The Art Bar™
I have a good friend that would always use the term "percolating" to describe a time when everything might look normal and the same on the surface, but underneath, things are happening. Brewing, bubbling, changing. That's exactly how I feel about this season at Lindsay Letters. My business took off like I never expected, and I up until this past year, I've felt like it was snowballing away from me, faster than I could catch it. This month – the 31st of October, to be exact! – will mark a new day for Lindsay Letters, and I am thrilled and grateful and nervous and expectant! Here's a little about how I got here and where I'm going. Warning: It's LONG, so grab some coffee and hunker down, if you're ready to stick with me!
Eva Love will turn seven in November, and Phoenix Brave will turn three. The month Eva turned one (November 2012) is the month I officially opened the Lindsay Letters online shop (it had just been a blog + freelance business since 2008) and it has done better than I would have ever dreamed. Nearly exactly four years later and the month that Phoenix was born, I opened a little storefront in my town of Sun Prairie, WI. (Yes, I said BORN. Because I am a literal crazy person). A store and a space of my own was something I'd so desperately wanted, but having a growing online business, and a baby brick and mortar, and an actual baby, all at the same time... well, that was rough.
I'm an achiever, a die-hard creative in every sense of the term, I love my work, I believe in excellence, and I love making people happy. I'm also incredibly one-track-minded, and so working and mothering (and wife-ing) all simultaneously comes really, really un-naturally to me. In opening the brick & mortar, I realized that I'd accidentally created a seperate business, and I had no one doing it with me (save for some friends I was exhausting). I needed actual hands-on help, so I moved fulfillment away from my letterpress partner (where I was renting in space Illinois) to Wisconsin, and assembled a small but mighty team here to help with fulfillment as well as operations of both the physical and online stores. This leg of my journey confirmed one thing I already knew – that I LOVE working with people! But, unfortunately, I realized very quickly that I basically hate managerial leadership. No matter who it's with. No matter how amazing and capable and lovely and funny the people I work with are, I am a sub-par manager. I'm good at loving, good at vision and ideas and creating, bad at managing. This was an especially difficult realization since the businesses I'd created required more hands (and more brains!) than I had on my own.
I also realized that having an in-person store is the actual biggest business mistake I've ever made. Quite simply, it didn't work. I thought we'd kind of just be "open when we're open," but that made passerbyers grumpy, and that grumpiness made me miserable. It was also astonishingly hard to keep the store looking like a store but also a functioning fulfillment facility (which was my original vision – dual-purpose) at the same time. All in all, it was just a bad plan. Maybe it was something I had to DO before I could realize that, but it didn't take long before I was waving a white flag. My marriage was suffering, my mental and physical health were suffering, it was an ignorant choice financially, and I just wasn't having fun at all. I felt like I was drowning. Exactly one year after the store opened, pre-orders for my coloring book launched on Phoenix's first birthday, and I upped my Wellbutrin prescription.
It all came to a head when we went to Spring at the Silos in 2017. I was SO inspired by the place and the artisans and had a ton of fun! However, the main thing I walked away from that experience thinking was, something needs to change. I was around all of these people who I felt were working smarter, not harder, and I was in the "harder" group, no doubt. Now, that's not to say they weren't working hard! But hard and smart. Something is seriously wrong in a business when you can be invited to an incredible opportunity, set up just about first, leave just about last, have a packed booth for three days, have things go exactly or better than you expected, and still leave totally and utterly depleted. And that's exactly how I felt. Up until that point, I had always run my business from a strictly creative mindset. "Who cares if the margins on this stink? It's fun/beautiful!" "Who cares if this way is more work, it's the right way!" "Who cares if I stay up all night, every night?! I want it to be perfect!" We packed up that last night of the market, ate our delicious Silos cupcakes, and flew home from Waco (I in an old maternity dress with crusty formula on it that my friends still remind me about), and I drew a line in the sand the next day. It was time for a change in mindset. Even if it was risky. Even if it was hard. Because what I was doing and how I was currently working was simply unsustainable. For me, for my family, and then consequently to my business.
Luckily, God was all over it as soon as I relinquished control. (No shocker, there!) My team had other opportunities next on the horizon that naturally called them away, and we were able to sublet my store almost immediately. I was off to a good start! We had moved fulfillment away from the store already, since the shipping and receiving off of Main Street was just another thing in the long list of things that didn't work, and I started working on creating a home studio to base out of. (Still not my first choice, but it's what's best now). I still felt majorly short-handed, but knew assembling a team was not something I am made for, and so I had to continue to streamline and brainstorm unexpected ways to alleviate some of the pressure.
My next goal needed to be making the Lindsay Letters online experience as succinct as possible. I've literally had over 1,000 products in the store since it's creation. Way too many SKUs for you all to sort through, and way too much product to manage! It is SO HARD for me to "trim the fat," as they say. Basically because each and every product I have has some sort of emotional value to me. Also because every time I take away a design or product, I inevitably get emails asking for it back! (You guys, this is HARD!) A few holidays ago, I launched my broadest catalog ever (in addition to prints and canvases, I'd created bags, cups, barware, mugs, platters, pens, textiles, apparel, and so on), and that was frankly too much for me to manage, from too many different vendors. Plus, I've sold tons of Pumpkin Mugs (for example), but honestly Pumpkin Mugs aren't the thing that fuels my soul. And so, I'll hand that baton over to the many other lettering artists that are doing a great job at it, and try to zone in on what I can uniquely add to the conversation.
Along with editing products, I went to work creating the what we've dubbed the "Canvas Builder" (you can see it in action whenever you create a canvas) and the Help Desk – both in an effort to best set your expectations and answer questions ahead of time. (AND, to make it FUN!) Last Fall, in an tense week of pre-holiday-launch planning, I created this first calendar in an effort to get organized, and have been so blessed to discover that it's something you all have loved being able to use as well!
Over this past year, I've continued to prune products, streamline my fulfillment efforts, and take a long look at what I feel that God has specifically made me to do.
Where I've landed is two very specific things:
1. God has wired me to create approachable, attainable, hope-filled art available in a beautiful and user-friendly online environment.
2. God has wired me to connect and inspire, through art and words and authenticity.
And so from this point on, that is the measurement against which I will weigh my efforts! Anything that doesn't help to fulfill that purpose has to go. What does this mean for Lindsay Letters? Well my friend, I'm glad you asked! In bullet points, here's what this means:
• My focus for the store will be on Art. Wall art, specifically (although I wish there was a sexier term for it). This doesn't mean that I won't ever sell the occasional mug or shirt, but my focus will be on art for your walls. This is the direction I feel God has called me, and I feel SO MUCH PEACE about it! (And this includes the calendars, since I consider those wall art as well!)
• I am making the switch to offering Art that is exclusively print on demand. (As in, I won't have in-house stock/inventory). Right now (and for as long as LL has been a store), every single canvas, calendar, and textile is already custom made to order. So, no change there! The big thing this affects are the foil & letterpress Art Prints as you currently know them, which are consequently entering their retirement (hence the big Clearance sale I just ran). If you subscribe to my newsletter, you already know this info, and thank you for your overwhelming support! This was a really tough decision, but with all of the Art Prints comes a huge amount of product management, and packaging, and a lot of guessing about what y'all are going to like. Since I have so many designs, and with letterpress and foil you have to print so many pieces at a time, it requires a heck of a lot of work and brain power... not to mention waste if I print something that doesn't sell well. I sold down my remaining prints as much as possible and that's the end of that Chapter of Lindsay Letters. It's bittersweet, since those Art Prints are foundational to my business, but I know that something has to give to make way and make room for what's ahead! Which is!...
• Beginning October 31st, I'm bringing new material + finishing options to all of my art! At that time every single Canvas that I currently offer on site (plus the new stuff) will now be available not just in the Canvas and Framed Canvas materials, but you'll also have the option to purchase those designs as an Art Print or Framed Art Print. Each form factor will have a variety of sizes and framing options to choose from, making it even easier for you to find and customize a piece that's perfect for you! This means that for the first time ever, my abstracts will be available as prints! This also means that on the lettered pieces, you'll be able to really choose the exact background color that works best for your space, instead of choosing from the one or two color options I had previously.
My partners (vendor, web team) and I have been working extremely hard on building out this new ordering process and art builder function, and we are so close to having it ready for you to enjoy! I cannot wait!!! I feel so liberated, and excited, and I am so looking forward to seeing what you all create!
• The last big change will be the name. I began "Lindsay Letters" as a blog in 2008, and lettering was used in that blog name as a verb. It was to document all of my lettering projects, and the name was so unique at the time. When it was time to launch my store, it assumed the blog name because that seemed only natural since that's where the traffic was, and that's what I was quickly becoming known as. (My last name is actually Sherbondy – not quite as roll-off-the-toungey). However, my friends will be the first to tell you that having my name be the business name has always been a bit uncomfortable and awkward for me. I'm not a natural self-promoter, and it feels weird to talk about yourself in third person. Even though it's not. Because I'm the person Lindsay Letters but there's also the store and brand Lindsay Letters and you see now I'm already confused. I'll happily assume the adorable "Lindsay Letters" nickname that you dear internet friends have bestowed upon me, but the dot com and brand is due for a change! I'm delighted that my abstract paintings have become just as popular as my lettering, and so I really want a business name that will be more all-encompassing of my art and offerings. Since I was already calling the canvas section of my website "The Canvas Bar®", transitioning the entire site to The Art Bar™ seemed like a perfect transition!
I love the idea of a "bar" because that's a place where we can experience both community and customization. So much of my life is spent saddled up to a coffee bar (like now, writing this post), where I watch people greeted by friendly familiar faces, and then proceed to order (sometimes extremely long, specific) unique versions of what they'd like. That's my vision for my art, and the products I'm offering here! I will do my best to create beautiful, meaningful art for you! And then the fun part – you saddle up to The Art Bar™, find a piece you love, and then make it uniquely your own!
Over the next week, we'll be transitioning all things LindsayLetters.com over to TheArtBar.co, as well as updating art and getting ready to launch Holiday 2018 on Halloween Night! (Please pardon our dust if you see anything a little wonky in this transition process. We'll get it buttoned up by Halloween for sure!)
Thank you so incredibly much for being on this crazy journey with me over the past DECADE! It's my heart's desire to steward this thing well. To honor God in this business, honor my family, and then to honor you. It's my hope and prayer that these updates will be such a blessing to you, and that you will continue to invite my work into the places and people's lives you hold most dear. It's because of you that I get to do what I LOVE and for that I am immeasurably grateful!
Have a wonderful day, and make sure you save the date for October 31st!
p.s. Did you read this far?! If you did, THANK YOU! That was a lot of info! Enjoy the discount code BLOG23 for one FREE printable! Click here to shop! → downloadable prints (update: downloadable print giveaway is now closed).