About Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

LESSONS FROM THE MOVE Part Deux: Count Your Blessings!

In case this is news for you, we are moving. Again.

We’re not going cross-country this time, thank heavens! Just a mile or so away. Our rent was raised to where we simply can’t afford to stay here.

This was scary on many levels. We have pets, which is increasingly a total shut-out when it comes to renting here. The new house is much smaller, and I still have a lot of stuff. We don’t have a big circle of friends to lend a hand with the physical end of moving. I don’t have an audience for the stuff I have to let go of, like I did in Keene. And it’s even harder to let go of the stuff I chose to bring with me.

Fortunately, old friends of Jon’s recently bought a house here in Santa Rosa, and offered to rent it to us until they move up here themselves. The critters are okay, too.

But even as we breathe a sigh of relief at our good fortune, we’re still putting in a lot of sleepless nights filled with anxiety and fear.

Will my knee hold up?? (It’s been getting steadily worse.) Will the pets adapt to a smaller space? How are we going to move all this stuff?? We have to sell our washer and dryer, and the fridge we bought less than three years ago for THIS house. (I know…how can a rental not have a refridgerator??)

In the midst of this, I gave up that great display space a fellow artist offered to share with me, and though I am excited to have been in two shows this month, in a few days I have to bring all that artwork and display back home.

No room. No room. No room!! OMG, there is NO ROOM!!!

In the midst of this frenzy, I sat down with my journal this morning, with one intention in mind:

What are the GOOD things about this new house, and this move?

And soon I was able to consider 30+ things that will be better.

I felt better. I showed the list to Jon. He feels better, too. He even had something to add to the list.

I’m not saying there’s a happy side to every hard thing life throws at us. That would be thoughtless and without compassion.

But when we are trying to unwind our brains to cope with the stuff that’s just not as hard as the really hard stuff, we give ourselves more bandwidth, more oxygen, to deal with it.

Do you have a happy side to a tough life moment? Please share–I need all the happy-ness I can get!

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I even added some Noddy-chewed cardboard bits for your amusement! We have a jillion of them. NODDY!!!!!!

The Story You Tell and the Power of Your Tribe

This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….”  For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.

 A month ago, my husband was cycling on a bike path, when he ran over a stick. It jammed in his derailleur and broke it. Fortunately, I was a phone call away and retrieved him (and the bike) quickly.
Yesterday, the exact same thing happened AGAIN. (He swears it was the same damn stick, but I don’t believe that.) Unfortunately, I am thousands of miles away, in Keene, NH. And he had to walk home, in his bike shoes.

Life has a lot of sticks just waiting to jam up our derailleur…er, life. And in the last month, we’ve run over a lot of them.

The already sky-high rent on our home here in Santa Rosa, CA was raised, eating up almost half our income. We now have two large dogs and three cats. The rental market here is as tight as it is expensive, and it will be impossible to find a landlord willing to rent to us. As former home-owners for 27 years, it’s embarrassing to find ourselves here. (We did find a place, a much smaller place. As soon as I get back to California, we have to pack up and move.  My art will be on hold for awhile. Again. But bookmark this, I’ll return to it later.)

My husband’s employer’s company has 3-4 months of funding left, and there will be no more in the pipeline. All sources have been exhausted. The tech industry does not readily employ people in their 60’s.  Jon’s best option is to strike out on his own. But this is an expensive place for our second reboot in three years, and it’s a little scary.

My art sales have slumped. (This is not unique to me, I know, and not entirely of my making, but there you go.)

One of our children is struggling here in Keene. It sounded urgent enough for me to book a flight out here, to see what I can do. It is cold here. Really, really cold. Like 10 degrees when I woke up, and more snow, with winds gusting to shove that snow right up my nose.

My daughter just announced she’s getting married this summer, in the middle of Tennessee (best spot for the solar eclipse).

And that wonderful shared studio space at that incredible artist enclave has disappeared. My friend and I have extremely different visions for how the space should work. To preserve the friendship, I told her I needed to step away. But it all blew up in my face. My friend is deeply hurt by my decision. With all the other setbacks on my plate, I can’t afford the oxygen to fix this, even if that were possible.

That’s one story.

But here is the other side of the story I chose to tell.

My old tribe here in Keene is holding me together in so many ways. They know who I am, they know what to do.

These trusted friends will hold my tender heart, and my huge artistic vision, in their gentle, loving hands, until I can take them up again.

Let’s go way back, to the beginning of my art career. I took a workshop from wise woman Deborah Kruger, on creating an artist support group.

The premise was, “Women can do it all. But not necessarily all at the same time.”

When life throws big effin’ sticks in our path—sickness, death, divorce, job loss, a big move—there is only so much we can handle. Sometimes the first thing that gets put on hold is the very thing that nourishes our heart and lightens our soul: Our art.

Good friends will hold that vision of you: Your goals, your process, your abilities, your path. When you are ready (even if you think you’re not), they will gently remind you who you are. And help restore you to yourself.

Now let’s look at the other story I choose to tell:

Gift #1 Though we have not built that precious network of friends here in CA, it’s in process. And a friendship of 20 years led to our next home. It will only be available to us for a few years. But that will give us the space to figure out where we go from here. They know we have pets, too. Yay!

Gift #2 The painfully broken friendship gave me clarity on a better way to be there for my child. I will not force him to take care of me during this difficult time, no matter how hard it is to listen sometimes. I need only be present, for now. If that hadn’t happened two days before I left, I would have blundered on as I have done in the past. It was a lesson that arrived just in time to be a better mother.

Gift #3 As I make time to meet up with these good friends, each one has an insight for me. I hear the exact words I need to make it through the day. As I bemoaned the fact that I’d fallen into another situation I should have recognized—again—a friend exclaimed, “I just LOVE my life lessons! I love them so much, I learn them all over again. And again. And again!” I laughed for the first time in days.

Gift #4 As I share such wonderful insights with the next friend I meet up with, it’s just what they need to hear, too!

Gift #5 We have already realized the rewards of our life reboot. Jon’s got his game back, reconnecting with old allies, and finding new ones. The work he’s doing is the work of his heart—collaborating with users to create the tools they need to make their own work easier. The projects are timely, extremely relevant, and deeply-rooted in bettering our culture.

As we consider our next steps–as our reboot is rebooting–Jon and I realize it will be easier this time. For example, we are only moving across town, and we can break it down into small loads. And the new neighborhood will have all the features we treasure in this one.

Gift #6 My art will go on hold again, though hopefully not for long. OTOH, if we should have to leave Sonoma County down the road, I’ll only have to walk away from a few years of audience-building here. Not three decades, like our first move!

Gift #7 My Keene tribe is still here!

Gift #8 I’m passing on the gifts! When I was living in Keene, I never thought of connecting my tribe members! (I know, I know—“DOH!!”) Two of my meet-ups organically overlapped yesterday, and two friends met each other for the first time. The synergy was astonishing. One had the exact information the other needed to take a step forward in a new career. The other recognized not only a new, rich resource in the first friend, but an ally. Both were validated anew to themselves as they recognized the same qualities in each other: Passion, integrity, professionalism, creativity, emotional maturity, and a wicked sense of humor.

I’m now working on getting all of these core people together, if not on this trip (though we’re trying!) then the next. In between, there’s Skype and Google Hangout. We’ll figure it out.

#9 And now I’ve shared this gift with you, faithful readers.

I’ve shared how sometimes, the seeds of a new beginning are buried in the deep past, and sometimes, even in the most recent hardship. The way to your next step is not carefully hidden in the great universe; it is often right under your nose. The words you need to hear are already sitting in the heart of someone who may cross your path—today.

And when the world feels like a hard and hopeless place, there may be someone standing next to you who will offer exactly what you need to get through it. Holding your dream, your beautiful vulnerable open heart, tenderly and lovingly, until you are ready to pick them up again.

Your bonus gift for subscribing today! Here are some of the wonderful words I’ve heard, in addition to the ones I’ve already shared. There will be more!

“Breath until you’re surprised.” This came up in a conversation about an ancient breathing/meditative practice that helps people heal from trauma, grief, and abuse faster. I sense there’s something deliciously deeper here that will reveal itself in time. It’s still sitting with me, and I love it.

“It’s only blood.” In a discussion about letting go of old family conflicts that may never be healed. If the family we’re born into is difficult, we can choose to create our own family.

“This ain’t your first rodeo. You don’t have to be the clown.” A discussion about me trying to make myself smaller so I can make insecure people feel better.

“You don’t have to go to every fight you’re invited to.” No explanation needed.

 “I sit with uncertainty everyday, until Clarity makes her presence known.” Every. Single. Day.

(If you’d like to see the published article and comments, go here.

My work! At Corrick’s! In March!!!

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So very last minute! I’m filling in for an artist who can’t participate.

Fortunately, as you who have visited my open studios know, I have plenty of stuff available to show. Like, a LOT. LIKE I COULD FILL THE WHOLE STORE (if they’d let me.) (But I don’t think that would be fair to Linda Sorenson.)  (BTW, oddly, I also know a New Hampshire artist named Linda Sorenson. This confuses me sometimes.)

But I digress.

The opening reception is Friday, March 3, from 5-7.

Come on by, say ‘hey’, I’ll be there with bells on. (Okay, no bells, but maybe a ponytail?)

 

 

FINDING YOUR TRIBE

Today’s post, Finding Your Tribe, originally appeared on Fine Art Views, a daily art marketing blog for Fine Art Studios Online

 Unfortunately, artists are people, too.

 I remember the first time I did a major fine craft show.  It was amazing!

 Oh, sure there were the expected (and unexpected) obstacles to overcome. These shows are incredibly expensive to do—booth fees, meals, transportation, marketing. The realization that your track lighting issues are going to get even worse. The nerve-wracking experience of packing, set-up, break-down, and everything in between.

But then there is the wonderful side, and that’s all about the people. Gallery owners who really love your work. Show coordinators who eventually become good friends.

And finding your tribe.

At one event, a major national wholesale show, I met people I previously only knew through our conversations on a professional discussion forum. (Remember those? I miss them. Sort of. Keep reading!) I distinctly remember thinking, “I’ve found my tribe!”

 For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people who were creative makers, like me. People who took their work seriously. People who were true professionals (for the most part) about getting their art into the world.  People who focused on doing excellent work, who worked at their craft daily, who sent their kids to college and paid their mortgage doing the work of their heart. People who laughed, shared information readily, supported other artists.

It was a magical year.

After a year or so, though, a few chinks appeared.

There were people who took shortcuts in their process, making it all about the money.

There were people who copied, diligently.

There were people who resented “newbies”, angry about people who “hadn’t paid their dues,” people who were envious of newcomers who won accolades and awards so “easily”.

There were people who were envious. People who were intensely annoying. People with obvious mental health issues. People with egos so big, they took all the air out of any room they enterted.

I tend to accrue a lot of information when I try something new, and I love to share it. (In fairness, tru dat.) So a few people let me know I was an upstart know-it-all with a big head.

And a very few people went out of their way to be obnoxious, to the point of bullying.

Where was my tribe?? I felt broken-hearted.

It took me years to come to terms with this unpleasant knowledge. (I still struggle, I admit that freely.) And now I know this to be true:

Artists are people, too.

In fact, some of the factors that make for a successful (however we define “successful”) artist can make for a difficult human being.

We have to make your art a priority. We have to believe in ourselves, especially when times are hard. We have to trust our process, sometimes to the exclusion of everyone else’s process. We (sometimes) have to fight work hard for our place in the world.

Sometimes this means: We believe we are always Number One. We believe no one else’s opinions matter. We believe our way is the only way. We believe when someone else gets a bigger piece of the pie, we won’t get our own piece.

One summer, after a particularly grueling interaction with someone who was making my professional (and personal) life miserable, another artist finally said, “We can’t all be the Buddha.” “Hah!” I thought resentfully. “I’m just asking her to leave me alone!”

Unfortunately, we really can’t be the Buddha. And in my case, the Buddha would probably be, “Quit trying to fix/change/out-argue those people! You can’t win!”

Because life is filled with difficult people, and creative people are no exception. If anything, we get judged harsher because we are creative people, because we’re supposed to be happier, more fulfilled, livin’ the dream.

And so, instead, I try to see them as, not a problem to be fixed, but an obstacle to get around.

It’s hard. I want to be friends with everyone. (Don’t say it, I know. I know. I KNOW!!!) I have an open heart, and I keep forgetting to put up big effin’ fences when I need to. I consider myself a student of life, and pursuing my art has enriched me on all levels—especially the learning part!

So when it feels like you’ve been voted off the island, consider the source.

Do the people I know and trust support me? Or do they gently suggest I still have some growin’ to do?

Do these people really block my path? Or are they just an inconvenient moment in my life I have to get through?

Can I learn to truly see the good in people who kinda suck are not perfect? (Note: Please do not excuse or make up a story about people with extreme malignant narcissism/sociopathy. Just get away.)

And most important, when the weight of personalities lie heavy on me, I can always go to the sacred creative space of my studio, and get back to making the work of my heart.

Do you have a good story about how you dealt with a difficult person in your art career? Enquiring minds want to know!!

 

 

 

FULTON CROSSING OPEN STUDIO this Friday, 2/17 from 5-8pm

I’M STILL HERE!

You know you’ve reached a seminal point in your writing career when readers worry about you…. (in a good way!)

This morning I’m settled in to write my column for Fine Art Views (LINK). But of course, I had to check my email first (insert here the sound of precious time draining into the eternal bathtub of life in the internet age…)

And found a lovely note from a reader who wonders why I haven’t written anything for awhile. She’s worried about me!

I started to write a long reply and realized, hey!!! This would make a good blog post!

So Fairy Godmother, this is for you!

Our Big Move to California is the reason. Because we’re STILL in the process of settling in.

First there was The Call, that moment where we realized we both wanted to reboot our lives. Then there was the interminable stage of packing up our life, our possessions, and all our critters. Then there was the dreamy stage, where everything seemed to fall into place–everything happening just as we needed it to happen.

And now, the next stage. This past year has been the “…and then she woke up and it was all a dream” stage.

This is where the realities of life show up. Where we realize that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Where we realize that no matter where you go, there YOU are. That a life reboot is empowering, exciting, refreshing, inspirational. But also frustrating, exhausting, and more of the same.

Part of it is the political climate. (No matter what your politics, there are simply a lot of scary things going on around the world, let alone our country.)

Part of it is, literally, the climate climate–the near-Biblical rains and floods this California winter has brought. OK, yes, it’s not ice and snow and blizzards and sub-zero temps. But it’s rained almost every damn day since OCTOBER–44 inches of rain, and about 7 sunny days. Flooding (indoor flooding!), mudslides, highways and roads closed for weeks. Millions of treeas, especially redwood trees, with root systems compromised by the lack of rain, now standing for months on end in water-logged soil, now falling across roads, even houses, and killing people. The extremes of a vicious 3-year drought coupled with record rainfall has wrought ongoing havoc on the California landscape. (No, grapevines are not really aquatic plants.) Even I am now officially “Under The Weather”.

And part of it is our social climate. Both my spouse and I are going through some puzzling social issues, at work and in our private lives, that feel overwhelming. Even when people are being difficult, there’s something I can learn from the situation. And I’ve had some astonishing clarity about this lately. ButI’m not at a point where I can write or share them easily. I usually wait until things are settled, so no one in my personal life can say with certainty, “Hey, she’s writing about ME!!!”)

But the biggest factor for me personally is the overwhelming confusion that comes from having….THREE STUDIOS.

Please don’t judge. In my entire life as an artist, I have always only had one studio, either inside or outside my home.

Now I have 1) a studio in our basement that is in no way accessible to the public.

I have 2) a studio in the

studio door

My studio at South A Street.

SOFA arts district. In addition to my actual rent, I have other expenses associated with it, which add up quickly. It’s a sweet space, with a display window and good light. When things go right, it has the serendipity of people who happen to walk by, who go on to become wonderful customers.

But it is off the beaten path from the rest of the artists, and I’m here by myself down an alley (a dark, dark alley in the evenings.) And it has its own complicated social scene.

I have 3) a friend with a fantastic studio at Fulton Crossing, an up-and-coming artist collective, who is now sharing her DISPLAY space with me.

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I get wall space!

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LOTS of wall space!

It has the added benefit of am excellent salesperson who works the three galleries on the weekends. There are no “passer-bys” during the week, but many people drop in during the weekends. My work can be shown–and sold–even if I’m not there.

But it’s not my working space, and it’s not MY space. I’m a paying guest. I’m on the wait list, but it may be awhile before the right spot opens up.

Remember, I’m the person who had 23 pairs of scissors in ONE studio, because I kept losing them, right?

What do you think my life as a creative is like now??!!

Every morning I make my “to-do” list. Every morning I collect stuff from home, load it into my car, go to SOFA, unload, get stuff from there, load up, go to Fulton Crossing (LINK), unload…and realize I left this, that, and the other thing at home, or at SOFA. Or the thing I need for SOFA was at Fulton Crossing, or vice versa, or whatever. As in OH-MY-GOD-I-AM-LOSING-MY-MIND

AND, yes, there’s a sudden demand for my work with a few area galleries–and for the first time in several years, I HAVE TO MAKE MORE STUFF!! Which is a good thing, of course. :^)

Except…when I go to “make”, I’m usually missing something. Which could be at studio 1, or studio 2, or studio 3, when I’m at studio 2 or 3, or 1 or 3, or 1 or 2. OR IT’S RIGHT WHERE I AM, BUT I STILL CAN’T FIND IT!!!!

So it’s all good. But a lit-tul overwhelming. No, we don’t regret moving to California. It’s been an astonishing thing all around. Good for our souls, good for everything.

But the three-studio thing, I hope I get some insight into that, SOON.

Thank you for asking, Lori. And please send up a few prayers to the Goddess of Clarity, that She make take pity on me and make Her presence known.

In the meantime, here is my new studio sign, for open studio events.

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I’m ready for everything!

Note how I’m using the studio door color of South A Street. But no address.

I’m ready for anything!

(Thanks to Dennis Bolt, who designs my postcards and my new A-frame sidewalk sign!)

 

YOUR NEXT STUDIO

I wrote this article for Fine Art Views, an online art marketing newsletter for Fine Art Studios Online, a host for artist websites where my own site now lives. I reprint it here, with their generous permission. Enjoy!

YOUR NEXT STUDIO

 The curse and blessings of many moves is, each studio is a life lesson.

A friend here in Santa Rosa has moved her tiny jewelry studio almost five times in the year I’ve known her. Last night, we moved her “best studio” into a delightfully bigger space, with a large display area. Armed with hand carts and three mighty men (husbands and friends), we moved all her stuff in two hours. (A little over the estimated “fifteen minutes”, but we all knew better anyway.)

I’ve had many studios in my time.

In our tiny Baltimore apartment, I filled a small hallway with my knitting yarn. In our Boston apartment, our bedroom was filled with shelves of….not clothing, not bedding, but quilting fabric. Our “dining room” had what bemused visitors called “a wall o’ yarn”, dozens hundreds of skeins of yarn hanging from several dozens of those expandable wall coat/mug racks.

Fortunately, because of my tendency to arrange everything by color, my Dear Hubby found the shelves “cool-looking” and visitors found the yarn display “artistic”. (I still have a tendency to sort everything—paints, beads, thread, buttons, artifacts, beach stones, shells, nails, mat board (er….am I revealing too much here??) by color color color, shape, and size. In hindsight, maybe I could have become an installation artist….??)

It was when we moved our small family to our first home in New Hampshire that I stepped up to the plate as an artist. I had the insight, inspired by my kids, that inside me was an artist screaming to be let out. It was the first time I realized I needed, not just dedicated storage space, but a dedicated workspace. Fortunately, my DH, again, also stepped up to the plate. We worked to figure out how to get me a studio.

My first “real” studio workspace was in our attic. It worked beautifully, for a few years. But then we needed the space for the kids when they couldn’t share a bunk bed anymore. Then a rented room downtown, in a building due for development and renovation. Then another rented suite in another such building, a former dentist’s office.

Each space got bigger and bigger, and the better each situation got, the more I worried about losing it. How could anyone ever improve on a dentist’s office?! I had four tiny rooms and windows overlooking Main Street! It even had a darkroom.

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My wall-o’-fabric is always with me!

This fear, the idea that I would never have anything “better”, and the knowledge that someday, the building would be developed and sold, gripped me. My mentor visited me and listened to my fears. And as I rattled on about “this studio” being my “best studio”, she corrected me with the words, “Your NEXT studio.”

It wasn’t til several more years passed that I got it. Her point, I mean.

I did indeed “lose” that space, less than two years later. Which led to no studio for a year, as we bought a house with an entire two-story barn for my studio.  The best studio in the world.

When we moved to California, I had the same fears: In an area rife with sky-high home prices and rents, where on earth would I find my next studio?

But I did find one. Several, in fact.

Our home has a basement, rare in California, and I set up a studio there. But the ceiling is way too low for visitors (and I have the forehead bruises to prove it), and the layout doesn’t allow for them to “free range”, something I love to offer visitors.

I found a studio with public access, and moved in.  Too small. Less than a year later, I moved into the space next door, with twice the space and a display window. Perfect! But it’s too isolated, and has other issues. Now what?

Once again, another opportunity is in the works. I’ll be moving again. Again!

There is a blessing in having a studio space that “stays put”. The time spent packing, moving, unpacking, is spent on actually making art. It’s easier to set up a routine that works, and stick to it. Everything is in its best possible place, and stays there. And you don’t have to put tiny new address stickers on your business cards and postcards. People know where you are.

But there are blessings to “many moves”, too. Mine were big/small/big/big/really big/small and now in multiple locations. (Which one has the frames and mats? Which one has the modeling supplies? Where the heck are all my seam rippers???)

Some “perfect studios” were inaccessible to visitors. My “perfect” dental office/studio? Inside a building locked at night, and up a massive flight of stairs. Not exactly open-studio friendly. The roof leaked, and destroyed a small roomful of paper supplies. And the FBI agents were quite upset with me during President Clinton’s speech on the town square. (I’d inadvertently avoided the security lines, and opened a window to watch his speech, throwing their security team into a panic.) (They DID think my work was cool, though….)

My friend feels overwhelmed right now. During this busy holiday season, she now has to set up yet another space before she can get back to work. But I noticed how incredibly organized she was, as we moved her stuff. She has a “system” in place, one she’s perfected over the last half-dozen moves. She has firm ideas on what will go where. She will be settled in, in no time.

As I contemplate my own “perfect studio”, I find myself thinking once more about my NEXT studio. There are beautiful things here I will leave behind, but new, future aspects that are already speaking to me. I will miss much of the community I found here, but also relieved about not having to “go along” to “get along” so much. (I hope!)

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One thing I can guarantee: In every studio, my workspace is ALWAYS cluttered.

I’m on a waiting list, which could last a few years—or a few months. Either way, I can deal.

The beauty, the real blessing of many studio moves, is nothing is ever going to hold you back for very long. You learn what to keep, and what you can let go of. You learn to enjoy the gift of each one, of what you gained, and what you can give up. What you need, and what you can go without.

Every studio is a life lesson. And me? I, a dedicated, eternal student of life, can only wonder what I’ll learn next, with open heart and many, many moving boxes.