Retreating to the PA Wilds

(A Ready. Set. Share. contributing post on www.handmadeinpa.net)

This week my work schedule includes a multi-day meeting at the Nature Inn at Bald Eagle State Park, so as I retreat to the PA Wilds, I’m also retreating from the topic of marketing/social media to share the wonders of the Inn with you.

The Nature Inn at Bald Eagle State Park (Howard, PA) opened its doors in September 2010.  The Inn is the first State Park-owned full-service lodging facility located in aPennsylvania State Park.  The Inn was built with nature in mind and features “green” amenities and an ecological design featuring: reduced stormwater runoff; habitat restoration; native, water-efficient landscaping; a 2,800-gallon rainwater harvesting system; and lots more Park-friendly designs.

But perhaps one of my favorite aspects of the Inn, other than the fabulous views of Foster Joseph Sayers Lake, is the use of local artists’ work throughout the interior.  From the main lobby which features a glass mosaic by Dave Haring of Cat’s Eye Stained Glass to the bird prints by Ned Smith (20th century Pennsylvania artist and naturalist) found in each room throughout the Inn, the Inn offers a true local flavor not found in most lodging facilities.  The butternut wooden fireplace mantel in the common room was handmade by Briar Hill Rustic Furniture along with oak frames by Elkwood Arts and two large wooden chainsaw-carved sculptures by Appalachian Arts.  The inclusion of these items was a big step for the State Park system – and for that they get a big two thumbs up!

Mantel by Briar Hill Rustic Furniture

Glass mosaic by Cat's Eye Stained Glass

So, on these warm March days as you start daydreaming about summer vacations, be sure to include our own Nature Inn at Bald Eagle State Park!

Chainsaw carving by Appalachian Arts

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Developing a Content Calendar

(A Ready. Set. Share. contributing post on www.handmadeinpa.net)

It’s a new year and time to start thinking about where you want to go with your business over the next twelve months.  One tool to help pull things in to focus is a Content Calendar (Let’s refresh with the Wikipedia definition of Content Marketing: “all marketing formats that involve the creation or sharing of content for the purpose of engaging current and potential consumer bases.”)

Content calendars help you navigate the year ahead with not only marketing, but also general scheduling.  There are lots of ways to develop your Content Calendar – the key is to use something that is easily edited.  I use Excel.

To get started, pull out a 2012 calendar and start entering your shows and exhibits and any ideas of content related to those events that you could share. And leave space so that its easy to add more ideas – this is not a one-and-done exercise.   For example, if you’re attending the Pennsylvania Guild Fine Craft Fair in Philadelphia in May, what are topics you could use?  The show is around Mother’s Day – what products do you have that would be great for Mom?  Share your favorite gift received, if you’re a mom, or the gift your mom loved most.  The show is in Philly – what are some hot spots that you would recommend?  Favorite gallery, restaurant or theater?  What else is happening in the Philly area that weekend that you love or would recommend?  Remember, this isn’t so much about promoting you/your work but rather sharing information.  But do remember to invite people to stop by your booth during the show (and give them the Booth # when you know it).

Next figure out where and how you can use that information.  I set up my calendar with events/topics down the left column, methods across the top.  For each event/topic, I have a column for: Print Ads, Press Releases, TV Ads, Email Blasts, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Then enter the date you need to complete the task or want the information shared and the angle that you’re going to use.  And don’t feel that you have to use each method for every event/topic.

Developing a Content Calendar is also helpful in making sure you don’t overbook yourself or book things too closely together. Adding holidays to the calendar will help you see dates that could affect your normal tasks, like sending out a press release in time to meet print deadlines.

There are lots of resources out there.  This post, “How to Put Together an Editorial Calendar for Content Marketing” by Michele Linn, was helpful to me.

Shopping the PA Heritage Festival

This past weekend I helped out at the PA Heritage Festival in Troy, PA.  The event, in its 6th year, features a Heritage Village with demonstrations and activities based in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s and an Artisan Marketplace featuring more than 40 juried artisan vendors.

This year’s event included many return vendors like Barb Sargent of Glass Jewelry Shack, Mike Wysocki of Sassy Albert Soaps, Marie Bauman of Shades of Country and Ed Hammond of E.M. Hammond Glass Designs.  And it saw several new vendors like Amy Jackson of Blissful Fiber, Joan Davis – jewelry artist, and Bob Moss – carver.

Bob Moss, carverBob Moss has been carving for about 10 years.  He first got interested after attending a craft show with his mother. After seeing some scroll work by an artist at the show, Bob figured he could do that work, went home, bought the needed equipment and got to work.  Scroll work eventually turned in to work with the lathe which eventually turned into work carving.  He carves in antler, golfballs and cottonwood bark.  He uses the lathe to create fantastic pieces from antler, corian and wood.Santas by Bob Moss

And he’s a fast learner, not just at his artwork.  After just a few years of selling at shows, Bob has become a master at the retail shows from watching others and observing traffic flow.  He sets his booth up with purpose, and often shares his insights with others.  Find Bob on Facebook and on Etsy.

Navigating the Social Media Jungle

The world, it is a-changing…..and at a pace I find mind-boggling! The new reliance on social media and mobile technologies is forcing a lot of folks to re-evaluate their business practices – whether they like it or not.

I recently read a blog post “Dear Restaurant Owners – Having a Website is no longer OPTIONAL!,” and while it was targeted at restaurant owners, the same should be said to any small business. The days of avoiding a website are gone and every small business needs to have their presence on the web locked in.   It is now the first place people go to look for information.   I understand that you’re probably a one-person shop, and I’m not saying you need something fancy – but just to have your basic contact information, store hours if you have a physical storefront, a few photos, bio and artist statement are critical. That’s the base.

But there are so many other platforms out there – TwitterFacebookYelpFourSqaure, Blogs (I use WordPress for the NTCA web site and for my own blog) and now Google+to name a few.   How do you know which ones to use?  Not every social media option is for everyone, but you should definitely check out what each one offers and decide which will work best for you and your business.   My recommendations for a small, artisan business (as of today, because there will be something new tomorrow) include a minimum use of:

  • Website – of course.  As a promoter of the arts and someone who works with tourism groups, I cannot stress this enough.  A web site, even a basic one, is so key especially as more and more promotion is done through mobile apps that allow shoppers to find you while on the road.
  • Facebook: It is so simple (and free) to have a Page for your business. If you’re just starting out on Facebook – make sure you create a Page for your business, not a Profile (meant for individuals). It’s actually against Facebook’s rules to use a Profile for a business or organization and you risk having the Profile shut down. You can (and should) have a personal Profile plus a Page for your business. And once you get to 25 Likes, make sure you register your “vanity” URL or username.
  • Twitter: While it can take a little bit more to get into Twitter, it is a great source for sharing information and news. A good rule of thumb for using Twitter is: 70% of your tweets should be about sharing information, 20% should be spent “chatting” with those you follow and who follow you; and 10% is about self-promotion.

There are programs out there, like HootSuite and TweetDeck, that can help you manage multiple social media sites in one simple location. But be careful how you use them – the uses and accepted practices for Facebook and Twitter are different, so a message that works on Twitter might not work on Facebook..

Here are some examples of sites and folks to check out (you do not need to be a Twitter or Facebook user to see the sites):

Locavore, Locawino, Locapatron??

One of the programs that I work with through the Northern Tier Cultural Alliance, is theBuy Fresh Buy Local program – a national program designed to increase demand, consumption and production of local foods – thus providing healthier food for all and supporting local agriculture.

Although the movement is focused on foods, what we’ve seen over the past few years is the inclusion of beverages (predominantly wine & beer) and handmade items.  NTCA originally came to the program because of its connection between agriculture and farm-based crafts.  The basket makers, weavers, wheatweavers, quilters, and others who had developed their artwork from a farm-based craft and/or who were growing, raising and processing their own raw materials.  They were not only farmers, they were also artists.

As with other BFBL Chapters, it is the goal of the Northern Tier Chapter to make it easier for consumers to find, choose and appreciate great local foods….and to support the farmers and lands which produce them.  Sound familiar?  It could so easily be “making it easier for consumers to find, choose and appreciate great local crafts and art….and to support the artists and communities which produce them.”

Now throw in there the burgeoning wine and craft beer industry in northcentral PA.  We now have ten wineries within the four Endless Mountains counties, not to mention that the NY Finger Lakes Region is only about an hour away. Having grown up and now living on the NY/PA border, this is well within my definition of “local” and Seneca Lake continues to be part of my stomping grounds.

And the connections for the industries are win-win-win.  A local restaurant that serves local foods and wine with local artwork on the walls or for sale in a small gift shop; a winery that offers local cheeses and local artwork in its gift shops; a small pub that serves local beer & wine with food ingredients sourced from local farms and beer mugs made from a local potter; a festival that features local beer & wine along side regional artists and craftsmen.

What could be better?  I can’t think of much, both as an arts administrator and as a consumer.

Photo Captions:  Willow Basket by Patty Dillman; Wine Rack by Larry the Table Guy; Cheese from LeRaysville Cheese Factory; Pottery by Jeff Overman; Glass Grape Clusters by Mike Dietz; Wine from Grovedale Winery

Inspiration Above 80

So many times when we ask artists for their bios and an artist statement, we hear how the landscapes found across our area influence an artist’s decision to live, work and create.  Many artists Above 80 draw inspiration and materials from the natural world around them.  Just thought I’d share some of these scenes.


Barn in the Fall

Farmers Valley

Fairway at Corey Creek

Fishing the Little Schrader

Little Schrader Creek

Overlooking West Burlington

Cheerleading for the PCA

I was already thinking about writing this week’s blog on the funding crisis facing thePennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA).  And then I read Victoria’s article, “Do You Have a Cheerleader?” and knew that it was something I had to do.

I’m a PCA cheerleader and its time to cheer loud and clear for the PA Council on the Arts.

I have worked for two organizations who have benefited from being a partner in the Arts in Education and PA Partners in the Arts initiatives.  And I have been a volunteer for many organizations who have benefited from decentralized funding through the PA Council on the Arts.

But now that support is in jeopardy.   The House of Representatives has passed House Bill 1485 calling for a 70% cut to Grants to the Arts in Pennsylvania as well as a 62% reduction to the PCA’s administrative budget.  The budget process now rests with the Senate and it is critical to advocate with your state senators to show your support of the PCA.

Citizens for the Arts in Pennsylvania is a major force in the PCA advocacy efforts.  In response to the Bill passed by the House, Citizens for the Arts is organizing a Legislative Visit Day for June 6, 7, and 8 in Harrisburg.  Rather than plan one large rally, which legislators may or may not see/visit, the series of days provides an opportunity to inundate the Legislator offices with visits by their constituents who support the arts in Pennsylvania.

This is a time to tell your Senators and Representatives what PCA funding means to you…do you make a living in the arts?  Either as paid staff for an organization or as an artist selling your work at a PCA-supported gallery or museum?  Has a PCA grant enabled you to do community arts workshops or further your own work?  Do your kids participate in community arts programs?  Do you enjoy attending arts events?  Would these cuts force you to lay-off staff?  Or seek a second source of income?  Or even leave PA for a more arts-friendly state?  (The proposed cuts would put PA below all five neighboring states in per capita arts support)

Not sure how to find your legislators in the Capitol?  Need some information to support your visit?  Citizens for the Arts has all the information you need online athttp://citizensfortheartsinpa.org/2011Advocacy.asp.

Make a commitment to take one day, or part of one day, next Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday to be a cheerleader for the arts in PA.  Everyone needs a cheerleader now and then.  I’ll be there.  Will you?