Living on a dead-end road in a rural area of a rural state has its challenges, particularly for an artist trying to both create and get work out into the world. Patricia Shea has dedicated the last few years to trying to meet that challenge online and she will share her experience Sunday afternoon, Jan. 15 at the downtown Belfast Free Library.

Shea’s talk is the highlight of a Midcoast Regional meeting of the Maine Crafts Association. Attendees do not have to be MCA members. The interactive gathering will run from 1 to 3 p.m.

Shea shares what they call a gypsy camp of a farmhouse with husband James Strickland, also an artist, off the Back Belmont Road. Sitting in the yard is the beloved sailboat that brought the couple to Belfast a dozen years ago after a few years living on Cape Cod. Before that, Shea, who grew up in Manchester, U.K, lived in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood. There are a few people in the area who relocated from the same place, she suspects, for the same reason.

“We came here for the Belfast Co-op … Park Slope had a big one,” she said.

Food is in fact informing her art these days, but Shea spent many years creating watercolor illustrations for the commercial surface design market — her work was utilized for textiles, porcelains, greeting cards and a wide variety of other applications and publications. This career meant creating a lot of designs on spec and making presentations, usually in New York City. When she decided to give up the latter, she had to find another way to market her designs — and that backlog of spec work has proved a mine of material.

“Thank God for the Internet! If you’re an artist in Maine, how else do you get out in the world? And when there is so much you can do for free, how can you not?,” she said, seated at her cheerfully cluttered digital work station as shortbread cookies baked in the nearby kitchen.

“Free” is not quite accurate, as Shea is quick to say. While the online and social media marketing — inbound marketing, as opposed to the kind that directly approaches customers — Shea has been exploring does not cost much or anything to employ, it does incur a lot of time. One can, of course, hire someone to do that work.

“It either costs money or time. I don’t have the money, so I invest the time,” she said, estimating that investment has been in the hundreds of hours.

Shea’s presentation will follow the sequence of online presences she has created for her work. First was a website; is a simple but attractive site created by local webmaster Thierry Bonneville. It offers an introduction to her work, which includes paintings, large-scale acrylic mandalas and custom-designed logos, and links to her other online locations. It’s essential, she said, but a website is just the starting point.

“For me, it didn’t go anywhere, but you have to have one. It’s not getting your name out there that does it, it’s what you do — tag [key]words are really important,” she said.

Next, Shea set up a CafePress store, an online site that will, for a percentage of the retail price, produce a variety of products using the store-owner’s text and/or graphic designs. Shea’s work is a natural for application to different surfaces and she has begun to create new work with the products’ formats in mind. Her store, which can be found by searching for her name at, offers everything from journals, cards, T-shirts, cups and tote bags to iPod/Phone/Pad and e-reader cases and covers, flip flops and more, all bearing her artwork.

Uploading the designs to be used entails a scanner and Photoshop, the ubiquitous image software that Shea has learned to use herself.

“Oh, it took a lot of screaming and swearing,” she said.

That equipment and skill set paired with a archival printer, much less expensive than the scanner, gave Shea what she needed to begin producing her own archival prints, photographs and stickers, which she markets on, the popular DIY marketing site for handmade and vintage items. Her shop there can be found by searching PbaShea or Patricia Shea Design Confections.

Perhaps most fortuitous for Shea’s surface design art is the arrival of print-on-demand fabric. She offers a dozen options as a designer at, all of which can be ordered by the yard in eight different fabrics. Another print-on-demand market is greeting cards, and Shea has a store at And that’s it — one can only keep track of so much, she said, “though if wallpaper comes up, I’m there!”

Driving customers to the online stores is a whole different tack. Shea took on this challenge via a Facebook Fan Page and a blog. The former she thinks is a first step and a really vital one.

“This is my experience, what’s worked for me and I really stress that, because every artist is different. But I think the Facebook Fan Page works for everybody and, again, it’s free,” she said.

Her blog,, combines a number of passions and that’s a good thing.

“I didn’t want to do another art blog; I mean, if you talk about your work and rewrite your biography every day, you come off as a pompous ass, don’t you,” she said.

So Shea blogs about what she loves.

“I love art, and I don’t just promote my own. I love baking, particularly desserts. I’m British and there’s interest in that and those desserts — they can get pretty bizarre! And I love Maine and use and write about Maine products,” she said.

This combination has proved to have wide appeal and when Shea latched onto cupcakes, already a trend, and pink, another, she came up with an image that has proved popular across all her online applications.

“The pink cupcake has been great for me. But you know I baked and iced it 20 times before I painted it,” she said.

Of late, Shea has been experimenting with Twitter, which she said “is just not jiving with me,” and Pinterest, which seems to have more promise as another social media marketing option. But she is not interested in spending every day crunching Google analytics. The point of all this, after all, is to enable her to create art in a way that helps support the couple’s day-to-day life.

“I check through everything in the morning with my coffee and troll after supper at night. You have to choose which you want to do and then go with them. I had next to no results for two years, but in the last six months, things have begun to trickle in,” she said.

Of course, when she began this journey, she was doing it all with dial-up service. She said it would take four hours to post a blog, a task that fills 60 minutes or less now. That means more time for making art — and baking.

“I’ve decided that 2012 is The Year of Painting Sugar,” Shea said.

A suggested $5 donation is requested, not required, for the presentation. For more information, contact Sara Hotchkiss, Midcoast Regional Coordinator, at 832-8133 or

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email to