TITLE: Art Philanthropists
DATE: 3/27/2006 04:20:00 PM
I met an art philanthropist last Friday.
His work was a combination of Norman Rockwell’s accuracy and emotion, and Andrew Wyeth’s mystery and nuance. Both artists, not so surprisingly, inspire him.
As we sat to talk, he thumbed through a dozen or so pencil drawings: A montage of childhood portraits for a young girl who was graduating high school; a drawn family tree with portraits from a family of women; a nature scene that looks as if it were traced from a photograph.
Talent is something so few people have, and this man had talent seeping out of his fingertips.
I ask the hard question, “How much do you sell your work for?”
He looks shy and pensive and fumbles through telling me he did many of these drawings for a man who commissioned them, and after the work was done he just didn’t know what to charge. He knows he spends too much time on the work, but he enjoys it. He can’t imagine actually timing himself as he sits down to draw.
I think about that… Yes, well, art making is his equivalent of taking a bubble bath. If I were about to take a bath, I wouldn’t want to look at a clock either!
We continue talking and he lets a price slip out. He was charging $300 for deeply personal drawings that perfectly portray individual expressions, snapshots in time, and the memories people hold most dear. If a photograph can speak words, his drawings speak volumes.
Because making the work felt so fulfilling, he was not just undervaluing his work… he acted as if he were cheating the buyer by putting an appropriate price tag on his therapy and enjoyment. With each drawing, he was giving his time and talent away for pennies. He has been acting as an art philanthropist!
We talk a bit more and he finally agrees to raise his prices, taking his time into account. His work will now start at $750.
Praise is a form of recognition. When someone pays you for your work, it feels good. When they come back and ask for more, it feels even better. But… money is also recognition and it feels very good to know that your time and talents are worth part of someone’s monthly income.
By being afraid to place value on his work, he was missing the rewards he’ll need to push his talent further.
Being an art philanthropist and giving away your work is just a nice gesture. If community service is your true intention, you’d be better off to value your work appropriately, sell your pieces, and then simply give the money away. Just, please, stop giving away the work.
TITLE: Where are Snooty Artists Born?
DATE: 3/26/2006 04:37:00 PM
Snooty artists really bug me.
They don’t “get” how connected they are to the craft community. They ignore all comparisons. They walk out of pricing or marketing discussions that veer the least bit toward examples of functional craft work… presumably because it doesn’t ‘pertain’ to them. They can't hold decent conversations with craftspeople. They feel more comfortable talking about obscurities.
I know I’m not the only person who hates artists who hold their noses in the air.
Yet, there a predominantly high percentage is still born each year. Why is that?
Art schools aren’t creating the problem. Perhaps they feed it, but it certainly doesn’t originate there.
Are middle school or high school art programs the issue? Or does it start even earlier – in elementary school?
My art teachers were great. Still, I have met many art teachers who snub their noses up at functional work over “higher” art forms that are more widely accessible. Art teachers have books, slide sets, and videos on Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, Warhol… Art through all ages but only art by dead people and, even then, only one side of the story.
To prove my theory that most snooty artists are nurtured and born in K-12 art classes, I looked into some popular teaching resource catalogs. What materials are made most accessible to art teachers?
Results of my informal research? Art teachers have a really tough job! There are many views they can teach, but only a select few prepared professional materials to facilitate their classroom activities.
If we (the collective community who snubs OUR noses at snooty artists) want to see more harmony and cross-pollination in the art and craft worlds, we’re going to need to support the needs of art teachers. We’re going to need to help them understand where function meets fluidity. We’re going to have to ask them to bring art VALUE discussions into the classroom. We’re going to have to take it upon ourselves to re-write the art history textbooks… this time, with the other side of the story.
After all, there are always two sides.
TITLE: Is it Really in the Details?
DATE: 3/25/2006 11:21:00 PM
Tonight I find myself sitting in yet another airport, having given up my seat for a standby passenger - a grandmother who was going to Baltimore to visit her grandchildren. I am returning (or attempting to return) from another successful arts business workshop, this time in Abingdon, Virginia.
I sit in this section of the terminal as one of only two people. It’s just me and a middle-aged maintenance man, who wobbles to-and-fro as he walks. Slowly and methodically, he starts on one side of the room. As he edges toward me, he flips over rows of chairs to expose their underbellies.
I ask, “What are you doing?”
He says in an everyday, matter-of-fact way, “I have to flip the seats over to clean the bottoms.”
“What would be on the bottom? And who would touch it, even if there were gunk under there?”
He shrugs his shoulders as doubtful as I and says, “Health inspector says we’ve gotta do it, so we do it.” I think about that a moment as he continues flipping chairs – now the entire half of the room.
“How often do you do this?,” I ask. To which he replies, “I dunno. Sometimes just once a week. Most times, twice a week, though.”
“Twice a week! Why would they want you to spend hours every week cleaning the bottoms of chairs, where only little children might even have contact with the dirt? And, even then, licking a little dirt won’t hurt anyone. Just touching the bathroom door handle… now that’s a health hazard!”
He finishes his job. And as I watch him wobble down the hallway, it occurs to me how ludicrous this man’s job is. He spends a huge portion of his week flipping chairs, sweeping them, and setting them upright. Over and over again. Cleaning a part of the airport no one even THINKS or DREAMS about.
At the workshop I just wrapped up, I took a break after my second presentation. As I walked away an attendee stopped me. “What is that word you said back there… minutiae? What is that?”
I pulled up a seat and explained the definition of the word. “You know… when you have been working on a piece so long that you've lost objectivity. You’ve started addressing the minutiae – the tiny little details that no one but you will ever notice. It’s not going to help the piece, but still you go at it. You can't see that you should have stopped an hour and a half ago.”
Why is it that when I looked tonight at the hard working maintenance man, flipping an entire room full of chairs over… the absurdity of his work jumped out? Because it’s minutiae! It’s the smallest common denominator. It’s the thing that’s not going to make or break anything, and certainly is not of consequence to the thousands of people who interact with the result of his labor…unaware how clean and sanitized the bottom of their seats are.
He saw it. He knew it was ridiculous.
But, artists… we don’t always see it. We wrap our heart into things. We tell ourselves the minutiae IS important and that even if people don’t notice it – it’s the intent that matters. For a maintenance man, going through unrecognized motions is draining and absurd. For an artist, going through the motions with inconsequential details is still draining and absurd… we just tell ourselves it’s not because it helps justify our wasted energy or it demonstrates how dedicated we truly are.
“Why yes, he is such a great painter that he spends weeks preparing his canvases, sanding 12 times between thin gesso layers!”
Look... At the end of the day, we are only as good as our body of work, whether a clean airport or a series of art/craft pieces.
But, if any of the “work” in our body of work is not evident to the person buying our pieces… maybe it’s time to step back a bit and stop making so much out of the invisible. Maybe our work would sell just as well if we streamlined, stopped taking the ‘scenic route’ through every artistic journey, and started getting to the heart of the matter a bit quicker.
What are people praising or buying in your work? Now, go out and do just that! Stop worrying about minutae – the dust underneath the seats.
TITLE: Trade Shows With a Twist
DATE: 3/17/2006 09:44:00 AM
I know two ways for artists and craftspeople to sell their work:
1) Selling directly to a collector or gift giver
2) Selling through galleries and retailers
The traditional craft market has many wide avenues to accomplish both. A craftsperson can appeal directly to collectors by selling at a regional fair or festival or by retailing online. They also have another avenue available to them - advertising, conducting direct mail campaigns, or exhibiting in a wholesale trade show to reach gallery owners, catalog companies, and others who re-sell craftwork.
The fine art market is another ball of wax altogether.
In order for most painters, printmakers, collage artists, or other traditionally recognized fine artists to develop a collecting base, they must follow a less defined path. Their options include:
- Trying to hobble together an accepting audience through more contemporary craft events or juried craft markets.
- Spending a great deal of time and energy to apply for and exhibit work in quality exhibitions around the country. Prestige, award recognition, and high profile jurors a nice perks that help this process along.
- Finding gallery representation
If you are able to find gallery representation, one of the great additional options is having gallery support for your work at one of the growing list of affordable art fairs that take place each year. Particularly popular in Europe and Australia, more and more events such as those I'm highlighting below continue to gain strength in the States:
NYC's Affordable Art Fair - Galleries represent work ranging from $100 to $5,000. There also are AAF's in Bristol and London.
SOFA NY or Chicago - A blend of art and craft, galleries who exhibit at SOFA each year tend to be on the higher end of the craft collecting scale and the mid-range of the art collecting market, particularly sculptural pieces.
Single Art Events - 'Single Art' is the name of the show promoter. Their shows are held in Sydney and Melbourne. 75% of all work is from emerging artists with price ranges at or below $5,000.
Glasgow Art Fair - Last year marked Glasgows 10th anniversary. Shows similar to this in format and style of work can be found in London, Cologne, and Berlin.
There's similar, smaller events too, such as...
The Art on Paper Fair - Held in London and connected with the Royal College of Art
The Sydney Art on Paper Fair - 2006 marks the 11th consecutive year for this show
TITLE: Exceptions to Every Rule
DATE: 3/16/2006 05:23:00 AM
So, if you read this blog, you know I have a few pet peeves. I cannot stand the usage of "unique" and "whimsical" when referencing art or craft. I think fashion jewelry is steadily strangling the wearable art market with simple, strung beadwork that lacks involved craftmanship. And, I think eBay is one of the dumbest ways for a serious artist to promote or sell their work.
On the eBay subject... I think I'm now ready to admit I have seen an exception to my rule.
I've enjoyed Duane Keiser's work for quite some time now. In fact, I've had a link on this blog to his website since the beginning.
Duane's blog exclusively showcased one painting each day. He committed to the exercise of doing a small, postcard-sized painting, scanning it, and posting it online. People started purchasing them at $100 per painting. I never purchased one because everytime I would go online and fall in love with a piece, it was already sold! Yes, his work is that simple and clean and good.
Then, suddenly Duane started listing his paintings on eBay. It was a true "business" move, if ever I saw one. Because, soon his paintings on eBay started rising in price. He had widened his market and people were bidding against one another. The paintings were just as good as ever but the price was higher, perhaps more appropriately in line with the success in his style and execution.
I would guess that during this time Duane learned a great deal about what his work is "worth" and what value people place on his brushstrokes, color pallete, and subject matter. Just seeing how the prices in still lifes began to have dramatic range was probably an eye opener.
A fortune cookie sells for $120, but an orange half sells for $186? What subjects do people buy? What colors sell best? What amount of surface development is enough to convey what's intended and sell well, while avoiding wasted energy or overkill?
So, for the past year I've watched Duane sell on eBay. With one day left on the auction, yesterday one of Duane's postcard paintings had already been bid up to $325!
Aside from kicking myself for not buying his work earlier, I can't help but admit that Duane is breaking my eBay art sales rule. He's succeeding in an environment that is slathered with garage sale art, slapped together "contemporary art pieces", and tacky painted surfaces that shimmer and sparkle.
When I looked further, I found another "painting a day" artist who started doing one painting per day and posting the piece online... the same model Duane has used with success. Is Justin the next Duane? Is there room for both?
What do I pull from this? Well, yes, there are exceptions to every rule. Still, I maintain that making art or craft work and expecting eBay to build a collector base for you is ludicrous. There's something to say for choosing a sales environment that matches the perception of your work quality. The eBay perception of quality, like it or not, has always been like that of a really, really juicy yard sale.
Selling your work on eBay is just like any other sales avenue... you're up against some difficult odds. There will be a time, money, and creativity investment on your part.
The investment I have slowly watched Duane put in came in this order:
1) Making great work and working consistently. Practice doesn't make perfect, but it does improve your execution. To my eyes, Duane's work has only gotten better and better. Before anything else, it should and does always begin with making artwork with integrity and appeal.
2) Allowing a natural progression to take place. I don't know Duane personally, which is why I feel good commenting with my outsider perspective. He started simply, with a blog of daily paintings. Then his website grew and his larger studio work appeared. One day I started seeing a gallery listed where he had a show installed. Still later, eBay came into the picture. Duane didn't rush the process or try to build a business. He just let things percolate and develop as they needed to.
3) Duane still keeps it simple. Maybe he has what we all have - too many commitments and too little time. I don't know. What I do know is that even when prices for his small postcard paintings started rising to double (or more!) their original $100 pricetag, he has still stuck with what worked in the beginning. His work still mainly featured quick little "snapshots" of objects centered in the frame or sections of a landscape or streetscape. He could try to transition his collectors and his email mailing list over to larger pieces and stop doing the postcard pieces. Maybe someday he will. But in the meantime the simplicity works and, I imagine, it still holds enough interest to not bore him.
So, don't everyone go rushing to sell on eBay. Think about your options and exercise them wisely.
But, DO go rush to eBay this week and check out Duane and Justin's paintings. Because some day your small $100 or $200 dollar investment might just grow on you. I've already seen it happen before MY eyes!
TITLE: Unexpected Deliveries
DATE: 3/15/2006 04:00:00 AM
One morning when I was in college, there was a knock at my door.
I opened it and found a pair of keys and a note shoved into my hand. The note simply said: "Alisha - Had to leave early for winter break. Please take care of plants. My roomate also had to leave early. Look after his pet."
Ok. I can do this.
I had only been living in Baltimore for 6 months and would refer to the person who wrote the note as "a friend", but only in the way anyone would look to embrace a city full of strangers. I had never been to his apartment. I didn't know where "home" was for him. All I really knew about him up to that point was that he was a nice guy with unbelievable drawing and painting talent.
I went through my morning trying to put off the new responsibility that had been pushed into the palm of my hand. I tended to my errands and watered my plants. A set of keys and a crumpled scrap of paper stared at me from the dining table.
Somewhere just before nightfall I reluctantly grabbed the keys, threw on my coat, and slammed the door shut on my way out. I moved quickly, before I gave myself a chance to find another diversion.
The apartment was 2 blocks away, just around the corner. I had walked past his building everyday on the way to classes. It was an old, dark row house. His apartment was at the top, on the third floor. Inside, every board on the staircase creaked. The building was old and uncared for. At the apartment door I found myself fumbling through a set of keys to open 3 locks. Why would a poor art student need to lock up like Fort Knox? As the last lock turned, I pushed my way inside.
Two big rooms with 2 large windows. A wall of stereo equipment, cd's, records, a sound mixing turntable, and the weighty smell of incense. Two old couches, an assortment of pillows on the floor, a tall bongo drum, and a stack of sketch pads sitting in what should be a dining room.
There was 1 plant.
I searched for the "pet".
In the kitchen I found the reason bachelors frequently eat out. A sink overflowing with dirty dishes. A stove that didn't appear to have ever been used, also covered with more dishes. On what I recognized to be counter space had been tossed half a dozen empty tuna cans.
Where's the cat, the dog, or the snake?
I was anxious to hurry in AND hurry out.
Then, I saw it.
Sitting in the living room, squarely in the center of the coffee table was a fish tank. My stomach knotted as I walked closer. The fish tank did not contain fish.
Sometimes, even now, I find myself with that same feeling. "How did I get into this situation?" I don't know of any artist who asked for the hand they were dealt. But, whether you asked to become consumed by the need to create art or not, there it was in front of you to confront and react to. In the studio I feel that knot every now and then.
I don't remember what it was that nudged me towards making art. There was no flash of light or big build up. One day, like a knock at the door and a pair of keys being shoved in my hand, I just looked around and found art as something I "had to do", something I "had to make". My path changed and, no matter how much I dragged my feet, it was inevitable.
At a certain point I started thinking of artmaking like an errand or an expected dot on my schedule. Water plants. Feed cat. Brush teeth. Make art. Open mail. Pay bills. Check email. Make art.
You can work in an office or tell yourself that parenting is your true path in life but if creativity is something you've been hit over the head with, there is no greater or lesser priority. It's simply something you have to do. So make time for it.
What was on the coffee table? Well, it's even hard to belive now, but in the fish tank in the center of the room was yet another empty tuna can and a dark, black thing. The top of the tank was covered with metal mesh and, sitting on top of that as a weight, was a brick. I leaned closer and my mouth dropped open. An alligator was inside! Filling the full length of the tank, from tail to snout, the alligator had no food and no recognizable water.
At that moment, I was yet again handed another responsibility I didn't ask for. I ran out of the apartment and back down the block to my own. Inside I didn't even take time to peel off my coat. I threw open the phone book and started calling anyone and everyone I could think of who could help me, or at least tell me if an 'apartment alligator' was a legal pet! After almost an hour and a half of phone calls and repeating myself over and over... I spoke with an employee at the Baltimore Zoo's reptile house. He knew of a daytime employee who would perhaps be able to help me.
The next morning I called at spoke with the man I had been referenced to. He drove to meet me that the apartment on his lunch break, armed with a large container and a friend who also worked for the zoo. Together we all went upstairs to look at the animal again. He was thin from lack of food, angry (probably from being crammed into a tank the same size as him!), and in clear need of rescue. We loaded him into the new, larger container and they slowly and carefully carried him down to their truck.
The "friend" who put me in the situation and forced me to make that call? Well, I left his keys in the mailbox, said a prayer to his 1 plant, and never spoke to him again. I don't even know if he returned to campus after winter break.
What's the point in me telling you this story? Well, the key is in how it BEGAN. Something was shoved into my hand. And something was, likely, shoved into yours.
Don't avoid what's in front of you. Take what was thrust into your hand and do something with it. Make art with meaning. Make art with intention and purpose. Be creative and don't look back. And, above all, stop asking why or what you're supposed to do with this passion... and just do it, already!
TITLE: Crossing the Line
DATE: 3/14/2006 08:55:00 AM
Several stars have aligned recently to help me see ART and CRAFT in a new light.
When I began this blog I, unconsciously perhaps, titled it "Art or Craft". I had the sense that art and craft were merging and had been for quite sometime, despite what mainstream magazines or art guilds were telling me.
My friends who were craftspeople frequently read art history books and aimed for a goal of having solo shows in fine art galleries. My friends who were referred to as artists often visited typical craft venues, continually craving the personality and commraderie found at many craft fairs.
Today, I find myself sitting squarely within a scenario where many creative friends of mine are trying to "cross the lines". ...Craftspeople now finally ready to step into the solo, fine art show circuit and away from trade show events. ...Fine artists planning to travel to Penland where they will absorb traditional craft skills that will improve their art delivery.
The one nagging thought I keep having is... how hard it is to cross the lines!
Moving from one segment of the cultural divide to the other, you will encounter:
* Sadness and a tinge of regret as you slowly replace people on the networking list you've grown accustomed to, inserting people from the other side of the tracks who have, perhaps, already made the leep you hope to attempt. Friends will change. Daily conversations will change. The people on your speed dial will also change.
* Silence - The slightly uncomfortable sound of silence as you step into your studio each day and try to make something new, directed towards a different audience, away from the intuitive ways you've embraces to create thus far. It is hard to consciously stop what is unconscious. But you cannot make work for a new audience without pulling apart your old processes, symbology, and intentions.
* Anger as you fight with yourself, fight with your medium, and fight with people around you who may not entirely "get" where you're going or what was so wrong with where you were in the first place.
* Comfortability when you finally hit your 'groove', stepping back and seeing your new work... like when you meet someone in person you've only spoken to on the phone previously. Your expectations will be temporarily set aside as you wake to the ideas you had in you all along.
Do any of these steps sound familiar?
Don't they bear a strangely similar note to the 4 Stages of the Grief Process: Denial, Anger, Sadness, Acceptance?
This isn't by my design, I assure you! It surprises me as much as you... that we might MOURN our work and the process of change, as we "cross the line" and attempt to move our work out of one genre and into another.
So, perhaps what I found so inciteful about the invisible but real divides placed between art and craft is the struggle these walls present for artists. Defining oneself is hard enough. Add to this the pressures of making a living, still finding enjoyment in the studio, and expecting others not to pigeon hole your work into a corner... well, but of course there would be a period of mourning!
What were we all thinking?!
The road ahead will be rough... and rewarding.
TITLE: Knowing All
DATE: 3/13/2006 07:00:00 AM
There's something incredibly self-serving about blogging. You write your ideas, suggestions, tips, and press "publish post". In an instant your words are online. Answers that no one even solicited by asking a question!
I know I don't know everything. That's the profession Martha Stewart and Oprah and a dozen other people have taken up for their respective fields.
But for many months (which has now turned into over a year!) I've been neatly bundling up what I do know, and I post it here to share with you.
When I started this blog, I was doing so in the path of friend who recommended blogging as a way to solidify my experiences and present ME to the world. At the time I was working for an employer who had a strong take on the art and craft making community. I don't entirely subscribe to that take, it turns out. I hold pieces of it dear to my heart, but several elements don't sing to me. Blogging DID help me sort out my feelings and opinions at a time when I was starting to lose sight of where I began and my employer ended.
So, why do I continue to blog? Well, I think for two reasons:
1) I believe all artists and craftspeople should blog. Keep your blog address to yourself, if you like, but the process of journaling... even in a not-so-frequent way as I do... is like taking snapshots and filling a photo album. When I look back at some of my thoughts last June, I'm surprised. I don't entirely disagree, yet my thoughts are colored with another layer of opinion now. Blogging is easy, free, and for goodness sakes... being an artist doesn't mean you can avoid writing. So, just embrace the written word already!
2) I also continue to blog because I believe there are so many misguided opinions being posted out there. The web and the blog worlds are filled with a ridiculous amount of HOT AIR! I recently read a few posts from another craft business blog, which happens to be authored by someone who hasn't even been actively making work for quite some time. Well, it could be assumed that quantity of posts means quality. But in this case it would have steered someone wrong! I don't expect people to read my blog every week or even once a month, but I do feel confident that the ideas I share here are successful tips I've seen MANY artists utilize. I know they are real-world, practical details that I can back up. I'm not anonymous. I stand behind my words. And, I don't post on discussion boards just to "market" my blog and steer people back to it. I do what I do and if you like it, you can read it or tell others yourself. But that's about the end of it for me.
Moral of the story?
I really don't know it all.
And I'm not afraid to admit that.
BUT, I do know a lot of artists who have tried a lot of things in their careers... and I thank you for continuing to read along as I share these little snippets with you now and again.
Every time I blog I feel like I'm planting a little seed. Gardening, even if just in your blog, is a luxury.
TITLE: Goal Setting - Consequences
DATE: 3/07/2006 07:52:00 AM
Alright, I think I've nearly exhausted myself and my readers with goal lingo. So this is my final word on the subject for awhile... My last, best suggestion to get you motivated to not just set, but to actually work toward reaching your art business goals.
Look... I am a procrastinator of the worst variety. I wait until the eighth hour, then rush around making myself crazy to meet a deadline. I know this about myself and for years I tried to change the behavior. Then, I heard Ellen DeGeneres...
Yes, Ellen turned me around!
Watching an Ellen DeGeneres comedy routine recently, I was reminded: "Procrastination isn't the problem, it's the solution!"
Exactly. It's the answer!
And pouring on the self-induced pressure all these years, I suppose I have been fighting with the very thing that has made me push more, do more, and be more successful. Some of my best work comes out at the last minute because I have no choice but to drowned everything out except the task in front of me. Procrastination gives me focus.
So, you want to be a successful, self-supporting artist or craftsperson? And, you know a million and one things you need to work on, learn, or develop to get you to that goal?
What you need now is to SET YOUR GOALS IN STONE by BUILDING IN CONSEQUENCES.
Your graceful walk towards the goal will turn into a gallop (or in my case, a procrastination frenzy) when you take time NOW to...
... mark your calendar with the date you expect to accomplish a task;
... plan a studio open house, release party, unveiling, or opening night;
... print postcards or invitations for your open house or new work unveiling;
... invite your peers, people from your network, and those you admire to attend your event;
... post your event date and some rough details of what you hope to accomplish on your own blog.
Imagine having a party at your home or studio to announce your business name, reveal your logo, unveil your latest work, or have a group critique session.
Would it really be so difficult to just put a simple consequence on the horizon that pushes?
Mark your calendar today.
TITLE: Goal Setting - Timelines
DATE: 3/06/2006 06:40:00 AM
I just returned (As in, my plane touched down just hours ago!) from another successful weekend Arts Business Institute workshop in North Carolina. We had a smaller group than in past years, but every, single student was dedicated to their goals, devoted to their artmaking, and inspired by the synchronisity of the group. Something amazing happens when artists gather their hope together and start opening up, sharing and learning with one another.
Our weekend ended like every ABI workshop ends... a sea of a better prepared creative minds, each with a very long list of things to work on!
So, where do you start? Where do you dive in and begin?
Last week I gave my top tips for identifying and reaching your art goals.
This week I have two more tips to add to this theme, and I hope any ABI alumni now reading my blog will consider today's post as a springboard for getting started.
Take a moment today to sort through the long list of things you learned and can't wait to work on... and SEGMENT A TIMELINE.
Start with one item on your list and ask yourself:
"How long will it take to build/create this?"
Create a notecard for each task associated with your goal and write how long you will give yourself for task accomplishment. You may actually take a longer or shorter time period, but before getting started you should make a realistic estimate of the time it could take. If you were building a home, wouldn't you do a budget and timeline?
Doing this for each of your larger goals gives you perspective, focusing your expectations on what is actually attainable.
After attempting this exercise, you will have an idea of how long it could take to formulate your art business identity, to develop a line of work you feel is priced and designed competitively, promote yourself, or market your art.
With big goals like these, it's hard to have any real concept of how long the road to success will be. But, looking at the time it takes to manage each tiny task toward a big goal, well this will put your mind at ease.
TITLE: Goal Setting - Daily Affirmation
DATE: 3/03/2006 05:08:00 AM
Do you remember Stuart Smalley?
"...Because I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and... dog'gonit ,people like me!"
Stuart Smalley became a Saturday Night Live hit at a time when Americans were nearly as fond of daily affirmation as we were last year to the Atkins or South Beach Diets. Stuart was funny because he was mocking us! At the time, everyone had a book of daily affirmations and a calendar of inspirational quotes at their bedside. Affirmations were the flavor of the moment.
But there are many cultures that have always believed in the power of belief itself. And, when you think about it, isn't that essentially what prayer is? ...A spiritual wish that you state aloud? You have no promise your prayer will be manifested. Yet, there is the hope that it could become real.
Consider that goals can only become successful realities when they are believed to the same extent as prayer. What if the daily affirmation could play a role in helping you get from Point A to Point B?
Affirm your goals each day or each week by...
- Reading your goals aloud or writing them down every day
- Placing visual reminders in places you frequent the most
- Emailing or leaving yourself voice mail messages to keep your goal in sight
TITLE: Goal Setting - Take Inventory
DATE: 3/02/2006 05:00:00 AM
I am very good with educating others. I am an expert at resourcing. But, if you promise not to scream it from the rafters, I'll share with you that I struggle with proper organization, strain against regimine, and literally have to force the evil procrastination devil off my shoulder each morning.
When I write down my weaknesses and see them on paper before me, it is clear that I was not cut out for the military. Thank goodness I chose a more creative route!
I don't think anyone who ever achieved success did so without the benefit of taking stock of their assets. What are you working with?
To set and achieve even one goal, you really need to first TAKE INVENTORY OF YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES.
Ask yourself the following questions and rate your strengths and weaknesses on a scale like the one below.
TITLE: Goal Setting - Networks
DATE: 3/01/2006 04:45:00 AM
Ten years ago you could have told me that "networking is the key to success" and I would have rolled my eyes, turning away from you. Today, I'm the one singing the networking song!
I suppose I previously had an aversion to networking because, like a lot of artists, I was more comfortable harboring my own opinions and ideas, in my introverted skin.
While I would guesstimate that artists and craftspeople are at least 75% introverted, we must push ourselves to make use of that extra 25%. Afterall... our extroverted side is what we will make first impressions on or be judged by.
Before ever setting goals or even being able to build upon them, you must first BUILD A NETWORK. There's just no way around it. So, don't allow yourself to put it off.
Take time today to consider 5 key people in your network:
Tips to keep you on track:
- Where do your skills lie?
- What are you capable of accomplishing?
- Where do you flounder when push comes to shove?
- What are you simply not capable of delivering?
TITLE: Goal Setting - Artist Feedback
DATE: 2/28/2006 06:00:00 AM
When I started out in art school, I looked around with Freshman eyes and knew I had one thing that most of the other students in my class didn't... I knew that critique was something I would rarely receive once I graduated and left college. With few rare exceptions, I enjoyed every critique in four years. I even found enjoyment in the ones that left me in tears, slammed for poor execution or flimsy ideas. Most of my peers attended critiques with dread.
Consider that a chef-in-training is critiqued with every mouth that encounters their work.
Art is very similar, with just as many subtleties and nuances to perfect and control with finesse.
So why then, when we leave the art school realm and begin to promote or sell our work, do we stand back and assume we have all the tools and are now capable of critiquing our own work? Does a BFA really put a stamp of approval on our critical eye? Is self feedback really the same as outside feedback?
Any honest artist or craftsperson would say, "No!"
In order to achieve our art sales or promotion goals, we have to find a way of receiving reliable, reflective critique.
I suggest every serious artist or craftsperson BE RELENTLESS IN SEEKING HONEST FEEDBACK using these guidelines:
1 - Avoid friends and family. Your mother doesn't want to hurt your feelings. Neither does your boyfriend or girlfriend. Look for objectivity.
2 - Seek out experts in your field of interest. Find successful artists you admire, people whose work you feel inspired by, or gallery owners or curators who are interested in contributing in small ways to artists in their community. The first time I called an artist I admired, I was stumped at what to say. But, I made the call, she laughed, and we had a great talk. It wasn't complicated or impossible. Don't psyche yourself out of asking for feedback from the best in the business.
3 - Make a habit of revisiting your own work and your own ideas. Sketchbooks are powerful. So are journals. But their power isn't in immediacy. What is incredible is when you pick up a sketchbook from 3 years ago and see similar forms, shapes, or ideas that relate to where you are today. Make a habit of journaling and sketching. Then put your ideas away on a shelf or in a box. Revisit these ideas now and then, and you will be surprised how peeking at the past is a form of review or reflection!
4 - Use a physical or online questionnaire to depersonalize the process. Ok, I know it may seem silly to send a questionnaire out about your work. But consider how busy people are today! I once received a package in the mail with 4 wooden jewelry chests and a paper questionnaire. It was from an artist I knew who was working on a new line and wanted feedback. By testing the piece, writing down what I liked and disliked, I was providing valuable impact that later was incorporated into his final designs. I've seen weavers do this by having people test their scarves or painters who allow friends to "house" their work for a month or two. Why not use a free service like Survey Monkey to make the feedback process seemless?
5 - Dig out the Polaroid or digital camera and give distance to design. One of my favorite tools is a Polaroid camera. I have two in the studio, and always back-up film. There is nothing better than being able to arrange something - snap. Rearrange it - snap. Flip it all around again - snap! Then, I line up all my photos and can stand back to review them. Other people can then also see what you saw in that quick moment. This speeds the critique process up. You waste less time on poor design ideas.
6 - Create a critique wall. Art schools have walls covered in cork or painted homosote. My studio also has this on one wall. It also has excellent lighting for the critique or display wall. I can put up pieces in progress or finished work and step back, with a strong lighting scenario, and review what is before me. Even the smallest of studios needs a blank space for review, reflection... and semi-formal critique.
TITLE: Goal Setting - Acknowledgements
DATE: 2/27/2006 08:05:00 AM
Last August I was honored to be one of two invited keynote speakers for a weekend art business event put together by the Kentucky Craft Marketing Program and the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft.
I talk about goal achievement quite a bit, so when I was told that the theme for the weekend was about "achieving and setting goals", it didn't phase me. I thought, "no problem!"
Of course this was soon to be followed by, "Wait! How DO YOU go about SETTING a goal anyway?"
All these years I've been preaching steps towards achieving this or succeeding at that, but what about that special inspired moment before all the work sets in?
Goal setting, in my mind, is 1 part enthusiasm and 2 parts fear. It's the terrifying part of visioning the goal that usually stops us in our tracks.
So, in the coming days I'll share with you what I wrote before and after my Kentucky Goal Setting talk.
Today, we start with several ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ON SETTING GOALS. You've got to be a believer if you want to feel the wave of art business religion wash over you!
#1 ) Know that business goals aren’t linear. Businesses rarely operate on a "do this, then this, then you're a raving success" model. Usually you start in one area and find yourself weaving a winding path towards your success marker.
#2 ) Recognize that within yourself, you already know what steps to take. Somewhere in you is motivation, enthusiasm, interest, and background knowledge. In fact, somewhere in you is even a spot where you know what you aren't great at and need to pick up knowledge on!
#3) Welcome the idea that you don’t have all the tools. As I said, somewhere you already know what you don't know. But in order to achieve your business goals, you have to be brave enough to admit it and deal with it. Eventually this may mean learning, hiring, contracting, or apprenticing just to cover the areas you lack.
#4) Accept that ideas aren’t goals until you begin trying to achieve them. Think about that a minute. There is a difference between an IDEA and a GOAL. What is that difference? Well, it's action!
#5) Believe that you can and you likely will. There is a lot to say for possitive thinking. And certainly if you can't envision success of one sort or another, there's little likelihood it will drop into your lap.
#6) Losing sight of what made the idea interesting or fun handicaps your success. Don't forget what it was that made a light bulb go off for you in the beginning. When you lose this simple starting point, you lose a great deal of energy and joy. The hard work begins to cloud over everything. And, THIS is the spot where most businesses... or most artists... throw in the towel, feeling disillusioned.
TITLE: Crafter or Craftsperson
DATE: 2/24/2006 08:15:00 AM
TITLE: Art Bloggers
DATE: 2/07/2006 05:50:00 PM
Blog is the Word.
Art and craft are the ever present Bible.
Last year web was the debated issue among galleries.
This year blogs are what I expect to hear everyone talking about at the big winter shows.
There are more than a dozen good reasons I can identify off the top of my head as to why ALL artists and craftspeople should promote a weblog that they post on quarterly, bimonthly, weekly, or just whenever time and interest allows. My Top Three:
1) A blog is easier and much more attractive than a print newsletter. Time saved is more time in the studio. And, in this case, free software and pre-made templates will add to your professionalism.
2) You can have a blog even if you don’t have a website. Actually, it’s better than having a website. You can post images on it, as well as descriptions. No need to fuss with making a functional shopping cart. When it’s all said and done, how much volume would you have to do to justify the monthly work to keep up your full website? Ug… Too much time and energy down the drain.
3) Blogs make your stories come alive. It’s okay if you spell things wrong on occasion. It’s also okay if you never post an image. The key is to simply get your stories in print. How many little details about your work would you just love to share with someone but rarely get the chance? Using your blog as a way to relate how you started making and selling work, what your early days and first designs were like, or why certain pieces are so much more closely tied to your heart over others are all fantastic ways to push your artistic story into the stratosphere.
So, I urge you to make a simple, first step today.
Pick a blog name.
Register your blog.
And start posting on it.
I promise, you don’t HAVE to share the address with ANYONE.
But you will slowly begin to appreciate how the simple act of journeying your process helps you and helps others. It’s a lovely, easy way to give and take.
DATE: 2/03/2006 05:22:00 PM
This week I had a conversation with a friend who reminded me that expectations are what tip the balance.
Artists and craftspeople have so many expectations placed upon them, without even having to say a word. Do any of these ring a bell?
- Making strong work you have confidence in
- Juggling many commitments within time constraints
- Keeping art output fresh all the time
- Seeing eye to eye with galleries
Two months ago I set out to make a dramatic change in my life, freeing up one part of my day for a set of priorities I had long neglected. What I noticed was that a new, invisible bar had been set.
Consider that if an artist or craftsperson says their work is art, an immediate expectation pops up. We expect the work to look like art, feel like craft, or smell like something collectible or displayable. I would like to think the contemporary art arena has removed those expectations, but it hasn't. Recent proof of this in my studio are all people that walk in, head straight over to my studiomate's paintings, and walk straight past my abstract wall pieces. They can see a recognizable object in the paintings. This was their expectation before they ever entered the "studio".
Consider too that everyone's time is limited and, because of this, you should control how it is spent. Last week I had to change my voice mail to reflect returning calls "within 48 hours". People expected to receive a call back the same day they left it. Even I expect this when I email. But, if you are only able to devote 3 hours a day to returning or accepting calls, it isn't physically possible to meet everyone's expectations. It could very possibly take 48 hours just to find the time to sit down and begin to dial their number!
So, perhaps the hardest part about juggling expectations is that other people create them. Rarely are they created by the person they are expected of.
Yet, you can limit them by remind people where your boundaries are, setting barriers earlier, and finding ways to comfortably and confidently remind people where the lies are drawn.
TITLE: Buying a Beautiful Bowl
DATE: 2/02/2006 02:30:00 PM
I fell in love today.
At first, I walked into the gallery and saw two crystalline glazed bowls on the right that caught my eye. They were exquisite. Pretty little feet. A delicious little lip that extended in, then out. And two small dimples on the underside of each of the bowls. It looked as if the maker had taken them off the potters wheel with a thumb and forefinger, pressing in just slightly.
As I walked around I couldn’t get the bowls off my mind!
And then, approaching the entrance of the gallery from the opposite side – there it was. This was my bowl. And it was lovely, with a slight brownish blush along the rim and four squatty feet carved out underneath. Inside was a brown dab of glaze. The entire bowl was a hazy crystalline blue-green. Beautiful.
After sitting several pieces side by side and standing back, it was clear. This was my bowl. The others were nice, but not mine. And, as true love should work, I accepted her imperfections. Ok, so she’s not exactly in center. I affectionately refer to her as “wobbly”. And, yes, yes, so she wasn’t pulled particularly evenly on the wheel. She’s inconsistent and I can deal with that. Personally, I’m inconsistently inconsistent. So, we’re a nice pairing.
With love in my eyes, I happily watched them wrap my piece and place it in a bag. After getting it home I unwrapped it with immediacy, as if it had changed or as if I was testing this new lighting scenario from the one where I bought it. It was great.
My one little problem though, I don’t know who made it. I know she is a living potter in Florida with a Russian last name. That’s all I know.
My new love has no name carved in her. She has no card with the artist’s information. There is no flyer or postcard with more about the potter. I know nothing other than that I like the bowl and that she is mine.
To artists, the buying experience is perhaps not as important as the making experience. But to me, today, as a buyer... the uneveness in this approach truly made the difference... the subtle but crucial difference betweeen privately coveting my new bowl, or being given the opportunity to openly brag about the artist who made it every time I invite a friend over for dinner.
TITLE: Liking It
DATE: 1/18/2006 02:23:00 PM
I actually made something I like today!
I can hardly believe it.
After weeks and months of stumbling and hemming and hawing... I leveled the last framed piece on the wall, stepped back with level in hand, and SMILED. I liked it.
Now, of course the question is where other people will like it.
But that is beyond the point right now. That's tomorrow's question, perhaps.
Today, I really just want to keep this feeling... being caught up in the moment of enjoying what I've accomplished. It's my accomplishment. And, it's a big one.
Liking what I've made makes me wonder why it's been so long since I had that feeling.
Was I not putting the work in?
Have I lowered my expectations?
Am I actually making better work now?
Perhaps tomorrow I'll feel like a one-hit-wonder working on cutting my second album. But while the feeling lasts... for tonight... I am a hit. Even if simply in my own mind.
TITLE: Being Good Enough
DATE: 1/17/2006 06:10:00 PM
I love it.
No, I don't watch the main show. But, every season I do look forward to the 2 hour American Idol kick off, showcasing all the best and worst of the audition process.
And, every season without fail, I walk away dumbfounded after the two hours.
How in the world can so many people believe they are good enough at something to travel to an audition, wait in lines for hours, only to stand in front of three judges, all the while being video taped... exposed?
In tonight's season opener Simon tells one contestant, "Well, that was a mess... a ripe mess!" The girl storms out of the room crying and telling people how great she is and how wrong they are. How stupidly, pathetically wrong they are.
Next a girl rushes out of the room with her acceptance paperwork. She's going to Hollywood for the next round of auditions. She gets in an argument with the girl standing next to her, who didn't think she was a good enough singer to be accepted and is surprised by her acceptance. Instead of singing to demonstrate her worth, the Hollywood-bound contestant rolls her head, "I didn't just sing. I performed!" She is perhaps saying that it isn't just about having talent or a voice... It's about charisma, drama, and stage presence, which she feels she delivered in spades.
Isn't this shockingly similar to the art market?
There are those who think they have talent, yet you look at their work, turning your head this way and that... wondering if you're the only one who doesn't "get it". Where is the greatness in their work? Is this an 'inside joke'?
Then there are other artists, who are good enough to pull it off. They keep at it. They find the 'X' factor in presentation, improve how they talk about their work, or succeed through sheer persistence. They may not have talent, but they push through with drive.
American Idol is a singing competition, but to me it's a slice of hope... blind, brave, and otherwise.
And, we all need hope that making our art is worthwhile. Don't we?
TITLE: The Musical Studio
DATE: 1/12/2006 04:17:00 PM
I have my studio day timed out...
I begin with 2 CD's.
With a 3rd CD, I take a break.
I eat an orange, munch on carrots, or sometimes make tea.
I also try to clean my work tables, sweep the floor, take out trash.
CD number four has me back at one work table or another.
Five is lunch and rearranging things on my critique wall to get a new perspective.
Six and seven is usually my last push of the day.
I can, of course, work longer... but I notice that when I work longer than seven CD's, I get jumpy and make mistakes that require teasing out the following morning.
If I'm really absorbed, I have a lull of silence in between CD's that I don't even notice. Suddenly I will look up and laugh... "When did it get so quiet in here?" The newly noticeable silence makes time creep by and I have to go over to the stereo to 'fix' the problem.
So, why is this worth mentioning?
Well, I don't just believe music sets a certain mood in my studio, I happen to know that it puts me into a trance, of sorts. At first I hear the sound and hum, sing, or even dance along. But, as the music continues to play and I keep my energy focused on the work at hand, I stop hearing the sound. I am nearly hypnotized by work!
And music is my key to that kind of studio focus.
Consequently, I can't imagine having a studio without a stereo! It's one of those "essentials" that I often forget to acknowledge, but would be devastated to give up.
How about you?
What keeps you motivated and MAKING art in your studio?
What are the sounds that keep you buzzing?
TITLE: Begin at the Beginning
DATE: 1/05/2006 06:54:00 PM
The funny thing about setting goals is that setting them isn't particularly the hard part. What makes goal setting truly difficult is taking the first step after your big aha moment.
So, how can you set a goal and then take the plunge to realize it?
Well, after working with enough capable people who talked themselves right out of accomplishing what they were once so excited to achieve... I have patched together an exercise that at least attempts to quiet some of those negative voices in your head, if not help move your along your path.
Our example here is my brother, Robert, who took a weaving class several months ago and discovered he loves weaving, is skilled at it, and would like to find a way to weave for at least a part-time income.
First, I sat down with Robert and asked him what his goals are. Generally we all know this about ourselves. Most of us know we have a goal to have a local gallery exhibit, sell our work to a certain type of collector, or even make a certain amount of money. Robert's goals were simple, after all, he's just beginning. For now, he would like to (1) become better at weaving, (2) make good work he is proud of, and (3) share his work with others, (4) sell some of his better work.
He wrote each of these down on slips of paper and I attached them to the living room wall. (YES! That means the art originally hanging there was taken down. Hello? This is a bigger priority!)
Next, we selected one of the goals and wrote separate slips of paper for every step related to accomplishing that goal. An example: To become better at weaving he needs to (A) take more classes, (B) practice, and (C) attend a weaving conference. We did this for each of his goals. In this case, he had four.
After this we started back where we began and reviewed each step we had just pasted on the wall. He now placed slips just underneath these with details associated with these steps. Example: In order to take more classes he has to (a) sign up for weavers guild newsletters that list the classes, (b) save money to pay for the class he chooses, and (c) set aside time with his 2 jobs to attend the class.
This is what the wall looked like after accomplishing this and brainstorming the path towards achieving just 1 of his 4 goals:
During this process Robert learned that he knew more than he thought he knew. He had most of the answers in his head about where to begin and how to start down the path. He had just been so fearful of beginning that he hadn't allowed himself to think past that fear.
With his milestones on the wall in front of him every day (milestones he created and brainstormed), it made them REAL and achievable.
Even on days when he doesn't work towards one of the goals, he can read everything on the wall, re-set his priorities in his mind, and plot where to dive in the next day.
So, why not try this with the brass ring you've been dying to reach up and grab? If you need a coach, a cheerleader, or just someone to help you with the process... you know where to find me.
TITLE: Non-wearable Gifting
DATE: 12/20/2005 05:06:00 PM
So, you don’t make wearable artwork, eh?
(You wouldn’t believe the amount of email I received on this. It’s heartening and also a good kick in the seat of my pants-style reminder that blog readers are not a one-size-fits all group.)
Below are two scans of my friend Julia Sokol’s fabulous trade show gifties…
I won’t give away Julia’s secrets to how she made them, but they are affordable and attractive wearable versions of her larger wall clocks and handpainted art. She brings them to shows to give to people who buy her work, admire her work, or otherwise support her. I know I proudly wear mine.
If you are a painter, photographer, sculptor, or otherwise non-wearable artist or craftsperson, think outside the box.
There is a way to promote your work in a simple, inexpensive gift that others will wear or otherwise display.
Let me know what clever ideas you come up with! (Hint: You can email me OR, better yet, you can post in the public comment area just below the end of this post... this way everyone can gain from you idea, insight, or inspiration!)
TITLE: 3 Rules of the Road
DATE: 12/03/2005 06:14:00 PM
I had a fun walk down Memory Lane yesterday.
It all started with a simple email invitation. It ended with a 3 hour long lunch, lots of laughter, and a great flow of energy. I drove away with so many things on my mind, but here are just a few thoughts that may relate to you and your interest in making and selling your own artwork...
#1 - If I haven't made it clear here in the past, I am definitely making it clear now... art and craft are so closely merged that, today, they distinctly overlap. Don't get overly hung up by labels and terminology. There's a time and place for academia, but it should mostly be left behind in art history class. Today's art market is about accepting blurred boundaries. Art, craft, and design are so blurred today that if you aren't considering all three, then you will likely be left behind. This is the moment and the topic that will be in art history books 20 years from now. So wake up and get with the program.
#2 - It's no longer enough to just make things. This is another strong view behind my posts here. Today, you can't just MAKE artwork. You also have to consider the value of your work. All work has value, so why ignore that fact? Even if you don't have plans for how to sell your work, knowing the value helps you determine better ways to make work. If you blindly continue making things and assume someone/somewhere will just slap a price on it for you, you miss out on one crucial part of the critique process... accepting that your audience will always be making value judgements (valuing your time and energy with the price tag next to the piece). After you work on value, you can deal with promotion, marketing, branding, and every thing tossed toward you. But, an evaluation of value IS where it all begins.
#3 - The past isn't a book that has closed. Some people never move on. I happen to be a person who gets excited about moving on, hence why I'm always moving! I always see something big around the next corner. But, what if the next big thing in your work or your career is behind a door you've already closed? Consider that your future art collectors could be people you crossed paths with 10 years ago. Your biggest collector could even be someone you went to high school with! ...Yet one more reason why your Momma was right. That "Golden Rule" stuff really is relevant.
So, thank you to my lunch buddy.
Once again, you unintentionally made a big impact.
And, good lord... watch out... because the gears are turnin'! Big things are on the horizon.
TITLE: The End
DATE: 12/02/2005 05:25:00 PM
When I was in art school there was a certain flow to each week. Classes narrowed their focus on both skill and concept. Students were expected to develop work as a response and, in upcoming weeks, participate in some form of critique. This constant exploration and review allowed young artists-in-training (like me) to hone their craft. We never spent too long laboring over something useless because the project either came to an end or the critique snapped us back into reality.
But when you're no longer in school, you have to determine your own ways of working. And, many times that is a long, uphill battle.
No one is assigning anything. No review sessions are plotted on the calendar. There is no reason not to let studio work linger on and on. Pieces are only finished when you want them to be. And no piece really has to be finalized.
After I graduated, I went through a long process of:
- Not making work
- Making work on the couch
- Wanting to make work and instead making excuses
- And, finally, making and finishing pieces (what a concept!)
While career artists and craftspeople with collectors and galleries probably shake their heads at this, I know there are more than a handful of artists who have had or are in the midst of their own similar crisis of completion. The question for them isn't so much where to find the time or place to make work, but how to develop the urge to finish what you've started.
So, my solution?
Something very simple that you must do today if finishing things hasn't been your forte lately.
Get out the calendar and let "X" mark the spot.
Pencil in a day for a studio open house, an artsy dinner party, or a full-fledged critique.
Mark a day of your choosing right now, before you lose the nerve.
My calendar? Well, I marked it weeks ago.
To ensure I stuck to my plan, I upped the ante by ordering postcard invitations from an area printer. Who knows! I may only have 5 people attend from my entire list, but in the end even those 5 will have served their purpose. Afterall, the real value of my opening is every day it nudged me back into the studio before my big night.
Sometimes, pressure really is a good thing.
TITLE: Being a Tool Head
DATE: 12/01/2005 05:48:00 PM
Most artists and craftspeople are really just big, tool heads.
They get jazzed about gadgets.
And, yep, I admit to being a tool geek too.
Last week I had a day that just didn't start so well.
So, what did I do? I went shopping! And because I'm not especially big on clothes shopping, I went to the hardware store to hang out and 'get happy' for a few hours. Hardware stores have a way of helping me refocus becuase I walk away with a big mental list of dozens of things I never knew I needed, but now can't live without.
My favorite new tool? An itty bitty butane pin torch. I love my tiny torch so much that everyone who walks into my studio gets a quick demo and my 'five points of light' on why, exactly, this gizmo is so great. I'm so head-over-heels in love that I've considered buying several. You know... just in case have a pin torch emergency, I'll always have a 'back up'? (Nah... I talked myself out of it to.)
So, what's YOUR favorite new tool?
Email me a quick note to share what has you jazzed these days in the tech department.
TITLE: Ending AND Beginning
DATE: 11/18/2005 06:53:00 PM
I've had some difficult personal questions I've been juggling lately.
The 2 questions that might sound most familiar to you...
- When is it the right time to spend more time in the studio and less time at your day job?
- How do you jump from being a working world, career climber to being a career artist?
- What does the sign look like that points toward spending more time making art?
My personal questions were answered over the past few years, as I worked with more and more artists who balanced their careers with art making.
On most accounts, I've had a luxury in this regard. I've been able to see so many models of how to dive into the studio and find success. But if helping other artists succeed before I've helped myself isn't pressure, then I don't know what is!
My answer to the questions above is that we all will have different answers.
Some of us want to do the show circuit.
Some of us want to have gallery exhibits and let others handle the business side of art making.
And some of us have career goals that mean just as much as our artistic goals.
I can assure you there is no magic, flashing sign!
I can also assure you that you won't wake up one day knowing exactly how to shuffle your priorities and feel secure with the path you've chosen. The challenge in being passionate about a dream is that you may always wonder what's on the other side of that dream.
For me, NOW is the time when I will strike a bigger balance. As of next Monday I will be stepping down from my full-time career role and stepping into a part-time position of flexibility. My studio will see my face more frequently. My work will reveal itself more quickly because I will finally have time and energy scheduled for it. And, who knows where it all will lead... but there will be some exciting new projects on the table soon too.
And... of course... this change will also now allow more time for me to post on my blog!
TITLE: Think BIG
DATE: 9/30/2005 06:04:00 AM
So, art isn't exactly the hottest commodity these days, eh?
Well, what have you considered changing in your repetoire? Are you willing to adjust your designs or price points? Are you interested in trying a new material or switching to a different medium?
And, what if I asked you to think BIG?
Public art isn't something to turn your nose up at. Public art commissions mean big dollars, long term projects, and, many times, an opportunity to work with a team of people who are experts in installation, lighting, landscaping, or even casting. Public art commissions extend budgets averaging between $10,000 and $100,000. Of course these opportunities don't come without hurdles. But, garnering a public art commission could lead to a stable new project on your horizon, isn't it worth at least a second glance?
As I write this, the following states have several lucrative public art opportunities available:
Florida :: Kentucky :: Oklahoma :: Missouri
You can also place your bio and information on file at one of many state, city, and county public art commission offices, like these:
Arizona :: Florida
This is, of course a sampling of opportunities, but doesn't it seem possible that if you think BIGGER and apply your creative energies to an 'out of the box' idea, it might just pay off by reviving your bank account and energizing your other work?
TITLE: Where is Your Light?
DATE: 9/29/2005 04:42:00 AM
I know a potter who has struggled for several years now. Juggling family and a business is not easy, but he has had additional burdens to bear.
His work sold well at a show last year and he finally had confirmation that his work was good--very good. After the drive home, though, the verdict wasn't so clear. Sure, his work sold well, but his prices were all wrong. He lost money in the end. He lost A LOT of money.
It nearly broke him, but he woke up each day for months and kept working toward his goal. This struggle required him to take an evening job at a grocery store. He kept his head high, despite this.
At a recent show I saw him every day for three days and each day he was easily the hardest working craftsman on his aisle in the show. He was up, animated, ready to go, smiling. Upon seeing me, he folded. Underneath all that effort was a man that was breaking. I left his booth each day seeing him with tears in his eyes. He was trying so hard. Even his wife was beginning to say, "Honey, pack it up. It's time to stop chasing this dream." Still, he took every piece of advice sent his way. Every day of the show he tweaked his signage, rearranged his shelves, rethought his approach. When he returned from this show, he again had confirmation of success. He had orders to fill and, thanks to his past lessons learned, he wasn't losing money on these sales.
Back at home, the potter now had to work out production problems. He could no longer rely on the uneven results of the gas kiln he owned. He also couldn't keep getting up in the middle of the night to drive several miles to the location where his kiln was housed. He used a friend's electric kiln and fired a handful of pieces with success. Now, he needed to find a way to afford the electric kiln, which would streamline his process and cut his costs (not to mention, his sleepless nights!). Still, he pressed on despite minimal sleep, the doubt of even his family, and the discouraging signs looming everywhere.
Then, one day, recently a letter arrived. His name was spelled wrong. The envelope could easily have been mistakenly tossed aside as junk mail.
In the envelope was a letter from a bank. The author of the letter seemed to be familiar with his story. The bank knew he needed a kiln, more time to develop his work, more opportunity to court craft retailers, more relationships with buyers,... a break. Having someone know his story and care enough to write a letter of concern meant a lot. But what gave him real pause was the $10,000 check from an anonymous donor that was attached to the lettter.
We can't all rely on faith alone to keep us pushing along toward out goal, and, unfortunately, we don't all have spouses to help us bear the load. At the end of the day, whatever our circumstances, we either have the energy to wake up and do it all again, or we don't.
But, isn't there somthing inspiring in the knowledge that others are dealing with the exact same strains, that we can lean on each other now and then, and that there is, somewhere/somehow, an inevitable light at the end of the tunnel?
TITLE: Monday Muse - Terese Agnew
DATE: 9/22/2005 05:22:00 PM
TITLE: An Unlikely Arts Ambassador
DATE: 9/22/2005 05:00:00 PM
Yes, it's true!
Even sock monkeys can be champions for the arts!!
There I was last weekend, at Tamarack in Beckley, West Virginia. The students were wide eyed. The weather was beyond gorgeous. The food was fantastic.
And, then there was the sock monkey that accosted me in the hallway... telling me all about art and craft traditions in West Virginia and just how many living artists there are that truly need support and mentoring.
Thank goodness we were in town to deliver just that with the Arts Business Institute.
Thanks, Artie, for bringing this important issue to my attention. I was happy to be in town to help. However, it made me even happier to hear about Tamarack's partnership with organizations in the local area to develop a resource center for working artists and creative small business owners!
TITLE: A Shrinking Arts Market?
DATE: 9/19/2005 04:43:00 AM
As I look around right now, I know more artists and craftspeople that are trying to turn art making and selling into their full time career. Does this sound like anyone you know?
At the same time, when I look around I also see more graduate arts administration, masters of arts in business, and master of fine arts programs then ever before. And according to my view, this mass of education and effort isn’t quite matched by sales figures, job options, or a widening art market.
Sure, all outward appearances LOOK great, but the art market appears to be narrowing.
Is this due to a lack of art buying confidence? Is this the result of a bigger economic picture? Or, is this the result of having more buying options than ever before?
A recent RAND study, while focusing on nonprofit arts and the fine art world, does still speak to the bigger picture artists and craftspeople work within today. The study offers several of the shallower pool in which we frequently find ourselves standing today. Click here to read a brief report on this research which, to quote them, “suggests that the visual arts picture isn’t as rosy as it first appears” and that the report tells “a story of rapid, even seismic change, systemic imbalances, and dislocation.”
Hmm… not particularly encouraging.
But, fact IS a far easier platform to plan and act from than the theories, wild guesses, and reactive disappointment we typically arm ourselves with.
TITLE: Getting and Giving
DATE: 8/23/2005 06:11:00 PM
I believe that we arrive at destinations in life thanks to many people along the way – some who help us directly, some who aide us by hurting us and unintentionally teaching us lessons about ourselves, and others who just pass by us like strangers in an airport.
This past week I have had the rare opportunity to slow my life down and step back a bit. And right there along side me were several key people who, through the openness of their hearts and homes, made it possible for me to take the journey I had to take. I needed to reacquaint myself with myself.
Sometimes these simple acts feel so big.
Generosity IS big. And it shouldn’t be taken lightly.
So, on my way to the airport I just let that emotion take me over. Generosity, it turns out, is the rocket fuel that allows us to tap into our dreams, renew our energy, and see parts of ourselves we might have long forgotten as the day-to-day takes over.
Surround yourself with people who can give you that gift.
And, hopefully, you will feel inspired to give that gift back to others.
Be generous today, tomorrow, and always.
- Be sure to choose mentors with honesty.
- Choose cheerleaders with objective opinions, free of bias.
- Try to aim for at least 1 person who is where you want to be.