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.

Monday, April 20, 2009

today--the next steps

Here I have images spread all over the table, cutting, snipping, pasting, and preparing to make the films...
and here Tigger-Lou offers his opinion about proper scissor use...
and here he is glaring at me because as soon as he gets the pile of scrap paper distributed evenly throughout the house, I've gone & made a new pile. A kittens job is NEVER done!
and finally, a few hours at Kinkos and I'm about ready to try a couple test pieces. I know, I would never have guessed I'd have my own special copier at Kinkos, but I do... I had to hurry home to meet a guy who was going to try to make my sandblaster work better, so I'm not done yet. It doesn't look like so much work, but these photos represent hours and hours of work, and the pieces aren't even started!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

my glamorous life

no photo, too tired.
4 hours. Yes. you heard me. 4 hours in the sandblaster this afternoon. On a SUNDAY. (NOT sandblasting is how I usually celebrate a weekend).
But what I get for that is a Monday without sandblasting. So I can go to Kinkos and work on some new transparencies for the photos I showed you in the last post. Because that takes a bunch of time, like, hours man. But I'm hoping for some new images and that is always fun! (and glamorous).
I'll let you know how it goes...

Friday, April 17, 2009

steps


I'm working today, as every day, and I'm going to show you some things I am working on, to give you a better idea of the steps involved in creating different types of images on the surface of the glass. First of all, I'll give you a look at some of the original images I caught while walking around my neighborhood. This one (of a fully blooming cherry tree) I have doubts about its appropriateness for the process... it is too dense to be "read" properly, and will likely just be "blobs" of color... but folks, I have an IDEA I want to test, and when I have an IDEA you'd best move aside, doubts, and let me waste the expensive materials in the attemps. 'Cuz that's what it takes to discover new directions!
This image might or might not work. I stopped abruptly the other day when I saw it--such a classic tree! The only problem is that the branches are so thin, they might not sandblast clean. But I can't help myself. I have to try.
And this one, well this one I have great faith in. First, it is "clean." All the bits are well defined, and as a special bonus that puts it right over the top: dots, and dots, and more dots! I think I feel in love with dots when I was quite young, and learned about atoms and electrons and the fact that NOTHING in life is solid, but rather a gazilion dots, bound by the energy of aliveness. That idea thrills me to this day.
So. That is step one. More to come, as I proceed in the process. But for now, production. Work must be completed and shipped so that money will come in so that it can go out again so that more work can be made so that more money can come in so that.... and in the midst of it all... Life is Lived. Works for me.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

tidy tigger-lou

(obviously getting caught up on blog posts!)
Our kitten is stunningly tidy. He sweeps all his unruly kibble into a pile around his dish, and when I spilled coffee on the rug one morning he worked on cleaning it for hours (in fact, I had to cover the spot until it dried or he would have scratched to China!), and here we have a photo of his tidying after I spilled coffee grounds on the floor (please ignore all the other dust and detritus included... VERY unusual here--ha!). However, he is not so tidy with the little/big dust piles I make while sweeping... what's up with that?

I've never seen such a thing, have any of you?

my notson

I have a notson (a designation I FINALLY came up with to describe our roles in each others lives). A young man I have known since the day he was born. As close and as bonded as we could be without him being my own son. He is the son of a dear friend, and when she is not available, I am "back up mom," as I have been since the early days. He and I adopted this kitten together last year when he was here with me for the summer, and so the bond has grown to include yet another generation. 

Amazing, the rich sort of family a single girl can craft for herself! 

what's the problem?


These are the "short cubist" vases. They are only around 3 inches tall. SO many gallery owners tell me they are harder to sell than the others, but I think they are charming for a bunch of little short stem flowers. Don't you agree? I wish I could ship them out full of flowers like this!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

the tone of the day


working on my website construction, recovering from a couple lovely weeks of visitors, keeping production on track in spite of significantly reduced worker-bee population, cleaning refrigerator out in order to return to more simple single-girl fare, doing laundry at neighbors (my machine is down), guerilla marketing, enjoying a slower, lazier day of recovery from the frenzy, basking in the glow of time with family yesterday, enjoying a silly, funny (and furry) large kitten, keeping the fire stoked on this rainy chilly spring day, ahhhh... lazy times! 

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

fey! on being a grown-up

I had to lay most of my bees off yesterday. I'm not getting paid on time by galleries I had relied on, and I haven't been able to pay the bees for last month, and I am scared to get further behind. I've BEEN drowned in debt before, and I swore: never again. Funny thing is, I was the only one crying. They took it in stride, nay, they didn't even take it seriously ("but, but... I'm the Queen, aren't I?"). They know the orders we have in the pipeline, the retail shows coming up, and they seem to believe in what we are doing. I hope they see more clearly than I do! They don't want us to get behind so said they would come in one day a week to do some "kick-ass" work (of course they all want to come on the same day, as they've become good friends too), find some work to fill in the gaps in the meantime, and probably will still be available when I get back in the black here. Now that's a bunch of fine, fine worker-bees, wouldn't you say?

 I HATE having to make hard decisions, especially decisions that affect my friends, my bees, those with whom one simply cannot avoid forming a fairly intimate relationship, working together as we do. But I have vowed to do everything I can do to make this work. And I will. I am. (Isn't there a song in there? A very dramatic song? I'll ask the bees, they'll know. Oh, right. Well maybe T (the last daily-bee) will know....).

Monday, April 6, 2009

happy, happy, happy!

It's no secret that times are tough around the hive. I'm asking my worker bees to volunteer to take time off, juggling material purchases like a circus clown, begging galleries to pay me on time (it's just as hard for them, we're all in the same boat). But I got some great news just now: I got confirmation that I am now in two (semi-local--big traveling shows are too risky with the costs involved, with the exception of my big wholesale show each year) retail shows this summer that should help greatly with cash flow: Bellevue and Sun Valley! They are usually great shows for me (in terms of sales) and should contribute mightily toward a more positive cash flow. HAPPY! RELIEVED! I am SO glad I had new work be juried with, and SO glad I chose to invest in getting new photos made.

And I SO look forward to Sun Valley. Shows are always very difficult, extremely demanding energetically. Sun Valley has some magic to it. Although the set up and tear down are still very tough, it is such a pleasure to do. It's beautiful (I usually bring a bike and peddle from the hotel to the show each day) and the customers are all relaxed and happy. The MEN (who are generally pacing around waiting for their wives are actually often the ones doing the shopping there! Ah, vacation!) Did I mention how beautiful it is? Well, that beauty just fills up my cells when I'm there. It should be an arduous drive (12-14 hours in a rented cargo van) but even that drive is gorgeous and fills my cells.

Can you tell I'm happy? And I'm honored. It's a tough show to get into. I'm also excited to fill my cells up with all that beauty. And line the bottom of my scraped out money bag. Yes, I know I have to wait until August (7-9), but just knowing it's coming charges my hope-meter. Yippee! Now all of you should jump up and twirl in circles and dance a little dance with me, okay?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

website update!

I can't believe it, a simple solution. First I hired someone to build me a real, professional website. But then I realized I couldn't afford it. Then I signed onto one of those "do it yourself in an evening" sites. But my (apple-mac only) head exploded before I had even managed to create a blank page. I was about to give up entirely and simply make use of this blog and the flickr link when... LIGHTBULB! I thought to look into Mac iWeb and SURPRISE! It seems to be working! I am deep into the process of creating pages (did you notice the plural?) and have dragged! and dropped! photos in, and clicked! and modified! and resized! text boxes.  Oh the joy, for an apple-mac brain. It will be a while, as I can only dedicate a very small amount of time to it, away from my higher priority which is production.  But there is HOPE!
(I can barely believe it myself).
I know my mother is muttering: "now if she would just sign her damn pieces."
Ok mom, when I figure out a good way to do it.
love,
Melinda

self perception


When we first got this magnificent (and smart!) kitten he would run and hide under this little stool, thinking it a Very Smart Strategy while playing one of our favorite games, hide and seek. Well. He still hides under the stool, even though 80% of his body sticks out. He has that toddler sense that if his head is hidden we can't see the rest of him. This belief persists even when we repeatedly find ways to rub his soft belly while he is "hiding" under the stool (the belly is not generally allowed, and is the oh-so-softest part) and he seems genuinely surprised when we are able to "find" it, while so well hidden. I fully support his delusions. After all, I am really a sleek and magnificent 27 year old. The mirror is simply mistaken.

Friday, April 3, 2009

fear


I am a big believer in purpose-centered choices. KNOW what you believe in, what principles you are committed to living by, and make choices and decisions in the service of those beliefs. But when it comes to making the seemingly small business choices that result in more/less financial success... well, sometimes it seems rather like a toss of the dice. But there is SO much more involved, really. Motivations are hidden just around the bend, behind the filmy drapes, peeking out from behind a partially open door... and they determine the outcome in a BIG (and often unconscious) way. Fear is one of those lurking factors.

So. I've written about a couple of poor decisions I've made so far this year:
*choosing to do only one of the two big wholesale shows on the east coast (the one I gave up had a retail component that would have reduced my cash flow crisis greatly right now!)
*the other mistake is I think I've priced my new work too low to make any viable money from.

Both of these mistakes were make out of fear, fear of financial ruin, actually (I've been there before). And oddly enough my fear of it is what contributed to my current cash flow crisis. These were not frivolous choices, I made them carefully and with great consideration. But the fear (I'd have to borrow money to do the second show and I the lacked the confidence to price my work higher in this economy) determined the choices I ultimately made. I know, the outcome could not have been predicted, but I lost the first gamble (friends have reported that there was adequate attendance at the retail component of the second show to have eliminated my current cash flow crisis), and the second gamble is not looking good, although in my defense it is really difficult to predict the actual production costs of a new technique until it is systematized and the learning curve is flattened. But still, bottom line it was a lack of confidence. I have applied to several retail shows for this summer and at this point I know I have been accepted be to at least one, so that should help.  

On the positive side, I took on big risk this year that has resulted in an unpredictable but very, very positive outcome. At the end of last year and the beginning of this one I paid my worker-bees to take a week off, and the holidays and big snow generously gave me another couple of weeks. I went on artistic retreat in my own home and made a rule for myself that I was not allowed to sit comfortably in my old work. No production allowed. The snow insured that I could not distract myself going out and about (long walks were permitted!). I faced blank canvas anxiety like never before. For 3 days I paced with anxiety, and believed that I was truly a one trick pony and might just as well settle into that trick--hey, it's pretty stuff, and it sells! While pacing I had the image in my mind that I was circling a stone tower, with no windows, no doors. I kept circling and circling, testing the stones for a loose one, gnawing on them to try to gain access. Finally, one wiggled a bit, and a bit more, and more..

I started down the path it showed me ("don't think! just do! don't critique! just do!) The energy built and built. I couldn't stop, didn't want to stop. It was a joyful, creative explosion for me. I was in a wordless zone,the likes of which I don't remember experiencing before or if I have?, well, it's been a long time. Mind you, this may or may not be seen in the outcome, the work, the actual results. But that doesn't matter. What matters is: I got there. I pushed through. I made a new line. I didn't let the fear stop me.

Based on outcome alone it would seem I should never let fear inform my choices. I don't know, as I wrote earlier, I've SEEN financial ruin (although most of the factors leading to it had nothing to do with me, but that's another story for another time). We'll see how the rest of my daily choices play out, but I'll be looking for fear lurking behind the curtains and around the bend, and I'll try to see beyond it before confirming my decisions. Oh yes, yes I will.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

reality

I love my life as a "maker of pretty things." But the reality, and what it requires is rather challenging sometimes.  For example:  I have lots of orders.  Lots and lots. People like and sell what I make, and so I can realistically expect reorders.  It's awesome.  I have help here, I don't mind working all my waking hours. Really. But what's tough right now is that damn cash flow. Doing a big show like I did last month in Philly costs me around $14,ooo (shipping & show fees are the primary costs, incidental costs include travel, hotel and meals).  That's EVERYTHING that I had managed to save in the last year. I had heard from most of my buyers that they were going to Philly instead of Baltimore this year (economy & timing) so I decided at the last minute to pull out of Baltimore and do the Philly show because I couldn't afford to do both. And I thought that between what the buyers were saying and my hope that I would get exposure to new buyers it was the right choice. Smart.  True.  But... In Baltimore there is a retail component to the show and I usually cover my show costs and come home with a little seed money for the year. Philly is wholesale only. I made a poor choice, I should have borrowed the extra money I needed to do both shows, just for the sake of that retail component.  Instead, I came home totally broke and still need to buy the supplies to fill the orders I wrote in Philly, pay my worker-bees, pay the mortgage, etc. etc. etc. I hate being here again. I loved the past year when I was out of debt, had enough money in the bank to order the supplies I needed when I needed them, could handle a plumbing repair when it came up, and could buy bubble wrap when we ran low!  I made a bad choice. In retrospect I should have borrowed the money to do both shows (it would have only cost around another $5000).  But we make mistakes.  I'll be okay, I will just need to use yet another essential skill of being a self-employed artist:  juggling!