There’s an online jewelry biz newsletter I subscribe to called Home Jewelry Business Success Tips. The site is owned and manged by jewelry designer Rena Klingenberg.

I like the chatty newsletters Rena sends out, with suggestions for trends, booth design and jewelry display. The site is especially helpful for new and fledgling designers, giving them a safe place to share ideas, designs and support.

I sometimes chime in with answers to questions, and sometimes when I chime in at length, Rena turns my comments into mini-columns. And that’s what I’m sharing with you today.

So for your entertainment and edification, I present to you my illustrated article on what to do with a billion beads my bead organizing tips.

Some folks might well ask, “Luann, er, aren’t you supposed to be cleaning your studio today? Why are you writing an article about bead storage when you just told us last week your work table is buried under twelve layers of stuff?” Well, all I will say is our family’s favorite retort when we were losing an argument: “Well, poop on you!” (I know, my mother would be appalled….)


About 1/1,000,000,000th of my bead collection.


What with the big show I do in August (9 days, people–please remember that when I’m slow with your special orders!), and getting my daughter off to graduate school (first time she’s been too far away to visit) and then vacation (I did nothing for six whole days), I fear I’ve sadly neglected my blog.

I felt it, too. The guilt. Heck, I didn’t even do my morning pages. Didn’t keep up on Facebook, either.

This morning, I had an extra fifteen minutes, and pondered what to do with it. Check my email? Sure!

But then I realized I miss writing. I may drag my feet about it, but it’s like fun exercise–I always feel better after I do it.

So rather than waste time looking for my current journal, I simply started another one. (Because of this coping strategy, I often have three or four journals kicking around at any given point in time.)

And of course, I started off pissing and moaning about what an awful person I was for not writing for the past five weeks.

And then I stopped. I looked at what I’d written:

I haven’t written in…months.

And then I wrote:

So what?!

I’d made a choice, every day. Write….or go to the beach. Write….or go out to breakfast with my husband. Write…or sleep in. Write…or pick up Meg and go ride horses.

I did not choose to write, every day, for five weeks. That’s all.

Do I regret any of those choices? Not a bit.

Eventually, I miss writing. I restructure my day to allow time to do it. Or I suddenly have something to say, and drop everything to get it down before I forget. (Dear readers, you have no idea how much wisdom I’ve had that has simply blown away in the wind of my busy-ness like so much lint.)

What helped me get here today was this post on time management (NOT) by Danielle LaPorte, whose blog WHITE HOT TRUTH is one of my favorite reads. I’d long given up trying to be super-productive–lost my mojo a few years ago–but I hadn’t given myself permission to not feel guilty about it. When I read her post, I laughed out loud in relief.

Most of our choices are simply that….choices. Yes, there are good choices and bad choices. But it’s not always so clear which are which.

Work in the studio, or blow it off to have lunch with a friend? If you are honoring your art, and fiercely protecting your creative time, then perhaps the former is the right choice for you today. And maybe that friend is annoying, and always leaves you feeling vaguely unsettled.

But perhaps something says you need to honor your friendship today. Maybe your friend needs some love and support. Maybe it’s you who needs the love and support. (And hey, maybe, like me, you’re the annoying friend.)

Different times, different goals, different stages of life call for different choices. The sooner we allow ourselves to simply be who we are, today, the happier we can be.

So instead of a to-do list today, I simply set some priorities. I had three pages of writing with a great idea for an article. Done. I thought of all the ‘have-to’s’ I have to today, and picked the one that keeps coming back–the new design that’s just right for a store that’s waiting on some new work from me. There’s a friend who’s special order just keeps popping into my mind. I’ll work on her piece today. And I’ll make the phone call to another friend whose need is greatest, and make time for her.

But the first thing I did this morning, after my morning pages, was my favorite.

I went riding.

The first frost of the season killed off most of the annoying bugs. The sun was brilliant, but the morning was cool, perfect riding weather. I had unexpected (and welcome) company on my ride. My muscles are sore–I’m finally healing after a back injury last fall, and foot surgery this spring–and it feels good to be sore from riding. From doing something I love.

I feel…..


My blessing for you today:

May you choose for yourself today, the thing that will make you the happiest.

And may you have many opportunities to do so.

N.B. In the interest of full disclosure, I did write my column for The Crafts Report. And I did my columns for the Fine Art Views newsletter. And I wrote several times to my son, who moved out two months ago (to a house two blocks from here.) And I kept up on some crucial emails.

So, yeah, I wrote. But isn’t the point of this column still a good one?

CLEANING THE ATTIC #20: Where Do You Use It?

Well, I thought I was done with this series, but self-discovery continues…

I’ve heard this tip before. But when I actually applied it, it’s amazing what could be moved out of my studio.

Do you actually use what’s stored in your studio, in your studio?

Here’s a great example. I sometimes overdye the fabrics I use in my wall hangings.

I have quite a collection of dyes, special fabric detergent, dye fixer, etc. All of these were stored in a little two-drawer unit on a counter top in my studio.

During the final cleaning frenzy before my Open Studio, I realized (duh) I don’t actually dye fabrics in my studio.

I dye in an upstairs bathroom, or in the laundry room.

Fortuitously, I had just cleared out my laundry room. I knew my supplies would fit in there on a newly- emptied shelf.

So I moved it all up there. The storage unit fit perfectly on the shelf. (Another “duh”. After all, they were part of the same storage system.)

A small change, but huge in so many ways.

I now have half a counter top available for my new Lortone rotary tumbler I bought from Santa Fe Jewelry Supply earlier this year. A more efficient use of space.

My dye supplies, tools, and to-be-dyed fabric are now all stored where I use them. What a time-saver!

Look around your work space. Is there something there that just doesn’t belong?

CLEANING THE ATTIC #19: Take Out the Empties

As I enter into the last 24 hours of cleaning frenzy (assuming I don’t stay up til 2 a.m. for the next two nights, which I’m not saying I won’t, mind you, but at my age, it’s hard) there’s one cleaning tip I come back to again and again. It’s ridiculously simple, but perhaps the most single most helpful tip I’ve found.

When I enlisted the help of my good friend Carol Laughner, the second thing she advised me to do seemed kinda silly at the time. (I can’t remember the other two right now. If I do, I’ll share those, too.)

As I empty storage containers or organizers, she said I should gather them up and set them aside, in one big pile, in an out-of-the-way area.

I nodded my head obligingly when she told me this. After all, she was helping me. I wasn’t going to argue with her. But I couldn’t see why this was one of her “big three” organizing tips.

Well, guess what? It works.

It turns out that keeping them in your line of sight as you work creates a visual distraction. I’d find my eye roving around the room, thinking of what I had to do next. I would see an empty rolling drawer cart, or a magazine file, or a box, or a jar. Then I’d have to think, “Oh, it’s empty, I don’t have to do anything with that.” Except, of course, step over it, move it out of the way, push it aside or stack it on something else.

Also, when I’d get ready to reorganize a space, I’d think of a perfect “thing” to use–but then I couldn’t remember where it was. I’d spend several precious moments looking for it. And sometimes I’d realize I’d already commandeered it for another spot.

About the eleventh time I stepped over an empty plastic tub, or searched for a basket the right size, I realized Carol was right.

I set the “empties” in a pile near the door to my barn attic. Several times a day, I took them upstairs to the “master pile”.

I instantly had more walking-around space. And fewer distractions to boot.

I could then judiciously add some of the containers back in as I needed them.

I don’t know why this works so well, but it does. So listen to Carol and move those empties to a staging area while you work on your mega-mess.

CLEANING THE ATTIC Tip #6: Help Someone Else

I’ve made a little more progress today, letting go of some really sticky stuff. Every day, I find a new way to think about each item, deciding if it stays or goes.

Books were the hardest. We love to read and reread our books, and we have eclectic tastes. Books had taken over our house.

Yet to date, we have packed up over fifty boxes of books. Yes, you read that right! (Fear not, we still have plenty of books left….)

Now, I’ve tried for several years to part with some of those books. How was I able to suddenly cull out 75% of my titles?

And what made me finally let go of a knitting machine, a camera stand with lights, a slide projector and screen? (I can just hear the little hectoring voice in the back saying, “Besides the fact that they’re all so outdated?” Hey, it’s still good stuff!)

Here’s what: I donated them to groups that would benefit hugely.

A friend works in program services at a county jail. When I first mentioned getting rid of some books, he said, “I’ll take ’em! I’ve been wanting to beef up our library at the jail.”

It’s odd, but somehow the thought of my books being read by someone down on their luck, someone who’s taken a few too many wrong turns in life, someone who was so bored they’d read anything, someone who might think, “Hey…that was a good story!”…was compelling. And liberating. We quickly filled seven boxes of books and gave them to John. (It helps that he came to pick them up, too.)

He was impressed with our selection. “Not a single *$#!# romance, either!” he said admiringly. (Apparently people tend to donate romance novels to jails. Go figure.)

He said he’d name the library after us. Well! If that’s the case, we’d better give ’em even more books! So we filled seven more boxes. “The Udell Memorial Library?” I suggested. “Nah, that would mean you’re dead,” replied John. Oh.

We packed up another ten boxes. Then a dozen. Finally, John said “uncle!” But he gave us the name of another program manager at another jail–who was also delighted to have our books. He even came to get them, too. We gave him fifteen boxes. Another twenty-four sit in our garage waiting for him. Hmmm…I guess that’s more than fifty boxes.

Tip: For each book, we decided if we could easily find it at the library, or if we could easily find the information on the internet, it left the building. Ditto if we didn’t want to reread it, or if we had multiple copies.

The big-ticket items were set free soon after. A dear friend mentioned that the non-profit arts center she works for was having a fund-raising yard sale soon. Would I consider giving them some stuff? I could give to a good cause, and get a tax deduction to boot. She even offered to pick up whatever I was willing to donate.

Turns out some of the items are coveted by the center itself. So maybe my donations will end up helping many budding artists and craftspeople. I found myself adding to the pile throughout the day.

There’s something compelling about knowing our donations might change someone’s life for the better.

Suddenly, it’s clear that hoarding something I know in my heart I will never use again, feels wrong. Letting it go to a good cause simply feels right.

So think of a group or cause that would benefit from your old stuff. Somehow it makes it easier to let go.

Maybe it’s part of that legacy thing I was talking about yesterday.

CLEANING THE ATTIC Tip #5: Identify Your Legacy

This is too funny. I almost called this essay, “Break a rule”. You’ll see why at the end.

I almost tossed a pile of ArtCalendar magazine back issues. But as my hand hovered over the top issue, I saw a blurb for an article: Summer Project:Declutter your studio/Three Easy Steps

Now, I wasn’t about to fall for that one–remember what I said about magazines promising to change your life in 7 easy steps? And this one claims only three!!

But my coffee was ready, and I thought it would be fun to read for 10 minutes.

Oh, I am so glad I did!

The article’s author is Jo Israelson, master stone carver and installation artist. She also moonlights as a personal organizer. I can’t find any information on that aspect of her, though, so you’re going to have to find that back issue of ArtCalendar magazine (April 2007). No, you can’t have mine. I’m keeping it!

Jo uses those same ol’ strategies of sorting (keep, recycle, donate, trash) we hear so often, but with a twist.

She first requires that we identify our goals for the process. Understanding why we are doing this will help us stay centered and focused when the process gets hard.

I’m at that hard place this week. Most of the easy stuff to lose is gone. I can see attic floor! But my studio is in worse shape than ever. Decisions are getting harder and harder. I’m stuck again! (A friend has offered to come help me think, but not for another week….)

I apply Jo’s techniques and suggestions–and they work!

What are my goals?

Am I downsizing? Retiring? (No.) Trying to be more organized? (Yes.) Am I making room for larger work? (Yes!) Getting ready for a studio tour or sale? (Oh, yes, yes, yes!) There are even goals of a more personal and spiritual nature, and on that list is “overcoming a block”. (gulp…yes!)

But the part that is absolutely brilliant to me is when she asks us to define our legacy goals. This will help us move through the inevitable emotional wall we hit when the initial euphoria of de-junking ebbs, and the sadness, confusion and frustration of the process overwhelm us.

In the article, she says:

“…Most artists feel the underlying purpose of their work is to communicate, often in ways they cannot articulate explicitly themselves. Collectors often talk of being moved by, spoken to or touched by a particular work. Your legacy goals will serve as the framework for the distribution of the remaining items.”

What is my legacy?

What am I really trying to accomplish with my artistic life? What will I leave behind? What do I want it all to mean?

As a good friend always asks, “What is the highest and best use of my (artistic) time? And energy?”

What clarity this idea gives me!

Suddenly, I know what to do with the knitting machine my sister-in-law gave me a decade ago (and I only used for a few months.) It was a good thing for awhile. But what it taught me is, I love hand knitting, not machine knitting. I know now someone else will use it and enjoy it more than I.

I also know what to do with the tons of old books and cool “junk” I’ve acquired for making altered art. I love my altered artwork, and I’m good at it. But it’s more a creative process for me, not my actual body of work. (It’s not distinctive enough, for one.) Time to keep enough materials to play with, and release the rest back into the world.

I have a different legacy.

I know my fiber work, my jewelry, and my writing are the gifts I’m meant to focus on, for now.

And the funny part?

One of Jo’s rules: “Do not stop to read old magazines… (Y)ou had plenty of time to do that before you began to declutter.”

Well, that’s one rule I’m glad I broke today!

Back into the fray I go, with a lighter heart.

And hopefully, an emptier studio.

Making Room

So what great insights came from my four questions session yesterday?

Carol and Barb came over for two hours. We had coffee and a quick nosh. (Can’t work on empty stomaches!) We “checked in” briefly to see what everyone was up to.

Then it was time to start.

What did I want to talk about?

I wanted to talk about my vision for my art. Wanting to catch everyone up on where I was coming from, I presented a five-minute summary of the last couple years:

My realizing I still have a vast new audience to present my current body of work to….(validation!)

Me knowing my work will evolve naturally and organically once I can clear space in my studio to get back to work….(relief!)

Me recognizing that writing, though abstract, makes me feel like I’ve done something…and may be distracting me from my actual art production time/energy….(hmmm…at least I see it, though I’m not sure what to do about it.)

Me remembering that last year my first surgery, and first foot injury happened two months before my big League of NH Craftsmen’s Annual Craft Fair…(manageable, but still putting me off my game.)

and that it was the first fair I’d done in eight years without my daughter Robin assisting me every step of the way…(difficult.)

Me understanding the many negative things that happened to me at last year’s Fair (let’s just say that sometimes, there’s nothing scarier than your fellow craftsmen), and how long I’ve had to deal with the repercussions….(frustration.)

Me realizing my cancer scare began almost immediately after the Fair and lasted through several months of testing and follow-up….(emotionally exhausting.)

Followed by two more surgeries in December…(uh oh.)

Resulting in being housebound, in constant pain, inactive, incurring weight gain and depressed….(it was, well, depressing.)

And me now realizing we have to clear the garage for a new wood boiler, and clean out our house attic so we can insulate before winter….(yikes!)

And I still need to clean out my barn attic so I can begin to clean out my studio….(double yikes!)

There! “So,” I said, “I’m ready to talk about my plans for my art.”

“Not so fast, sweetheart!” exclaimed both my friends in unison. “We can see what the problem is here. And it’s not what you think.”

The problem wasn’t about the art. The problem was making room for it.

They both pointed out that the first step was to get a plan of action for this huge de-cluttering laid out–before I even begin to think about making more art.

They said they understood, because they’ve both struggled with the same issue. And gone through the process, and come out the other side–lightened, encouraged and energized.

And they said they both happened to be very, very good at creating such plans for action.

When they said that, a huge weight lifted from my heart. How perfect that these two people were doing this exercise with me.

I knew they were right. I knew I had to do this. I had no idea how I was going to do it.

It turned out they were going to give me exactly the help I needed.

They guided me through a visioning exercise. I mentally walked through my studio, “creating” the perfect new work environment. I thought about what really needed to be there and what didn’t.

Then we took a quick tour of the two staging areas. With their eyes helping, it was even easier to see what could be “at hand”, and what could go upstairs into the barn attic.

Shelves will keep my current storage containers more accessible, and labeling will help, too.

Teen-aged boys will be forbidden to set up a man-cave in the attic. (If you have teen-aged boys, you know what I’m talking about….)

The list goes on.

Someday, perhaps I’ll be able to section off part of the barn and actually insulate or heat it during the winter, so my office and shipping station can be upstairs, away from my actual workspace. (Email and internet stuff can be a huge distraction!) For now, there’s a lot that can be stored up there for quick grabbing when I need it. A little hassle to run upstairs (especially in winter!), yes, but better than tripping over E*V*E*R*Y*T*H*I*N*G underfoot.

My friends also offered to help.

It was so hard to ask! “Come on, Lu, say it—‘Will you help me?’–four little words! You can do it!” they urged.

I did, and they said yes. (They want pizza, beer and music. I think I can swing that!)

They encouraged me to make a list of other people I could ask for help, too, and how to make it easier for people to do so. (Keep the request to a couple hours, add the music and food.)

They encouraged me to set a deadline (three weeks!) to see how much I could accomplish by then.

They promised to come back for another session to make sure I’m making progress, and not getting bogged down in details.

As we stood by the top of the barn stairs and talked, I worried about how much shelving and labor would cost.

And then looked up and saw…..a stack of shelves, commercial-quality slotting and brackets I’d bought seven years ago, originally to use in my studio but set aside because I hadn’t needed it.

Here’s the funny thing. If you’d asked me where it was, I would have said I’d given the stuff away already! I’d walked by them a hundred times in the last few years, and yet not seen them.

Yet at the exact moment I realized I needed that stuff, there it was. (Okay, I’m not sure I can find the brackets, but those should be easy to buy again.) (I hope!)

In the end, nothing monumental or too big too handle. Just something that’s easy to do for others, and sometimes so hard to do for ourselves.

Update: I’ve already packed up six boxes of books for a prison library; set out a ton of stuff on our tree lawn which disappeared within hours; posted stuff on Freecycle which was picked up in minutes, and thrown out two bags of trash. I think it’s working!

THE UPSIDE OF DOWN #1 Make One Less Trip

As promised, the first of the life lessons I’m learning from having to wear an aircast for a month. (Two weeks down, two to go!)

I’m allowed to drive.

But it’s gotten so complicated, I don’t want to!

Bear with me here. This gets tedious.

Since my right foot is in an aircast, I’m either running around barefoot all day or wearing one shoe. Since it’s been hot, that’s usually a sandal. And I’m in my shorts. Or in the mornings, when it’s chilly, wearing one sock (because the aircast comes with its own “special” knee high sock.)

If I drive, I have to take the aircast off. That means a) looking for a matching right shoe (which can take hours, because I’m always kicking my shoes on and off all over the house, upstairs, downstairs, in my studio, etc.) and/or b) taking off the knee sock I’m wearing with the aircast and looking for a matching pair of socks. But since I’ve been wearing one sock all day on my left foot, I can’t remember what I did with the other sock. My dresser drawer is now full of single socks….

If I’m going somewhere for any length of time, I have to take the aircast with me and change into it when I get there. Which means switching the normal sock I’ve been wearing on my right foot, for the funny “special” knee sock for the aircast.

The other day, I looked down at the passenger seat in my car. I had two different (single) socks and 3 (single) shoes, some lefts, some rights. (So that’s where they all went….!!)

You can see that the logistics of using my car has become challenging in odd ways.

Which means (ta da! Here’s my point!) it’s just easier not to make so many car trips.

So I’ve cut down on the number of times I jump in my car during the day. I’ve always tried to bunch up my errands, etc. But now I’m doing my best to avoid using my car, because it just takes too much emotional energy.

Consequently I’m getting more efficient with my time.

It reminds me of the the two smaller retail shows I’m doing this season–what will I gain from that?

Doing shows has become a big production for me. I’ve “expanded” to fill the space they given me–two days’ of set-up ends up meaning it takes me two days to set up. I overpack, taking “everything I might need” because it’s just one more thing I can toss into the packing crate.

Well, that’s about to change!

Doing shows that only allow for a few hours’ set-up will be a major shake-down–and that’s a good thing. I need to relearn the difference between what is “nice to have” and what is “essential to have.”

I can only take what I can pack into my car, or strap on top. Robin’s getting nervous–I keep asking her if she likes the wind in her face.

It’s forcing me to split apart my product lines, focusing more on the jewelry and sculpture, and only offering very small wall hangings. (At these shows, the chances that someone will come prepared to drop a couple thousand dollars on a wall hanging are slim.) That, in turn, should force me to find new venues for the fiber work.

At one show, I’m going to focus on lots of items in the under-$100 category. I don’t want to water down my designs–but my finest pieces are headed out next week to the galleries I know can carry the higher-priced stuff.

Cull, focus, simplify. A few good things I’ve learned from having to curtail my life this month.

P.S.  I’ve been walking a lot more, too!  A LOT more….


I submitted a proposal for a public art commission a few months ago. I got really excited about it. It seemed like a perfect fit for my work. I poured my heart into my proposal.

A friend who was familiar with the venue vetted my ideas. She thought it was a good proposal. She warned me, though, the competition for this particular venue would be tough.

Sure enough, I didn’t get it.

I “lost”.

I’ve been thinking about the process, though. I realize that in many ways, I won. I learned good stuff along the way:

1) It’s good to be ready.

It’s a lot of work to submit a proposal. This one came up fast, too. I found out about it less than a week before the deadline.

Fortunately, I have tons of slides and digital images of my work. I have artist statements ready. I have reprints on hand of my publicity.

I was able to pull my proposal together in a couple of days.

2) I work well with guidelines.

I liked the idea of the commission–enough structure so I didn’t have to start from scratch, enough leeway to come up with an extremely original design. I liked having guidelines I could challenge and stretch ever so slightly, too. My proposal would have asked people to step just outside their normal expectations of an “art quilt”. And it would have encouraged them to think about the national park in a slightly different, more intimate way.

3) I play well with metaphors.

My friend said the metaphors I provided in my proposal–balancing the “big grand feature” of the park with the smaller intimate moments that are just as important to those familiar with the park–was perfect. It’s nice to know I “got” that when I read the project guidelines and thought of ways to connect my work with them.

4) I learned what could give me an edge in future proposals.

(Hint: Especially in areas of limited opportunities for artists, they might prefer to award these proposals to local or regional artists.)

5) I think I’d like to do more.

This had a different “feel” than many other promotional and sales opportunities for my work. I realized I liked everything about it: The potential for “winning” the commission. Having a big chunk of time (and money!) to devote to it. Having to make ONE THING instead of an ongoing body of work (for an exhibit or a gallery, for example.) The start-and-finish aspect. The idea that thousands of people from all over the country–and the world–would see my work.

I realized I’d like to submit more such proposals!

6) The parts that were hard are the places I need more work.

I realized I would need to finally master my new big-format sewing machine in order to create the pieces. So I need to get going on that, if I want to make those bigger works.

7) I found the passion in my work again.

It was challenging but fun to put together the proposal. And I found myself excited by the idea I proposed.

I realized that the notion of my work having a home, BEFORE I even finished it, was exhilarating. It’s been hard finding the right way to market the fiber. So I often feel it’s hard to devote a lot of time to something that may not sell for several years (as opposed to filling orders for jewelry and sculpture, which need to be done NOW.)

Knowing I was working to make a piece for a specific place, a specific purpose, with enough guidelines to get started but enough creative leeway to be interesting, really fit the bill.

It’s funny sometimes, how much you can learn from losing!


I’ve been cleaning my studio HARD the last few days. That means I’m not wandering around trying to put away a few things or trying to clear a pile. I’m actually hauling boxes of stuff upstairs to sort out later. A film crew is coming in a few days, and they need to actually get INTO the studio to film.  More essays on booth design are bouncing in my head, but I have to say firmly, “Not now–WAIT!!”

I always gripe about cleaning the studio. But actually, I thrive on this. “Company’s coming!” is the best fuel for cleaning. Years ago, my husband actually said, “We should invite people over to dinner regularly so we clean the house!” He had discovered my secret.

This panic inspired me to buy a new bookcase for storage, which encouraged me to clear a space for it, which made me realize it was time to take down the display tables from last year’s open studio event. (Yes, it looked so good I left them up for ten months.)

I’m now able to throw away piles of paper that “needed my attention”, but actually just needed to sit for six months until I realized I don’t really need them at all. Someday I’ll be able to determine that in a few minutes or days, and then I will have a clean studio all the time.

I’ve actually gotten my booth back upstairs to the barn attic.  For the first time in months, there is actually floor space in my studio.  Granted, not much–but more than paths.  I’ll take it.

But even the thrill of seeing the floor for the first time in ages, and finding that lost check, and making a home for the new box of vintage buttons I bought, wears thin. This is comfort mode for me, not creative mode.

Which is why the link to this delightful video, sent to me by a friend this morning, was so welcome.
Animals at Play

Why is this link such a gift to me today?

Because this moment of sheer magic–a polar bear playing with a sled dog–lifted my spirit out of the mundane. And back into that place of power where I know I am an artist.

What I often forget, in the hustle and bustle of getting my art out into the world, is that a moment like this is what art is all about.

It is that palpable flight of the heart to another, higher place. It is pure joy.  It’s as powerful as any other ecstatic moment.  For a moment, we truly feel the world is a bigger, more wonderful place than we could ever imagine.  We feel our true place in it, even as our heart rises above it for just that moment.

And to feel that flight, if only for a moment, is a gift.

At my very best, that is how I feel when I am making my little bears and horses and birds. And at my very best, that is where I am when I talk about my art.

And when my work is at its very best, it makes that connection, and provides that moment of flight for someone else.

At the fair this year, I was telling a woman how I came to be an artist–the exact thoughts that went through my head that changed my life forever.  She listened carefully, then said slowly, “When you said that, just now, a thrill went through my entire body and down my feet.”

My art starts with me, but once it’s in the world, it goes somewhere else.   What she felt was that connection I hope for when it does.

It brings to mind a movie that I never cared for very much, but the title always broke my heart: “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”. That’s what it feels like.

I wish you such a moment of flight, of unbearable lightness, to set you on your course today.

Remember what you’re here for.

GOOD BOOTHS GONE BAD #3: Alice’s Tiny Doors

I talked earlier about booths with so much stuff in them, you can’t get in. This common booth layout flaw is similar.

The way(s) into and out of the booth are way too small.

I called this essay “Alice’s Tiny Doors” because it reminds me of one of John Tenniel’s illustration in the book Alice in Wonderland. It’s the one where Alice is trying to get through a door that’s only two feet tall.

I’m guessing this booth layout problem happens when people design their booths on graph paper. You start to lay out these little squares and rectangles, lining everything up just so and squishing in as much display as you can. You plan a three-foot wide entrance, and leave a little three-foot wide path along here. The idea is the booth visitor will come through the little entrance and work there way along the path you’ve created.

In fact, years ago when I was part of a large group booth, the original plan was just that–a long, narrow booth with a U-shaped path consisting of two narrow entrances at the front. The idea was we would have display tables lining every wall. Visitors would come in one leg of the U and walk through, looking at every exhibit.

Everyone was very excited about the layout. Until I said, “How many people do you think can shop in that booth at one time?”


I pointed out that the aisles were less than three feet wide. “That’s plenty of room for people to get through!” protested one artist.

Well…maybe. Though that didn’t mean people would WANT to walk through such a narrow aisle. “What happens if another person comes in the other ‘leg’ of the U?” I asked.

“People can scootch by each other”, one guy said. I noticed some of the women beginning to look uncomfortable. Women do not like people scootching by them when they are shopping.

“Okay, so let’s assume people will be willing to scootch. Buyers often shop in pairs. Now we have three people–or four people–trying to squish by each other. How conducive is that to shopping?” People began to nod their heads.

“And we’re supposed to be manning the booth. If two or three of us are in this aisle, that means every single shopper has to squish by every single craftsman working in the booth. How conducive is that to shopping?”

The layout was scrapped.

In this case, we had a beautiful booth location–four back-to-back booths at the end of a double row. We ended up keeping one large back wall (for our banner, wall art, etc.) and made multiple islands of display. Let people come into the booth no matter what aisle they’re in, I suggested. We ended up with almost six points entry.

That meant whenever one special item caught a buyer’s eye, they could immediately and easily pop into the booth and look. Once they were in our space, it felt like a department store. They could see many other intriguing displays, and they could easily move from one to the next.

This was a highly successful booth, because once people came in, they stayed.  And the longer they stayed, the more they bought.

Try not to herd people through cattle chutes in your booth. No scootching! Pablo Underhill used the term “butt brush” in his excellent book Why We Buy

The butt brush is when aisles are too narrow and someone brushes someone else from behind as they attempt to pass buy. The reaction of the brushed person is profound and extreme–they immediately stop shopping. It is an especially powerful reaction in women. So by all means, if you want women to stop shopping and leave your booth, make sure they are getting brushed and bumped from behind as people scootch by.

Guide people subtly with your display layout, and use visual cues to move them through your booth. Arrange your work so that one display leads to the next. Signage, dashes of color in a neutral display, lighting, work angled in interesting ways–all of these are so much more conducive to shopping than narrow paths and rigid layouts.

CHILD-LIKE VS. CHILD-ISH: Our True Artistic Nature

The friend who gave me the go-ahead to ignore the world for a few hours and make my art, also said a messy studio is not necessarily a bad thing.

The artist self in my is child-like, and revels in the mess. “I don’t have to follow the rules!” the child-artist chortles.

Those items piled up, all slogged home from the junk shop and a yard sale down the street? Potential. It all has potential. The artist self delights in the design potential in every object. It’s powerful stuff, pure creativity at work.

“And look at your actual work spaces. Beads and fabric organized by color, rows of trade beads hanging at the window, clearly-defined work areas–your jewelry area, your sewing area, your polymer area, your office area, your book storage area, your fabric storage area…. There’s a LOT of structure and organization here!”

The chaos was disturbing, my friend agreed. “But I think it’s your artistic child self at battle with other things going on in your life.”

The pragmatic side of me envisions wild folk–the good but crazy artist child self vs. the rigid, thrifty, everything-in-moderation somber, sober adult self–flinging flack at each other like a crazy illustration for a Dr. Seuss book. But I understand what she means.

It’s true that when I’m in the throes of creation, it’s like a frenzy. “I need something red! This big! Round!” I pull trays and drawers, pawing through them until I find just what I need.

“I need water colors! I mean, things the color of water! Big chunky beads of water colors! Now!!” Out come the bead catalogs, or a desperate search on the internet, looking for just the right components.

“This fiber piece needs tiny yellow beads around the horse’s head. No, not that yellow, this yellow!” And when I find embroidery thread that echoes that color, a tiny thrill goes through my heart. There. YES! Oooh. And now to make polymer buttons to go with them!

It’s when visitors come to the studio that it all feels wrong. Especially those who aren’t familiar with my work style, or my work. The ones who imagine a creative process very different from my reality.

“I envision you in a serene place with classical music playing gently through the air as you ‘sew a fine seam’,” sighed one customer. “Small dishes of beads set out neatly on your worktable…”

Try techno with a pounding beat, fabric flung all over the floor, and me swearing when I grab a spool of thread and knock over yet another dish of a jillion tiny beads I’ve dumped together,” I countered. Hmmm, must not have been a customer, because I know they left soon afterward. Another myth destroyed….

But there you have it. The child-like artist at war with the child-ish, disorganized, messy, frenzied lunatic. The unprofessional craftsperson with a disheveled studio. Not a grown-up.

Not a grown-up. Not professional.


I realize there’s professional and professional. I do my darndest to do good work, to create quality jewelry and artwork. I strive to do the self-promotion, to build my name and reputation so my collectors can be proud to own a genuine “Luann Udell.” I try to meet deadlines, take care of all the details, keep the paperwork straight and follow the rules.

I often succeed. Some weeks are better than others, to be sure.

But the child-like artist kicks out sometimes. I keep buying beads even though I have plenty. I keep making new designs even though it’s time to focus on other things for my next show. I keep saying, “What if…?” right up until it’s time to pack the box and get it shipped out.

I skip dinner to make more necklaces. Stay up late to finish the sewing on one more wall hanging. Call up my photographer to beg him to make time to photograph “one more piece” before the show. “One?” he asks. “Not five or six? Or twenty?” (Like the last twelve times I’ve called him….)

Missing deadlines, misfiling paperwork, procrastinating, busting budgets….the grown-up in me groans and shakes her head. “What will become of us??” she mutters.

The child-like self is dancing like a wild thing in the woods.


I mentioned earlier that as recently as a year or so ago, I was using a very old mail program called Eudora.

Yes, I am married to one of the most highly respected high-tech journalists in the world, and I am usually forced kicking and screaming into new technology.

Eudora had some good things.  I couldn’t receive anything in HTML and couldn’t receive photo images.  Pretty lame.  It was also almost impossible to get a computer virus.

So I was  slow and out of most loops, but I was safe.

Eventually my husband convinced me to move to another program.  It was better, and I got used to it.

Then last year, he suggested I switch again, to Gmail.

Well, I just about threw a fit.  I’m at the age where, in order to learn something new, an old fact has to leave the building.  And I already can’t remember my mother’s birthday.

Learn a new mail program?  Again?!!  No way, Jose.  (Or as my daughter used to misquote when she was four, “I say you’re wrong, Jose!”)   Why on earth would I want to put myself through that learning curve?

He told me.  It sounded good.  I tried it.

It’s true!    

With Gmail, all conversations are threaded.  That means if you and I have an e-mail discussion, our complete discussion is “hooked” together.  In fact, all our e-mails will appear in subsequent replies.

This sounds cumbersome, but it’s not.  Because in Gmail, all that extra text is suppressed unless you click on a link within that e-mail.    It doesn’t actually print out unless you want it to, or til you want it to.

When you or that other person reply in the thread, the entire thread is bumped back up in your “in box”.  So if they reply today to your e-mail from last week, you don’t have to go back to last week to find that.   And the entire conversation comes along with it.

As much of the subject line, and the first line of the e-mail, appear in your in box.  This seemed like a little thing.  But it’s actually hugely helpful for finding the right e-mail when you’re looking for a specific one.

Which brings me to the best thing about Gmail:

You can search it!

You can search it just as easily as searching the web.  Gmail is Google mail, after all.  (Did I forget to say that?  Yes, I did.  Sorry!)

If I want to find that conversation I had with a magazine editor two months ago, I don’t have to search back two months and guess what day we talked.  I don’t even have to pick dates to search.  I can simply search for a few keywords–the name of the magazine, or his name or what we were talking about.

Gmail will pull up every e-mail thread with those keywords.  Not just the separate e-mails, but the entire threads.

It’s then a simple thing to find the conversation I want and find the information I need.

The only drawback was losing my e-mail with my domain name and website in it (although Jon set it up so I can still receive mail sent to luann@luannudell.com, so that isn’t a big deal.)

But I’m finding luannudell@gmail.com is a lot easier for folks to remember than  even my old domain name e-mail.  I think that’s because even I have trouble remembering if a good friend’s domain name e-mail is bob@bobtheguineapig.com, or bobtheguineapig@bobtheguineapig.com, or info@bobtheguineapig.com, etc.

So my business tip for you today is, go grab your name at Gmail.  Try it for a few weeks, keeping your old e-mail addy.  If you hate it, cancel your account and call me irresponsible.

I have a feeling you’re going to love it as much as I do.

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