So I haven’t posted here in quite awhile.  I was slammed at work and life for months.  Then I went to teach at Bead Fest Philadelphia in August and on the way back to Seattle I stopped in Colorado to attend an invitational retreat that I have been trying to get to for years.  Just before leaving I realized that I can’t work like this anymore.  There isn’t any break from the demand, no time to create, everybody always wants my help with something.  This isn’t the life I would choose for myself but here it is.  So before I left I told one college that I wouldn’t be teaching for them anymore.  I also decided that I will not be going out on the road so much anymore.  As much as I love my adventures it is clear that it’s very disruptive.  It takes a lot of time to organize everything, order materials for kits and classes, maintain inventory of the materials, count everything single thing for kits, pay for every single thing…I could go on and on.  Let’s just say that I’m currently a couple thousand dollars out and impatiently waiting to get paid (they take 40 days for goodness sake – ridiculous!).  So why would anyone want that job? I don’t.

  Unbelievably, I got a phone call today for work (on SUNDAY morning, I was barely awake).  It was business.  No emergency.  Just somebody wanting something and they have my cell phone number.  Really?  It couldn’t wait for a business day?  If I were teaching this weekend I would be juggling this call and a class at the same time? Ugh.

  Before I left I was awakened almost every day by a text message or a phone call.  I was scrambling around trying to get everything together to all hours of the night and people were waking me up 5 hours after I went to bed.

   It occurs to me to say: it’s my phone for MY needs.  Please don’t call me before 9 AM.

  So beyond the venting here there is a real life.  The real life I am choosing includes working in my studio, seeing my husband, cleaning my kitchen and even painting downspouts for the house.  Because I don’t work every minute.  No one ever said on their death bed: gosh, I wish I had worked more…

Worthy Creative Advice

July 2, 2014

“Identify the primary distraction that keeps you from your creative work and deal with it. If you have an issue, be it weight, lack of exercise or family worries, do your best to resolve that issue or reduce it's power of distraction on your time and energy.” – Julieanne Kost (of Adobe Systems)

As I dive into a renewed commitment to my own creative efforts this quote is my scale. It is especially appropriate since I am slowly moving into using Lightroom and yes, that which I have avoided for years: Photoshop. I have always maintained that a good photographer shouldn't need to do much in software if an image is shot properly. I still believe this. Yes, a crop or exposure tweak after the fact may be needed but all the bells and whistles of Photoshop are not required. I realize that Photoshop has become a standard tool and by avoiding it I am just being contrary. Sometimes that's just how I roll.

But now I have owned Lightroom for about six months. I have barely had time to really get to know it. I have found by using the cataloging feature that I have tens of thousands of photographs. It will probably take me years to troll through them much less learn how to use Lightroom. I know… it must be time for a class to shorten my learning curve. After setting Lightroom onto my photographs to catalog them, I had to own that I am a photographer. I should just stop being quiet about it (since it was staring me in the face) and own that since I actually have about 15,000 or more photographs I've taken just from the last 5 or 6 years. Click happy me.

So in an effort to reduce the power of distraction on my time and energy I am going to stop teaching. I already spend a lot of time mentoring artists every day at ArtWorks and through the EDGE Program each Winter. I have come to realize that one can only mentor so much and I need my own creative time.

Light Dawns at the End of the Day, Meredith Arnold, 2014

I have a lot of jewelry to make and am excited about the prospect of digital collage as well as a lot of other projects I have in mind. Onward and upward!

 

 

Garson Kanin said it: Amateurs hope, professionals work.

So what does that mean? Think about the words 'art practice'. To have a practice infers consistency, regular hours, a schedule. It also implies that there is practice going on – a masterpiece isn't made every time one creates.

There is a great blog article on this here: http://jamesclear.com/schedule

Artisan craft show in Switzerland, Nov. 2012

Big topic for a Friday! As an artist's coach, speaker and teacher in the business of art I know this is a hot topic. Artists struggle with pricing their work more than anything. Why? Because it's so close to home. Being intimately familiar with the creation of their work makes it hard to be objective about pricing that work. How do you price your soul? There is also the extra added feature of anxiety: 'am I that good?'. Somehow pricing our work gets tangled up in our self worth issues (everybody has those – not just artists!). This is where things go really sideways just about every time.

I know we all hear about pricing formulas such as: cost of materials + time = cost of goods but this really over simplifies the whole equation. The cost of overhead isn't really in that formula. Okay I see your eyes glazing over… Here is what it costs you to paint a picture, shoot a photograph or make a thing:

Equipment (brushes, camera/computer/memory cards or tools)

Space to compose what you're making (studio, office, etc.)

Education (art school, school of hard knocks, workshops, seminars, books, magazines, late fees at the library, etc.)

Health (shelter, food, clothes, shoes, vitamins, coffee, etc.)

Transportation (car, bus, bicycle, teleportation device)

This is all besides your time. And you thought it was going to be hard to figure out what your time is worth, didn't you? If it were that simple then pricing wouldn't be such a hot topic. Everything that brought you to this moment, to this point to create this work of art comes into play in the piece you've created. You had to eat, have shelter and transportation, gain experience, and stay healthy to get to this moment to create this piece. All of these things are costs and someone paid for it. A healthy business recoups these initial investment costs. There isn't any existential self worth issues involved. It's a matter of business survival. If a business charged exactly what it cost to make a thing then all these associated costs wouldn't be covered. Heat, rent, lights, insurance and other things need to be paid so charge something for it.

Next time: Pricing Part 2!

 

Opportunities

February 17, 2013

Artists like to create in a solo environment typically. I know I do. It's treasured time when I get to revel in my own process and I can do that so much more thoroughly when I'm alone. As a teacher I am either subject to others process or helping others find their process or incorporating their process with a new medium all the time. It's rare that I get to just be in my own space. However, I find there is more opportunity when I am creating with others like in an open studio environment. There are expanded options and new avenues that I might not have found when on my own. It's the same when you're associated with a group or organization. Opportunities may be offered to a group before it's offered to you alone. This is true with group shows and organizational events. I've found that the more I'm not going 'solo' in my every day practice the more my opportunities expand.

Investing into an artists group or even a group of friends regularly provides a trustworthy sounding board, a safe place for critique, and multiplies avenues of resources for everything from supplies to techniques which provides a lot of benefits for when you are working solo. This is one of the biggest challenges I see for artists in general. They have a difficult time consistently investing in being a part of a group. Just remember: there is power in numbers!

Merry Merry Ho! Ho! Ho!

December 22, 2012

Okay, I love red and green, especially red, Christmas lights, anything cozy or cottage-ish like Putz houses (look it up!), happy Father Christmas, but not cutesy or cartoony. I love Christmas magic, sweet stories, making handmade gifts, baking (still working on wheat free success though), and watching the winter bird show out in the yard at the feeders. Most of all I love getting the chance to hang out with friends, especially when we're making things, and we get to hide out from the holiday hubbub and make the holiday our own artist time. Yesterday was one of these days. I have a tradition at ArtWorks on the last Friday before Christmas to bring my home made truffles to Art Spa Open Studio for whomever shows up. They really are very good, so good they've ruined me from ever buying truffles ever again. But it's best to see other people get the chance to enjoy them even though they are so sinful. It's better than eating them all myself! So the day started with breakfast at the tea shop with Deb and Carol and ended with Nan and Tonnie at ArtWorks. What a great day! Thanks for the day my friends!

The picture is the beginning of a garland I started making at Art Spa. It's my own version of what a wonderful metal artist does in Switzerland. Happy Holidays everyone!

 

So Many Thoughts

August 29, 2012

A small town experience pops into my head all the time lately. Years ago I was in a small community movie theater on an island here in the Pacific NW. The trailers began to play and the picture on the screen was horribly blurry. As my Mom got up to go tell the projectionist to fix it and turn down the blasting volume people started yelling: FOCUS!

Every now and again I hear that in my head: FOCUS!

I hear it when I sit down to blog because I have about 3,000 thoughts go by when I'm trying to remember what it was I wanted to write about… I hear it when I have a few studio minutes to actually create something. I hear it when I find myself staring at a blank page, blank canvas, or my own blank stare, or just getting in the door at work.

Sometimes life is horribly blurry and the volume is blasting so loud that I forget what it is I'm doing. Do you have that, too? Here's me yelling at you: FOCUS!

Artist’s are always saying ‘I just want to make stuff’. It’s not so easy sometimes. I’m sure we all know that I had my arm reconstructed. Things have been improving over this last year and a half until…this last month or so. I was beginning to think I undid my surgery somehow, (hauling luggage?). Then last week I get a hard painful lump right under some of the smaller incision scars that I have. By the next day the thing is standing up like a cartoon lump on Popeye’s head. Ahh, so that’s where this pain has been coming from. What to do? My Dr tells me it’s a ganglion cyst and to see my hand surgeon this week. Really? Again? And here I have all these trips going this year, hauling luggage and equipment. When will there be time to deal with this?

Of course I’ve backed off from using my hand but carrying everything on one side throws out my back. Sigh. I just want to make stuff.

   With the way that I am I’ve found that usually wherever I am is where I want to be.  It’s the ‘getting there’ part that’s hard.  It may be because I have a lot of disruption in my life due to traveling to teach or I have an issue with transitions that I haven’t really looked at, I’m not sure.  However once I get to where I’m going I’m fine.  It could be I just hate to leave home…=)

  I’ve been working on just being glad I am here wherever that might be instead of looking at all the things I wish I were doing or could be.  In other words, there is a point to be made for just really looking at where you are and making the most of that.  Does this make sense?  It’s okay that your work isn’t earth shattering Monet level or on the lips of every person on the planet.

    The American culture has a preoccupation with being famous.  It’s obvious to me now that this comes back to seeing oneself as special.  If others see you as special then there’s the proof that you are.  But guess what?  You should know this without that external validation.  If you love your art then that’s enough.  So if you find yourself envying others that ‘seem’ more visible, become more visible to yourself.  The rest will follow.  I can tell you from experience that having people know your name in a random elevator is not a comfortable position to be in.  Think about it: you don’t know them but they ‘know’ you.  It’s actually disconcerting especially at night when away from home.  And what is it that these people ‘know’ about you anyway?  I mean really.  So understand that being known shouldn’t ever be a goal.  It’s so much better for your work to be what’s known, isn’t it?

I work with artists just about every day of every week.  I see where and why people are either successful artists or not.  I can tell you that it really comes back to some simple fundamentals.  I know the advice I offer may seem overly simplistic but I can’t tell you how many times in a day I see what I’m talking about.  And really, if you can’t get the fundamental basics under your belt how far can you really get to where you want to go?  It’s like sitting in a perfectly good car but not stepping on the gas pedal.  If you don’t step on that gas pedal you’re not going to get very far, are you?  You’re just going to sit in this fine car thinking: wouldn’t it be great if this went somewhere? 
 So what do I see almost every day across the board that would be considered a fumble rather than a successful play?  Artists missing a deadline and still wanting consideration in spite of the fact that there are those that took that extra effort to be on time and meet that deadline.  Artists having everything but a critical piece of information, paperwork, a date, or a business card. When someone is interested in your work and you don’t have something to give them to remember you by or to contact you for follow up, how will that contact turn into a successful scenario for you?  Anyone ever read The Grasshopper and the Ants? 
Your success requires your commitment to work for it.  It’s that simple.  Once the commitment is made, everything else follows because it becomes a no brainer to have a business card, supply all requested information, meet that deadline you’re really interested in.  But commitment requires constant investment.  So what are you investing in today, this minute?  Tomorrow?  Next year?  If you aren’t investing in your success, who will?