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
A Letter to Spring- From A Restless Moth Fairy- Photoshoot
Dear Springtime and Sunshine,
Not sure if you know, but it’s time to wake up, shake off the rain and get to shining.
These ups and downs of weather have me feeling a little restless. If I’m not able to get outside and play in the sun soon, I may develop a hunchback from all the slouching.
My house is feeling less ‘inspiring nest’ and more ‘bat cave’ by the day. I need to get out of here. Like all the flowers, I am straining my neck toward you, I’m looking for you, and I’m tired.
Springtime? Sun? Are you guys not talking to each other? Did winter not set the clock for you?
Since I saw you last, I planted all my bulbs, read stories to all my bulbs, told them all about you, and now they are waiting for you, too. I’ve dusted my special things, I’ve made this crazy chandelier with all the gifts you gave me from last year.
I arranged flowers, I baked you treats, and still you don’t come.
I sent you an invite to my tea party, yet still you don’t come.
I just want you to know that I’m ready. Bring on the gardening, flower tending, humming under fresh leaved trees, twirling in the grass, let’s do this!
With so much love and affection,
Enjoy these goodies from our recent Moth Fairy Shoot this Spring. This is part of our new endeavor to bring you inspiring (sometimes weird) shoots paired with DIYs for some of the pieces we’ve included. Be inspired, then build your own. You like this concept? Fantastic! Sign up to be sure you get all of them in your inbox:) See the links to the specific DIYs at the bottom.
Hey, We made videos of how to make FOUR items in this photoshoot! Perhaps you’d like to see?
Thank you to all the folks who partnered with us on this shoot!
Hair and Makeup Offwhite Makeup and Beauty
Furnishings: Vintage Ambiance
Photography, Creative Direction, Set and Props, Styling, Floral: Lola Creative for Curious Lola
Gorgeous Local Flowers: Seattle Wholesale Growers Market
Tips to evolve your business when a ‘life volcano’ erupts.
Life is full of transitions and shifts. Same goes for our businesses. But in a time when we feel pressed to find a niche, express your super focused brand, and do that thing consistently so you don’t confuse your audience, it can feel uncomfortable to allow your business to evolve with you.
At Lola Creative, we’ve (ehem, I’ve) had a few. First, just transitioning from a well paid corporate career with years of experience and a big ole bill of student loans to a fledgling floral design business took some guts. Then realizing we were more of a full event design company that makes custom fabrications was another turn. My biggest life/ business volcano however was when, almost a year ago,my volcano of a belly erupted into an actual human being. That has been the most startling adjustment to my business.
There’s a lot of trash-talk out there about the greedy business person trying to scrape what they can, but a lot of the folks in this industry left higher paying work for their current business. Why? Freedom maybe, greater connection with their customers, greater responsibility, to be able to create something of high quality and value, to do something that makes their heart all big and juicy, to work hard and watch that hard work pay off. Check, check, check, check….To do something that felt right, every day. To have your work and life aligned. To feel like work is your ‘life’s work.’ PURPOSE!
Parenthood, business changes, the loss of a loved one, these things can take your precious alignment and smash its contented face in. So, if that’s happened, or happening to you, here are some tips I’ve found to be helpful when what you thought IS, is no longer.
- Practice Patience. I know the ‘be patient’ advice can make your eyeballs twitch. But practice again and again to be patient with yourself. You need time to get your bearings. Keep things bobbing along or lay low until you gain clarity. If you just had a life volcano erupt, you may need MONTHS, to get back to where you feel you are clear headed.
- Feel like your path has split into two? Be Curious and find Creativity in both. Get to know each with respect to the other. Can I go this way and still maintain this way? How does it feel to do what I was doing while also giving attention to this new path?
- Find Your Core Driver. For me, becoming a parent felt like I might have to give up my creative life. Being a present, not-frazzled mom was paramount, and early on, I felt I could not do both parenting and running a business well. If you find that change is necessary, try distilling what is essential about your business. In what ways does it contribute to your sense of purpose and joy? How can you still get those things while still thriving in your new direction? When you are focused on the purpose, the means is not as important
- Release your identity. It’s hard to accept your purpose and the changes that truly support it if you are locked up in identity illusions. Stuff like, “well I’m a ______, it’s what I do, it’s who I am.” Puhleeez. You are a shifting, spreading, throbbing hunk of life and passion. You are a creative force, girl, no matter what you change. It’s okay to be indescribable.
- Break the Rules. Maybe your path isn’t going to look like you thought it would. Maybe your way of doing things doesn’t look like the way others are doing it. Perhaps there are social rules that don’t really fit into your new world. Liiiiiiike, maybe your baby hangs out in a baby corral at the workshop and gets used to wearing noise canceling ear muffs when you have to use the power tools…. just an example.
- Accept the Seasons. If not now, then maybe later. Or maybe not. When later is now, maybe something else. It actually is all-good. It is okay to take a break. It’s okay to stop and it’s okay to start again. It’s okay to say no to one path to fully embrace the new one.
Messy. Pretty. Pretty Messy. Glorious. Puzzling. Filled with light. Pissing rain. Whatever. Bring it on.