Here’s a link to today’s article at Fine Art Views, LESSONS FROM THE MOVE: Blessed Clarity”.
Looks like I accidentally wrote “Blessed CHARITY” instead of ‘CLARITY’. But both work.
Here’s a link to today’s article at Fine Art Views, LESSONS FROM THE MOVE: Blessed Clarity”.
Looks like I accidentally wrote “Blessed CHARITY” instead of ‘CLARITY’. But both work.
Once again, I’ve neglected to post links to my columns at Fine Art Views, an art marketing blog. So I’m putting all the links since April 24, 2014, here in one place.
David Letterman counts down from 10. Me? I have a lot of catching up to do.
21) April 24, 2014
LESSONS FROM THE MOVE: It Gets Easier
Insights gained while preparing for a life-changing cross-country move.
20) May 8, 2014
LESSONS FROM THE OPEN STUDIO: Send Me A Postcard!
Advice on how to build your mailing list.
19) May 22, 2014
LESSONS FROM THE OPEN STUDIO: My Customer Base Isn’t Local!
Dispelling some of the myths surrounding open studios.
18) June 5, 2014
LESSONS FROM THE OPEN STUDIO: People Around Here Don’t Buy Art
You know who says this? EVERYBODY says this!!! Hint: It’s not true.
17) June 19, 2014
LESSONS FROM THE OPEN STUDIO: For Heaven’s Sake, Accept Credit Cards!!
It’s easier than ever to take credit cards, and it WILL increase your sales. Here’s how.
16) July 3, 2014
LESSONS FROM THE OPEN STUDIO: Timely Time Payment Plan
Trust me, this tip is worth its weight in gold.
15) July 17, 2014
LESSONS FROM THE OPEN STUDIO: Don’t Say No!
When you and your studio say “NO”, your customers will say “NO” right back.
14) July 31, 2014
Tips for improving your teaching skills.
13) August 14, 2014
TEACHING 101: It Gets Better If You Try
You tell your students to practice, right? You should, too!
12) August 28, 2014
TEACHING 101: Crabby Students Part 1
Encountering the difficult personalities in your class.
11) September 11, 2014 MY BIRTHDAY!!!
TEACHING 101: Crabby Students Part 2
Managing the difficult personalities in your classs.
10) September 25, 2014
LESSONS FROM THE MOVE: It’s Not as Hard as You Think
Most of the things you’re afraid of, aren’t going to happen.
9) October 9, 2014
LESSONS FROM THE MOVE: Settling In, Getting Centered
Things I wish I’d thought of before the actual move….
8) October 23, 2014
LESSONS FROM THE MOVE: You Can’t Get There From Here
We need a plan to help us get where we want to go. But as our needs change, the way we get there changes, too.
7) November 6, 2014
LESSONS FROM THE MOVE: I am Blind (er….Lame) and My Dog is Dead
When the blues hit you, mix it with a little green to make turquoise!
6) November 20, 2014
WHEN THANK YOU ISN’T ENOUGH
When you get a compliment from a customer, don’t stop with “thank you.” Turn it into a conversation.
5) December 18, 2014
LESSONS FROM THE MOVE: California Dreamin’
It turns out my heart knew we were California-bound before my head did.
4) January 1, 2015
YOU ALREADY KNOW WHAT TO DO
Time for some tough love!
3) January 15, 2015
BIG EFFIN’ FENCES
What you make, how you make it, and why you make it, matters. Don’t let anyone talk you out of that.
2) January 29, 2015
Who’s missing from the history of art?? Everybody but dead European white guys. Let’s change that.
1) February 12, 2014
LESSONS FROM THE MOVE: Hard, Harder, Hardest
When you realize it’s not gonna really be over for a looooooong time…..
One year our kids were very young, we drove from Keene, New Hampshire to visit my family in Michigan.We always went through Canada to save a few hours of driving time, often stopping for a break to visit Niagara Falls.
On this particular trip, we’d gotten a late start, and didn’t reach the Falls until after dark. We were going to stay at a hotel for the night, but decided to drive by the Falls first.
We’d never seen them at night, and it was fabulous. Colored spotlights uplit the epic torrents of water cascading over the escarpment, making it glow in the dark.
Robin (age 4) refused to look at them. She was tired, and hungry, she said, and wanted to go straight to the hotel.
“But Robin, look! They’re beautiful!” I exclaimed.
Heaving a extraordinarily world-weary sigh for one so young, she said, “I’ve had just about all the beauty I can stand for one day.”
Now, decades later, I can sympathize.
I’ve always had a problem in my studios with too much beauty. I’ve always had things I love in them, items that are cute, or attractive, or interesting, or just plain odd. That happened for many reasons: Lots of space. A space that people could easily visit for open studios. And because I’d never had a reason to cull or sort my studio stuff. Hence the antique squirrel cage.
Then there were the big glass jars of shells, pebbles, the hanks of antique trade beads, the doll collection…. All wonderful to behold.
I’ve talked before about the process of packing up 20 years’ worth of studio stuff. (Keep posted for Part 2 of that article on February 26.)
Now, for the first time in my life, I have more limitations. I have perhaps a third of the space available. And it’s mainly a working studio only. I’m not sure I can have open studios in my basement space. If so, it’ll be limited to people under 5’5″. (I kid you not.)
But I also I have better guidelines. And so this second article on setting up a new studio, inspired by what I learned from Gary Spykman’s studio.
Function vs. Beauty.
Today’s example is thread, a basic in my mixed media work. I use embroidery floss, tatting thread, quilting thread, waxed linen thread, and regular cotton sewing thread. In the past, these were stored in many different places in my studio. I had two hanging thread racks; an antique standing rack for spools of old silk thread. I had several decorative glass jars filled with crochet thread and string.
And, of course, once those threads went into a big jar and look beautiful, they never came out again. Oh! I need that one that’s at the very bottom. Mmmmmmmm…….never mind.
I had a rolling cart of drawers I stored sewing thread in, sorted by color. But I bought more thread wherever I found it–thrift shops, fabric stores, antique stores–to add to my collection. And when I pulled several colors to work on a hand-sewing project, I rarely put them away. Instead, when I cleaned for an open studio, I’d arrange them attractively in antique glass dishes. Soon my tables were covered with attractive glass dishes of thread and beads. Pretty. But not very functional. Oh well, I’ll just sit at another table. (Which was also filled with pretty displays. Do we sense a pattern here?)
But my new studio is different. I don’t have as much space. I can’t keep all the threads I brought from New Hampshire.
My first task was to go through my entire stash and eliminate thread that was too old for use. Some threads age well. Others, affected by heat, sunlight, moisture, simply weaken and break easily. (These went into a jar-like lamp base. It looks great!)
Then I organized by color. I consolidated three different collections of embroidery thread, and put them into a drawer. The colors I knew I’d never use, were donated to a thrift shop here that supports a number of local non-profit service organizations. (Somebody remind me, please, why I have not one, not two, but THREE sets of neon bright pinks, yellows and fluorescent green embroidery thread???)
The waxed linens went with jewelry-making supplies.
So what to do the rest of the odd lots? Crochet threads and lightweight string that can be used for embroidery, but too bulky to fit in the skeins-of-floss drawer?
I sorted them by color, into see-through wire baskets (more on these in another article.) And I hung them on my new steel wire shelving units, coordinated by color with my fabrics.
And here’s the blessing in this decision:
It still looks beautiful.
A few years back, I had a vision for my next body of work. Shadow boxes are not ‘new’, but I envisioned them to display not only my sculptural work, but my jewelry, too.
I was already a box collector. (Okay, no comments about all the stuff I collect.) I had some great little boxes I thought would work beautifully, except for one thing. They were from a tool manufacturing company, and they were black with smelly oil and grease.
I showed him a stinky box and asked him if I should use shellac to coat the wood.
He suggested I clean it thoroughly instead. “But I love the waxy black look!” I exclaimed. “It’s just the smell I can’t stand.”
Patiently, Gary explained why that was not a good idea. Now I can’t remember why. But I believed him.
“Once you clean up the gunk, there are better ways to get that old dark patina you love,” he said.
“Teach me stuff?” I said, a la Susan Sarandon in that great old movie, Atlantic City (See the quote in this clip at 54 seconds.>)
And an apprenticeship was born.
For the next four months, I was a guest in Gary’s woodworking shop. We worked out a rough gentlemen’s agreement, where in exchange for small sundries and chores, I would work on refinishing my vintage and antique wooden boxes as he guided me step by step on how to clean them up, repair them and restore them.
I have no idea what Gary gained from the synergy, except for someone to yak with during the day and who happily did the shop dishes each afternoon. (Why is it always more fun to do someone ELSE’S dishes??)
But I benefited hugely. And not just in how to work with antique boxes.
And so starts a new series, LESSONS FROM GARY’S STUDIO. In fact, I got the idea because I’m setting up my new studio based on certain principles, as much as possible, that I observed in Gary’s studio.
I was going to jump right in about that. But then I remembered the first thing I learned: “Do it right.” Don’t take shortcuts. Start at the beginning, and build from there.
And so I am.
(Actually, I guess the VERY first thing I learned was, “Ask”. Ask someone who DOES know. But I don’t want everybody calling Gary to ask him for help. Although I’m pretty sure he would. Help you, that is.)
I don’t remember what my 25 Random Things were. But today I add one more.
It’s about my toy stories. I make up stories about inanimate objects.
It began at a very early age, like maybe 3 or 4 years old. I had very few dolls as a kid but a lot of stuffed animals. And I always made up stories about their rich inner life. Like the night I thought they were cold and lonely, so I put sorted them into groups of ‘friends’ so they would would be warm. That left no room for me. So I slept on the floor.
Fortunately (or not), the next day I thought they might have chapped hands so I liberally covered them all with Jergen’s hand lotion. My mom threw them all out, and I got my bed back.
I still worry I had an alternative motive there. But I don’t think I did. I mourned the loss of all my little fur buddies, and I still miss them. Hence my large collection of old toys and very small dolls.
Which is why I felt sorry for this mama kangaroo at the thrift shop. I was shopping for small stuffed animals to decorate our Christmas tree. It’s our first Christmas without our kids, and we only have space for a very small tree.
She had a pouch but no baby kangaroo. How long had they been separated? Did she still miss him? I almost left her there, because I knew I would feel sad whenever I saw her. But then I realized I was putting my discomfort above her loss, so I bought her anyway. (I kid you not, these were my thoughts.)
And then at another thrift shop, I found a tiny bear who was glued into a little box. I didn’t make the connection at first. I just didn’t like the box he was glued into, and I thought he might be happier without it. So I tore the box off, and I put him in the microwave so I could soften and remove the glue.
Only I forgot to to remove the little metal hanging hook from his head so there were sparks and flames and the top of his head melted a little bit. And I had to clip the glue out of his fur so he looks a little ragged. I felt guilty that I’d made him worse. And now he smells a little….well, burnt.
Then I realized he would fit perfectly into the mama kangaroo’s pouch and they would be a comfort to each other.
So I guess I’m still telling stories about inanimate objects…. I don’t know what it means, and I don’t want to analyze it too much. It actually kind of works it’s way into my art, so I’m going to leave it alone.
“…And I can do this with my hands, by creating my little horse, which symbolizes the power that comes from our choices, our actions, even in the face of despair.”
My post on 9/11 reminds me that in the face of tragedy, we always have the power of our choices.
I’ve been silent here for awhile, as we’ve wrapped up our mammoth move to Northern California. And even when I’m writing regularly, I usually stick to subjects I consider “safe” for me: Writing about the business of art, writing about making art has affected my life, sharing the lessons I’ve found in wall-climbing, martial arts, hospice, parenthood and silly pets as I muddle through life.
None of that is changing. But there is something that’s been building, building lately. If you follow me on Facebook, you may have wondered why I’ve gone all “social justice-y” as my social worker daughter Robin so aptly puts it.
I’ve decided to speak out about white privilege and racism on my blog.
Rest assured that this will not dominate my writing. That is for more knowledgeable, articulate writers than I.
But let me explain how I got here.
Several years ago, our family became involved with an abusive person who is black. In his manipulation of our family, many topics revolving around race and class were used as tools to bully and intimidate. We became ‘hyper-allergic’ to anything that reminded us of that difficult period in our lives.
My daughter is the one who walked us back from that hard place. She made us realize that the way these issues were used was hurtful, but the truth of them was valid. Not only valid, but devastating in their consequences for people of color.
I began to examine many of the things I say and believe that I felt made me a ‘liberal’, a non-racist person. I was dismayed to realize I was oblivious to what more than a third of the people in the United States experience every single day of their lives. (Numbers vary, but roughly only 62% of the U.S. population consists of non-Hispanic white people.) The daily life of people of color in our country is very, very different than anything I have ever experienced. The death of Trayvon Martin opened my eyes even more.
More recently, we’ve gotten to know our new neighbors, a naturalized American of Mexican ancestry and her white husband. I had no idea of the extent of hostilities experienced by Hispanics in California. I was totally ignorant of the police shooting/death of Andy Lopez. Soon after, the events in Ferguson, MO took place, and the grand jury decision was made. Days later, the results of the Eric Garner grand jury were announced.
As I educated myself about these incidents, more and more examples of similar tragedies arose. I felt overwhelmed. But I realized I could no longer turn away.
Normally, I would slowly return to my ‘normal life’, feeling sad but sidelined and powerless to change anything. But as I learned even more, something shifted.
It happened after I read a powerful post from a black blogger. (Deep apologies, I can’t find the appropriate link, but will find it later. I need to get this written NOW!) She noted that her white followers, white people, even her own white friends, were being remarkably silent on these issues, even on Facebook where a cute cat video can go viral in seconds. She checked around, and found this was the case for other bloggers of color, too. “Where are the white people??” she asked.
Oh. Uh…. Yeah. That would be me.
Why WAS I being silent? What was holding me back?? Believing that these events don’t affect me? That I have nothing useful to say? Was I worried about appropriating a people-of-color cultural narrative?
I realized it doesn’t matter.
Andy Lopez could have been my kid, a young man who loves his Airsoft games with his friends. Except that my kid does it in the woods of New Hampshire, on private property, whereas poorer kids of color play in parks. And poorer kids of color get shot on sight, whereas my kid is white and would probably NOT be shot.
Andy Lopez could have been my kid. But saying, “There but for the grace of God…” doesn’t do it for me anymore. Because Andy Lopez deserves grace, too.
What about simply standing up and saying, “I stand with you”….?
What about simply saying, “I believe this is unjust and intolerable”….?
What about simply saying, “We have to find a way to change this”….?
I found I could no longer tolerate remaining silent.
And I began to post on Facebook about it.
The first post created quite a stir!
Things I’ve been told lately when discussing Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Andy Lopez, Tamir Rice…..
“He wasn’t a good kid, he’d just stolen cigarettes from a store!”
Me: “Do we shoot to kill when teens shoplift?”
“He lived in an awful neighborhood!”
Me: “He didn’t choose to live there. Probably his parents didn’t, either.”
“Why do those parents let their kids play with real-looking guns??”
Me: “Have you WALKED through a WalMart lately?? And heck, I had a preschooler chew his organic peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich into a gun and pretend to shoot it!”
“Why don’t those parents teach their kids not to wave a play gun at a police officer?”
Me: “I’m sure they did. But the operative word here is…’kids’….”
“Andy Lopez was a big kid. He looked like an adult!”
Me: “He didn’t choose that, either. And even an adult shouldn’t be shot on sight for carrying a AirSoft gun.”
“He wore a hoodie! That’s a gang sign!”
Me: I don’t even know what to say
In my passion to be more involved, I alienated some people, good people. I incurred endless arguments from well-meaning people who explained to me why these victims don’t deserve my compassion. I became more frustrated as I saw people endlessly defending their own points of view, while not even really considering mine.
I say one thing to these people: I’m sorry I didn’t respect your journey.
I don’t want to respect their point of view–I try, but I’m not that evolved!–but I have to. “Let go, let God”, says a wiser friend than I. I get it. Everybody has their own journey to make. I’m at a different place in mine, but it’s not for me to say where you should be in yours.
Neither will I become silent. My art, why I make it, and why it seems to matter so much to other people, are all wrapped up in my journey. I cannot separate my art from my activism. That’s why it seemed so right to take my simple earnings from my very first open studio here, and walk around the corner to donate it all to the Center for Peace and Justice in Sonoma County.
So my manifesto which begins today, as an early “New Year’s Resolution”. Or a “New Life Resolution”, if you will. I will hold onto the other core issues I treasure–humane rescue of animals, the spirituality of art, hospice, homelessness.
But there will be a few additions:
I will share my views openly (and peacefully!) when and where I can about social justice for people of color.
I will continue to examine my own deeply rooted beliefs and assumptions that keep me from being engaged.
I will support accountability for those in power.
I will support those who write and work for these issues, with my respect and my pocketbook.
I will not hide behind rationalizing, and defensiveness, and silence.
Because only our silence stands in the way of real justice.
And here’s my manifesto for 9/11:
Today is my birthday. A Google alert tells me that today is the anniversary of the day the Lascaux cave was discovered by four teenaged boys who followed their lost dog down a hole.
In all these years I’ve made artwork inspired by the Lascaux cave, I never knew this.
It makes this piece (which I wrote on 9/11, my 49th birthday) even more poignant to me….
AN ANCIENT STORY FOR MODERN TIMES
The events of September 11, 2001 were almost too horrible to contemplate. The world seemed filled with evidence of hate, destruction and despair. As I watched events unfold, I was aware of my own reactions of anger and hate for the people who could stoop this low, and overwhelming sympathy for those whose lives were so carelessly taken in these acts of violence.
I went to my studio later, lost in despair and fearful of the new world that awaited us. As I worked, I couldn’t help thinking, “What does it matter that I make these little horses? What relevance do they have in the light of this tragic event?” I kept working as I thought.
The Cave Paintings of Lascaux…
Soon, however, it dawned on me. When the Lascaux cave paintings were created, the Ice Age was ending. The climate was changing, the great glaciers were retreating. The grasslands disappeared, and with them, the huge herds of animals that followed them. These ancient people watched as their entire way of life changed and disappeared. Some archaeologists now think the cave paintings were created to call the animals back.
Even as we stand, fearful and afraid at the dawn of a new age, so did they stand and watch as their world changed around them. They were afraid and perhaps filled with despair. But they went into the dark cave and created the most profoundly beautiful and evocative art the world has ever seen. Poignant in its message (though we cannot read it), we still feel its power 17,000 years later.
The Dawn of a New Morning…
We, too, stand at the dawn of a new morning. We, too, are afraid and despairing about what those changes will mean to us, as a nation and as individuals. We have choices to make about how we will meet those changes.
Life is not about what happens to us, but how we get through what happens to us. The kind of person we want to be determines the kind of choices we make.
We can choose how we face life.
The Choices We Make…
As an artist, I choose to affirm the creative force of the universe. In my own small way, I must stand on the side of creativity—to grow, to understand, to move forward in a constructive way, and to act in whatever way I can to honor this force. I can do this globally, by contributing to causes that seek to alleviate the conditions that bring acts of horror like this to the world. I can do this locally, by holding my family and loved ones close, and honoring the creative spirit of all other people. And I can do this with my hands, by creating my little horse, which symbolizes the power that comes from our choices, our actions, even in the face of despair.
Today I’m unpacking more boxes of studio stuff. I’ve set a goal for myself: Five boxes a day, more if I can fit them in.
At the first the haphazard packing was unsettling. (There are many ways to pack. But when you’re in a hurry or can’t do it all yourself and other people are doing it, and space is limited, you pack very differently!)
For example, one box might hold six earring holders, a small book, a rock and a beanbag. (I use them in my display, so it’s not THAT weird….) Today, one box held one pottery display stand. That broke. (And that’s okay, too, because I can glue it back together.)
But I’ve decided to now view each box as a puzzle ball, those charming presents I used to make for the kids when they were little. I’d take a tiny treasure and wrap it with strips of crepe paper, adding coins, confetti, flat-ish treats and toys, until the whole thing was about the size of a large softball. (They also took about 10 minutes to unwrap, which really prolonged the excitement and added to the joy.) (I think.)
My third box held my ink stamping pads and most of my spools of thread. If you ever visited my studio, you know my thread collection was extensive.
And here’s my thread tip:
Be aware that thread has a shelf life.
If you’re a seasoned sewer, you already know this. But when I first started sewing, I didn’t.
I would go to an antique store and buy old sewing baskets full of thread, giant spools of thread from manufacturing companies (sturdy thread from shoe-making companies, etc.), large spools of cotton threads, vintage spools of thread.
I would start a project, thread my sewing machine, and start to quilt.
And the thread would break.
I’d re-thread the machine. The thread would break again. And again, and again.
Then I realized the thread was too old, or sun-damaged, to use.
This can occasionally happen with new thread, too. I took my machine in to Russ Moline at The Moses House in Keene. He was baffled, too, until he finally tested my brand new giant spool of quilting thread. It was a faulty batch, and broke easily. A sad, but fortunately inexpensive “repair” of the sewing machine!
Cotton threads are especially prone to this. But sometimes silk thread can deteriorate, too.
So before you buy a wonderful stash of vintage thread, unwind a few inches and give it a yank. If it breaks easily, you will have nothing but heartache when you use it. (Even hand-sewing may be problematic, because it will wear even as you pull it through the fabric over and over….)
On the other hand, sometimes thread that LOOKS worn out or faded will still be strong enough to sew with. If you don’t like the fading, simply wind off enough thread till you get to the layer that was not exposed to heat and light.
And of course, just because that old thread isn’t functional anymore, doesn’t mean you have to throw it away. Fill a mason jar, a thread rack, or a pretty bowl with your thready treasures, and put them on display. As I go through my stash, the rejects are tossed into a new lamp I just bought, with a clear base that can be filled with….spools of thread!