Friday, May 22, 2015

We've Moved to Squarespace



Hello and thanks for stopping by. I've moved me and all of my stuff over to Squarespace. Nothing personal, Blogger. I was just looking for a place to host my work, blog and store, all under one roof. Also, it's really pretty over there. Not free, but really pretty. Come visit me at the new Wing+Tree website and blog. I'm not completely unpacked - but I'll show you around anyway.

xo



Thursday, May 14, 2015

Naming a Business: Tell Your Story

I am a story teller. I find comfort in the steady cadence of a story well told, the way life and love and loss are woven out of shapes and sounds. My life is full of stories. Yours is too.

Your business name has a story behind it, even if it's named after you. Who you are, who you love, what makes you laugh, why you chose self employment over punching a time clock - yours is a story that your customers want to hear. Give them a reason to choose you over anyone else - show them your heart, your hands at work, your triumphs, your mistakes. Share your process, your epiphanies, your plans for the future. Tell them your story.

Here is mine: This is my baby brother Russell. He was five years old in the fall of 1961 when we moved to our new house. As he and our 26 year old mom stood in the back yard exchanging I love yous, Rusty reached for the biggest, tallest love he could see, lifted his hands to the sky and cried "Oh mummy - I love you as much as the trees!" In the 50+ years that have passed since that autumn day, the word Trees as an expression of love has made its way into every card & letter, every moment of tenderness, every goodbye. This tree story has been told and retold so many times that it is an integral part of our family history.

In 2011, I bought 9 metal channel letters at a local consignment store. Four consonants. C-C-R-T. Five vowels. E-E-E-E-I. They didn't seem to have much to say and spent the first year scattered around our dusty studio. When my new desk was installed, I cleaned them up and arranged them randomly across the top of my new wall cabinets.

Months later, I looked at that odd assemblage and broke into a wide smile. There, hidden among the gibberish was the name my little niece Taylor called me - REE. And so REE it was, until one day the letter T finally caught my attention. I laughed out loud, called it serendipity and added another chapter to my story.

In the summer of 2012, our new assistant suggested a use for one of the Cs. For a time, TREE was rearranged to spell ERECT, which we found endlessly entertaining.

This is my baby boy, Neal. He was five years old in the summer of 1998 when we moved into our new house. Surrounded by tall trees that waved and danced in the wind, our woods were alive with wild life and bird song. My favorite was the Chickadee. This little black and white bird has been a part of my memories since I was a tiny little girl.

Each time we heard its song my mother would feign surprise, look around and whisper "Listen! That's your bird! Do you hear it?" She'd mimic its three note call - one high note followed by two repeating lower notes - "Where's Sheree? Where's Sheree?" She'd hold me in her arms as I looked around in awe, never seeing that bird but knowing that its call was only for me. It was my bird.

When Neal was born, that early morning bird sang a new song. Like my mother, I held him in my arms, looked up at the trees and exclaimed "Listen! Do you hear that? That's your bird!" And I'd repeat his name in that same three note call - "Neal Michael, Neal Michael." It was his bird.

At 18, Neal was a 6'-4", 230 pound man. I remember the day when he poked his head in the kitchen door and yelled "Mom, do you hear that? That's my bird!" Outside the window, our bird was singing our songs. It was a bonding moment, the two of us smiling, each warmed by our childhood memories. I could see the future in my mind so clearly: Him singing that three note song when he passed on his bird.

Neal died in a motorcycle street racing accident on August 20th, 2012. He was 19. That winter, after our first real snow, I went to check on his grave. The roads leading to his place beneath the pines went from plowed to tire tracks to virgin snow. There was no place or way to turn around so I continued on. An hour later, as I stood beside my hopelessly stuck car, I heard the sweet, familiar song of Neal's bird. His body may be gone, but his spirit is always with me. He is my angel and it soothes me to imagine him blazing across the skies on strong, wide wings calling "I'm with you, I'm with you."

Choosing a name for your business takes time. You'll turn away hundreds of possibilities before the right one presents itself. When it does, you'll know. Saying no leads you closer to yes - to the right meaning, the right sound, shape, story. For me, yes began with a reminder from the universe. My new business name and tag line speaks to house and home - perfect for my new line of home decor and art prints. Wing & Tree. It's easy to pronounce and remember, looks good in print and has a meaningful story behind it. I love it.


This is the third in a series of Naming a Business posts. Read the first here and the second here.
What is your business name and how did you choose it? Let us know in the comments section below.

TTYL






Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Naming a Business: Brainstorming

The process of choosing a name for my new art/design business was so complex, I'm wondering if it's even possible to reconstruct it here. If you follow the path described here, you'll at least have a list of possibilities to brainstorm - or present to your family and friends. In the end, the name you choose will have to speak to you, whether or not your best friend or co-workers like it. 

In my last post I referenced a few Skillshare classes I'd taken. The worst class - in terms of polish and presentation - actually gave me the best direction. In Name Your Product in 60 Minutes, Sorin Amzu introduced me to the concept of mind mapping - a form of brainstorming. The object is to write down everything that comes to mind about a particular thing. Since I couldn't completely relate my quest to his presentation, I Googled the process and watched a few videos for clarification. One suggested using myself as an example, which I did in the map below. The only thing that keeps an exercise like this from continuing forever is running out of paper. There's much more to my awesome, complex self than listed here, but it was a great warm up. I'd like to continue it on a larger sheet. With more pictures. 


This exercise generated four additional, two sided sheets. One listed the characteristics of my target audience - my perfect customer (female, ages 25-55, college educated, art appreciator, loves house & home, decorating, nesting, bit of a DIYer, etc.) Another was covered with words to describe the characteristics of my product offering (abstract, colorful, sophisticated, artsy, floral, geometric, pattern, word art). A third focused on me - what I care about (humor, design, language, consciousness, spiritualism, law of attraction, seeking) Still another contained lengthy notes on branding - taken while watching the Skillshare classes - Branding Your Creative Business: Define Your Brand and Beyond the Logo: Crafting a Brand Identity.

Both instructors suggest beginning with a short brand mission statement - describe your business, what you offer, what you do. Virgin Airline's Richard Branson recommends using the 140 character Twitter template. As an example, my day job statement is "hand painted, personalized pottery gifts for weddings, new baby & family celebrations."

Identifying your customer: Understanding who will buy your offering is so important. Knowing who this person is helps you speak specifically to them. On the list of questions: Name, age, gender, job roll, education, relationship status, children, pets, income, music - you get the idea. Knowing your customer will help you figure out how to market to her - not the gal wearing a hoodie and pajama pants in Market Basket.

There is so much more to branding than the little, incomplete paragraphs I've crafted here. Part of being successful in a creative business is being a sponge. Read everything. Watch everything. Ask questions. Hang out with other creatives, even if it's only online.

{Uncompensated endorsement: Skillshare offers tons of classes on design, business, photography, DIY, writing and more. If you're in or are starting a creative business, I earnestly suggest you look into this great site. It is totally worth $10 a month.}


In the middle of all of this brainstorming, I found Elle & Company, owned by a most adorable Lauren Hooker. Her logo design portfolio made me realize that I needed a logo and it had to look good in print. And because I fell in love with her lovely little ampersand, my search for Something & Company begun.

After three days of note taking, video watching, muttering under my breath and not sleeping, I knew to avoid odd spellings, the difficult to pronounce, the too much like someone/something else. I'd read credible advice to use my own name, something known/unknown. Something descriptive. Abstract. Historic. Pets. Vacation spots. Latin. Misspellings. People, places, things. WTF. This is the song that never ends.


Another weekend came and went. I'm back in the studio, standing at my desk in front of a blank Photoshop document. Tick.Tick.Tick. Something & Company. Ree (my nickname) & Company. No - too heavy on the right. Every word I can think of that stands for Design & Company. Every word I can think of that stands for Art & Company. EWICTOTSF Humor & Company. I rifle through my notes. Read "stories help people feel connected to the brand." I love a good story. My coffee's gone cold, a great excuse to get away from this exercise. On my way back from the microwave, I glance up at this sign above my old desk.

Hey, can I tell you a story?

TTYL