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.