Lead with Art- How to Become Necessary
When you become NECESSARY to your clients, trust and freedom come naturally. Here’s how I learned this lesson when I learned to Lead With Art.
When I left my professional career as a landscape architect I didn’t know quite where I was headed. I was running away from a desk job, away from a machine that I felt was producing less than excellent quality, and running toward all the things I thought I needed.
One of those needs was a feeling that I needed to prove that my artistic skills and gifts were something that people wanted to pay money for. This was a big one because I knew I was talented but had never experience it valued.
No one had ever paid me lots of money for my artistic talents.
For speed and accuracy? yes.
For quality work? Yes.
For the ability to get a job done? Yes.
But no one had ever wanted to pay me lots of money because they valued my work artistically. And I wanted it to be VERY valued.
Because it wasn’t valued, I stopped offering it. Just stopped doing what I do naturally- find ways to bring different ideas and materials together artfully. And that’s when I broke down and broke out.
I wanted to support myself with my artistic talents and was set on figuring out how.
I’d never done it but I’d seen it done.
In college, I thought I would be a public artist so I got two degrees, one in landscape architecture and one in sculpture. I had the opportunity to be the assistant to a successful public artist for a few months. After working for him, I approached the Seattle arts commission (I think now it’s the office of arts and cultural affairs). I started a special project that would evaluate public art projects by landscape architecture design standards. Through those two experiences, I got to see how professional artists are chosen, how tax money is managed for major civic art installations, and how an individual artist placed on a build team presented to and interacted with the rest of the design and building team- so architects, city planners, construction managers, civil engineers, structural engineers.
It was fascinating.
What I saw was the power of maintaining a vision. Nobody wants to mess with the strange, mysterious artist’s vision.
In these meetings, after an artist is selected for a big project like a light rail station, The artist is on the design team to build out this project.
And what I saw was artists OWNING their art, OWNING its purpose and importance, and acting as a protector and steward for the kind of impact their art would have on the community.
Understanding, collaborative, but unapologetic.
For the most part, the engineers, architects, budget managers, would do what they could to make the artists vision possible. City code was reinterpreted, entries and windows were reoriented, ground was regraded, structures reinforced. They knew they didn’t need to fully understand why, they just knew that they needed to trust and find a way to fulfill this strange person’s request.
When I started as an art minded landscape architect, I thought, hot dog, I know how this is done! Let’s start making some earth art!
What do you think happened?
Suddenly budgets were too tight, construction schedules were too far behind, it didn’t work with the engineering approach, some other component cost more so my budget would have to be reduced.
My perceived value was different because at that time and place, I was not considered an artist. I was a mere landscape architect who had to obey the boring laws of all the other non-artists.
I see the EXACT SAME PHENOMENON working in floral design, and I imagine, every profession.
So now I know this:
LEAD WITH ART
I’m not saying that leading as an artist will get you everything you want; that everything you propose is not still flexible to your client’s needs, but in my experience an effort is made to get you what you need because art has value… to some people… my kind of people maybe yours too.
And here’s a story about how leading with art played out in Lola.
Early on I would really take anything. Even if I wasn’t a good fit. I could always do something creative with the job.
Now, Our big break project came in 2013 when we got a call for a tech celeb’s birthday party. He was eclectic and would need a lot of strange things made.
I would need to put together a proposal asap. I had minimal information about what was happening or who this was happening for. Oh and I had 4 weeks to concept, get sign off, build, and install this massive event. And I would never meet the actual client- the birthday boy.
I asked how I would be able to do this without some sort of info about the project- with no budget range. She said, give me a number that there’s no way this could ever go over, and that will be the budget.
I said 50K because at the time, I thought, there’s no way anything could ever go over 50K. (Palm to forhead…. Groan.)
I asked how they found me and they had said that they asked the catering manager at their venue and she had said that Lola Creative was the only people she knew that could pull it off.
And then it occurred to me….
….The reason for that is on all of those small jobs that were not quite right, I would make an extra piece that was totally represented our company.
I’d walk the catering manager, planner, anyone in the industry over to look at it, and say with joy why I loved it so much.
This catering manager didn’t see all the boring stuff I had made during my first couple of years. She saw all the stuff I asked her to see, all the stuff I practically shoved in her face.
Because of that, I am now the only person that comes to mind when she had a golden egg to hand out!
That particular kind of golden egg, anyway.
So whatever is your art. Whether that be an amazing service, or a unique technique- whatever you want the responsibility to be known for. Lead with that. Put it in people’s faces even when they don’t ask for it.
That way people will know, when they get YOU, they get THIS, and that is how it has to be.
That way when people want THIS, they know they have to have YOU. You are necessary for THIS.
Come with an artist’s mindset about that and start seeing a new freedom among clients who want that thing and trust you exclusively to deliver it.
Oh man I get pumped up about this.
Lead with Art!
If you’re struggling with leading with art. Sign up to our inner floral posse. We talk about this sort of stuff. AND we have an upcoming product (September) that may make leading with art in your company a little easier 🙂
Ps, The images are not from that special break-through event. I was under a non-disclosure agreement and could not take pictures.
The beautiful people that always lead with art include Jojo Dyckhoff (Bamboo Beats) and Carlisia Minnis (Mac Fashion House).
I still love these photos so much 🙂 taken by Alante Photography
Rulz for throwing a crazy fun bash- the Bamboo Beats 411 Party
This is the second year we’ve participated in Bamboo Beats’ yearly bash and it’s always high on the ridiculous fun meter. We’ve compiled some of the best shots of the night courtesy of Alante Photography to assist in describing what I think is BB’s winning mix of freak and fun.
The reason for this may be obvious. We want more of this dancing on one’s head business…
…and less of what this orange shirted gal has to offer. This is me mastering the good ole clap, stomp, wiggle, wiggle. My other move is the shaka-legga-shaka-legga-shaka-legga-shaka. But for some reason Alante Photography decided not to document that.
Number 2: Have a little “Whuuuh?!” Factor
We love the Bamboo Beats parties because they allow us to make the stuff that typically aren’t requested. Unexpected decor is key to an unusually fun party. Have expected decor and you can have a usually fun party. When people walk into a party, I want them to feel like anything could happen. It drives up the adrenaline, opens up awareness, and sends the guest exploring for more uncommon details. Pull together some appropriately “out-there” looks and you are on your way to priming your guests to be jumping in anticipation for the night to come.
For this 9 foot tall cardboard, street art-astic flower urn, we partnered with artist Eli. Eli is a mysterious artist and so we don’t know what his last name is or if Eli is even really his name at all. He provided us with the night’s motto, “GET WEIRD.”
We set up the back room of Within Sodo as a ceremony set with 9 foot tall arch-screen sprayed up by Eli, our racetrack aisle runner, orange tree, and decals on the chairs with words from Digital Underground’s 1991 hit “Kiss You Back”
Number 3: Good Eats
The importance of the unexpected is transferable to food as well. Here we’ve got Baked Custom Cakes with adorable cupcakes in a shocking color palette, but whuuuuh? A boombox cake and a splatter paint cake? Can’t wait to put them in my mouth. And by the way, those are our newest vase acquisitions with metal flower armatures. So cool.
This guy clearly loves street food.
Number 4: Drinks for thirsty dancers.
Nothing like a Hilliard’s to sooth a break dancing injury.
Number 5: Freak Show
What’s he doing? taming a rabid rhino? Making furniture levitate with his eyes? Is he a human statue? No, he’s Valentine of Valentine’s Men’s Grooming Salon. So he’s not really a freak but his skills are freakish. Just his meticulous care for these dude’s heads leaves crowds mesmerized and turns manscaping into a spectacle. And this sort of unexpected spectacle goes a long way in making people remember a party.
Number 6: Document!
Soundtrek took place last week in Capitol Hill’s new Melrose Market Studios and it. was. rad. I haven’t had that much fun since before I was a bona fide adult. And, I think that happened loosely around the time I stopped spray-painting flames on my beaters.
So how about a little show and tell?
This happy shindig was the brainbaby of Bamboo Beats DJs– as a thank you to their past and present clients. They wanted a futuristic themed night: tron, glowey things, that sort of stuff. They asked a select bunch of people to help throw a great bash. Part of that bash was a fashion show. Of course, I freaked out at the chance to do flowers and decor for an unusual theme. Halfway jokingly, I told Jojo that I would only do it if I could make a mohawk for one of the models, but after meeting with Carlisia Minnis of Mac Fashion House, the mohawk was ON!
We began the sequencing with a bold entrance piece that consisted of a wall of tubing to tie in the existing piping. Glass cylinders filled with green acrylic and that goo stuff were up-lit and side-lit. Yucca, Phormium, and tulips were placed, roots exposed, atop the cylinders and fixed by an acrylic cap. Some of the plants were upside-down. The effect of the bare root silhouettes was eerie and very cool. The plants are now in a less exposed/ tortured state in my yard and are still looking very cool.
I’ll post some more photos on my Facebook page later this week that really show the roots a lot better.
We placed a luminary on each bistro table. The vase was wrapped with a paper cutout designed and cut by yours truly to mirror the Soundtrek logo. A submersible, teal LED light was placed in each vessel.
I had an urge to make an acrylic chandelier. We designed and cut this piece for this event. It hangs from a painted hula hoop. Acrylic does amazing things with light. The edge is like a fiber optic light transmitter. It glows even in low light. We kept all the pieces if you would like this funky thang to hang at your event. The best part of this chandelier?…..
… the fashion designer liked it so much that she routed her models runway to end under the chandelier…. Did I mention there was a fashion show? There was a fashion show! A futuristic fashion show! Mac Fashion House put on a seriously good show and even let me make a few things for the models to wear.
This model is holding our metallic cone bouquet with carnations.
This model is holding our Calla Lily spray. One of the Lilies are wrapped in a cut-out neon green wrap. The Stems are wrapped with two metal bands.
I love these clothes. this guy is wearing our epaulets and funky succulent boutonniere. You can see a closeup if you scroll down.
This model is wearing our wrist cuff and acrylic boutonniere.
I will never forget the reaction to this look. The curtain opened, and everyone gasped. Maybe because the model and look is gorgeous, but I like to think it’s because my bouquet is so fierce it’s dangerous. She is also wearing our custom designed and cut acrylic necklace.
This model is also wearing a wrist cuff.
yes, the suit is lined with glowing line. He’s also wearing our kickass boutonniere.
I thought I’d throw in a bouquet that was halfway normal so that people don’t think I can only do weird designs. It kind of stood out in a bad way in my opinion when compared to the rest, but looks pretty good on its own below.
And here’s the final look with our helmet, tulle mohawk veil. She is also holding our Saturn ring feather bouquet.
This simple bouquet is made of three metal cones each fixed with two metal fasteners. The flower is the unfussy and fragrant carnation.
The feather Saturn ring bouquet’s middle is composed of carnations.
Danger bouquet! Sharp. Lethal. So cool it needs two photos! The ball is ribbon with ends cut at a sharp angle.
Calla lily spray with metal bands.
This is a detail to another truly spectacular floral piece that I will have to upload more photos to my Facebook later for you to see.
My tissue paper pouf light made an appearance and shed some light for Valentine to prune the landscape on this guy’s head. Valentine is amazing. The words meticulous and precise don’t quite cut it. The guys coming out of this chair were transformed. Check it out at Valentinesseattle.com
My fabric chandelier also made an appearance.
Other amazing people who contributed was Kim of Alante Photography– obviously talented by the work you’ve seen here. Rochelle, my awesome assistant who will not enjoy my usage of fragmented sentences. Ravishing Radish Catering who I am personal fans of and friends with. I like to eat their food. Baked cakes who did this amazing creation…
Ummm…. this is a cake. Judy of ItsJudyTime renewed my love of fake eyelashes and taught me some makeup tips. The Invisible Hostess crew kept a drink in our gyrating hands, Blue Danube who is behind the scenes with design and production but it SO makes a difference when the lighting, audio, etc is perfecto. Blue Elephant created some neat dangely banners in the entrance, 321 foto took some hilarious photos in their booth. Like this one of me and my friend Kate: