Have you ever wondered what goes into running a creative business? This series is all about building and cultivating your own creative business from finding inspiration to e-commerce platforms to the nuts and bolts of operating a website.
This month I interviewed Meri Cherry who writes about art, crafts & family on her blog Meri Cherry. Meri began her career as an elementary school teacher but switched to teaching art through private lessons and home-group instruction. She has created an engaging art & craft community for preschoolers and runs a successful art teaching business in the Los Angeles area.
Patty: First off, let’s talk about your name. It is just so perfect for an artist. I know your name has inspired your logo. Has it inspired you in other areas?
Meri: I always joke that when I married my husband I got a new name and a new identity. When I became Meri Cherry, I not only partnered with the love of my life, but in ways I fully stepped into who I am. My life became art all the time, which I had wanted it to be for years, but felt trapped in an old job. Once I started blogging as Meri Cherry I felt like I could really share my creativity and live a more art filled life and be a bit more outside the box.
Patty: Tell me a little about your beginnings with art and when/why you created your blog?
Meri: I loved art as a kid and it was very much encouraged. When I think of my childhood, I immediately think of the sense of pride I got from creating and making things. My mom was very supportive of the arts. She took me to all kinds of classes and had her own painting class at our house every Tuesday. It was taught by a fairly well-known writer and painter, Norman Garbo and every Tuesday he would come to our house, along with about 15 other moms and they’d set up their easels in our den and paint for several hours. I always thought it was so interesting that this was something you could do. I would sit at the top of the stairs and watch them.
The Beginnings of Blog Life
I started mericherry.com five years ago and it has been a life changing experience for me. I wanted a creative outlet. My cousin, who is always up to something cool before everyone else, had a blog, and I was really intrigued by that. So one day I just started one. It was very amateur and I had no idea what I was doing. I certainly never expected anyone to actually read it, but I enjoyed writing and taking pictures and it naturally kind of progressed. I never thought I’d be as into it as I am. Now, it’s my motivation for so many aspects of my daily life. I hope to blog as a full time career within the next few years. That doesn’t mean I won’t continue a lot of the other great things I do, I just would love to have the freedom to make more choices, which will come from the growth of my blog.
Private Lessons Logistics
Patty: I love how your childhood art experiences has shaped your life. Now you teach art at your own home plus travel to other homes to teach lessons. I know many of my readers would love to know more. Can you detail some of the challenges and benefits someone might face when embarking on this type of business?
Meri: Teaching private art classes throughout Los Angeles has turned into a great source of income, in addition to being something I truly enjoy. Each class lasts an hour and has 6-8 students. Now that I’ve been doing private classes over a year, I have a pretty good system down, but it didn’t start easy. I used to lug around tons of supplies and worry a lot about the projects and if I was prepared enough. Like with any new experience there was a learning curve. Now I am down to one tub of neatly packed supplies and my camera. I know how to time classes and how many parts a project needs to have for each age group. That was probably the biggest challenge. My art classes are for kids 3 and up. The three year olds for example need to move around every 20 minutes or so, which means I’d have to be prepared with three different processes for each class. That definitely took a minute to perfect but now, with a year of this type of specific experience under my belt, it’s been pretty smooth sailing. I would definitely recommend teaching art classes privately if this is something you are skilled in. I have tons of ideas for process based projects on my blog and I’m working on a few ebooks to share more information.
Patty: I love your photographs on your blog. They look as though they are from the same camera filter. Your branding is fresh, clean but with an air of whimsy. Was your styling intentional or did you just let it all happen?
Meri: Wow. Thank you so much. That actually means a lot to me. My style just kind of happened but photography is my passion and I hope to get better and better at it. I just try to stay true to myself. I have always seen a lot of beauty in art and the process of art and craft and I hope my photographs reflect that vision.
The Life of a Blogger
Patty: What has been the most challenging aspects of running a blog?
Meri: Running a blog can be a full time job even if it’s not your full time job and you actually have another full time job. I spend hours on my blog. HOURS. As soon as my kids go down I am practically running to my computer. That’s mostly because I love it, but it’s also because there are so many aspects of running a blog that you take seriously. Finding time to do everything and spend the amount of time I want to to make it grow and share great content, has been the biggest challenge.
Patty: Have you experienced any major changes that caused you to re-think your content or the way you blog?
Meri: I started taking my blog to the next level about two years ago, when I realized I could monetize it and people were actually reading it and enjoying my content. That was a real aha kind of high for me and I jumped in both feet. Before I would blog about anything that I wanted and I didn’t really think about my readers. My instructions were pretty vague and I didn’t take into account that people are coming to me for real advise. I also became a full time art teacher so my knowledge about teaching art was growing daily. I felt like I had a lot more to offer people that I really wanted to share. Also, I had two little girls that I started to expose to all these new art experiences. Some worked really well, and some were busts. I love the idea of sharing what works and what doesn’t with other moms so they can bring more art into their family life. My perspective has shifted a lot since I first started.
Patty: Does blogging contributes to the success of your classes or the other way around?
Meri: My art classes work hand-in-hand with my blog. The classes give me the content I want to share on my blog as well as an opportunity to work with kids, which I love. I teach 4 private classes a week, including one art play group for toddlers and 3 classes a week for ages 3-6. My blog has been great because it’s like an online resume. If someone is interested in my classes I refer them to my blog to check out the kind of work we do. It also works the other way as well. I’ve had some people read my blog and turns out they are local to Los Angeles, so they’ve been able to join in.
Patty: Do you advertise or do sponsored posts to support your blogging efforts?
Meri: Making a living from blogging, or attempting to, requires a lot of creativity and openness to working on different revenue streams. It’s really challenging to just do one thing as a blogger and make a financial impact. I have advertisers on my blog and work with Amazon Affiliates. I also have been blessed to work with some really great companies who sponsor some of the posts I write. It’s exciting because I was doing this for years making no money at all. I work so hard on my blog now, it feels really good to be getting paid for it. I mean, of course we should all be getting paid for our hard work right? I read comments sometimes online about people feeling resentful that bloggers are setting up affiliate links and making money off their suggestions. It strikes me as really odd. Most bloggers put hours and hours into their blogs, coming up with original content and doing the hard work that goes into that content. It just seems to me like if you like what someone is doing, you’d want to support them so you can see more of it. I couldn’t continue at the pace I am working now if I wasn’t getting paid for it. My husband would kill me! He has spent too many nights looking at my back facing the computer.
From Meri Cherry: 10 Art Secrets Every Mom Should Know
Patty: You are part of a dynamic group of other art moms called Rockin’ Art Moms. Why did you create the group?
Meri: The Rockin’ Art Moms are a group of women art and craft bloggers for kids that I belong too. It’s often called a tribe, a group with likeminded interests that supports each other. We have a facebook group and page that you can follow here. We support each other, collaborate, vent, and cheer each other on. Being part of The Rocki’n Art Moms or RAMS, has been a life changing experience for me. I can’t recommend a tribe enough. For so long I was going around speaking a language no one really understood or cared to understand and now I am part of a group of about 15 women that LOVE to speak the same language. It’s helped me grow my blog tremendously. I never would be where I am today without the RAMS. I am very grateful to them.
Patty: What advice can you give others who are considering starting a blog or might be new to blogging?
Meri: Go for it! Don’t think about it too much. Just start writing what you love. It doesn’t have to be fancy or perfect. Just put one foot in front of the other and do it. There are tons of conferences you can attend that really help, like Alt Summit and great resources online. Just go for it! We’re all just trying to find our way and you never know what wonderful things can happen when you follow your heart.
Patty: What are your favorite blogs to read? Do you like to listen to podcasts? What about books? Any favorites to share?
Meri: Some of my favorite blogs are Art Bar Blog and BabbleDabbleDo. They do fantastic, often process-based work, which is my favorite for kids. For books my all time favorite is The Artful Parent. This was my bible when I first started my art play groups for toddlers. For kids I like The Book With No Pictures, Love You Forever and Beautiful Oops a lot. I’m not really up on the podcast scene. To be honest I am a huge Howard Stern fan. So if I get any time alone in the car, it’s Howard all the way.
Thanks so much for this interview Patty. I loved reflecting on all these great questions.
Thank you, Meri!
Be sure to visit Meri’s blog for a look at her process-based art projects. She will be publishing her first ebook soon.
I’d love to hear if you have started your own business teaching art outside the school environment. Share ONE thing you wish you would have known before embarking on this adventure.
Or, if you are considering teaching art privately, share what your concerns might be.
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