Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reckless Abandon

Yippee-skippee! Plunging in with reckless abandon is the key.

Stop over-thinking, stop being so tight with the materials. Just WASTE IT ALL!

I added up the costs for all the glass, paint, color laser photos, gold leaf etc., and decided that wasting it all wasn't the end of the world--and that being stingy and tight was costing me dearly. Stingy and tight pertain not only to the materials, but also to my willingness to let it all gush out. Even the ugly shit.

So I coached myself all day yesterday (yes, outloud) to simply proceed with reckless abandon. Have a thought? Do it! Have another? Do it too! Use up the materials, squander them! That's what they are here for.

I discovered again that my process has to occur through my hands & eyes, not my head.

Just do, do, do... (so what if I make a ton of ugly stuff in the process?).

And last night I started getting that feeling of little tickles in my belly and chest, which grew to a kind of trembling all over.

I found the path! My new line is begun!

Oh man, that wall was a tough one this time.

Now, to go forth and experiment, grow it, refine it, and grow it into what it wants to be.

I'm excited and happy again.

Yippee skippee!

UPDATE:

Huh. I am digging deep into a buried closet where (behind skis & poles (which I got out and placed in a position for USE!) & boxes & old linens & carefully stored grandma-linens & old coats...) all my photos are stored, unseen since I put them there with the intent of organizing them years ago. I had a sudden desire to dig out some photos from the past to maybe use in this current work.

And then I remembered my horoscope I had read for this week by Rob Brezny:

"We should not think of our past as definitely settled, for we are not a stone or a tree," wrote poet Czeslaw Milosz. "My past changes every minute according to the meaning given it now, in this moment.” I suggest you make abundant use of this wisdom in 2010. According to my reading of the astrological omens, you will have unprecedented power to re-vision and reinterpret your past. Keep the following question in mind as you go about your work: "How can I recreate my history so as to make my willpower stronger, my love of life more intense, and my future more interesting?"

Well then.

It seems I've found the stream. Synchronicity waves to me from the shore.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My head is sore...

from beating it into the wall.

Not that I am comparing myself in the least, but I keep seeing in myself things I've read about in which artists (usually men) get withdrawn and sullen and grumpy when they are working on a new painting or whatever. And their wives stay out of their way. I get it. Luckily (for them) I don't have a spouse, and my kitten doesn't seem to mind. He just purrs on my lap or bites my nose and toes (or whatever tender morsel of flesh he can find) and keeps himself occupied with The Bird Channel on Kitty TV (window seat).

I've had one hint of a direction that I like, but now I'm stuck. And I'm halfway through my allotted creative retreat time. The time pressure is a big part of the problem I think. If I had the three weeks I'd originally planned, I think I would relax into it and not try so hard. Waste more materials trying stuff. Waste more time trying stuff.

Well, I guess that's my answer. Waste more materials. Just slop them around following every subtle glimmer. Stop over-thinking it. Over-thinking takes as much time as just doing.

Ok, thanks. I appreciate the advice.

UPDATE: I'm just back from spending $86 dollars at Kinkos on experiments. Now let's see how I can frivolously play with them!
(kind of excited to put my frivolous hat on...)

Monday, December 28, 2009

phase two

"I suck, my work sucks, I am a one-trick-pony, my ideas suck, whatever was I thinking?"

Welcome to day three of my creative retreat.

I am SOOOO glad I remember going through this last year.

Otherwise, well, otherwise it would be just as hard but I would not have the same feeling to reference from last year.

I hope I can nudge my way through this time too.

Yesterday was very different, did you notice?

Sheesh.

Welcome to my world.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Dove straight in

Well, apparently I dove right in. Yesterday I went for my jog then came home and started mucking around with the materials. Everything I did looked pretty crappy. Well, really crappy.

But today I may have a glimmer of a new direction. It looks VERY different than my past work.

It requires a camera. I lost my camera over Christmas. I ordered a new one. It's not here yet. But I'm playing with some old images in the meantime.

It is afternoon and I am still in my jammies, haven't washed my face or brushed my teeth. Just can't stop experimenting.

I love this. I love this feeling.

No jogging today because I've developed shin splints. I figure one day off should be enough to cure 'em, no? Ah well, ice and ibuprofen. But ice requires that I sit down and actually massage with ice for 20 minutes, 3 times a day. I'm feeling WAY too impatient for that. But ok, I will.

Soon.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

My wish for you all:
Lap up whatever goodness you have in YOUR Christmas.
Not the pictures, not the disappointments of not living the pictures.
All the sweet little moments that are there.
At the very least, love how the air feels on your face.
Lap it up, people. Let it run down over your chin. Let it run down onto your shirt. And lap some more.
Love,
Melinda

Thursday, December 24, 2009

fresh pallet

Yesterday my magnificent assistant Premium T. packed up the last 3 orders to ship, and I hired her son as well to take down all the show displays and clear all of the detritus from 2009. I got out all the new materials I want to experiment with and put them on the clean work table. They wait; tidy, organized, and are as curious as I am about how they will be used.

How is it possible that I spent the ENTIRE day yesterday preparing for The Shows in February: The Buyers Market of American Craft and The American Craft Council Show. I will be doing both shows this year, to the tune of around $20,000. Yes people, you read that right. Last year I did only one of the two, The Buyers Market, but that show is wholesale only so although I came home with a big stack of orders, I came home beyond broke and had to do some serious juggling to have the materials to ship orders to get paid so I could buy more materials to ship more orders and try to pay my mortgage and bills in a not-to-delinquent fashion, and my assistants were generous enough to postpone their pay checks... In other words, it was one tough time. This year I am doing both shows. They each are geared toward wholesale and attract buyers and gallery owners from all over the country. This is what gives me the entire years worth of work. But the ACC show also has 4 days dedicated to retail, and if things go as hoped and planned, I'll recover my show costs and be able to come home with the money to get the year started again NOT in debt. Hence the 2-show February.

So yesterday I was on the phone and the computer for HOURS, arranging hotels, flights, train travel, booth pipe and drape, electricity, various contracts, and the outrageous drayage costs (did you know it will cost around $1500 for the union workers to pick my pallets up from the loading dock where my shipper drops them and bring them with a forklift to my booth location? It entails, all told, maybe 30 minutes of "work" on their part. I'm all for unions helping disempowered workers, but their hourly wage and benefits are in a different stratosphere from mine. That is nearly as much as shipping the entire load from here to there... (well not really, but still).

And then there is the shipping: arranging pick up (what kind of truck? lift gate? pallet jack?), drop off at the advance warehouse, delivery to the show, storage of the second show's pallet, shipping to the second show's advance warehouse, then from the warehouse to the show site. Then home again. With all the right dates for all of everything! (last year I made my flight reservation for a day later than planned--thank goodness it was for the return flight--a recovery day and night of sleep in the hotel was actually welcome).

You see? Very boring details are involved in the "glamorous" life of being a self-employed artist-type. And by reading this, YOU got to share a part of the extremely boring details!

So yesterday while my house/factory was being put back in order, I was arranging for the start of another year.

And today that is mostly done (need to confirm shipping quote and contract) and I woke to a clean & tidy house, a warm purring fluffy kitten, and clear cold blue skies.

I cried yesterday though, when T. and I looked at the calendar and realized that I only get one week of my planned 3 week retreat. There is no way we can be ready to ship by January 28th unless we light the fire of production soon. I had SO looked forward to that extended creative time! I hope the angel of creativity visits me, and visits me soon...

And THAT is the fresh pallet I will step up to day after tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

the in-between

Transitions have always been the hardest thing for me: making the transition from cozy inside to jogging outside, from sedentary to active, from thinking about cleaning the house (paying bills, doing laundry, cleaning the litter box...) to actually doing it.

It is NEVER hard once I've begun. It NEVER takes but a short time. When perceived as a moment-to-moment thing (living in the present as one says) it is just fine. Often actually pleasant. And brings such a feeling of accomplishment.

And yet, the transitions remain difficult for me. I don't know of anyone who would consider me lazy, but getting the ball rolling or changing the direction of that ball roll often seems nearly impossible.

It's as if I am in an orbit around one particular planet, held in stasis by gravity. When I want to send myself off into a new direction it seems to take enormous energy to escape my current orbit and the gravity that holds me there. In order to accomplish that I have to muster up my strength, batten down all the hatches, leave the predictable and comfortable, and fire all rockets to extricate myself. Ripping myself away. Once I've done that I am kind of at a loss. Now what? I'm free, I can define my next reality. But what? A couple vague notions. And vague notions won't fuel my rocket ship.

I'm in-between.

Although that might be the definition of freedom many long for, it contains some significant discomforts. What next? What if there IS nothing next?

As I finish up my year of production I find myself pacing about, not knowing what to do with myself. Orders are filled, shows completed. I comfort myself with tasks that have long needed doing which have been shoved aside for "later" when I have time: the afore mentioned bill-paying, laundry-doing, organizing and purging of former mistakes and no longer needed "necessities". I'll tackle some of those today, and they'll temporarily fill up that looming emptiness. And then I'll force myself to stop. There is never an end to the distractions I COULD use to avoid the emptiness looming in front of me. The blank slate, the proverbial blank canvas.

Can I do it? Will I find access to the next planet of wonder? Do I have the courage to keep nudging myself away from the comfort of the known?

Thank goodness there are enough little tasks involved in tucking this past year in to postpone that challenge a couple more days. Then there is Christmas. Then. Well then I'll jump into the emptiness.

For today and tomorrow, while I am busy finishing up safe little necessary tasks, I'm feeling that cold empty space coming closer.

Delicious, exciting and terrifying.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

thinking ahead

Tomorrow is my last studio show. Next week we pack up, organize the inventory that's left, and clear all surfaces for for the next scary/exciting phase.

I will sequester myself into my own artist retreat. Cloister. Isolate. Be non-responsive. Go deep inside. No distractions.

Last year the big snows gave me that, and it was one of the most thrilling times I remember. 3 weeks of pushing through walls and walls of habit, self-doubt, emptiness, fear, and a profound desire to run back to my comfort zone.

And I kept pushing.

Out of that, a new creative process began to emerge, which became my new line for the year. It was a glorious, manic, consuming and totally joyful process once I found my way into it. But it required every bit of that time. Time to first clear my mind, both of the knee-jerk "need" to sit down to produce and fill orders as I do every single day, as well as time to clear my mind of assumptions and expectations. Time to battle all the insecurities, the total blankness, the terrifying LACK of creativity. Time to make some initial stabs in the dark that are utterly devoid of spark and point to no possible path (not to mention ugly and hopeless...). Time to patiently keep gently nudging, nudging, nudging... but with a quiet mind that has given up its fight. Time to stop nudging and just watch, look, feel. Time to quiet enough that I can begin to catch the faintest glimmer of light waaayyyyy off to the side of my vision. Time to silently stalk that glimmer, not even breathing for fear it will disappear. And yet, breathing steadily and walking toward it with confidence.

Being willing to "waste" expensive materials in the process. Not to mention time.

That is the process I will soon invite into my being. I'm scared again of the blank canvas. I am trying to slow myself down now, in preparation. That is a project all in its own. I've been going so fast the past weeks. Well, the past year, actually.

So I'm off to yoga to practice.

Quiet.

Breathe.

Wait.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ahhhhhhhhhh....

Rest. Blessed rest. Early to bed, late to rise, moving slowly through my day. Return to jogging & yoga. After the last weeks of running on pure adrenalin, the surrender to collapse is an amazingly delicious indulgence. It was worth it, I feel proud of what we've accomplished and completed.

My magnificent assistant T. and I worked an impossible number of hours, got all shipments out, and by the time the first customers arrived on Sunday there was hot ginger-lemon cider (with or without the splash of cognac!), and nibbles, and everything was displayed beautifully and priced, and the house was CLEAN (somehow that gives me the greatest pleasure after weeks of not being able to see the floor for all the packing peanuts, dust balls, and whatever else I choose to not know about).

This Sunday is the second show, but the glory is that it is already set up! I am finishing a few more pieces to fill in, completing a few special requests, but basically... this week has been about learning to breathe again.

Why don't you all come on over this Sunday and enjoy with me? The cider is REALLY good!

Friday, December 11, 2009

getting closer

My assistant T. and I are both running on fumes but have made really great progress. There are housecleaners here to expose the floor from under weeks worth of packing peanuts and I don't want to know what else. I spent hours last evening tidying all the boxes and piles of work in progress, and all the stuff we use to make the work. T.'s son is coming to install the shelves and set up the lights, another dear friend is picking up nibbles and drinks. We are still completing work, but by golly, I think there will be a show here on Sunday!

And still 3 more last minute gallery orders to ship.

Then I plan to remember how to sleep, jog, and go to yoga classes, and play with my kitten, and, oh yeah, sleep?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

is it even possible?

Is it even humanly possible that work will be completed, the house will be clean (for the first time in... seems like forever), hot lemon-ginger cider will be hot and gingery & lemony, nibbles will be artfully arranged, and the work will fill the shelves all sparkly and appealing, and customers will come pouring in the door? And there will actually be something lovely for them to buy? And that on that particular night I'll go to bed early and sleep in the next morning until I FEEL compelled to get up?

Is that even humanly possible?

YES WE CAN! (repeat after me).

VERY busy, trying to accomplish the impossible. Studio sale this Sunday (and next Sunday, but we are taking one at a time). AND we are still getting gallery orders shipped out.

Lordy, lordy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

My assistant T. bribed me to come to her home for dinner tomorrow. She said if I came she'd work on Saturday for me. Can you believe it took such a bribe to get me out of the house to accept a lovely invitation? Sheesh, I am getting kind of pathetic. But this is crunch time, more orders to get to galleries in time for them to sell for the holidays, and then my own studio sale...
But I just made cranberry relish to contribute (along with wine) and I will actually take several hours off tomorrow to enjoy time around a groaning table with lovely people.

Lots to be thankful for, and only a few of them include: the return of my health, the feel of air on my face, my little business is still alive, a wonderful assistant, a delightful rascal of a kitten, the big soft hearts inside of all the various and often confounding people in my life, rain on the roof as I snuggle deeper into the covers, a roof over my head, that people like and buy the things I make, that I get to spend most of my time making pretty things, red wine and gin (not together), good food, an improving ability to surf the waves that Life rolls toward me, and so much more.

A few years ago I called my mom to ask her for her special family cranberry relish recipe. She told me it was on the back of the bag. The romance was destroyed, but I still love the relish. I just ate several big spoons full of it. (spoonfulls? I didn't eat the spoons... these things confuse me). How about: I just ate a bunch of it, using a spoon to fill my mouth several times? Having a poet as an assistant has made me begin to obsess about grammar.

My favorite thing about Thanksgiving has nothing to do with the food, really. I love how acknowledging what I am grateful for in my life makes me feel full. Really.

I have quite a bit more I could write, lots of thoughts while out for my jog today, but work is calling me.

Happy Thanks-Giving!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

If I were a poet

IF I were a poet (sing to: The Fiddler on the Roof)

If I were a poet (sing to: If I had a Hammer...)

Ok, that's a scary glimpse inside my brain while jogging and seeing cool stuff I'd describe much better if I were a POET.
Yes, I know this blog is sort of supposed to be about the life of a working artist-type.

But sometimes there is not much to write:

I get up and reluctantly emerge from my cozy warm bed, make coffee, drink coffee while reading the internet(s), put on my jogging costume, go jogging, come home, shower & change into my work costume, work with my lovely assistant T, put on my yoga costume, go to yoga, come home, eat something, change into my "second shift" costume (jammies), work while sipping something like red wine or gin or decaf tea with milk while watching something mildly engaging on TV or dvd, and go to bed, read, sleep...

Or I could write about all the amazing thoughts inside my head:

"oh! can we possibly get everything done on time? damn, that piece is cracked, what an adorable kitten! I''m hungry, pizza sounds good, oh, right, I don't eat pizza, where is that one piece that is supposed to go with that order? here? but it's the wrong color, oh, that one broke? damn, I'd better make another, how is it I work all the time and STILL don't make any money? keep practicing gratefulness: I have a roof over my head, I love my job, I have an adorable kitten, UPS will be here soon, can we get the labels printed in time? I wonder what colors I should paint the next batch? Oh-oh, the paint is dripping, oh, will you look at that adorable kitten? I don't WANT to go jogging today, I have too much work to do, what would be the harm of one day off? Just get out there and do it and quit your whining, I hope I get a couple payments in the mail today, the mortgage and health insurance are due in three days, Is it REALLY mid-November? Do I REALLY have to deliver to the Pratt sale THIS Friday? Ohhhhhh, the anxiety is knotting up my stomach, don't think! just keep working! It will be ok. No problem. Don't think! Just Do! Wow, what a beautiful color THAT is! Look at this piece, I don't know if I can part with it, it's so gorgeous!

(and so on and so on...)

So the thoughts inside my head are a little boring to, no?

Unless you take the hilarious and scintillating conversations T. and I have when we are spending our days working together. Details will not released, but I CAN tell you that we are brilliant, hilarious, insightful, and that we laugh so hard I've come to rely on it for my abdominal strengthening. Oh yes, really. WE are truly hilarious. Odd that no one else gets it.

But back to the "if I were a poet" thing.

A couple days ago as I was running along the path by the lake (in the rain, mind you), a big flock of small black water fowl floating on the lake all started flapping and skimming the surface of the water at once. The water was whipped into a silver froth, and the birds were black dots stitched like beads on a silver chiffon tutu. Accompanied by a sound exactly like one of those "rain sticks" that sound so cool when you tip them from one end to the other. Poetry, I tell you!

And then yesterday (it was COLD!) I was jogging along a neighborhood sidewalk and one forlorn pink rosebud was hanging over a fence. It's stem was nearly rotted, and the bud itself was ragged and turning a bit brown on its outer petals. I took a moment to sniff if (for some reason) and was immediately startled by the sweet, sweet scent still present in that dying bud.
The courage! The bravery! The persistence! To keep bringing forth its sweetness in spite of all the obstacles (huge wind, rain, frost) thrown in its path. And likely, I was the only one who had the inclination to stop and sniff the offering of the nearly dead bud. I was touched by the metaphor of something barely living but still able to share its sweetness even if it would never be appreciated. In spite of it all.

If I were a poet!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thursday, November 5, 2009

impostor syndrome



I've always been prone to impostor syndrome, a feeling that would trigger a fear of being "found out", of others knowing that I didn't belong, that I wasn't REALLY a ... (fill in the blank, it has been true in most every context). I've gotten over it to a very functional degree by not claiming to be deserving of the category: "I just make pretty things and sell them, I'm not an Artist (so don't challenge me and tell me to go away and embarrass me!)".

The sign pictured above is a place I get my paints, etc. It has taken me many, many trips to get over my fear (subtle, but still there!) that someone would be waiting at the door to check my credentials and be sure I had the proper license to enter. When they added the "open to public" sign to their billboard I had to laugh and realize I wasn't the only one feeling the same intimidation (but would they have a special section for the real artists, and a different one for the public???).

To their credit, I've been treated very, very well there. They've never even asked to see any paperwork confirming my right to shop there. AND I've come to rely on their incredible friendliness and generous help. Even when I have no idea what I'm asking about. I asked yesterday if there was such a thing as a pencil that could be permanent without a fixative (there is not) but the guy helping me took me all over the store talking with me about possible options. THEY have helped me feel more like a "real" artist, by taking my questions seriously when I told them what I wanted to use something for. By me exposing myself as not knowing anything.

Huh. Life lesson, you think?

Monday, November 2, 2009

a very special treat

as I was jogging this evening on the path alongside the lake, a strong fresh wind came straight at me from the south. It ran it's fingers through my hair, and it's nails scratched along my scalp, and I tossed my head like a horse.

Heaven.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween

So, for the past week I've been obsessing about where I could possibly go during the trick-or-treat hours so that I could
1. Get work done (busy! read past entries).
2. Not have to spend $50 on candy (severe budget, read past entries).
3. Not eat the candy (dieting & exercising like a plum fool, read past entries).
4. Not spend all evening answering the door and not getting work done in the evening prime production time (read past entries).

I obsessed and couldn't come up with a single idea that would allow me accomplish what I needed without shutting myself upstairs, but there is no work table so that wouldn't work and I live in a real live neighborhood with lots of kids. They'd SEE me working in the house. And then I realized I was becoming a serious scrooge and swung by the store on my way home from my jog for the most odious & cheap candy I could find. Odious so I wouldn't be tempted, and cheap for my budget. I'm a candy corn freak and I averted my eyes as I walked by the bags of it...).

Turns out almost all the kids gasped at my candy and said it was their very favorite. I said "so I did ok?" "Oh yeah, you did hella-good!" And the big group of them applauded.

I even got some work done, and had a blast seeing all those sweet little faces, all dressed up for the magic of the sanctioned "taking candy from strangers." I could see the magic on all their faces as their bags got filled up with CANDY!, and was filled with joy, and felt SOOOOO foolish for obsessing over it.

Sigh.


And then memories: I remember when I was very young my mom made homemade fried doughnuts to give out-hot and fresh! I can still taste them. I remember making caramel apples to give out. Little bags of homemade cookies & candies. Ah, the olden days before razor blades and poison.

And I remember on the isolated island we were a bit older, my mom went trick-or-treating with a martini glass to the homes of some of the other island-dwellers. Brilliant! I will do that sometime to the home of someone I am certain will have gin & olives.

An old dear friend of my mom's (one of the several with whom we kids played as a tribe while our moms played bridge and solved the world's problems) called me yesterday to ask me what I remembered of those days. Alas, mostly I remembered loving getting all the candy, but she reminded me of some of the costumes she used to make for the kids. One big mistake one year: she made a magnificent costume for one of her sons that had no armholes. So he couldn't take candy. She never made that mistake again. And she reminded me that my mother would let us have a few pieces of our haul and then took the candy and doled it out to us one piece at a time. My mom's friend said she always thought that was mean. SHE let her kids have ALL the candy to eat as they pleased. Yes. Clear evidence I suffered in my childhood. I made up for it in later years and bought all the candy corn I wanted. Hence the current diet and exercise program. Life's not fair.

Candy corn shouldn't count.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

risks

Well, you know that dream many people have? the one about being a full time artist, working from home, spending all the time making things?

It really IS good. But. Not without some fairly gut-wrenching risks. For the past few days we have been searching for some products to replace others that for one reason and another are no longer available, and/or searching for new shapes and sizes that will be exciting and fresh for the next year's shows. We (Premium T. and I) found some really nice things (after I of course spent some time with my stomach tied in a knot). I ordered some, and in some cases ordered all remaining inventory because I decided to take the risk that they were That Good, and would be discontinued when the supply was gone. I just found out that the shipping was adding half again the price of the goods. YIKES! What to do, what to do? It's for a very small vase so it will be hard to absorb the extra dollar per piece. But the glass is SUCH good quality, the shape is SO appealing, unusual, and will take the design work so well...

And I decided to do both big wholesale shows in February. One is wholesale only, and is the show most of my buyers attended last year. But it's wholesale only, so I don't sell anything there, only take orders for the rest of the year. The other is wholesale as well as retail. It is a "higher end" show and last year not many buyers attended as they were more interested in more affordable items. BUT there is a retail component that in past years has covered my (enormous) costs of doing the shows. It is clear that I need to do the first, but the high cost of show fees, shipping, etc. made it so that when I came home to get to work filling orders I had no money with which to order supplies, etc. and that set me up for a number of months of very fast and tight juggling to keep this show on the road. So I am taking a $7000 risk and doing both, with the hope of doing enough business in the retail section to pay the show costs.

Yikes. If only being a working artist were just about staying home making pretty things...

Friday, October 23, 2009

swept up again

this afternoon as I jogged along the lake a Big Wind came swooping in, and a gazzilion leaves came flying down, swirling around me, engulfing me as the wind threatened to lift me right up. Another heavenly moment while jogging. I guess I am starting to love forcing myself out there every day.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Two favorite things from my jog this morning:

1. I was jogging in the midst of an enormous bunch (gang? gaggle? flock?) of geese who were busy walking about, eating & pooping as geese do, paying me no mind. A dog startled them and they lifted all at once, completely surrounding me and saturating the world for a moment with the sound and wind of a hundred formidable wings. Whopp whopp whopp! A hundred wings beating. My hair lifted and blown, I was utterly swallowed up by it.

2. Certain colors take my breath away. Do you ever want to eat color? To drown in it? Today I saw a red that I wanted to inhale deep into my lungs. Moments like that...

The price

With three fewer worker-bees (as of August) I still experience stress wondering if we can manage to get all the work done. So far, we've accomplished it very well, but with a big stack of orders (and me taking 3 hours off each day to exercise!) I am still kinda nervous about it. I have to make and save $15,000 to be able to do the wholesale shows in February, in order to get orders for the next year, so we can make and ship more work, in order to get paid, to be able to pay the mortgage, health insurance, bills and my remaining 2 worker-bees. On top of that,still have enough money to pay the mortgage, health insurance (come on, health reform!) worker-bees and bills. I know people with "regular jobs" struggle with the same issues of budgeting and bill paying, but sometimes it's hard living right on the edge and being solely responsible. It is the price I pay to get to live my life this way... there are good parts and hard parts about being a single, self-employed working artist. Just so anyone reading this who aspires to a similar lifestyle understands! It would be easier to be independently wealthy, or have a spouse with a regular income. But my kitten thinks his only job is to be funny and cute and warm and furry. He does those things very well though!

On a VERY positive note though, we have tons of orders. More every week. Now if my suppliers would just hold up their end of the bargain and get me the materials I need to fill all the orders.

But in spite of the worries described above, I am proud of the work we are doing, happy and grateful that it continues to sell well, really proud of myself for sticking with my new exercise program, I can wear jeans again!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Benefits of running in the rain

Yes, today was my first test. It has been raining all day, so I girded my loins (!) and did it. Endorphins are still surging through my body so I have to list some of the benefits I was noticing as I was out there, to remind myself...

In no particular order:

* The very act of defying gravity (centered in my warm, dry house) and getting out there is VERY empowering!

* Scents I don't smell when it's dry are deliciously pungent.

* The leaves that have fallen on the ground look like they are lit from within against the charcoal colored running path.

* The few people I passed were all bundled up and burdened with umbrellas walking their dogs. They had squinty, suffering faces. I felt free and happy, surrendered to the rain.

* I was soaked all the way through, but steaming warm. Fun!

* The whole world was brushed in shades of grey, which made the occasional blast of color seem like an ecstatic celebration.

* The sound of the rain is a luscious pleasure.

* And I did it.

* Twilight is such private beauty.

I DO need some proper winter running clothes. I've been asking around and researching a bit. Although I was plenty warm today in my fleece vest, thin shirt and tights, it WAS 62 degrees and 35 degrees will be a whole different ball game.

One step at a time.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

delicious ordinary this and that..

The weather gods are being kind to me. I worry about my discipline once the weather turns gloomy. Today I was about to be tested, but this afternoon, just in time for my jog, the sun broke through and it was GLORIOUS! Whew. The discipline exam got postponed another day. I wonder what I should study to prepare myself?

My lovely (and google genius) assistant Premium T found a source for the glass shapes I had spent 2 hours scouring the web for. How she did that I can't imagine. Maybe a different google at her house? At any rate, there is hope here at the hive again! Some of the shapes that sell really well were discontinued, now there will be replacements, looking like even a better quality glass, AND at almost the same price. YES!

I just picked the rest of my hearty, faithful roses. They were horribly neglected this summer and yet hung in there. It will be close to freezing tonight, so I cut them and put them in a vase to see and smell while I work at the table.

Roasted brussel sprouts and chicken for dinner. Yum.

A rousing game of hide and seek with my kitten (big grown up kitten now, but still...). We take turns hiding and springing out at each other. Ah, the life of a single girl!

An indulgent weekend nap on the couch today. A treat I've been giving myself on weekends lately. I've come late to the joys of napping. Highly recommended. especially with soft, wonderful music to let your brain surf to...

AND I just figured out that blogger has spell check. Woo hoo!

Now: a little gin on the rocks, some bad TV, and a TON of vases to prepare to be sandblasted on Monday (which means there are tons of orders which is a Very Good Thing).

See? Delicious ordinary.

Friday, October 9, 2009

in yoga today...

as I moved from one pose to the next--holding each posture until my body trembled with effort and sweat dripped off my nose, the instructor kept suggesting the image of a lake to us, still and quiet. He said we could think of entering a new posture we find difficult, stressful, or "uncomfortable" like the mud on the bottom of the lake being stirred up, clouding the water. He charged us with settling into the posture, breathing through the discomfort, becoming still and slowing our breath until the mud settled and the water cleared. Every time we changed from one posture to another we stirred the mud up, and we were challenged again to find our pose and hold it quietly--riding the trembling effort--by following our breath until "the mud settled and the water became clear." This meditation continued throughout the entire class. And at the end I lay on my back for the final few silent restful minutes of class, bathed in sweat and deep at peace.

When I got home and started work I had some phone calls to make to order more supplies and check on supplies that I'm waiting for. I heard that one shipment I've waited months for is STILL not here (and people, this is holiday crunch time!) and that 4 (FOUR!) of the styles/sizes/shapes of vessels that have been the very best sellers for the last few years have been discontinued.

Yep. I gotta say, the lake got pretty muddy.

So I have an "opportunity" to hold my reactions and interpretations, breathe, stay calm and wait for the mud to settle.

I remind myself I have been through this before, and there is always something new to replace the old.

True stories of yoga and the working artist.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

back to daily

After the big push to get those 70 large centerpieces completed for the Poncho auction (and celebrating the fact that not every nook and cranny of my house/studio is covered with them) it's time to switch gears and get the "regular" orders filled and shipped. Well, we've been doing that all along as well-an amazing accomplishment-but we have even more big orders and small to fill to meet deadlines for the holidays. It's a really wonderful thing, and I am very, very grateful for how busy we are on a daily basis.

My foot injury has greatly improved (can you believe I actually think wearing high heels the other night helped it?) I got back to my walking/jogging yesterday. The walking is easy, but when I get down to the path along the lake I begin jogging and it is HARD, but I noticed after around 10-15 minutes I get into a really nice rhythm with it and kind of, well, enjoy is a bit of a strong word, but there is just a smidge of pleasure in it. Wow. A month or two ago I could only jog a few steps and now I'm doing 20-40 minutes of jogging! The pleasure is in part related to the glorious fall days we are having this week. Crisp and sunny. My favorite.

Now I am going to have to nudge this big, warm, purring kitten off my lap (he only snuggles on my lap when I'm at the computer, funny kitten that he is) and go out in this morning sun for my torturous treat.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

woo hoo!

Well, If I''m not mistaken I think every single centerpiece sold last night. People were complaining that the one on their table had been sold before they even got to the table. Cool!

The event was everything a big fancy auction could be: valet parking at the entrance, fancy-dressed men pointing the way to the escalator, "welcome to PONCO!", butlers offering glasses of champagne as I got off the escalator, bars set up every direction I turned ("Safire martini with olives, please"), butlers floating about offering platters of delicious appetizers (can't remember them all, but I helped myself enough to soak up some of the martinis), pressing through crowds to see all the silent auctions, checking out all the clothes of the patrons of the Seattle art scene, hearing the announcer urge people to go look at the "beautiful centerpieces in the ballroom on the dining tables "by Mary-Melinda Wellsandt" (!), then dinner which was quite delicious. We were served a yummy salad of goat cheese, beets, greens, sugared pecans... and the main course was filet mignon with wild mushrooms, prawns, and king crab lemony risotto, all on a sauce of something that tasted like a crab-whiskey-cream sauce. Really delicious wine was poured liberally. For desert (how could they have known I always want some of everything?) we were each given a plate of 5 different deserts! The coffee came with a plate of whipped cream, dark chocolate sticks... (I ALWAYS want all the details of the food, so maybe you do too...).

The live auction itself only included 40 pieces, so I could actually follow along and see what got a strong response in this sort of crowd (often I think live auctions go on WAY to long and I stop caring after a while).

After that, my host invited me to join him and the others from his organization for a little after-party wine and gossip session in the hotel room a couple of them had booked. Fun!

I had asked for decaf coffee, but I suspect I got regular as when I got home I couldn't sleep. For, like, forever. So I took a second little pill and eventually fell asleep around 3ish. Needless to say, I missed yoga this morning. Not good, after all I ate last night. But a girl is allowed a little indulgence on a night like that, don't you think?

And now back to work for me, orders to fill!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Poncho auction tonight...

Well, in order to find something to wear tonight I had to go through all my clothes, bring out winter clothes and put summer clothes away, and try things on to see what fit. I did it! And in addition to that, I made a pledge to myself to cut my stock of clothes in half (hopefully soon-ish), as I have WAY too many clothes, dating back as many as 20 years. Problem is, I have so many favorites, so many memories attached, so many body sizes to accommodate at various sizes, in various life-phases.

It will be fun to see a centerpiece on every table I created. We worked REALLY hard on them, and we're proud of every single one (and there were 70!). I hope they all sell. Stories tomorrow!

Friday, October 2, 2009

brrrriiringgg...

"Hello?"

"Hi, is this Mary-Melinda?"

"Yes."

"This is xxxxx at yyyyyy Gallery. We just received your shipment to us and... well, we were excited to unpack our order but..., well, the box was full of clothes!"

"WHAT? Uh, what do you mean?

"Well, we opened it and it was double boxed as you always ship, and inside the inner box we found a lot of clothes."

(silence)

"You found what?"

"Clothes"

"Well THAT'S weird! What sort of clothes?" (at this point T, my assistant, was looking at me with curiosity).

"Well, let me see... there's a hoodie with a budda on it, a t-shirt, some pants, some athletic shoes, some more pants, a sweater..."

"Well that's really weird. I don't even recognize anything you are describing. Are you certain it was from me?"

"It has your address on the UPS label. Do you want the tracking number?"

"Yeah, let's check this out." (accessing UPS website and my shipping history). "Well yes, I did ship something to you with that tracking number, but it shows that it left here a year ago, and just got delivered today."

(more discussion)

"Well the owner just said it must have been his son sending some of his girlfriend's clothes to her, using an old box from the storeroom, and his label must have fallen off"

"ahhhh, well I'm glad we figured THAT out!"

And T and I laughed about it off and on all day.
Weirdest phone call ever!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

we did it!

We got our huge order finished, on time, and every single piece is exquisite. We are so proud!
The order was for 70 large centerpiece vases for the annual PONCHO auction. It was an honor to be chosen, and a challenge to accomplish it while not making our "regular" galleries wait an undue amount of time for their own orders to be shipped. AND we did it with a greatly reduced crew of "worker-bees." Kudos to T., who did a fabulous job of painting her little heart out while I was off lazing about in Oregon for 3 days last week!

Now this week is all about getting caught up on other orders, packing and shipping, and congratulating ourselves further for "making it work." We seem to be doing it...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

not ready

I was out on a glorious walk yesterday morning: warm golden sun with that lovely crisp edge. By the time I returned home from the lake a big wind was pouring into the alley and leading fall into my world. Colder this morning, dimmer. Dark! I'm not ready this year. I've found myself counting on my fingers how long it will be before the light returns. Too long.

But since I have no say in the matter, I'd best get busy with planning some ways to celebrate the season we are in. Firewood stacked, I should buy some new candles, lay in the ingredients for making soups, get the flannel sheets out, tuck away out my summer clothes and get out the snuggy fall/winter clothes, but mostly I need to adjust my attitude and expectations. If I don't do that, it will be a long, dark winter!

I have a warm, purring kitten on my lap. I think that will be winter's key coping ingredient. That, and staying busy with work I love.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

a little trip to heaven

I took nearly 3 days off and went on a little trip to visit my friends who recently moved to a farm in central Oregon. It was heavenly. We went for a couple little hikes, played with the dog, sat in the sun and looked over the valley, celebrated my not-son's birthday, watched him run with fierce intensity (and making excellent time in spite of getting run over!) in his second cross-country meet.

I cried when it was time to leave, I want to move there so much! It felt like "me." Alas, my circumstances won't allow it for now. But something to add to my dream-book.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

my favorite season

Every day this week I have noticed actual fall leaves on my path as I am out jogging. Last week there were only leaves that had fallen because of the extreme heat and lack of rain the northwest had endured this summer. Now they are the gorgeous colorful leaves that make me look forward to kicking through piles of them on my daily huffing and puffing excursions. The sun is golden and warm, with just that little freshness to remind us of what is coming and why we need to appreciate every last moment of this time. Though 80 degrees is forecast, it will be full of the slight waiting cool, a bitter-sweet reminder to us: take it in!

Friday, September 18, 2009

the plan... (only slightly tongue-in-cheek)

Well, now that I've finished all the painting I can do at one time I will take a little break to tell you about a piece of my anxiety management. Most single income self-employed artists (read: no retirement plan) have this sort of anxiety once they reach "a certain age." So I've been scheming.

When/If I can no longer pay my bills doing what I do (or something else) I can sell my house, take the equity, and buy a nice little (little!) RV and travel the country. Doing some kind of art/craft that doesn't require a big studio, etc.

When my money is used up or I become to old or infirm to keep going I could commit a crime. Not such a bad crime that would have horrible karmic consequences or make me miserable for acting in a way that conflicts with my values, but bad enough to land me in prison. Think about it: free health care, a room and bed of my own, as much mac and cheese as I can eat (and it wouldn't matter if I got fat). I could teach craft classes, maybe even participate in one of those programs that let prisoners have animals to help them learn love & compassion! I could have a TV in my room, plenty of books, and even a CD player with my favorite music...

The credit for this idea comes from a week or two ago when my "not son" and his mother were here visiting. N. wanted a last full-on slothful weekend, and so plopped himself on the couch to watch an entire day's worth of "Prison Life" or some such title. I was working at the table, so I watched the full day of his programing as well. There were HORRIBLE prisoners featured, the worst of the worst. And they had everything I just described, minus the animals and craft classes.

And if other artists in my situation did the same thing just think what fun we could have all together?

Now I just have to think of the right crime that would send me to one of those nice white-collar prisons...

Any ideas?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

taking a running jump...

..to get back on the horse! I've been "gone" from this blog. Why? Well, stuff and stuff and other things too. I was SO disappointed and yes, actually in shock about how poorly the Bellevue show went. I sold 1/6 of what I sold at the same show last year, and my work was even much better! I had counted on that money for basic bills and expenses, and I was really thrown for a loop (where does that expression come from?) when I barely covered the costs of the show. I cancelled the second show in Sun Valley because I couldn't afford to take the financial risk of doing it if the economy dictated low sales there as well. After that, I paced around my house in stunned stupor for a while, wondering if I could or should even keep pushing forward with this endeavor. I considered going out and getting a "real job" but I know how difficult that is these days... So I decided to soldier on, and cut expenses to a bare minimum. I had to lay off 3 of my helpers, and looked for all the other places I could plug up the financial leaks. Fortunately gallery orders have been pouring in, so I WILL make it, and it looks like we (me, my primary assistant, and my newest assistant who can do the sandblasting) can actually get the same amount of work done. Good!

I also started going to yoga classes 7 days a week, walking an hour a day, and meditating daily. All that is helping manage the tsunami of stress that threatened to drown me. It's working!

As I go out and about my neighborhood on my daily walk/jogs, I see homes that are being well maintained: new paint, new roofs, landscaping, steps repaired, etc. I noticed I was feeling sorry for myself that I can't afford to maintain my own house. But I decided that that perspective was a door into a rather dark and dismal place, and that instead I could be grateful that I HAVE a home, that I have work I enjoy, that I have the good sense to figure out where to cut expenses, and, especially these days, that my little business IS surviving! AND we are getting more orders every week. I know the reason for my financial struggles is that my work is very under-priced, given the amount of time each piece requires, but at least it is offering survival in a time when many other artists are not so fortunate. I'm grateful.

Stay tuned for my next post that outlines some, ahem, creative plans for retirement for someone like me (and many, many others in my shoes) who have no retirement funds. At first glance a joke, but maybe???

I'll be back again soon!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

too hot even to blog

Yes, I'm a pacific northwest wuss, freely admitted, and I know other parts of the country have hearty souls who laugh at our weather here. But I'm a native northwest girl, and I am miserable in the 103 degree heat. Work is pretty much impossible, the paint dries before it hits the glass!

And the show... well, pretty much a disaster. I think it was too hot for people to even think about buying, judging by how few people (maybe 5%) were carrying shopping bags. So that's trouble for me. I hate to post that, but I am committed to writing about how it is for a self-employed artist living the glamorous life!

I can't take the lack of sales personally, as galleries keep selling out of my work, so I'm very grateful for that (I hate it when I decide I suck!) and there is no evidence to support that old belief. LOTS of customers were in my booth, admiring my work, but complaining it was simply too hot to make a decision. Bummer.

So as soon as my brain recovers from its melted state, I will figure out what to do next. Creativity is a requirement for survival, not just for the making of things.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Showtime!

Today we are setting up for the Bellevue Festival of the Arts. Knot in my stomach, as is usual before a show. If you are in the Seattle area, come by! I'll be in booth 47, across from Cost Plus. Lots of good work to see! Wish me luck.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Crazy Busy!

My wholesale orders were down after the big wholesale show at Philly last winter. So I committed to two retail shows in this period, back-to-back. I had NEVER anticipated the response to my work based on the low volume of orders and fear to spend money early this year. Now I have a great problem to have (too many orders/reorders to fill on time). It is very stressful, but I keep reminding myself it is a really, really great problem to have. So I practice gratefulness as I race against every tick of the clock to prepare as much work as possible. I hope the galleries can be a little patient with me. Had I known reorders would be coming so fast and furious at the beginning of the year I wouldn't have committed to these retail shows. But there you have it. Busy girl, me. The hive is buzzing! Thanks goodness for a great crew of worker-bees.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

New!



this is the first of a new technique I'm playing with. I like it! I like the stitchery effect and the windows to the other side. I like the way it embraces the space inside.

What do you think?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

dangerous



After I sharpened all my pencils prior to doing some drawing on glass, I recoiled slightly from the whole collection of sharpness! Now to use them for their intended purpose.

Today and everyday in this phase: painting in the morning before it gets too hot and messes up the paint, then taping and drawing, working on photo-etch and images. Cutting and taping until 11 pm, and starting all over again at 7 am. Deadlines approach. Isn't it glamorous?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

in the moment

Preparing for 2 back-to-back retail shows is kicking my butt. SOOO much to do I have barely time to think, let alone write. New ideas are emerging however, as they always do right before a show when there is no time to develop them. But THIS time, I am plunging ahead with one of them, as best I can with the deadlines rolling in like a parade of tanks. I found my groove tonight, that groove where every cut of the knife is a meditation. THAT's what I've been missing, and I am pleased to have found it again. Interesting how pressure can knock me right off my center and firmly on my ass. But I'm fighting back! Great to have a hard working crew here. Really great.

And yoga is coming along. You know those tippy-dolls that are weighted on the bottom so you can't tip them over? Well, for the 5 weeks I've been taking yoga, I felt like my weighted spot was exactly opposite, and I tipped over in class at the slightest provocation. Tonight in class I balanced AND kept up with the movements pretty darn well. Felt good. Yoga is perfect for me right now. It's both challenging and gentle and is the perfect respite from working "too hard."

Friday, June 26, 2009

pretty nice place to work



You know, we do work hard here at the "hive" but it is not without it's benefits. No, none of the conventional benefits, but others, more immediate. Most days I put out a few snacks: sometimes fresh fruit, sometimes popcorn with truffle salt & parmesan (yum!) sometimes soup, when I make a big pot, forgetting I live alone...

Yesterday T., preparing for her trip, cleaned out her refrigerator and brought a very lovely collection of cheeses, I had a glorious bowl of crunchy grapes, Connie brought some of her magnificent rhubarb chutney... all unplanned! Yes, and as we passed by that collection of goodies we grabbed a treat before working on the next piece. After work we climbed the cherry tree and picked the ripe crunchy cherries the starlings seemed to have forgotten this year. We tell stories while we work, and often actually giggle and guffaw, not to mention offering support during the inevitable hard times in our lives.

By the way, I highly recommend a grape, topped with Delice de Bourgogne (triple cream, of course), and a walnut placed on top. Kind of a mouthful of heaven.

Pretty nice hive, wouldn't you say?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

pretty!



This is part of a new collection of damask vases for Julie at Virtu in Chicago. For SOME odd reason, she can't seem to keep them in stock! That pleases both of us muchly. She gave me the freedom to pick a palette for this collection. Seemed to me plum to magenta, light green & aqua to darker green, and mustard through orange & red orange would be lovely. I think it is!

ps. Check out ht/tp://premium-t.blogspot.com blog entry, you'll see some mighty pretty painted fingers from yesterdays session!

treat tonight!

David Byrne is playing tonight in Seattle and I get to go see him! I am so looking forward to it. The fact that I work All The Time had started to concern me (and my friends) a bit, but I enjoy being at home and working more than many activities out in the world that I have to make a real effort to come up with reasons to go out that feel worth it to me. Hearing live music certainly qualifies! Good restaurants, dancing, and skiing are also high on the list. Little by little I emerge occasionally from my little hive to go out into the world. Then I scurry back home, to work. I get pretty anxious not working, as I continue to get lots of re-orders to complete and ship, and still have those 2 shows to prepare for.No to mention needing to prepare work the my worker-bees, to keep them busy and productive each day. But I am making a little time, now and then. I think it's good.

Monday, June 22, 2009

speaking of technology...

Some time ago I bought myself a GPS unit. THAT is not candy, but necessity for me. I'm the one who got lost trying to find my hotel across the street from the convention center in Philly, remember?

Well, I was to drive to my friend T.'s house yesterday evening. I'd never been there, so told her to just give me her address and I'd find it without problem using my GPS (it was "on the east side, another world I'm not familiar with). I left in plenty of time, entered the address, and set off driving. One of the bridges was closed so I chose (against the snotty instructions of the gps voice) to take the other one. No problem. She (the voice) just "recalculated" and I headed off across the bridge. Once I got across the bridge, and onto another highway (against her instructions) I finally got off the highway and followed her lead. And what a lead it was. 2 hours after leaving on a short jaunt across the lake I finally called T and told her I wouldn't make it. I had taken back roads all over the area, around Lake Washington (a huge lake) and was again in Seattle. I finally figured out this morning that I had set the unit to keep me off freeways and highways as for normal use here in Seattle the freeway traffic is horrible. So even the poor GPS unit got lost. I won't exactly say I'm an idiot, but maybe a technodolt? At any rate, I missed a good party. Sheesh.

candy

Well yeah, I do like new toys, technology, stuff I don't need but can rationalize. Well, I really didn't need this but.. but... but.. I just HAD to have it! Two years ago I started drooling, fondling those of my friends. Saving my pennies, and waiting, waiting, waiting for my contract to be up. Yep. I got me my very own iPhone, and I have been quite consumed with tending to it's every need.

I'm having all the fun and frustration of bonding with a new device and the frustration was resolved with a simple trip to the genius bar (man, those guys are good!). Every time it beeps at me I hungrily grab it, wondering what it might tell me THIS time. I'm imagining maybe going to shows without my laptop, since I'll have google and e-mail right in my pocket.

Oh, yes. New love is so sweet.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

just another day in the hive



Well, it's not EVERY day at noon, but today I told the story about making the best margaritas ever for some friends (the same friends that brought the most magnificent crab for dinner last night). I emphasized that the orange liquor I used was even better than Grand Marnier. I was challenged. So we had to have a bit of a taste test. The two bees here came up in a draw. But my vote voted for me, so I WON! Wooppee.

(and sipping in the middle of the day is pretty fun for a change. I think it improves bee-moral once in a while!)

Friday, June 12, 2009

this body

I woke up the morning of my birthday with the thought that this very body of mine has been living on this earth for 55 years. It's been my vehicle through all it's stages: a little chubby infant, and innocent toddler, etc, etc. Now I look at my arms and wrists and legs and see in them the infant, the toddler, the exploring 7 year old, the teenager, the pretty 20 something... Somehow that realization made me look ever so fondly at this middle-aged body, and look forward, even, to watching as it carries me through new experiences, even through the experience of aging.

What a lovely birthday gift from my psyche!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

It's my birthday!

and to celebrate I am taking a couple hours off from work to visit a friends store for the first time (which she opened over a year ago!) and treat myself to "a little something." Then back to work, and then a friend is treating me to a sushi dinner out. I think sushi is the best treat EVER.

We are VERY busy around here. Lots of orders to fill and reorders coming in almost daily. A little anxiety as I also need to prepare for 2 (two!) retail shows coming up back to back in 6 weeks. YIKES! But lest the gods think I am complaining let it be heard that I am full of gratitude that I am so busy. It's a Very Good Thing. Yes indeed.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Is my name Dorothy?

And am I in Kansas?

Last evening around dusk the sky suddenly became dark and a yellow and pink wind came in. Not just any wind, but enormous, crazy laughing gusts that both thrilled me and scared me like a roller-coaster. Tossing things into the air like popcorn and opening up new spaces in my lungs. Following that, blessed cool, and about 17 raindrops.

I loved it, can you tell?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

working

today we were:

working on shipping.
working on sandblasting.
working on organizing orders.
working on taping.
working on business cards.
working on STAYING COOL.
Successful at all except the former.
It's 90 degrees in Seattle, and I've utterly melted.
Even the kitten has melted onto the floor and can't get up.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

confidence

I just did something scary for me. Remember the post a while back, in which I wrote about the mistakes I've made so far this year? (oh, never fear, there will be more--kinda goes with being alive). The mistake I refer to here is the one in which I under-priced my newest work. BAD mistake, because I've discovered that the work is VERY underpriced based on time and materials alone. That is the kind of mistake that can cause a business, MY business, to go under. Don't want that. No way.

So I had to do a scary thing. I had to send an e-mail to all my galleries this morning informing them of a 20% price increase on the photo-etched work. That is the minimum increase I could make to help cover the extra costs of time and materials involved in producing that series.

What's scary about it is my whole confidence thing. "Will people still buy my work if it costs more?" And an even scarier question to be dealt with: "could I really ask for just a little bit more?" (like: to NOT work all the time to simply get by, but actually make a little money as well?). That question (and answer) will come at a little later point for me. Self-confidence has never been my strong suit. In spite of huge positive feedback, one aspect of me is pretty deferential, kind of "oh gee golly, you want my work?" That is getting boring, and really horribly out-dated. I need to work on claiming my space in the world. I have more than enough data to use to support the claim that: I do, indeed, deserve to claim my space, and, as Leonard Cohen sings in "Bird on a Wire": "ask for just a little bit more."

Saturday, May 30, 2009

trivialities of the week

It's May. It's in the 80's. This is Seattle. What's wrong with this picture? I must say: it's lovely.

I started yoga this week. First time. It's kicking my ass--it is NOT just about nice, comfortable stretching poses. Oh no, it's not. My friend bought me a 2 month unlimited pass for my birthday. The most important part? She is dragging me there 3 times a week. I'm sore and fatigued. It's good.

I might or might not get a big commission to make 60-70 large centerpieces for an auction. If I get it, I don't think I can do the Philly Museum Show. I need some help with the decision, so that could be the deciding factor.

Busy, busy, busy. My underpriced photo-etched work is causing problems, hanging up production. It takes SOOOO much longer that orders are stacking up. Ah well, everything is an opportunity to learn.

Our kitten is on bug duty, and he is exhausted. He is obsessed with catching Every Single Fly in the house. Once he gets those, more appear. How's a kitten to get his naps around here?

He is still amazing around all the glass. Even though the flies are enormously compelling he is soooo careful. When he got too much in the midst of some tippy vases yesterday on the window seat I had only to say in a low voice: "Tigger-Lou, that's not such a good idea." He carefully backed out, and now does not go into that area. Amazing kitten. Can you tell I'm in love? Who wouldn't be?

I'm trying to decide whether or not to get him a kitten of his very own. They would have such fun chasing each other around, but could I be in love with TWO kittens at the same time? I've always been kitten (and man-wise) monogamous. And could the other kitten be so, so good around all the glass? Tigger-Lou would have to train her. Oh, I sound like an old cat lady. Horrifying.

Oh, I hired a new worker-bee for the 2 months T. will be mostly away. He was the first and last I interviewed, and he is terrific. It was/is a total lucky deal. AND I didn't have to go through day after day of working-interviews. What I did (I learned this from a friend) was schedule a couple paid days of work to try out his skills, speed, compatibility, etc. Struck gold the first time, Yahoo!

I need to get ready for yoga, then begin work on a large vessel for the Museum of Northwest Art's annual auction. The director wants one of my new, experimental ones, done large. Pressure? oh yeah.... but that's the plan for the weekend (I promised it would be done by Monday-yikes!), and all the other the other producion to be ready for the worker-bees on Monday. I'll post a photo when it's done. We'll see how it works out.


Have a lovely weekend, all!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

the story continues (a long post!)

Well, as I wrote in a previous post, I had secured my right to have my studio in what had been my garage, and I was set to go. I got a call one day from the director on the Lincoln Center in New York. They run a series of craft shows, and wanted me to participate, in fact, wanted to use an image of my work on their poster. Well. Inexperienced, naive little me was so flattered and thrilled--NEW YAWK CITY! LINCOLN CENTER!--that I did not realize that: a show is just a show is just a show is just a show is..

But still, that was not the problem. I was having a blast. I got a hotel for my brother and I for a month in the lower east side (pretty darn cheap for NYC!) and planned to do all 4 weekends. Shipped enough work for all that. All good. We spent the time in between walking around the great city (first time for me) and loving it. We went to the financial district on September 10th, and finished up with drinks on top of the World Trade Center. Magnificent thunder storm with torrential rain. Got happily drenched walking back to our hotel. And I'm sure you know the rest of that story. Yep, September 11. I could go into all of the details of our experience but you have all heard and read hundreds of such stories. Suffice it to say: all shows were cancelled and I lost all the money (15K) from shipping, show fees, etc. NOTHING compared to the losses others experienced, but still significant for me.

When I got home a week or two later, I was deeply depressed (as were many) and spent some serious couch time. A month or so later I scraped myself off the couch to go to a show in Portland, Oregon. I had never unpacked from New York, so just loaded all my boxes into a rental van and went. When I got there I unpacked just what was necessary, left the rest (most of my inventory) in the van parked in a secure parking garage at the Holiday Inn by the convention center. My purse was stolen, with the keycard inside, and the rental van keys with the license plate number. You know where this is going. Yep. The van was stolen, with 30K worth of inventory. The van was found months later, but empty of all my work. Homeowners and auto insurance both declined coverage because it was used for business purposes.

THEN (no, we're not through yet) after all that I was pretty dejected. But I kept trying. My credit was maxed out but when I found out I had gotten into the big Baltimore ACC show at the last minute (off the wait list) I borrowed money from friends to go. I thought it was my last viable chance to make a go of this new endeavor. I quickly made a catalog, cards, sample inventory, shipping, hotel and flight arrangements, and all out of breath got on the plane one winter day. Whew! I did it. When the pilot came on over the intercom as we reached cruising altitude and announced that we would be landing in Chicago and were not going further due to all airports on the east coast being closed due to record blizzards... well, I, with $300 cash left in my pocket had to adjust again. I got a hotel at $100 a night, no money left, and curled up on the hotel bed, wondering if I should keep going east when I could, or return home on the next available flights. In the end I realized I had already spent the money, I might as well see it through. When I did make it to Baltimore in the middle of the night I had missed all but the last day of the show. I stayed up all night, building my display, and the next day got just enough orders to encourage me. As I was traveling on frequent flyer miles, I could change my ticket without cost, so when an artist friend invited me to stay an extra couple days in her hotel to rest and recover I took the opportunity. She was doing the retail component after the wholesale that I did, and between naps, I'd walk the show, visiting with other artists. I felt so at home amongst them. They were so sympathetic and understanding of my state, so encouraging, and let me write again:

I felt at home. At a previous show I remember my brother and I (he came with me to shows the first year and a half I did this, to help. It was a WONDERFUL way to spend time together, and we got very close). At the end of the day, we would go to the hotel bar for drinks, and as other artists would trickle in we would have a lovely group sharing experiences and just talking in a tired and comfortable way. I remember looking around one evening, getting a bit teary at how, after all the years of other (VERY satisfying jobs) I had always felt a bit of a misfit. I had a sense that I had finally found my tribe. There are few words to describe that feeling. Being at home, camaraderie, community, peace. Home.

I flew home exhausted. I prayed every day for guidance, I just needed to know whether to fight and move forward, or retreat back to my former professions. Every night I had horrible nightmares of rape and pillage, waking up in a drenching sweat. Finally one night a young person walked up to me in the midst of one of these nightmares and asked me if they should become an artist. In my dream I pondered, I saw a kind of slideshow of all the terror and fear I was feeling, and interwoven with the fear were images of the joy of following the thread of creativity, the peace of having found my tribe, the pleasure of smiling as I awoke in the mornings. I answered the young person by saying "only if you must," and told them that the price is high, it isn't easy, it's not "fun" in the classic sense of the word. When I woke up from this dream I was pissed off at God for not giving me a proper answer. As I sat with the dream for a few days I had no idea "if I must." I could do many things! And they were satisfying things. What is this "must" thing? Little by little, I decided that if, in spite of all the trials I had been enduring, I continued to choose this life, then apparently I must. And if I must, well then, I must do whatever it takes, and not look back.

Now. I'm tired of writing, and I'm sure you are tired of reading. So I'll write soon about what "doing what it takes" has meant for me. I'm off to do some of that now!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

vulnerablity

My friend and primary worker-bee had a Very Yucky Thing happen to her sons, and by extention, to her: read about it here, and hold your loved ones close. Be safe out there!
Thank God for good friends, who make the recovery from such assaults prossible.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

tough out there!

One of my worker-bees (the primary one actually, Premium T) is taking a 2 month hiatus while she goes off to Ireland with her husband. So I posted an ad on Craigs List for interim help. Wow. In 2 hours I have already received 8 applications, some artist-types but most from other professional careers who have assumably been laid off. Clearly it is tough out there when such folks are applying for temporary work starting at $10 an hour. Well, I guess I stand to benefit from it. It is kind of stunning.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

daily life just now

My story will continue soon, but just now I'm in full-on production mode: lots of orders to fill quickly so that production can start for the summer retail shows. There just is no time to slack in this life! So the days are filled with sitting at the table taping and making and painting and talking and laughing and sandblasting and shipping and peeling and dotting and and and... I've got lovely houseguests, and just now and our visit takes place in the nooks and crannies around all this work. Lovely big pot of meatball soup last night, with and enormous pot of leftovers in the fridge. Life is good.

I found out yesterday I was accepted into a really highly rated show: Philadelphia Art Museum Craft Show, held in November. I still have to decide if I will do it. Certainly I want to, but the expense of an east coast show makes it a big financial risk, and there are so many things that can potentially go wrong (I write from experience): weather, shipments get lost, national disasters, the show not being as good for me as I need it to be, etc. I need my decision to be very well researched and considered. My, how grown up I sound!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

memories from the early days

You know? before I carry on with some of the trials and tribulations of My Big Adventure getting started with this being-an-artist thing, I want to set the stage with some very nice memories of the early days. It was summer, lovely mornings, lovely evenings. When I would wake up mornings and scan my brain for the day's plan from that sleepy, half conscious place: "what do I have to do today, where do I go?" I would fill up with happiness as the awareness that I had nothing to do, nowhere to go but into my studio to work. An early morning smile came to my face without fail, and I felt unbelievably fortunate. It is an incredible blessing to get to fulfill one's dream, a blessing beyond words. Every day I got to stay home to work felt like Christmas. Really. At that early stage I had only to struggle with my own insecurity and self doubt, I felt guilty for having such a studio in what used to be my garage; "who am I to have such a thing? there are so many, many people who are better than me who aren't so fortunate... " and "just who do you think you are, little missy? where did you get such pretensions?" So on and so forth, in the language most of us recognize as self doubt while we crawl beyond what we habitually believe about ourselves.

I decided that the only way out of those doubts is to act "as if" and simply do the work. In a way, doing is being, and I just got down to business with the doing. I worked happily every day. I was preparing for a couple of retail shows, applying to others. I got some validation from customers buying my work at shows (every single sale to a customer made me thrill inside). If I can figure out how to scan, I'll post some photos of my early work.

Working in my studio was a dream. I'd have the big garage door open, and neighbors would stop to visit while I worked, sitting at the umbrella table just outside. I'd often serve them a little wine and I'd be at the torch, or the counter, or the sink. Chatting while I worked.

My first big show was the Bellevue Arts Festival, a very good show that is often difficult to get into. I have no idea how I managed, didn't know then how competitive the jury process is, but I was accepted. I had NO idea how much work the preparation process was, and came home from a 2 week course at Pilchuck with one week to prepare. The realization hit hard, and a friend called one day to ask how I was doing. I think I whimpered and she simply said "we're on our way." They came, my aunt & uncle came, neighbors came, my brother came. People were in the yard, trying to figure out how to build the shelves and set up the tent, others were peeling resist at the kitchen sink, others were at the garden table wiring lamps, my aunt and mom were hand-writing business cards at the table. The support was unimaginable--and my naivitee was unimaginable! I get teary today remembering it all. The crew all took me to Bellevue to set up my display, and I was exhausted before the show even started. Really, I need to figure out the scanning thing so I can post some photos, a good task for today. I survived Bellevue, learned a TON about what is necessary to do a show, and even sold some work. During that time I presented mostly my flamworked "lamps" and goblets, but I had a few sandblasted items (goblets and such) on the lower shelves. They attracted a lot of attention, sold out, and that became a hint for me as to what "works" in the marketplace. I began my steep learning curve.

Things I learned from that first big show: do NOT plan to do anything other than prep. for a month before the show. I have wonderful friends and family, who happily came through for me--and wore themselves out. Set up tent and shelves BEFORE the show (we had been missing some critical parts). And to leave myself a good week after the show to sleep and recover. Another very important thing I learned was that I could do it. I sold just enough, got enough positive feedback to encourage me to keep going.

This is fun to write, it demands that I dig into memories that have faded into the distance, obscured by so much more. I'm so grateful to have survived, and you know what? I still wake up happy when I realize there is nothing I have to do today but work. Isn't that something?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

new piece


This piece is heading to a new gallery for me "Imagine" in Santa Barbara. I found it interesting that the owner chose this piece without knowing the original photograph had been taken in the hills outside of Santa Barbara, where my "notson" attends school. He and I went for a walk in the pasture after stuffing ourselves with dinner (that had all been raised on the school property!) and I fell in love with this tree (as well as everything else about the landscape there...).

Monday, May 11, 2009

My Story--my journey as artist begins

Well, the decision to become an artist was made as I told in the last entry, and I wasted no time. I needed a studio space (I'd been renting studio time at the local Pratt Fine Arts Center) but needed my own space. I approached my landlords about purchasing the house I'd been renting and they said they'd just been thinking about selling and seemed fine with an easy sale to me! I got a mortgage and signed the papers, and used most of the remaining money (after putting some aside in the stock market, imagining that it would grow and I could remodel the house in a few years--ha!) to convert the 2 car detached garage into my studio. It was so exciting! A lovely new studio was developing, with a safe place for my kiln, for flameworking, a separate little room for a sandblaster I could not yet afford, and "plenty" of room for storage, etc. I bought a great torch and glass and was excited to get to work in it. Toward the end of the project I came home to find a red tag on the door (what did I know from red tags? Nothing!). But it was apparently a dreaded "stop work order." After some digging around, I discovered that a nuisance neighbor had complained and I had to stop everything pending inspections. Fine. Inspections done and passed and project continued. Another stop work order appeared. Now what? Well, there is a small code written in "the books" that states one cannot have a "home occupation in a detached garage." So I was utterly stuck. I'd spent all my money on building my studio and now it turned out it would be illegal to use it. Was I dejected? Utterly. But I summoned up all my strength and went to battle. Nuisance neighbor had apparently researched the codes to find something to get me with, since my project was already up to code. The little bit of code is something no one bothers to enforce (tons of artists and others have studios and workshops in their detached garages) but once a complaint is filed, there is nothing to be done short of changing the law, and THAT I was told, is virtually impossible. Well, the "virtual" gave me at least a chance, and I took it. I wrote a long, very strong (and I must say well written and edited) letter to the mayor, city council, newspaper and news stations in the Seattle area. I included around 35 letters on my behalf from neighbors and their children ("she helps us do projects and teaches us stuff") in the packet. I was about to be interviewed for an article in the newspaper when I got notice that the code had been changed to allow artists to have studios in their detached garages. I am a reluctant activist, but my dream was threatened and I became like a mama bear with her cub. I love that it also helped others.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My Story--beginning my life as an artist

Of course, the story starts long, long ago, but I'll jump to a more pithy beginning. I inherited a bit of money from my grandmother, and given my spotty history with money (hard making it, hard keeping it...) I knew it was the only time I was likely to have a chunk of money in my life. I decided it was time to "get real" and see a Real Certified Financial Planner. I did some research, made an appointment, sent in the requisite years of tax info, etc., and gave myself stern lectures about how I would settle down and get a real, full-time job,put the money into whatever retirement plan she advised, etc. When the day arrived I went to my appointment properly sedate and prepared to change my life to one embodying a Proper. Grownup. Attitude. She seemed very nice, extremely button-down and proper, and looked over my papers, saying: "I see your income from your various occupations; your clinic, teaching aerobic and fitness classes, a small counseling practice--but there is a very small income listed from artwork. What's that?" I happened to have some snapshots of my recent (very early!) work, and showed them to her. She looked at them, was quiet for a while. When she spoke again she spoke quietly: "I am a certified Financial Planner. I help people plan for their retirement. It's what I do. I never say what I'm about to say now, but I wake up every morning and pray that I can be an instrument of God's will. And right now I am quite moved to suggest you use the money from your grandmother to become a full time artist."

Well. I had projected All Things Parental onto her, I was prepared to be chastised for my lack of a "normal" and "proper" life, and I was prepared to straighten up and fly right. What I heard was a suggestion that I do something I had never dared to dream. I started to tremble and sweat and had tears roll down my face. It was as if a wave rose up in me and tumbled me around and about and when I came up for air everything was different. I knew I would do as she suggested. It felt like a blessing. It was.

But the story only began there. There are many, many twists and turns, and I'm still tumbling. Stay tuned.

busy!!!

Oh, I know. A dearth of posts of late. I'm busy! So busy, no time to even think about posting, unfortunately. But that's good, right? Yep, it's good. the new work is selling well, and galleries want MORE! NOW! because it is SELLING! WELL! And we are all happy about that. And there are orders to fill on a RUSH! schedule, in time for Mother's Day. After today that particular timeline will have passed and we can get back to "normal" business, which is also busy, but not so driven. I do have a plan for the blog however.

I started this blog for several reasons. One is because I wanted to write the sort of blog I was hoping to find when I was in the early stages of this "be a full-time artist" endeavor. I wanted SOOO much to have some kind of map, some sense of what to expect, ideas of how a normal day went, how other people handle particular challenges... I felt like I was walking into a totally new empty room and had NO idea what to expect, or how to act. I searched for blogs that would offer guidance, but found none (maybe more a lack of google skills, but still).

So I am going to tell MY story. From the (sort of) beginning. It will come out in little episodes, mixed in with the sort of current posts I've been writing. Stay tuned. It is actually a pretty interesting story, very tense in many parts, sad in some, and joyful in others. I've been looking forward to writing it out.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

step by step

So, because some people are interested in process, here are a few steps in the process I used to try to complete a vase. I started with painting...

and a later step involves cutting the design. Yes, each piece, and each bit of the design is individually cut and applied. Nothing is reused. Yes, I do have patterns I like but each one is remade individually by me. Every time. Time consuming? Yes. Worth it? I hope so!

Getting ready to blast, lining a few pieces up on a shelf. Each one will be individually sandblasted. People often ask if I just "close the door and blast them automatically." No, that would be disaster. The sand comes out at 60psi, and I have to keep a good grip on both the glass and the hose to make sure things don't go flying. When they do (and unfortunately they do) I loose all the work that was done on that piece. Gone. Sometimes bits of resist (tape) lift and the piece is gone. Sometimes the enamel is too thick and won't blast off properly. Gone. Many, many variables that cause many pieces to be trashed rather than shipped out.

A rare view (well, sort of a view, you can barely see!) in through the window of the sandblast cabinet as I am blasting. It is a rented sandblaster, and the window is often foggy from students who are not so careful with their blasting, so I am perched on my tippy-toes trying to see through the one section of window that is still (sort of) clear.

Monday, April 27, 2009

time passes?

I have been thinking about the experience of time ever since I saw my friends yesterday. I had the distinct experience of time not existing, that we are all vessels for experience, and yes, our bodies certainly age. But my friends were just the same as 25 years ago, and they declared I was just the same as well. I think this experience was heightened by having not seen them for so very long. I know philosophers talk about time being simply a construct and I am familiar with that, but I learn and grasp concepts by seeing & smelling & feeling & touching & doing & it has to be that way for me to "get it." To some degree, I "got it" yesterday. Lots of interesting images floating around in my mind about it. I may come back to it at some point, but I'm not very articulate today. I just wanted to make a note to myself, here. Suffice to say: it is a very peaceful and interesting filter to be looking through.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

reality show?



So yesterday was lovely, and one very funny story came out of it:
I was doing my job, greeting people as they came in, talking with them about how I make my work, and showing them a few of the early stages. A woman came up to me at some point, very officially, and told me: "I'm your replacement." I felt rather befuddled, and said "pardon me?" She said again "I'm here to replace you." Again I said "excuse me?" (and so on, a few times...).
She finally said "I'm here to replace you, you can leave now." I couldn't make sense of it. I felt like I was being booted from the island on some kind of reality TV show, but I didn't know what I'd done wrong. We finally figured out that she was a docent, and thought I was a docent and she was here for her shift and was to send me home. Oh lordy, I laughed and laughed and enjoyed telling that story to the friends who came by later.

Speaking of friends, not only did some of my Seattle friends come by (lovely!) but I got to see some very old friends from high school and college, a couple I haven't seen for at least 25 years, dear friends with whom I had had so many experiences "back in the day." It felt like yesterday. We've aged, and yet we haven't at all. We went to dinner (after my stint really WAS over), and it seemed hardly possible that so many experiences had passed through all of us in spite of our still being in our early 20s. How is it possible? SOOOO lovely to see them, and reconnect a bit. We vowed to not let so much time pass again. Old friendships are such a weath.

AND another high point was the fact that both the museum director and the customers really responded positively to the first piece I've made of new technique I'm experimenting with. I brought with me "just to see." I'm so pleased as I like it as well, and can't wait to explore the technique further!

So the day? Just FINE!

Friday, April 24, 2009

tomorrow

Tomorrow I will be the featured artist at the Museum of Northwest Art's (La Conner, WA) gift shop. I have no idea what it will be like, only that some friends will come, the tulips are at their peak (Skagit Tulip Festival), and I feel honored to have been invited by the museum director, who I adore. I'm pulling off a few more pieces tonight before I go to sleep, and I'll likely have a photo to show you tomorrow! Good night for now...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

tonight

tonight I'll be attending church. My sort of church. The kind of church that makes me feel close to God, and Life, and deeper within myself and all of humankind. I am going to hear this man in concert:

and I don't think anyone will ever be able to convince me that music is not the very highest art.

And later: I wept. I sighed. I sang (under my breath). I felt full of inspiration. I learned more about Art. I floated on the music and nearly fell into dreaming. Halleluia, and Amen. I feel blessed, indeed.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Indulgence

For me, indulgence often takes the form of working, just not working on what I'm supposed to be doing. Instead of working only on orders I need to fill, I took some time last night to play around with exploring a new technique I want to develop. The photo above is the first example. I like the softness in it, and I will explore it further. When I have time. Right now? It's back to filling orders that are 1. real! 2. right now! 3. money is certain! 4. need to be there in time for Mothers Day!
Guess I'd best get this purring kitten off my lap and crack the whip on myself a bit.
Bye!

mischief


Tigger-Lou got right on re-doing the paper organizing thing again today.
I thought I had done a good job of tidying up, carefully saving the waste paper from yesterday for the next cold, rainy morning (no, people, this is APRIL. Reliable warm weather really doesn't happen until July. (Although the past couple days? Blessings, both...)
I'd say that's a Look if I've ever seen one.