Friday, February 29, 2008

Artist, Hobbyist, Professional, Amateur....or?

One of the best things about the Synergy conference is that it is generating discussions. Discussions that occurred at the conference, and discussions that are spilling over into the blogosphere. There is one going on right now that began with Susan Lumoto, at Polymer Clay Notes, and was picked up by Libby Mills, at her blog. I feel compelled to jump in.

I have used the words hobbyist and artist in the past to refer to people who create. But who is the hobbyist, and who is the artist? And who gets to decide? Likewise, what makes a person a professional?

Libby's post has caused me to consider when and how I use these terms. I could mean one thing, but someone else might receive it differently than I intended. What do I mean when I say artist? Who is a hobbyist? Are they mutually exclusive? Who is an amateur, and who decides who is a professional?

hob·by 1 /ˈhɒbi/
–noun, plural -bies.
1. an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or
relaxation and not as a main occupation: Her hobbies include stamp-collecting and woodcarving.

art·ist /ˈɑrtɪst/
1. a person who produces works in any of the arts that are primarily
subject to aesthetic criteria.

2. a person who practices one of the fine arts,
esp. a painter or sculptor.
3. a person whose trade or profession requires a
knowledge of design, drawing, painting, etc.: a commercial artist.
4. a person who works in one of the performing arts, as an actor, musician, or singer; a public performer: a mime artist; an artist of the dance.
5. a person whose work exhibits exceptional skill.
6. a person who is expert at trickery or deceit: He's an artist with cards.
7. Obsolete. an artisan.

according to

According to the dictionary definition, a hobbyist is someone who pursues something for fun or leisure. Yet, we can all think of someone whose hobby consumes their life. The job helps them make a living, but the hobby gives them a reason to get out of bed, or keeps them up late at night.

When I look at the definitions for artist, the verbs used to describe an artist is someone who is producing, practicing, working. There is a certain level of skill or knowledge implied in some of the definitions.

If I think about some of the presentations last week at the Synergy conference, being an artist is about achieving a certain level of workmanship, having a distinctive voice, and perhaps even wanting to tell a story with your work, or make some kind of a statement.

The problem I have with all of this, is I was calling myself an artist well before I reached any of those milestones. Was I wrong to call myself an artist? I certainly did not have the degree. I was not selling my work. My workmanship was not at a level I aspire to today.

Taking on the title of artist for myself, was an act of healing. An act of owning my passion and embracing it fully. It was the realization that someone does not confer the title "Artist" onto you like the Queen confers knighthood. No one taps you on the shoulder with a paintbrush. The title comes from inside. For me, owning the title was the renewal of a journey.

From the time I was a little girl, sitting on the front steps with my pad of paper and pencil drawing a picture, I have been an artist, whether I called myself that or not. Working and working to learn how to do a better job drawing a face, or a tree. I did it because I had to do it.

What about professional versus amateur? In general, whether it is in the arts, or any other area, professionals are paid, amateurs are not. Yet, look at the endorsements recieved by Olympic athletes, who are probably at the peak of their athletic performance. By the rules, they are amateurs, in spite of these endorsements and the paychecks that come along with that. No wonder we get confused by these terms.

For me, when I began to sell my work, I began to look at my work through another set of eyes. I began to ask, "Is this at a quality level that someone would pay for?" Eventually, I saw that having a voice or distinctive style, was something that benefited me in the marketplace. It created a signature to my work. In the production work, a deeper understanding of the material was gained. Time spent working with the clay led to more ideas for me, than sitting down to stare at the empty table, pondering what to make today.

I guess it is not so much about whether or not you are selling your work that makes one a professional. Maybe it is more about embracing the idea of trying to do the best work that you can. Looking with a critical eye at your own work, not to judge your adequacy or inadequacy as an artist, but instead, to see if you can do better. Perhaps it is aspiring to a level of excellence, versus accepting "good enough" as your standard.

My kids are very tall. There was no avoiding this given their genetic make-up. They are at an age where this fact gets pointed out to them regularly by their peers. It occurred to me the other day, as my younger daughter talked about people reacting to her height at a visit to a new school, that the observation is not about the how tall she is. It is about what height seems to represent. Taller equals older, more powerful, in control. Adults can be all those things when you are a kid, and adults are nearly always taller than kids.

When people point out to my daughter that she is taller, they are reacting perhaps to what that represents for them. Is this person older? Is she more powerful? No. Not by virtue of her height at least. But sometimes people have to process a subconscious reaction to her height by pointing it out. She knows she is tall. But the other person has to figure out what that means for them. This is where the need to comment comes from.

Perhaps the need to categorize someone as an artist or hobbyist is more about where we place ourself. It may be a way of saying we have crossed a line that we have established, and by categorizing others, we are trying to say where we fall on the spectrum between hobbyist and artist. Who do we consider to be our peers? But for some, artist may imply someone who takes themselves too seriously. For someone else, hobbyist maybe someone who doesn't take their art seriously enough. But, maybe they are both wrong. Maybe we are the only ones who can decide where we lie on the spectrum. And maybe, we can be both at various times.

I am not sure there is a clear cut way to use these words without potentially stepping on someone's toes. But perhaps thinking about our intent, and why we are using a word is a starting point. And on the receiving end, if it strikes you that someone has implied something with the use of these words that seems misplaced, ask them what they meant. They may not have an answer right off the bat. But at least the question might make them think about it a bit more deeply. Just like Libby made me think. BTW, Libby, I think you are an artist who just happens to not want to have a business selling your work.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Owning Up

Sometimes we screw up. Even under the very best of intentions, things go wrong. But just like we learned back in grade school, owning up, taking responsibility, really is the best way to move through the problem, and then be able to move forward.

I wrote last year about how I was going to be working with a catalog company. I was excited by the possibility, but also a bit anxious about what that might entail as far as production, and would I be able to live up to my end of the bargain.

Doing the work to make sure that I would be able to meet the demand, helped me to look at my production process differently. I started to see that if I could make a dozen cranes at one time, all with the same pattern, it would actually be easier than trying to make a dozen different cranes. Thus began the idea of exclusive designs for each year.

As I began to prepare myself to fill orders for the catalog company, I anxiously awaited the initial order from them. The contract I signed stated I would need to ship cranes to them by early January. But it was mid-December before I got the order. The first order was for 54 cranes, and I began making them right away. I wanted to be sure I fulfilled my responsibility. The ship date had been moved to a later date, so I felt comfortable that I would be able to easily manage it and the orders I had at the time.

Less than two weeks before I was supposed to ship this first order, on a Friday afternoon, after 4 p.m. I got a call from the catalog company. They wanted to cancel the purchase order. No reason was given. No sense of whether or not there would be a future order. Just a call saying the purchase order was cancelled. By this time I had made and boxed up nearly 40 cranes. All done in a design that was exclusive to them. I was so surprised by this I had little to no response, and there were no real answers to the few questions I stammered out.

Now what?

Fortunately, I have a resident contracts expert in my husband. He helped me draft a letter requesting payment for the cranes I had made for them. According to contracts law, I was due compensation for the cranes I made for them, against their purchase order. He even went so far as to tell me that I should ship them out on the date they were originally scheduled to ship. This is where I took my own counsel and decided a crane in the hand is better than no cranes, and no check.

Today I spoke with the catalog company. The woman I had been working with owned up. She told me they were going through a difficult financial period. They had readjusted the products they were carrying. They were struggling to pay their existing vendors. (My instinct about holding onto those cranes was the right one!) They were not prepared to compensate me for the cranes I had already made for them.

It was easy for me to be gracious, and ask for a compromise in return. She had been honest with me, and so I knew where I stood. I asked that we cancel the contract, and that I be released from having the design held exclusively for them. It was as close to a win-win as we were going to get in the situation. She was happy to accomodate me, and there were no angry words or accusations.

It could have been nasty, and vindictive. I read about such exchanges from time to time on the discussion forums. I could have stood up for "my rights". But all that would have happened is that I would have spewed a lot of frustration and anger. I asked them to compensate me, and meet their obligations. She was honest, and told me where they stood. I had a fall back position, and I was happy to go there. I could easily do business with them again.....not sure if I want to!......but should she end up somewhere else down the round, I have not burned a bridge, and I know she is someone I can trust. And she knows that I can behave professionally.

We sometimes focus all our energy on our reputation for the quality of work we produce. But the reputation we develop as a business person is also important. How are you to work with? Do you meet your obligations? If you can't, do you own up, or leave people hanging? It is never easy to let people down. But to do it in a responsible way is always better than to quietly slink away hoping the problem will go away. It won't. And your reputation will suffer.

It really is as simple as the lessons we learn in grade school. Be honest. Don't make promises you can't keep. And if you do, own up.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Rest, Process and Integrate

I am still trying to process all that happened in Baltimore at the Synergy Conference. There are lots of summaries and reviews everywhere on the web. Since I took so few notes, I am not going to be much help with any details, for those of you who could not make it. But, I can offer some impressions....

1. Energy. There is nothing so electric as more than 200 people in a conference room who are all passionate about the same material. People who are at the forefront of the medium, and people who are virtually brand new. The trip to Baltimore was worth it just to be present in that conference room with all those people.

2. More thoughts on Energy. Synergy was a marathon. There was so much to offer, and so little time to absorb. So many people to connect with. So little time for a real conversation. I ended up skipping three of the seven classes I signed up for. On Monday afternoon I took the afternoon off to work on my presentation for the next day, and then ended up having a lovely conversation with Mari, whom I had not seen since I took a class with Kathleen Dustin back in 2004. No sooner did I leave that conversation, with the intent to head back to the hotel and work on that presentation, and I got snagged for a quick webcast interview. It will be posted on You Tube when it is done, so I will let you know when it is up there.

I eventually did get to the hotel, and did a quick review of my presentation, before I had to head back to the conference center. I missed the preview of the gallery, but it was worth taking a little time out to rest, and to connect.

3. Voice. A big topic at the conference, was finding your voice. This is easier said than done, of course. One reason why I do not take classes anymore, and I only took one, was because I find it is too easy to pick up the "accent" or "dialect" of the instructor.

My brother hated French in high school and struggled with it. He moved to French speaking Quebec after college for several years. He came back home with a French accent. He eventually lost that, but picked up a Boston accent, which he never had growing up in the area. I share this story as an illustration. Some people are very vulnerable to picking up someone's accent without even consciously thinking about it. If I sit down and talk with Leslie Blackford for more than five minutes, I will walk away talking like her for at least the next minute or two. I find her accent enchanting, and musical. I have to stop myself from continuing the charade of speaking like Leslie.

I do not want to carry another artist in my head for too long. Others can stay true to themselves without any problem. It is not easy, and sometimes we have to walk away from temptation.

4. There is nothing like meeting people face to face. Over and over again people exclaimed at putting the face with the name that had become so familiar on-line. Surprises that few "look like their work". "I thought you would be shorter, taller," .....or that the work would be bigger or smaller. I can't think of another time when so many polymer clay artists gathered in one spot and had a chance to meet and greet. Having a face and a voice to put with the name, or the blog, or the message on a forum will enrich connections for many.

5. Getting so many people together and having a conversation about things like workmanship, voice, our history as a medium, and it's influences, and where it is going is a wonderful idea. Opinions may not have changed, but at least we were thinking about it, and looking at our medium as something that can fit into the larger context of craft. It is a wonderful hobby medium since it is so accessible, but it also has the potential to extend far beyond that, and some of the people in that room are pushing those boundaries.

6. I had a blast teaching. This was a bit of a surprise. I found people were engaging, and did a wonderful job of adding to the material I was presenting. So "thank you" to any and all who attended either of my classes. It was fun!

7. Rest, Process, and Integrate. The next days, weeks and months will be about processing, resting and integrating what I learned, saw and heard at Synergy. Things will simmer and perculate in the coming days and weeks I am sure. Resting will have to wait a few more days. I have too many commitments on the calendar for too much rest right now.

8. Self-care. I found myself often needing a bit of time alone or quiet time in the day. Perhaps when you get used to working in isolation most of the time, three long days of classes and socializing is more than can be absorbed. I never made it down to the ACC show in the convention center, which is a shame, since I was right there. The schedule was tight, and when I had a bit of time, the last thing I wanted was more visual stimulation. In the past I would have pushed through and ignored my need for this time, but by skipping a few classes, and spending a bit of time alone, or talking with a friend one-on-one, I was better able to enjoy the moments I chose to participate. We really don't have to "do it all" to get the most out of an experience.

9. The "wow" of the new. Over and over, I heard exclaimations of excitement about Kathleen Dustin's new work, Ford + Forlano's new work, and I was excited to see new work from Judy Kuskin. Even when an artist has a strong, recognizable style, such as these polymer clay luminaries, it is important to continue to explore new terrain. Many others had new work at the show as well. Loretta Lam talked about developing several new lines of work before she headed to the Rosen show in Philadelphia, and what a wonderful response it received. This is the "continuous improvement" of the artrepreneur. What have you done lately?

Time to get the butt back in the studio chair. I missed my studio, and my family. It is good to be home.

Thank you to the extremely hard working people who put together, and managed to pull off an incredible event. Kudos all around.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Elasticity of Time

It has happened once more. The time seems to stretch out in front of me. I am not panicked. Everything seems doable. And then,


The time might have been stretching out there....much like a rubber band. And now someone let go and, Whoa!!! What happened. All the sudden days went to hours, and time is in compression. The to-do list far exceeds the time allotment. I am like a stressed out designer on Project Runway, as Tim Gunn is telling them they have one hour left "to finish their garments, and get their models to hair and make-up." "Make it work!" he exclaims.....and they are missing the skirt, or pants, or some important part of the outfit. You can literally read the panic on their face. "I am going home" it says.

Well, so far, no model has walked that runway half dressed. A few things have been glued and pinned together and sent down that runway with a prayer. But no one has been half dressed.

Things will get done. And some things won't. As I drove back from dropping my kids off for their afternoon class, and the list was cycling through my head, over and over can I make this happen. It occurred to me.

I couldn't. But it was okay. I had the essentials together.

Pare back and breathe. Let the most important things come to the forefront.

Laundry. Packing. Finishing up the presentation. If I don't bring a single thing to sell, it would be fine. It is not the reason I am going to the National Polymer Clay Guild, Synergy Conference. It is an opportunity to spend time with other artists, and to give a presentation. Those are the things that matter. If I try to cram ten zillion other things into the next 18 hours, I will make myself and everyone around me insane. Not worth it. None of it would make as much of a difference to my experience as spending a bit more time on refining my presentation.

Sometimes it is easy for me to get caught up in the possibilities. Perhaps it is a hang over from Girl Scouts. Being prepared. Not disappointing anyone. But the price of that sometimes is a high degree of stress, and a lack of focus on what really matters.

Now, I can fit in that workout tonight before I go. Maybe, when I leave the house tomorrow, everyone won't be breathing a sigh of relief that I am gone!

The thing about rubber bands is when they are relaxed, they are more flexible. So, now that the tension is out of that rubber band of time, and everything is shorter, it is time for some of that flexibility. Time to let go of the things that don't matter.

Writing this blog. Completely optional. But when I have learned a lesson as important as the one I am learning today, I like to share. I hope it helps someone else.

Now, I have some packing to do.

Hope to post from Baltimore.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

How Many Balls Can I Juggle?

The problem with juggling so many balls in the air right now, is that there is little down time to reflect on what is going on, and perhaps share a bit of that with you here. What I have been thinking about is what we can do if we just take a step forward. I had written previously about whether or not you live life waiting for a permission slip to follow your dreams or you big ideas. I guess I find myself having signed an awful lot of permission slips!

But, somewhere along the line I went from the person who seldom stepped outside of the prescribed lines, to a person who is willing to act on her dreams. I don't know why or how that happened exactly, other than perhaps the experience of doing it again and again shifts the axis of your world a little bit. The voice that says"Yeah, but you can't do that..." has been quieted. She still is there, but there is another voice. The one that says, "Well, why not?" Or, "I can at least try."

And it is about the trying. If we stay too focused on the end goal, and how big and overwhelming that goal may be, we will never begin. But if we say, let's just see what we can do. It gives us room to fail, without calling ourselves a failure. Why, because we tried. And with each small step that we take to move closer and closer to the goal or dream, it seems less impossible. We can do the small steps.

There is that critic that says, "Sure, you can do a little bit of it, but come on. It is too big, it will take too long, cost to much, is just TOO HARD. Give up now before you get disappointed."

Have you had that conversation with yourself? Does the critic always reign supreme and get in the last word? Or are you persistent, and passionate enough about your dream that in spite of all the logic that the critic is throwing your way, you still want to go ahead.

I am in over my head. If I listed all the things I am juggling right now, you would consider me certifiable. But you know what, I am making progress towards each goal I am working on. I am learning a lot about how much is possible. "No" is more impossible for me these days.

I am learning to say, "Why the hell not?"

Ask yourself that next time. Why not? Why shouldn't you go after your dream, or your BHAG. Look around you. Look at some of the amazing things that people have done and accomplished. Were they any more special than you or me? Most likely, not.

I had a conversation recently with a "high profile" artist. Someone with a "name". She was trying to tell me how her career, and where she was, was simply a fluke. Luck. But as she told me the story, what evolved was the story of someone who created her own luck. She had an idea....a "crazy, half-baked idea", if the critic had the final word. She began to figure out what she would need to do to make that idea into reality. And she started taking the steps to make it happen. And as more of her story comes out, it is clear this is a pattern in her life. She doesn't wait for someone to plan her career for her. She dreams her dreams, and then acts upon them.

We all have dreams. But not everyone is willing to go after their dreams. Preferring the safety of what they already have, and know. And not every dream is possible. But, more are possible than most of us are willing to believe, or act upon.

Frankly, sometimes in life we have to approach things like a bungee jumper. Be scared, trust the cord, and jump anyway.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Day to Spread the Love

Valentine's Day has gotten a little more complicated around our house now that we have a tween and teen. My younger daughter doesn't want to have any thing to do with public displays of affection. My oldest loves the holiday, but feels unsure about handing out Valentine's to her friends....what if no one else is? Remember those days. I gave her advice that I am not sure I could have followed at that age.

I told her to,"Listen to your heart. You are all about expressing your love and friendship. This holiday is made for you. And the world needs more love and kindness. Give out the Valentine's to friends. Don't make the world a little sadder just so you can be like everyone else."

I can sense her pull to follow this instinct. But the same pull in the other direction to fit in. To be like everyone else. There is comfort in that instinct. But there also may be a certain flatness. A little less joy.

In the financial world there is a term called beta. Beta is a reflection of risk. A stock that has a high beta value, is one that has a high degree of volatility. There is a great chance for big returns, .....or big losses. Sometimes in life, and in our art, or our businesses, we face that choice. Do we play it safe, or do we take a chance on the big return? Just like in our finances, it is best to have a balance. Maintaining some degree of safety, but also taking some risks. Knowing what your risks are, and being prepared to accept them if things don't turn out the way you want.

My daughter went off to school today with about a dozen valentines. She plans to hand them out to friends at lunch time. She worries about friends who may not get one, but see that someone else did. She worries about whether or not she should give on to that "special friend". But, she is going to give them out in spite of her worries. Taking the chance of looking silly to some. But also being able to tell her friends that they are special to her.

Readers, this is my Valentine to you. I hope that someone expresses to you today, how special you are to them. With flowers, chocolates, a card, or words. And I hope you can step outside your comfort zone and tell someone that they are a good friend, or that they make your life a little more special.

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart.

-Helen Keller

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Chance to Vote for American Craft

George W. Bush has apparently signed the bill that will send tax rebate checks out to most Americans in the coming months, with the intent of stimulating the economy. The checks will vary in amount, from $300 to well over $1000. Since this idea came up, there has been much discussion in the media about how people will spend this money, and whether or not it will benefit the economy. There has been people concerned that it will go to purchasing electronic equipment that is made overseas, and the money will quickly leave our economy.

I have a suggestion. Take a pledge. A pledge to buy American Craft.
With at least some portion of your rebate, buy something made by hand, by an American artist. I am not normally one for jingoism. But, I can't imagine anything that could do more to get the money into the economy that will have so many benefits. Small business, the artist who works alone, or with a small number of employees, will be a direct beneficiary. That money will go right back into circulation, in our economy, probably to purchase more supplies, or services to support their business. You will bring a bit of beauty into your life, and you will be a patron of the arts! You don't have to make donations of millions of dollars so that a wing can be added to a museum to be a patron of the arts. All it really takes is buying the work of artists. Large or small, it all adds up, and begins to make for viable careers.

Do I have a personal interest in seeing this happen? Maybe. But I feel like I am part of a community of talented people who make the world a little more beautiful with the work they do. But, they face an uphill battle to stay in business. I want to see them succeed. If I didn't, I wouldn't write this blog. My motivation is to see the world be a bit more beautiful. To be surrounded by more art, wherever I go. And if it means asking people to make a pledge to buy some art with their rebate, I am willing to do that!
Take the pledge.

Copy one or more of these images, and add it to your blog, or your website. Print it out as labels, and put it on postcards, or envelopes, or wherever you can use it to remind someone that they have the power to take an act in favor of beauty. Let's make this a contagion on the internet., and beyond. Around the holidays, there was the Pledge to Buy Handmade. Let's build on that idea. We can make a difference in the world. And it starts with our actions. Act on behalf of beauty. Put aside the whole check if you can, or a portion of it you can manage, and buy American Craft. And if you have enough "stuff" in your life, perhaps someone you know would be cheered by a handcrafted gift.
Does the world need more plasma TV's, or more art? You have a choice. You can make a difference.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

My Oprah Moment,...or Not??

I saw a message on a discussion board yesterday about my cranes. Someone was posting because she thought she saw my cranes on the Oprah Winfrey show in the bedroom of a home being redone by Nate, the home dec guru of the show. You can imagine the excitement there was in my house for about ten minutes when we thought that my cranes had been on Oprah!

I seldom get a chance to watch her show these days, or much television at all, other than my faithful viewing of Project Runway! And we don't have Tivo, or any other way to record shows. How could I find out if this was indeed true? I went to the website, and poked around. All I could find was a video of the before shots of the house, and there were several paper cranes hanging in one girl's room. Was this the reported crane sighting? Perhaps someone mistook these paper cranes for my polymer clay ones? As far as I know this is the case. the after video doesn't show the girls rooms.

If you saw the show, or better yet recorded the show, maybe you can confirm for me that this is a case of mistaken identity. I have sent off an e-mail to the show, but given the number of emails they recieve, it is unlikely that I will hear from them any time soon. Were any of my polymer clay cranes really on the Oprah show?? I doubt it, but I am holding out for confirmation! Someone out there must have a recording of the show.....

Friday, February 8, 2008

Something to Think About..

Just a link today. Something to ponder over the weekend. A less is more kind of post.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Using Your Camera as a Design Tool

When I am working on laying out a new piece, particular if it is large, involved, or a new design, I find that it is a process of simmering, tasting and adjusting. I start out with a general idea, and begin to layout the components for the design. I will get to a certain point and feel like it has to sit with me for awhile. I don't feel certain enough about where I am going to move ahead without some time and space. Time for things to simmer. Some things end up sitting for months! Never getting to a point where I feel like I have a clear direction to resolve whatever it is that feels unresolved for me.

Sometimes I will ask the opinions of my husband or kids, but that rarely helps me work out those ones that just feel "off". I think it may be they don't always have a vocabulary to express why they like or don't like something. It is usually a yes or no, or they respond to an area that I feel more certainty about already.

Recently, I have begun to use my camera to evaluate a piece. I have found that I see things in a photo that are not as apparent to me when I am working with a piece on the table.

While these two photos show essentially the same necklace, there is a difference in how the pods are aligned on each one. The piece on the far left was my first attempt. I wasn't really satisfied with it, but I couldn't tell you why. But after I took a picture, I found I was not happy with how the beads that are on the inner part of each pod seemed to create a line, that to my eye, detracted from the pod forms. When I have arranged them this way, and they were all the same color, it has worked better, but here, I was not satisfied with the outcome. After playing around with the piece, and realigning the pod components, I found it was closer to my inspiration, ....the ocean. It had more of the feel and energy of waves and tumbling least to my eyes! Design is subjective. What appeals to me, may be less appealing to someone else. But in this case, I knew I was less satisfied with the first arrangement than with the second. But it wasn't until I took a picture that I could clearly see what it was that was bothering me with the first attempt.
Similarly, I was planning on creating a collar style necklace with the shibori beads. I began to select colors and beads, and lay them out on my table. The top picture is the first iteration.

I took a picture, and then rearranged the beads so that the ones that were towards the back came to the front, and the ones in the center front went back. After looking at the pictures, I decided I didn't like either one. In the second arrangement, I found that the beads in the center were too drab and flat, especially for the position. But the two areas of light yellow beads about collarbone level in the first arrangement bothered me as well. The created a sense of discontinuity for me. My eye would be drawn there, and get stuck.
Plan B...or perhaps C? I got rid of the drab beads, and added more of the lighter colored beads. Both lines of beads were going from light to dark now, but the end point has less contrast in value and color. I abandoned the idea of a collar style necklace, and decided to create a kinetic shibori bead necklaces, that would be more wearable.

It is now a long strand, about 36" total length, but joined together so that the wearer can decide which color will lay where. Perhaps the lighter colors towards the front in the warmer months, and darker in the cooler months. Or in between for those hard to decide days! The beads have a small blue lace agate bead as a spacer.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Hammer and Nail

Have you heard the expression, "if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail"? I think if you immerse yourself deeply enough into your media, the world starts to get translated by what you can do with that medium.

Today I went to the first day of my print making class. I have been interested in printmaking for a long time, but it never seemed to come together. Either the class was cancelled due to low enrollment, or the timing didn't work with my schedule. I am excited about the possibilities of playing around with this new process. It can't be too surprising that I was quickly jumping to the conclusion that I could create print plates with polymer clay. :-)

I find the books I buy, and the classes I am most interested in taking are seldom ones that are directly about polymer clay. There is something about exploring a new media and the ways in which it is used that makes me rethink my familiar ground.

It is like when you travel to a new place. The sights, sounds, smells, tastes, colors are all new. There is so much to take in. It heightens your awareness. When you get back to familiar, and comfortable ground, some of the new is bound to seep in. There is a new appreciation for that home ground, but there is also a fresh perspective, a new insight. For me, this idea of looking in unfamiliar places is the best way to keep my creative juices flowing.

I may just end up playing for several weeks with this new process. And I don't know which way the influence will go.....will polymer clay influence my printmaking process, or will printmaking influence my polymer clay work? Either way, I am looking forward to this creative holiday. I be sure to share some of what I create along the way.

Friday, February 1, 2008


Want to waste five minutes. Go take the quiz. I spent the last thirty seconds trying out colors that it was rejecting (steel grey, pale yellow, eggshell), and forgot colors like pink.

The Crane Project Blog

I have begun another blog to chronicle the evolution of what I have dubbed "The Crane Project." I will write about why I have taken on this project. Thoughts I have about the war and it's impact. I will also have a running count on the blog of the number of casualties from the war, and the number of cranes I have made.

I will write about my process to try and find a place to eventually exhibit the cranes. I will share with you my efforts to get grants or raise funds to help cover the costs of this project. I hope you are along for the journey....if for no other reason that it inspires you to take on that BHAG that lives inside you!