Friday, November 18, 2011

Artful Organizing

Recently my friend Becky, of Seattle Rainwater Soap Company, posted on Facebook that she had just gotten a new cabinet for her soap making supplies. She had recently moved and was getting her new work space organized. Just the mention of this sent me into a frenzy of organizing. This week the studio was in good shape, but thanks to Becky I cleaned out the spice cabinet in my kitchen and an entire closet in the living room. 

Okay, I'll confess. If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm a bit compulsive about organization. In my studio prints are ready to mount, finished clock faces in a cabinet, magnets, bookmarks and alarm clocks and labels are all organized in alphabetical order on the shelves. Paints and beads and pencils are organized by color. I have lists on the wall of where to find things that are not in plain sight.
Not that my studio doesn't get messy. Oh, believe me - it does. 
All the time.

But then there is always a moment after days or a week of being absorbed in other things, when I look up from my painting table or computer, look around the studio and see what I perceive as chaos and I suddenly feel completely and totally frazzled. It's a neurotic reaction I'll admit, but I Cannot Do One More Thing, I cannot focus or relax until everything is back in order. 
So the cleaning frenzy commences. 
I love feeling organized, but what I love even more is finding ways to make the supplies decorate the studio when I organize them. 

For instance, these beads just make me happy, sitting in 
their little containers. I leave them out even when I'm not working on a bead project, I love the way they look so much.

And when I found this amazing magic bookshelf for my art books, I was thrilled. The growing pile, while neatly stacked, felt like it had been cluttering my painting table for years. Now, suddenly, they became part of the decor. (By the way, you can get this wonderful bookshelf that makes a stack of books float on your wall at the MOMA store)
And Ikea! Don't even get me started on Ikea. That's where I got these great little drawers for organizing my acrylic paint, not to mention a myriad of other cool little boxes, notebooks, filing supplies and all of my office and studio furniture, including the kitchen island I use for storing supplies and packing orders.
I was looking online yesterday for new ideas and found these. I love them! (If I knit or did textiles, all of my walls would be used for displaying and storing my colorful supplies.) These are actually wine racks. Now how clever is that?
I'd love to hear your studio organizing ideas and solutions. (and if you can post a link to pictures, even better!)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Absolutely nothing to do with Crafts or Business

This has nothing to do with crafts or business. But it's so much fun I had to share. 
I just got the new iphone, and for those of you who aren't aware, it comes with a voice command feature called Siri. It's so smart it's scary. If you haven't yet seen the video watch it here before reading on: Siri Demo
So you get the idea, right? After asking Siri to text friends and call my brother, look for coffee shops near my house and being completely impressed with how brilliant it was, I decided to see how she responded to other questions. The responses I got were so funny, I started scanning the phone so I could share the responses. These are even funnier when you hear her speak her replies, but I hope you'll enjoy them. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

From Head to Hands

I've always been curious about other people's creative process. 
When I paint a new design I generally only have a basic idea to start. So I start drawing it in pencil, usually doing a few versions before I settle on one that I like. Once I know I'm happy with it, I outline it in ink. Those steps are a relatively simple process, although it often takes a couple of weeks. But when it comes to the color, for some reason that's a much more organic process. I start by painting the first one or two colors and then I have to leave it alone for anywhere from an hour to a few days. 
When I come back I can usually clearly see what the next color or few colors should be. I paint one or two more areas and then I need another break. Again, I'll walk away, let it sit, come back later and add more color. This process takes days or sometimes even up to a few weeks of doing small sections, walking away and coming back over and over again as the design reveals itself to me. 
I can never envision the finished design ahead of time. For me it feels like the painting tells me where to go....
I have always wondered if it's like this for other artists, so I asked  my friends. I wanted to know, do they start with sketches? Can they see it fully formed in their head before they start working on it and recreate it exactly as they see it? Or do they take it a step at a time like I do? I got so many great replies, I decided to share them here.  These responses are from wonderful artists all over the country. You can read their responses and visit their websites to see what they do:

Marienela Borsten, Nela CeramicsIn my media you need to have something envisioned in your mind. Sometimes I don't draw but usually I like to sketch the shapes first. Then I kinda go from there. When it comes to color (glaze) that's another thing and I've had a lot of pieces sitting for months if not years waiting to be "dressed". I've found that the whole process goes faster when I get to "see" the finished piece in my mind. Otherwise, I just ask the piece what it wants to be.

Charlotte Behrens, Charlotte Arvelle Glass
The work comes to me in different ways. Sometimes I see the shape and the color follows and that's usually quite quick on that. Other times like some of the larger pieces it's in my head for days, weeks or months where I can "see" it. Kinda hard to explain. I can usually look up and see it in space in front of me. I've been caught "drawing" in the air with my fingers working on the piece while it's in my head. I think about that design until it's done and when I draw it out it's done. What's weird is that on of my close friends can "see" what I'm drawing in space even the colors sometimes without me saying it. Now that's crazy huh?

Kate Van Herik Tonguis, Sinistra Studio
When I'm dry on inspiration I look at work anywhere I can find it. Then I let what I saw sink in for about a week. It morphs into something else in my head before I make it. I have always thrown my work in my head before I sit down at my wheel so that I have the pitfalls ironed out before I begin. Glaze is something else - sometimes the pot tells me, sometimes the client tells me.

Charan Sachar, Creative with Clay 
I am always drawing and doodling new forms for my work and new patterns for my decoration. The forms always remain at the back of my mind and I am always thinking how I can make them. The form, the construction, the process and if extruded then making the die all require a lot of planning. But the cool thing is that after all that planning and extruding my form, the new gestures and curves give me ideas to change things or make something else out of it than what I intended. It is a very dynamic process for me.

Coni Brown, Coni's Cabins Beach Bum Gallery 
I do wholesale work for shops in south Fl. 15 yrs.- whimsical beach art paintings on signs, cabinets, lazy susans, tables, etc. I draw whatever beach scenes pop into my mind...then paint sky & water and leave the fun colors on beach houses, boats, clotheslines, etc. for the end!

Cathy Wallace Crain, Crain Art Studio 
If I have a construction problem, I stay in bed in the morning with my eyes closed and figure it out. It is that place between sleep & awake...always works for me. I visual virtually everything I do. I rarely draw it out. After the first hr. or so, they take on a life of their own and tell me what to do.

Joanna Craft, Joanna Craft Jewelry 
I keep notebooks of doodles and ideas that inspire me. Sometimes I do a more refined sketch of an idea, but mostly I just start working with metal and see how it evolves. These days, though, with the price of silver, I usually do the rough version in copper first!

Dee Jannsen, Dee Jannsen Glassworks
i also have a thing about designing new pieces in my head while I'm trying to fall asleep or just after i wake up. then i try to write it down before the details escape me. i have a notebook for that and a new notebook for potential jewelry cast designs that incorporate my glass as a "stone". M

Mark Rosenbaum, Rosetree Glass
 don't do a lot of drawings. I figure out what I want to do, and work it out through the glass. I find that with drawings, I work through the piece and almost seem to skip steps to get to the end piece. Working directly with the material keeps the dialogue going with me and the glass. I think a lot while I am working on other pieces (mindless production). I am working right now on a series of large fruits and vegetables for a new restaurant and I am deconstructing the pieces and then writing down steps to make them look real, but not sketching them.

Amy Peters, Amy Peters' Studio
I do both sketching or working directly with the metal. But sometimes I do the marketing material first. I know...I'm a total marketing geek. But sometimes it's as much about the story and the packaging as the piece.

Angelika Traylor, Angelika Traylor Stained Glass
With my large panels, lamps & commission work I go through days of drawing, rarely sit, mostly pace and constantly walk away from it, I always feel like a caged tiger, very intense. It goes from a rough idea to a sketch then to a full sized drawing, lots of corrections, then all colored in so I don't lose my way when cutting the glass. The small things for my gift line are like play, nice and easy, I sketch it out and refine it, usually can tell if it will be a good seller.

Geri Comstock, Comstock Art Glass
It depends on what I'm making. I spent several months designing and drawing the sterling and fused glass flatware I made. There were a number of fabrication issues that had to be worked out on paper before I could start fabricating the sterling. The matching goblet designs came out of my head without drawing. The rest of my work comes from playing with glass and silver until I get a good feeling about it and make it without drawing anything.

Sandra Kevin - Sandra's Satchels
I have never used a pattern for my satchels. The best advice I ever received was from a sculptor, who said, "let the fabric tell you what it wants to be". My process also involves selecting fabrics. My fabrics select me. It is usually a"love at first sight" reaction. Now and then I have selected something without being head over heals in love with it, but not so much any more. Like any relationship, if it doesn't feel right, down to my toes right, I usually don't get it. Sometimes I'll buy a button and wonder why I bought it, and a week or two later, the fabric that cries out for that button appears. Funny thing, I think the handbags, fabrics and buttons choose me. I feel like I'm just along for the ride. Most of creating is to keep my head out of the way, and just dance with it.

Thanks to Mark Rosenbaum for suggesting the title of this post!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My silly little Journal

Once again too long has passed. Once again, I apologize. And here I am thinking of starting a new blog. Who am I to think I can pull that off when I neglect this one so much? 
Well, here's the thing. I recently started journaling again and am now adding little drawings and doodles that express my thoughts, some personal, some meaningful, some just silly. It feels great to express myself in this way, and I thought it might be fun to share them in their own blog. (I'd be better at updating it, since I journal all the time...) Here's a little preview. I'd love to know what you think. 

Is this a blog you'd follow and/or tell your friends about? 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

You Can't Hurry Love

Coming up with a new idea never happens when you are looking for it. It always, at least for me, happens out of the blue and at some inconvenient time. 

And that's how my new night lights were born. Now, to be honest I have wanted to make night lights for as long as I've been in business. I fell in love with the idea years ago and have a box full of at least 8 failed attempts in my attic that turned out to be too much work, too expensive, or just plain ugly. (I always save botched prototypes for future exploration) So this is not the first time this idea surfaced, it's just the first time it took hold of me and wouldn't let go. 

And once again, just as with the magnetic bookmarks, the obsession took hold a month before a wholesale show and once I knew I had to create them I was determined to have samples for ACRE. SO. The past month has been predictably frantic and fraught with mishaps. The designing of the night light covers, while all consuming for the first week, went pretty well. I found a way to make them out of my art sandwiched between two sheets of acrylic. But the rest has been a bumpy ride.

I ordered 100 night lights from a place I trust and as soon as they got here, took every single one out of it's individual blister pack and put it in a bin. That was my first mistake. I didn't notice until a week later when I was trying to put them together that they were cheap imports and the clip that attaches the cover to the light didn't fit. The cover spins and flops around like a ring on your finger after you've lost 50 lbs. So now I've got 100 night lights I can't use and can't return. 
Great start, Corwin.

Meanwhile, I still had to get them photographed so I can get them on the website before I leave for the show. So I made one of each design anyway, and got them to my wonderful photographer, Aaron, who had agreed to fit me in for a rush job so I could get the images online before my show next week. He was a trooper about dealing with the covers twirling on the base and super tight deadline. (And as I write this, I realize I should have just superglued the clips on the light to make it easier for him even though that would render them unsellable afterwards).

With just one week until I leave for Las Vegas, I spent the better part of a day calling night light suppliers, only to find that almost no one carries the black lights I want. The places that have a great price on them are out of stock until July and the ones who have them in stock are way too expensive. Apparently (who knew?) there is a night light shortage in this country. The black ones are so scarce that I had to order 250 dark brown lights (they swore they look black!) from one place and 500 black lights from another (much more expensive place), cleaning out both of those suppliers.
Oh, did I mention I had to have them shipped 3 Day Air so I could get them in time? Ouch.

Then, because the black lights are hard to get, I had to pre-order (and pre-pay)1500 of them to get them reserved so they can be drop shipped from the manufacturer when they are made later this summer.

To make matters worse, I calculated my prices based on the cost of the crummy ones that I had every reason to believe would work just fine. AND I already, in my hurry to cover every detail before the show, printed signs for the booth, designed and printed catalog sheets and sent out emails based on that price.

Oy. Learn from my mistakes, my friend. It is too late for me.

Now I'm poised to go to Vegas in a few days and take orders for a product I can't even start making until the day before I leave. I'll get it done. You can bet I will. I won't sleep much and I'll be stressed, and worried and crunching numbers in my sleep. I'll take a little hit on my profits. But at least you'll learn from me. Take this as a cautionary tale. 

Do your homework first.
Don't jump the gun.
Test before you print catalogs, signs, send out an email blast... and then test again. 

And then hold your breath and jump.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Hopelessy Addicted - my new love

A few months ago my friend Tom Anderson sent me information about The Landfill Art Project. Founded by Ken Marquis, The Landfillart Project is an international effort inviting 1,041 artists to create fine art from a reclaimed hubcap. The goal is to create a traveling show of 200 of the hubcaps and to publish a book on the project showcasing all one thousand forty one completed “metal canvases.” The book and traveling show will publicly portray the global art community's effort to positively impact the environment through repurposing metal waste into great landfillart.

If you've been following my blog you know that I have recently become obsessed with the beadwork of the Huichol Indians and have been beading my heart out creating lamps, bowls and boxes for the past year. I was so excited about this project I wrote Ken right away and got my hubcap the next week. 

I started by filing in the center Thunderbird logo impression with epoxy resin so I'd have a smooth surface to work on. Once that dried I filled the area with a mixture of pine pitch and beeswax and began the beading process. Each bead is applied one at time, embedded in the wax with a tiny awl.

Clearly, it's a very, very time consuming process, but I find it meditative and relaxing. Time flies and hours pass in what seems like minutes. I started in the center and as I finished each area I stopped and let the piece show me where to go. Even when I paint, I'm not the kind of artist who can sketch the final piece out ahead of time. I let it unfold and as I complete each phase I live with it for a day (or sometimes several) until it shows me what to do next. 
 It took over two months to get the center done. Once I finished the honeycomb floral design it took several days of sitting with it to envision the black and white border with the purple flowers and then figure out how to make it work with beads. It took another month or more to finish the border.

First I tried an orange edge around the black and white area, but after about an hour I could see it wasn't working so I had to remove all of the 200 or so beads I had just applied, then I reapplied the wax and tried the olive green line. I loved it, and as soon as I finished it I saw very clearly what the rest should look like.
By my estimate there are over 6,000 beads in the finished piece. Here are some close ups:

Now comes the hardest part - sending it away. 
I never expected that after spending months with this labor of love, I'd find it so hard to let it go. Each day I plan to pack it up and send it to Ken, and each day I think... I'll just enjoy it on the wall for one more day. I mean, really - it looks perfect there, right?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Paying it Forward

If you know me, you know I love giving things away.  It goes beyond the candy I put in all the orders I ship and goody bags I give out at the wholesale shows. I give away a clock every day I work at Pike Place Market, too.

It's always the highlight of my day. I wait until the right person comes along, someone who loves a certain design but can't afford to buy it, someone who is having a bad day or lets it slip that its their birthday. I discreetly put that item in a bag, hand it to them and tell them it's a gift.  Often they refuse at first but I insist, explaining that this is a Paper Scissors Rock tradition and ask that in return I just ask that they do something kind for someone else - preferably a stranger. (And for the record I started doing this way before the move Pay It Forward movie came out!)

I believe every kindness, no matter how small makes a difference, and that together we can all make the world a better place. Corny? Sure, but here's the thing. The way I see it, each time we make someone smile, laugh or feel a little lighter, it's a ripple in the pond. Neale Donald Walsh wrote, "You could be the Angel for whom someone is waiting today". The world is a difficult place right now. why not be kinder to each other? What does that really cost us? The truth is, you never know what impact a tiny gesture can make, it could be much bigger than you think.

So I had an idea the other day. I love this tradition so much that I've decided to expand it by starting a  Pay It Forward Gift GIveaway Program. Any wholesale buyer who wants to be part of it can sign up. I will note it in their account and from now on, I will add a free gift item to each of their orders, which they can then give to any customer, asking them to continue the chain by doing something kind for someone else.

This is going to be on the honor system, the added item is not to be sold or given to friends. The idea is to extend kindness and generosity when it's least expected, and my hope is that they will feel as rewarded by these gestures as I do.