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blog category: Inspiration

FestivalNet, Asheville, NC

The 20 Best Places to Celebrate the Holidays Across the US

posted 12/09/21 16:27:35   category » Inspiration
The 20 Best Places to Celebrate the Holidays Across the US

As the days shorten and nights become longer, many cities across the US have found ways to lighten and lifts our spirits by embracing the magic of this time of year. Festivals, and events fill the streets and enrich our days and nights all over the country. Snow piled forests and frozen rivers offer a magical ambiance with winter recreational activities providing an added excitement.

While many are familiar with the iconic and beautiful holiday displays put on in New York City, between the traffic and tourists, it certainly wouldn’t be considered a winter wonderland-esk experience. So what are the cities and towns that can truly give you the breath taking and magical winter wonderland experience, combined with the holiday cheer and livelihood of shopping, event and festivals? To find out, Rocket Homes conducted a study to ranks the best places all over the US to experience a winter wonderland that also offer a variety of holiday festivals and events.

The Future of Music Festivals

posted 01/12/21 11:25:00   category » Inspiration
The Future of Music Festivals

This past year has been tough on everyone, but brings a unique sense of loss to those of us who love music festivals.


Well-known festivals like Coachella and Lollapalooza have become part of our culture. And smaller festivals are gathering places on a spiritual level for those who share a love of live music.


But ever since all music festivals (even the iconic Coachella!) were cancelled due to the pandemic, people have been wondering about the future of music festivals in a post-Covid world.


Here are our predictions based on what we know so far.

Music Festivals Will Never Go Away

If the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic have taught us anything, it’s that music festivals will stay the course, no matter what. In the wake of cancellations and restrictions, artists have found creative solutions. UK indie rocker Sam Fender put on a socially distanced concert which, though not necessarily a success from a traditional standpoint, helped keep the art of live performance alive. The famous dance music festival, Tomorrowland, hosted over 70 artists and over a million viewers in their 2020 livestream. We also got to participate in the first-ever EscapeTracks Virtual R&B Festival, which allowed us to support struggling musicians by donating to Musicares.


Solutions like these have kept the music festival culture alive during its darkest hour. And no matter what happens in the future, it seems clear that it will remain strong.

New Artists May Struggle More

Independent venues have less access to government aid than larger festivals. As a result, the small venues and festivals are really feeling the hit of Covid-19 restrictions. This situation poses a threat to newer bands and artists, who often get their start in the indie scene.


Since the large crowds at traditional music festivals put it squarely in the high-risk activity category, it may take a very long time for new musicians to have the same opportunities they did before.


The good news is that independent musicians are finding creative ways to respond to the crisis. They are pushing out more music than ever on indie platforms like TuneCore and Vydia.

Music Festivals May Never Be Quite the Same

It’s quite possible that music festivals will never return to exactly what they were in a pre-Covid world.


They might be even better.


Through live streaming, artists have found new and more compelling ways to interact with their fans.


Live concerts on streaming services give fans the opportunity to engage with each other in real time with their comments, something they never got to do before.


Besides that, fans who have traditionally been excluded from the concert scene due to finances, illness, or just a dislike of large crowds now have the opportunity to participate, opening up a whole new world in the music festival culture.


These changes are so compelling that they might just be here to stay whenever it’s safe for large crowds to gather again.


The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in loss to the music industry. But in the post-Covid world, it’s poised to come back stronger than ever. Get ready to put on your dancing shoes.


Selling Online: Good Photos Are Key

posted 10/13/20 10:35:55   category » Inspiration
Selling Online: Good Photos Are Key

Upon landing in your online shop, your photos are the first thing that speaks to your customers about your work. If the photos are out of focus, pixelated, confusing, or poorly lit, you've lost a potential customer. If you don't take the time to share excellent photos of your items, don't wonder why you aren't making any sales. It is the most important thing about online selling; good photos of your work pay off.

Fortunately, you don't need to be a professional photographer to take decent photos of your items. 

If you are using your phone to take photos, it is a good idea to research online camera guides or tutorials that match your phone type and camera program. For example, many smart phones offer 'professional' settings to give you some control over lighting settings or white balance... Some do not. A little research can go a long way in presenting your items as they deserve.

Get a tripod.

Whether you are shooting with a camera or smartphone, an inexpensive small table top tripod will ensure a steady shot.

Natural lighting won't let you down...

...but using the flash always will. Flash photography will change the colors of your items, create glare, or otherwise misrepresent your craft, period. Using the flash also creates unwanted darker shadows. So, set up your display near a window, or if you go outside, take your photos in the morning or afternoon when the sun is not directly overhead.

Open your camera's manual and learn about the white balance setting.

It's easier than you think, will only take a second, and you will be glad you did when your pictures are brighter and cleaner. If you use plain white for your background, make sure it is truly WHITE by white balancing your camera. I often see grey-white, underlit backgrounds and it looks terrible. (Another great solution to giving your stuff great lighting: try googling "creating your own at-home lightbox" for photographing small items. It's easy and cheap to make your own mini photography studio!)

Place your items on non-distracting and complimentary backgrounds.

You don't want to use colors or textures too similar to your item that will cause it to blend in. Contrasting elements will make your item stand out, but choose wisely and make sure the placement of your artwork "makes sense". Being consistent with your backgrounds will help brand your shop. Time after time I see people's household items in the background and it looks completely unprofessional and draws the eye away from the item being photographed.

Take photos at various angles.

You will want to include a close up (using your macro setting on your camera will help you achieve clear close ups) when you list an item to sell. Take advantage of uploading as many pictures as allowed per item! Let your buyer see your item completely so they know what they're getting. I see so many people just uploading one photo of their item. Those people shouldn't wonder why they aren't making any sales either.

Bonus Tip For Framed Art Pieces.

You will want to check out this blog post: 5 Online Tips to Show Your Art in a Room

Good photos = more online sales. Bad photos won't get you anywhere.


Pictured Above:  Jewelry by Gerina Shop
I like many of these shop photos, they are clean, sharp, naturally lit, and non distracting. She uses shells and pennies to give the shopper context, a great idea!

Take some time to look around the marketplace to get ideas for your photos! (Or to see what not to do.  😎)

🎨 5 Online Tools to Show Your Art in a Room!

posted 08/19/20 14:03:59   category » Inspiration

Ready to increase your online art sales? Present your work beautifully by sharing the impact and scale of artwork with potential collectors through the use of in situ images.

Offering room views enhances the shopping experience, and increases customer confidence. Creating these images doesn’t require Photoshop or even a high level of technical ability. Check out the tools below and start showcasing your own art in virtual rooms!


This site offers a paid service that ranges from $11 – $59 per month, and serves a variety of clients, including artists, galleries and art consultants. Place your artwork in an uploaded image of a collector’s wall to give them a preview. Or, design and create an entire exhibition of work on a virtual gallery wall or exhibition booth.


This option is a smartphone app that superimposes your work on a selection of interiors. Room settings are updated frequently, and different colored walls are available. Select frames to suggest hanging options, and easily share your images. ArtRooms has a high customer satisfaction rating. Try it for the first month at $3.99, then pay a monthly fee of $7.99.

Artist Marion Griese shares her art in a room setting using the ArtRooms app

🍋 When Life Gives You Lemons...or, a Pandemic

posted 08/06/20 11:59:49   category » Inspiration

Make lemonade or…

If you’re long-time member Bill Coleman, turn the World’s Biggest Bubble Toy into a Giant, Fun, Handwashing Station!

For over fifteen years, folks at festivals, fairs and special events from Anchorage to Las Vegas, Aberdeen to Austin have enjoyed the World's Biggest Bubble Toy®. It’s fourteen feet high and solar powered! 

“Really added to the party atmosphere!” --Arc Charities
“Absolutely fabulous!” --Beaux Art Festival
“The bubbles made people laugh 100 yards away!” --Dubuque County Fair

But, then Covid-19 hit. Bill says, “
When the pandemic started, I thought I should point out that the Bubble Tower fights the bug with a special blend of Dawn dish soap, is great fun and can deliver a safe hand washing message as well as give sponsor's an opportunity to ‘be the good guys’ in the fight to weather the pandemic storm.” 

Bill will be setting up four of his Giant, Fun, Handwashing Stations next month at Bennett Days in Colorado!

Keep spreading the smiles, suds and safety, Bill!

🌬️ Five Benefits of Conscious Breath Practice

posted 07/29/20 13:56:57   category » Inspiration

As you read this next bit take a moment to give your awareness to your breath. Breath has given you the opportunity to be here now. Breath is the gift that is granted us as living spirits. How wonderful is that?

Something so simple as breath is taken for granted until that moment when we experience breath's importance to our life and longevity.

As humans, manifested on earth in the cosmic form of a mammal, our breath connects us to the furthest reaches of the universe and down into the deepest depths of atomic particles.

Being an ever curious and adventurous spirit eager to explore and learn, my body and mind have traveled the path of an athlete, both recreational and competitive, a musician of wind and drum instruments, a facilitator of clients in personal training-massage-meditation-hypnotherapy-sound healing, and journeyed through Western medicine and Eastern esoteric philosophies. What will be brought to you in the words that follow is my small strand of experiences and knowledge gathered from my journeys that threads through the tapestry of this wonderful woven globe that we live in.

Shall we begin the journey together?

“Breath springs from self” – Chandogya Upanishad 7.26.1

Our body is the magical universal instrument and we enjoy that beauty in voice, instrument, and movement. Let us look at five basic benefits of breath.



“When movement of Breath is internal, one will see the world in themself” – unknown Vedic

Each time we inhale with the exchange of exhale, we are rebuilding our nervous system and the entire molecular structure of the body. Your cells are recalibrating as you read this now. So how can you ever be the same person? It is impossible.

The center for breath management expands from the medulla oblongata, a section of the brainstem, and controls the rhythm of our breath. This is done involuntarily. When voluntary rhythmic breath is applied in practice the patterns of the brainstem start to shift and affect the central nervous system, Increasing oxygen and ph in the blood stream.

This exploration of our breath can remove "Dis-Ease" in connective tissues, healing tissue issues in body and brain. (The Mind in a different topic and in not being covered in this article.)

Story time: This young man had traveled to Australia. He was a sickly character, hunched over, pressure in his eyes and incredibly low in vitality. A local of the area introduced this sickly young man to the digeridoo. (Circular Breathing though a termite-carved hollow stick). After a few months of practicing the digeridoo, the young man had changed from a sickly young man to a healthy young man and over the few years he was unrecognizable to his past community. Confidence, health, and clarity now radiated from the young man. The Sick man had transformed into a man of Vitality. - Seattle resident



“Breathe easy; have trust and be free form fear.” – Unknown Vedic Sage

Tension derives from the pressure of thought affecting our nervous system and is created in us when we respond to fear and react with a fight or flight response from our reptilian brain stem.

With redirecting the focus to the breath, one can move from the experience of fear in the body into a place of peace, decreasing pain and suffering and increasing clarity of choice for action or stillness.

Story time:  "I was so afraid to leave my house to even go get the mail. I heard that rebirthing breath work could fix that. After the first session I was able to open the door to my home and not feel fear streaming in my head. After the 10th session I was getting the mail with just a distant whisper of fear in my head. It took a bit of time, yet now I can barely remember what I was even afraid of. Crazy." – Young Woman testimony



“Breathing is an action of self who is seated in midst of the breath… those who observe the breath movements regain awareness of SELF which they had lost… reviving original consciousness” – Vedic Hindu text

With a steady mind and lowered heart rate we can make decisions with unwavering confidence.

We trust those that are calm and have clear speech. We can develop this through the study of breath, focus, and the movement between actions and stillness.

How does your breath and heart rate change with different interactions of the day, week, month, year?

The practice of breath awareness exposes the conscious self-awareness of WHO AM I? That question is answered with the focused awareness of our flow of breath while engaged with life.

Story time: "Cliff jumping into clear blue water from 30 feet sounds exhilarating. For me it was! How many things could go wrong? Yet the freedom of flight and weightlessness had pulled my curiosity to the platform. After seven minutes of trying to NOT jump, I finally jumped, and it was great. What switched was trusting that I could do it. After 30 years of competitive swimming as a platform diver, it was crazy that I had created fear. Simply crazy! I was so glad that I jumped another 5 times." – 52-year-old woman



“…self-discipline is the ability to guide yourself to do what you want to do whether you feel like it or not…” – Ila Barlean

In a culture of should and should not, our breath can become ridiculously small and stifled. Yet with a small shift of mind and will that breath can expand and deepen, allowing our original self to fulfill those dreams and desires we have been holding back from completing. With a little bit of redirecting of our thoughts, our breath will then soon follow.

One can feel a sense of ‘courage’ sweep over the entire body and a flow and ease with the completion of dreams and desires.... be it this article, be it the cake in the oven, be it traveling around the world.

Story Time: "My child was labeled ADD, Learning Disabled and a disruption to the class. I heard that martial arts might be good for him, so I enrolled my son in our local Kung Fu classes. Within a few weeks my child was able to finish a task that he was given. He stood with more confidence. Still full of all that energy, yet clear in his direction." – Mother with frustrated son



As a facilitator I call this exercise “dumping out the trash”. It’s a different feeling from sex or eating something super delicious.

With each breathing practice style there is this build up towards a place like a crossroad in the nervous system. A point where we get to decide

1- Do I continue?

2- Do I stop here?

Either is fine. Yet in the years of working with clients, athletes, myself, family, and friends, it has been discovered that those that choose to “continue" develop all that has been mentioned in this article. Health improves, confidence excels, the ability to relax becomes natural, and discipline is a no brainer.

When we release tension at a tissue level, a set of endorphins are released, and the brain sets off a ton of ATP that has us feeling great.

“The womb breath” – Taoism Chapter

Belly breathing is the simplest and basic way to remember how our breath was when we were in the womb. Scientists have attached ultra-sound to the belly of a pregnant woman and recorded the rhythm of the breath the baby makes in the womb. It turns out to be remarkably similar to the brain wave rhythm and blood flow through the central nervous system.

When this rhythm is remembered – feeling good is your birthright.

In the second part of this article I will share with you my 7 favorite practices of breath.


Article composed by Ila Barlean (B.S.; LMP; Hp) founder of Tao Energy Movement and We Drum Project. She is a student and facilitator of self-care and healing. From a professional athlete to massage, sound healing, hypnotherapy, meditation, and yoga, Ila’s vast knowledge and experiences spends the global family weaving the threads of tribal to science in our fabric of this short time on planet earth.



Six Ways For Artists to Improve Your Story-telling and Engage with Your Audience

posted 07/15/20 14:58:07   category » Inspiration

Each one of us has a story to tell. Some of us have more than one story. Others are a bit more shy. The key thing to remember is that your customers want to relate to you as a person, not a product. Stories help us to engage with people and build relationships. In person, a quick anecdote can help to break the ice and establish common ground. But what can you do in this time of social distancing and remote selling? Here are six ways to improve your story-telling and encourage connections with your customers.

1) Focus on One Thing

Online audiences don't have time to focus on much before flitting off to the next bright shiny thing, so you have to grab them quickly. One hero image of your work as an attention-getter is often a great way to kick off a post or an email. (On the professional forums I visit, people will often use an unrelated image just to get attention.) You, as an artist, should have phenomenal images of your work that can be used to kick off a story. Think about how your work came into being, and let that drive the story.

What's the piece about? Did the idea come to you in a dream or was it the result of years of practice and hard work? How did you construct it? What makes it (and you) unique? Find that one thing that distinguishes your artwork from others, and elaborate on it.

In journalism, the first paragraph is the most important. Known as the "lede", it establishes the who, what, where, why and how of your following paragraphs. Perhaps you can relay how you helped a desperate husband find a last-minute gift for his 20th anniversary. Or wax eloquent about the research that went into your latest line of pendants. Remember that this story is not only about you and your work, but also how your customer can relate to you as an artist. People ARE interested in you, and your struggles. They are fascinated by your perceived bohemian lifestyle, and imagine you to be squirreled away in a garret somewhere. Romantic perceptions of artistic endeavors are a powerful hook that you can leverage to draw a picture of reality.

“Lay Down Your Burden” - In this image, captured by photographer James W. Parker, the objects and the light work together to create an air of mystery, leaving questions unanswered. It was shot in an abandoned house in Scenic, SD. Pinned on the wall opposite the crutches was a referral to a wound specialist, dated 1985. One wonders what happened between the time the crutches were left and the image was taken.This picture was made in 2012.

2) Develop a Theme

My photographic work "Stories Told In Things Left Behind" is about preserving past memories and building bridges to the present. Each piece has its own background story, built right in. The stormy afternoon, the odd object out of context, Grandma's chair on the front porch -- each picture offers multiple interpretations, and evokes different emotions from different viewers.

The theme of this body of work makes it much stronger as a whole, and makes it easy to tell stories surrounding it.

Think about the theme or styles that hold your work together. Is it a particular material that's extremely hard to work with? Is it color or texture? What shapes do you find yourself drawn to? As a painter, why do you work in abstract oils or alcohol ink? If you're a potter, what draws you to raku? And why should we care?

The more you reveal yourself to your potential customers, the more they feel they know you. And once they get to know you a bit better, you start to build trust. And trust adds value.

3) Speak From Your Heart

One of the surest ways to build trust is to be yourself. A friend of mine once said, "There are two types of artists. Those who do production to make the most amount of money, and those who create art from the heart."

When your stories and your art come from your heart, write about that passion. Share that passion. Art adds value to people's lives. Knowing the artist adds value to the art. Romance your work. Speak from your heart. And your patrons will value your stories.

4) Segment Your Audience

Hopefully, you have an email list or a Facebook Page. Maybe you still send out postcards. What do you know about your audience? Can you separate the tire-kickers from the buyers? Segmenting your list into smaller pieces may help you to streamline your written communications. For those who demonstrate genuine interest, give them more detail about the work, and VIP access to your newest work. For those who just signed up, an introduction to your story as an artist may be appropriate.

Keeping track, either through a simple spreadsheet, or in your CRM software, can help you define audience segments. Different stories may appeal to different segments of your audience.

5) Develop a Story Calendar

Writing for your blog and posting to social media are two sides of the same coin. Frequency and consistency are key to maintaining your audience's interest. One way to keep on top of it is to work out a calendar for each of your major media outlets. Email, blog posts, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest -- having a specific plan for feeding each of these goes a long way towards keeping you on track and keeping your peeps engaged! Try using a separate Google Calendar, or just write it down on a lined pad. Try to be consistent in how and when you post. I know, I struggle with this, too.

6) Get Published!

While web sites and blogs get all the attention these days, don't forget that printed books and catalogs offer yet another way to reach a select audience and immerse them into a specific facet of your work. Offer a printed catalog of a special collection to your VIP collectors, printed through Blurb ( or Lulu (

It's also possible to take a collection of short-form writing and turn it into a book. Many successful writers started by gathering articles from a career in newspapers or magazines. With the proliferation of online blogs and social media, it's easy to build a book as you go. Print on Demand (POD) allows independent authors to have books printed and distributed without having to stock inventory. For more information, check out or Amazon And of course, there are ebooks -- Kindle and are two popular e-publishing outlets.

Your story is your passion!

Marketing for artists really means conveying your story in the most passionate and genuine way possible. Let your artist self shine through your writing. Let your unique voice carry throughout all of your written communication as well as your in-person interactions.

James W. Parker is a writer, photographer and designer whose work spans four decades. When not on the road for art festivals and photographic assignment, he assists others in telling their stories in words and pictures.

One Artist's Inspirational Idea: "OnePerson OneTent" Craft Fair

posted 05/28/20 14:02:55   category » Inspiration

"I love setting up my tent and doing shows, and I am not letting COVID-19 take that from me!"
-  Edie Harlin  -

When we asked our members how they are getting creative right now to keep their spirits and businesses afloat, we were touched by all the responses that flooded in. One artist that turned our heads was Edie Harlin who produced a "OnePerson OneTent" Craft Fair in her front yard last month.

If anyone can innovate and think outside the box, it is the artist. If you have the inventory, the tent, and the will to succeed, it is surely a well-ventured risk to take. Taking advantage of your social media, email list, and foot-traffic could mean earning some cash and the great feeling of accomplishing something new.

"I did as well as I would have done at any 2 day event. It was a lot of fun. I donated a large portion of my earnings to a local food charity," says Harlin.

People that do not live in well-populated neighborhoods can ask a friend or local business about hosting their own personal craft fair in their "front yard".

"We have a lot of people who walk thru our neighborhood, so there was a ton of foot traffic. I was busy all day, both days. And people are asking when I am doing it again," says Harlin.

How did she keep people feeling comfortable to stop by and shop?

"I had hand sanitizer and wipes on hand, customers social distanced and waited their turn, and I took Venmo for payment for those who wanted contactless payment."

We applaud you, Edie Harlin! What have you done to get creative during COVID? Comment below!

For more about Edie Harlin, Please visit her website or Instagram
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