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

JUST FOR TODAY: Try Something Different

Today’s post from Fine Art Views
Just for Today: Try Something Different
by Luann Udell

This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. 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. 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….”

Step outside the But-That’s-How-Other-Artists-Do-It box and see what else is possible.

I was talking with an artist I’d just met the other day. I love her engaging personality. I love her gift for creating engaging display. (She’d just set up my jewelry at a new gallery, and it looks great!) Everything about her smacks of authenticity, integrity, insight, and experience.

She told she was on fire with her newest body of work, which wasn’t on display yet. But she showed me the catalog she’d created, and pointed to her artist statement.

Which, I’m sorry, read like almost every other artist statement I’d ever read. Full of quotes about line, composition, light, color, and form. Academic, formal, and lifeless.

Absolutely nothing about the powerful, emotional circumstances that led her to explore a new process, a new dynamic. Nothing about what she hoped to achieve, nor why.

And I told her that.

This is one of those Oh-God-I-Just-Blorted-And-Put-My-Foot-In-My-Mouth moments. (I’m into titles today.) Thank heaven she took it the right way.

Artist statement. Artist bio/CV. Artist resume. We all have a notion of how they ‘should’ be written. All we have to do is look around at how other artists do it, and follow their example, right?

Wrong. Because how we all do it is simply convention. And, let’s face it, easier.

It’s easier to create a list of the galleries we’re in, the shows we jury into, the awards we win. It feels good to list the famous people and the prestigious corporations that have collected our work. And let me be the first to admit that on those days where I’m not feeling so successful, it helps to look back and see the accomplishments I’ve racked up over the years.

But what do they mean?

Yes, they can be a good reflection of our work—or at least, our work ethic. If a lot of people like our work, that’s good, right? If our work sells well for galleries, if we’re competent enough to attract the eye of a curator or a judge and garner that Best in Show award, if our work is interesting enough for a prestigious magazine to review with a two-page full-color spread, that’s nothing to sneeze at.

Yes, all of these ‘measurable’ things are good. And of course, for our collectors who need to be reassured that we are indeed as good as we say we are, those milestones can be validating.

We also know that if these milestones were truly accurate measures of our worth as an artist, then the artist with the most, wins. If you are in more galleries than I am, are you really a ‘better’ artist than I? Your aesthetic may simply be more accessible to more people. If you won more awards than him, what does that mean? It means your aesthetic intrigued more judges than his. If she gets juried into more shows than you, what does that prove? Maybe her work is better. But maybe she simply applies to more shows than you do.

In my snarkier, lizard-brain moments, it’s easy for me to say, “Good lord, who let THAT into the show?!” (If you want to see wonderful examples of really bad handmade things, with hysterically snarky commentary, check out this smaller sampling from the now defunct website

But when I listen to the angels of my better nature, I know that what surely looks like bad art has a human heart and soul behind it. The work means something to the artist, something powerful enough for them to put the time, and the effort, to get it out into the world. The world’s reaction may or may not affect what the artist does next. That’s our choice. But it shouldn’t control everything.

So back to paying less attention to how we think things should be done…

Thank goodness, that artist took my words for what they were—a gentle challenge to be a little vulnerable. “You just told me that something happened to you a few years ago. You didn’t say what it was, and you don’t have to tell me. But everything changed for you. You “woke up”, you saw the world differently. It changed the way you make your art. There’s something really important you want to say. And you’re not saying it.”

Ironically, isn’t this exactly what art is supposed to do? One human being, sharing a different way to look at the world. Nothing…nothing… is more powerful than that. It’s not all about how you made that line, or how much you love color. You may use color to represent that powerful something. But what if there were a color you couldn’t see? Would you still be able to bring that powerful something into the world? (Of course you would!)

And so, just for today…

Try to write an artist statement that doesn’t include these words, especially all of them together: Line. Color. Composition. Form. Transcendant. Relationship. Synthesis. Oh, heck, go to the Arty Bollocks website and read a few of the results from their instant artist statement generator. If they smell a whiff like yours, think about what you could do differently.

Just for today…

Don’t try to impress other artists (as a profession). Try to connect with your audience (which may include other artists.)

Just for today, lose the artspeak—and speak from your heart.

Just for today, share what happened in your life that changed everything, that got you here from where you were before. If the ‘what’ is too personal, share the ‘why’.

Just for today… Try it!


Filed under artist statement


Holy cow, where did that last month go?? Into the land of forgotten things, apparently. And so, to get back in the swing of things, a very tiny thought for today.

I have not one, but TWO chests of printers’ type tray drawers. The second one is special to me for the main reason that my son offered to refinish it for me. He did a beautiful job, too.

This is the printers type tray chest my son Doug refinished for me. Didn't he do a good job?!

This is the printers type tray chest my son Doug refinished for me. Didn’t he do a good job?!

Except for the drawers, and I don’t blame him for not going there.

Someone had started to restore it–half the drawers have their original type dividers. But half have been removed. And although the outside looks great, the inside is dirty/dusty/oily as only a type tray drawer can get from dirty/dusty/oily metal type.

When I moved into my new, tiny studio here in Santa Rosa, I decided to use this piece to store my inventory of polymer clay beads–animal artifacts, shell and tiny bone artifacts, and all sorts of beads in different shapes, sizes, and colors.

Yep, my artifacts inspired by prehistoric fox teeth are in there. Somewhere.

Yep, my artifacts inspired by prehistoric fox teeth are in there. Somewhere.

Visitors are amazed when I tell them to open the drawers. And they love to look through all the tiny treasures, and pick them up and hold them in their hands.

The only problem is, over time, those same beads are picking up the dirty/dusty/oily crud. And it’s hard to get it off. So it really wasn’t such a great idea to store them that way.

In the 8 months I’ve been in that space, I’ve agonized about what to do. Remove the polymer clay items? But it’s such a great way to have people interact with them! Use Q-tips and gently clean each tiny little section? That would take years. I mean it. And several bushels of Q-tips, and it wouldn’t completely clean them. And I hate cleaning stuff like that, and I don’t have time, and it will therefore never get done.

I kid you thought, I’ve thought about this every single day I’ve been in that A Street studio.

So the last two days, I’ve been moving into my new NEW space, into the larger, brighter, cooler (temperature-wise, but yeah, cool cooler, too!) space just vacated by my studio mate. Exactly one week after I realized my own teeny-tiny space was a bit claustrophobic for most visitors, she announced California was too hot for her (temperature-wise) and she was going to move a thousand miles away.

I felt very sad to lose her (she’s been wonderful!), but secretly elated I could now have her space.

So this is the third studio I’ve had in 10 months.

Setting it up feels just as daunting.

“Don’t worry,” say my artist neighbors and my coffee shop neighbors. “These things take a little time. Then it all comes together.” I know this is true, and for a moment, the panic ebbs.

It ebbed a little more tonight, for a funny (funny-odd) reason.

I remembered my friends in Keene tonight.

Today I heard a woman talking, and I thought, “Oh, that’s Julie!” But it was our new neighbor Jackie, who for some reason sounds like Julie today.

A hour later, I saw a woman walking to a car, and I thought, “Oh, there’s Jennie!” But it was someone who looks like Jennie (who is three thousand miles away).

Later I smelled the coffee my husband was brewing, which happens to be Prime Roast Demon Roast coffee, and I thought, “Oh, I’ve got to get Jon more coffee from Judy today.” But Judy has already mailed us the Demon Roast. It’s sitting on the counter, waiting for me to find a jar for it. And suddenly, I could hear Judy’s voice, too.

And tonight, after taking a wall clock apart to glue on a second hand that kept falling off (don’t ask), I heard someone else’s voice, in my head. Someone who, when I told them three years ago that I loved the look of old, worn, oily-black wood boxes, but hated the smell, and what could I use to seal the wood so it wouldn’t smell yucky, said, “Luann, you can’t do that. You need to WASH those boxes first.”

So at the very end of today, I also heard Gary’s voice, giving me the good adivice on restoring wood boxes that eventually led to a six-month informal apprenticeship for me.

Gary had one place for every tool in his shop. I'm trying. But it's hard.

Gary had one place for every tool in his shop. I’m trying. But it’s hard.

Now I know how to clean those type tray drawers. It will take half a day, or perhaps just a couple of hours and some time in the dry California summer sun.

Soon those drawers will be clean and dry, and able to safely hold my precious artifacts: horses, bears, otters, birds, antlers, stones, shells, and stones.

Someday, we’ll realize we’ve made deep new friendships here in California–because we always do. Change is hard, but change is good, and eventually you learn that change becomes normal in its own good time. We will laugh and cry with new voices, and make new memories, even right now.

And visits ‘back East’, and phone calls and emails,Facebook posts and pictures, will help keep those lovely, loving voices of old friends and good memories, alive and well.


Filed under Lessons from the move

NERVOUS NIBBLES and a Very Humble Apology

Sometimes, when praise is due, we nibble instead. DON’T!!!

Years ago, a tiny little book, full of cartoons, written by a woman most of us have never heard of, changed my life.

The book is called The Nibble Theory and the Kernel of Power: A Book About Leadership, Self-Empowerment, and Personal Growth and you can read my first blog post about it, THE NIBBLE THEORY, A Big Little Book. (Actually, I’ll post links to ALL my blog posts about this amazing little book.)

Short version is (yeah, let’s see if Luann can do a short version….ha ha!), we are all circles, big and little. But ‘little’ doesn’t mean ‘less’, and ‘big’ doesn’t always mean ‘better’. Sometimes little circles are in the middle of astonishing growth. And sometimes circles, big and little, when intimidated by another circle whose potential is astonishing, will ‘nibble’ that other circle down to size. Take little bites out of it, so that circle will be smaller and less intimidating.

If you’ve ever received a back-handed compliment, a small put-down (or a major slap-down), anything that makes you feel embarrassed, diminished, less-than….you, my friend, have been nibbled.

We’ve experienced it, and it’s awful.

What’s even worse? When we find ourselves doing it.

A year or so ago, I discovered an Etsy shop called Loveroot. I fell in love with Nikki Zehler’s work, her wonderful designs, the extremely competent use of color, the eclectic nature of her materials. I bought several items from her shop. They were just as wonderful in person.

I'm including this image from Nikki's site because I BOUGHT THESE!! Aren't they beautiful?

I’m including this image from Nikki’s site because I BOUGHT THESE!! Aren’t they beautiful?

At some point, she messaged me, saying something to the effect of, “OMG, you’re THE Luann Udell, I’m so honored you like my work!”

And I took my first nibble.

I told her one reason I felt so connected to her work was that it looked like what I might have made, if I hadn’t taken the path of making my own artifacts.

I felt uneasy, even as I wrote that. I wasn’t sure why. (I do now.) But worse, I did it again.

A few months ago, polymer artist/writer/teacher/curator Cynthia Tinapple featured Nikki’s work on her site.

And in the comment section, I thanked Cynthia for ‘helping’ Nikki get her work out there.

Do you see them? My nibbles?

First I implied, “I could do what you do, if I wanted to.” (For the record–I COULD NOT.)

I implied I was ‘better’, because I make my own artifacts. (For the record–SO DOES SHE. And when she does use components made by other very talented artists, she fully acknowledges them. She mixes it up, and makes what she needs when she can’t find it–like me.)

Then I implied that this talented artist needs the help of others to be successful with her art. (The only help a talented artist needs, is for people to buy the work and spread the word.)

Yes, I meant well. (But let’s be honest here–I envy this woman her talent.)

Yes, it’s human nature to be envious. (But we can choose not to act on it. And I did.)

Yes, we are all inspired by the beautiful work of others. (But we can simply acknowledge it, too. Not measure ourselves against it.)

Yes, we are all influenced by the work of others, the ones that are here now and the ones that have gone before us. (Prehistoric cave art. Can’t get much further away from our modern times, right?)

Bottom line: Sometimes when I am confronted by raw, wild, beautiful talent, I’m afraid. I’m afraid the world really is a finite pie, and if someone else gets a bigger piece, mine will be smaller.

And I myself have been badly nibbled by jealous professionals to understand how hurtful even the smallest bite can be.

And so, this Very Humble Apology, for what may be very tiny transgressions, but are still me not being the person I’d like to believe I am.

I want to be better. That means doing better.

So this is for Nikki. I am sorry I nibbled you. I will not do it again. And if I do, I’ll apologize, again.

Check out her beautiful work. Tell her I said hello.

She is a one-of-a-kind artist, and she has nowhere to go but up.
And she will get there on her own talent and story.

Links to my posts about THE NIBBLE THEORY:




MEAN PEOPLE SUCK #2a: Professional Jealousy Part Deux

MAYBE IT’S YOU: Staying Creatively Centered When Creativity Changes Things


Filed under Nibble theory

MINI LIFE LESSON FOR TODAY: The Importance of Doing What We Do

I had a little existential crisis a few days ago. No worries, it’s solved.  That is, I politely (I hope!) disengaged from a venture that wasn’t really a good fit for me. (I only took it because I’ve been freaked out by a major writing gig I’ve had for years, and had to walk away from recently.)

Anyway, a good friend and wise woman called me on it. Called me on wallowing in self-pity, when I’ve already proven I have something to give that the world needs.


A few years ago, I met up with another wise woman I’d taken a workshop with, and told her how much her words had affected me.  I can still see her face as I recited several things she’d said, powerful words that have stayed with me for years.

She said, “I don’t remember saying that. You must have a good memory!”

I said, “Not really. But it was exactly what I needed to hear, and I carried them in my heart for a looooong time.”

It made me realize then (and hey, right now!) how we never, ever know how far our words will travel.

We may never know who needs to hear them almost as much as we need to say them.

And maybe we’ll find that someone has held our words in trust for us, for a time when we ourselves will need to hear them so badly.


Filed under life lessons


Lessons From the Gym: The Student

by Luann Udell on 5/7/2015

This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews.  Luann also writes a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explores 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.  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….”

 The insights and ideas continue to flow at the gym, and this week is no exception. Today’s thoughts came from someone who will be leaving soon–the intern.

 There are many professions aligned with the health industry that, after meeting the educational criteria, also require an internship–a period of in-the-field training, under the supervision of a licensed professional, to gain the insights and knowledge that can’t be learned any other way, except in the field.

 There’s such a student now, in the last stages of their credentialing. They’ve been working alongside one of the physical therapists as long as I’ve been there. And in another week or so, they’ll move on.

 I asked them what were the most important things they’ve learned in their internship. Their answer might surprise you.

 “I think watching everyone here interacting with their clients has been eye-opening. Each client is different, personality-wise, and the therapists here always meet them where they’re at. Some people are more assertive, some are overwhelmed… You need to take that into consideration when you’re working with clients. I’ll have two people, back-to-back with the exact same issue–but the approach and the treatment won’t be the same, because this person needs to go slower, or needs more encouragement, and that one wants to be challenged. I know HOW to treat their issues, from my schooling. But this part of the healing–I had no idea! And it’s so powerful…”

 A thoughtful and insightful reply, on so many levels.

 And how does it connect to making and marketing our art?

 I immediately thought of how artists can use this same principle. We learn to interact with customers by meeting them where THEY’RE at.  (And by ‘customers’, I mean ANYONE who’s in a position to buy/support/market our art–buyers, gallery owners, journalists, etc.)

Over time, we may realize that some are assertive and confident, and we adopt a certain style of response with more energy. Others are more contemplative, quiet, not wanting a lot of interaction until they’ve processed what they’re looking at. They will read every sign in your display and look at every piece of work. They don’t want to be pressured, but they don’t want to be ignored, either. Others will stride in, look around, and exclaim, “Wow, this is GREAT! Tell me about it!”  You need to immediately jump on board, or they will lose interest and walk away. Overwhelming an introvert or underwhelming an extrovert can seriously hamper our efforts to connect others with our art. Knowing how to match our interactions with the situation, in the moment, is a powerful tool.

Then I considered the notion of apprenticeships in the arts and crafts. It used to be the main method of education for artists and craftspeople. Now, not so much. Oh, there are still plenty of workshops and classes. But the idea of working long-term with a master, while not rare, is certainly not the norm these days.  Even then, perhaps much of the focus is on technique–not the bigger but less-obvious insights of how to connect to our own artistic vision and purpose.

I think, though, that instinctively, we DO seek out those people who offer us something else besides technique and practical knowledge (which are valuable in their own right). Just the fact that FASO has articles like these, where we can all share insights about what makes us tick (with our art), and what rules are solid (“Do the work!”) and which aren’t (“It’s actually OK to just walk into a gallery and ask to show them your work!”) show how important this is for many of us, in all stages of our professional life.

 In fact, for me, becoming an artist really opened my eyes to the idea of being a life-long student–a student of life.  That’s what my writing (as much of my creative process as my artwork) is all about: Sharing what I’ve learned, with others who’d like to know.

 Finally, I realized that the Student also has something to teach US. Through them, we get to look at what we’re doing with new, fresh eyes. The exhilaration, the wonder, the excitement of those first few years of making our art–remember? When everything was possible, and nothing stood in our way.  This enormous body of knowledge and skill we’ve acquired over the years, something we perhaps have begun to take for granted–we get to see it from their perspective, as a massive achievement, something we can be proud of.

 Beginnings, middles, and endings. All have something to teach us, to expand our understanding and broaden our horizons–if we just take the time to listen.


Filed under Fine Art Views


Because the world can never have too many horses in it.

Because the world can never have too many horses in it.

Well, it had to happen eventually. The end of a long-running, highly-satisfying writing gig.

I just didn’t think it would end with a whimper.

Today I turned in my resignation to the magazine formerly known as The Crafts Report, now Handmade Business.

It’s been a wonderful 8-and-a-half year run. (It would have been more than ten years, if I’d taken the gig when they first asked me, but I was working for another fine craft magazine at the time, that they felt was competition.) And I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to share my incredibly disfunctional delightfully wacky sense of humor with thousands of people every month, for more than a hundred issues.

I knew the writing was on the wall when my column was cut back to every other month, then again, when I wasn’t given any deadline at all (they’d switched editors and my email requests weren’t getting through–something that happened with disturbing frquency during my time there.) (And no, that wasn’t my fault!)

I did one last series of four articles for them, on finding, telling and expanding our story to connect our work with others more effectively. The last one should appear in this next issue.

Like the pathetic idiot dedicated writer that I am, I pitched one last column idea to them last night. And received the answer today: “Mmmmmmm……no.”

And so I’ve tendered my resignation, wished them well and moved on.

Okay, that last part? A huge lie. I collapsed in a puddle of self-pity and tears. The magazine seems to be headed on a fresh path with great energy, and I wanted to be a part of that.

They say one door closes and another opens. So far, only a query from a new online publication that wants how-to projects only, for no pay. Nope. I love tutorials as much as the next person, but writing them is not what I’m here on earth to do. (Not that I’m very clear today about what I am here for, and please don’t rub that in.) And even that came by way of a dear friend who knows I’m flailing.

You know what it’s like when it feels like the world doesn’t want your gifts? That’s how I’m feeling today.

And in the midst of this swirl of self-imposed demoralization, a small miracle happened here.

Someone posted a link to this incredible, exuberant, life-loving, robot-hugging truly free spirit, who only brightened our world for a heartbreakingly short time, Zina Nicole Lahr, a delightful woman who died so young, yet leaves a legacy that is simply, joyfully, inspirational.

And I am ashamed of myself.

I am embarrassed that I allow myself to take so much for granted. I’m mortified to act like the world owes me a living. I’m horrified I am not instead simply grateful for what I have–which is a lot.

Of course I want more. That’s human. But wanting is not doing. Nor is standing in a corner pouting because things aren’t going my way today.

It’s up to me to say my piece/peace to the world.

It’s up to me to bring my art into the world.

It’s up to me to create my purpose, my dream, and my journey, no matter what life throws me here and there.

And it’s up to me to embrace my happy thought. Zina’s amazing life reminds me that we are never too old for a challenge, for exuberance, for a sense of wonder.

Wherever you are today, whatever you’re doing, take a moment to think about what good work you brought into the world today.

And know in your heart that the world is truly a better place for it.


Filed under The Crafts Report column, writing