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.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Value, Acceptance, Success, Selfishness and Creative Quick Sand.


I slipped into creative quick sand and I didn't even know I had buried myself and my art until I read this blog, The Pale Rook  by Johanna Flanagan.  All I knew was that since my silly milestone birthday in December, I had a sinking feeling.   It was vague, like a misty foggy day that crept in and around me.  

I tried to ignore it.  Power through it.  Push myself to work harder and faster.  

I worked on the wheel more often.  I set goals for production and worked on ways to streamline my work, to make more so I'd sell more.  I tried to come up with new concepts for small sculptures or mini masks.  I worked really, really, really hard.  
But running and pushing and trying to create new work, doesn't work.  

And it didn't really keep that milestone hanging around my neck from weighing me down. I was just hoping to out run it or hide from it.  What I didn't realize until I read Johanna's blog was that the milestone wasn't weighing me down.  

The creative quick sand in which I was sinking had been there for a very long time.  

And, in reading her honest words, I saw I wasn't alone.  These issues are so common and yet, so insidious for women, that we don't see them.  But, we do feel them and they do affect our lives and our art and our work.

Issue #1...Value.  I don't value my talent.  I am constantly depreciating my talent by saying that anyone can do what I do. I never think it's good enough or that I'm worthy enough.  

Issue #2...Acceptance.  I want to be liked.  I want my work to be liked.  I say I do the work that I need to do(and I have) BUT I really, really, really want to hear..."I really like your work.  Your work is so beautiful."

Issue #3...Success and selfishness.  If I make too much money, or charge too much for my work, I'm a materialistic, selfish person.  If I care about making art, that should be success enough, right?  Charging too much money for a piece and it doesn't sell, I'm a failure.  If I lower my prices and it doesn't sell, I'm even more of a failure. 

Wow.  This isn't a milestone around my neck, it's boulders.  Big ones.

I've always made things with my hands.  Doll clothes.  Embroidery.  Jewelry.  Watercolor paintings.  I originally did clay sculptures and masks.  I couldn't throw because I didn't think I could.  My sculptures in clay were medium sizes but I didn't think they were big enough or good enough to show in galleries.
So I did bigger mixed media sculptural work with clay and metal and writing.  It had doors and windows and layers.  I showed and sold in galleries for years but when it didn't all sell, I changed.  

I can see now, that I gradually made my work simpler and smaller and cheaper.

Thanks to Johanna's blog post, I see a light from the depths of my quick sand pit.  And I realize that the milestone isn't a millstone around my neck but a wake up call to lift that old weight off my psyche.  

Once and for all.  

Because after all, my life isn't getting any longer, so maybe it's finally time to quit spending the rest of my time down in this pit.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Play and New Clay and New Ideas.

I've been using one porcelain clay exclusively for the last few years.  I chose it because I wanted to work in porcelain and needed a cone 6 porcelain clay.  It's been a learning curve with many bumps and cracks and bloat and unexpected shrinkage.  

I thought it was my problem.  It turns out it was the clay's problem.

As a newbie to porcelain and functional work, I wanted to hide my struggles and problems.  But by opening up and confessing my frustration to fellow clay artists, I got the help I needed.  Over and over, I was told it was the clay and it was time to change.

The new clay made my day. 

Throwing was a relaxing and delicious experience.  This clay was soft and smooth as silk.  Throwing felt light and easy.  Pulling up the clay was so fast, I couldn't believe it.  It definitely took a more delicate touch, maybe because it was softer and fresher.  It just felt better.  So did I.

New ideas sometimes come in the most unexpected ways.

I took myself on a field trip last week to the newly opened Craft Warehouse.  I love this place.  There's fabric, yarn, flowers and moss, decorative containers of every shape and size, paints, colored pencils, calligraphy pens, beads and more.  

A grown-ups toy store.  

I bought some little things.  A stamp.  A calligraphy pen. A few charms.  Two cardboard forms.  A ball of white cotton yarn. Nothing directly related to my artwork at all.  Or so I thought.

But this week, some new things appeared on my studio shelves.  A few new sculptures and  vessels in new shapes with textures in the clay that I used to do but haven't done in years.  I found some old fabrics that I'd forgotten I had and combined them with my new trinkets.

Play.  It's the key to everything.

It's how we learn the basics as children.  It's the most important element in innovation and creativity.  So next time I feel stuck or bored or boxed in, in the studio, I'm going to take myself on a field trip to the grown up toy store.  Then, play away the day and wait for the new ideas to pop up like a jack-in-the-box.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Sun Scared.

There are sun worshippers, sun lovers and sun bathers but I am sun scared.  When the sun comes out, I wear hats, sunglasses and stay in the shade.  Why? Because I had melanoma. 

I survived. Thanks to a very determined dermatologist who insisted I get a very small mole checked when I was 6 months pregnant.  It was caught early, in situ, and removed.  I did not have to undergo chemo or radiation and risk the life of my unborn son.

But over the last few weeks, it's been my daughter's life that was at risk for melanoma.  Five months ago, I noticed a freckle on her lip.  Three weeks ago, that freckle had turned black and she developed 5 more on her upper and lower lips.  She had to get checked for cancer.  

When she was a baby, I slathered on the sunscreen.  I made my little kids where long sleeves and hats on the beach.  They wiggled and complained and begged me to let them go out in the sun for hours without that greasy, sticky, icky stuff.

I did not let them.  Not even once.  

But they grew up and decided tanning was cool.  They went out in the sun and found out that the sun burns the hard way.  I preached the importance of sunscreen, but they kept going out without it anyway.  My daughter just moved to a place with a higher elevation and sunny climate.  She did wear some sunscreen but forgot to cover her lips and she got black spots on her lips from sun exposure.

She had a biopsy and she's ok.  But it's been a very scary few weeks waiting for the test results.  

There was no such thing as sunscreen when I was a kid.  I burned and peeled and was miserable with my fair skin.  And I got melanoma.   I survived.  And my daughter is cancer free, thank god.

Please spare yourself the scare.   Use a sunscreen.  Cover your lips, too! 

It's easy as applying a spf chapstick, lip balm or lipstick.  Spray on the sunscreen.  Wear a hat.  Better yet, stay in the shade, be cool and cancer free!


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Back in the Studio. Again.

It's been an exciting, memorable, fun and nerve-racking month.  It started out with deadlines looming and fast paced finishing.  The show went smoother than I anticipated and I sold work.  The dust barely settled when it was time take off to see my daughter perform a lead role in an opera, rush home to catch up on gardening, help on a local art show jury, have relatives visit, family birthdays and take a tour on a classic railroad train.

Now, it's time to get back to working on my art. 

It's been almost 5 weeks since I've slapped a wedge of clay on my wheel or rolled a slab.  When  I'm in my studio groove, I have a routine.  It gives a rhythm to my work and life.  Any maybe my art, too.

I feel a bit out of sync this week.  

My throwing was not easy and smooth.  The clay seemed hard and filled with weird bubbles.  I struggled and fought with the porcelain instead of relaxing into the silky, smoothness.  Slab work went a bit easier but I found myself questioning every addition and experimentation.

My usual, old routine just isn't slipping neatly into place.  My mind wanders back and forth between then and now.  What pieces sold and what didn't.  I'm thinking about what I've made and what I need to make.  

I see that it isn't just the routine that's slipping here.  It's my mind.  Comparing and contrasting. This with that.  Today and yesterday.  Me and them.  But most importantly, I'm wondering.  

What do I want to make? Where is my heart and my art going? 

These are the true questions. The answers come in their own way.  So I put my hands in the clay.  I place my faith in the process even when it brings more twists and turns.  And I keep working back in the studio, again. And again.  And again.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Sounds of My Daughter's Music.

I've been listening to my daughter sing since she was a toddler.  But last weekend, I got to hear her soar.  

My daughter sang the lead role of Susanna in the opera production of "Marriage of Figarro".  She was saucy and sweet as the not so innocent maid to the Countess.  She sang out her love and anger at her lover and fiancee.  She soared with her high notes and came back to earth with her acting.  

I am so proud.  Not just because I'm her mother and I love her but because I know how long and how hard she has wished and worked to be on the stage singing and acting and dancing.  And showing her true self to the world.  

But it's not been easy for her.  

As a parent, it's my job to be my child's chief supporter, cheerleader, guidance councilor and talent scout.  But as a parent, it's also part of the job to see your child fall, get hurt, disappointed and rejected. It's a lovely and difficult and heart warming and heart wrenching job.  I've loved every wonderfully difficult moment.

The musical sound of my daughter singing is one of the most magical and inspiring sounds in all the world.  Ever.