Sticking with Stickers
I'll let you in on my secret for making friends and being able to find my lost cell phone.
I decided to stop being anonymous.
I grew up before the internet, social media and personal branding, so this was a huge shift in my thinking.
And I'm an introvert at heart. So it was counterintuitive besides.
Luckily, I've never completely beaten down that daring 9-year old boy who lives inside me and cheers me on to feats of both foolishness and greatness.
It's a lot of work to make friends. I figured out that it was even more work when I tried to hide my real name and my face behind handles and avatars.
I also suspected that regular business cards didn't have the impact I was looking for.
It takes time to meet people, get to know them and let them get to know you. Until you do that you can't get on to the real business of being friends* (*expressing enthusiasm and support because of a shared interest or attitude).
Sure, stick around the arts community and you meet good people. We're a friendly bunch, but ...
I made a lot more friends when I discovered there are lots of people like me with a 9-year old still jumping up and down inside them.
I mean, who doesn't like stickers? Especially outrageous stickers.
My laptop covered top and bottom with stickers
I've discovered that stickers can be a shortcut in making friends.
I make stickers that help other people get to know me then I pass them out to people I want to know.
When I share a sticker I'm inviting people to let me know what we have in common so we can skip the boring and time consuming work and go straight to the fun part.
A success for me because my inner 9-year old whispers that just having a sticker is great and it doesn't matter what I look like or what my stickers look like.
My wife disagreed with my impulsiveness when I made my first face sticker.
She refers to the selfie I used as "that terrorist mug shot."
Okay. So I needed a hair cut. I thought it looked funny. I still do.
I had T-shirts made.
I had already drawn pictures of pottery tools and paintbrushes I was selling and turned them into stickers. When I decided I wanted my face stickers to be round, I thought I'd arrange my brushes and ribs in a circle pattern as if the product ideas were jumping out of my head.
I had done something similar in a painting years ago. The hands over the head represent being a creative maker.
"Think with your Hands"
my happy-hands-get-to-work painting
over the staircase leading to my studio
I look at this painting every day. It was just a natural thing to arrange stuff around my head. On the round sticker, though, the tools and brushes ended up looking like halos! It was crazy.
My face stickers turned out both ironic and icon-ic. Little Troy snickered.
When I ran out of those face stickers, my wife insisted I get a hair cut. Then she took a new photo of me.
It needed something.
Transmogrification. At least.
I was still on the low end of the graphic design software learning curve and couldn't get the effect I wanted. So I hired a couple artists on Fiverr to transform the photo for me. One in color, one in b&w.
I used my software to add my tool and brush halos in the background. Presto chango. I had my next set of round face stickers.
These stickers have been tremendously successful for me. They've helped me expand my circle of friends. I find them in the background of lots of potters' studio photos on Instagram. It's gratifying to know people are getting a kick out of them. I'm amazed when I go places I've never been and find one of my face stickers has made it there ahead of me!
People tell me they hold up well, even on everyday objects like water bottles. Since it helps my friends keep smiling, I order the high quality stickers from Stickermule.
Funny story. I was walking around at a show with stickers in my back pocket then put my phone in the same pocket. (It was a tight fit.)
I somehow accidently ended up sticking a sticker to my phone case. Good adhesive. It stayed stuck.
Some time later I lost my phone and had it promptly returned to me because they recognized me from the face sticker on the back of the phone. Anonymous people upgrade their phones more often than I do.
I'm as restless as an adult as I was as a kid. I just can't keep doing the same thing. I soon wondered what my next face sticker could be.
I was at an art fair and found an artist at a booth doing caricatures. Yeah. Who doesn't love caricatures? He agreed to draw me and let me use the image for marketing. So, after applying my graphic design magic, this squiggle-style Troy became the brush sticker I introduced a year or so ago.
People have been asking when I'm going to do a sticker that shows my pottery. I started putting rabbits and critters on my work again this past year, so the time seemed right.
I was firing the overnight shift at Justin Rothshank's wood kiln for a workshop he arranged for guests from Lillstreet in Chicago. Garrett Son (my new good friend) helped me stoke the fire and stay awake. As we bonded I found out he does caricatures. He agreed to help me design a new sticker for this year and he did a great job. Best sticker yet!
The rabbit border pottery makes a halo that's even more obvious now. It's even yellow. My favorite color and a pottery glaze I use a lot.
(Little Troy likes the comic book style and points out that my beard has turned gray.)
And when you take a sticker, tell me about yourself. Let's be friends.
About the Authors
Troy Bungart is a ceramic artist from rural Michigan. He grew up in an old farmhouse that had a vintage wood burning stove and oven combo in the kitchen. Troy played with baby farm animals in that kitchen where the heat kept them warm until they could go back out to the barn. Troy still likes animals and still likes wearing yellow shirts.
Valerie Bungart is Troy's wife. She grew up in suburban Michigan where she played jump rope and a mean game of pick-up-sticks. Her inner child still wants to be a fairy tale princess, a movie director or a spy. Valerie still likes Troy and still likes wearing purple dresses.
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