Cathryn Wellner's search for 1001 reasons to be optimistic
Andy Nulman (co-founder of Just For Laughs)
What I Learned This Week: Once Upon A Time, There Was This Blog Post...
As I am wont to do, I attended an Art Fair last week (spoke at it actually, in a speech that may find its way here given its pertinence...but I digress). It was a fundraiser for Youth Employment Services, a cause I've been supporting relatively actively for a number of years.
Most of the art there--from paintings to sculpture to jewelery to original fashion designs--was surprisingly original and almost uniformly good.
So, what separated the purchased pieces from the ones schlepped back home by the artists themselves?
It's somewhat old news and almost a cliche, but in marketing just about anything these days, the story behind the product itself is almost as important as the product itself.
A handful of books have been written on the subject of corporate storytelling but sadly, considering the depth and breadth of the subject, most of these tomes are surprisingly ponderous and almost uniformly bad. Proceed at your own risk.
Books aside, suffice to say that wrapping your offering in a story requires following a recipe of three simple ingredients:
For example, take the story of Jason Goldsmith. He was selling a series of colorful, happy pieces that combined both the back and the glass of a shadowbox frame. Eye-catching indeed.
But scratch the eye-candy surface and you find out that these pieces were inspired by Jason's seven-year-old son Ellis, who is autistic. Limited in his spoken communication, Ellis communicates with his dad via drawings; "picture conversations" as Jason calls them. "Ellis was a stranger living in my house before I discovered he thinks in pictures," he explains.
Each piece that Jason had for sale came complete with a sticker that tells the story behind it. The one I bought--"Uh Oh, Broken!"--was about the day Ellis dropped a box of eggs while helping his dad make breakfast...something all parents live through, but few have such a tangible, framed, lasting memory of. Take a look at it above.
You can find out more about Jason and Ellis and their Big Blue Hug project by clicking here...but equally as importantly, you can be inspired by their story to create yours.
YOU may think your story boring, mundane, unspectacular...but you've been living it. It's old hat to you. To someone else, anyone else, EVERYONE else, it's new, and it may be fascinating. You'll never know unless you tell it, though.
Rod Stewart once sang: "Every Picture Tells a Story."
Well, this week I learned that "Every Story Sells a Picture."
Or, in the case of Jason and Ellis Goldsmith, judging by the images I saw clutched in arms or peeking out of bags on the elevator down from the YES Art Fair, it sells MANY of 'em.
Whenever Jason Goldsmith wants to have a heart-to-heart talk with his son Ellis, he takes out a pen and paper and they communicate with pictures. Midweek at their Côte des Neiges apartment, as Ellis, 7, is heading off for day camp, dad plans the rest of the day.
“Do you want to go to the mountain?” he asks and Ellis draws stick-figure sketches of a man and a boy. “Where’s Max?”Jason asks and Ellis quickly sketches an image of his dog friend. Ellis, who has autism, has a mild tantrum later, but essential communication has occurred.
The use of pictures to enable father and son to exchange ideas and sentiments has been a breakthrough for
this family. It happened two years ago when regular therapies for autistic children – a condition affecting one in 200, were not producing results.
The drawings are based on hand drawn stick figures and can include comic-like thought bubbles for older children.
“You are making a comic strip of their lives and putting things in context,” Goldsmith said.
The breakthrough moment came when speech-language pathologist Nancy Ship and educator Wendy Wilson visited the Goldsmith home to introduce a method that stresses communication rather than speech. Ship recalled that Jason had drawn a picture of a trampoline and a figure and they were to take turns jumping. “I suggested that he erase one of the legs so Ellis will jump on one leg rather than two. “Much to our amazement, Ellis got off the trampoline and put the other leg back on the figure,” which was the
first time Ellis had used a drawing to respond to his father.
Goldsmith recalled another moment when he wanted Ellis to set the table for supper.
“All I wanted was for him to put one fork and one knife on the table. I drew a picture on the chalkboard and he immediately ran to the cutlery drawer, put the fork and knife on the chalkboard to match it up with the picture and then slapped them down on the table.”
Goldsmith began using the picture method to enhance a range of interactions.
“If something happened that was exciting I would draw it out and make it into a visual performance.” Goldsmith had another idea.
He turned some of Ellis’s best pictures into greeting cards and is now marketing them as part of his Big Blue Hug series.
One of them is a picture Ellis made of a dozen eggs he broke when trying to help his dad. “He started to show an ability to express himself emotionally, whereas before it was all concrete needs.” The seven cards consist of Ellis’ drawings on the front. On the back is the story of the picture conversations
as Ellis would say them.
Goldsmith plans to sell them to schools as “educational, inspirational fundraising products.”
“The idea is to spread autism awareness and to teach children tolerance, to value their autistic peers and give
them a tool to actually talk to them.” He has put the cards on line on a website at www.thebigbluehug.com and they are also available at some local stores.
Janice Picard of Ste. Eustache, who has adopted two girls from China, bought one of the cards and when the younger one, Emily, was feeling angry, the older one, Misha, said: “Why not draw a picture.”
“Emily drew a picture of her anger and it opened up a whole means of communication for her. “We must have gone through 300 sheets of paper the month after. She drew everything, dancing, an airplane that brought her here and a heart, saying ‘we love a lot.’ “I had no idea she had that level of comprehension because she didn’t speak much.” Emily, who has just finished speech therapy, no longer draws pictures.