Intention and Expectation: Attending the Americans for the Arts Conference

The Americans for the Arts (AFTA) conference was held in Minneapolis this weekend. It is a national conference for art administrators primarily to get together and talk about funding, sustainability, data, evaluation, and innovation and do it in a room with other people who get it. I love being an artist, but I was really good at being an arts administrator. Art is something I have to do because it is part of who I am and I can’t not do it; being an arts admin was something I was called to do by whatever little voice in your head it is that tells you that you need to do this because you can make a difference.

I left my arts admin job about 5 years ago. It was an organization that I deeply loved, a mission I believed in and a community with a lot of untapped potential. I worked way too many hours and there were some parts of the approximately 1 million cobbled together parts of my job that I was less than wonderful at, but by and large it was a good fit. I did good work and proud of the projects and connections I got to be a part of.

But something changed. There was a transition in leadership. The board of directors decided to shift the values and culture of the organization to follow a different path. It wasn’t just “things change because of new leadership and people hate change” but a bigger organizational shift that included altering the mission statement. I’ve been on enough boards of directors to know that I don’t know the whole story about why and how that came to be, but I do know that suddenly […]

Five years at the American Craft Council show

This year was my fifth year exhibiting at the American Craft Council Show. If you don’t know about their shows, here’s a little nutshell. The American Craft Council is located in Minneapolis (formerly in NYC) and they are an organization that promotes fine craft. They put on a conference, host lots of talks and small events, and publish two magazines that “champion handmade”. Each year (for the past 30+ years) they put together a large craft show in four different locations: Atlanta, Baltimore, St Paul and San Francisco. Each is a juried show with 200+ artists working in fiber, metal, jewelry, wood, or glass.

I started with their Hip Pop emerging artists program. That’s an image of my 2017 booth in its cardboard glory. (I actually think the cardboard popups are awesome and I think my work really popped against that kraft paper color.) Hip Pop is also a juried program but allows artists to share a booth with other emerging artists. The booth fees are lower (because of the limited space) and some of the display/lighting is included, so it is a way for new artists to try out the show and see if the audience is a good fit for their work before investing in a full both space. Once you have juried in as a Hip Pop artist, you can return to the shared booth for 3 years and then “graduate” to a full sized booth for the next two. I just completed my fifth year, so next year I will need to re-jury into the regular artist pool.

This year’s show just finished on Sunday and I was talking to someone about how it went […]

Introspection can be a workout.

In the last week, I have had two grant applications, a scholarship application and an exhibition application all due. That’s not only a lot a writing, but that’s a lot of thinking.

I hope that some of those applications are successful and that I get to do some of those things I applied to. When you spend a whole lot of hours thinking and writing about something, you get pretty invested in it. I am excited about these projects and that makes the waiting all that much harder.

But as I was thinking about it, I really got a lot just out of the process of writing them. Explaining “your artistic vision, your body of work, and your professional goals. This section may be very similar to an artist statement, but should emphasize a self-reflection of your artistic and professional accomplishments to date, particularly as they relate to a clearly defined path towards the future” is a pretty major task, especially when you have to do it in only 4000 characters. To put it in perspective, that’s about 1 page or 500 words. This blog post is already 1120 characters when you get to the period at the end of this sentence.

I tend to use a lot of adjectives, so my personal method for writing these things is to just get it down and not pay attention to the character count on the first draft. Wil Wheaton refers to this as the “puke draft”, where you just get it all out. Gross maybe, but descriptive. Once I get it down, then I start again at the top and start cutting. I always write more than I need. My first draft of the answer to that example question […]

2019-03-04T19:32:59-05:00An Artist's Life|Comments Off on Introspection can be a workout.

No Bah-Humbugs here.

One of the most fun partnerships I work on is designing pieces for the Guthrie Theater Store. Last year I did a whole series inspired by Sunday in the Park with George. I have made designs inspired by the Guthrie itself. The photo above shows one of those Guthrie-inspired designs in an ad in the program and one featuring some new designs in another program.

This year they asked me to do designs for their annual production of A Christmas Carol. I know the story, but I hadn’t seen their production, so they sent me photos from last year’s production. Such fun to study all of the details and colors! Several themes or scenes jumped out at me right away:

  • Time is a big element in the story and there are clocks prominent in several of the scenes.
  • In a number of scenes I noticed actors writing with white feather pens.
  • In one scene of people singing carols around a piano I noticed the wine glasses lined up on the piano.
  • Bright streetlamps and a tiny bit of snow.

We decided to go for something that was “seasonal” without being holiday specific, so I chose rich vintage-inspired colors and bigger ideas from the story. All of the designs are made from cut paper illustrations using recycled paper.

I started with a design I called Timeless. It is made up of pocketwatches and watch chains. The colors are all soft twilight shades. The chains are also an echo of the chains on the “Ghost of Christmas Past” from the show. The papers I used for this illustration were primarily colored art paper, but “grunged up” with some alcohol ink spray to give them a more weathered texture. The […]

2018-11-26T11:00:46-05:00An Artist's Life, Gallery Exhibitions|Comments Off on No Bah-Humbugs here.

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics (or putting your stats in context)

Yes, I know that the title of this blog post is not going to get me any Google ranking or search engine traffic. I went to that webinar.

But people search for things like tutorials on “can I dye a towel with food coloring?” and “reviews of babylock sewing machines”. (The answers are “no” and “Mine was a lemon” if you got here from Google. Welcome.) So I am not sure that search engine optimization is what this post really needs.

I was looking at stats and search terms the other day. Everything gives you stats now, whether you want them or not. How many people like your post? How many people visit your page? How many people engage with your photo? I am not sure what I was looking for really, but I noticed that everything is down right now compared to last year. Etsy shop sales are down 22%. My blog viewership is down 25%. I posted a picture on instagram and Facebook yesterday of a piece of mine that I am really proud of and only 42 people have so far reacted to it. (About 4% of my audience at those two venues) The thing I shared about someone else’s machine knitted star map has more than double that. My newsletter subscribers have remained pretty steady, but it’s still only about 49% of subscribers that even open the email I send. I didn’t even send one out in August. That makes a real dent in your stats. Sigh.

And then I was reading a post in a forum about marketing and market testing to your Facebook followers. It’s a craft business group I belong to and often it has great questions and advice from members. […]

2018-10-07T22:35:19-05:00An Artist's Life|7 Comments

Faking It.

I was invited to show three pieces in an exhibition called Fiber Art in the Digital Age at the WI Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts. The theme of the show is fiber art that incorporates innovations of the “digital age”. I created three pieces that include digitally printed fabrics and laser cut wood and acrylic. This is the first in a series of posts talking about those pieces.

Faking It
Sometimes a comment about your work sticks with you for years. One of the first digitally printed fabric garments I made was a dress that I wore to an art gallery opening. Two visitors came up to me and struck up a conversation about the dress, asking if the fabric was made using batik. When I explained with excitement that it was actually digitally printed photographs of ice, they looked at me and said “Digitally printed? That’s cheating!”

I have discovered that the relationship between fiber art and computers is often misunderstood. There is an assumption that if you use a computer, that it does all of the work; you just press a key and Photoshop magically creates art. Because I used a computer to create part of my piece these commenters, and several others throughout the years, decided that it wasn’t real art.

So, I decided to make Faking It a celebration of “fake” art made by computers. I started by creating imitation mosaics from recycled magazine paper with images of computers and technology: an iPhone, charging cables and even a vintage floppy disk signed with my initials. I surrounded the mosaic tiles with a border of ransom note style words that all are synonyms for fake: false, swindle, hoax, hokum, spoof, flim flam, bogus and […]

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