Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Following Boldly Their Path. . .

One of the great things about being an artist is getting to meet and make friends with other artists. And one of the best things about making friends with other artists is watching the journey of their own calling as an artist unfold. Today I want to share with you some of the exciting things my friends are up to.

This is my friend Jan, well this is one of Jan's girls. Jan lives in Hawaii where she is a wife, mom, and owner of a successful indie business selling her beautiful hand-stamped jewelry online. But down deep in Jan's heart she felt a yearning to release her inner artist, so she began taking steps to answer that call. This past week she has launched both her beautiful new website, Jan Avellana, Art and Words, as well as a new Etsy shop featuring her mixed media art. Stop in and say Hi to Jan, start your Christmas shopping early or just treat yourself to one of her beautiful inspiring mixed media girls, I certainly did!

 And then there is my friend Sue. Sue has been following her dreams as an artist too. She is a painter living in Camano Island, who has added Encaustic Art to her resume. The beautiful work here is Sue's carton of roses work. She entered this work in a gallery show, which led to her being asked to teach encaustic workshops there. Taking one bold step has led to another and another, and pretty soon Sue began to see her dreams coming true. I can't tell it as good as she can, you'll just have to read it for yourself on Sues blog, here.

This beautiful encaustic work is by none other then artist Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch. You've probably heard me mention her name a time or two. Talk about a woman following hard on an artistic journey unfolding a step at a time! Trish endeavors to bring the art of encaustic wax to the world of mixed media and make it accessible to all. She has launched her own line of products, picked up endorsements along the way, is the founder and fab leader of EncaustiCamp (a not to be missed summer retreat!), and has just had her second inspiring book on Encaustic's hit the store shelves! What an inspiration and motivating friend!

I've admired Bridgettes paintings and encaustic art online from afar for some time. She has a blog called Contemplating The Moon, where I would see inspiration every time I visited. I don't remember when or where or how we first met, bt come to find out she lives just a hop, skip and a jump away in Chicago. Bridgette also came to EncaustiCamp to teach her technique on encaustic and bookmaking this summer. In spite of raising her two youngsters, Bridgette makes it a priority to stay connected to the artists in her own community and those who she meets and admires online. Her desire to connect with other artists led her to reach out to two very talented people, Seth Apter- who writes a popular blog called The Altered Page, which led to his upcoming book, "The Pulse of Mixed Media" - and the very talented Jen Worden, to suggest a collaborative project a few years back. That action led to lasting friendships and now their works are being featured in an outstanding exhibit at the Arts Center in Logan Square. You can catch the exhibit until September 30th, but if you aren't in the Chicago area be sure to stop by Bridgettes blog to read more about it here.

There are so many others, friends I've met on my journey as an artist. Each one following boldly their own path, without knowing exactly where it might lead. I can't share them all with you today, but I hope to leave you with a sense of the possibilities that arise when you take just one step. And then another. And then another. . .

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

American Craft Expo Recap, or, Things I Learned at the Show - Part 2

One of the questions I was asked frequently, as I sat in my Emerging Artist booth at the American Craft Expo, was "Where do you get all these papers?". . . Oh flea markets, estate sales, auctions. . . The question was sometimes posed as a remark "You really like to collect!" or "You must have a lot of stuff!". . .Yes, yes to both. I've got quite a collection and yes it is a lot of stuff!

It was interesting to watch and see how different people responded to different elements of my collage work.

Some were drawn to letters, words, or documents that had a certain familiarity to them and they would share with me their stories.

Others were fascinated with the use of ink in the work and would comment on the placement of it within the composition. Many were brought in by the textural aesthetics of a particular element or combination of elements and wonder what the bit or piece within the collage they were viewing had originally been and say that the threads and strings of frayed edges and spines of books were especially appealing to them.

Yes, I would agree, Yes, these were some of my favorite things too, these bits and pieces and scraps, these ink blotches and fragments, they were all very appealing to me as well.

But somewhere in the back of my mind, I could still see them in their original form. Not as they were when they were brand new, off the press sheet music or newly purchased books, but as they were when I found them. Discards of long forgotten lives. Beat up, worn down, time weathered and well, just plain old trash.

The stuff I use in my work is typically the stuff nobody else wants. I don't need to rush to the estate sale and line up at the crack of dawn. No, the books I use are falling out of their covers and the book dealers have long since left the premises, no doubt turning up their noses at the editions that I treasure. Many times an estate dealer will breath a sigh of relief to see what I am purchasing, as they thought they would surely be throwing these things away after the sale.

And so I marveled as person after person proclaimed to me "You need to raise your prices!" and looked at my work time and again throughout the show wondering, as somebody was handing me money, what would compel a person to tell me they were willing to pay an even higher price for something I had made? Did they really look? Didn't they really see what it was they were buying? 

And it was one such remark, said on the last day of the show, after hearing this remark many times over the course of the event, as a man passed through my booth complimenting me on what he saw, parting words said in sincere exclamation, "You need to raise your prices!" that caught my ear just so and I turned my head once again to look.

And I felt a stirring in my heart and heard a whispering in my soul, as I first caught sight of myself in the glass, and then looked beyond to see the collage I had created inside, and heard that voice within. 

God saying to look. Really look and see what it is that they see. 

"You see trash, each bit that went into it as an individual element in its found form, but they see the whole picture."

Profound, that moment felt like one of those scenes from a movie, where all around the activity faded to a far away black and white scene and the noise receded to nothing and all I could hear was the beat of my own heart, and that whisper inside.

"Is there anything here you would have left out? Is there a particular element you wish you had not included? Anything too dirty to be a part of this picture?" No, I shook my head silently. Each element had been carefully selected. Each one, no matter how dirty or worn it had been when I found it, was important to the overall composition. Together these things formed the complete picture, every last bit was important, I wouldn't have left anything out.

And then the picture blurred again and I caught my own eye in the glass.

And I heard it again, I saw it in my eye, felt it in my heart...

"You see your life the same way you see these collage elements. You see the past, certain events and choices, as nothing but trash. You feel ashamed of some and think if only they knew . . .but I see you as a complete picture. There is not a single element that I would remove. Each one is vital to the overall composition of who I created you to be. And each piece has value. You have intrinsic value to me."

"You need to raise your own price, my dear, I paid for you with my life."

Monday, September 05, 2011

American Craft Expo Recap, or Things I Learned at the Show - Part 1

Today as I come off the high of my recent experience of participating in the American Craft Expo as an Emerging Artist, I am reflecting on how the experience impacted my life and all the things I learned in the process of preparing for and being at the show.

For starters, I learned a little about my sense of fashion and personal style.

Face it, I'm an artist. I spend my days mostly in isolation working at home in my own studio. My wardrobe consists mainly of comfy clothes, including what I affectionately call my "studio pants". A pair of army green capris, with those little stretch bungee things that scrunch or loosen, depending on what I ate for lunch, that I salvaged from a bag of one of my daughters cast off's and wear year round with tank top or sweater, depending on the temperature in the studio, or the cycle of my hormones.

and while I can get away with this in my own studio, I was wise enough to realize the caliber of this show warranted taking a second look at my clothing options.

One of the first things I learned is that I do like to shop at real clothing stores, in places where many different clothing stores can be found together, along side entire stores for shoes, and others just for make-up. I typically spend as little money or time on myself as possible, coming from a background laden with a distorted sense of guilt, and what it means to sacrifice, putting others needs ahead of my own, etc. etc. and past shopping trips for my own clothing has traditionally been done in stores where I can also purchase the family groceries, and tires for the car, and fertilizer if I felt the need.

It was fun trying on all those clothes and after a long day at the mall I selected some new jeans, cute new shoes, and a couple of what I felt looked like artsy-yet-dressy tops, but the first night at the show I felt out of place and uncomfortable in the first flowing artsy top I wore and the second day I put one on and wound up taking it off in favor of a more classically cut blouse I had hanging in the closet.

By the end of the show I had a dawning recognition of my true style, a little tailored, a little classic, and just a little trendy and I treated myself to a post-show shopping trip to both, celebrate the successful outcome of the show, and my developing sense of personal style.

Setting up my booth in the Emerging Artist section, I wasn't sure what to expect from the attendees of such a prestigious show coming to view the high caliber craft and meet the established, experienced artists who had created it. I imagined there would be long stretches of silence watching the action from afar and an occasional visit from a curiosity seeker, a sympathetic patronizer of the arts, or a lost visitor looking for the bathroom.

I was very pleasantly surprised to find more then just a trickle of curious onlookers, but an onslaught of eager-to-talk, look, and buy art lovers and sincere friendly and encouraging men and women. In the process of answering questions, many that were asked several times over the course of the 4 days I was there, I learned how to loosen up and talk about my art in a sincere way that included the intuitive process and my experience of working in silence in my studio. I shared how I felt my time of creating was similar to a time of prayer, meditation and worship. I shared that I viewed many of my smaller works as "wordless prayers" or blessings meant for the viewer and recipient of the work as much as for myself. I learned that when I spoke with this kind of openness, not trying to pretend I knew more then I did, or that I had a well thought out artistic plan that led to each creation, and not trying to hide the spiritual side of my creative process, that I was received with the same genuine openness that I had shared and I was allowed a glimpse into the heart of many who shared with me in return.

This was more then I expected to receive in this environment and I left with an increasing sense of awe and reverence for they way in which we were created as humans, with an earnest desire to connect and be relational, open and real with each other.

Many of these conversations not only led to purchases, but also to inquiries about commission work and interest in private workshops to lead students through the intuitive process and these inquiries led me to the next thing I learned at the show, which was that the business side of my craft matters as much as the art itself. I found myself unprepared with business forms, written information to answer questions on how to commission work, or schedule a workshop. I need to establish a contact list to follow through with inquiries and remember who had asked for what service. I left with several scraps of paper, a notebook, and some mental notes and the feeling that something important had been forgotten. But, I tell myself, this is part of the emerging process. Learn from this experience and be better prepared for the next show.

And this thought, of improving on and growing from the place that I am leads me to the most profound lesson I learned at the show. That of seeing myself as a whole and complete picture. It was a moment that time slowed down and the curtain was pulled back and I felt a stirring of recognition in my heart as if I were staring in a mirror and really seeing myself for the first time. I learned that God can speak to me anywhere, at any time, and I don't have to be on my knees pleading with him or sitting in the silence of my studio to hear it, though these times are important, but that when He really wants to show me something, especially something that He has been working with me on, He has a way of getting my attention. He can use even the most seemingly innocent remark from a total stranger in passing to say the most significant thing. I will share more in my next post as I mull it over and keep it close to my heart a few more days.

For now, I'll just leave you with a few pictures of my booth and a heartfelt thank-you for following me along this journey. . .