Perspective

When a tiny shift in your point-of-view makes a world of difference….

(4 min. read)

So yesterday was one of those days where nothing really went well.

First, I realized I’d missed going to the gym. I didn’t want to feel guilty, but I did. I’m really trying for three days a week, and I hated to miss a day my third week in. Dang!

I’m working on a commission order, a jewelry item that might appeal to a niche audience. Another artist suggested. It was not a hugely out-of-the-box thing, but the composition, the findings, how it works, all are new to me. I’d start down one path, check in with Mike, and regroup.  Everything I assumed, was wrong. Argh!

Special orders and commissions make me nervous. It’s fine when someone sees something in my studio and loves it. Trying to make something and HOPING they’ll love it is a whole nother thing.

I’m participating in a wonderful show (with a tiny preview this Friday at Suzanne Edminster’s Saltworks Studio at Backstreet Gallery).

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We were supposed to deliver a wall piece on Wednesday for this mini-preview. (As you can see, the show doesn’t “officially” open until the First Friday in May.)

I picked a piece that wasn’t really my best work, but it filled the definition of “wall piece”, a framed fiber fragment. I need to tweak it, though, and I really should reframe it. But I didn’t have time, and thought it would be okay.

I walked down to the studio at the agreed-upon hour and NOBODY WAS THERE. I knocked, I called two people, I snarked and barked, and grumbled all the way back to my studio.

And here’s the kicker, in case you hadn’t already guessed…..

It wasn’t Wednesday, gym day, delivery day.

It was Tuesday.

I called and emailed everyone to apologize re: the delivery issue.  (I didn’t snark AT them, thank goodness, but I’d been THINKING snark. Gotta own that.)

So here I am, the REAL Wednesday.

I went to the gym.

I set aside the wall piece that was “good enough” and selected another piece, a wall-hung shrine, that I’m happier with. I made a few tweaks  that made it even more powerful, and took them both for Suzanne to choose from. She agreed the shrine is the stronger piece, and she’s happy to have it.

Special orders? Yeah, they’re crazy-making. Still, I realize I need a challenge from time to time, to step outside my comfort zone. And half the time, something wonderfully new comes from that. I looked at my two “perfect” prototypes and realized there were some other options I could try. I ended up with five. I’m still not sure I’ve got it “right”, but at least he’ll have enough options to try, and give me good feedback on the prototypes….I hope!

I had a spare 40 minutes, and realized that was just enough time to sort, price, and photo a box of leather scraps I want to sell on my Etsy site. (I just add a destash section.) One more box removed from my cramped storage shed, and a slight load off my mind, too.

So today, Wednesday, was a good day. And that’s when I realized….

Only one thing had changed….

MY PERSPECTIVE.

Everything that was “wrong” about Tuesday was because I thought it was Wednesday.

Everything I was miffed about on Tuesday was no one’s fault but my own, for thinking it was Wednesday. And probably my own guilty conscience about submitting a piece I knew could be better.

The guilt I felt about not working out was totally pointless, because…well, it was Tuesday, not Wednesday.

That special order will be a good thing, no matter what the outcome. I stepped out of my comfort zone, did the experiment, and figured it out. (Now for the hard part: NOT ORDERING findings until I know for sure which ones will work best.)

Nothing really changed on the “real” Wednesday. I just made better choices–because I paid attention to how I felt about Tuesday. (Er…the “faux” Wednesday.)

Sometimes, all we need is a chance to choose a different window to look through.

And what a blessing it is when we realize that, and choose differently.

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For some reason, I’m also really into making big horses and bears again. They’re harder, they take a lot longer, and they use up a lot more material. But I’m loving it, and that’s a gift, too.

 

 

 

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From (Muddy) Rags to (Ivory) Riches….

Just a few hours of my studio work today. From (muddy) rags to (ivory) riches, and the small miracles that keep me going.

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Faux ivory artifacts, shaped, carved, and baked, ready to “mud.” Scrimshaw is the technique of used by 19th century whalers, sponging ink onto a freshly-carved whalebone carving, then wiping off the excess. My process is “earthier”, but brings about the same desired results. Here are shaped, carved, and baked artifacts, sanded and ready for their close-up.
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“Mudding”. Paint, and fine silt from our old neighborhood in Keene, NH. I rub this mixture carefully into every crevice and crack of the sculpture. I used to wipe it off while still moist in NH, but in California, it dries a heckuva lot faster. Not a bad thing. Just….different. I have to use a damp rag, which takes off more paint and leaves the faux ivory “brighter.”
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Then a wipe with a damp cloth…..WOW! It gets me, every single time. It’s like magic!
The details I so carefully inscribed suddenly pop into existence.
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The scrimshaw technique brings out the details I etched. You can see the hundreds of pin dots in the handprints.
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Then a thorough buffing to make them shine.
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A formidable bear, as my friend Ivan calls them.
I’m making sculpture-sized artifacts this week, for a small wall-hung shadowbox I’m working on–a herd of running horses.
No, the bear won’t be in that one! In my imaginery paleomythic world, all animals are at one and at peace with all the others, just for that moment of creation.
Of course, five minutes later, all hell breaks loose, and nature runs its course.
But for today, there are no bears hunting horses, no people hunting bears, no animals being harmed in the making of my little artifacts.
Just a quiet, deep-thinking day in the studio.

Screaming Lola

“Don’t let someone else’s noisy agenda be your guiding star…”

Wise lessons from our kitties and dogs, courtesy of a lovely little article “Are you listening to the Lolas of the world?” from artist Ginger Davis Allman, in her newsletter today from The Blue Bottle Tree.

Ginger’s work, which you can see in her email newsletter, her website, and her Etsy shop, are, to me, kind of like the successor to the incredible legacy created by the late Victoria Hughes.

Ginger not only creates wonderful new manifestations of polymer clay, she constantly shares her experiments for new clay techniques, tools, and comparisons of clay brands. You can quickly see what clay will work for your purposes.

Or you can purchase her tutorials for step-by-step guides to imitate all kinds of glass beads–rustic, lampwork, even ancient ‘Roman Glass’ beads.

I’m a huge fan of her skills, her outlook, and her generosity in sharing her knowledge and expertise. If you like what you see, sign up for her email newsletter here.

THIN SECRET FOR SUCCESS No. 2 Thin People Have Thin Parents

My column on February 17 on Fine Art Views.

(5 minute read)

There’s the family you’re born into, and then there’s the family you choose.

Thin people have thin parents.

The original series on weight loss included a discussion of the genetic components of good health. But what about those of us who aren’t fortunate to have healthy parents? Er…Successful parents? How is this useful for our discussion today??

Obviously, it would be difficult to claim that artistically successful people have artistically successful parents. It’s much more likely we are the only artistic person in our family history.  So are we totally without hope for artistic success??

Let’s start here: What do we mean by “artistic success? Or even “success” in general?

“Successful” parents might mean people who have achieved “financial” success. But it could also mean parent who balance work with family life. Parents who make decisions to create a stable home for their family. Parents who love their work and do it well and with pride. Or it could mean parents who encourage their child to pursue the work of their heart, no matter what that is.

There were no artists (that I know of) in my family. My parents didn’t even have hobbies (except for my dad, late in life, after retirement.)

But they did provide me with a powerful meme that has stood me well in life:

Both of my parents made major life changes in mid-life:

My mother, a stay-at-home mom with six kids and a seventh on the way, went back to college in her 40’s to get a teaching degree.

My father sold the family restaurant around the same time. He was unemployed, and under-employed for a few years. But after a lengthy and varied job search (including working in a factory and running for public office) he found a new career, one he loved.

Those were scary times for our family. But as kids, we hardly knew it. Looking back, I see now how courageous (and contained!) my parents were.

I believe their example gave me courage to do the same.

Yet whatever successes our parents have, I would still revise this “secret” for artists. Especially because sometimes our parents and families don’t support our decision to make art. It’s weird, it’s scary, or it seems frivolous to them.

Let’s talk instead about the family we create for ourselves. Let’s say this instead:

Successful artists create networks and social circles for support.

Successful artists surround themselves with a “family” of people who believe in what they do.

Successful artists take note of what successful artists do.

And successful artists decide what “success” means to them.

When I teach professional development workshops for artists and craftspeople, I always end the final session by saying this:

“Okay, long after we’re (the ABI team) are gone, you’re still going to need the support, the inspiration, and the sharing of resources you found here today.

Look around the room. These are your peers. They are artists who have SELF-SELECTED to come here this weekend. They came to learn, to get resources to grow their business, to learn how to be successful.”

 “Look around. Who did you talk to? Who did you bond with? Share your contact info. Call them up when you get home, email them, and meet them for coffee! Meet up with a small group once every few weeks, or once a month. Research and share ideas and resources. Inspire and support each other!”

“If they don’t live close to you, friend them on Facebook, or e-mail them! Some of my closest professional friends live across the country from me.”

What do you look for in your new professional “family”?

You can do this right now. Right now, as you read this, you are (or can be) a part of the FASO community, full of artists who have self-selected to grow their art biz: creating their own websites, creating an online presence in the world, creating email newsletters. Artists who are reading this email newsletter! Artists who write here, or comment on what others have written, artists willing to share their own experiences of what works for them.

Look for people who support your vision for success.

Remember that success can be different things to different people. Some people need to a little extra make money. Some need to make a lot of money, fast. (When you figure this one out, please let me know!) Others seek prestige, respect, and recognition. Some are looking for a better balance between home, life, art, and work. Some are looking to simply better their craft or product, or their business skills, so they are working smarter. Some are looking for their big Oprah break. (Good luck with that.) (No, really!)

Understand that you can support someone else’s vision even if it is not your own. This gets hard for me, when people dream small. But it’s okay–as long as they respect MY dream, which is not small.

Look for positive-thinking people. We all have enough nay-sayers in our life to last…well, a lifetime. Let the naysayers babble on, but don’t let them wear you down. We all carry one in our head, too. No matter.

Look for people that believe success is possible–because that belief helps make it possible.

Look for people who understand that life may intervene, that our dreams may go to go the back burner temporarily (or longer!)

But look for people who will always remember that you are an artist. They will let you turn down the back burner so your artistic “pot” can simmer, but they will not let you turn it off. (Oh, I knew a cooking metaphor was in there somewhere!)

Not everything is possible. Not everything is going to come up roses.

But making your art, and sharing it with the world, is a good start. Finding people who encourage you to keep doing that?

Priceless.

THIN SECRETS FOR SUCCESS no. 1: Put Yourself First

by Luann Udell
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.

Learning how to say “no” can help you say “yes” to your art.

 (5 minute read) (I had to put this in because someone complained repeatedly that my columns are way too long. So, you’ve been warned!)  :^D

Inspired by Lorie Parch’s article “Secrets of Thin People”. It’s been years, but the secrets still apply.

So here we are, Thin Secret No. 1:


Thin people can put themselves first.

People who have a hard time losing weight often put other people first. Then they find they have no time to exercise, no time eat right, or to prevent stress–which causes them to gain weight.

And people who want a successful business, have to do the same: They have to put their business first, and learn to say “no” to the demands of others.

It’s the same with the business side of our art.

When I start to feel like I have no time, all it takes is a quick look at my calendar to see where I’m “spending” it. A volunteer commitment here, board service there, a school project here, family commitment there. And sometimes a little “trim” is in order.

I’m not speaking about the delicate balance of having a rich family, social and professional life. I’m talking about the commitments we take on, with good intent, that end up be a distraction.

How do we know when that delicate balance is tipped? Simple. You don’t have time to make art or grow your business.

Is that always a bad thing? No. As human beings, we enter and leave different phases of our lives that call for constantly changing balance. Very young children and teens need a lot of time–the former because they keep trying to explore electrical sockets, the latter because they do the same with the “electrical sockets” of adult life. Other life demands intervene, and sometimes art and business have to take a back burner for awhile.

But when you constantly find yourself responding to everyone else’s crisis, and your own business suffers, it’s time to find a different fulcrum. (Aha! I KNEW physics would come in handy someday!) We once invited a couple we really liked for dinner. But they couldn’t come, because their cousin’s husband’s mother’s brother (or something like that) was having a birthday party.

Either it was one hell of an excuse to get out of having dinner with us, or they needed a new fulcrum, and fast.

When I was an at-home mom, I had many requests for my time. Possibly people perceived me as having “tons of time”–because I wasn’t really working, right?

But as my business grew, the requests continued. I was perceived as having tons of time because I worked out of my home. That seemingly infinite flexibility was interpreted as constant availability. (By me, too, I should hasten to add. I still find it hard to say no.)

Then when my business was more established, I still received many requests on my time–because I was perceived as “knowing how to be successful” and “having figured it all out”–and everyone wanted a piece of that.

And even now, as I reboot my biz and grow my audience on the West Coast, I still get such requests. I’m now part of an art community (loosely) and I’m (somewhat understandably) expected to support that community, often. (I actually did take on a huge project a couple years ago to do just that. After spending weeks on the project, a technical glitch made it all blow up in my face. And rather than saying ‘thank you’, many people made it clear they found it amusing to see yet another “naïve newcomer” take on such a project, and fail. (To the few people who were thankful, I am so grateful!) 

What makes it hard to say no is, many of these requests are made by worthy people for perfectly worthy causes. And it’s not wrong for them to ask.

But I have to be responsible about saying YES. Or NO.

Also, people have been very generous to me in this industry. It seems only fair to “give back”.

But ultimately, I have to come first.

Only I can make the work I do, to tell the story that’s my story. The art that’s in ME, I’m the only one that can let ‘er rip.

I’m learning to limit the one-on-one “giving back”. I now try to keep it to “one-to-many” model. That’s one reason I started a blog.

And why I joined the Arts Business Institute faculty for a year. And why I write a column for (the former) CraftsBusiness magazine, and now, the Fine Art Views newsletter. These are all ways of “giving back” to my community without feeling I have to constantly respond to requests for free consultation sessions. (It’s no coincidence that they also serve my desire to write, too!)

And as for larger commitments, well, sometimes before another door opens, a window has to close. Another commitment has to draw to a close before I take on another one.

But there’s another, less obvious corollary to this “put yourself first” secret. And that is: Only YOU can do what it takes to make yourself successful.

Parch quotes Anne Fletcher, a registered dietitian who wrote the book THIN FOR LIFE  (2003) which Parch based her article on.  Fletcher says, “When people take the reins (responsibility for their own weight loss), they realize that the solution to weight control is inside them, not in some magic potion or fad diet that their mother or sister is on.”

hmmmmmm……The secret of a successful diet. Doesn’t this sound like what I wrote last week?

Yes, there will be many times when life forces us to make different choices, to take on different priorities.

And yet….

Knowing when—and how—to say “no”, may be the biggest ‘secret’ to creating success for yourself with your art.

(Disclaimer: I’ve used the ideas in the “thin people” article only as a metaphor for other life goals we have, in this case, our art. And not to “lecture” anyone about losing weight. Because, well, look who’s talkin’ here!)

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Editor’s Note:

Jewelers’ Tea! This Thursday!

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YES, this is last minute!

YES, because I forgot about it twice! And then forgot to let you know!

YES, I’ll be there! I will be talking about my ancient artifacts, and also my Roman Glass jewelry!

YES, there will be snacky thingies! And tea!

Please pass this on, and I hope to see you there!

(YES, there are a lot of !!!!! in this post!)

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I actually like this pic better, but there’s no information in it.

THIN SECRETS FOR BEING SUCCESSFUL: A Series of Small Strategies to Help You Get Big(ger)(ish)

My latest article on Fine Art Views, a daily email newsletter on growing your art career.

(Spoiler alert: The choices are small, but many. And you have to keep at it!)

Years ago, I sat on a panel of artists and crafts industry professionals, speaking on various issues and answering questions from the audience.

Near the end, an artist badgered me unmercifully, repeatedly asking me to reveal my marketing “secrets” for the entire audience to hear.

I felt extremely uncomfortable, even resentful, about the demands for several reasons.

First, I wasn’t even sure what was being asked. A list of all my marketing efforts for the past 18 months to promote my artwork? For the last 8 years? The efforts before or after 9/11, the dot com crash and the recession? Did they want to hear all my mistakes, too? Or just my successes? Did they want to hear what I learned? Or what I’m learning now?

How much time do you have?!

I was also frustrated because I had no context for the person asking the questions. I had no idea what their work is like, where they are now in their business plan (or if they even HAVE a business plan) and what they are willing to do to succeed. I had no idea what their personal, financial and professional goals are for their art/business. I had no idea who their market is and what they’ve done to target it or even identify it. How do I know what will be of use to someone else unless I understand where they’ve been, where they are now, and where they want to go?

Finally, I was confused by the assumption that I’ve figured it all out and can neatly box it up and simply give it to someone else. I’m still learning, changing, growing as an artist. I have no idea if I’m even thinking the right way about MY marketing plan. How on earth do I put all this in context for THEM?

But I also felt vaguely guilty. After all, wasn’t the panel discussion a culmination of an entire weekend doing just that?–helping others take their next step by sharing my own experiences and learning? Hadn’t I already mentored a number of people here, and at previous conferences, offering insights and advice freely? Don’t I do that daily with my blog, in my magazine articles, and in other professional development classes I teach?

So why was I feeling intense resistance to this artist’s demands?

I’m been thinking about why these scenarios seemed so vastly different, why I would respond wholeheartedly in one instance and clam up in another.

The next day, as I ate breakfast, I read an article about long-term weight loss in the April 2006 issue of REAL SIMPLE magazine. The article was called “Secrets of Thin People” by Lorie Parch. And I had my “aha” moment.

The demanding person was asking me for my “secret diet” for losing weight.

And I don’t HAVE a secret diet for losing weight.

What I DO have is results from deciding from time to time that I needed to change the daily choices I make in my diet, my activities and my attitude–to achieve a different outcome in my life.

What I feel comfortable sharing is how I got from a person who constantly made unhealthy choices, to a person who (periodically) will make consistent, healthier choices–which, as a consequence, RESULTS in me being thinner. (Er….now and then.)

I still don’t actually diet nor are all my choices perfect even now. But I’ve been successful in MODIFYING many of my choices slightly over a long period of time. And when I make those modifications, the side effects are, I lose weight, I get more fit, I lower my blood sugar and cholesterol to within healthy limits, and I walk/talk/carry myself, and care for myself, differently.

(The ONLY physical “shortcut” I’ve taken through the years is, brilliant red hair. Better living through chemicals and all that.)

I’ll share some of the professional, artistic and emotional changes I made years ago that got me where I am today professionally (with apologies to Ms. Parch for using her article for the structure.)

But for today, rest assured there are no “secrets”, no insider information that is being systematically withheld from you.

I know it feels like that sometimes…. It feels like other people KNOW what to do and when to do it.

But that’s not the case.

Success in the arts, like any other success in life, means staying the course. Staying with one course of action until it has a chance to provide results.

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One thing that helps you achieve success is getting better at what you do. â

But also recognizing when to switch because it isn’t working for YOU.It means making daily choices, often small choices, that eventually… EVENTUALLY lead to big results.

Because, just like losing weight is an END RESULT of making many different, healthier life choices, being successful is an END RESULT of making many different, “healthier” artistic, professional and personal choices.