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In a blink, twelve years…

It seems like a blink when I reflect on the past twelve years. As stated in a previous post, I have spent a great deal of time analyzing where I started, where I am, and where I want to be. The past twelve years have been under my personal microscope profoundly for the last few months. I felt that a decision needed to be made. Change was in the wind. While this is without question a heart lead business, I have also tried to make sound business decisions. With as objective of a view as I could muster, I would say that there are many moments to celebrate. There are also many challenges that I could have handled better. Many of those became lessons, some of which I had to learn more than once. (insert smirk here) Isn’t the image always clearer in the rear view mirror?

The Oxford dictionary has this to say about success:

suc·cess
noun
1.
the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.
“there is a thin line between success and failure”
Oxford isn’t kidding, there is a very fine line between success and failure. 
 
Create Art 4 Good has grown into many things. I believe the logo being a tree seems to be perfect. (who knew?- I thought I just liked trees!) When I reflect on the growth of the past twelve years, that alone seems to be a reason to celebrate. Today, I believe there are more reasons than just my growth as a human, a businesswoman, and an artist to celebrate. 
 

They say that humans are drawn to their vocation. It is often what you love to do, what inspires you, or perhaps what you are curious about.  However, the road is not always clear. Sometimes there are detours, or the path is not linear as the road map for life is rarely easily found. Sometimes what you “thought” you should do, is just a vehicle for what you should actually do. This isn’t to say that your original goals (or business plan) were wrong, only that you have grown, and perhaps even accomplished what you set out to do.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

 I have grown. I have loved the past twelve years. The adventure, the surprises, even the challenges, as well as the opportunities – these have become some of the greatest joys of my life.

I know that year thirteen will be an adventure. I know that even though I LOVE to plan things, this year might not have a strategic plan. I might just have to take one day at a time. I might just need to follow my heart. I need to explore my life and business with tenacious curiosity. Perhaps that is the real gift here. 

 Speaking of plans…As part of my anniversary celebration, I decided to create a mixed media heart every day.  There are multiple reasons for this. Some of which is the ability to spread love with my art. Hearts are love without the need to have a common language. Another reason has been to return to the practice of art every single day.  I have been in the practice of art for my entire life(or as long as I could hold a utensil of creation)

Oh, but life, gets in the way, doesn’t it? They say we make plans and God/the Universe laughs. As you may (or may not) know, I recently had a hospital stay for a heart issue. This took me by complete surprise. I have always felt as though one of my gifts was the ability to love and love fiercely. However, for the first time, I felt like my heart was literally broken. When this happens it is scary. I felt like couldn’t trust my body. I felt like I was not on steady footing any longer. 

Dragonflies are the symbol of healing-

The heart, both literal and figuratively has been a central theme in my life, and in my work. So, I decided to stick with “the plan”(even though I found it completely ironic) and create a heart (or more) a day. In the end, it has been just what I need. It has been a time to heal. Time with nothing too pressured, and time to prioritize.  (love begins at home, right?) Even though technology has not been my friend,(that’s another story) I am able to post a heart or two a day and share my love.

So yes, the last twelve years have felt like a blink. I look forward to the next year, two, or more and the adventures we will share. Thanks for your love, for sticking close, and for sharing my journey. 

The best is yet to be. 

Sending you so much love, 

Susan

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12 years…

I can already feel it, this is going to be a long one. Please get yourself something to drink before you sit down – you might need it. 

Over the past few months, I have been very uncertain about what news this blog would ultimately share. I have been considering closing Create Art 4 Good. 

Navigating a small business is no easy task. You find essential tasks you never imagined would be essential to your success. You put in very long hours. As a solopreneur, you do it all. It can be so incredible, and also so disheartening. August 9th is my twelfth anniversary for Create Art 4 Good… The last two years have made the path forward very difficult. Particularly for small businesses. This coupled with some sort of balance with a personal life (along with all the challenges that living the big life entails) has caused me to take a step back and carefully evaluate my next step. 

I appreciate you allowing me to share…

I began Create Art 4 Good as sort of a traveling art show. (Think Tupperware parties for art) Many invited me into their homes and businesses to share my work. It was wonderful! Eventually, I found space in the Hungerford building and really opened up the BIG HUGE dream. At the Hungerford, I represented hundreds of artists, I held countless events, art workshops, business, social, and socially conscious events. I paid it forward with a portion of every single sale.  In early 2020 I decided a change was in the wind and I needed to move. I then closed the gallery at the Hungerford and moved to a small studio in the Piano Works Mall. I decided it was time to do for myself what I had been doing for other artists. My focus was to be more on my work, and my greeting card company.

Then the global pandemic hit literally two weeks after I moved.  

Throughout the pandemic, I did a lot of treading water. I pivoted a whole big bunch in early 2020. I painted signs for birthdays and other celebrations (often installing them fully masked at midnight to surprise the recipient without detection), I created subscription offerings for my card company, I held virtual art workshops and more. Throughout 2020 and into 2021 I sort of ignored the challenges of the pandemic and pushed harder to survive and even thrive. In this process, I put a great deal of pressure on myself to not just survive but increase the income I had previously made from my art. (Isn’t that the mark of success?)

By 2022 I admit burnout was so full on that I felt like I was in ashes. For the first time, I thought about closing Create Art 4 Good. (I cannot tell you what a painful thought that was)  From a financial standpoint, it seemed to make sense. My husband has suggested frequently that if I could just be “seen” I would be successful.  I felt like I was the needle in the haystack, no one could find me and every time I thought a big break would come, it vanished.  

Over the last few months, I have thought a great deal about this decision, I meditated about this,  sought advice and wisdom from trusted friends and colleagues, and sat with it. I knew making a careful decision was essential. In the past, I have had other businesses. I have never had a business last for twelve solid years. During this time I had to define what my current objectives were. I have evolved. My needs are clearer after twelve years of experience.  

Society encourages us to measure our success with the numbers in our bank accounts. I admit I got caught up in that too. I have said several times, I work too hard for what my bank account reflects. However, success should be measured in more ways than financial. No, I am not dripping in money, but I DO have enough. Isn’t that what we all need? As I further evaluate the last twelve years, I am grateful to say I believe my business met the goals in my original business plan. I can pay my bills, I can even buy a fancy paintbrush when I want.  I have been able to encourage other artists, establish a working gallery, paid it forward with my work in the arts, and more. I have learned, I have grown.  In my big picture, this is a success. 

That said, I am still darn tired. I spend more time doing the businessy things I don’t like rather than the stuff I love.  So is it time to let go of the business? This has been a constant question to which I believe I finally have an answer. 

Personally, the last week of my life has been pretty incredible. I have been in a pretty difficult place. Closing a business is such a loss. I was deeply grieving even the possibility. Deciding the future with all the components has incredible weight. I also do not deal well with limbo.  However, this was too impactful a decision to rush through. 

Then last Sunday, I woke up feeling unwell. (I promise I will give you the news soon)

The day before had been a very busy day. It was incredibly hot, I had so many errands to run, and we hosted family at our home to celebrate my husband’s birthday. The day was full, but not horrible, yet I felt like I was much more tired than I should be, but ignored it and pushed through. Sunday was different. I was sofa bound. I felt completely off. I had a huge to-do list that was going to sit there completely undisturbed. (this is where it gets stupid)

Being completely transparent, I am not great with seeking medical attention. However, even I was thinking that might be the right course of action. I did not share how I was feeling with anyone. I just said I wasn’t feeling great. However, fun fact, my apple watch (gift from the aforementioned husband) has an O2 monitor on it as well as a heart rate monitor. One of the issues I was having felt like Tachycardia that wouldn’t quit. (I have occasional tachycardia) Sure enough, my apple watch confirmed this about eight different times. I continued being a couch potato evaluating my next step. 

I vigorously debated if I should bother people on a Sunday to go to the doctor. I knew they would send me to the hospital and that was the last thing on earth I wanted. I talked myself in and out of this for way too many hours. In the end, I lived the day and eventually went to bed.  The next morning, I got up with resolve, took a shower, and prepared for what I knew was coming. I called my doctor and set up an appointment.  Long story short, after several EKGs  I was sent to the hospital. (the very last place I wanted to be)

I was in the hospital for two days. There were countless meds, blood tests, EKGs, heart monitors, and more. Because of Covid restrictions, I was alone for most of this. I spent hours wondering what was going to happen next.  I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation with rapid ventricular response. (it sounds fancy, it just means my heart was misfiring, beating too fast, and just plain not working.) Essentially I had a broken heart.  If you know anything about my work, you know that I paint a LOT of hearts. I laughed to myself several times, a human with a heart that is broken is passionate about painting hearts. Irony?  It sure feels like it. 

I am happy to say that my doctors found a solution that seems to be working for me. I also will share that the next time, if there is a next time, I will be going to the doctors or hospital promptly and not wait for thirty or so hours before seeking treatment… but I digress. 

So where am I going with all this?

If I look at my original goals for Create Art 4 Good, it was to make art and to pay it forward using that art. If you boil it all down I have attained that goal. So, should I continue?

Yes, I should.

Let me tell you why. This business has been a joy, a whole lot of work, and yes sometimes heartache. But, it is also my heart. I can continue to share love through the art I create. I can share love through the messages in my cards. I can share love with the support I give to charities in various ways.  This business is a way for me to be who I really am. A simple human, that loves color, a plethora of mediums, and messy hands doing her best to share the love every single way. This business amplifies my voice. This business strengthens my courage. This business is my heart. 

I know that another change is likely in the wind. That is okay. I know that I need to find a balance. That is good. I am not suggesting my heart issue is a result of working hard. It is just a thing. But if you put all the ingredients in the blender, you come out with 1. Don’t give up your big dream 2. Keep making art, keep exploring, and keep putting love in the universe.  3. make sure you have time for self-care, reading a book, and walking in the park (Not necessarily in that order)

So, continue we must. With love, more balance, and a whole lot more paint…

Help me celebrate twelve years… the best is yet to be. 

sending you so much love… 

Susan

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Happy National Piano Day!

My mom’s piano sits proudly in my livingroom
Today is National Piano day! I am celebrating for multiple reasons! (It’s the 88th day and there are 88 keys on the piano FYI) A little over two years ago I moved my studio/gallery from the Hungerford building to the Piano Works Mall in East Rochester. My time at Piano works has been a time of great growth and exploration!
 
ALSO, I actually own my mother’s piano. This was a love story between my parents. Dad surprised her one Christmas with “renting” the piano for a few months. She was a very well trained pianist who had long since lost any opportunity to play the piano. The piano was a surprise that certainly inspired much happiness in my mother’s life. I believe it was one of the most unselfish gifts he could have ever given to her. When it was time to return the piano, my father informed my mother that it was not going back. (They were not exactly swimming in money at the time so this was a big deal) My father saw the joy in my mother and wanted her to have it forever. Now I am learning (struggling) to play her piano. (I took guitar lessons, not the same, I assure you!) But it is because of their story I am so happy to celebrate today!
The piano is full of meaning for me. It is a symbol of love, it is a symbol of hope. It has a beautiful sound and inspires joy. The building where I work (where my mother’s piano was made by the way) has rich history and you can see some really fun pianos in the main lobby area – so take a moment, maybe 88 seconds? and celebrate this wonderful instrument. Celebrate because we can.
Sending you so much love! #Piano #Nationalpianoday #Daddywasonebigheart #loveyoumom

 

 

 

 

 

 

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a mixed media art retreat?

a mixed media art retreat?

Have you ever thought of attending an art “retreat”? For me, this means going somewhere for a few days, enjoying a change of scenery, take advantage of an opportunity for me to work on a ____ (fill in the blank) or perhaps participate in a workshop or two to learn something new. It means my basic needs are met – I have a place to sleep, good food (perhaps by a trained chef), and freedom to just breathe for a bit.
2022 seems to be the year of realizing some of those dreams that are swimming in my head a bit. This one has been steeping for quite some time.
I have done quite a bit of research, planned, and pondered. Now I want to gauge if there is any interest besides my own! I have created a quick survey- I would love it if you would take a moment to fill it out, feel free to share it with anyone you think might be interested!
Thank you in advance!

Here is the survey!

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The Four Seasons

I am sure many of you can appreciate the endless dreamings of, “ohhhh I want to do this” or that. We have notebooks, sketchpads, and lists of things we want to create. We have so many ideas we could live to be about a thousand and still not get it all done.
 
This piece is called, ” The Four Seasons”. It is inspired by Mucha’s “Four Seasons”. The seasons, the colors, and the symbolism of each have always fascinated me. I have pondered this piece for years and years. I cannot tell you how happy I am that I finally took some time to create it.
 
Time?! This took about 102 hours. It felt so great to invest myself fully and take the opportunity to create it!
 
Thank you for sharing this journey with me. My children (and the best cheerleaders in the universe) have already suggested a new piece for me to do. So I just might get that party started soonest!
 
I have taken it to my photographer/printer- and prints are on the way! (you can find them on greetings4good.org)
#fourseasons #greetings4good #CreateArt4Good
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The Best Decision

Next in the #MarchMeetTheMaker challenge is to share the best decision I ever made.

Well goodness! I can think of several! Create Art 4 Good is not my first business. It is, however, the business I have taken most seriously. The first thing I did was to write a business plan, set goals, and do everything I could to attain those goals.

My first big goal was to have a brick-and-mortar in five years of beginning my business. I had it in TWO! I would say, the business plan AND taking the leap to have a gallery space were two of the best business decisions I have ever made! #grateful #CreateArt4Good #greetings4good #artistlife

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Empowered Women Day

A sticker created by Susan Carmen-Duffy found on Greetings4Good.org

There are so many things I want to say about today. However, I am certain you are going to be inundated with others’ thoughts and ideas too,  I certainly don’t want to be “noise” I will do my best to keep this brief.  (I cannot promise)

Today, on the international stage, has been declared “Empowered Women’s day”.  While I am thrilled to celebrate this day, EVERY DAY should be empowered women’s day. But, I digress. Today is a day where I am hoping we step back and take a look at how we treat women. This goes for not just men, but also women. As a mother of one daughter (and two bonus daughters), and a grandmother of one granddaughter, this day is a reason for pause, to take stock, to certify that my actions are true of empowerment. 

First- words matter. What you say and how you say it really DOES make a difference. We are here to help each other be the best possible humans we can be. I have preached to my children to be the best they can be, no matter what path they may choose. Living your best life is not easy. The world can be so full of roadblocks. My job as the chief cheerleader is to help them navigate the roadblocks, or sometimes just to sit and listen while they do. Sometimes empowerment means to just sit and hold space. 

Think about this- what if you only had support for your ideas, for your dreams? Certainly, it is a journey and not every idea is going to bloom, but you will with certainty grow, learn what works and what does not. If you have support (and no judgment) the likelihood is we will celebrate the process instead of feeling shame about the lessons (aka failures).  

Next, leave your garbage in the trash bin. The world can be a challenging place. However, my experience is not yours and yours is not mine. While personal experience can bring wisdom, it shouldn’t bring roadblocks for others. I see this, particularly when speaking with my children and grandchild. It is vital for me to step back, perhaps guide a little but ultimately let them follow their heart without me dashing their thoughts. I might not agree with their choices, and some might even scare me a little, but ultimately, it is their choice. 

Perfection. This is the killer of all greatness in my opinion. As women we have these images in our heads that we have to have superpowers, be the ultimate —- fill in the blank along with a hundred other things. Certainly, I have learned that for me perfection is not attainable, and the seeking of which is ultimately setting myself up for failure. Today, my best might look very different from tomorrow. The goal here is not perfection, but to do the best and most invested you can be at this very moment. If you fail? Change the path a smidgen and try again, but perfection is not a worthy goal, authenticity is. 

Lastly, your success does not diminish me. “A rising tide lifts all boats.”- Celebrating each other, our success, supporting each other through the difficult times serves everyone. EVERYONE!  

So today. take a minute to ponder how your actions and words to empower other women. You have the opportunity to take stock and grow a little. You have the opportunity to send someone a text, remind them why they are doing so great. You have the opportunity to write a note of encouragement and slip it onto a co-worker’s desk. You have the opportunity to pay it forward even in the smallest of ways. YOU have the power to make a difference. So go do it. 

A rising tide lifts ALL boats. 

Sending you so much love, 

Susan

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A few of my favorite things!

I LOVE daisies, sharp Derwent Art colored pencils, microns with 005 tips, walking in the rain, water in general (lake, ocean, whatever!), tea, @goldenpaints, soup (it is the perfect food), mixed media art, fancy glasses (even if I am drinking lemonade out of them), cooking for people, and all things family.

What are your favorite things?

#marchmeetthemaker #favoritethings #sharethelove

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Brand Values

In the #MeettheMakerChallenge- next up is Brand Values. When forming Create Art 4 Good, I worked really hard at defining what this was all meant to be. For me going into business was an opportunity. It was an opportunity to not only create art, and support the art of others, but it was also a way to be aware of the world around me and use my talents for good. I give a portion of every single sale to a local charity. It doesn’t matter if it is a greeting card from my card business – Greetings 4 Good, or a large painting, each piece I have created is used to pay it forward. 

Toward that end, I created “the thoughtfulness project”. It is a project that seeks to pay it forward, give back, and create joy. It is a project that can be as simple as paying for someone’s coffee, dropping off hundreds of cards to a nursing home, or sending something to a stranger in need. Last year (2021) I sent literally thousands of cards, through the mail, dropped off, or otherwise. Most were sent to 97% strangers. The whole idea is to SHARE THE LOVE!

The best of what we are can be joyfully shared with others to support and celebrate! Life can be hard, but we as humans who care can make a difference. That is just what I seek to do. 

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Meet the Maker- Susan Carmen-Duffy

Meet the Maker- Hello, new friends and old. I am Susan Carmen-Duffy. I wear many hats in the almost twelve-year-old business known as Create Art 4 Good. While I am a “one-woman business”, I have so much love and support. So, if I am shipping art or cards, designing a new card, painting a new painting, Create Art 4 Good is my heart business. It is a way for me to pay it forward, put new art into the world, and live my big dreams. I am grateful! My studio is at the Piano Works Mall in East Rochester, New York. My art is colorful, whimsical, and full of love! I look forward to sharing more of the journey with you! #marchmeethemaker #CreateArt4Good #greetings4good #meetthemaker2022challenge