Where you can find me: Holiday 2017 Events

Minneapolis Craft’za

Sunday November 19 I will be at the 5th Annual Craft’za show at the Grainbelt Building in NE Minneapolis. This is my second time there, although I have done the sister show Craftstravaganza for a number of years. This year is the first time it will be 2 days and I will be there on SUNDAY. You can see a little sneak peek of my work on the local Fox9 station on Sunday morning. Four artists did a little demo & interview which will be airing on Sunday morning. (If you have found me here from Fox9, hello!) Find me at booth #58. November 19 • 10 – 4

Bakken Winter Market

On November 25 & 26, I will be at the Bakken Museum for their Winter Market. I have made some special Bakken inspired pieces from art I made with them back when they were a partner on my State Arts Board grant. Have Thanksgiving visitors? Come visit the museum and shop with local artists. Fun! November 25 & 26 • 10 – 3:30

Crafts at Canteen

A tiny little show with 10 awesome artists hosted in a coffee shop that specializes in toast. This quirky show is new for me and should be lots of fun. Just one evening. December 8 • 6 – 10 pm

The answer is miniatures.

A few posts back, you probably saw our annual Halloween photo. My husband and I started doing photos about 15 years ago. We felt like it was dumb to send out photos in Christmas cards, so one year we sent out a Halloween costume photo instead. It was so much fun that it became an annual thing.

We come up with the top secret theme around late summer and figure out how to stage the photo in October sometime. They are nearly always taken in our basement photo studio with much creative reuse of furniture, sawhorses and velvet drapes. I always say that they are about 80% costume and 20% Photoshop.

This year our storyline was Newt Scamander (author of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, of the Harry Potter universe) interviewing a “fantastic beast” for his book. We hadn’t done a Harry Potter theme yet and it was fun to pick a less “main story” character. Newt has his own movie (which I like a lot) but I know that was not nearly as main stream as the HP series.

We thought about pixies or bowtruckles, but I decided that I wanted to be a mermaid. I didn’t want to make a mermaid tail that fit me, however. I thought about it and just decided that it would be 100% too much work. So we talked about it and decided that we would try to make the tail part of my costume as a miniature.

And there it is. The tail is about 10 inches tall and made from air drying paper clay, wire and some iridescent film. I googled and found a super detailed tutorial from a doll maker about how she made a mermaid tail from shrinking angelina film around a wire form and I pretty much followed her instructions. It worked pretty great and I loved the very organic texture of the slightly tattered holes in the webbing.

I didn’t want to deal with baking such a big thing in polymer clay, so I used paper clay for mine. It is an air dry clay and although I read a bunch of reviews that warned about it cracking and shrinking, I had neither problem. I let it dry slowly for about 4 days before I painted it. The texture of the scales I made with a drinking straw. I cut a snip off of the end so I had a half circle and carefully carved scales the whole length of the tail.

I painted it with acrylic paints. Golden Acrylics makes a series of interference colors that you can mix in with other opaque paint, so I blended my own mix of turquoise with interference gold and blue to make a beautiful iridescent.

We photographed the tail by itself against a piece of pale blue paper. Originally we photographed it against white, but we realized that the iridescent quality of the tail fin film was showing up very dirty gold against white paper. We spent some time being really frustrated trying to color correct that, but when we switched to blue and reshot it was so much better.

When we talked about creating a “set” for this scene, I wanted to be leaning on a sea wall with my tail flipped up and Newt could be sitting nearby to do the interview. We didn’t have a set piece, among the chairs and sawhorses that we often use, that was going to make a realistic looking wall, so we decided to make that as a miniature too. It is made from the same air dry clay and a bag of aquarium gravel. It was about 12 inches long and 2 1/2 inches high.

We built it on a cardboard base and decided to make an “L” shaped wall so we could adjust the angles to match our scene. The clay was white, so after this had dried, I gave it a wash of muddy grey paint to tint the “grout” between the stones. I tore off little bits of some sphagnum moss to glue on for some weeds and painted on some lichens with green paint.

We borrowed the wooden decking from a photo we took in St Augustine, FL. I think our ocean comes from a kayaking photo from Lake Superior.

The photos of us were taken one at a time with pretty low-effort costumes. I had an awesome turquoisy-green wig, a few sequin scales glued to my face with honey, and some seashells on bobby pins in my hair. The honey sounds crazy, but latex makes me itch and many costume adhesives have latex. Honey worked perfectly for both the scales and to stick on some long false eyelashes. Andy’s costume was a lucky clearance sale find for the coat and bits and pieces of his own clothes. We recycled his vest from this year and toned down the color a little in Photoshop. I made the bowtruckle in his pocket from a piece of felt and a couple of pipecleaners. For the shots, I leaned on an apple crate and Andy sat on it, so we were at the same height and easy to assemble into one photo.

I already know what next year’s theme is going to be and it is going to have some fun bits and pieces to assemble too. It takes most of a day to shoot and assemble the photo, but it is one of my favorite annual projects.

Giving doesn’t always = $.

I originally posted this in June 2013 and then again in 2015 and then I thought of it again today after a frustrating week of too many fundraising discussions and I thought it was a great time to revisit it. I have worked basically my entire life for non-profit orgs. My very first job was at a summer theater funded entirely by donations and I made a donation pitch in the form of a stupid song and dance routine at three shows a day.

It is fundraising season (I just got my first fundraising email on Halloween day.) and that means that you will definitely be asked to donate to more organizations than you can afford to. And that’s totally ok. Me too. Here are some ideas.


I have worked for and volunteered for and advocated for a number of non-profits throughout my entire life and all of them have been pretty amazing creatures that do pretty amazing things.  So, I have had a couple of conversations lately with a number of different people about “I love this organization, but I can’t afford to donate anything and I feel bad about that and so I don’t know what else I can do.” and I wanted to say that there are TONS of things that you can do that don’t cost you anything, but can be enormously valuable to a non-profit.  So here’s my list of 8 simple things you can do that will cost you very little and can add up to a lot.

Participate.

A lot of grants that non-profits write to help support their free concerts, exhibitions, and make-and-take programs are all about the number of people served.  There are whole sections of grant applications that require the organization to talk very specifically about the audience and who will be participating.  So, everybody who shows up gets counted and the more people that attend a concert or sign their name in the guest book, the bigger the impact the organization can show.  So just by showing up and seeing the art in the gallery and then signing your name in the guestbook, you are saying to that funder or sponsor “I think this is valuable” and that makes a big impact.  Opening the email, clicking the link, or showing up at the event are all ways for you to be counted. And do you know what makes it even better? Make it a date and bring a friend with you.

Comment.

Good or bad, take the time to write a comment or complete an evaluation:  “I really loved seeing this work in person because it was so amazing to be able to see the detail up close.  I will come back again for your next exhibition.” or “My kids and I attended the concert in the park and they spent the rest of the afternoon pretending to play violins and conducting their own imaginary orchestra.  What a great afternoon!”  One of my very favorite REAL quotes from a teacher that brought a field trip to my art center:  “The second grade says weaving is better than recess!”  (We named our annual youth programs exhibit after this quote.)  Quotes are also a valuable way for non-profits to communicate with sponsors and funders as a way to say “We know this project is successful because we have this feedback from people who participated.”  Evaluations are required by many program funders and feedback good (or not so good) is all really important.

Like it or tweet it.  

Every non-profit would like to reach more people.  If you see something on your favorite organization’s website and you hit the “like” button, you become part of the magic algorithm that networks like Google and Facebook use to rank search results.  Very simply put, the more people “like” something, the more the search engine thinks that it must be “important” or “relevant” to whatever it is looking for.  So something as simple as clicking “Like” on a post about an upcoming class about shibori silk scarves can mean that more people will discover that art center you think is really cool when they are searching around on Google. Even better is to share it and hashtag it. That means it is even easier for the organization to track how the word is spreading.

Link it.

Have a Facebook page or a website or a blog?  Post a link to your favorite non-profit’s website.  Links to organizations work the same way as likes and tweets.  The more connections to the site, the more important the search engines think it is and the bigger the potential reach for your favorite organization.

Spread the word.

The next time you are at your art center or a concert in the park, take an extra postcard or flyer about an upcoming event and stick it up on the bulletin board at work.  Or at your favorite coffee shop.  Or at your church.  Let me tell you from experience that getting those beautiful postcards out into the world is one of the hardest jobs ever.  There is just never enough time in the day (or postage money in the budget) to get everywhere you would like to get them.  If you get an email about an event, pass it on to a friend or post it on your Facebook page.  (Or print it out and put it on the bulletin board).  Even just talking about it is great!  Word of mouth is a really powerful tool, especially if you tell your story and why you think that organization or event is cool.

Donate stuff, but ask first.  

Speaking for my several non-profits I have worked for in the past, they were delighted to get donations of stuff, but have about zero square feet of storage space to put it in.  So although I would LOVE to have your yarn, I might have to store it on my desk until I can make room to put it. Which isn’t really ideal.  But there are really goofy things that I need (that you might not even think of) that I could put to good use right now.  Like a gallon or two of vinegar or a salad spinner or ziploc bags. Many organizations have a “wish list” that might contain something you have collecting dust at your house. I just found a new home for a microphone sound system that someone gave me years ago. If in doubt, send an email and ask. Because I know we arts people are connected. If I can’t use your thing, I bet I know someone who can.

Give time.

Do you have an hour?  Would you be willing to hand out programs at a concert?  Or stuff envelopes for a mailing?  Or weed the garden around our building? Or help clean up after an event?  Volunteering seems like an obvious one, but sometimes the hardest jobs to fill are the ones that sound boring.  Everyone wants to attend the XYZ Event for free in exchange for some volunteer hours, but maybe you would be just as content to listen to the radio in your car and deliver these concert flyers to all the public library branches in Minneapolis.  Or maybe you would be happy to look up the address and contact info for all of the afterschool programs in the metro area and address some envelopes for me so I could send out some field trip applications?  Also if you have special skills, tell someone.  Are you a master gardener and want to help put our gardens to bed for the winter? Do you have beautiful handwriting and want to write some thank you notes? Let us know what you are good at.

Take photos.

Do you love to take photos? As staff at an event, I am lucky to have a minute to snap a few pictures because I am busy making the event happen and although I would love to hire a photographer for every event, that is just not in the budget.  But I would LOVE to have your photos if you are willing to share them.  Photos are another great tool for spreading the word and showing the impact of a program or event.  They are a handy way for us to document who was there and what happened so we can refer to it next year when we start to plan the next one. They don’t have to be fancy or professional photos, just ones that you give permission for us to use.


I hope this inspires you and maybe gives you a few ideas as this “annual fund” season rolls around.

This week I participated in a focus group, reviewed grant applications for the regional arts council, rounded up some resources for board of directors discussion, handed out some postcards for a friend’s gallery exhibition, and liked some things on Facebook. Last month, I bet I did everything on this list.

Donating dollars is hugely important to these organizations too, but I hope these are ways you can maybe make the $ you are able to donate add up to a whole lot more.

Happy Halloween!

“Wait. How do you make your art?”

I have pieces up at two exhibitions right now and I was at two openings last week, talking with dozens people about what I do. I love that part. But I realized that nearly everyone would stop me at some point with a puzzled look and say “Wait. How did you do that?” And I thought to myself, I should make a video that shows how it all works. So I did. Here is my very latest fabric design from blank page to finished jacket.

I wrote a new artist statement.

Writing an artist statement is hard. Exhibition venues, grant and show applications ask for one and it is a real balance to writing something that explains what you do and why and doesn’t sound cheesy (or snobbish). I realized that the artist statement that I wrote a couple of years ago was really not talking about WHAT I do very well, but was all about the WHY. But WHAT I do is actually more of the part that needs the explanation. Everyone kind of gets what it means to be a painter or a photographer, but when I say that I am a digital fabric designer, people often look a little puzzled. So I re-wrote.

Becka Rahn

Artist Statement

I spend a lot of time thinking about pixels.

Pixels are the tiny units that make up a digital image. I use them directly in all of my surface designs, in transforming my original art work into a digital format so that it can be printed onto fabric. The word pixel comes from a combination of “picture” or “pix” and “element”. Although it wasn’t a yet a word in the time of Monet or Seurat, the Impressionist painters were creating art the same way, by building their designs from layers of tiny elements or dots of color. My dots are virtual. Instead of painting, I am creating and manipulating computer code and making it into something practical and touchable.

Like a painter, I also start with a blank canvas. Every piece begins with creating the design for the fabric itself. I don’t just sew clothing; I create art from blank fabric. I build up layers of color and texture to create engineered prints that fit the shape of the garment I want to make. For these surface designs, I work with materials that are unexpected. I look for textures in nature, like the veins in marble or bubbles in ice. I take photographs of shadows, cracks, peeling paint, and asphalt. I create cut paper illustrations from recycled magazines, sheet music, and the patterned envelopes from bank statements. Each design has a story and element that inspired it. I think about the placement of elements and how the two dimensional surface will translate to a three-dimensional shape. My designs are printed onto fabrics, which I then use to construct wearable art pieces. In contrast to this high-tech technique, I choose classic, timeless silhouettes and shapes for the garments that I make, instead of more avant-garde designs. These quintessential forms not only showcase the surface pattern, but evoke a sense of familiarity and nostalgia, helping to create a connection with the viewer.

 

I also think I need to make a short video that shows the whole process from that blank paper to finished garment. So that is on my agenda, too.

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