Deconstructing a New Logo

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I decided it was time to give the blog a little makeover and it was a great excuse to do a little work on my own logo as well.  The template I was using for my blog didn’t have a really great mobile version, but they did have an upgrade to the template which has some really cool new features.  I have some tweaks to make to this one still (like none of my links are showing up in color), but it is getting closer and the mobile readability is much improved.  Which is good, because I read that Google is going to start penalizing sites in search results that are not mobile friendly and being searchable is pretty darn important.  Want to check your site for mobile friendliness?  Google has a tool.

Since I was in the mode of giving everything a refresh, I thought it was time to look at my logo as well.  I designed this little goldfish in 2008 and I have used it on all of my accounts, business cards and tags and so forth for all this time.  His name is Smee.  He is a simple recognizable graphic and didn’t tie me to any particular art form or technique. I didn’t want a logo with sewing machines or knitting needles because I really wanted the logo to work with whatever I was choosing to do and it has served me well.

Why a goldfish?  I have had a pet goldfish or two pretty much continuously since I was in highschool.  Dmitri and Gustaf lived with my younger sister when they outgrew my dorm room fish bowl.  Tigerlily and Smee were also dorm fish.  Andy and I had the retirement home for fish from the Biology 101 lab at USD.  Toby, Josh, W, T, F (what the fish), Harold and Henry have all lived in the living room aquarium and summers in the waterlily pond outside the kitchen window.  Does a goldfish represent my work?  Probably not, but it does represent me in a personal way.

But recently, I have started to develop more of a focus for my work that I have ever had before.  Everything I do now involves something digital, although still diverse – photos, digital printing, laser cutting, website design.  I wanted my logo to be able to communicate that in a little way and maybe remind someone “oh this is that girl with the digital stuff” but I didn’t want to totally move away from my little fish.

If you have ever taken a class from me in almost any subject, you will know that I talk about pixels a lot.  For me they are a really fundamental concept for understanding how all of this digital image stuff works.  So I thought “visible pixels” were a great representation of that digital concept in my work.  The fish swimming through the B in the logo shows it transforming from pixels into something “real”, which is exactly the process that I do, transforming digital into tangible. Is it nuts to have all of this metaphor and backstory?  Maybe.  But I remember reading a story about the FedEx logo and the “hidden arrow” and I think there are probably more subtle stories happening than most people realize.  The font for the B is American Typewriter, which I have license to use in this way through my Adobe software licenses.  (I didn’t know this about the font when I chose it, but it was designed in 1974 (the year I was born) and it is the font used for the I heart NY campaign.) I always just use my name as my business name, so B for Becka works for me.  Finally, colors.  It seems very corporate to think of myself like a “brand” with brand standards but I many years ago picked a set of colors that I used for everything so that it was all consistent, my brand colors.  My business cards matched my blog matched my Etsy shop.  I had 6 colors, now I have simplified to 4.  I dropped the purply-blue which was feeling pretty dated and picked up an almost navy.

BeckaLogo2015-02If you are curious, here are some of the old old versions of the logo/colors I have used.  They feel really heavy and dark to me now.

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I am just starting to switch everything over to this new logo and look.  Time for new business cards and the Etsy shop needs an update too, but it feels really good to do some spring cleaning and give everything a fresh new look.

 

This Weekend: Art-A-Whirl and Shepherd’s Harvest

GirlwithArtThis weekend I will be doing nothing but art.  And I mean literally nothing because I am participating in not one, but two great events and I am spending my time split between the two of them.

First, I will be at Art-A-Whirl, which is a giant open studio event in NE Minneapolis.  I am the guest artist in studio 401-B with my friends Ingrid and Eric.  It’s my first Art-A-Whirl and I think it’s going to be fun.  We are on the 4th floor in the Northrup King Building.  There are lots of good signs, just look for 401.  I will have all digitally printed fabrics there.  I have 3 dresses that are “show pieces” and a bunch of skirts, scarves, ties and hankies that are for sale.  I will be at AAW Friday, Saturday after 2pm and for just a bit on Sunday morning.

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I will also be at the Shepherd’s Harvest Festival at the Washington County Fairgrounds on Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon.  Thanks to my awesome booth mates who are helping me be at both events!  This is my 5th year (or something like that) at Shepherd’s Harvest and I will have laser cut jewelry and looms and some new really cute zipper bags featuring all kinds of knitting and fiber puns.  I even made a new day-glo pink laser cut loom just for this year’s festival.

 

 

How to be an Artist in Residence: Digital Fabric with 8th Grade

I have been writing a lot of “behind the scenes” posts here lately and I think that is kind of fun.  That’s the season I am in right now.  I am not making a lot of new work, but I am working a lot with others.  Spring is a busy time for projects with kids.  I know that from my years administrating those kinds of programs for Textile Center.  I am very fortunate to have made some great connections while I was there that have lead to a couple of neat projects for me this spring.  I posted an update to my Facebook page each day of this most recent residency (which I have quoted below) and I wanted to tell you a little about what it is like to be the artist who comes into a classroom.

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8th grade residency: Day 1
This quilt got verbal “oooohs” from the 8th graders. I started a residency today doing digital fabric designs with the Fiber Art 3 class. I wasn’t sure they were really in to what I was showing them, but this was a hit.

Lesson One:  Bring good show and tell.

We didn’t do any hands-on projects the first day of this residency, but I talked about my art and what it’s like being a full time artist.  I talked about fabric design and repeats and border prints and we looked at a lot of examples of clothing and places you see patterns.  The classroom teacher told me that they might be pretty squirrely because they weren’t used to a “lecture” kind of class, but it was a great opportunity for them to practice taking notes.  They looked pleasantly bored for a lot of the time (as is completely normal for 8th graders) but they completely came to life when I brought out this quilt to show them and I had a mob around me at the end of the period as I pointed out the photo of Chester in the pool or my nephew with his bright yellow ball.  I didn’t know this was going to be a hit, but I am glad that it worked.

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8th grade residency: Day 2
What’s cool today? The dress I wore that has a pattern of zippers on it was moderately cool. With the exception of The Table Who Whines, drawing was sorta cool. The fact that my sister is a computer programmer and a girl? Awesome.

Lesson Two:  Share.

It is tough to come in and not know names and know that I won’t be there quite long enough to learn them.  So I try to make any connections I can with the kids as we chat.  I tell them about my dogs and my favorite color.  I brought new show-and-tell every day by wearing something I made.  They picked up on the fact that I was doing that and started to ask me about it.  When they left the room at the end of day one, they were anxious about drawing the next day (What if I can’t draw?  I am a really bad drawer!).  So my sister volunteered to make a sample that I could show them from “not an artist”.  They totally connected with that and thought my sister sounded cool.  I told them about how I really hate painting and when I was going to school I didn’t want to study to be an artist because I thought I would have to do so much painting.  I gave them permission to call me Becka (instead of Mrs Rahn).  I let them chat all they wanted to while they were working (you can’t stop 8th graders from doing that) and I chatted too as I walked around the tables. The “I can’t draw” attitude totally went away once they were doing it.

I also shared some eye rolling with the classroom teacher about “The Table Who Whines” (which is her affectionate name for them) and a nod from across the room when the phones crept out, because although they are technically not allowed, the kids were using them to look for photos to do drawings from and we decided that was a good thing.

8th grade residency: Day 3
Collages are easier than drawing. Some people count their pieces to make sure that they only do the 8 minimum that is required. Lace doilies were a big hit. Especially when you got to peel them apart.

Lesson Three: Find your role.

This residency was a treat because the teacher I worked with is someone I have known for a while.  The kids love her and she genuinely shares the room when you come in to make art with the kids.  She is the best kind of teacher to work with.  As “the artist” you can be presented to the kids in many different ways:

  • The Babysitter. The classroom teacher spends the time grading papers at the desk or talking to the parent volunteer and you are on your own.
  • The Alien. The teacher constantly explains to the kids that she doesn’t know what you are doing either so she can’t help and we all better listen up.
  • The Treat.  No one has any idea why you are there or what you are doing, but they are ready with their desks cleaned off for you to begin the show.
  • The Afterthought. The teacher takes up half of your teaching time doing the daily writing thing and homework reminders, followed by lecturing the kids about how to behave.  Then you try to teach your lesson in half the time and nobody gets done.
  • The Assistant.  The teacher re-teaches everything you just said, or jumps ahead to an instruction you haven’t gotten to yet, and every kid in the room is asking her the questions instead of you.
  • The Goddess.  The teacher constantly points out to kids how amazing your sample is and how it’s ok if theirs looks bad because you are An Artist and they are just learning.
  • The Partner.  The teacher works with you, directs questions from the kids to you and asks questions on behalf of the group.

None of these are bad necessarily, but you almost never know until you arrive which role you will be expected to play.  The best question I ever learned to ask right away is what the signal is for the kids to be quiet and listen.  With 8th grade this isn’t as essential, but with 3rd graders, knowing the clap-clap-clapclapclap sequence can make the whole day go much differently.  I can teach as any of these artist roles, although I enjoy some more than others, and I have learned to adapt.

8th grade residency: Day 4
Computers are a success! I was much nervous about trying to do a computer thing with 34 8th graders on Chromebooks (which I had not seen before today.) Technology cooperated and I think we got everything saved onto the thumb drives. Double checking, that is my afternoon project.

Lesson Four: Have a backup plan.

I always have an extra 10 minute lesson planned.  I am a complete nut and agreed to do this residency with kids on computers which I had never used or seen.  I like to live dangerously.  It worked out fantastically, but I did bring an extra simple hands-on project with me just in case we had to bail on the laptops and do something else.  I planned an extra day into our lesson plans in case we couldn’t get everything done in our 45 minute periods (which are really short!)  One day we got done a little early and there was a little bit of noisy chaos at the end of class.  One day they were total speed demons and claimed to be “DONE” after 5 minutes.  The teacher and I made up some new “rules” about their designs and that they had to try more things before they could say they were done.

I also did a lot to make sure I knew everything I could about the technology before I got to class.  I know the art form no problem, but I made sure I was extra prepared with the tools and things that were out of my control.  I had 2 other online graphics programs picked out and tested in case PicMonkey didn’t work or was blocked by the school firewall.  I had 8 thumb drives ready to save kids artwork, but I knew that PicMonkey could also email the files to me in a pinch and I had tested that out.  Which was really good because for some reason 3 kids couldn’t get theirs to save and we emailed them instead.  I made 2 extra “generic” versions of the original art work for each project (a pencil drawing and a paper collage) so that the kids who missed the day when we made the original art wouldn’t have to sit and not participate on the day we did the digital editing.

8th Grade Residency: Day 5
Monday morning. First period. 8th graders. Grey and rainy day. These things do not mix. We got it done. But it was a slog.

Lesson Five: Don’t take it personally.

In every class, there are 4 kids who are 100% into whatever you are doing, they do amazing work and you are completely blown away by it. There are 12 kids who do great work and are about 80% engaged and will give you a high-five on your way out the door.  There are 10 kids who are ambivalent and are having fun in the moment and will probably forget that they ever met you come next week.  There are 5 kids who never quite get it and need help for every step.  And there are 3 kids who don’t ever connect and although they probably do the project, they just really don’t care.  And that’s ok.

Sometimes you can look at the “I am so cool I am bored” attitude and not see a glimmer of that fact that they are completely in love with what they are doing.  I don’t ever get more than a moment with these kids, so I have no idea whether the lack of enthusiasm is the flu or just being 14.  As artists, we know that not all art forms appeal to all of us. There’s a reason I am not a painter.  I want them to try something new; they have my permission to not like it.  I try to always teach my classes with that in mind.

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Day 6 hasn’t happened yet, but I am pretty sure it’s going to be a hit.  We have collected and uploaded all of the kids art and I am ordering 2 fat quarters of fabric for each kid.  This is a tiny thumbnail of their abstract designs all together.  I will ask their permission to show you more detailed images at some point.

Our big show-and-tell day will be in a couple of weeks.  I saved their original paper artwork to give back to them along with the fat quarters so they can see the before and after.  This has been a really fun residency and it is a treat that the school got a “technology integration grant” that made this technique a perfect fit for the fiber arts class.

 

How to do everything at an art fair (or maybe not)

photo 1This has turned out to be my very busiest time of year.  This last week I travelled to Rapid City SD for the Black Hills Fiber Arts Fair.  It is just the second year for the fair.  I went last year as a visitor and took a class with my mom; this year I taught 4 classes and had a vendor booth.

I do several fiber fairs that are structured like this one:  vendors, classes, other events all packed in to one weekend.  Figuring out what parts you want to do and what you realistically CAN do are two different things.

Classes

photo 4I realized quickly that I wouldn’t be able to take any classes.  This event was set up to have a “classes day” for the vendors before the event was open to the public, so that you could go take a class without having to have someone watch your booth.  But I was teaching a class then and the schedule worked out that I was overlapping with other classes and one of the events that evening (an opening reception) so I wasn’t able to do either of those things.  It was a great class to teach, so that really worked out just fine.  The rest of the weekend I was either teaching or needing to be in my booth, so no classes for me.

Events each have a personality.  This fair had a pretty laid back policy about checking in for set up and teaching and those kinds of things.  I needed to be a little pro-active about tracking down what I needed (extension cords), improvising name tags (masking tape) and adjusting some lights in the space we were in.  The gallery staff for the venue was outstanding and really helpful. One of my classes had 2 or maybe 3 different times published which was a little confusing, so just being extra prepared and having a “make it work” attitude made the weekend that much nicer.

I packed all of the supplies for my classes into rolling suitcases, packed with big ziploc bags.  I knew I needed to just be able to pop them out and be ready to go since I had limited set up time and more setup meant more time away from my booth.  I stashed the suitcases under my table so I could just grab them and go.

photo 5Vendor Booth

I was super lucky to have my sister and husband who could be booth sitters while I taught the rest of my classes over the weekend.  It really helped that they were both pretty familiar with my items for sale, but there were still lots of people with questions who stopped back to find me later when I was in the booth.  Even a great booth sitter (which mine were) isn’t a substitution for being able to interact with the artist, so I felt a little sad that I was away from my booth for about 8 hours of the event.  I might think next year about requesting that my classes happen during the “slow hours” of the event right at the end of the day.

I forgot my knitting!  One thing I think is really helpful at a fair like this is to have something to do with your hands.  I know how much I hate “pushy salespeople” in a shop and I feel like if I am occupied with a little something, then I make the customers more comfortable looking at things at my booth.  And it gives a really easy start to a conversation with strangers – “Oh, what are you knitting?”  You need a simple project that you can pick up and put down (no lace patterns to count) at any minute and especially something that you can look up and talk and be aware while you are doing it.  I didn’t have a project ready to go and I was antsy without it.

Social & Social Media

I had really good intentions of taking lots of photos and writing up a whole post about the art and the vendors at the show.  Oops.  That didn’t happen!  I have some photos of my booth, but only because my mom took a few.  I really only got to walk around the show in the minutes before we opened to the public and I could chat with other vendors.  I bought one skein of pretty yarn from the booth right across from mine.  I love reading other people’s posts about their visits to events like this, but being able to write one fell down to the bottom of my list of things I needed to do.

I met some really cool people, but I never really had time to chat.  We were each running to teach and then back to our booths and I think next time maybe I will plan an evening for going out for a drink or a meet up for coffee before the event opens.

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Don’t underestimate the Power of Chocolate

photo 2A very dear friend surprised me by coming to the show to say hi and bringing me a little box of chocolate.  I hadn’t had anything but a granola bar for lunch that day and I was feeling a little worn out after teaching for 4 hours.  Chocolate was exactly what I needed.  Sea salt caramels coated in chocolate can fix anything.

They had a really awesome food vendor at this show from what I heard, but sadly for me, she didn’t have any vegetarian options.  I probably could have gotten a side of potato salad, but I wished that the taco salad option would have included beans instead of meat.  I will put that in the evaluation that I turn in.

Overall…

It was an awesome show for me.  I had 2 shops approach me about carrying my stuff.  I met some awesome people. My classes all went great.  I was invited back to teach again next year.  Sales were even better for me than at a much bigger show I did last year.  All in all, this one gets an A.  Thanks to the staff and volunteers at both the BHFAF and the Dahl Arts Center.  You do a great event!

Things they don’t tell you about being an artist…

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I just finished 28 hours of an art show.  That’s probably really 36 hours on my feet on a hard concrete floor once we have set up and tear down.  The experience was amazing and I wouldn’t trade any of those minutes for anything, but chatting with my fellow artists all weekend brought out some things that we agreed they never tell you are part of the job description.

1.  Describe your art in 10 words.

When you meet anyone at an art fair there are about 100 things competing for their attention.  You need to be able to talk about what you do in 10 words or less if you want to start a conversation with someone and talking about your art is why both of you are there, usually.  My phrase for this event was “Let me know if you have questions.  These are all digitally printed fabrics from manipulated photographs.”   Most people would pause for a second (as they made sense of all of those technical sounding words that I just said) and then I would get a big smile and they would say “Oh, that’s really cool!” or “Wow, I’ve never heard of that.”  I had a lot of really great conversations that started just that way.

2.  Cute outfits always include comfortable shoes.

There is just nothing like the 10th hour on your feet in inappropriate shoes.  Danskos will save your life.  Cute dress, tights, danskos, cardigan sweater.  That’s my uniform.  Pockets are also really necessary.

3.  Eat lunch in 2 dozen 2 bite segments.

Almonds, cheese and apple slices are my very favorite show lunch.  You can eat two bites between conversations, and your fingers don’t get messy.  Sometimes you are lucky and you can step away for a few minutes and sometimes you just can’t.  This particular show had a demonstration by the local TeaSource (who will be forever my heroes!) just across an aisle and I can’t tell you how good a hot cup of tea is when you have been talking all day.

4.  You will get sick the week after it is done.

I shook about eleventy-thousand hands and I was already stressed and a little sleep deprived from getting everything ready.  It was inevitable.  I should remember to schedule nothing the week after because that’s exactly what is going to get done:  nothing.

5.  You will have another deadline.

The week I was getting ready for this show (the biggest one I have ever done!) was also the week that the final edit of the manuscript for my book was due.  Yup.  Two deadlines right on top of each other and by the time I realized that they were all going to happen on the same week there was nothing I could do but hang on for the ride.  The universe will sense all of that great creative energy and will throw things at you like crazy.  The best strategy is to just admit that you are insane and not let the stress get to you.  I let some things go, I wrote some emails and apologized for having to delay a few others and I tried to enjoy what I could – these were really GOOD things happening that were making me stressed.

I didn’t really listen to my own best advice, although to be fair, I didn’t know about either the show or the book deadline when I agreed to this week’s project: Black Hills Fiber Arts Fair.  I will be teaching 4 classes and minding a little vendor booth all weekend in Rapid City SD, my hometown.  Hopefully I will be over this cold.  The classes are ones that I know and love and so there is no stress about preparing for any of them.  Just good fun teaching.  If you are in the neighborhood, stop by!  My youngest sister will be minding the booth for me so I can teach one day.  Say hi to her too.

What are your additions to the artist’s job description?  I know you have them.

Thank you to the American Craft Council!

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A huge thank you to all of the artists at the American Craft Council show in St Paul.  I was part of a “Hip Pop” pod, which is ACC’s new emerging artists program.  They curated pods of 6 new emerging artists and we shared a double booth space at the show.  The artists, the shoppers, and the staff were all so enthusiastic and supportive of our pod, I can’t say enough thanks to them.  We felt loved!

A special shout out to veteran artists John Jameson, Sharon Rosenthal, Arlene Wohl and Kay Chapman.  They were our neighbors at pod #303 and were absolutely welcoming and supportive (and funny when we all started to get a little tired).

I was in amazing company with my pod mates who are all so talented.  I am so glad we got to spend the days together and I hope we run into each other many times again.

Matthew Krousey.  Matt works in richly textured ceramics that have a strong connection to nature and organic designs.

Nick Lundeen  Nick’s jewelry has a sense of agelessness in style and texture.

Betty Jäger  Betty’s work has as much personality as she does.  Organic, unexpected, lots of sparkle.

Lauren Mayhew Lauren incorporates bold graphic designs into whimsical knit hats.  The pops of color with the soft neutrals remind me a lot of her personality.

Elizabeth Pechacek  Elizabeth’s work has a sense of fragility with soft colors and fine lines that is in juxtaposition to the classic forms of her pieces.

Betty, Nick, Elizabeth and I will all be at Art-a-Whirl, Matt does tons of shows around town and keep your fingers crossed for Lauren who has a job interview this week. Please say hi to them if you see them out and about in the art world.

Thank you to all of YOU who stopped by to say hi at the booth.  I can’t begin to name all of you, but it was so great to see all of your smiles and to get to show off the work I have been doing.  Thank you to Rachel for the Advil and Andi for the tea.  You are both life savers.

Today I caught up on all of the emails I have been ignoring and feel like I need a nap.  What a weekend!