Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: A Year of Beginnings!

flying over the water to the big city
 This has been a year of beginnings, of creating work in a new media and bringing it out into the world. I began painting on silk, inspired by the folk tales I learned while visiting my brother Steve and his wife Xiao Ning in China the summer before.
"Butterfly Lovers"
a painting on silk inspired by a famous Chinese story
In February,  I showed my first pieces painted on silk, at the Vashon Tea Shop.

The opening was well attended. I sold a small piece and received a wonderful commission for a large piece.

M first big commission in progress

This was my first large commission. I used symbols and images that resonated with the client to express her values.  It was a joy to do! I felt that I created beauty, meaning,  and value for my client.
"Flying Lessons"
painted on silk

May 30th I began Kelly Rae's ecourse, "Flying Lessons", on building a creative business. She shared so much of her process, that I felt I finally had a guide to creating an income with my art.

Encouraged by Kelly Rae's class, I chose to make hand painted silk scarves, as a product for people  not ready to buy a $900 silk painting. I started an etsy shop, got on the roster for Vashon Artists in the Schools, and began setting up teaching situations and participating in arts/crafts events.

at Strawberry Festival

*I shared a booth with my beautiful vivacious 86 year old  mother at the Strawberry Festival in my home town of Vashon
*I created a retrospective of my work for the Vashon Community Care Center with well over 100 pieces, including sketches and photos to show how my work developed
*I participated with  a booth in the local one day Holly Daze Bazaar
*I taught a workshop on silk painting in my studio, and scheduled classes for next year.

my studio on the Tour

*I opened my studio for the first time on the Vashon Island Art Studio Tour. I actually made money --unlike the times I participated in group shows. And it was lots of fun!

I got just enough of a taste of doing business as a creative to realize that I don't have a clue how to think about the business end of what I am doing. I realized that Kelly Rae's class showed me the trail ahead--but I still have a lot of work to do to walk this trail!

Golden Pathway
painted on silk

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Gingerbread Village

Santa's Cabin
Santa's Workshop

The Gingerbread Village was truly inspiring. Needless to say, next year, OUR gingerbread house will be just a little fancier!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Gingerbread Houses in Seattle

Our gingerbread house in process
Today we are going to see the Gingerbread Houses at the Sheraton in Seattle! I can't wait to post some pictures here.
Our gingerbread house finished

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!!!

It's Christmas Eve. Our local Thriftway is closed, and so are all the shops on the Island. No shopping until midnight Christmas eve here! But then, we are used to making do with what we have.

I've always wanted one of those beautiful Christmas Angels, all white and gold. I finally decided to make my own. I dug out my old Barbie doll, miraculously still with me after 40 years and almost as many moves. I dressed her in lace and gold cloth from Grannie's Attic (the thrift store), and perched her on top of my tree.

Yes!! She is queen of the Christmas tree and all that she sees, from the gingerbread house beneath the tree to the magic expandable walnut table-- to the dirty dishes in the sink.

Ah, and tomorrow the dishes will be clean and she will be queen of the festive gathering!


Gingerbread House

Mostly my gingerbread houses fall down or crumble when I try to build them, but this year I had help. I got the recipe from an expert, my friend Joy, who has been refining her technique for years.

Here is her recipe:
Cream 1/2 cup shortening, butter, or margarine together with 1 cup brown sugar (white works too) and 1/3 cup mollasses (I use dark).

In another bowl, sift together
 4 cups flour
 1 tsp each salt, baking soda, and powdered ginger
 1/2 each cinnamon and cloves

Have ready 1/2 cup liquid (Joy uses 1/4 cup rum and 1/4 cup water; I used a mixture of orange juice and water)

Add the powdered ingredients and the liquid to the creamed shortening and sugar in thirds. This  might take a little muscle toward the end. I didn't get it mixed together very well, but that didn't seem to matter. Joy says to chill this over night and roll it out cold, but she is a potter and uses her clay rolling machine to roll it out. The dough was hard as a rock when I took it out of the refrigerator.

Which is where my second expert came it. My strong son rolled out the dough while I cut the patterns for the walls.

Here is the recipe for the frosting/glue:
Beat 2 egg whites with 1/2 half teaspoon of cream of tartar until stiff but not dry
Sift into this 1 pound powdered sugar (1 box)
food coloring

To be honest, we did not beat the egg whites first, and it seemed to work OK.

                                                                              Notice the gingerbread man face down in the snow. My grand daughter tried to put him in through the window, but he didn't fit. I guess he tripped on the way out.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Two More Ornaments

Two more ornaments have arrived!
The lovely little one on the right is from Jennifer Lennox. It actually arrived several days ago, while I was immersed in the Studio Tour. This one will grace my tree for years to come!

The one below is from the very talented Sonya McCllough. I'll pack this one with extra care when the holidays are over, so that I can enjoy it for many years to come!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Studio Open: the Business of Art

Business Think. That's what I don't have. I don't have a clue how to think about things like how much stock to create for a show, how much to sell in order to make ends meet, how to place my work so that it sells. I've been "in business" now just long enough to begin to realize what I don't know.

Which is a LOT!

And I am SO hungry to learn it! But how?

A friend recommended I not go through the Washington Cash program. So of course that is what I am doing--after checking it out of course. Saturday I went to a workshop entitled Preparing for Business, which was actually an orientation/introduction to the program, and I applied to be in the program. I think I will be accepted.

The program is aimed at helping low income people to create businesses that will get them out of poverty. Poverty means earning less than $30,000 a year for one person. Hey, I qualify! The program teaches business basics, how to think about starting and running a successful business. It covers things like:
* figuring out what problem you solve for people (that's been a hard one for me lately), and who you want to serve (create for)
* how to get from the idea of how much money you want to make to how you really get there.
* communications,
*cash flow
*book keeping
*creating a business plan that actually helps you build a business.

The classes are one Wednesday a week with an optional Thursday "lab" for one on one work with a mentor.

And just in case this program doesn't teach me what I need to know, I also signed up for Mark Silver's class on "Opening the Money Flow". Mark focuses on building business from the heart, business that serves people. It is expensive, but I am that committed to learning.

This is the year I build the structure for my business. This is the year I learn Business Think.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Studio Visitors

It was such a joy to visit with friends who came to my studio during the Studio Tour! Some of them even braved the storm that flooded some of the streets and closed roads--and nearly washed out my driveway!

I was so impressed when my friend Kathy braved the winter weather, wheel chair and all, to visit my studio. She bought one of my favorite scarves to go with her dress from Dova Silks. I absolutely love the idea of one of my scarves being paired with one of Dorothy's beautiful silk dresses!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Value of Art

The studio ready for guests!
I've been eavesdropping on a conversation among arts organization managers and producers, on a blog by Diane Ragsdale. These people struggle to help non-profit arts organizations, theaters, museums, stay financially afloat, by persuading politicians to fund them. Their arguments for public funding must prove the value of the arts, and what is the value?

The value of art is a question artists struggle with constantly, wether we are trying to price a painting or trying to discover and develop our market. We know it is a human need. We know that art speaks to us, that it inspires and brings joy to the viewer. That it can broaden our understanding and build community. We know that life can be pretty drab without it.

Alan S. Brown has done some research on the effect of art on communities and individuals. He finds that potential effects of art (galleries, studios, and performances) include:

  • Personal development can include self-actualization, improved social skills, the ability to think critically, health and wellness, and others.
  • Among the economic and social benefits are tolerance, civic pride, economic impact, harm avoidance, and more.
  • In terms of human interaction, benefits can include more satisfying relationships, family cohesion, teamwork skills, and others.
  • Regarding communal meaning, the presentation outlines benefits such as community engagement, political dialogue, the transfer of values and ideals, a sense of belonging, and more.
  • The imprint of the arts experience can include social bonding, aesthetic growth, intellectual stimulation, emotional resonance, and others.

But how do we know these "potential" effects have happened? And how do we put a price tag on it? How do we even judge what is "good" art and what is not? And what  makes one piece of art better quality than another?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Rose scarf in Progress

Rose Scarf in process
I love these roses. They were inspired by the roses my friend Nina gave me. I did a painting of them for her, and used the photo to advertize my Studio for the Tour. Now I am using them in another way, on this 34" scarf. The white specks on the blue are salt crystals; I'll show you what they do later.

Nina's Roses,
Art Print of Silk Painting

Friday, December 10, 2010

Purple Butterfly Scarf: Art to Feed the Soul

My friend Carol fell in love with my butterfly scarf. She does workshops for caregivers and for people healing from grief, and wants to use this as an alter cloth. I'm SO pleased! Yes! That's where I want my art to go, to feed people's souls!

Purple and green have always been a healing color combination for me. Purple represents Spirit for many people, and green is the color of growing things. Since I was a child, blue and white together have always had a kind of "sacred" feeling for me.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Art Studio Tour: Fused Glass

Are those asbestos gloves she is wearing?
Kasia Stahancyk is a woman who does it all; she was raised on a farm, where she even learned to weld (She made the PuppyPaws sign for her studio). Now retired, she creates in two vastly different media; hard shiny fused glass, and soft cloth.

The technical side of fusing glass is fascinating. Kasia uses Bullseye glass from Portland, Oregon, in sheets, "stringers" (long thin rods), "frit "(ground glass), and confetti (paper thin flakes). Sometimes she incorporates copper between layers of glass.

She makes flat tiles, slumped dishes, vases, and even jewelry. The layers of glass are fused in a kiln heated to 1450 degrees.

On the other side of her large studio is the sewing area. Here Kasia creates nifty purses, laptop carriers, and even commuter cup holders using cloth remnants.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Art Studio Tour: Forget "Target Marketing"

"Gift of Roses" painted on silk

Persist and Prevail. Learn as you go. Big things --I mean oaks--from little acorns grow.

We had about two dozen visitors Saturday and sold about $150 worth of books, cards, and prints. Sunday, we had about a dozen visitors, and sold three cards and a scarf. Hmm.

I spent a lot of time between guests reading about marketing and thinking about who might buy my "product line", so I used the time productively. And it was SO nice to have such a beautiful space to be in.

When it comes to starting and running a business—especially a creative business—I know next to nothing. I mean, I’ve been stumped about knowing my “target market” for years. How the heck do I know who will buy my stuff  until enough people have actually bought something? Even the term “target market” sounds like a hunter with a gun, not a caring woman who creates beauty. 

"Flying Lessons" painted on silk
It was nice to have today, surrounded by my creations, to think about who seems to resonate with me and my work and why. Without the distraction of other booths, it was very clear who was attracted to my studio, simply by who took the trouble to park their car and come in. Most were people who already know me, or of me. I began to think of these people, of what I know about them, and what I might create with them in mind. What images will delight my friends? And how would they like to use them?

I find this a much more satisfying way to think of "marketing" and "product development" than the business advice I've been struggling with for years.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Art Studio Tour: Getting Ready

almost ready!
 Thursday morning the studio was trashed. How could it ever be ready to be on the Studio Tour by Saturday morning? I mean, I have a collection of cardboard boxes, about 100 little paper planters I planned to give to a gardening friend, a box of left-over preschool paraphernalia including x rays and teeth for our unit on health (from when my studio was my preschool classroom), and bags of newspapers for wrapping silks when I steam them. All of this had to find someplace to be before the doors opened this morning.

And somehow, everything found a place. Even the 8 small child sized wooden chairs! Ok, so some of it is in my car waiting to go to recycle, or the dump, or to my friend, but all of it is either out of the studio, or--Ha! hidden under tables behind festive Christmas tablecloths!

And somehow, I was able to create a place of peace and beauty to show off my silk scarves, my paintings, my cards, and my mother's books. Add some music, some hot tea or coffee, and crackers from the cookbook, and....
hospitality center

Everyone had a good time!

I loved seeing friends
silk paintings, watercolor paintings, and mono-prints
and showing them my art, whether they bought anything or not.

Enough people did buy so that I felt it was worth while. I'm looking forward to Sunday, and to next weekend, to see more friends, make more new friends, and sell more of my work.

And now the studio will be clean enough to invite friends over for Tai Chi on Wednesday mornings!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Art Studio Tour: Brain Fisher

Brain's work is about story, although the story only emerges after he has been working with the shapes and colors for awhile. The stories that emerge, informed by Brian's extensive reading, are most often rooted in mythology, especially Greek mythology. Why?

Brian in front of his printing press
"It's so pervasive," Brian says, "that it has become invisible.  Our movie plots are based on the conquering hero myth; the good society overcomes the bad society. Myth influences how we think now."

Brian want his art to stimulate questions. He is looking forward to the conversations his paintings and mono-prints will inspire during the tour.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas is what you make it

Christmas is where you find it--and what
you make it
 Trina Schart Hyman was a single  mom who had her share of lean times as she persued her illustration career. One of my favorite books of all time is Trina Schart Hyman's How Six Found Christmas.  I love the concept of finding Christmas in an abandoned wine bottle and of making Christmas out of almost nothing.

I suspect there will be many people this year who are wondering how to make Christmas happen with empty pockets.

I promised some interviews with artists who will be on the Vashon Island studio Tour. I haven't forgotten. I just haven't had time to put my thoughts together!

Next post will be about Brian Fisher, print artist and oil painter.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Studio tour:Purple Butterflies Scarf

Purple Butterflies Hand Painted Silk Scarf
This may be the last silk painting I do for the Tour. I'm running out of time, and man! I need to clean, organize, and decorate the studio! I just brought home all my watercolor paintings, mono-prints, and silk paintings from the show at the Vashon Community Care Center-100 images in all--and I've no place to put them!

One dear man bought one of my watercolors. I gave it to him for about half price, because I suspected he didn't have a lot of money, and he was so happy! Now he wants me to help him figure out where to hang it in his room at the Care Center!

I didn't expect the show at the care center to be a big seller; it was more to give people something cheerful to see and talk about, and to get everything up on the wall. People came up to me at the grocery store and on the street to tell me they had seen my show, and how much they enjoyed it! Probably more people saw this show than would have seen it anywhere else in town.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Art Studio Tour: Valerie Willson

I visited Valerie Willson in her studio a few days ago and found her doing--encaustic!

Valerie  is one of the few artists I know who makes her living as an artist. I knew her first as a print artist and oil painter, who set up the studio where I learned so many mono-print techniques. I love her vivid colors and organic shapes. Her work is elegant and beautiful.

 On Valerie's work bench I saw the brushes she uses, the wax colors, the heating plate, a heat gun. Valerie's walls were covered with intricate images printed on tissue, which she is incorporating into her encaustic (wax painting) work--some of the same images I have seen worked into her paintings.

"I have a library of around a hundred block prints," she explained. "When I sit at shows and art festivals, I carve them in "easy cut" and try to see how intricate I can make them."

Valerie's work has a unity, due partly to the vibrance of her colors, and partly to the way she uses these block prints in new ways in every medium she is working in.

I love this idea, of developing unique imagery... that sets one's work apart and defines it. I've already begun looking at my own work for images that I can develop in this way.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Blame it on the Snow

Four scarves dyed shibori fashion.
 I will add images to some of them later
Blame it on the snow. I had planned to post a profile every Monday on one of the artists I interviewed for a newspaper article on the Vashon Island Art Studio Tour. This Monday it snowed. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you know what even a little snow can do to our roads. I did manage to make it home safely Monday (my brakes failed on the ice coming down my hill), but totally forgot the post I promised. Then the power went out. Snow Days!!

I love snow days. It's quiet, and no one expects you to be anywhere. I burrowed down into my studio--well, actually I moved my studio upstairs where it was warm enough by the fire and light enough by the window to work while the power was out. No computer, no radio, no refrigerator noise. Just golden silence, and the occassional sound of a car sliding sideways down the icy road.

So here's some of what I did instead of the post I had promised. I'll post an interview tomarrow with Valerie Wilson. I'm already using some of her inspiration as I develop new images for scarves and silk paintings.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Holly Daze Bazaar

You should have seen the little girls smile when I asked if they like fairies and told them my xmas ornaments were fairies! I didn't know they were fairies myself, until another vender told me that's what they looked like to her!

Another vender lent me the tree branch to hang them from. Friends lent me the screen and the table cloth, and posed for my scarf models. People couldn't help smiling when they saw my models. Altogether it was a great experience, lots of fun, and I even made money!

It was a far cry from my first experience, when I sold nothing. I didn't do the bazaar for years after that, because I was afraid of another disappointing experience. What I didn't know at the time was that it is about the conversation, the interactions with people. That's where the fun is, the value--and creating interactions can also create sales.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The impossible Garden--Presist and Prevail

Next year I want roses blooming in the bed I just created. Little bit by little bit, I am creating my garden, my art, my life.  Sometimes it all seems like too much. Other people's needs take my time and energy, or I just plain get discouraged. So I've adopted the mantra, "persist and prevail".

Anything one does in this world is fraught with competition. Too many people are already doing the thing I want to do, and getting noticed seems like an impossible task. Have you SEEN how many people are doing hand painted silk scarves? How many are doing fabric design (another big idea I had)? How  many people want to write  children's books and be published (a looong time dream of mine)?

Persist and prevail.

My writing teacher, my mentor, Alice Orr, gave us a lesson on being
published. You make your work the best. You send out submissions.
You get rejected, "blooded", says Alice. You send out more
 submissions. You persist until you prevail. You don't give up.

And I would say, you hold the vision. You prepare the beds and you keep in your mind the vision of the roses you want there. You send the submissions, and you file the rejections and keep sending out the submissions, and you keep the vision of being published. You send out examples of your art in what ever medium you are working, and you keep sending out the art,  and you keep the vision of having your work accepted for licensing, or of developing a loyal base of people who like your work enough to buy it.

Persist and Prevail.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ornament Exchange: Two more!

Two more ornaments came from my Flying friends ornament exchange!

 This one is from Kris Johnson, Manitowoc, WI. The bell introduced itself with a jingle before I ever opened the package! Thank you Kris!!

It has the feel of an old fashioned Christmas!

This sweet little snowman is from Dayle Achatz Micoff of Chelsea, MI. He has "buttons" down his back as well, and looks like he is ready to party! Thank you, Dayle!

 Dayle does Curlie Girlie  personalized jewelry and design. Check out her some of her jewelry here.

The ornaments are, of course resting on one of my hand painted silk scarves.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Shibori Technique: Itajima with Terri Fletcher

Silk scarf tied in the Itajima fashion for dying
and scarf dyed in that fashion
Shibori is a Japanese process of "tie dying" silk, a process I use on my silk scarves. Itajima is a particular type of shibori, where a solid shape such as a circle of wood is pressed onto the cloth to keep the dye from penetrating in certain places. Terry Fletcher uses a cirle or square of smoothed plexiglass, held in place by two pieces of wood tied together tightly, to make an undyed circle or square.

The scarf in this photo has been dyed the lighter orange, then  folded and tied in the manner shown, with a plexiglass circle. The bundle is then dipped into the darker dye, leaving the lighter circles.

8 of 80 Souls
Sometimes Terri cuts shapes from foam core (used in framing paintings) to make the shapes that block the dye. In the piece at the right, 8 of the 80 souls, she discharged the black dye, potecting the areas to remain black by covering tightly with foam pieces cut in the frame like shape.

Sometimes Terri adds beads, buttons, or sewing, or  dyes on paper instead of cloth. Lately she has started adding a layer of encaustic to some of her work, to add a sense of translucence and depth.

What intrigues her? The rythm of shapes repeated,  she says, and the technical aspects of the work.

Miniature Wood Chair by Karen Hurst

Terri Fletcher's Studio will be on the Vashon Art Studio Tour the first two weekends of December 2010. Karen Hurst, who spins and does wood working will be joing Terri, along with Nadine Edelstein, who does smalti tile and jewelry.