Category Archives: art

ARTIST STATEMENTS: How to Explain the How With a Why

You can still share the how, but ground it with your ‘why’.

This week on Fine Art Views, I wrote about why it’s more important to share the ‘why’ of your artwork (why you make it) than the ‘how’ (how you make it.) Like a magician sharing how he does his tric, focusing only on the ‘how’ takes away a huge part of the magic of what you do.

Readers raised a few interesting points, noting that our customers do want to know how–so they can tell their friends, and be more invested in the artwork they’ve purchased from you.

I couldn’t agree more. As I said in the original article, I do provide a simple explanation that describes my process. Puff pastry, Samurai sword-making, scrimshaw.

But I believe that why you chose the ‘how’ is even more important to your audience.

One of my best signs in my booth is this one:

Welcome to my world!

I make artifacts from a lost culture, an imagined prehistory.

 My work is inspired by Ice Age cave paintings and other prehistoric art.  I want my artifacts to echo real ivory carvings of horses, deer, bear, fish and birds.

I use polymer clay, stacked in layers and stretched to make a block that has the grain and the feel of ivory. I make each animal one at a time, then bake, carve, and polish. The hands you see are miniature images of my own hands. A scrimshaw technique brings out the details of the markings.

I use polymer because I can make it look like real ivory, soapstone, coral, shell, and bone.

Unlike working with real ivory or bone, no animals are harmed.

Polymer is durable, yet lightweight and comfortable to wear.

I want my artifacts to look like they’ve been worn smooth by the touch of human hands. (Feel free to touch!)

I imagine the stories they carry. I retell those ancient stories, with these modern artifacts.

I use antique trade beads, semi-precious stones, and other collectible beads, to give my jewelry the look of a treasured piece, handed down through time, and many hands, and many hearts, connecting those ancient artists of the distant past, to you.

Do you see how the ‘why’ of my choice of techniques and materials, fits into my overall story about my art?

To get back to Bruce Baker’s comments that I mentioned in my Fine Art Views column, explain your choice of technique in terms of how it benefits your collector. “I use titanium glazes because they let me create colors that are richer and more vibrant. I use a higher firing temperature because it makes my pots more durable, so they’ll last a lifetime.”  (I have no idea if this is true, I’m not a potter myself, so I made it up.)

Another point was raised about being generous in sharing our techniques. I agree whole-heartedly.

But I’m not paying booth fees to give people a one-on-one class in how to do what I do.

As I said in my column, there are people who are only interested in your techniques. That’s fine, but they don’t get to use up my precious energy when I’m doing a show, or hosting an open studio. When people want more technical information on how to create faux ivory with polymer clay, I tell them it’s practically in the public domain, and recommend websites and how-to books to check out. Or I ask them to contact me after the show. 

There’s being generous, and there’s being generous. Only you can decide how much of your time , and energy, you want to spend teaching in the middle of selling your work, and whether or not you want to be compensated for that. I’ve found my own middle ground that reflects my integrity and priorities. You are always free to find yours, and it’s perfectly fine if it’s different than mine.


Filed under art, artist statement, questions you don't have to answer

IF/THEN: Two Upcoming Fairs

One of my favorite algebra phrases from lo-these-many-years-ago is If-Then statements. If 2x=y, then x=y/2. (I think. I just said it was a long time ago, right?)

So if you will be in San Francisco this weekend, then you could see me and my work at the Holiday Fair at the San Francisco Center for the Book. It’s this Saturday, Nov. 21, from 10-5.  Admission is free, it’s located at 375 Rhode Island ST, and I’m told parking is not too shabby.

BANNER Holiday Fair 2015

Alas, you say, you will not be there. Okay…..\

If you are in Sonoma County the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday after Thanksgiving, then you could come and see me at The Renegade Holiday Art Fair at the Duck, at 2371 Gravenstein Hwy., Nov. 27, 28, and 29, from noon to 4.

the duck art show

If you’ve ever traveled south of Sebastopol on Rte. 116 (aka Gravenstein Highway), then yes, you’ve seen this giant yellow duck on the east side of the road.

Everybody liked my standing bears, so I made more!

20151118_150244 (450x800)




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Fear Of Missing Out results in so very many, so very bad decisions.

Shrine Red Deer Clan 1

THIS….is what matters. Shrine Series: Clan of the Red Deer. The bottom antler is real. The boxes are restored antique boxes. Everything else is polymer clay.


Today’s little Venn diagram from Indexed (by Jessica Hagy) sums up this week’s brain buzz (mine) pretty well:

FOMO. Aka, Fear Of Missing Out.

Whenever I see an artist who’s more successful than I am, whenever I see a booth that’s busier than mine at a fair, when another artist is mobbed at a gallery I’m in, I freak out inside.

Whenever I see someone whose work is so amazing and powerful, I writhe with envy.

Whenever I see someone who seems to have nabbed every lovely opportunity/venue/award/kudos/publicity spot under the sun, I die inside a little.

Because I’m sure I’m missing out. 

I’m sure that person has it figured out. I’m sure they’re more savvy in their marketing, more practiced in their technique. I’m really sure they’re ‘on trend’, riding that glorious 15 foot wave with the perfect curl, hair blowing in the wind, dolphins cavorting in their wake squealing, “You GO, grrl!” (Or “Way to go, dude!”)

I mope in my studio, trying to figure out what will sell. Trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong. Trying to figure out how I’ll pay my business debts.

Will I ever write another book? Will I ever be a successful artist again? (Relatively speaking….) Will I ever be that cool, sophisticated artist who “explores the interstices of form and chaos, reveling in the capricious nature of conforming and rebellion. As momentary derivatives become clarified through emergent and academic practice, the viewer is left with a clue to the possibilities of our culture.” (Okay, I totally stole that last line from Arty Bollocks, the online artist statement generator.)

Jessica Hagy’s illustration brings a touch of clarity to the buzz. “What you’ve heard” vs. “What matters” is simply “PR trumping journalism”.

It’s the lizard brain reacting, instead of the work that is in your heart resonating.

It’s not who comes by. It’s who comes back.

It’s not about how many people will like my work. It’s about introducing my work to a new audience, even if that’s a handful of people.

It’s not how much money I make at any given show. It’s about being at least successful enough to keep moving forward. And being brave enough to try.

I love, love, love making whimisical jewelry from vintage buttons and old radio resistors. And I love making freshwater pearl jewelry. But only I can tell my story, the one that reveals how the Lascaux cave became a metaphor for my entire body of work.

And so I soothe my fevered brain today. Yes, it’s been awhile since I’ve set up for a show, especially ones that are limited in space. Yes, I worry about my prices with a new audience. Yes, I have no idea where half my booth stuff is, and whether my car is big enough to pack what I need.

But this isn’t about creating a smaller booth orthe best display, it’s not about  looking professional (arrrrrgh!!), it’s not about doing it perfectly.

It’s about getting my art out into the world again, in a new place, in unfamiliar territory…one small step at a time.

OH, almost forgot: I’ll be at the San Francisco Center for the Book’s Holiday Craft Fair this Saturday, Nov. 21, from 10-5. It’s on Rhode Island Street. That’s all I know.

OH, forgot again: Thank you, Jessica Hagy!!!!

Luann Udell resistor jewelry

I love using old resistors to make kicky jewelry, too.

IMGA0777 (773x1024)

My vintage button earrings, with antique trade bead ‘flowers’.





Filed under art, fear of failing, Fear of missing out

LESSONS FROM THE GYM: The Dangers of Playing It Safe

This week’s column at Fine Art Views tells you why you need to get brave when it comes to making–and marketing–your art. Bruises not included, but expect them anyway.

And if I’ve skipped any other Fine Art Views articles here on my blog, you can always find them here.

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Filed under art, Fine Art Views, Lessons from the Gym


There’s no right–or wrong–process to create a body of work. Only what works for YOU.


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My brand new studio door. The studio is new, the door sign is new, and the door is freshly painted. studio door!

My brand new studio door. The studio is new, the door sign is new, and the door is freshly painted. So…new studio door!

There are so many reasons why artists and other creative types should have open studios. You’d be surprised how many of them aren’t about the money.

Our big move to California last September upended a lot of things for both my husband and I. For me, I missed the League of NH Craftsmen’s Fair, which generates almost half my annual income for me. I’m also missing the FFAST open studio tour, and the Keene Art Tour, which I co-founded a few years ago.

I left without saying goodby to many lovely, loyal friends, collectors and patrons of my art.

And arrived in Santa Rosa where nobody knows my name. (OK, you folks in the back row saying, “Oh, WE know who you are, you smart aleck…”)

Today is the SOFA Art Walk, and my first really truly open studio, in my brand new space, filled to the brim with artwork, displays, and supplies.

I’ve been worried about the lack of traffic that usually happens down my little alley. I was worried about the massive construction project going on in the cafe around the corner from me, and the fact that Atlas Coffee won’t even be open this weekend. I’m worried my new visitors will suffer sticker shock. I’m worried about…..

Luann. STOP.

Finally, my right brain kicks in. Just as reasonable as my left brain, too.

It doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter how many passers-by I attract to my studio today. Walk-ins were not how I grew my audience in Keene, NH.

It doesn’t matter that Atlas Coffee is closed. The owner has his own dreams, and his own audience. This is when the work had to be done (and you can already see how beautiful the improvements will be.) If anything, people will be just as interested to see the work-in-progress there, though we all miss their coffee. Depending on another small business nearby is not how I grew my audience in Keene.

It doesn’t matter that my prices may seem high. They’ve always been “high”, especially compared to big box stores and other small producers. Low prices and appealing to the masses is not how I grew my audience in Keene.

I think people grew to love my work for many reasons.

I’ve always wanted them to feel comfortable in my studio and in my booth. From the start, I’ve encouraged people to actually touch my work, pick up a little bear, or horse, or fish, and hold it.

I’ve always shared my stories, and my passion for my art. I did learn not to overwhelm people with my yakking (somewhat.) I let them browse, read, ponder. I let them really sink into the work, and wait for them to let me know they want to hear more.

I’ve (mostly) handled even rude and difficult customers (few and far between, thank, goodness!) with courtesy and patience.

I grew my customer base slowly, over the years, with these principles in mind.

And the same will happen here.

In my heart, I know it. As surely as I know, in my heart, that my work has a place in the world.

(And it helps that I also have a really great layaway plan!)


Filed under art, open studio


Don't worry, there's a happy ending!

Don’t worry, there’s a happy ending!

Back in 2009, 25 Random Things About Me was the big thing on Facebook. I actually wrote a series of articles on how to use this idea to write a great artist statement.

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.

Our first California Christmas tree, decorated with stuff I found at area thrift shops.

Our first California Christmas tree, decorated with stuff I found at area thrift shops.


Filed under 25 Random Things, art