Thursday, July 30, 2015

Jilly is as Silly as Ever!

I am so, so happy to report that my sweet, ten-year old yellow lab, Jilly is still living!  

In February,  the vets found a mass on her spleen.  They gave her 3-4 months with or without a tricky surgery and a few more months with chemo.  I wrote about it here.  

After much consideration, we decided to give Jilly the best quality of life with the life she had left.    

And she is living the life!  She still walks 2.5 miles to the park everyday, unless it's really hot.  She barks to play ball.  She forages for plums, strawberries, blueberries and tomatoes in our backyard and garden.  She snuggles next to me while I write and watches from her bed while I throw in the garage.   

But that's not all, of course.  Jilly deserves the very best and she gets it.  She gets chicken liver with every meal.  Peanut butter cookies (broken into small bits) every time she looks cute, which is most of the time.  She now has a cool pad for hot days and an air conditioned room to keep cool at night.  

Best of all, is Jilly is not only alive but living it up.  Silly and sweet and talkative and loving as ever.  We wouldn't want it any other way.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Land of Don't Know.

I'd like to say, I'm burned out.  That would be easier do deal with, understand and get beyond.  But I'm not.  

I'm in that no-mans land of 'I don't know'. 

I do know that I've been dedicated and working hard for several years now on my clay.  I've been working hard to produce a consistent body of ceramics work. I worked to improve my techniques to make better pieces with brightly colored and black glazes.  Both types of glazes are some of the hardest effects to achieve consistently.  I worked to have more pieces so I could make more sales.  I worked on committees to gain more points to give my work a better placement in the shows.  I worked on gathering and figuring out all the details of labeling, pricing, packing and delivery.  
But it seems that the more I do, the less I know.

It was challenging, energizing and fun.  But after a recent round of shows, I learned that having more to sell doesn't equal more sales.  That better placement, more consistent work and fully stocked shelves didn't help, either.  

Where do I go from here?  Do I change what I make?  Choose different colors or shapes or items to make?  Give up on functional work and concentrate on sculptural? Do I lower my prices(which are already low, I'm told)? Or raise them to attract a different crowd?  

No wonder I'm on Netflix instead of in my studio.  

I'm in the Land of Don't Know and I don't like it.  But I've been here before and moved through and onward from this territory.  So I do know that this is part of the creative process ad I just need to be patient and trust it.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Walk in the Wild Woods.

I wasn't working in the studio this week.  I was enjoying the life that lives outside it.  Now, there's a workaholic side of me that is very uncomfortable with taking time off.  The judge in my head bangs the gavel of shame and guilt sentencing me to do more time and work harder to make up for it.

I know the truth.  Playing inspires creativity. 

So, I took a walk on the Wildwood trail.  This beautiful 30 mile trail through Forest Park in the middle of Portland, Oregon, is home to 112 birds and 62 mammals.  The canopy is massive with trees reaching upwards like natural skyscrapers.  The only mammals I met had two feet and wore shorts and walking shoes.  But on a sunny day, the trail was shaded and cool and such a relief from the hot summer weather.

I only hiked a small portion of the trail.  I heard birds echoing above me.  I saw giant branches sway in the breeze.  I tilted my head upwards to see the sun beam in and around the fir boughs.  I stopped and admired the magic of birth as an old dead tree stump supported the 2-3 newly sprouting fir trees. 

Clearing the trail, cleared my mind.

Gone were the judges and critics and gossips.  My mind was blissfully rested and refreshed and empty of all the dramas of life.  I'd like to proudly claim that great new ideas were sprouted and new projects will begin.  But, I can't lie.

I walked and walked and walked in the wild woods. That's all.  And for now, that's more than enough.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Social Media: Linked In is Out.

I've been thinking and taking a long, hard look at social media.  I've been asking questions and searching for answers not online from social media mavens or marketing gurus but from within my own heart.  

I don't want to just be a follower, I want to choose what to follow.

LinkedIn is sold as a business-oriented, professional networking service.  Started in 2002, LinkedIn now has over 364 million 'acquired' users in 200 countries and territories.  Last I checked it still ranks in the top 10 social media sites but its rank has slipped from the #2 slot right behind Facebook to #5 or 6.

So what?

Here's the questions I've been asking myself about social media sites:

Do I like the site, its mission, audience, overall look despite its published demographics, etc?
Do I use the I on it, reading, posting, following anyone or anything?
Is it relevant to me, my life, work and art?
When I think about it do I smile, cringe, or feel neutral?

Here's how LinkedIn stacks up to my criteria:

No. I don't like the site or its mission.  I'm not interested in business networking. 
No. I don't use the site. I have been on it for 4-5 years and never gone there.
No. It's not relevant to me, my life now or my art.  
Have I made a helpful contact or sold a piece of work there? No.
When I think about LinkedIn, I cringe.    
I don't like getting those pesky 'notifications' designed to drive me back to a site I don't like and never use, just to up their user numbers

I'd like to add here and now, that I will be the first to talk about the importance of marketing my work.  But after years of advertising experience with other clients, I know that choosing a few  right venues and media works.  Finding the right venues and media does take time and some trial and error.  

I started out using social media because it was 'in' to do it and to market my art but now I see social media as a way to make connections for myself and my art. So, if it doesn't do that for me, now, it's out.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Glad about the Blues.

This is my 4th year volunteering at the Portland Waterfront Blues Festival in the Empty Bowls booth for the Oregon Potter's Association.  I work with other artists for four days filling up, selling, wrapping up and taking down thousands of pieces of glass and clay work donated by hundreds of clay and glass artists. 

It's hot, dusty, loud and amazing.

Especially hot this year, when the temperatures in Portland ranged from 97-100 degrees with no rain in sight.  The usual damp, green grass is now brown, dry and dirty.  The music is always loud and wonderful.  

But here's what's made me so glad this year.


I didn't realize that since 1993, the Oregon Potter's Association has raised over 300,000 dollars for the Oregon Food Bank.  With every piece I wrapped up or donated, I helped feed someone in my own home town.


As I filled the shelves with donated pots to sell, I worked alongside my co-workers in clay.  As a studio artist, my work days are usually surrounded by clay and me and my wheel.  I love what I do, but sometimes, it would be great to have a few coworkers who where there to problem solve and bounce around ideas.  I got to do that while sweating and working at the Blues Festival.  

We talked about the perils of porcelain with its cracks and attachment issues.  We shared favorite tools and tips. Traded Insider info on hunting down materials to make textures in clay. And that despite all our best efforts, some pieces just go sideways disappointing us in the end with glaze runs, unwanted color changes, cracks and breaks.

Laughing away the losses and getting past it.

As an artist, you do the work you love but sometimes, the bottom line means loss instead of profit.  You work hard, spending time and money to create your art, but sometimes, it just doesn't sell right away.  You worry and wonder and then, you lower your price or when the loss stings too much, you give your work away.  

But here, today, a veteran artist shared her story of loss and redemption.  She had a piece priced at $250 that she loved but after several shows and years of no sales, she decided she had to do something different.  So the next show, she raised the price of her  piece to $350.  And what do you know?  The piece sold.  Sometimes it's waiting for the right person, but sometimes it takes you valuing your own work enough that makes the connection to the right person who values your work too.

Leaving everyday glad.

Looking at the glass and clay all around me I'm inspired.  All the textures and colors and shapes and ideas from the whimsical to the functional lifted my spirit and give my heart some new art to love.  I always like working the Blues Festival, but this year, even in 100 degree heat, I leave everyday feeling glad.  

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Social Media: When is enough, enough?

I feel like a traitor right now.  I studied journalism, marketing and worked in advertising conceptualizing and writing ad campaigns that were placed in a variety of media from newspapers and magazines to radio and TV. So, I'm no stranger to mixed media marketing.

Too much in the mix.

There was then, and there is now, people who specialize in media placement.  These people studied the demographics and psychographics of the marketers target audience.  Target audience was a specific group of people that fit the product being marketed.  The advertising was then, conceived and produced and placed to appeal to the target.

Hello shotguns.

Now, with social media added to the above media mix, there isn't a target really.  Because everyone, everywhere is the target.  Get out the shotguns, people and forget about aiming at all.   Just plaster your message everywhere and, well, who cares who would really want and need your product, it's better to just get as much attention from everywhere and everyone.  And hopefully someone in the mix will want what you're selling.  Right?

Wrong. In my heart, I know this is not the way to go even if I have gotten sucked in.

I went to a studio sale this year and an artist was giving out a beautiful marketing packet, actually.  Inside was a lovely paper that I couldn't resist as well as instructions to go to her website for a guide to making a small art piece using the paper.  Genius. Really.  

But here's where it goes south.

On the back of this wonderful, artful piece was a list of where to find this artist.  The list was 3 inches long...yup.  All the social media sites, listed line after line after line after line.  I was overwhelmed and, actually, offended.  

I was surprised and, well, embarrassed.

Because, I had to admit, if I listed all the social media and websites with my name and work on them, it would be that long.  Wow. I had to pause to get a grip on what this means for me.  And what do I feel works for me.

Yes, I want to market and sell my work.  But at what price?

I do feel an internet presence is necessary.  My work deserves a professional presentation like a website with professional photos.  This is my online resume and as I've always known and found, good presentation is required.  But do I really need all the rest?  Let me just list here what all the rest had grown to be... Blogger, Facebook, Web galleries, Organizational websites,  Twitter, Linked In, Pinterest, Etsy, Instagram and Snapchat. Then, there are the push notifications from each and every media site to follow, like and share.  Plus there's the content needed to keep all of this going, that I need to generate as well as responding to other content in order for my content to be seen.  


Who in their right mind actually follows everyone on all of these media?  And if they do, what do they do with their own lives?  And bottom line...are they really seeing me and my art or are they too busy snapchatting and facebooking and instagramming about their own stuff to give a hoot about mine?  

This is not marketing.  This is not targeting.  This, perhaps, is a way to feel busy and maybe not only a waste of time but a waste of my life. But most importantly...maybe a way to feel more important.  And do I need to do that?  

The Bigger Question:  What do I like to do? And...what really, really works for me? And my art?

I don't have all the answers, yet.  I confess to being sucked in as much as anyone.  But, I am now committed to becoming un-sucked.  I am committed to figuring out what I like, what I feel works and choosing.  Choosing to connect and therefore to sell my art.

Targeting from my heart...for me and my art.  Whatever that may be...stay tuned. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

As The Wheel Turns: New Clay, New Ways.

Working with the new porcelain in my studio, I'm reminded of the old Sesame Street song that goes, "Guess which thing is not like the other?"   The new porcelain clay is definitely not like the old porcelain clay.  

This is a good thing.  Maybe.

Throwing with this new porcelain compared with the old porcelain is like the difference between driving an automatic and a stick shift.  The new clay just seems to want to 'go' and all I have to do is step on the gas.   Throwing 5 pounds with the new clay feels so easy and smooth.  The old clay took a lot more physical work.  But there are some drawbacks, of course.

Tiny bubbles make for big troubles.

Especially when you're working with clay, bubbles can throw off a bowl or cause cracks down the line destroying weeks of work.  This new porcelain seems to have more bubbles at the beginning and wedging my usual way isn't working.  I tried another method and found the bubbles were still popping up.  Yet, when I went to hand build with the clay, I didn't have any bubble troubles.  Hmm...another thing to wonder about.

Forming lasting attachments can be tricky.

Attaching handles and my sculptural leaves has been a tricky learning process with porcelain.  But I've found a way that works for me and the clay I was using.  Not necessarily so with the new porcelain.  I'm having to adjust the timing and drying methods when adding sculptural elements.  It doesn't help that it's dry and hot outside which is not porcelain's favorite weather.  

So, some of the problems I'm having might not be totally the new clay.  It might be that my old ways will work.  I'll just have to be more observant and learn what this new porcelain needs.

New clay or old, it's always good to have new ways to work.