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


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.


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.