Friday, March 23, 2018

Social Media Phobia.

I started my social media journey about 10 years ago with Facebook. I looked at it as a natural marketing tool for my art. Little did I know, I was a natural marketing tool for Facebook. 

I posted about my gallery shows. I posted about my open studios. But little by little, I posted more about my life. A picture with an artist friend was posted to my wall. My daughter snapped a pic of my husband and I at a restaurant. Then it was Christmases, birthdays, graduations, Mother's Days, Father's Days, walks in the park, vacations and baby pictures. Slowly, the pictures and posts on my wall became an open window anyone in the world can look into at any time.  

I signed up and signed on and forgot about it. 

My social media network started with Facebook and grew to include almost 12 sites. Once I signed up for Facebook, I got on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Etsy, Blogspot, Google Plus, and more. A few years ago, I was so shocked by the creeping growth of my social media networks. (See Social Media on the sidebar for more.)I resolved to cut my social media ties to only those sites I felt worked for me. And I had to admit, what started out as a professional decision had indeed become personal.  

The 'social' in media had become part of my life and I'm not saying that's a bad thing. I 'like' Facebook's platform. It's easy. It's fun. And I get to see what other artists, friends and family are doing. As I log in almost daily, I see beautiful art, photos, friendly faces, inspiring words, honest opinions and funny stories. 

But like many others, I didn't realize just how personal it is.   

I didn't know I was being 'followed' by dozens of people from foreign countries. I didn't know that apps were taking my personal data and using it to market their products. I didn't know that every 'like' button I pushed gave out even more of my personal data which was used to determine my voting preferences, which in turn, undermined our country's election process. 

In the last few days as the scandal about misused personal data emerged, I've gone through my Facebook account. I've deleted all of the apps that have been using my info. I've deleted groups I never joined or liked. I've deleted or hidden my personal birthdate, etc. I never put any phone number or address on any social network, and now, I never will. 

But I will still be on social media. 

All of my family and many of my friends are on Facebook, so yes, I'll still share and like. I happen to like Instagram for the pictures and ability to show my art to more people. Although I lost interest in Pinterest for a while, I now treat it like an online catalog where I can scroll through things I'm interested in. I have a website to show my art work. And I love blogging, so yes, blogspot will stay.

I'm an artist and writer, so new ideas are my life's work. Technology, social media, cell phones are all very new ideas in our world. And new ideas, like social media are going to bring up new problems and fears but new ideas are also a necessary part of innovation and growth.  
It's taken me a while to learn how to use them and now it's time for me to learn how to not let them use me.

Friday, March 16, 2018

As the Wheel Turns: The Good, Bad and Ugly.

Working in ceramics presents many opportunities for creativity. I do throwing, slab building and sculpting. Many other people and companies use press molds or slip molds to produce hundreds of identical pieces. But what you may not know is how many pieces are lost in the process. I know I didn't know that when I started creating in clay. 

I've worked in many art media over the years. I've made a lot of ugly art, too. It's frustrating at times, but it's part of the process of creating. The visions in my head didn't always land on the canvas, copper or paper as I envisioned them. Disappointing, yes. But it was usually easy to fix, too. You just re-prime the canvas or paper, smooth out the copper and start over. 

Clay doesn't always work that way. Good can turn ugly really fast.  

Throwing on the wheel does give me the opportunity to make changes, fix a wobble or redo a slipped lip. If it's not working, I can scrape it off the wheel, re-wedge and start over later. I can do similar things with slab building, too. As long as the clay is at the early stages, I can take something bad, do a make-over and make it good.

But there are so many parts of the working in clay that can go bad. Adding color, drying too fast, using an underglaze that doesn't fit the clay, all these elements can mean a piece that never makes to the kiln at all. Even a good piece can crack, warp, or fall apart. If it gets through the bone dry phase and goes into the kiln, I keep my fingers crossed and pray to the kiln goddess. 

Fire it up and watch it crash, crack, bubble and burn.

This time, when I did my first bisque fire, I thought everything went well. I was wrong. When I had a maintenance check and a kiln coil replacement, I found out my lower coils were broken and not firing at all. I did a re-fire at bisque to be safe and set some underglazes. 

Some pieces are good. The vase is perfect, good color, no cracks. Most of the cups came out ok. Two plant pots and two bowls are nice. 

Some pieces are bad. The black glaze on the outside of these two bowls is full of bumps. Some of the glaze slid off into a thick, shiny mound and some slid away completely. The inside is good and completely functional but the outside problems make them bad bowls. 

Some are just ugly. The glaze on the two red cups bumped, bubbled up, and crawled back. It makes them completely unusable. I thought they were such cute cups when I put them in the kiln but now, they're just ugly. 

That's the difference with clay. Once it's fired, there's nothing you can do to turn bad into good. I just have to toss them in the trash, accept ugly happens and go turn on the wheel and start again. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Creating an Image.

At first glance, you might think I'm going to write about hair, makeup and clothes or resumes, social media and contacts. As an artist, some would feel the above isn't important, but of course, it is. No matter what you do or who you really are, image matters. 

Think of all the images that fly by you everyday online, news, social media. And of course, the ultimate image, the selfie or glamour shot. Images abound because they speak to us in wordless wonder. They touch our hearts, minds and pocket books in good ways and bad. 

How do I create a good image of my work?

When I'm creating, sometimes I have an image in mind. A sketch. A concept. A color. But I don't follow it step by step. In fact, most of the time, these images fade away as my hands work. Sometimes, it's only years later, that I stumble on an old sketch and realize where those pieces came from. Studio work is magic to me. 

But after the piece is done, I also have to create an image of my work that goes out into the world. For years, I had a professional photographer who took wonderful pictures of my work. He was truly talented with lighting, which by the way is key to good photography, not digital editing. If the lighting is not right, the image looks all wrong. 

I know because now I struggle with getting the lighting right. If the lighting is flat, the colors are dull. The red, blue or black colors look dark or gray. If the lighting is too bright, the colors look faded or pale. Then there's hot spots where the light hits the piece and creates glare. 

Googling doesn't always help. But, maybe, Crate and Barrel can. 

No matter how many articles I google, I am not a professional product photographer, which is what we used to call them in advertising. Traditional art photography is all about the 'glamour shot' using a seamless background, professional lighting and solitary pieces. That's what my wonderful photographer did for so many years and that's what got me into gallery shows, art publications, online sites and studio tours. Jurors expect good, professional photography. 

I loved that my old photographer was an artist himself and understood the importance of being true to the pieces I created. He didn't photoshop my work and I've always been ok with that. 

So how can I stay true while creating a good image?

I've always been a big fan of Crate and Barrel catalogs and their online site is just a lovely. I still open every email and savor every page. Why? Because the design, staging, vignettes of the  photos were just wonderful. 

What if I take a clue from Crate and Barrel? Take pictures of my work in normal settings? Group my work in a way that real people with real homes would use them? 

I love to create vignettes in my own home, so why not use that idea for my ceramic pieces? I tried it and it just felt right. I know it's not what jurors will expect to see. And it may keep me out of galleries and some shows. 

But suddenly, it feels like what I'm creating is being seen in its own image. And I like that.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Life is a Cookie.

Jilly, my silly, sweet, stubborn, smart yellow Labrador loves cookies.  Any kind. Any time. As often as possible, please. You've heard of on demand movies, well Jilly wants on demand cookies.

If she sits, she gets a cookie. Goes outside and inside, she gets a cookie. Follows me upstairs, she gets a cookie. Follows me downstairs, you got it, she gets a cookie. In fact, lately, she's figured out a new way to get cookies. If she follows me upstairs and gets her cookie, she then goes downstairs on her own and waits for me to call out for where she is, then she ambles back upstairs, wags her tail and sweetly waits to, you guessed it, get another cookie. 

Really, I am a stickler for dog training. 

I've been through dog training classes. I've trained my own dogs, rescue dogs and helped other people with their dog issues. I've even taken care of the cantankerous ones. I know how to train dogs. But I do realize who'sq doing the training now and it's not me. 

Yup, Jilly has figured out how to work the system. And it's working. And that's totally ok with me.

Three years ago, the vets found a small mass on her spleen.  She was 9 years old. They gave her 3 months to live, maybe 6 if we did major surgery and chemo. We said no, we'll keep her comfortable and happy for as long as possible even if it's only 3 more months. 

Since she was a bit tired then, we would give her cookies to cheer her up. Ok, maybe we gave her cookies to cheer us up. Either way, it's worked for 3, going on 4 years.  And Jilly was back to her silly self. 

Another scare came this year and we thought, once again, it was the end. 

It was food poisoning. I'd bought a new bag of the food she's eaten for over a decade, gave her one cup for dinner and she woke up sick. She was weak, couldn't stand up or walk without help. We thought it was the end, but 48 hours later, she walked upstairs herself to greet us. 

And of course, she got a cookie. 
She also gets homemade food twice a day, an egg scrambled, dog vitamin, glucosamine and ibuprofen(for arthritis), a pump of salmon oil and 1/2 cup of plain yogurt. I make her food every 8 days and it takes me about 2 hours. I cook rice, ground beef, chicken livers, carrots, spinach, and tomatoes. It all gets mixed together with nutritional yeast and broth, ladled into 8 plastic containers and frozen. 

Yes, it's a lot of time, money and work but she's worth every bit. So now, I know what she's eating and we haven't had any more problems. In fact, she's itching less and her eyes are clearer, too. 

The biggest bonus: Jilly is alive and lively. She has more pep in her step than she's had in a long time. She loves her walks at the park and sniffing around the neighborhood. 

I think back to how sad and scared I was 3 years ago and as I tear up, I also smile. Because she's still here, another glorious year, happily wagging away. She's proven to me that life is sweet, innocence is bliss and it's important to savor every moment.  

And yes, to her, 'Life is a cookie'. And I wouldn't want it any other way.