traffic.  Be patient.  Building a following will take awhile. WordPress makes it really simple to see what traffic you have and where it comes from.  These folks will begin to follow you and like your posts.  This is great.   The followers get an email of every one of your posts.  When folks comment it is important that you reply.  No one likes to be ignored–ever.  Say something gracious and begin to build a relationship with your followers.

Visit your followers’ blogs, and if so inclined, follow them back.  You will begin to build a network–not unlike Facebook–of folks that are truly interested in who you are and what you do.

Visit other WordPress blogs and comment.  This may be the single most important factor in attracting traffic.  Search engines, like Google, measure the number of links going to a website.  Lots of links = important content.  When you comment on another blog you build a link from that blog back to yours.  This is gold.  I blew off this bit of advice until about six months ago.  When I began visiting blogs and commenting my traffic went through the roof and continues to climb.

As you learn to use WordPress add links to your other online activities–Etsy, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  There are many tutorials and guides to lead you through the process.

Always include a picture.  When folks see an image they want to know more and are more likely to open and read (and forward!).


You probably have a personal page on Facebook.  Use this to talk about your work and to recruit followers.  Send them to your blog.  Tell them about shows. Don’t go overboard.  The goal is to make them aware of what you do and get them to subscribe/like your business page.

Now set up a business page–even if you don’t feel like you are a business this is the best way for artists to share their work and ongoing projects.  I post to my Facebook business page several times a day when I’m doing something that I think is interesting.   I may post a picture and short description of a new piece or a picture my booth set up at an art show.  I do a lot of field work and often post photos of the forests or lakes that I’m exploring.  It lets folks know that you are working, thinking and creating all of the time.

This is best done from my iPhone.  A can shoot a photo, write a caption and post from just about anywhere and it only takes 2-3 minutes. (I suspect that an iPad is in my future for this.)

From your business Facebook page create events and invite friends.  I have an art show in Greenville, Ohio next month.  Every one of my followers will be invited.  They may not be anywhere near Greenville, but they will know about it and may forward the invite to friends that do.


Forums are the bulletin boards of the internet.  Folks with similar interests will post questions and answers and offer information.  I build the MidWest UkeFest completely from forum participation.  Find a forum that interests you (If you sell on Etsy they are there) and participate.  Make sure you follow the rules, often blatant advertising is not allowed.  You don’t have to be blatant.  If you offer expert advice and incite, folks will be interested in what you make or do and will follow up.  Often you may announce relevant blog posts and link them to the forum.  Remember that links to your site are gold.


Many folks, myself included, don’t really get Twitter.  Twitter allows folks to post short messages to their followers.  These notes are fleeting, but can reach many, many folks.

The best way to develop a large following is to be pro-active about it.  When you begin you may follow up to 2000 folks, so follow 2000 people right away.  Don’t worry about your interest level in these tweets.  You don’t have to read them, you are quickly establishing a presence.  I did seek out folk/art/traditional art/tourism folks to follow.  Many of these folks will immediately, like lemmings, follow you back.  This is your core of followers.  You will pick up other, more interested and relevant followers over time from links on WordPress and Facebook.

Link your WordPress account  to Twitter and every one of your blog postings will be announced to your Twitter followers. It’s hard to believe that folks are sitting around reading their Twitter feeds, but they do.

When I list a new carving on Etsy I tweet the listing.  Make sure to mention Etsy in the tweet.  It’s not unusual for me to get 20-30 hits on an Etsy page within seconds of posting it on Twitter.  You can set up Etsy to automatically send your new listings to Twitter, but I don’t use it.  I like to watch the hits jump up when I do it myself!

Seek out and read about building blog traffic.  There are loads of blogs about this!


My storefront is hosted at Etsy. I stated that carefully.  I don’t say that I sell on Etsy.  Etsy is not liked eBay and other sales sites that generate their own traffic.  Etsy is wonderfully popular, but your items will not sell if you simply list them and sit back.  You must work, all of the time, to drive customers to the storefront and to make purchases.

I don’t want to take a lot of time talking about Etsy marketing today.  It’s an amazing service that supports listing products and collecting money.  It is a wonderful and inexpensive virtual storefront.  Within their forums are hundreds of posts about how to drive sales.

You must drive your customers to Etsy.  This may make up a great deal of the content in your blog and facebook posts.  List new work and point folks to your Etsy storefront.  Write about field work or new technique and send folks to Etsy.

(Note- Don’t tell live customers at sales about your Etsy storefront unless they ask a direct question.  If they think they can go home and take their time purchasing at their leisure you may have lost a sale at the show.)

  Square – Point of Sale Credit Cards

Though not social networking the Square may be the best thing that ever happened to independent artists.  For less than 3% a transaction and no monthly or service fees you can set up and account and begin to take credit cards this afternoon!  The Square works with smartphones and iPads to put a credit card swiper and cash register in the vendors hands.  Even the cardreader is free.  At a recent weekend show, I used my Square and had the entire proceeds from the show in my bank account the following morning.

QR Codes

QR Codes (Quick Response Code) is a barcode-like square symbol that when scanned with a smartphone will lead the user to any website, image or phone number.  Codes can be generated on many websites and downloaded as a jpeg.  These codes are beginning to show up on major brand products to that consumers can find additional information.  I have a QR code that I keep posted in my booth at art shows.  I also have a huge one on the cargo box on my bicycle.  There are folks that cannot resist scanning and seeing where it leads them.


Pinterest is the new kid on the social media block.  It has been labelled, fairly or not, a women’s social network.  (That’s fine with me, most of my customers are women.) Participants virtually pin favorite images from the web onto their virtual bulletin board and can browse and explore the images pinned by friends.  There is potential for finding ways to get images of your work pinned in strategic and popular place. I’ve only begun to explore this.

A Bit About Tone and Voice

Social networks like facebook and Twitter are just that–social.  Folks don’t like to be advertised to.  There are a couple of things to keep in mind to avoid annoying your playmates.  Provide leadership, information, leads and advice generously.  Folks can overlook the occasional plea for some business if it’s offset with something of value.  Several years ago I was called to task on this.  They were right, I appeared pushy.

Just remember the rules your parents taught you–be kind, be generous, treat people like you wish to be treated.

Post Often

I try to post daily on Etsy, WordPress and Twitter.  I don’t, but that’s the goal.  When you post consistently folks will have reason to check in.  If things go unchanged for days or weeks they will give up on you. On busy days I might post a few pictures or re-blog something that someone else wrote.  When I have time I’ll write longer pieces like this. Tell your story.  Get something up there.

Learning More

There are many great resources that can lead you to develop strong social media skills.  Check out the bookstore. Search the blogs (and leave comments).  Watch what others do.

My favorite resource is Craftcast.  Host Alison Lee (Also my little sister’s name) taps fantastic artists, usually in fiber, precious metal clay or silver to discuss their creative thought and journeys.  Every once in a while she interviews someone regarding maximizing social media.  Most of what I do comes from these interviews.  Her shows also feature current events and marketing hints.   Listen to the podcasts (available on itunes) and glean what you can.  Unfortunately the descriptions tell very little about the content of each episode.

If you have comments or questions regarding how I use social media (remember, I’m no expert) feel free to comment here.  I answer all blog comments–I know you don’t want to be ignored.

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I’ve been working with Traditional Arts Indiana for many, many years–performing, running workshops and demonstrating.  This Thursday I will be joining my daughter, Hannah Davis and Traditional Arts Indiana intern, to talk about social networking.

My initial reaction, when approached to do this, is that I’m no expert in social media.  Upon reflection I do have something to talk about.  I’ve been networking with traditional artists since I began writing letters to wooden boatbuilders in the late 1970s.  The internet has made these kinds of interactions cheap and immediate.  I’m no expert, but I do have something to share.

From the Traditional Arts Indiana website:

Social Networking for Artists and Performers: Developing and Maintaining an Online Presence

Want to use social media — sign up for a Facebook page, begin to tweet, start a blog — to promote your work, but don’t quite know how? Feel like what you’re already doing isn’t quite enough? Join TAI and Hamilton County artist and social networking afficionado Geoff Davis online on April 5 at 4:30 p.m. EDT (UTC−04:00) for our next webinar.

Davis, a woodcarver, musician, and educator, will introduce sites and explain how to use them, describe the best methods for attracting more fans and followers, and explain new opportunities to sell work online. In addition to covering the basics, Davis will also introduce new tools to improve what artists are already doing.

Read the rest of the article here.

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I’ve been absent from keeping up this blog over the last week and apologize.  I’ve been preparing for the Indiana Artisan Marketplace beginning in just a few hours at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.  I can’t take a lot of time for build-up, but this is the finest art/fine craft show that I’ve ever been involved with — as an artist or as a buyer.  This is not a show to be missed.

(Aside – This group really treats their artists right.  We pulled up the van yesterday and a volunteer loaded my stuff in for me!)

I’ll try to post images throughout the show from my iPhone.  If I am able to move around (I expect to be busy) I will try to share the work of other artists.

50 Little Birds has two booths this year — I hope that I am the plate spinner that I think I am — one will be my sales booth and a second bootht o teach and demonstrate bird carving and painting.  Please stop and chat a bit.

I would like to thank friend and woodcarver, Dennis Maddox, of Noblesville for his help yesterday.  There were a few construction glitches and he was the man to solve the problems fast.  Dennis has been carving at local golf coaurses.  It seems that golf course like to turn their dead trees into large carvings.  Recently Dennis carved a huge golf club for Crooked Stick Golf Course and a trio of Great Blue Heron for the golf course at Eagle Creek Park.

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Oranges are one of the favorite foods of the Baltimore Oriole.  I find the bird and orange visually appealing because they are the same color!  (The orange and black contrast of this oriole is striking, even without the fruit.)

The base is constructed of found wood — from an old painted sign that I dragged from the wreckage of a burned-out Victorian grocery —  and a croquet ball sporting its original orange paint.

This piece will be available at the Indiana Artisan Marketplace.

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I was interviewed yesterday for an article in Travel Indiana Magazine.  I like interviews.  I like talking about my work, inspirations and my creative process. (That’s why I have this blog.)

There are two questions, that I’m asked a lot, that cause me problems-

  • How long does it take to make a bird ?
  • What’s your favorite _______?

The first question is no longered answered.  Ever.

My projects begin with field work and book research and end with a painted and mounted bird.  Sometimes there are many steps and sketches and patterns and trials.  Sometimes I sit down and knock it out in a few hours.   In some cases, like the skin-on-frame cardinal, this process took years.  How long is difficult to quantify in a way that is meaningful.

When folks get an idea of the time involved in producing a piece they begin to calculate the figure in terms of profit and wages.  Without understanding the lifetime of acquiring a specialized skill set, maintaining a studio, building show displays, research, travel, lodging, meals, printing, bank fees and taxes it is impossible to understand and interpret the time/wages/profit relationship.  Folks still try so I don’t supply the numbers.

Quick aside – My wife recently had many serious eye surgeries (She’s better, thanks.) and spent five or six hours under the knife.  It would be crazy for me to think I could figure out how much the doctor made each hour.

Learn more about this here.
I’ve no logical or ethical reason for disliking the second question.  It’s just hard for me to answer.

I don’t pick absolute favorites.

I don’t have a favorite movie.  I don’t have a favorite book.  I don’t have a favorite song.  I don’t even have a favorite ukulele.

My interests change with my projects.  My interests change with my research.  My interests change with need.

My favorites are lists.

Yesterday I was asked what my favorite bird was.  I gave an answer, but not just one, because it was expected — the common crow and the belted kingfisher.

I present here a list of favorite birds.  It’s in no particular ranking and birds may move on and off the list as my projects and experiences evolve.

  • Common Crow –  This is a sound memory.  My happiest moments of childhood — foggy Maine mornings — include a soundtrack of crow calls.  Once I was touring a college campus with my family.  My wife turned and found I was gone and asked the group if they had seen me.  One observant woman reported that I had wondered off talking to the crows.
  • Belted Kingfisher – A wonderful, resourceful, chattering clown.  this bird did play a minor role in my Maine summers, but moved onto the favorites list when I observed one outwit an attacking Cooper’s hawk.  The bird nests in long underground tunnels.  Pretty cool!
  • Blue Jays –  I’ve a love hate relationship with blue jays.  Every time I hear one I am returned to my grandparents’ wooded Philadelphia yard — another favorite childhood place.  One a couple of occassions I’ve witnessed blue jays killing other birds for no apparent reason — once dropping from a tree onto a boat I was building.  A few years ago I could not spot a blue jay.  This went on for months.  I heard them, but never saw one.  I’ve added peanuts to my feeders and now have loud daily visits.
  • Baltimore Orioles – This is about aesthetics.  I’ve few early memories of orioles.  They are pretty.  I’ve always like black and orange and it all comes together on the oriole in grand style.  I’ve not seen an oriole nest, but if I do it’ll be another reason to love them.
  • Red Winged Blackbird – These guys let me know that spring is here.  Like the oriole, I love the red winged blackbirds’ colors — black, red and yellow.
  • Penguins – I don’t know much about penguins.  I’m not driven to learn more.  But, boy are they cute!  I loved watching the penguins at the old Indianapolis Zoo in Washington park.
  • Bufflehead Ducks – Many years ago my step-daughter gave me a gift certificate at a local woodworking retailer.  On a complete whim I purchased Antique-Style Duck Decoys: Contemporary Techniques to Carve and Paint in the Folk Art Tradition by Tom Matus.  This book may be the reason I eventually began to carve birds and is without a dount my inspiration for distressing my birds.  I was hooked on waterfowl and began to haunt areas I thought should be full of migrating waterfowl.  I never found anything but cold and wet grass.  Last year I was driving by a modern suburban neighborhood and spotted some tiny ducks.  I stopped the car and identified a pair of bufflehead and a pair of redheads.  These were my first really good ducks!  I’ve since learned where to look and see great ducks every week. This week I’ve seen goldeneyes, buffleheads, redheads and hooded mergansers.
  • Chickadees – I remember a tiny window feeder in my boyhood bedroom.  From my bed I could see chickadees visiting, taking one seed, flying away to eat and returning for the next.  It’s probably the first time I learned a specific bird feeding behavior.  I love their friendly call, ” chick-a-dee-dee-dee!”  It wasn’t until a few years a go I learned that my Indiana chickadees weren’t the same as my Maine chickadees.  In central Indiana we’ve Carolina chickadees.  Maine has black-capped.
  • Double Crested Cormorant – From our Maine front porch we’d watch these sleek black birds fish.  They stayed under for, what seemed, an eternity and swam several dozen feet.  On take off they beat their wingtips on the water leaving a traing of concentric circles on the surface.  I was taken completely by surprise the first time I saw one in Indiana.  I was canoeing tiny Cicero Creek below Morse Reservoir in Noblesville when one surface adjacent to the canoe.  I’m not sure which of us was most surprised!
  • Osprey – Another Maine regular.  When I was young most osprey were gone from the Maine waterfront.  When DDT was banned and it worked its way out of the foodchain osprey made a speedy recovery.  From our front porch you could watch three nests.  Their calls were heard all day.  It was hard to believe that they had ever been rare.  I see them regularly when canoeing White River in Hamilton County.

This really just scratched the surface.  I could name another ten with no problem.  heck I could name ten waterfowl or passerines!



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I’ve shared before that I am thrilled to be involved with what Io consider the most significant traditional arts and food event in Indianapolis, if not the Midwest, the Indiana Artisan Marketplace.

This is a classy show and demands classy display.  Last year I designed a portable gallery space with floor covering, bright lights, sales counter and storage.  It is a beautiful booth and I love to use it to show my work.

With that finished I thought I was off the hook for heavy duty building and planning for this year’s event.  That changed when I learned earlier today that I am slated to demonstrate my work at this year’s event.  This is a good thing — a wonderful thing!  I’m a life-long educator and there is no better way for me to talk about my work than to teach folks how it’s done.

For demonstration space I’ve awarded a 10′ x 10′ space adjacent to my booth.  This demonstration areas are well placed and ensure that my booth is well placed.  The challaenge now is to design this space to maximize visibility, teaching potential and to drive sales.

This means I need work space, signage to interpret what I am doing and another person (or two or three) all weekend so that I can serve my customers in both locations.

I’m really looking forward to doing this.

I need some input.  What would you like to see me do?  Build a skin-on-frame bird?  Carve and paint many typical forms?  Begin projects from reference photos and drawings and complete carvings?  Put wood and knives in hands and teach carving?

I have the ability to move the majority of my woodshop to shows.  I developed tools storage and folding benches when I used to build ukuleles on site.

Please share your thoughts!

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