But it needed something. So I spent the day adding tiny bits of sanded and plished driftwood, and…an otter!
It’s not that the first version wasn’t good enough. Nor the second. I liked them both!
But sometimes, one of my pieces just keeps ‘growing.”
It’s also part of my story.
I started with a big quilt, then moved to baby quilts. Then quilts for my kids’ dolls and toy animals. Then they became wall pieces, then wall hangings, and now including framed fiber collages.
My aesthetic was always ‘time-worn’, influenced by Amish quilts (reusing/repurposing pieces of worn-out clothing for the quilt squares) and Japanest scroll paintings (which, when damaged by time, were carefully remounted on new silk backgrounds.) Then wabi sabi, the acceptance–and new beauty–to be found in the worn and broken. The knowledge that, in ancient times, every effort was made to repair, emake, reuse, repurpose whatever took a lot of effort to create.
So every time I remake/repair/add on something to an older piece, it’s actually part of my process and aesthetic.
It only stops when it goes to YOUR home.
Unless, of course, your rabbit nibbles the edges, or your dog breaks your necklace, or your cat knocks my sculpture off your piano. (All of these are true!)
And then I come to the rescue, again. Grateful that these re-do’s and repairs are inherent in all the work I do.
Happy to be able to restore your broken and damaged work, so they can continue to give you years of joy.
This article first appeared on Fine Art Views, an online art marketing newsletter hosted by Fine Art Studios Online, a website dedicated to artists and creatives. If you have trouble commenting here, try commenting there!
LEARNING TO SEE #12: BEST. FASO WEBSITE FEATURE. EVER!!!!
(6 minute read)
It’s been right under my nose, but I just found it a few weeks ago. And I’m kicking myself I didn’t ‘get it’ sooner, but I’m glad I finally have!
Backstory: I have faithfully market my work online. I have a separate, professional page on Facebook. I’ve blogged since 2002. I have an Instagram account (which I set up to repost on Facebook), and my blog posts repost on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumbler. I’m on LinkedIn, and I’m diligent about updating my artist profiles on the websites of the professional organizations I belong to. I’ve been on Etsy since 2008, with the philosophy that I am not marketing to Etsy buyers, I’m giving my own customers a place to see and buy new work.
But overall, my online sales have been pretty meager. Most of my sales, even gallery sales, don’t measure up to my open studio events and the top shows I used to do.
I’d come to believe that my sales soar only when people meet me, and my work, in person. I believe in my ability to create connection on whatever level someone feels comfortable with, when people actually visit my booth or studio.
And moving to California five years ago felt like starting over, in every way. Finding a new studio, finding those important, respected art events, finding new galleries for my work, was a little daunting.
But I found the events that have slowly rebuilt a new audience, and I’ve been accepted by some great galleries here in Sonoma County.
And then the pandemic hit. Everything that was anything is now kinda nothin’.
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I’ve always thought of my website as a billboard on the internet highway. Full of art images, a place where people can go to find out who I am and what I do, if they make the time. But sales? Nah.
Etsy makes it easy for me to print mailing labels and ship my work, so why do I need that on my website? I used my FASO site for my newsletter (which had a learning curve, but I think I’ve got it down now.) But that’s about it.
Then recently, I realized I hadn’t updated my “Works” page in quite a while. Things are slow, so I thought I’d spend some time taking care of that.
So I uploaded a few images….
And two items sold immediately.
Wha….?! (In a good way!)
Oddly, I’d seen a few emails as a result of this automatic, alert-your-customers email service. I’d respond to people with a thank you. But I didn’t get how it worked, how they’d found that image. I didn’t even think to inquire about it.
That whack-a-mole sound you hear is me, smacking my head bigtime.
Since then, I now regularly post new work on my FASO, and email alerts are sent to all my email newsletter subscribers. I get wonderful comments, and respond to each one.
And almost everything I’ve uploaded has sold. Sometimes before I can even get it uploaded to Instagram! (I create a new listing on my Etsy page, then upload it to my FASO “new works” section, with a link to my Etsy listing for more images and for purchase, then repost on IG with same, which reposts to Facebook…have I lost you? Trust me, I understand!)
Re: more information on the automatic alert thingie, I suck at giving step-by-step instructions, except in person, when I’m teaching. In fact, I don’t even know if I signed up for this marketing feature, or if it’s simply part-and-parcel of a FASO website. I finally checked with my editor, and this is what she shared with me:
“The AMP program is free to all FASO paying members (so everyone on a FASO plan, except those with a FREE plan- only used for the contest & ads). You can find all you need to know about AMP and our new marketing platform, right from you FASO control panel by clicking on the Marketing tab and then choosing one of the options. We have free videos on AMP & webinars.
Other caveats: I also offer a peek on my website, and republish all the relevant information, but redirect people to my Etsy shop. My jewelry ranges from $75-$350. I know most paintings sell for much more!
I can also offer free shipping for my most of my items, and Etsy allows me to purchase postage and labels for below-market prices. So your results may vary.
But I’m also realize it’s time to educate myself about what advantages my FASO site might offer when it comes to sales and shipping.
I’ve also wondered if the corona virus is making people more aware of their mortality, and ours Maybe they’re afraid I’ll die from Covid-19, and there will be no more little horse necklaces for sale…?? (Morbid, but true?)
We just have to make our work. We have to get it out there. We have to engage meaningfully with our admirers and collectors, with integrity and authenticity.
Maybe I’ll even get a little ‘pushier’. When I’m speaking in person with a potential buyer, I ask that same question Jeanne mentioned: What spoke to you about this piece? It’s time for me to ask that in an email, or even a phone call.
I have started mentioning to people that if they see the dog/fox/otter/bear/horse that speaks to them, they should jump on it, because they’ve been selling quickly. It’s actually true, so I don’t feel like I’m twisting arms (which I HATE.)
And I love that Jeanne had such success and shared that with us, too.
So take advantage of everything a FASO website has to offer. FASO knows what an artist needs, based on the owner’s own experience as an artist, a gallery owner, and a collector. (Thank you, Clint!) And it shows.
If you enjoyed this article, you can read more at Fine Art Views and my blog or email newsletter. If you know someone who enjoyed it, pass it on! And if someone sent this to you, and you enjoyed it, ditto!
Musings? A longtime customer inquired about my owl artifacts. I plan to use them in a small shadow box series. (The boxes are small, not the series!) And some people have asked to have pins made with them, and I’ve obliged. This customer wants a necklace. Oooh, I never thought of that! Sometimes my best ideas come from what other people “see” in my work!
I started out avoiding anything that looked like people in my artwork. Probably inspired by the earliest cave paintings. The Lascaux Cave in France had only one image of an odd-looking, bird-headed human. So I didn’t make any, either.
Eventually, I made a few faces, and used them in my shrine series. I imagine a shaman, singing, eyes closed, eliciting those beautiful images in those prehistoric caves, surrounded by an entire community of people: Men, women, children. Guiding them through difficult times, with even fewer resources than we have at our fingertips today.
But in the end, it still seemed intrusive. Shamans–healers, teachers, artists–did not put themselves into those paintings. We don’t know why, and there are paintings/carvings with people. But it’s not my thing. For now….
And so the shaman masks became owls.
I don’t know the story behind the owls yet. Sometimes it takes awhile before I find my own personal meaning for them.
Until then, “I have to sit with uncertainty every morning, until Clarity makes her presence known.”
If you liked this newsletter, let me know! If you know someone else who might enjoy it, feel free to pass it on. And if someone sent you this newsletter, and you’d like to get more, you can sign up for it here.
A peek into my production process and aesthetics, and why a messy desk works for me.
Three new necklaces!
Ah, winter. Full of holidays mere days apart, especially the big ones. Someone wrote recently, “When Christmas is done, it’s DONE!” They’re right. One minute I’m trying to find a tree that’s small enough to fit in our little rental home, the next I’m finishing off the last of the eggnog for a whole nother year.
Winter is not as cold here in Northern California, not nearly as cold as Michigan, or New Hampshire (40 degrees below zero sometimes) but I’ve also never had unheated studios before, either. My former studio at A Street was pretty cold, but small-ish, so easier to heat with a space heater.
My newest studio at 33Arts (3840 Finley Avenue in Santa Rosa) is bigger, harder to heat quickly, too. It can only accomodate one space heater, it’s on the main floor, and it faces north. I wore three wool sweaters today, and a wool hat, and my hands were still freezing! Not conducive to working with polymer clay.
But it’s spacious, the light is steady, I have plenty of worklights, it’s beautiful, and I can tolerate cold better than heat. And it’s pleasantly cool through spring, summer, and fall. So, no complaints
Now the peek into my design process.
I made three beautiful new horse necklaces this week. Two faux ivory horses, one strung with rose/blush pink/pale peach semi-precious stones and pearls, the other with sage/pale olive same. And a blue faux soapstone horse with pale blue and aqua. It was so hard to condition the clay (polymer clay does not like cold) but I figured out how to get it warm enough to work.
Many layers of beads, many choices…
I have beads I’ve collected for almost four decades, from local stores, online shops, bead and gem trade shows, bead traders who come to my home with their wares, thrift shops, and antique stores. Some of my beads are new, most are vintage, and a lot are antique-to-ancient. Most are imported from Europe: France, Venetian glass beads from Italy, Bohemia (now Czechoslovakia) all well-known producers of antique glass beads.)
I also use beads from Africa (trade beads, handmade pot metal beads in all shapes and sizes), India (semi-precious gemstones), Japan (who pioneered cultured pearls, now known as freshwater pearls, also glass beads), and China, a new leader in all, but especially freshwater pearls and semi-precious gemstones.
Oooh, almost forgot the beautiful “Roman” glass beads, actually made in Afghanistan from broken/misshapen perfume bottles and bracelets, rescued from the midden heaps of ancient glass factories along the Silk Road trade routes and reshaped into new beads.
I love them all! And I get very particular about which ones I use in each design. Size, shape, hue, texture (matte, polished, faceted), all matter.
This is why it takes me hours to string a beaded necklace. I never know where I’m headed, but I always get there….
And each of these higher-end pieces get a special finishing touch. A tiny pendant at the clasp, and my signature (literally!) horse charm in sterling or antique brass.
Its all in the details…
In this series, I wanted subtle variations in the colors. For this, I need good lighting, a wide choice of beads: Real pearls, semi-precious gemstones, glass, stone. All in a variety of sizes, shapes. I love matte texture, and facets, too.
And the justification for a messy studio?
Noted writer Austin Kleon shares and insight in how a messy studio contributes to our creative process, here.
I know other artists have cleaner spaces. Fewer options, perhaps because it helps them focus. Or they know their path, and they don’t need to wander away from it. They may know what works for them, and sometimes I wish I were wired that way, too.
In the end, this is how every space I occupy, this is how it looks. “Good bones” as one visitor put it. Everything is arranged and organized, yet attractive and intriguing. I usually try to clean up most of the “creative mess” for open studios, but most of the time? I just leave it there.
Because I like to work during such events. I want people to relax, dig in, really engage with my work. When they’re ready to talk, they’ll ask a question. And I’m there for them, ready with a book about the Lascaux Cave with great photographs. Ready to share my inspiration, my stories. Ready to encourage them to pursue their own creative work, the work of their heart.
Because I know when I make room for my art in my life, when I embrace my messy, making-self, my trial-and-error designing self, my love for certain color palettes, but also being open to new ones, my almost-obsessive need to keep collecting the materials and supplies that speak to me, to make the work that pleases me (and hopefully, YOU), I am in my highest, best place in the world.
So there you go. To make is human, and making takes time, space, and sometimes messy habits.
horse necklace trio
I think they turned out pretty well!
I use mostly sterling silver for my accent beads and findings, but antiqued copper looks soooooo beautiful with blush pink pearls and peach moonstone. The blue soapstone horse called for pale blue/pale aqua beads this time. I like it.
Here’s how they look in my studio. Pretty good fit!
And now you know why these pieces start at $350, too. A lot of work and time, and precious materials go into each one, including the artifacts and beads I make myself. And no two are alike.
What is YOUR creative process? Be sure to share it with me the next time you visit! And if you can’t wait til my next open studio, you can always email or text me to confirm a time to visit.
I’ve been collecting ancient glass for awhile now. There are sites of old glass factories in Pakastan, which are 1,000 to 2,000 years old. Modern folks are gathering the glass shards from broken bowls and bracelets, and reshaping them into wonderful, beautiful beads.
I love the colorful tube beads made from ancient glass bangle bracelets.
But I especially love the translucent shards make from broken vases and bowls. They have amazing patina, and I can hardly bear to cut one from its strand and use it in jewelry.
I am haunted by water these days. I dream of the Pacific Ocean. I’m obsessed with those old Japanese fishing floats.
And I’ve been working almost non-stop with these old water-color glass shards and semi-precious stones–apatite, amazonite, peridot, freshwater pearls–in aqua, pale greens, turquoise, teal and blue.
Here are some images of necklaces I’ve made. To give them that old, collected-over-time look, I’ve used antiqued brass chains and findings, bronze metal beads, recycled found metal beads in copper, brass, silver. Every single one is different.
Of course, you can’t have a signature necklace without coordinating earrings, can you? I’ll try to post pics of those, too, before the big weekend.
I was indeed fifteen minutes late to Jeff’s. In my defense, we’d just had another 6-8″ of snow and the streets were slick! Jeff said he didn’t notice I was late. I love Jeff.
You can see the first set of six bear collages at my Etsy shop.
These are little guys–they fit in the palm of your hand.
I decided to let customers decide if they want one as a pin, with a small hanging cord on the back, or mounted on a very tiny beaver-chewed stick (for additional $$).
I think they came out really great! But then, I’m prejudiced.
It felt wonderful to work on these. I really like working on a tiny scale. And in these little pieces, I made everything except the seed beads. Sometimes I think about making my own seed beads (I already make my own 6o beads, sometimes) but seed beads are tiny–10o to 12o. That means 10 or 12 beads to the inch. Don’t go there, girlfriend.