Name: Michelle Casey
Company Name: Collage Your World
Note from Jenn: Michelle Casey is a talented artist and workshop leader. Her mixed-media collages are gorgeous and haunting as you can see from three of her journal pages from her “Pieces of Me” show. Michelle participated in a class with me last year. I love Michelle’s enthusiasm, willingness to stretch out of her comfort zones, and her commitment to growing her creative business. Read Michelle’s thoughtful reflections to find out more about her inspiring journey as an artist and creative entrepreneur.
I create, exhibit and give workshops relating to collage/mixed media art.
I developed the Collage Your World series of workshops to inspire people to create their own unique personal visions of their world through art. Ones that reflect their personal histories, beliefs, values, wishes, dreams, etc. as well as being something they can share with others. Pieces created in the workshops are one-of-a-kind objects (greeting cards, journals, commemorative objects, creative touchstones, etc.) that may be used for many purposes in one’s everyday life. As a woman of colour of mixed east/west heritage educated in the fields of contemporary art, popular culture and oral history, I believe I have a unique perspective to offer students. Coupled with my education, my practice in the worlds of contemporary and craft-based art give me a vast array of insights to draw from, and offer students, in terms of strategies they can use to develop their own distinctive visual narratives
How has the Right-Brain Business Plan helped you? What is different for you and your business after approaching planning in a creative, visual way?
Upon graduating from art school, a decade ago, I feared any talk of business and art. In art school it was a common belief that making art and making lots of money didn’t go together: one did art for sacred social/political purposes and talk of money defiled those purposes. As well, having very little knowledge of how a business works, I didn’t have the confidence to imagine starting one of my own.
Thus, upon graduating, I felt, if my talent as an artist was great enough, then things would neatly and magically fall into place – somewhere along the line, I would attain a fairy-godmother-like figure who would take responsibility for the business end of my career. That wasn’t the case, however, and a few years later, I decided to take a course for emerging artists wanting to turn their careers into a viable business. This course was very good for a start but it lacked one vital thing: the creation of a living, breathing business plan to constantly guide me along the path to consistent success – although I was able to make some headway here; it was always short-lived.
What attracted me to the Right-Brain Business Plan course was that I learned creativity played a key role in creating a business plan. Having no shortage of that, I became excited about constructing one. When I began to visualize and physically materialize my business dreams through a collage piece, I was really motivated to move on to the next step to create a more comprehensive written business plan with a goals, strategies and actions list. Once this was accomplished my confidence grew stronger and I also felt more enthusiastic about doing market-related research that would help me find and establish a strong client base with which to grow my business. Once I began to reveal my plans, visual and written, it wasn’t long before my friends and art colleagues sought to help me accomplish them in any way they could. As a result these people have enabled me to action a number of goals on my lists. One friend introduced me to all the art/craft-based organizations she knew in the city; another is getting together a group of friends to take one of my workshops and yet another, a recently appointed director of a cultural centre, is anxious to have me submit my workshop proposals to her institution. It’s like the Right-Brain Business Plan started a very positive chain reaction of events to help me build my business further.
What goals (big or small) on your business plan have you already accomplished or have made progress on?
My main goals were to develop a series of workshops/courses I could offer; to exhibit my art through a creative alliance and design a website to increase my exposure as an artist and instructor within a year. In the last nine months, I have had one show; scheduled two others locally; am three-quarters finished my website and have devised a twelve-week course as well as four half-day workshop proposals which I have sent out to various organizations in the city. I have several workshops scheduled throughout the year. I am amazed at accomplishing so much and the year is not even over! If you would have told me I could have done all these things in less than a year last April, I would have never believed it!
How do you use your creative intuition in your work?
Intuition plays a vital role in my working process… I don’t fully plan my collage pieces anymore because I trust that my inner voice will help me find the right fragments to relay whatever story I need to tell through my work. I rely on my intuition to delve into my subconscious and retrieve the stories buried deep within me. I have found when I let my intuition guide my work it never fails to surprise and delight me. While I do plan some basic elements of the work (i.e. I research background information, determine size or form of the piece ahead of time, etc.), I have given up planning every single facet of the work; sometimes I even change the form of my work if the imagery/narrative I’ve created demands it. Following my intuition is one of the most important discoveries I have made in the process of art making.
Is there anything you’d like to share about your Right-Brain Business Plan in terms of what it’s made out of or how you made it?
My visual plan is an image of my desire to dream big: to have my own art school one day. Even if I don’t do this, I will be happy just to be teaching somewhere and imparting my passion of art to others.
I can work on a piece for days or weeks. Especially if it’s a public piece I know I am going to share with others. However, when I was making my visual plan, I purposely set a time limit to see what I could do if I just went with my gut and not allowed the perfectionist in me to take over. Because the course came at a time when my personal life was in a shambles, and seemed like the Right-Brain Business Plan course was heaven-sent, I trusted that if there was some additional magic at work that I would have all the pieces I needed without my usual fussing. And, as I tore through one magazine after another, it seemed so – I could always rely on finding the right words and images to use – ones I felt truly captured the spirit of my fervour to start a business. In my visual plan, images of or by women artists I relate to, are important. Impressionist sculptor Camille Claudel (in the centre) and surrealist painter Frida Kahlo (at top right) are artists whose legacies have survived despite the personal struggles they endured. Along with them is also a figure of my ideal client (left side) (I also did a collage of my ideal client) taken from the painting of a favourite contemporary painter/mixed media professor of mine, Angela Grossman. These women remind me of the importance of transforming the art world in my own small way. My minimal, grid-based collage was fused together in Photoshop in a few hours. I use it as a screen saver for my PC and Blackberry. Now generating the same power as the hundreds of ads I am bombarded with every week, my visual plan reminds me on a daily basis as I use my PC or Blackberry to believe in my own dreams and to invest in myself.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Another reason my Right-Brain Business Plan worked so well is because I also took up the challenge of working with a creative cohort. When Elaine Coombs, a Right-Brain Business Plan colleague in San Francisco, asked me to become her accountability buddy I had some misgivings. A part of me wasn’t sure if I could be responsible enough to take on this role with a complete stranger. But I was at such a desperate point in my career as an artist – having established no art career at all by age 44, I realized it was awesome that someone like Elaine, a more seasoned artist and inspiring entrepreneur, would want to connect with me. Communicating with and developing a rapport on a weekly basis with Elaine has played a crucial role in the positive, progressive development of my art business plan as well as given me greater confidence in my role as an artist and fledgling instructor. Together, over the last nine months, we have cheered and celebrated each others accomplishments, empathized with each other in times of rejection and reassessed our failures to view them in a more positive light. We have been each others trusted editors and constructive critics and advised each other in areas we were unsure of. It is truly a heaven-sent friendship which blossomed thanks to the Right-Brain Business Plan. Elaine is such an important role-model for me.
Lastly, the course has taught me to rely on the help of others. Initially I was doing everything on my own. I learned through the course that I needed to sometimes hire people to help and also establish a team of friends/family who would support my business efforts. As seen above, friends have lead the way to possible teaching venues and also helped to edit my artist statements/bio/resume. As well, I hired a web designer (recommended by another Right-Brain Business Plan colleague) to build my website and a great photographer to document my portfolio. My husband too has been a great supporter of my business continually offering editing, technical and emotional support when I need it. As a result, through advising me to reach out to others for help, the Right-Brain Business Plan has revealed I had more resources at hand to help me establish my business than I previously thought.