Make Art Make Money: Lessons from Jim Henson on Fueling Your Creative Career

Make Art Make Money: Lessons from Jim Henson on Fueling Your Creative Career

In our culture, artistic genius and poverty seem inevitably linked, but does it have to be that way? Jim Henson didn’t think so. An iconic creator and savvy businessman, Henson is a model for artists everywhere: Without sacrificing his creative vision, Henson built an empire of lovable Muppets that continues to educate and inspire – and a business that was worth $150 million at the time of his death. How did he ever pull it off? And how can other creators follow in his path? In Make Art Make Money: Lessons from Jim Henson on Fueling Your Creative Career, journalist and educator Elizabeth Hyde Stevens presents 10 principles of Henson’s art and business practices that will inspire artists everywhere. Part manifesto, part history, part cultural criticism, part self-help, Make Art Make Money is a new kind of business audiobook for creative professionals: A guide for creating and succeeding thanks to lessons from the Muppet Master himself.


  • Listening Length: 12 hoursand27 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Release Date: February 28, 2014
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00IPL5Z0G
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  1. What a delight to read Ms. Steven’s first installment in her series on the life of Jim Henson, entrepreneur! I will certainly be tuning in for the next episode based on this insightful and meticulously researched introduction into the unseen life of Jim Henson. I love that I grew up with the Muppets and their creator, but have never thought about his life in the context of his struggle and ultimate success in finding a balance between capitalism and creativity.

    Ms. Stevens reminds us that this iconic artistic genius was also a businessman, in fact started out doing commercials. But he didn’t lose his integrity… how did he do that? Well I won’t give away too much, except she starts with toys and I want to know more.

    Is Ms. Hyde Stevens related to Lewis Hyde? She shows the same insightful eloquence as Mr. Hyde in is his great book, The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World, and if they are not blood relatives, then they are certainly kindred spirits in laying out the artist’s dilemma and posing elegant (and entertaining) solutions.

    I thank Elizabeth Stevens for her gift to the struggling artist in all of us. We all strive to balance our real world needs with the desire to be unique and creative. I can’t wait to read the next episode of this intriguing series.

  2. For artists, a book rich with Henson’s history we can identify with. Take a journey “way back and forward” into his creative process, thoughts and projects. The book also becomes a reflective business advisor for artists, a possible blueprint to achieving creative freedom while making money. A YouTube search of the references the author, Elizabeth Hyde Stevens mentions, adds to its rich reading experience. i.e. Henson’s early art film, “TIME PIECE” […] . All worth reading to become familiar with Jim Henson’s early life and work including production of his coffee commercials. […] The first chapter helps identify and humanize a merchandizing icon as artist. The creative industries rule in the Henson’s world.

  3. One of the true joys of readership is encountering a genre totally anew–especially a familiar or an underestimated one. In Make Art Make Money, Elizabeth Stevens delivers a virtuosic double punch: She provides a biography-driven history of Jim Henson’s rise to eminency among American wonder-makers in the 1970s, and she reinvents the “self-help” book beautifully. Make Art Make Money is a delightful Muppet-fest disguised as a smart book about the gritty how-tos of the business of art.

    Stevens’s voice remains funny without edging into manic hero worship. Her take on Henson’s genius is perfectly in tune with our time, somehow never sacrificing history for glibness. This makes the fact that hers is, in many ways, a book about how her hipster/Great-Recession generation can succeed in the business world all the more surprising and enjoying. Via Henson, history becomes fun (and fuzzy); business becomes less intimidating and more creative: Stevens tells us she is offering “ten Muppety lessons” on how to make a buck without sacrificing that aspect of art that makes it art–its quality of gift.

    Surely, many artists and businesspeople would benefit from meditating upon Kermit for a few hours, but this book will strike a particular chord with those writers, painters, sculptors, designers, puppeteers, etc. who essentially don’t want to make money, who view money as a sign of diminishing creative returns.

    For them especially, Stevens’s careful investigation of Henson’s leaps from plateau to plateau (commercial toil, nonprofit success, toy production, brand empire, Hollywood) will entail a convincing counter-narrative: Some artist is going to sell your kids toys. Some artist is going to design children’s shows.Read more ›

  4. I am really enjoying this book but I think the title is a bit misleading. As I’m reading it I keep thinking, “oh, so-and-so should read this.” It is more about a philosophy of doing business than anything else. It’s about facing rejection, being a good boss in a creative business, maintaining your own goals and dreams while being flexible, and listening to input from others. There’s something to learn for anyone wanting to start a business in a creative field. The author compares leadership styles of Henson with Disney, Pixar, SNL. It is well-written and when points are repeated it is for emphasis or to make a new related point. I think it is worth reading for anyone looking to start a business in a creative field, and people in other fields would benefit from much of it too, but it is more thought provoking than practical. It is not a how-to book. It is an eye-opener to read just how hard Jim Henson had to work to promote his shows. One of his dreams was to have a major network muppet show in prime time and I am thrilled to see that it is coming true, even though he did not live to see it.

  5. The more installments of Make Art Make Money I’ve read, the more impressed I have been. It is a very thought provoking book, especially for someone who has wrestled with the tension between needing to make a living and fulfilling an artistic vision. Have been trying to persuade my busy, creative children to read the book as well so we can discuss some of the ideas.

    It just keeps getting deeper and better.

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