Where did January go?

dragon-tail-web

Over the holiday break from school I sat down with the checklist from Alyson Stanfield‘s Art Biz Blog and tried to analyze my studio practice from a business perspective. I was pretty happy with the results, except in the area of communication. I really have a hard time connecting with people – even people who obviously care about and support my work. I collect emails, and I think about creating a newsletter or something to connect with others, and every year I don’t follow through. I reach out to curators, which is terrifying for me, and then after the first contact or two, I loose momentum. I realized this is really holding me back, and I know over the years I have let opportunities slide through my hands. This year I am resolving again to try and work on this a little more.

Then I saw that SARK was giving away a week long seminar on succulent business practice. FREE – SARK. Yeah I was blown away. So I signed up for that too. On the second to last day there was a session on money. Like many artists not only do I struggle with connecting with people, I also have a love/hate relationship with money. I have to say that the week long seminar has really shifted my attention. I had a really powerful experience during that money seminar. I hope that I can keep building on the energy of that experience. And in what I am sure is really a coincidence but sure feels like divine manifestation, an unexpected series of checks showed up in my life this week. (Unexpected only in that I rarely check in with galleries who carry my work, and I had sold some work at several of them over the holidays – yeah those people skills again). I decided to invest a little of that money in one on one business counseling through the seminar. And yes, I am terrified!

As usual over the holidays I also got way less work accomplished than I thought I would. I really need to manage my time better this year as I have two solo shows and several group shows with new galleries or artist groups coming up. (Again, maintaining those relationships, those people skills need to be a focus) I also want to spend part of my summer back home in the UK, so I have taken on a lot of workshops and an extra course at the college where I teach to help offset all the costs of traveling and the lack of summer income. Just writing that is making me . queasy.

Okay. I really have to get back to work now! If you have any tips on connecting with the people who support your practice, send them my way. And as part of this “people” revolution this year – I pledge to actually post a little more often. Or at least to try.

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coming or going?

simple abundance july 25

I was driving my youngest daughter back to camp earlier this week when we passed a truck just like the one we were riding in – “watch out” she said, “we just passed ourselves going – we’re in a time paradox!” Too much Dr. Who in this house maybe?

But honestly that is pretty much how I have been feeling all year. Somehow I cannot seem to get grounded at all, and although some incredible and splendid things have happened, I feel they have all slipped by half-appreciated in a blur. I have been far too busy living to have a life. All of my good intentions seem rather tattered and I am feeling glad that a new school year is just around the corner (and a little freaked out about how much work I HAVEN’T done on my new lectures) and with it a fresh mental start.

I am trying to be gentle with myself – but I am frustrated by the fact that so many of the projects I had hoped to complete this year are still unfinished in the studio.I have made incremental progress on a few – the signatures for women’s work are almost completed – but I didn’t finish it in time to enter it in the Rochester Art of the Book show as I had hoped. I know it WILL get finished – and probably pretty soon, but I feel as if I have let myself down yet again. I know the only way forward is to pick myself up and renew my efforts, but I honestly just feel a bit tired. I’d like to just take a nap – in the woods away from everything.

never done....

never done….

I have signed up for the August round of the root 30 day journal project – just to see if anything comes to the surface. Obviously something is holding me back from following through with my commitment to myself, to make more time for my own art, maybe by going back to my journals I can figure it out. While I am waiting for August – I have decided to reread Simple Abundance and journal about whatever that brings up – maybe by staying in the pages of my journal where it is safe to make mistakes I can rekindle my energies and get back to work.

Now back to my coffee and preparations for the upcoming Bookfest at WNYBAC

community

OK so it is not Thursday – but here is my throwback thought for the week. It’s about community and how important it is as an artist to have a supportive tribe to rely on. I am thinking about this for many many reasons this week, but here are a few of them.

As many of my readers know I work part time with the Cattaraugus County Arts Council as a creativity consultant to their business program for artists ABLE. Last week was out last monthly meeting with this great group of creative people, and although our support for this group will continue on indefinitely, this intensive part of the program is coming to an end. As part of our wrap-up we talked about what we had learned from the program, and one of the artists said that something I had said at the very first meeting had profoundly changed the way he thought about his work. He had said he was reluctant to share his photography in case people didn’t like it, and I had said who cares? And I meant it – our work is our own given only to us, if we don’t do it it never manifests in the world. I really believe our job is just to do the work, not to make judgements about it, just to do it and put it out in the world. I was glad something I had said had encouraged a fellow artists to stay on the path and keep on working – that is such a great feeling! Bringing this program to a close made me think about my NYFA Mark experience, and how powerful it was to be acknowledged as an artist and be taken seriously. (If you are new to me and my blog you can read about that here). But also it is about seeing that others are in the same place as you – that even the most seasoned and accomplished veterans wrestle with the same problems.

The second incident was when a past student dropped by to visit – she has been in a bit of a bleak place in her life and wanted to reignite her creativity and work her way back to emotional health. I sent her off with a long list of recommended reading, and I hope that along with a chat over coffee I was able to help her a bit! I remember “beginning” as an artist, and I told her that right now I still struggle with the same thoughts as then. Doubt assails me less often, but doubt still comes, and that for me I have to remember to just keep working and wait for the work to find its own way. So many people support me when doubt creeps in, and my blog readers especially have become such an amazing support network of people, most of whom I only know through this cyber-space connection. It is good to be able to pay that feeling forward.

Also this week I read this post over at Tattered and Worn about balance – and I felt refreshed and reassured and able to get back to work with less concern about how out of whack my life has been lately – I just decided to drop the pie on the floor and eat it! (Now you will have to go read the post to see what on earth I am talking about!). I read this blog almost every day with my morning coffee – I hope you have time to read at least this one post this weekend – you will be glad you did!

This blog has been a catalyst for me in meeting and making my tribe. Through it I have met so many amazing generous artists willing to share their talents and advice. Being online and reading other blogs makes me feel less alone, inspires me to get up out of my rut and go back to work, fills my mind with the splendor of their work, and encourages my inner child to get up and go play again. So I am very happy to say that I was contacted this week by Jill Zaheer from Jazworks to be part of a blog-hop. Jill and I met as paper swap partners through LaWendula’s amazing and FREE paper swap. (I encourage you to go check it out and sign up – it is really FREE). So next weekend I will be posting my answers to her questions and linking to the next blogs in the hop. I hope you will go and visit Jill’s blog and look at her incredible work, which has such a unique signature style, and then backtrack along the hop and check out the other artists who are playing. Maybe on the way you will find a little something to help you today. Thanks for visiting – and I’ll be back with a new post in a few days. blogging it turns out is much like riding, when you fall off you just need to get back on and ride again!

intense

So much is happening here at PBI it is a bit hard to process. Everything is intense. Bookbinding in the mornings and making paper in the afternoon. Hardly time to think, so much to learn. I am not sure I will ever be a great paper maker – but I have enjoyed learning and trying, but the sewing – oh the sewing. I am in love.

All the models in the binding class are (loosely) based on historic examples from the manuscript collection at the Uppsala University Library. The originals have held up well over the last 600 years. It has been amazing to see the images of the collection. I hope one day I’ll be able to see the books in person!

Tuesday we learned this binding – a long stitch with weaving.

here's the spine..

here’s the spine..

link 2 bird cver-web

and the cover

Wednesday night we were working late into the night in the studio when Adam Larsson showed me this image from the collection at the library at Uppsala. Well, that was it, I had to figure out how that long forgotten anonymous seamstress had mended that book, and yep, I had to fix the hole in my parchment too. I am so happy. Here’s the result.

a close up of my attempt

a close up of my attempt

One of the images we saw had a split spine, so I decided I wanted to try that as well, so here’s the whole book. It has some issues, but as a trial it is not so bad.

and the whole book

and the whole book

Session 1 is over, and today everyone is catching up on laundry, and I imagine like me scribbling down ideas and dreaming about the work they will do when they get home to their own studios. It has been an incredible experience so far – how lucky I am to be here! Can’t wait to dive into the next session…

PBI – day two

It is so much intense fun here at PBI I didn’t post yesterday – but fell into a heap. I am close to heap-like collapse again tonight – but here is a picture of the binding I learned today – a link stitch. I have tried to teach myself this – but the directions are confusing, but once I saw it demonstrated it made absolute sense!  Adam Larsson is a great instructor – and I am meeting so many amazing people here. So here’s the quick pic. Goodnight!!

link binding, vellum cover/leather spine

link binding, vellum cover/leather spine

“This program is made possible in part by support from the United Arts Appeal of Chautauqua County Projects Pool Grant Program.”

happiness project 2

another journal page – still working on “messy”

 

So a month has gone by and I thought I would share an update on my first month’s “happiness project” (if you don’t know what the heck I’m blathering on about check out this post). I have to admit I was hopeful but skeptical going in – but yea! good news, self improvement with lists and projects is working for me. I exerted considerable effort on relaxing, and in combination with my yoga class I can report that my mood has improved. I find myself more cheerful – even randomly smiling!  I haven’t conquered my need to be doing something all the time, but I have valiantly fought back, taking a weekend trip, with no work! and making time to be with family and friends in spite of looming, seemingly urgent deadlines. I am surprised that this has worked, I am even more surprised that I seem to have more energy – and no deadlines have been missed. Hmmm – maybe there is something to this relaxing thing!

So the idea of the book is to tackle one source of discontent/unhappiness each month. So this month I am focusing on organization. I have been de-cluttering for years, but I still have objects in my home with no permanent place – this months goal – “a place for everything and everything in its place” I know stuff won’t stay put – but I am hopeful I can improve a little! How wonderful it would be to not waste energy wondering where things are!!

In studio news – more of the same. I am neck-deep in research on women’s work. I have been learning how to crochet and make needle lace. As with every new technique one learns my head is filling with new ideas. I am really trying to think about content for those embroidered bindings and I think the needle lace has given me an interesting idea. Hopefully I will have some images to post here soon. I would be embarrassed to share my beginning crochet with you here as it is BAD! But hopefully I’ll be able to figure out the issues I am having with tension and make something that doesn’t look quite so wobbly. Thanks to everyone who has made suggestions on how to improve my technique – if you crochet and have words of wisdom for me – please share!! I am hoping to take a workshop on making and using “plarn” soon, and I’d love to make something cool from recycled bags – the course is being taught by one of my students who makes amazing things from her plarn!!

As for needle lace – well of course it is intricate and time consuming so I LOVE IT!! but it is tricky and again – issues with tension to be worked out – but wow! how amazing it looks. Oh I have BIG thoughts about this one.

OK – back to work! Have to finish the prep for my workshop at this conference tomorrow. Maybe in December I had better work on keeping my deadlines straight so I won’t have to do all this last minute rushing!

Liverpool

I have been trying to figure out how I first got entangled with the great group of artists from SCIBASE. I think that Louise Atkinson may at the bottom of it all, I am fairly certain that she forwarded a call for work from the Basement Arts Project to me. I am quite certain that my proposal for that show wasn’t accepted, but I ended up on their email list and when the call for work for SUPERMARKET went out I was really anxious to be included. The rest as they say is history. They accepted my proposal and I was able to meet up with them in Stockholm.

This was really the beginning of the strange mental journey I have been on since. I realized while I was at SUPERMARKET that I was quite content with the nature of my practice. I had really struggled after being accepted with the distinct possibility that I was not hip enough for an independent event of this kind. (and really I wasn’t!) I have said many times on this blog that I am maker, my hands need to be busy, I like the sense of gratification and accomplishment I get from producing a finely crafted thing. I enjoy the slow rhythm and repetition of my time in the studio. I am that creature. So while being in Stockholm certainly generated plenty of social anxiety, I really am not good with new people, it also generated a sense of well being that was new. I felt that there were some people who did get was I was doing and that seemed to be enough. I am not cutting edge, but I am OK with being a quieter, middle-aged, suburban sort of message bringer.

Then after spending time with the amazing group of NYFA MARK artists I realized another subtle internal shift was happening. I was really beginning to believe that I WAS an artist. It is really hard to explain what changed, or how my thoughts changed, but something has shifted. I find myself able to relax into the work, to be freer and more playful. Setting goals has allowed me to let go of something tight that was really jamming me up and I can already see the results in the studio and in my professional life. I am still not good with people but I find myself trying to be more open and especially more receptive to help.

And so today I had my first studio visit with a curator. I was able to carry on a fairly intelligent conversation about my work, and to get some valuable feedback about new projects. Just a few months ago I would not have even dared to invite a curator in, I didn’t believe I had anything worth seeing or sharing with a professional like that. I was making judgments about my work I should have been letting others make for themselves. Today I can say I do feel like a REAL artist.

And so, back to Bruce and Wendy and all the others, the artists of SCIBASE who gave me an unexpected boost. People in the art world talk all the time about lack, about fear and competition. This year I have been shown that it can just as easily be about collaboration, shared opportunity and abundance. A group of artists who only knew me through email and proposals welcomed me in, they took my very un-hip, perhaps embarrassingly earnest self consciousness and gently nudged me to a better place.They shared an experience, a space, even dinner!

I am excited to be showing with them again this coming month. My work is already on its way to Liverpool for the Independents Biennial. I finally wised up and created a print project that could be printed in England – so no expensive shipping and the work is designed to be taken away, so no return shipping either! The work I am sending is quite different, it is not precious, it is not finely crafted. It is a response to the absolutely ridiculous provocation of the political conversation in America over the past few months. It reflects the show’s title “inhospitable”, and how inhospitable to women the dialogue has become. I will wait until the show opens to post images.

I want to thank all the other artists in the collaborative who are doing the donkey work of installation and invigilation so that my work will be seen. I really, really wish I was coming to Liverpool to see you all again. And I want to thank all of you, my blog friends for supporting me too.