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Creating and Selling Hand Painted Canes on a Shoestring Budget

Creating and Selling Hand Painted Canes on a Shoestring BudgetLeaning on the Promises

Hand Painted Puzzle Canes

Judy A Goddard, Sole Proprietor

In October of 2009 my Godmother announced that she was going on a cruise through the Panama Canal. Having been through some medical issues, she asked me to paint a cane to take with her. She wanted one covered with Christian symbols that would be a conversation piece. I went to a local medical supply shop and bought a black, wooden, crook handled cane, got out my acrylic paints and started in. As well as painting images I also wove the words of her favorite scripture into the design, It was written as a puzzle and she would need to know the “key” in order to read it. That’s how I made it a puzzle cane. She loved it! When she brought it to church others commented and asked me to paint canes for them and their loved ones.

As a Christian, my goal with my artwork has been to offer folks a beautiful, helpful object that can speak to their souls as well as helping them to get around. By keeping God in it, and paying attention, I think I’ll continue to grow and gain. That was the beginning of Leaning on the Promises.

At more than $20.00 for a cane purchased at a retail shop, I knew I’d need to find a better place to purchase plain canes. So I went on an Ebay hunt and I found a wholesaler of unfinished cane blanks. I’ve also learned how to cut my own boxes, keeping them as small and slim as possible, to save on postage. I find free boxes that are big enough to be cut down to size at a local department store.

Creating and Selling Hand Painted Canes on a Shoestring BudgetAfter I had sold a couple of canes I opened a shop on on November 12, 2010. I listed my canes as I made them, filling custom orders for friends and doing small local shows as I went. Etsy listing fees are minimal and their percentage of each sale is 3.5%. Each sale has provided me the funds to purchase more blank canes and paints and enter larger, more lucrative shows.

Not all of my canes are puzzle canes. I understand that not everyone who needs a cane needs words of inspiration. So some are beautifully painted without the phrasing. And much of my work comes through custom orders, including favorite sports teams, pets and personal memories. They are the canes I most enjoy producing. There is nothing like taking someone’s ideas and then presenting them with something they absolutely love! Lately I’ve also begun a line of canes with Hebrew writing on them, phrases of hope and encouragement.

You know when you have an idea, and you decide you’re going to fly with it, and everything just seems to fall into place? Well, that didn’t happen to me! Each step in my progress has been a learning experience, sometimes fraught with anxiety and insecurity. My biggest problem is getting bogged down in the marketing. Self marketing has been a huge mystery to me. Every once in a while I feel like I can grab an idea and apply it. But in the beginning I became so confused that I felt like giving up!

Some who know me well may say that I am “Frugality Personified”! My husband likes to say I, “ squeeze the quarter till the eagle screams.” Although I have thought about applying for a small business loan, I have never seriously entertained it. I would prefer to owe no man anything. I would say my biggest transition has been an interior one. I am learning how to take chances.

Being only one year into my business I am currently in the red, but not by much. I anticipate a good selling season this fall and think that this year or next will see me in the black.

I suppose having a nice influx of cash would move me forward the fastest. Also having a firmer intellectual grasp on self marketing would be a boon.

Right now I’m enjoying my work so much I can’t imagine selling or giving control to anyone else. If like minded people came along and wanted to become investors then I would gladly accept their funding, taking into consideration their comments, but staying true to my vision. Although, I do have a new item in development that, if it becomes a good seller, I’d be happy to have someone purchase the rights to make and sell it. In the meantime I happily sit and work on them one by one, creating a little pile, hoping they catch on. I don’t want to give too much information away, as it’s a pretty unique idea that I feel has great potential as a big money maker. I’m in the process of applying for a patent.

In a year or two I would love to see a profit of $10,000.00 or more. I think that’s doable. As an individual, working in my studio alone, grooving to my tunes, my overhead is low and my hopes are high!

Creating and Selling Hand Painted Canes on a Shoestring BudgetThe tools I use are the ones I find for free on and also from a blog I follow called, It is a wealth of info for folks like me who are trying to make their way as artists. With how to articles, downloadable spreadsheets, interviews with successful sellers and weekly treasuries of popular items, it’s a great place to gather free information and inspiration.

Right now I’m using facebook, twitter,!/JudyAGoddard my blog,, pinterest, kaboodle and stumbleupon as promotion tools. This is pretty much the extent of my advertising.

It’s been a dream come true, making art and selling it. Having my own business and being able to contribute to the coffers without pouring money I don’t have into it makes me very, very happy. Now that I think about it, my whole life has been lived on a shoestring.

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