Make Art Make Money: Lessons from Jim Henson on Fueling Your Creative Career by Elizabeth Hyde Steve

Updated: Oct 9, 2020

I chose to read this because I was drawn to the title. I'm an artist, duh. I didn't know who Jim Henson was. I had heard the name, but couldn't tell you what he did. Now I know that he was a man with a good heart, that also created Sesame Street for poor kids to get access to some education. At first, I wasn't gonna take notes, but as I continue to listen, I feel like I should. I love that Jim made decisions for all the right reasons. He was all about giving back. He didn't care about making money. Beautiful. His story resonates with me. He is someone I want to learn from.

Lesson 1: Selling Out (For creative freedom)

  • Art is a gift.

  • I too, rip myself off, too create work for good people or good reasons.

  • He made money by merchandising. Creating toys based on Sesame Street.

  • He recorded his milestones in a red book.

  • He put his profits back into his art. It is a necessary thing for artists to do. Disney did it as well.

  • How much money does a person need? Once you reach that number, what do you do with the rest?

  • He preferred his characters to be more abstract and "pure". He didn't prefer to give the audience a handle, which meant to help them understand. That was better for people to understand which was better for sales. He sold out a tiny bit to be able to create more of what he wanted to do. Kermit wasn't originally a frog. He was a thing.

  • The market tells us what to do. Sometimes, we have to conform a little, to be able to do what we really want to do. Some contact with the market won't destroy the work completely. Compromise between selling out and doing me, just like any other relationship.

  • It was crucial that is business arm respected the artistic stuff. He hired business people that fit in comfortably with the creative family. Cautious precision with hiring.

  • Mass production, selling a license. Make a work once and profit multiple times.

  • Flow with the river. blaze your own path.

  • Selling out to me, looks like toning down my blackness. I would only do it for the opportunity to do more for my people.

Lesson 2: How many hours have you practiced in service of the gift?

  • Jim Henson didn't earn success over night. It took 40 years to create a marketable Kermit the Frog.

  • If art id a gift. I must sacrifice and work hard! Experiment and play. I don't sacrifice enough. I can find more time through eating better and working out, like 50 cent did/does.

  • Learn to push for the sake of pushing.

  • Take chances and when a chance comes, take it, and rise to the occasion! By working you'll get valuable experience. Don't say no just because, you've never done it before.

  • it is crucial for my art to develop along with an audience.

  • Jim was atypically ambitious at the expense of his family.

  • What drives art? Playful ambition.

  • He had moments of self doubt, but he explored them. Self doubt, leads to self knowing. He always knew that he'd be successful at what he decided to do. I too have that confidence in my work, that I'm supposed to be doing this and that I will make it because I won't give up. Jim was driven to realize his dreams.

  • I must have a duty to make art and not give up on myself.

  • Understand youth culture.

  • Be lucky. 10,000 hours (outliers). How am I unlucky? How can I play with it a little and turn it into a positive for me. The things that look like luck, are the result of work! So work!


Lesson 3: Give someone else a break. Hire someone.

  • Collaboration is important.

  • When should I hire hire someone else to work for me? As soon as I can.

  • Jim's work was beyond just him. He ran his company like a family.

  • Jim held conferences and workshops to find his people. He knew what he was looking for.

  • The ability to have fun while working so that you got along while working.

  • Be yourself, don't be business like or "professional". Good people are worth keeping. Hire people you like working with.

  • Find your people, and reach out to them.

  • Collaboration with other artists, lightens the load for me.

Lesson 4: Make commercials for you. Hijack the Ad.