Thursday, April 24, 2014

Discover 6 Secrets for Staying Focused

6 ways to stay focused
Discover how creative entrepreneurs stay focused

Interview with Button Maven Rachael Barrett by Miriam Schulman, @schulmanArt 

One of the toughest parts of working for yourself and being a creative person is staying focused and creating structure. Rachael Barrett of Haute Buttons on etsy has thousands of sales and great feedback so I asked her to share her best advice about how she structures her day and stays focused.

SchulmanArt: So Rachael, tell us about your time in Bali!
Rachael Barrett: The place that had the biggest influence on my art was Ubud, Bali (Indonesia) where I lived for over 20 years. Ubud, and Bali in general are very focused on the arts. Ubud it's said, is the most densely populated artist colony in the world, with 99% of it's residents (especially the Balinese, but also including the ex-pats that reside there full time) are artists, painters, sculptors, jewelry makers, musicians, dancers, writers, poets and actors. I first went to Bali in 1986. At that time, there were not even any land line telephones, faxes and personal computers had barely been invented and it would be ten years before any modern inventions would be seen in Bali. I literally had to communicate by TELEX. I originally traveled to Bali for spiritual reasons and also an adventure, and from the moment I got off the plane (and into the humid warm air) I knew I was "home". Art was and still is everywhere in Bali, and especially in Ubud, where I built my home, and raised my daughter. Prior to Bali, I grew up in Florida, then Northern California.

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SchulmanArt: How long have you been selling jewelry? 
Rachael Barrett: I started 'selling' as a teenager. Making jewelry out of old vintage parts, selling at Saturday Markets, so for most of my life I have been playing around in the arts. I say playing around, because when I am making art, it feels like playing. It makes me feel whole somehow. I became a 'professional' artist after moving to Bali, when I was hired by a jewelry company to design for them.

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SchulmanArt: How did you learn jewelry arts?
Rachael Barrett: I am self-taught, although I have taken a few classes here and there, mostly I learned on my own. The struggles of learning on one's own, I believe, lead to great triumphs of the heart, and success in art. I've taught many jewelry classes though and I get great satisfaction from seeing others learn from my experience.

SchulmanArt: Why do you love buttons? 
Rachael Barrett: It's amazing to me how a tiny button of metal, can be so transformed into a beautiful object of art, with just a bit of color. Painted buttons have been around for centuries and I have a huge collection of hand-painted buttons from The Victorian Era, and the early 1900s, Art Deco and Nouveau Periods. They are so beautiful, with their shining hand-cut 'steels' that look like gems, to the faded pinks and oranges of those eras. Buttons have a wonderful feel in the hand as well, almost like coins or gemstones, when there are several identical buttons together, it's like holding a tiny art triptych in your hand.

SchulmanArt: How many buttons do you have?
RB: I have thousands of these buttons, many of them very valuable on the art market. My intention is to pass them down to my daughter as part of her inheritance. When I go to Asia, probably 1/2 of my time there is spent looking for antique buttons with my daughter, and another 1/4 of our time is spent looking for new buttons that I would like to sell in my shop. I buy buttons from all over the world. It has taken me 5 years to find sources for all the buttons, and I am always looking for new sources. I have buttons from countries as varied as Israel and Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China, Australia, Peru, and some beautiful pewter buttons handmade in America. The buttons in my shop are probably only 1/10 of the buttons I have still waiting to be photographed and listed in my shop. It takes a lot of time. This year I hope to buy a 3D scanner to make 'photographing' the buttons easier. I've reached a point where using a camera to photograph the buttons, then editing the photos is way too time consuming, so I'm hopeful this year my store will vastly expand with the use of a 3D scanner. I also have a plan to open another etsy shop strictly for antique and vintage buttons, and another shop for what is known as 'novelty' buttons, those are the whimsical, cute and children's buttons.

Haute Buttons on Etsy
SchulmanArt: How do you stay focused?
Rachael Barrett: Staying focused is a challenge, probably my biggest challenge because there are so many aspects to my business and I do this all myself, from the researching of the buttons, to contact with the manufacturers and sellers, to the photography and the work on the shop's etsy pages. Luckily, I have a husband who understands my work and he really does help me focus by giving me plenty of time to work on my shop and travel to find the buttons. He's a great cook and takes very good care of me.

SchulmanArt: How do you get inspired?  
Inspiration on the other hand comes easy for me, as I am inspired by everything around me, all the beauty of the world, especially when I travel to places like Indonesia, Thailand, India and other countries of Asia.

SchulmanArt: Describe a typical day for you. 
Rachael Barrett: Every day is an adventure.
I don't allow myself to get on the computer in the morning before 10 am because I routinely meditate and practice yoga daily. After that it's time for coffee and text messages, both personal and related to work. And then I get on the computer and in my shop. First taking a look at the days sales, and also if any of the listings have expired or sold out. I then respond to all the convos (Etsy conversations) until each customer is satisfied with the information they need from me. Then I start working on packing the sales of the previous day or week if it's been busy in the shop. I take a break every 30 minutes to stretch and give my eyes a break, drink water with lemon, and to breathe a bit. This keeps my mind calm and patient, even with some of the most difficult customers.

Around 4 pm, I start winding things down for the day. Put all the packed orders in canvas bag and head out to the post office. I hand carry each order to the post and every package is checked in by postage label number.

When I return from the post, I let each customer know their package has been sent.

At 5pm I make myself stop working, relax, eat dinner with my husband, and relax for a few hours. Occasionally if it's very busy in my shop, or during the holidays when customers need their buttons quickly, I will go back to work after my husband is asleep.

When I travel, I put my shop on vacation, but not before letting all my regular customers know I will be gone for a while, giving them time to place a last order with me. Depending on where I travel, the shop can be closed for a month to 2 months at a time, but it's all a part of the business.

SchulmanArt: What is the best part of selling on etsy?
Rachael Barrett: I have to say, I have made many friends of my customers on Etsy. I feel I serve a real purpose in their art lives and we often have long discussions by convo, text message and even telephone calls. I think I'm a giver, and I like to teach. I believe my customers know they can count on my knowledge as a resource. Sometimes, when I'm having a hard day, I just go to the reviews section for my Etsy shop and read all the wonderful reviews. Many of them talk about how I was helpful to them. I love that part of my job.

Rachael Barrett in her artist studio
Rachael Barrett in her artist studio
SchulmanArt: What is your studio like?
Rachael Barrett: My studio space is a mess! It's box after box of buttons, some organized, many not, by size, shape, color and style, as well as divided into antique, vintage and contemporary.

Honestly, there's barely space to get into my studio, and I think I need a bigger space, but there are beautiful things taped to all the walls, gorgeous art deco designs from magazines, inspirational photos and paintings, and lots of notes from my customers above my desk reminding me how happy they are with their buttons. I am planning on making a move in the near future and my husband and I have already decided to make sure I have a bigger studio space in the new house in Florida. He gets a garage for his metal work and I get a bigger studio!

 "The secret to life is enjoying the passage of time" 

-James Taylor

See how Rachael gets inspired on Pinterest!
SchulmanArt: What do advice do you wish you could give your sixteen year old self?
Rachael Barrett: I don't think I would change a thing in my life, and I don't think my 16 year old self would have listened anyway, but I probably would say to her, what I said to my own daughter, don't let anyone convince you to do anything you really feel you don't want to do. Speak your mind, but do it in a polite way with respect for those with whom you differ in opinion. I started college at 17 years old. I think I wish I had believed in myself more as an artist when I was 16 instead of going into medicine in college because so many people told me that I should become a doctor. Get to know yourself. Write a journal every day, and watch your opinions on life change as you grow into the adult you will be.

How do you stay focused?