Friday, October 12, 2018

Christy Geis

Haven't you ever thought, "I need a t-shirt that says: Blah blah blabbedy blah." Or "Jason is ALWAYS saying XYZ... I need to get him a mug with that on it." I have your connection right here!

This week's entrepreneur is my cousin Christy! She recently went back to school and decided that a crafty entrepreneurial venture would fit better with her school demands than working for someone else on their terms. She started Christy Jean's Creations in 2016 with wreaths for all occasions and has since expanded to her description, "seasonal happiness for your home or for gifts. I make wreaths for any/all occasions, T-shirts, personalize tumblers, and I have even began to dabble in a tad bit of wood signs. I make your ideas come to life."
Wine glass tumblers!
Customized as you like it.
I asked Christy my generic series of questions and she brought up a couple of topics that artists of all types can identify with. Her favorite part of the business is "making customers happy when they receive their goodies!" But, of course! Artists love hearing, "this is even better than I imagined." Usually when a customer asks for a customized item, it is with the knowledge that they don't have quite the same level of skills or eye to do it themselves. They give the task to a creative person with the tools and the eye to do it for them. The problem comes when there is a different conception in the customer's mind or there is some element of miscommunication. Christy admits this is the worst part of artsy entrepreneurship. This is not unusual at all. I can say from personal experience that sometimes, we, the customer, have too much vision and don't trust our hired artist as much as we should. I find it works best to turn the whole idea over to the artist and let them do the job we trust them with. Christy has an eye for color and artistic balance that I think is completely trustworthy!
T-shirts for families, businesses, or one-off ideas.
One of my favorite Christy Jean projects was a series of Halloween wreaths she did. It might be a little late to order a custom Halloween wreath this year, but if you're in the northwest area of Houston and could avoid shipping, you might be able to squeeze in a request. I'll leave you with this last photo... Like her shop on Facebook and see if she can't make someone on that Christmas list of yours happy!
Wahahahaaaaaaa.... Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 05, 2018

Lisa Klein

Of course, I wouldn't interview someone I didn't like or didn't respect, but when I asked Lisa the same series of questions that I ask all of my entrepreneur interviewees, what I got back was inspiring and uplifting. This is another time that I will basically cut and paste what she had to say. She is just too eloquent and positive to butcher her phrases.

I have known Lisa Klein for some years, first from our workings at Texas Renaissance Festival, and now as friends and supporters of one another's work. She etches, she sketches, she enamels, and makes pretty things with stones. Her work is divided into three businesses although they do cross paths. IvyMoon is her main business. She makes geek-pins and fun things for the Renaissance folks. The Copper Bone, which started her entrepreneur empire in 2006, is where you can find unique and fun pet tags and pet jewelry. Her third branch is Ely & Ivy (pronounced Ellie) where she gets to have fun with more intricate patterns and jewelry ideas.
These Trekkie cats love their jewelry!
Here's what Lisa has to say about life as an artsy entrepreneur:
  • Did you go to school for this? 
I did go to school for this!  I have a Bachelor of Fine Art in Sculpture specializing in Jewelry and Metalsmithing from The University of Houston.  I was actually an Interior Design major.  My parents had lectured it into me that I must find an actual paying "profession".  At U of H, the Interior Design department was part of the School of Art.  As an Art major, we were required to take one semester in every specialized line of study.  So, my second year, after floundering through Interior Design, Drawing, and Painting, I was finally introduced to both Sculpture and Jewelry and Metalsmithing.  I was in heaven!  I had definitely found my calling and I informed my parents that I was going to change my major to Jewelry and Metalsmithing.  
Beautiful mandalas.
  • What is your favorite part of artsy entrepreneurship?
Absolute freedom and the people I meet.  I love being surrounded by other artists!  Every new person is an inspiration.  When I say freedom, I am only a slave to what I put upon myself.  If I want orders, I work to get orders, then I have to fill the orders, which can be very time consuming and take weeks at a time.  If I want to do a show, I just sign up for that show, which means I obligate myself to all of the time constraints, pressure to stock inventory, rules of the show, etc.  However, it is entirely my choice what I do and when I do it.  I know what I need to do to make my business successful and that's what I do.  There are days when I only work an hour or two (typically this is a bad sign because it means I have very few orders at that time!) and there are days when I work 18 hours just to get my items created for my customers.   The flexibility is very nice, the creative freedom is something I just crave.  I'm not sure I'd ever be able to give up my own business because I simply cannot give up my creativity.  It's not something  you just turn on and off.  
Badges of honor...
  • What is the worst part, or what do you fear?
Retirement.  Doing this on my own is tough and while I have job security (I'm never going to fire myself!), I work straight commission.  Which means I live sale to sale, twenty dollars at a time.  Every penny I make goes towards my living expenses or back into the business.

Right now I have a part time job that I love. I often think about moving along to another full time job with benefits and vacation time, but I know that even if I did that, I would never be able to give up my business. When I look at the jobs that are out there and consider that I've been running my own business full time for nearly eight years, I realize that even with the benefits of a steady paycheck, I still earn more at my own business, where I make all of the rules.   Then I think, "Wow!  What if I had a job working for someone else AND I ran my business??"  It's fun to think about the combination of both benefits and artistic freedom, but then... when would I sleep??
  • Self-care… It’s not always easy to be your own boss. What do you do to be kind to yourself?
I'm not someone who can sit still unless I am utterly, totally exhausted. Plus, I am an admitted television addict!  I learned to crochet from my mother and have taken that to an extreme with intricate blanket patterns, which is what I do to relax at home.  I make crocheted blankets while watching hours of, as my friend calls it, my "Stories."  I am obsessed with Outlander, amongst many other shows.  I also spend a few nights a week playing Dungeons and Dragons with my friends.  As an avid reader, it's hard to find time to read, but I listen to audio books whenever I'm in the studio or in the car.  And finally, whenever I can, I spend time with my brother and nephews, who live out of state, and my father, who lives very close by!
Birthday gift, anyone???
Lisa touched on what I think is the hardest part for most self-employed artists, retirement and benefits that come with working for a steady paycheck for a company. We work when there is work, which is often far more hours than normal people because you never know what tomorrow will bring. It's a good thing we love what we do!

Lisa makes really beautiful things that would make your gift-giving struggles much easier!!  Check out her shops :-)

Monday, October 01, 2018


Dublin, Texas, that is! I'm quite excited to be going to Dublin, Texas this weekend to check out the new Things Celtic, recently moved from Austin. I'll be playing a show there from 2 to 4 for the town's celebration of transportation. I plan on getting there early enough to enjoy some ice cream!!

Come enjoy some Irish music amidst small town Texas history!

Friday, September 28, 2018

Brian Kay

It's Entrepreneur Friday! This week's self-employed artist is Brian Kay. I'm not sure how long ago I met Brian, but it's been at least a few years now. We've done several gigs together for Istanpitta Medieval Music Ensemble. Brian's voice has a clarity and the rare ability to give life to songs from distant times and lands as if these songs were right here in our back pockets all along. Aside from a gorgeous voice, Brian is an extremely varied musical talent, so varied, in fact, that he is working on a series of YouTube videos on his channel to answer the often asked "What kind of music do you play?" On the same YouTube channel, you can hear/see him perform, and he has plans to interview other musicians. I highly recommend following his channel. I enjoy watching him grow as an artist, and I have no doubt you will too!

Brian, Al, Rosalind and myself at a 12th Night celebration.
I asked Brian a series of questions for this article and rather than botch his answers, I will copy a bit of what he had to say here. Every time I talk to him, I feel like I am talking to myself of 20 years ago...  yeah, that means I'm getting old - haha...  Maybe the familiarity points to some universality in the questions, ideas, struggles, and reasons for going on this artistic entrepreneur journey.
The modern musician.
What is your favorite part of artsy entrepreneurship?
There are many things to like about being an artistic entrepreneur. If I were to pick a favorite, it would have to be that there are times when it enables me to follow my muse and learn a new style of music or a new skill. I’m constantly expanding my set of skills, and lately I’ve started painting and doing wood working. Right now they are hobbies, but they could very well become another means of income in the future if I decide to pursue that route. I don’t always have that kind of free time, but the nature of my work is that I get hired for a period of time and become the musician necessary for that gig, then I might have a week, two weeks, or even a month off to work on my own artistic vision.

What is the worst part, or what do you fear?
It’s hard to say... Everybody has ups and downs in life and we all have an average level of performance. Sometimes we perform above our average and others below. But most of the time I’m right in the middle, and that middle has an upwards trajectory, and has ever since I’ve started playing music. In other words, I’m always getting better at what I do, and therefore my average level of performance is getting better. Still, there are times when I don’t feel well, or I find it hard to focus. It is during those times that I’m most at risk of performing lower than my standards. I always try to remain optimistic and be forgiving of myself when I’m unable to rise to the occasion. But I haven’t always been so forgiving of my imperfections. All of that said, I guess my greatest fear must be that I might become complacent or hit a plateau and not aspire for growth. Or that I may one day run out of ideas, which seems nearly impossible considering all of the ideas I have now. Still, it is a possibility.
Pondering his next big idea.

Self-care… It’s not always easy to be your own boss. What do you do to be kind to yourself?
I like how this question is framed! I used to be so hard on myself. I was a bad boss and a bad employee. I recently started to take better care of myself: changed my sleeping habits, diet, exercise routine, quit drinking alcohol. I have meditated daily since 2013, but I started to get more serious about my practice and to explore other methods of meditation. All of this led to me feeling better physically, mentally, and emotionally. It has culminated in me being more organized throughout the day and my productivity and creativity has exploded. 

If you're in Texas like me, it's worth noting that he'll be at Ye Ol' Texas Ren Fest October 13 and 14 with Istanpitta - a rare chance for you to catch this northerner live here in Texas. Go forth and subscribe to his channel and buy his works. Snoop... stalk... go on, you have permission!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Crafty Woes

I love putting things together all by myself.... except when my skills aren't QUITE up to it and I can't figure something out! ARG!  I am so smart, I just know I am - how can this stupid inanimate object win like this?!?!?

Yesterday, I popped open the pop-up trailer. I take it to Texas Ren Fair so that I can sleep comfortably off the ground, and so that a fellow musician can as well. It's clean, airy, and has two full beds. At the fair, I do not have electricity. When I first got this trailer, I used it at a fair with electricity and everything except the overhead light worked fantastically. I had a fridge and two outlets available as I liked. Coffee maker, lamp, cook top, even the next door neighbor ran an extension cord from my camper to his because there were no more official outlet posts in the campground. I ran quite a bit of electricity through this baby.

Now, the fridge flat won't come on. The outlets come on for about 60 seconds before flipping the breaker to my house. I have pulled unnecessary wiring. I have checked over what exists for breaks or loose connections. I hate to think that the breaker box itself might have gone south because that's not exactly cheap, but it's just about the last possible problem.

Being crafty is all fine and good until the craft gets craftier than you!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Texas Renaissance Festival

Texas Renaissance Festival starts this weekend. I can hardly believe it has been a whole year. This year, I will be performing only the first three weekend of November with Istanpitta. I take a brake every few years. Al Cofrin is truly a great weekend boss, but it is good to remind myself that this is his gig and I do have outside goals. One of my "free" weekends, I will be going to Dublin, TX to perform at Things Celtic's new location. It's good to get out and do my own thing... it's also great to be welcomed into the Istanpitta team each year.

Have fun, everybody!!! <3 nbsp="" p="">

Friday, September 21, 2018

Entrepreneur Highlights

I am getting ready to write a series of posts about entrepreneurs I know. As I sit here thinking about that, I realize MOST of them are artists. Musicians, painters, stained glassers, circus performers, dancers, and owners of companies that produce shows and employ people of all types. I know so many creative, amazing, funny, self-driven people. They inspire me every day. I hope that writing about one person each Friday, I will be inspired to act toward my own crazy goals, and possibly inspire someone out there in some way. I am looking forward to knowing my creative friends better!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Bird feeder

I made some bird feeders! I used a bunch of left over materials.

First, choose a length of 3 inch or so PVC. Spray paint it the color you want or the color you have. PVC deteriorates in the sun. Cut a couple inch piece off a 2x4 - this will carry the chain up through the middle of your PVC so that it doesn't tip over. Drill a hole in the middle of a melamine plate big enough for an eye-bolt to pass. Cut a couple of pieces of wire... anything will do. Drill a hole in the middle of your wire, or if it's bare wire, from a circle in the middle. Pass eye bolt through the wire and then down through the plate. If your eye-bolt has a corresponding bolt, make sure you have a washer and attach the bolt through the plate, eye side up. If your eye-bolt is just a screw bottom, take a piece of wood and attach it under the plate as if it was your bolt (that's what that white piece of wood in the photo is).  Bend a license plate to become the roof and drill a hole in the middle big enough for the chain to pass through easily.

 Now, time to assemble. Attach the chain to the eye bolt. Send the chain through the PVC pipe. Send the chain through the piece of 2X4. Screw the 2X4 to the top part of the PVC. You may need to pilot hole and then send in the screw so that you don't split the small piece of 2X4. Send the chain through the license plate. Hold it up and hang it!
The PVC should sit down on the wire allowing a bit of space for the bird seed to fall on the plate. Birds will perch on the wire or the edge of the plate. Lift the license plate and carefully pour seed in. The first few seeds might slip over the edge of the plate because gravity is fun like that, but you'll get the hang of it and the birds will love you!

Monday, September 17, 2018


Alesha Yamal, Cayla Cardiff and I met singing and playing for Al Cofrin's medieval band, Istanpitta, during the Texas Renaissance Festival. The three of us found that singing together was easy and fun, and we each had our own harmony strengths to offer. Vocal harmony is one of my absolute favorite things on earth. There is something about it that reaches for the soul in a depth that harmony by any other instrument doesn't quite venture.

The three of us have rehearsed for several years as our schedules have allowed. The last two years we were able to play at the Texas Renaissance Festival under Al's umbrella of Istanpitta. Every now and then, he leaves us to our own devices and we call ourselves MISStanpitta.

We had a rehearsal yesterday. I fall in love with these voices all over again. Most of our repertoire is Medieval for the sake of the one venue we so far have done. We have a few other songs in our back pockets just waiting for the day when we have a house concert or other small venue where we can sing and play everything!

Harmony.... ahhhhhhh, my soul.

Friday, September 14, 2018

I am an Entrepreneur

I am a do it yourselfer to the core. I am almost toxically independent. I am self-motivated within my own goals. All of these traits led me to entrepreneurship.... these things plus the fact that I am also very frugal.

Once upon a time, I was working at the SPCA/Humane Society in Austin, Texas. I was a clinic nurse assisting with spay and neuter surgeries as well as vaccinating and examining all incoming animals, and preparing their paperwork for adoption. One day, as I clocked in with one of those old fashioned time card stampers that make the loud KATHUNK every time someone clocks in or out, I looked over at our bulletin board. On that bulletin board was a flyer advertising the sale of a pet-sitting business. This was the very first time I had ever heard of pet sitting. It was also the very first time I heard of creating, naming, owning, and then being able to sell a service business. Business that sell goods, that's one thing, but service businesses... I guess I thought the grew like trees and just died when it was time. And maybe, they actually do.

I called the lady who was selling her business and asked many questions like, "How long did it take you to build this business?" "How long have you been in business?" "How much are you looking to sell the business for?" "How many clients do you care for in a week?" Her answers sparked my interest not in buying her business, but trying to start my own. It took 3 years to build her business to full time. She had been in business for five. She was asking $30,000 for her business. Well, if I could build my own business in three years while I worked part time somewhere else, why pay $30,000 for a list of clients who may or may not choose to hire me over someone else?

It wasn't long before the few clients I had took enough time that my schedule at the Humane Society was not compatible. I found a part time job at a vet clinic. Both the Humane Society and the vet clinic referred odd cases to me because of my medical care experience.  In one year, my business was in full swing and I let go of the part time job.

When I divorced and left Austin, I sent a letter to my clients offering a list of pet sitters I knew and trusted. I chose to begin a career in music. The process of building this business was much the same. To fill gaps in both my brain and my calendar, I began offering services as an organizer. The blending of service businesses is a great way to keep my creative music mind fresh and keep the sometimes monotonous chore of organizing from become too much of a chore.

I love entrepreneurship. I love shifting my businesses and ideas in directions that feel right to me. I like serving people of my choosing in the way I wish to contribute.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Container Kitchen Complete!

In the right hand margin of this blog, there are a list of labels. I encourage you to click the "Container House" label to see all of the posts showing the container as it progressed.

This container was an annoying eyesore from the day I moved onto the property. I tried to give it away, but it is wedged between powerlines and mature oak trees. It would not be easy to remove. The roof was hole-y and rusty which in turn rotted large portions of the floor.

Anne pulled the rotted floor out. She also scrubbed and scraped the rust from the roof. I designed a deck style floor so that water could pass through the floor rather than collect and rot. We installed this new floor the very day it arrived from Lowe's. I primed and painted the roof with a serious coating of paint sealer. I got to use my Wal-Mart sale sprayer to spray the interior and the exterior of this metal box. I bought it for $65 to spray the container house and it did a great job! I never expected to be able to use it again, but I guess I cleaned it well and on it sprays. Anne and I moved the garage shelves that previously lived beside the cabin creating a wall between the new outdoor kitchen and my new garage. The kitchen got 16 feet, and the garage got 24 feet. The container is 8 feet wide by 40 feet long. I cut windows and doors which we lifted to make awnings over every new opening.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Things Celtic, Dublin, Texas

I'll be singing some songs for a couple of hours at Things Celtic's new location in Dublin, Texas on October the sixth... I am looking forward to it! Come and visit!!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Cat Drop Off Day

It's been a get-things-done kind of week. Stoli and I came to Austin today. He will stay safely at his Auntie Pat's for twelve whole weeks. We arrived and within minutes it looked like he owned the place.

As an ex-on-the-road musician, I stayed on-the-road for a couple of months at a time before finding rest in a friend's home here and there. This upcoming stretch may be the longest on-the-road stretch I have ever done... it is certainly the FARTHEST I've ever road-tripped.

I have a few simple goals:
1. Don't stress out. Like ever. There is absolutely no reason to.
2. Take notes every day... details. I forget stuff later. Take notes.

Well, honestly, I think that's it. If I can manage to maintain my zen and take notes... everything else will be easy!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

For the Money

"Would you rather sell 100 book or give away 1000 copies to people who would read them?"

Why do we assume it's ok to ask artists to work for free??? If they really love art, they will just do it, for free, right? Wouldn't they rather their art be available in the world even if they don't get to eat?

Do doctors work for free because they love saving lives? Do teachers work for free because they love kids? Do lawyers work for free because they want to see justice done? Do police officers work for free because they love to make people feel safe? Do accountants work for free because they love numbers????

Ideally, we would all love our jobs. But whether we love our job, or rather our contribution to society, we should all get paid what the contribution is worth. Art is a contribution that can't even be quantified. It is found everywhere and makes nearly all facets of our lives better. From the architectural art of a building to the layout of the magazine in the doctor's office to the music you hardly notice in the grocery store. Art is everywhere and it matters. Artists should be paid whether they create art with love or with tortured hatred.

Sunday, May 13, 2018


Today, I built the counters in the outdoor kitchen. Everything went very well. Anne assisted as needed. There were no injuries... and now, I can't wait to finish it!!

Next: tile, trim, plumbing and finish the electrical... Keeping it simple and clean.