A Paper Artist's Advice in Trying Times

Whether you have already set up shop as a paper artisan or perhaps you were thinking of doing so before the world turned upside down, paper sculpture artist and graphic designer Tiffany Budzsiz is here to offer valuable tips on being found in a crowded, distracted marketplace.

green, white, and red paper sculpture with rib cage, bleeding heart flowers, and fern foliage

You might remember Tiffany from a feature on this blog last spring in which I introduced her dramatic designs that are often fantasy or nature-inspired. She and I recently caught up via Instagram when she shared a paper dragon tutorial as a freely given act of kindness during this time of social distancing. I guarantee if you've ever wanted to try your hand at paper sculpture, Tiffany's how-to will start you off on the right foot... it is excellent.

paper sculpture tutorial of all-white dragon head on black background

Because she is constantly open to new ways of promoting her art and diversifying her income stream, Tiffany's studio has the best chance of succeeding during this worrisome time. I invited her to share her ideas via this guest post... she'll relate opportunities that came about in the past year because she actively sought them out. Like it or not, this is something creatives must do to be noticed. So settle in and learn from an artist who is walking the walk in real time.

paper sculpture scenes of girls in dresses within clouds containing trees and red hearts

Welcome, Tiffany. Not only have you had a busy year art-wise, but you and your family relocated from Virginia's Shenandoah Valley to western Pennsylvania. One thing I noticed right away when visiting your website is that you've added a home goods section to your online shop, Art in the Valley, that features your paper sculpture. I admire the staging examples you've created for each item so customers will be able to choose their favorites... I'm sure that was a job in itself!

pillow printed with image of two paper sculpture white rabbits jumping over moon with clouds below them

Yes, my husband and I are both artists and we share an online store in which we sell our original art, prints, and my paper sculpture kits. New this year are high quality pillows and mugs that are printed with my designs... I'm trying to add new ones weekly.

paper sculpture mountain range with dark clouds; mug and pillow printed with same image

Let's start at the beginning on promoting one's art... please share your tips on setting up a website, online shop, and email list.

There are a lot of great options for artist websites. My stand-alone artist site is through Adobe Creative Cloud (as a graphic designer, I have a subscription to all of the Adobe Software. I get the website space for free with the subscription). I have a link on this site that goes to our shop. My husband uses Wix for his artist site.

For Art in the Valley, we use Shopify. If you want an artist website and you want to sell your art on the site as well, I highly recommend Shopify. It is inexpensive, easy to use, and there is a lot of SEO already built in. I'm no expert on SEO, so that's something I definitely need to learn more about as I continue this journey. Shopify has many free tutorials about how to market your site, and you can also link your site to Pinterest, Instagram, sell on Ebay, Amazon, and more.

Another thing I highly recommend is to develop a customer email list and have an email newsletter that you send out regularly. This is also easy to set up through Shopify. I use the Seguno app for email. Email has been one of the best sales tools for us.

paper sculpture skeleton arm surrounded by white flowers and green ferns

You submitted a few examples of your artwork, including the above sculpture, Eternity, to Create!, a juried print magazine for emerging contemporary artists. How did you hear about it?

I learned about Create! Magazine through an art podcast called Art and Cocktails, hosted by the founder of the magazine, Ekaterina Popova. I really like Ekaterina's message of positivity, and she has a lot of episodes about how to promote yourself. I highly recommend the podcast.

Create! has open calls throughout the year. After looking at the magazine online, I applied and was very excited to be accepted. At this same time, I made it a goal to search online about once a month for new opportunities.

hand holding an issue of Create Magazine

I ran across Candy Floss on Instagram and applied to be featured on their art blog, Candy Floss Magazine [no longer available], and was again pleased to be accepted. Another result was that I applied to the Three Rivers Arts Festival, a 10-day event in downtown Pittsburgh that includes a juried visual art exhibition, and was accepted.

paper sculpture of rib cage containing bleeding hearts flowers with fern foliage

Do you have tips on improving one's chances of being accepted into a juried show?

Look locally for opportunities through your local arts councils or art non-profits. Look online through Cafe and Art Call, also try Google, and look on Instagram at the various art accounts for ideas. When you find an opportunity that looks promising, do your research. Read all of the qualifications and instructions. If possible, look on their website to see what art was chosen for a previous year's exhibit. Your art won't always be a fit for every call. Paper art in particular can be difficult as many calls want only flat 2-D work, like paintings and drawings. It's also a good idea to research the venue and make sure it is a legitimate publication/gallery/show. Most of these calls ask for an entry fee, about $30-35 is the usual amount. If you're unsure about an art call or art fair, visit How's My Dealing for reviews. Sadly, there are scams out there that you have to watch out for.

When you apply, read the instructions carefully and follow all directions. Take good quality photos of your artwork. You will also need an artist bio and artist statement. You should have a stand-alone artist website that includes photos of your work, your artist statement, and bio, as well as a headshot or photo of you at work in your studio. You can link to your Etsy shop from your artist website, but don't use Etsy as your primary website. Don't be discouraged if you don't get accepted. Most shows have a ton of entries and only a few spaces available. Keep working on your art, keep learning, and keep looking for new opportunities.

paper sculpture rabbit in crescent moon surrounded by paper flowers

I'm guessing you have upcoming plans for your art and business...

Yes, I plan to continue working on my newest Botanical Series. It has a lot of symbolism and I love that. Life, death, rebirth, hope, it's all in there. I have a lot of ideas already sketched out for new pieces. I really love working with the limited color palette in this series, too. I'd also like to make some more downloadable DIY paper sculpture kits. I have a unicorn in mind for the next project.

headshot of smiling young woman 
Tiffany Budzsiz

Final encouraging thoughts, especially during this worrisome time?

Just something that has helped me these past few months: I was really stressing myself out early last year, because my goal has been (for many years), to make my living full-time from my art. And I'm not there yet. Not even close! Just like everyone else, there's not as much time as I'd like to work on art AND promote myself AND take care of two young children AND the house AND my freelance graphic design work. But then I read an article about happiness, and the big takeaway was this. The key to happiness is to keep your expectations low. And it has helped me tremendously! For example, when submitting to calls, I think to myself, "it would be great if I get accepted, but I know there's a lot of competition so I might not get in." Or when I post a new piece of art on Instagram, "I hope people like this new piece" rather than thinking a collector is going to see it and buy it right away. This is a journey with a lot of small steps.

Thank you, Tiffany! I'm sure many fellow creatives will benefit from your advice.

Keep an eye on Tiffany's work via Tiffany Budzsiz and Instagram, where she is @tbudzi.

All Things Paper is an AWIN (Etsy) affiliate.

Ann Martin
Ann Martin

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  1. Oh my goodness! I love these paper sculptures, especially the ones with anatomical components (I teach science). The detail is amazing, without being overwhelming. So beautifully done!

    1. I agree with you! Tiffany's work is beautiful.


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