Monday, December 31, 2007

Resolve to Vote

This is an important year coming up. I am asking you to make a resolution to participate in the election process in the coming year. I will not give you any other advice or opinions about resolutions you can or should make. I will not impose my politics on you....and anyone who knows me, knows I have strong political opinions! But I will ask you to register to vote if you have not done so yet, and then get yourself to the primary or caucus in your state, and exercise your right, and your responsibility, to vote!

Your vote matters. Being informed about the issues, and where the candidates stand on those issues is one of the most important roles you have as a citizen in this country. I know I am being a bit preachy here, but I could not be more sincere in my desire to want each and every one of you who is a citizen of the United States to participate in the election this year. Better yet, if you have some time, work on a campaign. You will learn a lot about the election process being on the other side, and you will be welcomed with open arms. You will learn that your voice can be heard even louder if you are willing to work on a campaign. You will learn about the challenges that a politician faces in the process of getting elected.

This election matters. Your vote matters. I will step off my soapbox for now. But, please, do vote!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Crane Names

The cranes have been named, thanks to the creative inspiration of many of you. Thank you for your submissions. There were many great ideas, so it was difficult to narrow it down to one name for each group of cranes.

The winning names were "Halo" for the first group of cranes, and "Perfect Prism" for the second group. Kitty and Emma, you will each be receiving a crane. Email me your mailing address and I will get your crane sent out to you.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


If I was to pick one characteristic that is essential for a successful Artrepreneur, resiliency would be up high on the list. defines Resilience (noun) as;

1.the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after
being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.
2.ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.
We can be bent, compressed, or stretched very close to the limit in all sorts of ways. Illness. Financial setbacks. Creative slumps. Slumps in the economy. Tools or equipment that break down. Problems with customers or suppliers. Too much work. Too little work. Bad shows. Rejection. And on, and on, and on.

Things happen.
This is the one thing I can guarantee. If you choose to be an Artrepreneur the road will have curves and bumps. Some of the ride will be exhiliarating. But some of it will make us wonder why we began the journey. In order to continue the ride, we will have to be resilient. Without this characteristic, it is impossible to accept the inevitable challenges, and do the work necessary to adapt or accomodate.

Accepting what is, and working to do the best you can with that situation is essential. As much as we might desire to do so, we cannot control ever aspect of our lives or our businesses. There are external forces that can come at us with no warning. If we get depressed, outraged, or angry in response, we will not be able to succeed. The essential muscle we need to develop is one of resiliency. The "ability to return to the original form, position", or the "ability to recover" can be what allows one person to succeed and another to flounder, irregardless of their comparable artistic ability.
First, we need to accept we are not fully in control of external forces. We can't control the weather, the economy, or anyone else's behavior. Remember, things will happen.
The one thing we can control is your emotional response to the things that happen. If we take events personally, we will struggle to recover. Our energy will be spent on feeling hurt and injured,......and stuck. We only have so much energy, and the more we spend it fixating on how we were wronged, or how unfair life is, the longer we are going to be spending in that state.
Instead, we need to spend our energy gathering information about what has happened, and what we can do about it. Figuring out our options, and coming up with a plan. This is not something that comes naturally to most people, but if we are lucky we learn it when we are young. It takes practice, and conscious effort for many of us to be able to make this small shift and do what is necessary to adapt rather than react.
Life is not fair. Things will happen. As an artrepreneur, you are even more vulnerable than in most jobs, where you might be working for someone else. Your job is broadly defined, and you are the one who ultimately has to decide how to deal with the things that will come your way. You can be creative and try to come up with solutions. Or you can complain and be upset about how hard it is or how unfair it is. One keeps you stuck, the other will move you towards a new place.
It is only when we are tested that we can figure out how good we are at being resilient. When we get blind sided do we react? And if we do react, are we able to stop the reaction, and move into problem solving mode? Pay attention, and see where you fall on the spectrum. And if you find yourself going into reaction mode, how hard is it for you to move out of that state and to get back on track? Don't ask yourself for perfection. When you find yourself in the middle of a rant, pause. Stop and notice what has happened and shift. Let go of this place and shift to problem solving. Get your creative juices focused on figuring out where to go next, and how to get there.

With practice and time, one day you will wake up and notice something different is going on. The world may be crashing about you. Problems surround you, but you are no longer paralyzed by them. You are doing what you can to work through the situation, so that you can keep moving towards your ultimate goals, whatever they may be.
The other night, I was sick with a cold. I had missed out on a family holiday get together. Our roof had an ice dam and we had leaks in the living room and my daughter's room. My camera appeared to be dying. I still did not recieve that purchase order. And I had cracked a tooth that night on a hard pretzel. Lots of reasons to whine or complain. I did go to bed a bit worried that night about the house. But not in tears or terror. The next morning I got out of bed just like always, ready to hit the ground with much to do. This was when I paused. Here I was surrounded by crappy situations right and left, and I was not in a funk or a panic.

Somewhere along the line, I had learned to accept, and to move. Somehow, I had managed to stop reacting to life. The cold is gone. I had a few needed days of rest. My husband cleared out the ice dam, and we had cleaned up the mess. The tooth is repaired for now, but will need a crown. The purchase order appeared this morning in my e-mail. And I have a new camera. Financially I have taken a few hits, but nothing that we cannot recover from with a little time. Lots of angst could have been wasted over some relatively minor events.
I can't say I never ever complain. But I try not to get stuck in that place. It is wasteful and draining. We all have challenges to face, and obstacles to overcome. And sometimes, it really does just amount to continuing to move forward anyway.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Dogs and Cats Can Work

One of the easiest ways to build a market for your work is to target pet owners. Things with a dog or cat theme have a built in potential market. I have daughter who adores animals. Anything with a dog on it is something that gets her attention. But, like all good things it can be overdone, or done poorly. And not everyone is a sucker for all things dog or cat.
Sometimes, an artist takes a twist on this concept, and comes up with something new and engaging. I have to share the work of one such artist. We had seen his work at a local gallery several times over the last few years. His name is Michael dePierro. My daughter, the animal lover, fell in love with his wall sculptures of dogs and cats. She has wanted one ever since. When we first saw these sculptures, they were of specific breeds, and our dog is a one of a kind....otherwise known as a mutt! I recently saw dePierro's work again on and saw that he was doing custom pet sculptures...dogs, cats, and even horses. I decided this would be the prefect thing to get my daughter as a gift for Christmas.
The first picture is one of the pictures I sent dePierro of our dog. The next picture is of the wall sculpture he created of her. You can just imagine the smile on my daughter's face when she opened the gift!

It was wonderful to support another craftsperson by purchasing his work. But even better, is to have a place like this blog to show many more people a bit of his work. He has taken the idea of making things with dogs and cats, and made something unique and special.
Couldn't you see a variety of dogs and cat wall sculptures in a vet's office, decorating the walls?....and taking orders for them through the vet's office! What better way to have your work seen by your potential customers.
The idea of dogs and cats as a theme in craft work may seem cliche and tired. But, as dePierro has shown us, it is possible to take any idea and make it engaging. People love their pets. And dePierro has captured the spirit of those animals in his sculptures. Talk about making work that has a story....!

I hope those of you who celebrate Christmas found special and unique handcrafted items under your tree. And most of all, I hope that your day was one filled with love, laughter, good food, and good memories. And, if it was a bit more stressful than all that, I hope you found at least one moment of connection with a person, a pet, or nature that reminded you of a blessing in your life. Hold onto that memory, and take it out from time to time to enjoy. Those are the gifts we can give ourselves at any time.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Contest: Name that Crane

For the last few years, when I make a crane I start from scratch. I may make a cane that will create 3 or 6 or more cranes, but when that cane was done, so was that design. While there is some creative freedom in this approach, it can also be challenging when I have orders to get out the door. And there is anxiety as I package up an order. Will they like this one? I had a few variations that I could easily reproduce, such as a Skinner blend with a metal leaf crackle finish. But the patterned cranes were the ones that many people love.

After having to come up with a reproducible design for the catalog company I began to rethink my whole approach to making cranes. Maybe it would be easier to have several patterns that would be exclusive for one year. The next year, I would have a new set of designs. With that in mind, I have been working on several styles or designs to offer for 2008, and I have come up with a few that I like, and I know I can least in pattern, if not in the exact colorway.

The group of cranes at right are called "I Love You" cranes. They were designed with Valentines' Day in mind. But I will only have this design for 2008. In 2009, there will be a new design with this theme.

The next picture is a group of cranes I call "Carpet Ride". When I am laying out the sheet of clay with the cane slices, I am using the idea of an oriental rug. I spent a year working part time selling rugs at an area furniture store. I loved the colors and patterns, and each night when I came to work, I would look through the rugs, to see the newest patterns and designs. Most rugs have a center field and a border. These cranes use that idea in how they are created. This pattern that will have more variety...depending on the canes I have to work with at the time.
Now, you come in. I have a few other designs that I need some help with naming. The right name can romance the work a bit. A story can be conjured up in just a few well selected words. Problem is, I have a nasty cold right now. My brain is in slow motion. Which can be great for getting tedious tasks done, but not so great for brainstorming. I need your brains and creativity. Two designs are wanting for a name.
Every idea I have come up with falls flat. The top group can be called group 1, and the lower picture, group 2. These are not the only colors that these cranes will come in, but they give you an idea of how the pattern can look in a variety of colorways. Submit your ideas in the comments, and specify which group you are naming. You are welcome to submit as many ideas as you can come up with. You have until next Friday, December 28th, at midnight(EST) to come up with an idea and post it in the comments. If your name is selected, in exchange for your permission to use the
name to promote that line, I will send you a crane in that pattern....hanging or sitting, you choose.

I hope your creative juices are flowing better than mine are right now. I look forward to seeing your ideas! And thank you for your creative energy....I need it right now. :-)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Failure to Communicate

We have so many ways to "reach out and touch someone" these days. Phones, cell phones, internet, e-mail, snail mail, name it, we can do it. But does this easy access to communication actually make it happen? No, not at all. They are just tools of communication, and they still rely on our initiative and action.

I have been surprisingly busy right through this month. Not swamped, but not idle, either. I delivered the fifth order in the last two months to a local shop. I love working with this shop owner. If she needs something or has a question, she picks up the phone, or shoots off and e-mail. And the easy flow of communication has paid off nicely with all the sales she has generated with my work. It never takes more than two contacts by either of us to make something happen.

On the other hand, I am awaiting to hear from another customer about a pending order. I know they want early January delivery, but still no order giving more details about quantities. Will I spend Christmas in my studio,....... or will I have some time to spend with my family while they are off from school and work? I want it to be the later, but the delay in getting information creates anxiety. I have called. I have left messages. I have spoken with people. Still, no order. Just the promise of an order. I am making product for them, but will it be enough?

I am not the best person at communicating, so I am willing to cut some slack to those who also struggle to make that phone call, or get the letter out. But, when I have to call again and again, and I get no response, I end up frustrated by the experience. Good communication means much more than finding the right words. It has to involve action.

I am seeing first hand how valuable clear and open communication is between our accounts and ourselves. There is a delicate balance between regular communication and person's regular check-in could be considered pestering by another. Understanding expectations, and working to keep open communication can make the difference between a good relationship and a disaster.

Do you find you struggle to find a balance in communication with your customers or galleries? Or have you managed to find the balance? And how do you manage the unresponsive?

If I was to pick one area to work on in the coming year, this might just be it. Do you have one thing that needs a little extra attention? Perhaps a goal for the new year. Now is a good time to start thinking about where you want to go and what you want to accomplish in the coming year. Accomplishments do not always have to be about getting a certain number of new accounts, or doing such-and-such a show. Sometimes setting goals to work on things that present an on-going challenge can do more to help our business get stronger than focusing all our energy on the externals. Something to think about in the next few weeks.....

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Time for a Valentine?

I found out about this wonderful opportunity from another artist recently. My friend Martha Munroe, a painter and sculptor, told me about this program held each year, to raise funds to give grants to artists.

The person who began this program is Paul Matisse, and yes, he is related. You can find details at The Artist's Valentine. Artists create valentines from non-perishable items, and send them, along with packaging, and contact information by January 11th. The valentines are displayed and sold. The funds raised in the sale are then distributed as grants.

Every artist who submits valentine(s) is eligible to apply for a grant. After the sale, the artists are asked to submit 8 images. A jury then decides who will receive the grants, and for how much. The grants can be used in what ever way the artist decides to help their work progress. Grants have ranged in value, but have been as high as $2200. They are not need based grants, but based upon the body of work presented to the jury.

So, I am busy creating a few valentines to send off. How about you? Do you think you have a valentine in you that you could submit by the 11th? It is worth a shot. And even if you do not receive a grant in the end, you will know that your efforts went to help another artist. Not such a bad cause to support. Happy Valentine's Day!

You Know you are an Artrepreneur When....

1. What others call "world craft", you call "cheap imports".

2. Your designs take into consideration production and efficiency.

3. You know what a knucklebuster is. (A credit card imprinter, used to manually record credit card sales.)

4. You are on a first name basis with your UPS person, the FedEx person and the people at the post office.

5. You know what keystone means. (Two times the wholesale price.)

6. You know what someone is talking about when they talk about Zapplication. (Zapplication is an on-line application for various shows and competitions.)

7. You have gotten packing your car up for a show down to a science.

8. You know what a CVV2 code is, and why it is important. (The three or four digits found on the back of the credit card. Getting these numbers when you use a knucklebuster can save you about 1/2 of a percent in fees.)

9. When someone asks for "terms" you have an idea of what they are talking about. (Usually means they want Net 30,..... or, delivery of goods and thirty days to pay.)

10. You know the joke about the artist who won the lottery....and you are not sure whether you should laugh or cry. :-)

The joke: An artist wins the lottery. They go to the lottery headquarters to cash in their ticket, and they are asked what they will do with their winnings. Their reply,....."I will probably just keep doing shows till the money runs out."

If you have any more to add to the list, please feel free to put them in the comments.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Topsy Turvy Holidays

I feel like I am suffering from holiday jet lag.

My holiday season began in late July or early August, when I began making work to send out to galleries, or for shows for the holiday season. It became the most intense through October and up until just before Thanksgiving, as I pushed to get as much work out the door as I possibly could.

When I shipped off the last package, I felt a sense of completion. A sigh of relief that I was largely done for this year with my holiday orders. I was able to have a bit of breathing space, even as a few other shipments went out, and one last show was done. I had room to experiment in the studio, and start thinking about where I was going in the next year, and what changes I might want to be making.

This weekend I was going through pictures on my computer looking for a specific photo, and I ran across a picture from a few years ago of my daughters decorating the Christmas tree. It hit me across the forehead with a smack! Christmas! It is coming. Not just in the stores. But here. I had to do something about our Christmas. I was done with the business of Christmas, but now I needed to start planning for and acting on a holiday that was right around the corner. Our tree had to go up. I had to seriously do some shopping, and gift making. Casual conversations with my husband about what to get for someone, or what he could bring to the office party had to come into focus and be acted upon.

Maybe this creates more short term stress for me, but I think I needed that breathing space of not jumping right into the holiday. I needed to have the closure from the business side of the season before I made the shift to the world around me. I see lights going up as I drive around town. Wreathes. Christmas cards have arrived. I feel completely out of sync with what is going on. But it is time for me to jump onto that moving sidewalk and get engaged in this season.

I must admit I have enjoyed the space it has given me...being out of sync. I have had the frenzy and stress already making and shipping my work. I am not anxious to feel that again. Maybe this topsy turvy holiday is a good thing. It helps to stay out of the fray of excess that can be overwhelming. Whether I am fully decorated or not, the holidays will come. And in the end, I will have gifts to give. But what I have enjoyed the most in the last few weeks is taking a bit more time to relax, and spend time with my family. If I jumped into the holiday craziness right away, I might have missed that.

Artists are already accused of marching to a different drummer. I guess if we have most of our sales at this time of year, we also need to march to a different rhythm. I have heard of artists who celebrate Christmas with their families in July, so they can enjoy it more. I don't think I want to be that far out of sync. But I have recognized that I need a pause.

Are you able to listen to your need for breathing space? To take care of your need to regroup after a prolonged push? Or are you able to jump right in? Perhaps energized by the holiday activity? Or do you just forego all this holiday madness?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Press Kit; Where to Begin?

I have talked about having a press kit in the past, and how helpful they can be to getting publicity for your work and your business. But, I have not gone into detail about how to put one together. There more than one way to approach this, so feel free to apply your creative genius to the concept. I find by the time I get around to putting one together, I have do not have the creative time or energy to go beyond the basics. But don't let that hold you back!

The first step is to gather together copies of any publicity your work has received. This could be articles or announcements in your local paper, or features in national magazines. They all qualify. Sometimes a publication will provide you with a .pdf of an article, which is helpful for reprinting, or they may offer you additional copies of a magazine for a reduced cost.

If you do not yet have any articles about you or your work, don't worry. Your press kit will help that happen eventually, and we all start at zero. But, if you do, it shows that others have deemed what you are doing "newsworthy". When an editor sees that you have numerous articles, it can be a cue to look further.

Head off to Kinko's, Staples, or your nearest copy center, and make copies of the articles, or at least the first page of the articles. For some magazine articles, I have copied a two page spread onto a single page. Smaller articles might be able to be combined onto a single page.

If you happen to be at an office supply store, look around and see what you can find to hold your material for your press kit. You can get jazzy and have custom printed folders. Or you can use a standard, two pocket folder, and perhaps attach a postcard to the front for image. Get several, because you will be sending out more than one.

I put my press clippings, and press releases (future post), into the right hand pocket. I arrange them in chronological order, with the most recent in the front.
In the other pocket I add visuals. Postcard(s). A CD with several high resolution images. The CD should be packaged in such a way that it will not be easily damaged in handling.

Next, I include tear sheets or sell sheets. A sell sheet or tear sheet is a one page flyer that shows images of your work. I have one sheet per collection, or line. It is not necessary to have every style and every colorway of your work shown on the sell sheet. It is a way for someone to get a quick overview of your work. They can be used to announce a new line of work.
The sell sheet should have your logo, and it should have contact information. You can have dimensions of your work under each image. It is primarily focused on visual information. A collection of sell sheets with a separate price sheet can serve as a catalog for prospective wholesale accounts. By the way, I do not include a price sheet in with my press kit. But, you might include the wholesale and/or retail price range somewhere in your kit.
Next, you want to include your Artist Bio and Artist Statement. Recognize that you are not writing a bio or statement that you must live with for the rest of your career. We grow and evolve as artists, business people and human beings, and our Bio and Statement should change over time with us. I can't begin to tell you how many times I have re-written mine.
If you are not comfortable with writing it yourself, get some help. Find a friend who is a good writer, or hire someone. Look on Craig's List or Nothing is impossible.
I put those in behind the sell sheets on the left hand side.
Finally, I insert a business card into the space that is usually found on the left hand pocket. That is it. Nothing too extreme or too difficult. Yes, it takes time. But think of publicity as advertising you could not afford. On that basis, it is time well spent.
In a future post, I will write about press releases, and about where to send your press kit and/or press releases. But this should keep you busy in the meantime.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

I Stole a Pair of Kathleen Dustin Earrings

Got your attention, huh? I didn't literally steal them of course. But it felt like it. Family Services of Greater Boston is the organization who puts on the Crafts at the Castle show each year. It is a fantastic show....gorgeous work by extremely talented artists. And like many non-profits who run craft shows, they look to the artists to donate items that they can auction off to generate more income for their organization. Kathleen Dustin donated a pair of earrings to their auction. And I won them in the auction for only $50. These are a pair of her new pod earrings that would normally retail for $150. A steal!

So here is the thing....what are the consequences of these auctions? Beyond some great bargains. Are they really a benefit to the artists or to the organization? If you go and look you will see plenty of beautiful work.....all going for substantial discounts to the retail value of the items. A gorgeous Natalie Blake vase, I wouldn't mind owning, went for under $300, versus a retail price of $425. A lovely necklace of sterling and polymer clay by Mary Filpek and Lou Ann Townsend did not even get a bid. A sublime scarf by Jeung-Hwa, knitted, felted and hand-dyed, went for less than half it's retail price in spite of a bidding war, which I watched from the sidelines, debating whether I should jump in. I could go on,.....a basket from JoAnne Russo, a museum quality piece. NO bids.

What is going on? For one thing, not enough people who might be interested in the work of the artists are aware of the auction, or participating in it. When you have a small pool of people engaged in an auction, prices will not be bid up enough to get to a price that reflects the true value of the work. Add the emergence of the online services that will enter a bid for someone at the last minute....which happened on two items I was watching in this auction,.... and you get less bidding overall. It drives the bargain.

And there is that bargain mentality that people approach an auction with. They want to get a deal. The deal that no one else could get. So they can brag about it over cocktails...or in their blog!

But it seems to me that it is doing a disservice to the artists and to the organizations. What if, instead of auctions, they raffled off the art work? It might increase the participation. A raffle could increase the pool of people who are willing to enter the competition. The show I am doing at the Fitchburg Art Museum this weekend is doing this. They asked each artist to donate an item with a value of approximately $25, and then they are raffling off the work.

Or, Craft Boston sells gift certificates. Each artist can donate a certificate worth $50, $100, or maybe $250 dollars. The show organizers (The Society of Arts and Crafts), then sells the certificates, and the buyers can redeem them with the artist. I had two people vying for the certificate I donated on the first night of the show. It does not diminish the value of the work, the organization gets a better value, and it has better tax implications for the artist.

When we donate a piece of art, we are only allowed to deduct the value of the materials. Our labor is worth nothing in the deduction. Insane. But if we donate a gift certificate, it is more like cash. We can deduct the value of the gift certificate.

But, here is the thing. How many of the people who are getting steals in these auctions can afford to make a substantial donation to the opposed to the artist being able to afford making a donation of their work?? The artists are already paying a fee for the booth space. Artists are more typically living at the economic edge. Should they be the ones who are making the greatest sacrifice to support these non-profits?

It is sometimes argued that the auctions are a way to generate publicity for your work. Exposure to people who could become collectors. If they truly are potential collectors, why do so many things go for so little money?? Aren't collectors usually people who appreciate the work of the artist? And, is this the kind of publicity we need for our work?

I used to always donate items when asked by organizations. I no longer will donate to an auction, unless it is an organization I would happily support otherwise. I will donate a small item for a raffle. I will donate a gift certificate. Or, if the booth fee is high, I may just pass. We can say no. It does not make us a bad person. Just because someone asks, we still need to evaluate if it makes sense for us and our situation. How much does it benefit the organization? How much does it benefit us? And what are the potential risks? This requires careful consideration, and there is no one answer that will fit every situation, or every person.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Cushion or Deficit?

Do you live with a cushion, or a deficit?

I am talking about time. Do you always give yourself a comfortable cushion of time to easily absorb the inevitable shocks, or are you forever running behind the clock?

I used to be one of those people who was always a bit early. I liked the ease that came with that. The space to transition gently from one activity to another. When I was a freshman in college we had "F" tests. Nearly every freshman had to take these tests, on the same day, at the same time,....... on a Friday morning, at 8 a.m. Masses of stressed out, sleep deprived freshman heading to take the test they crammed for all night. Talk about bad karma!

I learned to head out about 15 to 20 minutes early, as well as get to bed a bit early. I could walk to the test before the crowd, and just enjoy the morning. I was well rested. I had my pick of seats. I could give myself time to relax, and maybe even review a bit. Have everything I needed for the test out and ready.

It worked. And I continued into my adult life under the same plan.

But now,..... I find I am one of those people who is always running late. Or that I seldom have any slack built into the schedule to accommodate adjustments. Today my younger daughter missed the bus, for the second day in a row. Most days it is not a big deal. We can walk the dog together, and then I drive her to school, and she gets there in plenty of time. We get to spend a few extra minutes together. But today I had an early appointment with a local gallery. With traffic, I had to allow myself an hour. I had planned it out with no room for error. The error happened.

I debated cancelling the appointment, and rescheduling. I was trying to figure out every possible permutation of how I could cram everything in to the allotted time. It did not look doable.

I decided to persevere. I kept going ahead, as if I was going to be able to make it work, up until the point in time that I knew I had to be leaving. If I was not ready by then, I would call and reschedule. As I drilled holes in the last 6 cranes to make them into ornaments, I had my daughter open up boxes for the cranes, and put the inserts and fill into them. I could then just pop the cranes in the boxes, and close them up. Might as well make her do a bit of work in return for the ride to school! By the time we got to school, I was convinced that it would not work. I was going to have to reschedule. I came home and walked the dog. I got home and saw I was only ten minutes behind schedule....I could do this! I grabbed my work and headed out.

I left ten minutes later than planned, but was there right on spite of traffic! I had created stress for myself agonizing over how this could possibly work. It did work, and we had a quick but productive meeting. She loved the new Shibori work, as well as the pods. She even commented on how the cranes were looking even better than before. I forgot a ziplock bag with some pendants, and the box with pins, but I had more than enough work for her to see. Rushing out the door, feeling anxious about the time, caused the oversight.

I could have more easily accommodated the change in plans, and had everything I needed for the appointment, if I had fully prepared the day before.

I had begun to do that the night before. But I pooped out before I finished the job completely. So I was left drilling and stringing up cranes at the last minute, and leaving some work behind.

Since that appointment, I have begun to clean out the studio. And I now have a calendar set up on the computer with appointments, and reminders. I need the breathing space that order can create. I can easily find myself exploring an idea when I need to be preparing for a gallery visit or a show. I will have to learn to tame in this instinct. Having the discipline to do the "work" first, and then spend time exploring. The new and improved Judy? I wouldn't go that far. But I am recognizing that the lack of a system has cost me time and energy. I can't keep doing what I was doing, with any degree of comfort. A change is in order. A change to more order.

Organization comes more easily to some than others. Having lived on both ends of the spectrum, I have to say, sometimes it can be situational. Many artists are digging out of the chaos in their studios this time of year. The focus was on getting the work done, and dealing with the mess later. In my case, later is here. Let the cleaning begin!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Internal Combustion

The internal combustion engine was a major technological breakthrough. No need to constantly feed the engine with an external source of energy, such as steam from a coal burner. Last night, when I got together with a group of friends, I saw a different version, but just as powerful source of internal combustion.

What motivates you and drives you? Where is your source of energy? Do you need to be constantly fueling up from external sources, or do you have an internal source?

When we look externally for love, affirmation, or direction, it can be a bumpy and difficult ride. It is like the engine with the timing off. Fits and starts. You may be riding along smoothly for awhile, but then, apparently out of nowhere, the car is hesitating, perhaps stalling. Or it may feel like driving around town with the gas gauge on E,....ready to dip below E,.... and not finding an open gas station anywhere. Panic. Anxiety. Frustration.

If the external sources of affirmation of our worth is what we are relying upon, we will be forever looking for others to refill us, make us feel good again, so that we can go out again feeling comfortable and confident. I used to live this way. I was forever looking externally for my cues. The external was always more important than the internal. It is exhausting. And completely unsatisfying. It makes for crappy relationships. And a constant need to be refilled.

Slowly, over time, almost without being aware of how it has changed my way of living, I have learned to look inside first. To figure out what I need, and to take care of my needs. Sounds pretty simple. And it is when we are taking care of the external needs. But, when you get used to looking outside all the time for your cues of what you should do, it is not easy to make that shift to understanding what you really need to make yourself happy. To look inside and see what your heart really wants and needs. And it is not easy to start to say "no" to those things that will only deplete you. If we are not filling our own needs first, we have nothing left to give to others when they need us.

This is what I found amazing about making that difficult transition. The more that I look inside for guidance and to satisfy my needs, far more comes from the outside than I could have dreamed possible. That old saying about how you have to love yourself before others can love you is true. It also applies to our work as artists. If we have to win competitions, get rave reviews for all we do, sell out at shows, etc, etc, etc.....there will never be enough to feed the demand. When we are feeding ourselves inside, and doing the work that comes from our heart, those external sources of admiration are easier to receive, but we won't need to own them. If we try to hold on too tightly to the praise, the notoriety, it will probably slip away, or become tarnished in our tight grip. We will become frozen in time. Afraid to move from that moment in the sun.

None of this is easy. But it is essential to living a rich and full life, as an artist, or otherwise. Our culture of externals is a big challenge to all of this. Face it, few of us will get rich as working artists. But we will have a full and rich life in so many other ways if we give ourselves the gift of doing the work we are meant to do. It is easier to find joy and satisfaction in doing work that gratifies your soul, than in being able to buy a bigger house, a bigger TV, a smaller cell phone, a newer car....whatever. Consuming to fill that void inside never works for long. We will always want more. But we can fill that void by creating beautiful work, and sharing it with the world. And we will do the planet a favor by consuming less of some of those other things anyway!

This season of joy has become a season of externals. The newspaper is full of sales fliers for the latest and greatest electronics, which will all be obsolete in a year. Perhaps by taking the pledge to Buy Handmade that is going around the Internet right now, we will be able to reconnect with our more essential needs. Better yet, make as many gifts as you can. Give a gift of your handwork. Connect with your gifts, and share them with others. Give a few gifts to those who never expect to receive one. It may mean a few less trips to the mall, a few less dollars spent, but a few more hours connecting with your soul and spirit. And it is a chance to play outside your usual sandbox! Play in a different media, experiment with a idea. Have fun, and spread it around a bit! The joy will find you in the process.