USE YOUR TURN SIGNAL! Another Life Metaphor for Drivers and Artists

My “New England Autumn” art wall.

USE YOUR TURN SIGNAL!

Keep your audience and collectors in touch with your art/life changes!

 On my kitchen wall, the wall that shows up in my Zoom meetings, is a bright red maple leaf. Not a real leaf. It’s hand-carved and painted, in wood. It joins a collection of fall landscape paintings, and like them, holds many memories of living in the Northeast/New England.  (A friend in New Hampshire told me that only three countries in the world host these amazing, colorful trees: The United States, Canada, and Japan.)

There’s a story behind this leaf. (Of course!)

It took place many, many years ago, at a huge 9-day show in New Hampshire, The League of NH Craftsmen’s Annual Fair.

I was still pretty new to the show. Across the aisle from me was a longtime craftsman, who worked in glass. In between the previous year’s show and this one, he switched medium. He now made marvelous nature objects, carved from wood, and painted.

I loved his work, he loved mine, and we had several lovely chats during the show. He had a huge audience, having participated in the show for a long time, and always did well with sales.

Not this year!

His collectors and followers came to his booth. They were stunned to find a completely new body of work. And most of them left fairly quickly, without purchasing anything.

He was stunned to the point of having a panic attack near the end of the first day. (We were told at first he’d had a heart attack, which can mimic the same symptoms, but fortunately a panic attack is non-lethal!) A friend came to cover his booth, (he’s the one who filled me in on the backstory) and a few days later, the artist returned.

He was devastated, of course, and we had a lovely talk.

I told him his new work was beautiful, and in time, he would either regain his audience, or grow a new one. It wasn’t the quality of his work that was failing him. It was catching his long-time audience off-guard. He needed to give them time to adjust.

I know this phenomenon all too well! My work has never fit into anyone else’s “box”, and new work takes time to sell. (Okay, ALL my work takes time. That can get discouraging in hard times, but it has never stopped me.)

He was grateful for my encouragement and insight. The next day, he brought me my maple leaf! And sure enough, even by the end of the fair, his sales were inching up. (Many were new people who were unfamiliar with his former body of work.)

How does this relate to a turn signal while driving? (You know I’ll find a way!)

One of my biggest pet peeves while driving is, when people don’t signal a turn, or a lane change, until they’re actually acting on it. Which isn’t helpful or useful for those of us passing, or approaching an intersection.

Turn signals are for letting others know our intentions. We need to activate that turn signal to let others know we’re going to get into their lane, or slow down to turn soon. (Yes, some people leave them on, which is also confusing. But it’s better to slow down when we don’t have to, rather than maintain our speed, not knowing what they plan to do.)

If this artist had prepared his audience, alerted them of his intentions…

If he had send out a postcard, or an email newsletter, letting them know he was switching gears/directions/media…

They would not have been so surprised when he showed up with a totally new body of work.

Instead, he caught them off-guard, unsure what to say, being disappointed the work they’d grown to love was no longer available.

In fact, he could have even staged a sell-off of his other work from his studio. (This was before the days of online shopping and artist websites!) It would have given his faithful collectors a last chance to purchase his work, and generated some excitement and interest in his new work.

Of course, in these days of social media and our intense use of email newsletters, more people can be aware of our own life lane-changes. We can use these powerful tools to keep our audience informed: New work. New media. New techniques. New studio location.

That little red wood leaf is a powerful reminder for me:

Stay in touch!

WHAT I’M UP TO

What am I up to right now?

Well….every single day, I face a shifting landscape.

Tomorrow is my last chance to deliver artwork for two exhibits at the League of NH Craftsmen’s Fair. I just finished putting the last touches on two “boxed pieces”, and my feral coral necklace is ready to go, too.

Everything is polymer clay, except for the single antler and the antique wood boxes that I cleaned, repaired, painted, refinished and waxed.
Everything is polymer clay, except for the single antler and the antique wood boxes that I cleaned, repaired, painted, refinished and waxed.
I made the deer last year, but I didn't know what I was going to do with him til a few months ago. Everything in this display is polymer clay (except the antique boxes.)
I made the deer last year, but I didn’t know what I was going to do with him til a few months ago. Everything in this display is polymer clay (except the antique boxes.)
I've nicknamed this the feral coral necklace, but it will have a beautiful new name by tomorrow.  All polymer clay. I made an armature for each piece of faux coral.
I’ve nicknamed this the feral coral necklace, but it will have a beautiful new name by tomorrow. All polymer clay. I made an armature for each piece of faux coral.

It’s a bittersweet day. This will be my last League Fair, and I won’t have a booth. I knew our lives would be in major upheaval by now, and it is. And to complicate things even more, I told a friend I would take a woodblock printmaking class with her last weekend, and I did! How crazy is that?! Well, actually…..

I loved it. And I found the carving very soothing. My not-quite-finished block is below. (I’m doing a reductive print, which means I have another “layer” to carve, to add a third color–raw umber.)

Sorry for the floppy picture. There is truly not a single flat surface in my studio right now....
Sorry for the floppy picture. There is truly not a single flat surface in my studio right now….

Someone is also interested in our house. They called out of the blue on Monday afternoon. It might be perfect for them. And if they decide to go for it, we’d have to move before the end of August. So. Do we go into general panic mode and heave everything into a dumpster? Or wait and see, and run the risk of having even less time to pack everything up??

I dunno. And shortly, I won’t care. I’m celebrating the completion of my three exhibit pieces by making a pitcher of mimosas in ten more minutes.

If you need me, I’ll be sitting on the second floor porch, trying to drown my anxiety in sparkling white wine and my daily dose of Vitamin C. Tomorrow is another day, with a whole new game plan. And since I won’t know til tomorrow what it is, why waste another moment worrying about it?

P.S. To be safe, we’ve decided to have a yard sale every Saturday for the rest of the summer. (I’m not joking.) I’ll keep you posted!

WHAT HAS TO BE DONE NEXT? Time Management Tips for You

The Fair is coming! The Fair is coming!
The Fair is coming! The Fair is coming!

I don’t know about you, but right now, I’m running around like a crazed monkey in a giant puzzle box, trying to figure out what to do next.

I’m getting ready for the 80th League of NH Craftsmen’s Annual Craft Fair. It’s where I see most of my collectors and patrons for the year. It’s where I introduce new work. In my booth, I create the most beautiful displays for my jewelry, sculpture and wall hangings. This year, it’s where I’ll introduce my new presentation of my artifacts in restored vintage and antique wood boxes.

Ignore the woodworking shop in the background.  That's my friend Gary's studio where I've been working all summer.
Ignore the woodworking shop in the background. That’s my friend Gary’s studio where I’ve been working all summer.

It’s also where I’ll struggle to put up my booth on a ski slope, stand for nine days in 95 degree weather, and wonder if I’ll make enough money to get me through to next year’s show.

Joy and anguish, laughter and tears, exhilaration and exhaustion, uplifted spirit and aching body. Yes, welcome to the Fair!

I’m getting too old for this.

But I digress. This is about preparing for the Fair: Creating new work (which always seems to happen as the deadlines approach). Creating and mailing a postcard to my customer list (over 1,000, and I’m very picky about who gets on my mailing list nowadays). Rebuilding inventory. Trying to remember where I packed my display stands and signs two years ago. (I took a “sabbatical” last year for knee replacement surgery.)

There are two techniques I use to get everything done. And asking a question is the key to both.

The first is productive procrastination. I’ve written about this before, so briefly… If you procrastinate (come on, ‘fess up! No one can see you while you’re reading this!) then, when faced with a task you don’t want to do, ask yourself:

What else can I do instead?

This technique is powerful, because you can get so much done! Just not the one thing you really need to do.

The second just came to me this morning. (I am the slow learner. That’s why I still write about this stuff.) Today, for example, I have about a bajillion things to do. (Yes, the procrastination technique backfired.) So the last few days I’ve been frantic–absolutely frantic–(hence the monkey metephor) about how much I have to do, and how much has gone wrong, resulting in even less time to finish this. So this morning, I ask myself:

What has to be done next?

And the answer (today–finish my postcard mailing!) gives clarity. And relief. And peace.

It’s not my fault the mailing is running late. I gave the order to the printer in plenty of time to make my deadline. (I have learned the printing lesson the hard way, and almost always allow 3x the time needed for a print job.) But despite my best efforts, the print job is late, my new label making program is overwhelming complicated, and everything that could have gone wrong, did.

The fact remains, however… What I need to do right now is label, stamp and mail these postcards.

That clarity is enough to slow my heart rate and soothe my frazzled brain.

By the way, if you don’t get a postcard from me in the next few days (and you usually do), blame my mailing list/label high-tech woes. In the meantime, here’s all you need to know:

LUANN UDELL http://www.LuannUdell.com
271 Roxbury ST Keene NH 03431
Luann@LuannUdell.com 603-352-8633

I’m all better! I’m back!!! YES, I’ll be at the
80th League of NH Craftsman’s Annual Fair
Mt. Sunapee Resort in Newbury, NH
Saturday Aug. 3 thru Sunday Aug. 11
10-5 daily rain or shine
Tent 2 Booth 203

NEW! My work displayed in restored &
refinished antique shadow boxes. They are
beautiful!! Create your own display!

(You can also scold me for not being here
last August….IF you bring chocolate.)

Photography by Roma Dee Holmes

And here’s the pic for the postcard:

Old new necklace displayed inside new old box.  Is that confusing?
Old new necklace displayed inside new old box. Is that confusing?

RUNNING WITH DOGS

Last week I made my first little dog artifacts.

My very first little dog artifact, in faux green soapstone.

Today I have pics of my very first dog pack. I love them so much already! I stayed with a very ancient-looking prototype, with long snout, upright and slightly cocked ears, and a curly tail. The curling tail seems to be the discerning characteristic of a dog versus a wolf or coyote. I could be wrong, but I’m going with it for now.

A whole pack of ancient dogs!
Running with the dogs. For Joanne!

I also have two little otters who are different from their brethren. Their backs arch up. I think they look like they’re doing that thing kittens do, when they arch their backs and hop sideways. And look–see the tiny toes on this one’s feet??

Bouncy otters!
Otter toes!