As I mentioned in my last post, my daughter Sonja has had a huge influence on my development as an artist. Sometimes that influence comes in unexpected ways. A few of my latest projects have come about because of gifts she has given me of her son Tyler's artworks.
For my birthday this past June, she gave me four 8" x 10" rectangles of fabric that Tyler had painted on.
I set them aside in order to work on more pressing things. Though I was working on other projects, the fabrics were not forgotten. I was mentally trying out various ideas for how to use them for something special. As you can see, Tyler is very exuberant in his art and Sonja continues to encourage him. From time to time she sends us some of his drawings. Lately he has been working hard on circles.
Perhaps about a month ago I finally had one of those "Aha" moments when I realized what I wanted to do with my Tyler fabric. The first thing I decided was that I could combine his fabric paintings and his drawings. I printed copies of his art on 8-1/2" x 11" paper so the designs would fit on my fabric. Then I used my marking transfer paper from my sewing projects and traced the designs onto my fabric pieces.
I love to have hand-stitching projects to work on evenings when I am watching TV. So my next step was to chain stitch over the lines of the designs. I chose colors to match what Tyler had used. I used some of my Stef Francis hand-dyed perle cotton which has such lovely gradations in the colors.
It was so much fun. Sometime into this process I finally decided that I would make these embroideries into pillow covers so that they could be enjoyed day-in and day-out. I am working on my third right now. Here are the first two I have finished.
It makes me so happy to feel that Sonja, Tyler and I have collaborated on these even though we are miles apart.
This is the first in my series of posts about people and things that have influenced my artwork. I am starting with credit to my daughter Sonja. She deserves a large share of the credit (or blame) for my transformation from hobby quilter/sewer to an artist - who is now pretty comfortable referring to myself that way.
As many, probably most of you know, Sonja and I have worked together for many years. We started Friends Fabric Art back in 2002 and have managed to keep it together in one form or another ever since then. When I moved to Virginia, we thought we'd have to give up on this formal partnership, until we conceived of this blog as a way to keep it alive. (And more recently we added our Etsy shop which carries work from both of us.) Through the blog we have a way to communicate with each other and with you about our art. (As those of you with children know, uninterrupted phone conversations about adult issues are almost impossible with a toddler in the house.)
After being so far apart for a while we found we needed still more connection and a way to share the process of making art not just talking about it. I came up with the idea of doing a traveling journal. Sonja and I had been a group that did these many years ago and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Sonja liked the idea and she expanded it, suggesting that we involve Tyler as well. They like making art together and we certainly want to encourage his enjoyment of it. So we began. They did the first two pages and sent it to me for additions.
We have three pages so far. We are working in a board book with black pages. This is the first page. Sonja painted the swirl design over a page that had been "textured" with squares of glued on paper. I added the flower motif--from a hand-painted card that Sonja had given me. It was too beautiful to throw away. I thought the colors and motif coordinated well with this page - and Sonja had said she thought the page needed something.
Here's page 2 - Tyler's page. He loves to create collages with a glue stick and bits of colored paper that Sonja cuts up for him. I filled in some of the empty space on the page with pieces cut from a (used) card that I had made. The colors and textures in the card seemed to pick up on the bits of paper that Tyler had used. We'll see if Sonja adds any touches in the next round.
Here's page 3 - that I started with bits from each of us. I cut motifs from Tyler's artwork - painting and coloring - for the background. I then added the stylized leaves, again cut from hand-made cards that Sonja had given me. Lastly, keeping with the leaf theme, I added the skeleton leaves. We have each contributed to the page.
The journal will go in the mail to Sonja later tonight and I'll wait anxiously to see what will come back.
In my next post I share details of another joint artwork that Tyler and I have created together. Remember that you can sign up on our home page if you'd like to receive emailed notices of new posts.
I have been thinking a lot lately about my connections to other artists and how various people have influenced my art. One of the things that came to mind was an art history talk about Picasso that I attended some years ago. It was hosted by my friends, Joan and Arnie--my neighbors at that time. The talk was given by one of the professors at UMass Lowell. Sadly I've forgotten her name.
For me one of the most memorable things from the talk was a question from one of the others in the audience. The professor had been talking about various other artists who had influenced Picasso's work. This person asked the professor "How do you know that these artists influenced his work?" There seemed to be an implicit challenge in the question. It seemed to suggest that you couldn't really know whether these other artists had had an influence unless Picasso himself had credited them or you could point to some clear similarities in their work.
At the time, I thought to myself that the person raising the question clearly had no experience creating art within an artistic community. I knew from personal experience that if an artist works in such a milieu, he or she cannot help but be influenced by the other artists. (At the time I was working at Western Avenue Studios--within a community of literally hundreds of other artists.) You'd have to be comatose not to react to your surroundings.
I also know that sometimes it is easy to trace how you've been influenced by other artists or artistic works, but sometimes it can be very difficult. Some influences are very subtle. Sometimes an influence goes through so many changes or iterations that the original spark is hard to identify. That doesn't mean that that first spark wasn't important. Part of the artistic process is always working to make something of your own, not a copy of another's work.
For my next few blog posts I am setting myself the challenge identifying for myself some of the other artists who have influenced my work, giving them credit and trying to tease out some of the ways that they have helped me. I hope you'll stay tuned. Maybe you're on my list.
I knew it was time for another post, but I didn't realize just how long it had been since my last post till I sat down to write this new one. I guess I have been busy.
Most of my creative time has been spent on Free Lace Scarves. The last time I wrote, I was pondering possible alternative names for those scarves. I had been wondering whether I could figure out something better to call them that would help me get traffic when I got them up on Etsy. Somehow that issue has fallen by the wayside as I have not managed to produce enough to get them up on Etsy. It is not that I haven't been producing them; it's just that all the ones that I've made have gone to bricks-and-mortar stores. Since that last post, two more stores near me have started carrying them. Woo hoo!
Yesterday, I delivered scarves, pillows and jackets to a store in Newport News - Pop-Shop by Jo Louise. For 13 years now, three friends--Jo Louise, Chrys, and Joelle--have set up a seasonal gift store in an empty store front during the holiday season. It is open for the months of November and December carrying the work of approximately 100 artists. I learned about it at the first marketplace event I participated in since moving to Williamsburg. The woman next to me had been participating for several years and thought it would be a good venue for me. I sent them an email with a link to our website and it went from there.
When I brought my work in yesterday, they made me feel like an old friend. Yesterday was the first day that they were accepting work. It was clear that they'd already spent a great deal of time getting ready, painting walls and display furniture, arranging furniture, etc. Even at this early stage it was clear that they have a flair for display. Their opening reception happens in less than two weeks. I can hardly wait to see the transformation. I'll take pictures to share in my next post.
In the meantime I am continuing to create new scarves. I have a huge stash of fabrics, yarns, fibers and scraps that call to me and suggest new ways of combining them. For my last scarf I (finally) decided to incorporate some of the throwsters waste that I've ignored for years now. I was so pleased that I'm going to do a few more with it. I just love the way you can take a pile of scrap and create something truly beautiful from it. Here's the before and after.
This finished scarf is now at the Pop-Shop. I've started another one today. I'm getting ready for the holiday Small Works show at the Williamsburg Contemporary Art Center that opens November 14. Better keep sewing. I still hope to put some scarves on Etsy soon too.
I've been organizing art supplies on weekends lately. Last night I sorted through some random bits of molded and painted model magic and air dry clay that I had made years ago. I must have been inspired by Maggie Grey's "Raising the Surface with Machine Embroidery" book at the time. The random bits inspired today's rainy day art project. I got out the air dry clay, a bunch of stamps, and some bits of copper, fused Angelina fibers, and Glitterati film. Tyler and I had a great time playing with it.
I started embedding thin bits of sheet copper in the piece of clay that I was molding so Tyler decided to do the same thing. His creation on the left below got smooshed and turned into something else shortly after I took the photo. We'll have to paint the final creations another weekend since the clay has to air dry two to three days first.
I still have to figure out what I'm going to do with all the other molded bits.
My next big art event is coming up this Saturday when I participate in the Yorktown Art Stroll. I have been working steadily to build up my inventory of Free Lace Scarves to have enough to display and to put up in our Etsy store soon.
I love working on these scarves. In the design phase I revel in the mix of colors and textures of the fabrics and yarns that I use. During the machine-stitching phase, I enjoy thinking about what colors I want to use next or about other projects in progress or planned. The stitching is repetitive enough that I can use the free space in my mind to puzzle out any issues I am dealing with.
This week I have been puzzling out what product descriptors I will use when I put my scarves on Etsy. I have always called them "Free Lace." It's the term used by the instruction book I bought so many years ago. Lately, though, I have been wondering if that is the best term to use. If I use the term in a search in Etsy, Instagram, Google, etc., all I ever come up with are knitted or crocheted scarves. I wonder if that is a problem, or is it an asset that mine are so different.
I am having trouble thinking of alternate descriptors. One I came up with is Confetti Scarves. If I Google that, the scarves I see are somewhat similar to mine - at least the ones I make with small fabric shapes, but many of mine are made with yarns or ribbons. The term doesn't see to me to fit those scarves well. If I search for Ribbon Scarves, I don't come up with anything like mine.
I could use some help coming up with some good search terms for them. Here are some pictures of some of the scarves.
What descriptor terms could you suggest for these??
Last weekend I participated in my first art fair type of event here in Virginia. The development I live in had a 30-year anniversary celebration of its founding. Part of it was the marketplace I signed up for. I had no idea what to expect of it, but thought it would be a good way to meet some of the neighbors and start getting my work out there. The venue is only a couple of miles down the road from my house and the table fee wasn't very much, so it was an easy decision. I brought pillows, dyed silk scarves and art cards so the set-up would be easy too.
I am very glad it did it. If I'd measured my results based on sales, I would have been very disappointed. But I'd gone into it with no real expectation of selling anything, my hope was to make connections. On that score I was successful.
My neighbor at fair also made art-to-wear. She was impressed with my work and she came up with a couple of recommendations of places for me to go after. One place she told me about was a small gallery in Yorktown that sponsors an annual Art Stroll right down on the waterfront. As it turned out, we were planning to meet our son for lunch at a restaurant right there the very next day. I was able to check out the gallery and on a whim asked about participating in the stroll--which takes place in just two weeks. To my surprise I was able to get a spot. I couldn't get a space in the building - my first choice, but they did have a space in their big tent. So I jumped on the opportunity - might as well go into this with both feet. I'll need a bigger, more elaborate display for this one. So I've got some work to do, but I'm excited.
My neighbor was very inspirational as well as giving me concrete advice. She told me early on that she is 83 years old...and still doing lots of fairs and events. She had her daughter with her on Saturday, but usually she said she does it all on her own. So with good luck, I've got quite a few years yet and it'll be worth my time investment to check out these venues.
On with my plans...
I recently read Shawn Achor's "The Happiness Advantage." It was recommended in my Operational Behavior in Healthcare graduate course. I read it cynically expecting it to be all fluff while hoping it wasn't. I was very "happy" to find there was a lot of substance to it. It focuses generally on work success, but Achor's "principles" can be applied to life in general. Having tried one of Shawn Achor's recommendations for several months now, I can actually say that the book has helped me start to form a new habit. His details of numerous studies to back up his recommendations in his book helped to convince me that the book wasn't all fluff. (Not that I don't like a good dose of fluff once and a while...)
Achor discusses forming new habits in his "Principle #6: The 20-Second Rule" chapter. He resonated with me when he says "The reason willpower is so ineffective at sustaining change is that the more we use it, the more worn-out it gets
(Shawn Achor's "The Happiness Advantage," page 152)."
I am someone who has tried to change my habits through will-power and has failed almost instantly. His solution is to make changing your habit as easy as possible. I wanted to have more art in my life again. My interpretation of how to do this was to make it as easy as possible to draw something each day. I didn't have to draw anything specific and it didn't have to be good. My initial goal was to draw just three lines each day. I attached a black drawing pen to by small sketchbook and left it in the bag I take to work with me.
I made it about as easy as I could to draw. I wouldn't have to find something to draw on because it was always in my bag. I wouldn't have to go digging for a pen because it was always attached to the sketchbook.
I haven't drawn every day. I definitely lost the habit some over vacation. I have done tons more drawing than I would have if I had not made it easy for myself. I have even expanded beyond just three lines with a black pen. I have been drawing with markers and colored pencils after work or at other random times. Tyler has joined in with me at times. The third drawing here has his contribution with the squiggly black lines that overlay the leafy almond shape drawing.
This drawing on the left, I like to refer to as Tyler's totem pole. He was having fun drawing eyes and mouths. I wonder if he was remembering Mom's photo of a totem pole in Alaska. He likes using markers or "mah-mers" in toddler-speak.
I've now moved my tiny watercolor paint set and watercolor cards to a super-easy to access location in the living area of our apartment. I'm planning ways to make it easier to access other art supplies, too. Keeping scissors, pins, needles, tiny beads, and what not out of reach of a toddler adds an extra challenge to the planning. I think I've figured out a workable solution. There are some drawers in the front closet that are going to get repurposed.
How can you make it easier to form a new "happiness" habit?
After updating Sonja on my latest travails this morning, I realized that I should share this experience with a larger audience. It is something others might run into and perhaps I can help someone else avoid the panic I went through. Here's the story.
As I said in my last post, I am getting ready for a small show tomorrow morning. It's mMy first time for face-to-face selling here in Virginia. On Wednesday I set out to update my Square account to be sure that I'd be able to accept credit cards. To my chagrin, I discovered that I'd accidentally deleted my login details from my LastPass account.
Usually that's not a huge deal, you just request a password reset. Which I promptly did - several times. The problem was that the promised email with instructions never showed up. Not in my inbox. Not in spam.
I sent an email about the problem to tech support. Got an automated response that said it might take 1-3 days for them to get back to me. One day, okay. Three days, a big problem. Tried to call tech support, but in order to get them to speak to you, a customer code is necessary. Which you get by logging in to your account. I was getting concerned. By mid-day Thursday with no response from tech support, I was beginning to panic. (I have gallery duty most of today so I couldn't wait much longer.)
Then, on a whim, I decided to go through all my gmail folders to see if somehow the needed email was in a weird place. That was my stroke of luck. I found the password reset email in a folder labeled Important. It sure never occurred to me to look for something like this when all the alerts remind you to look at your spam folder as well as your inbox if your message is "lost."
On the face of it, a folder for important emails makes some sense. But the kicker is that this is not a folder I set up myself, nor do I have any control over what goes into it. And messages apparently go there directly without ever hitting your inbox. Thus I have ever even noticed it was there. I have to click on More to even see it. It also does not flag that it has new emails in it in the same way that the rest of the folders do - with the number of new emails in parenthesis by the label. I discovered today that apparently the title turns red when there are new emails in it. (Today it is gray, yesterday it was red.) Next time I'll know. Right now I still have a bad taste in my mouth.
So - am I the only gmail user who was unaware of this Important folder/function????
PS - My square account is now all up-to-date and I'm ready for tomorrow - I think.
I am getting back to my work this week. We enjoyed a long visit from my daughter, son-in-law and 2-year-old grandson last month. As you can imagine it takes a few days to come down to earth again afterward. This morning I have been spending my time ironing and thinking about shipping costs for on-line orders.
I have been ironing because I am participating in a marketplace event this Saturday at Fords Colony where we live. All our silk scarves have been packed away for several months now. They need pressing to be ready for display. They'll all need relabeling now too. I have to update the labels to reflect our new location and contact information. I am managing to fit in some creative work this week, but there is a great deal of house-keeping I need to do to be ready for this event. I have not participated in any in-person selling events since I left Western Avenue Studios at the end of April.
I have been thinking about shipping costs because I read an interview with Josh Silverman, CEO of Etsy this morning. In the interview he answered several questions posed by Etsy sellers. The issue of "free" shipping came up several times.
One of the things that drew me to Etsy as the platform for our new on-line sales venture was the enormous amount of help available. Etsy provides a great deal of assistance in helping sellers maximize their sales. As a professional market researcher in a prior life, I appreciate the value that good data can provide - and I understand the need to pay attention to it. Etsy has the size and dollars to collect types of information that I could not afford on my own.
Today's key information for me was that on-line customers are increasingly unwilling to pay an additional charge for shipping. Needless to say, the whole idea of "free" shipping raises the hackles of small merchants. There are very real out-of-pocket costs for shipping items to customers. In all our years of selling fiber art supplies on line, we always passed through our shipping costs as an additional charge. We believed that we were being transparent and that customers should understand what they were paying for.
I have to admit that I have reconsidered my position based on the Silverman interview. He was very matter-of-fact in saying that "this is what customers are telling us." You can choose to build those costs into your prices or not, but if you choose not to, it may hurt your sales. In my mind, it boils down to--do you listen to the customers or not. My market research days tell me that it's always best to listen to the customers and respond the best you can.
So one of my housekeeping tasks for the next few days will be to figure out my best estimates for shipping our various items and update their prices accordingly. I realize that one way of being transparent is showing the customer right up front what the total cost of the product will be. I also realize that if I build in the shipping cost, I will have a standard way to ship each item which will streamline my processes. A "win-win" situation, as they say.
Here's my grandson telling me "Get to work Grandma Ann."