Wow, it's nearly been one year since I first conceived of NetherDen.com
Like New Year's Day, the anniversary of starting a business is a good opportunity to take a hard look at where the business is at, re-examine the choices made that got it here, decide where I would like it to be, and make a progress plan that will get it to there. When I originally launched Nether Den Studio, I had several different kinds of art in mind. My previous business, Wynderkind Studio, was too defined by realistic animal masks and associated costume items - I wanted to do other things besides that. NetherDen.com was originally launched with four different categories of art: Costumery (included the "furry" items), Prosthetics, Art Dolls, and Jewelry.
Looking back at this past year so far, I've made:
- 12 Costumery items (6 realistic animal masks, 3 handpaws, 3 tails)
- 16 Prosthetics items (7 12-inch Ears, 5 Wild Elf Ears, 3 Tails, 1 Avatar Ears)
- 0 Art Dolls
- 0 Jewelry
So that's where I stand. Not really what I'd hoped. My initial art doll prototype is still less than half-finished (the "Zoargon") and I recall that I removed the Jewelry category at some point because I decided having two long-standing empty store sections was a bit sad. So much for getting away from the masks, eh? In fact, I have four more masks in-progress right now.
Why so many masks? Money, plain and simple. Looking back, I realize I have spent the last year dealing with many financial challenges, and in many cases I did not plan well. However, (at the risk of sounding whiny) about half of the time, my money troubles stemmed from what I like to refer to as the "Windfall Demon." Basically, he's the little demon that watches for when you get a bit of extra money and then, suddenly, WHAM - major dental work needed or major car repair required, etc. etc. Nearly every time I would sell a mask, something would happen to gobble up the profits. After a while, one begins to recognize this as a lack of savings, which is really the lack of a budget. When one lives up to the edge of their means all of the time, sudden expenses = debt because there is no cushion. My realistic animal masks are my biggest "ticket" item, so I kept making them to keep afloat.
As I mentioned before, I have four more masks in-progress right now. These are part of the big batch I planned for autumn, which included the recently-finished Fennec Fox. I had arranged with my boss at work to have 3 days off a week, which assisted me in accomplishing my art. I had hoped to be done with them before Halloween, which was stymied by my retail employer having a layoff. While I did not lose my job, I lost my extra day off, which is something I am slowly adapting to.
My original plan was to kick up my art production in order to gain enough art profit in order to reduce my hours working in retail by February 2016 and still afford my current standard of living. This is still my plan, but I have moved my goal of reducing retail hours back into summer of next year. The goal of the current mask batch is to make money enough in order to have a cushion so that I can pursue my goal of branching out into art dolls. What kind of dolls? The likes of Remjie, Worms & Bones, and Anya Boz are excellent inspirations for the various styles I am interested in. Why art dolls? Greater creativity, faster turnaround, and honestly I've just always loved toys and action figures. Additionally, art dolls appeal to a wide and diverse range of buyers, unlike masks and prosthetics.
This doesn't mean I will stop making masks or prosthetics - new masks will simply become more infrequent, as will new prosthetic styles. In fact, I have some super-secret mask plans in the works, which will be very cool once I work things out, but this is why I need more time to focus on my art. Working 30-40 hours a week in retail is a killer for my art time and motivation. Other Costumery-related things I plan to hash out next year are feetpaws and bodysuits, however these will mainly only be available to customers who have previously purchased a mask from me. I will also be redesigning my Patreon campaign in the very near future, but one thing that will not change (at least not for a long time) is that only my Patreon supporters will be eligible to submit for commissions once I am able to open for them.
In conclusion, my big goal for 2016 - finally breaking into the art doll scene and becoming a full-time, financially secure artist!