Create • Inspire • Journey
by Rachelle Eason
Bear With Me While I Find Myself…
In full disclosure, this post is about a soul searching journey for me. It is my very recent roller coaster ride of self-doubt and self-discovery. While reading, I invite you to relate it to your life, your quest at the moment, and I hope that my words inspire you to find your truth.
Is there such a thing as retro branding?
This past spring, I set out on a quest to rebrand my art into a company that put my eco-stained paper into the fine stationery industry with the goal of exclusively selling online. I hired a team of creative experts and they took the lead in the concept of categorizing my art into collections, each with an exquisite sounding Italian name. The names not only identified the essential element of each collection but paid homage to my last name and Sicilian heritage. I loved it.
In theory, the concept is remarkable. It’s intention elevated my art to a level that I didn’t dare dream to aspire to. However, reality is not quite as romantic.
After living with the new concept, the minimalist look of my website, and the honest feedback from my “fan” base, I rebranded my rebrand. It confused people. The minimalist approach was so minimal that people had no idea what I was selling. The consensus of the feedback told me the living room scene on the website suggested I became an interior decorator and the collection names overwhelming and confusing. After doing a casual focus style group and survey, I began to truly understand what my brand is.
It is me…as I am…in this moment.
Now that goes against every marketing and retail principle I have ever learned. But art is different. Art is one-of-a-kind. Art is a personification of the creativity pouring out from each artist. Art is ever-changing, evolving with the artist’s journey and reacting to society’s temperament at any given moment. It is fluid, continual, and individual.
Art is not retail product.
One of the tough things about selling art is that people in non-art venues refer to your pieces as “product;” as in retail product, not the tangible product of your talent and skill. I think the majority of people that I meet do not truly understand the time it took to develop the techniques and style that are the backbone to the piece they are admiring, whether it is my piece or someone else’s. The vast majority of the population is programmed in this massed produce world to value commercial labels as status symbols and undervalue independent works that exude expression.
A journey of continual learning.
My rebrand in the spring and launch of the new website in the summer, led me to a rebrand again in the fall. I have to admit, I felt guilty for a while. I spent so much money and time on the spring rebrand, that I felt I shouldn’t change it, even though it ended up not being right. Isn’t that funny that we even consider living with something that we know is wrong because of what we spent on it?
I stressed for several weeks and then I just sat down and changed it. It took a few days, but it was better. I dropped the photo of the living room that was the landing page on the website and added a zoomed in picture of journal writing with my journal collection in the background. I made the focus of my brand the intent for which I create…the unity of art and nature and the connection to our inner selves through journaling and engaging in the designs. Authentic and clear. It was better.
Then the following week, I changed it again. I changed the main photo to a fall scene with my eco-stained notecards as the focus and altered the text to include journal writing with intention to give tangible value to the experience of owning one of my eco-stained journals.
Then I dropped the collection names. Oh, I really did (do) love those names! But…they caused confusion and overwhelmed the people that were shopping. I heard from so many that they couldn’t figure out the difference between the styles and they weren’t sure how to pronounce the words to even ask me their questions.
An Expensive Learning Experience
I finally just spent a week changing it all…the names, the look, the website, the shop…everything. And I am not done. I don’t think I will ever be done. Just like I continue to tweak my show displays until just before the show ends, I will continue to tweak my brand, website, and shop. Art is continual and I am an artist, not a company.
In legal terms, I am an LLC and have to follow all the permitting, codes, tax laws, etc, that a LLC has to compy with, but that’s where the traditional sense of a company stops. The art of Rachelle Eason is my art. The business is my business. I have zero aspirations to be a company that mass produces under my name. I do not have goals to be a Vera Bradley, Mary Englebreit, or Laurel Burch. When someone owns a Rachelle Eason, it is an original, one-of-a-kind piece. It is a piece that the collector was drawn to, connects to, and is inspired by.
So, I look at my rebranding with a professional agency as a valuable learning experience. I couldn’t be doing what I am doing, acknowledging who I am without going through that process. Just like I value journaling with intention, I value experiences with self-discovery.
Tangibly, it would have taken me many many months to build the website and online shop. I am tech savvy, but not to that extent. I used the new site and shop as a template for my content and am inspired by other artists and entrepreneurs, using their sites as a collective blueprint for my vision.
Lost for a bit.
I had lost myself for a bit showing at that “big magical world” where the mouse lives. My invitation to show was gracious and based on my core collection of journals, stationery, and wall decor. However, as I got a handle on what the vacationing and passholder guests wanted, I began to use my eco-stained papers beyond my core collection to create images like mermaids, fairies, and elephants, etc. I love those pieces and enjoyed making them, but people saw those as the art, essentially missing the whole aspect of the eco-stained papers being the art, my true art, in the piece. I would share my spiel about my technique, showing them the paper or pages in a journal and people would turn and say, “Then you make art out of it.”
Where I had begun to doubt everything I create because of comments from so many that didn’t appreciate art and “could buy a $5 notebook at Walmart,” rebranding to the high-end stationery industry seemed the right thing to do. Then, when I had begun to doubt everything I am because of feeling like an imposter in that goal of reaching a different audience via the high-end level, returning to my roots seemed the right thing to do.
So here I am.
Where is that exactly? Well, obviously broke, of course! Lol! But besides that, I am refocused; authentically refocused. I brought pottery back to the forefront of my artistic endeavors. Paper and Pottery. That is who I am as an artist.
Those two art forms, as different as they may be, inspire each other in my style. I have a hard time focusing on one medium without getting burned out. I fall into “the dip” as it is called.
Pottery has been a part of my life since I was in preschool. I stepped away for a few years as I was honing my skill in eco-staining; focusing on developing my technique to evolve into the style I present today. I introduced pottery back into my line at Disney last year, but quickly realized that was a mistake. Eco-stained paper and pottery both take an enormous amount of time; an impossible amount of time to create the volume of both mediums needed to show in two back-to-back festivals that were daily for just under five months.
But, as an online artist, I can spend the time creating with quality, extracting the essence of my creative spirit into every piece. Each work is a representation of me as an artist, as a person, as one who believes in the connection between the collector and the piece.
So who is my audience?
Again, going against the marketing and retail principles I have been taught, my audience is ever-changing. I can define it with demographics to target advertising. I can define it to determine which shows to present in, but honestly, being online is for everyone, isn’t it?
My audience is you. We connect. Somewhere along our adventures in this beautiful world, we have crossed paths. We may have talked at a show or met at the flower shop. My mother (♡) may have introduced us. You may have seen a picture on Instagram that captured your attention. Or you may be one of the many that I had the honor to share time with when you created at Art Blooms, my studio in NC. (Boy, do I miss that place!)
So I may create beautiful and inspiring eco-stained art in the form of journals, stationery, and wall decor. I may create pottery that is fabulous and functional. (Yes, I think I do both!) But, the aspect of what I create that is most important to me is connection. The connections that effect you to be more specifically; the connection to art that engages your interest, the connection to nature whose beauty calms you, the connection to your inner self through journaling, the connection to each other with gift giving, the connection we have together.
As much as I believe in not going backwards, sometimes I think traveling full circle is the right journey. I love having my shop online and look forward to the time when that will be the main source for our livelihood. Being online gives me time to hone my skills while being there when my children need me.
However, the Internet is a lonely place. I miss the interaction with people, not at shows, but teaching. My artist friends keep encouraging me to publish online classes, which I am working on improving…I currently sound like a monotone drone when I record. Yikes!
However, my strength as a teacher is fed by real live human beings in the same physical space as me. Can you imagine such a thing? Lol! I love people! I love being the one that pulls their self-expression out of the deep chambers of their creative heart and I love seeing their faces light up with a gentle mix of surprise and pride at what they did. It is a rush like no other, especially with adults who have taken the “risk” to let themselves believe they can do it. I love it!
Once again…Is there such a thing as retro branding?
I have returned to me…artist, potter, teacher, inspirer. It feels right. It is authentic. It is the role I have lived for many (gulp) years. It is Rachelle-esque. I am taking stock in my journey of experiences and branding that. The website is up and pretty fabulous, if I do say so myself. The shop features my beautiful plant-stained journals, stationery, and wall decor. The shop also features pottery which has been defined by a dear friend as “each one being an individual masterpiece.” Yay!
Reviving who I am as an artist and relating my current works to the style I have spent the better part of my adult life developing, I am now calling retro branding. I don’t need to build an image since I am not a company that can continue to grow and grow. I am an artist/entrepreneur with a ceiling as far as my art is concerned. Without the option of mass producing, there are limits.
But I can be multi-faceted, which is basically a better sounding word to describe my short attention span. I can return to being artist, potter, teacher, inspirer and find success. Now that I am certain that is who I am, I can move forward with confidence and intent. Today is my last day at that “big magical world” and I feel confident in making the decision to not return, at least in the foreseeable future. (I have learned not to close doors permanently.)
The sky turns brighter when the grey clouds dissipate. With the support of my mother, husband, family, and close friends, I know who I am and what I want to release into the world. I have the confidence to get rid of those grey clouds that I was hanging on to because of image or suggestions by experts. Logically, I know better. Emotionally, I know better. Self-doubt is a huge obstacle to overcome and makes one extremely vulnerable, especially in desperate financial times.
If this doesn’t work. If I finally decide to call it quits after years and years of struggle and sacrifice, at least I know I returned to my roots, my style, to me. Would it be failure? Possibly. But it would be with pride that I ended the journey the way I began…true to myself.
But…I am not done yet!
I still have determination and gumption to make it as an artist on my terms.
Currently, there are four ways to purchase my art online…
RachelleEason.com or Shop RachelleEason.com for current pieces. You can pick specific works in my plant-stained paper collections of journals, stationery, and wall decor plus my fabulously functional pottery. (Look for a minimalist series coming soon!)
Etsy Shop for retired pieces, prints, some smaller pottery pieces, and artist choice selections of my eco-stained paper collections.
Amazon Handmade for artist choice selections of my eco-stained paper collections.
Rachelle Eason Artist Facebook page which connects directly with my Shop RachelleEason.com store where you can select the exact piece you would like.
Classes and Retreats
For the last several months, I have also been working on creating new in-person classes and retreats that combine my loves of eco-staining, journal writing, and pottery making!
Although details still need some confirmation before I announce places and dates, keep in mind that soon we will be connecting, creating, and celebrating our wondrous selves together soon! Woo Hoo!
Please email me with a request for me to teach in your area. I love traveling on artistic adventures!