Sunday, November 26, 2017

Support Your Local Artists---Buy Art!

I have many artist friends who are busy this time of year setting up their booth displays at various craft and art shows.  Holiday sales are important and can often help artists make it through the slower months at the beginning of a new year.  It is so important for people to shop locally and support small businesses and independent artists that are trying to make a living in the community.  

I don't do too many booth type shows but choose instead to have my work in galleries.  I believe I have been a consignment artist at The Artist's Shop in Missoula, Montana since 2011 and I have had a couple of solo exhibitions there.  I have shown at numerous other galleries over the years and that is my preferred way to sell my work.  I also have work in a small gallery in Brooklyn, NY called Brigid's Well and hope to get my work better known in that part of the country.

I admire the tenacity and dedication of artists who haul their work and their booth set-up all over the place and spend several days trying to make a profit and have something to show for their efforts.  They pay show entry and booth fees and of course have to pay gas and sometimes lodging costs to attend shows.  It is a lot of physical work to set up/take down and requires stamina to smile and greet people for three days!  They get to keep all their sales though and hopefully they have the right mix of artwork to get the sales they need.  

I, on other hand, drop off or send my work to a gallery and they hang it for me and take a sizeable commission on the sales.  I get to stay home and make more art while they attempt to sell my work for me.  

There are advantages and disadvantages to both efforts---and some people do both.  I have a son in high school and that keeps me close to home for now.  I enjoy interacting with potential customers and talking with them about my art and that is the one reason I do the occasional booth event or studio tour.  It is a real boost to the fragile artist ego to have people admire what you create and even want to buy it.  Unfortunately gallery personnel don't have time to call you every day and tell you what someone said about your work!  Sometimes we have to get ourselves out in front of the public to find out for ourselves.

That is also a good thing about doing solo exhibitions once in a while where you have an opening reception and can interact with your audience and see what pieces they spend time looking at and comment about.  It is very enlightening and usually a positive experience.  I have had more than 10 gallery openings for my work and never regretted spending the time to be there all evening and talk to whoever was interested.  I am always grateful that there ARE people who are interested!

So when you are looking for that unique Christmas gift or gift for any occasion don't forget to consider buying something from a local artist at a craft/art show or gallery in  your "neighborhood".  Be assured they will be grateful and honored that you chose to purchase their work.  Every sale matters no matter how small and if you share the purchase with someone else as a gift or display it in your home that artist is getting some promotion and exposure thanks to you.  

Look for my work at The Artist's Shop on Higgins downtown in Missoula, Montana.  There are many wonderful artists who show their work at this artist co-op.  I am honored that they let me share the space with them! 
The Artist's Shop 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Find Balance In Art and Life

"Capture The Sunrise"  (Sold)
 Why do we find ourselves so busy all the time no matter what our circumstances?  Kids, no kids, working, retired---we are all busy!  I find it hard to schedule a group to get together because everyone is going in many directions and setting their priorities differently.  And it doesn't seem to matter what time of year it is, everyone has an abundance of commitments on their calenders! 

I am certainly no exception. I have a very active teenage son and a husband and a house to care for. I have an aging father who lives on his own---perfectly capable but still can use a hand on occasion. I am involved in numerous groups that mostly relate to my art walk.  And I have all the business and creative aspects of my art. I also like to read or peruse recipes on-line and in cookbooks and cook or bake from scratch. It all takes time.

Image result for images of balanced scales I believe the most important thing in creating good art is balance and that of all the principles of art, balance is the one that is most key to success in a composition.  And in life.  We should all seek balance in what we do whether in creative endeavors or in other aspects of our life.  I have always believed in "all things in moderation" which works as a philosophy about eating or dieting as well as in most other aspects of our lives.  When we obsess or overreact or feel out of control it is probably because things are out of balance.

So, how do we find balance?  In art, balance is created by having equal weight of elements of a piece.  "Weight" refers to the actual size, weight or dimension of the elements as well as the "visual weight" which might be in the color value, texture, contrast with other elements, or placement on the field.  Simplified, you balance a large single element in one corner with a group of smaller elements in the opposite corner.  There are many ways to achieve the balance and artists find their own unique way as part of their creative process and style.  I think this can translate to life.  For example, if you have a big event coming up that requires lots of preparation you might need to dial back your participation in other activities to accommodate it.  If you are having health issues with doctor appointments and tests, you might want make sure you take time to read or watch a movie or exercise---something that might take you out of yourself and ease your worried mind.  Or have lunch with a friend who makes you laugh. Balance the inevitable difficult or negative aspects of your life with more positive, energizing/relaxing and fun things!

The biggest thing we juggle in life in order to achieve balance is TIME.  We set personal priorities in order to use our time wisely.  Sometimes we have control of our time and other times we have commitments that use our time.  I tend to not use my time wisely if I don't have deadlines or commitments to meet. I procrastinate and do things that are not really in line with my goals or priorities because they are easier or relaxing or just great methods of avoidance!  When I should be in my studio figuring out the next project and getting started on it, I am perusing Pinterest or playing a word game on my Ipad!  Not that there is anything wrong with doing those things because we do find them enjoyable.  But doing them at the wrong time or for too long creates an imbalance for me because I don't meet my creative goals which I consider a priority.  

"Bubbles In The Candlelight" $300

Procrastination.  Nasty bugger.  My husband is always lecturing my teenage son about procrastinating things.  He always wants to do something "later" instead of now.   We say, just get it done and then you won't have to worry about it.  He says, you'll just find something else for me to do!  OK, you've got us there.  Ever had a job where you were so efficient and productive that they gave you more to do?  I have and without added compensation and/or recognition that is a particularly annoying situation and feels unfair.  This develops an attitude of just do what you must to accomplish the task without putting any extra effort into it.  Good enough is good enough.  

But is it?  Do we want to live mediocre lives where we just get along, or do we find it rewarding to be successful and have that success recognized?   We need to balance our time between the things we have decided are our priorities that mean a lot to us and those things we tend to fall back into it because they are easy.  The balance comes when we feel good about how we are using our time.  Maybe your goal is to spend half of your day working on your creative process and then balance the other half between reading a good book and getting dinner and chores accomplished.  Maybe you want to work all day Tuesday on your creative endeavors and then take Wednesday off to read, take a walk and watch a movie.  If you feel like your time is well spent and you don't have a nagging feeling that you should be doing something else you have found balance.  You lucky dog!
"Chain Reaction" (Sold)

Most of us never really feel like our lives are truly balanced.  There is always something you think you should be doing that you aren't.  Or that you shouldn't be doing and are!  But, when you feel off-center and don't know what your problem is lately you should analyze your days and see what it is you are doing that is not giving you the balance you deserve and need.  Sometimes we are so busy we don't have time to do this---or if we do, we feel like we don't even have time to do those things that will allow us to be more balanced.  Keep in mind what in your life makes you feel accomplished, satisfied or successful and refocus your time.

Take 5 minutes to breathe or watch nature or hug a child/puppy/partner.  Just 5 minutes.  No matter what your schedule and commitments you can take 5 minutes.  Don't procrastinate this.  It is important.  Wherever you are in your life it is important to have balance.  So when something tips your scale too far, take a step back and figure out how to even it out.  

Take care of yourself!  
Image result for images of balanced scales

Thursday, October 26, 2017

What Is An "Art Quilt"?

What are "art quilts"?  They are layered and stitched textile "pictures" that are hung on the wall.  They might be abstract or realistic or any other style of design that you might be aware of from the world of painting.  They are like fabric paintings.  The "quilt" part of it is because they are layered:  the designed top layer, a batting/padding of some sort, and a backing fabric, and then those layers are stitched together in some way.  The variety of styles and techniques used to create an art quilt is more complex and varied than paintings usually are.  We call this "surface design" and it runs the gamut from rusting, dyeing, painting and stamping to beading, weaving, embroidering, and pleating.  And that is only a sample of the possibilities available to us.  There are no boundaries.   

And that is why I love being an "art quilter".  I get to play with color, texture, line and shape to make wonderfully rich and fulfilling pieces of art.  I have a muse and I use it to transform materials into abstract representations of experiences and memories.  Just like a painter would.  Only the basic materials used are....well....material!  

Human beings are exposed to material from birth in the form of clothing, blankets, bedclothes, towels, and even furniture.  We are wrapped in it, walk on it, use it to clean, cover windows with it, and have our picnics on it.  Wrapping in a warm towel after a long bath, covering up with an afghan to watch a movie on the couch, or dressing up for a prom are all things we enjoy partly because of the qualities of fabric.  Fabric is part of the fabric of our lives.  It is comforting and offers us security.  We have fond feelings for many of the fabrics in our lives---the first blankie, the favorite pillow, the afghan that grandma made, the comfy socks, and, for me, the Scottish tartans of my heritage.  

Naturally this bodes well for an artist who works in the medium of fabric and textiles, right?  Unfortunately what I have found is that many people can't understand the concept of hanging fabric on the wall as art.  Don't quilts go on a bed or over the back of my couch?  There is a disconnect between the idea of fabric as a functional object that we use and wear and the possibility that it could be enjoyed like a painting to enhance your living or work environment.  It doesn't seem so difficult to me since I have many quilts on my walls and love looking at them as the light changes throughout the day and over the seasons of time.  They are warm, colorful, intricate and remind me of the experiences and memories that influenced their creation.  It seems perfectly natural to me that a quilt should hang on the wall and be appreciated as art.  I make my art out of fabric and then I stitch it like a quilt.  It is art.  They are no more difficult to hang than any painting.  They are lighter, warmer and more textural than most paintings.  If you own one you probably know----they are very pleasant to live with and decorate your walls with.

If you have never been exposed to this form of art you are missing out on what is becoming a more respected and accepted medium by galleries, museums and cultural centers the world over.  I belong to an organization called Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) that is internationally in the game of promoting the art quilt as a legitimate and honored form of art in the venues of the world.  They have exhibitions and publications that help to expose audiences to beautiful works of art that start with fabric and are elevated to a higher level in the hands of artists.  

I consider myself an artist first and foremost.  Textiles, thread, and beads are my tools.  I create abstract pictures inspired by nature.  I am influenced by my home in the Rocky Mountains of Western Montana and the beauty that surrounds me and engulfs me every single day.  Sunlight and shadow, leaf and tree, water and fire.  The joy of working with color and texture to make something beautiful that has meaning to me and to my audience keeps me inspired and productive.  I love what I do and if you love it to, share it with others.  When you see something beautiful that a textile/fiber artist has made share it.  Decorate your home or office with fiber art.  Fiber art goes beautifully with pottery, paintings, sculpture, and wood.  It is a wonderful way to incorporate more of the fabrics and materials that we love and have grown up with into our lives in an aesthetic way.  Wear them, wrap up in them, cover your table with them, and hang them on your bedroom wall! 

I love it when people come to one of my shows and say that they have never seen anything like my work before.  They didn't know anyone was doing this with fabric.  But they love it.  A convert!  I try to get my work out wherever I can to try to educate and expose people to textile art.  Hopefully some day they will remember that they liked it and when they need something for their newly furnished dining room they look for a piece of fiber art.  Or maybe they just want to remember a visit to Montana or the woods they wandered when they were young.  I think fiber art is more expressive and tactile than a painting ever could be.  You want to touch it, you identify with it, you feel comfortable with it.  It is fabric and you have had it around you all your life.  

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Artist in Autumn

As an artist early fall is a very busy time.  Any artist who needs to make money to support their art is working diligently to create things that they hope will sell during the holiday season.  There are studio tours, home shows, group shows, and art fairs going on.  We all hope that people who are shopping for Christmas or Hanukkah gifts will attend our events and purchase our art!  

So, as I am preparing for my upcoming studio tour with The Artists Along The Bitterroot, I am thinking about what people might want to buy and where I should concentrate my efforts.  Small pieces with low price tags are not my most inspired and fulfilling art to create, but they are most likely to sell.  Many artists who do shows with booth set-ups will show their larger, pricier art but also have cards, prints, or other small items to try to make those sales.

For several years I focused my fall efforts on making beaded ornaments that were very popular but for which I could not ask a price that made up for the time, effort, and expenses associated with them.  They took a long time to make and were very beautiful, but if I put a price on them that I really thought they were worth they didn't sell.  

 I love these ornaments and many people who own them hang them year around.  I intentionally did not make most of them "holiday" themed so they could be displayed any time.  They might be too big for actual display on a tree, but in a window or a office wall or wherever there is a small wall space, these are very fun to live with. 

But, time consuming.  If I could sell them for $75 I'd be happy to do more.  But at half that or even less I just burned out feeling I wasn't being rewarded for the effort--and they are a lot of effort.  Maybe sometime I'll pick it up and make more.  Right now I'm looking for the next best thing....

I have goals with my "art walk" that are sometimes conflicting.  I want/need to sell things in order to continue producing and showing my work.  Beads, fabric, sewing/quilting machines and all the other accoutrements necessary to produce my work all cost money to purchase, maintain and store.  But, on the other hand I would love to create larger more dramatic work that might be suitable for the larger more prestigious art and fiber art venues across the country (world), including museums.  Those venues are not always good places to sell work, but when you develop a reputation and are creating high end work that gets into those venues and is "seen", the buyers tend to find you and sales follow.  

Not a year goes by that I don't have my work out in the world at galleries and quilt shows at both local and national levels.  And I have had my work out there in national magazines that have published articles I have written.  I seek to get to the next level with my art.  More venues on a national level.  More recognition in the fiber art world as an artist with work that is respected and admired.   The ability to travel to shows and venues that are recognized as top level in the fiber art world and lecture or teach around the country (world) about my work and process.  I love sharing what I do with others, but I also want others to see what I do as valuable and worthy.  

"Reconnecting" (detail)
There are debates about whether or not a true artist should be concerned about selling their work or if they should just be grateful that it is shown and shared so their message is being told.  I think I will feel successful as an artist when both of those things are true.  Financially I can't do what I do if I don't make any money doing it.  I have to pay for my supplies and tools.  I have to market my work, send it out, take pictures of it, and maintain a presence on-line.  I want to travel to see art, share my art, teach about my art.  The more money I can make with sales of my art, the less I have to worry about the business part.  Because truly being an artist is a business.  If we are good business people we pay taxes, market ourselves and our art, have bank accounts, and purchase goods.  We maintain inventories and records.  We are constantly on the prowl for possible venues for our work and evaluating whether they are right for us.  We have wins, we have losses.  But it is all because we have a passion for what we do.  It is not the business part that makes us continue.  It is the art.  

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Seeking Meaning

I'm always reading that an artist uses their art to express something or make a statement and that good art has meaning.  It might not mean the same thing to everyone but the artist is supposed to have something they are trying to say with the art.

I've never been a deep thinker and I'm a veteran fencesitter when it comes to taking a stand on issues.  Usually I feel I can never know enough about an issue or a political agenda or even a politician to make an absolute case one way or the other.  I guess it is the ultimate open-mindedness but also a bit wishy washy!  I do have my personal causes but they aren't the big global ones that everyone talks about or that you hear in the news.

There are things that touch my heart and probably come out in my art, but it isn't by a conscious decision to make a statement.  My art flows from inspiration and feeling. I feel purple today and I'm going to make something that is deeply colored and curvy with a touch of gold. Or today I feel a little wild and I'm going to mix it up with batik scraps in many colors and shapes and try to make it all come together with stitching and beading.  Or I want to use that beautiful piece of raw silk I bought recently and combine it with some suede and intricate stitching.  The process is fun for me, and fun translates into creativity and art.

When I don't find what I am doing fun, it tends to stifle the creative process--or at least slow it down to a tedious pace.  It doesn't have to be laugh out loud jump for joy fun, but it does need to be enjoyable and have a natural momentum that keeps spurring me into the next step in the process.  When I work I always just go with that natural flow and let the pieces emerge as they will.  No plan, no perceived outcome, no intentional message.  I combine color, shape, line and texture to make something beautiful.  Hopefully it speaks about the beauty of nature and the natural world and how much joy it gives me.  I guess that is my message however simplistic and trite that is.

Nature moves me.  Nature is color and movement and wonderful texture.  The geometry of trees and the asymmetry of a landscape.  The variation in the color of leaves in the early spring and of course in autumn.  The blush of an apple, the shape of a poppy seed pod, the wings of a bird.  Just thinking of those things gives me a good feeling.  They help make life enjoyable.  And if you notice them--maybe through my art--hopefully they make your life enjoyable for a moment or two.

I recently had an article published in Machine Quilting Unlimited Magazine (Sept-Oct 2017) called "Abstracting Nature".  I use the feelings I have about nature to create fiber art that is abstract but clearly influenced and reflective of nature.  My trees are not always a particular species and my flowers might be highly stylized but they are trees and flowers.  Even when I do a piece that has no recognizable natural forms or elements in it, you can usually see some influence of nature in the stitching or beadwork that brings it back to the muse.

Now, I might be totally biased here, but I think my work is very pleasant to live with.  If I lived in the city I would love having a piece on the wall to remind me of my childhood adventures or family vacation or the park where I go to feed the birds.  And if I lived in a more rural area (which I do!) I would enjoy the daily reminder that nature is so vital to our existence and helps us find the joy in life.  Even when the skies are filled with smoke from forest fires, as they were for weeks this past summer, or just cloudy and gray, I look at my wall and have a window to the world.  So I guess that is what I am saying with my art.  Appreciate and enjoy the beauty of the world.  There is plenty of ugliness you can see on the news and in the newspapers every day, but decorate your walls with beauty!!

Stuffed Turkey Thigh/Legs

Disclaimer: This is a cooking post not an art post!  But I will say that there is an art to boning, stuffing and baking this recipe--and it ...