Friday, December 23, 2005

Merry Christmas




The Savior-yes, the Messiah, the Lord-has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David.
Luke 2:11 NLV

Have a Merry Christmas and don't forget why it's called Christ Mass and a Holy Day.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Taos, New Mexico

One of our favorite places to spend a long weekend in winter is Taos, New Mexico. We don't go for the skiing, though. We go for the art and ambience.

Our annual weekend winter visit began on a whim one winter several years ago. While my husband and I are both the kind that prefer to plan things ahead, we've learned to add a certain amount of spontenaity to our traveling. We've found a lot of things that way that we would have missed otherwise.

We had been there once or twice before and had found a simple, inexpensive, hotel there that we liked called The Adobe Wall Motel. One winter several years ago, we were in southern Colorado to visit a frozen waterfall that is just south of the Great Sand Dunes. My husband realized we had an entire weekend before us and that it would take less time to drive to Toas than to drive home. So we went to Toas and that's how it all began.

We've discovered that a nice time to go is right after the holiday season when the decorations are still up, but it's quiet because all the other tourists are out at the ski slopes.

As travelers that lean toward the budget end with a few key splurges, Taos is a great get away for us. The Adobe Wall is is on the lower cost side during summer tourist season and offers a slightly discounted rate during the winter. It's not fancy, but it's clean and warm. Each room has its own kiva fireplace that really pumps out the heat and creates a romantic atmosphere. It's not too far from Taos plaza either. For those who are not opposed to walking, it's only three or four blocks away.

There are a lot of good restaurants for all budgets. We, of couse, have our favorites. For breakfast, our favorite is Michael's Kitchen. If you go, be prepared to wait. It's always packed full of both locals and tourists. Ask anyone who goes to Taos on a regular basis where to eat breakfast and they'll tell you to go to Michael's Kitchen.

Where we eat lunch varies, but we always eat supper at Doc Martin's at least once. It's not a budget meal, but it's worth every single penny. I have discovered that no matter what I order, I can't go wrong. If you decide to try them out, budget for it and get reservations. While they aren't always necessary, it can save some disappointment if they are booked for the whole evening.

Shopping in Taos consists primarily of art and souvenirs. So if you love art, you'll enjoy a visit to Taos. Those who don't enjoy art are going to be bored, so send them off the to the ski slopes. There are a lot of galleries to choose from and it's a matter of just walking around leisurely and checking them all out. It can also be a good place to purchase silver and turquoise jewelry.

A word of advice about shopping for art and jewelry:

-First of all, see my previous post about collecting art. Follow those guidelines and you can't go wrong no matter what your budget is.

-When you get there, pick up a collectors guide. It's a chance to see what's available before you go out. Most things are in the central area around the plaza, but there are a few things that are definitely worth seeing, but are further afield.

-Another suggestion is that if you feel pressured to buy, don't. It's your money and you shouldn't feel pressured to buy anything you don't want. If you aren't comfortable rebuffing high pressure sale tactics you may want to leave. Most of the reputable establishments will let you browse and enjoy the art while also being very happy to answer any questions you have without making you feel like you have to buy something.

-If there is a particular type of item or art you're looking for, don't hesitate to ask. If they don't have it, they will probably recommend someplace that does. That's another sign of a reputable business.

-Finally, it really is okay to look and not buy anything at all. Just enjoy looking at everything and create some memories.

While we usually try to go right after the New Year, this year we're going over the New Year weekend. So when we get back, I'll do a post on some of the places that are great to go visit.

If you are going or have gone to Taos, post a comment and tell me what your favorite things are.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Sketches

I've had fun sketching people in meetings lately. I realized afterwards that they were all men. I guess their heads are just more interesting.

Friday, September 16, 2005

A Long Drought

It has been a summer of suppressed creativity. I only did a couple of sketches in August on a camping trip. But it seems that's been the extent of "finished" art. I've mostly done home improvement projects and read books.

However, now I'm working on a handmade book. I keep plugging away at it one night a week. Maybe I'll finish it by Thanksgiving. If I do, I'll post photos. Coincidentally, it's about being in a spiritual drought.

As always, life and art overlap and reflect each other.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Inspiration

Camping in the mountains July 4th weekend was a creative inspiration for me. Usually I just do some sketching and journaling. But when we got home, I got out the oil paints.

I had put all that away when I went back to school a few years ago. It’s hard enough to do major art projects when I work full time, but trying to work and go to school makes it impossible. So the easel and paints got put away along with several unfinished paintings.

Well summer is here and I’m motivated. So, when we got home, I pulled out my easel. I also pulled out several of the unfinished paintings and picked three that seemed ready to be worked on. Starting on the smallest one I worked my way up to the one that needed the most work. I’m so excited I can hardly stand it.

So here is my favorite. It’s the view of Howe Sound from my niece’s deck in Lions Bay, British Columbia.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

My Sketch Kit

When I sketch, I’m usually on a hike somewhere or walking around looking at sights as a tourist, so I like to keep my sketch kit very small, light, and portable. I like to draw and add color to the drawing and my drawings are loose and gestural, so the contents of my sketch kit reflect that. Here they are:

1 pencil with very fat lead. It’s a mechanical pencil that I got from Levenger’s.
1 eraser. My preference is a soft white eraser in a mechanical holder that’s long and narrow like a pencil. You can find them at most office supply stores.
1 watercolor box. There are several on the market to choose from, but I chose Daler-Rowney’s based on size and availability and I got it at Meininger’s. I stuck with the colors that come standard in the set, but you can easily customize the choices by buying individual Daler-Rowney half pans. Please be aware that when you choose your watercolor box you need to see if replacement half pans are available in that brand. Each brand is slightly different in size. I also recommend buying the artist grade rather than the student grade because you will be much happier with your results. Student grade paints have a lot of fillers that water down the intensity of the color.
2 portable, synthetic watercolor brushes. A #6 round and a #0 round. They are both Raphael Impressions by Kaërell. The brush handle becomes the lid for the brush when you aren’t using them. Unfortunately, I don’t think they are available anymore, but other companies have their own versions of portable brushes. If necessary, you can cut the excess length off the brush handle and save the plastic tubes that come on the brush to protect the bristles.
1 small piece of natural sponge. It’s handy for absorbing excess water or making texture with the paint.
1 small water bottle. It’s a small, plastic bottle for carrying liquid that you can find at backpacking supply stores. I got mine at REI.
1 water holder with a lid. It’s a large, plastic, “pill” bottle that can also be found at backpacking supply stores. I also got it at REI. The lid was attached when I bought it, but I found it inconvenient to use that way, so I cut off the attachment.
1 water based pencil. It’s a General’s Sketch & Wash #588 and draws like a pencil, but you can use water and a brush to activate the lead and create washes. I also got this at Meininger’s.
1 small Moleskine unlined notebook. These are available at Barnes and Noble or Meininger’s. I’ve chosen the unlined notebook over the sketchbook, because it has more pages, and the paper doesn’t have the coating on it that the sketchbook does. I also write in it, so the unlined notebook just makes more sense for me. I prefer a Moleskine to spiral bound sketchpads because spiral binding always gets in my way. Moleskines open flat unlike other similarly bound sketchbooks and the pages are acid free. If you like to remove your sketches from your sketchbook when you’re done, than you’re going to be better off sticking with a spiral binding or a notepad binding.
1 mesh zippered bag that is about 6 inches by 9 inches to hold it all. I added a couple of end snaps onto the top two corners so that I can hook it onto my belt loops when I’m hiking.
1 set of colored pencils in a zippered pencil holder. If I’m doing sketching in very cold weather, I trade out the watercolors for the colored pencils. Watercolors tend to freeze when it gets too cold and then you lose your painting when they thaw.

On My Sketchbook and Becoming a Tourist Attraction

Interesting things happen when you sit down to sketch in a public place. It’s hard to do at first because you have to get used to shutting people out enough to focus, but not so much as to be rude if they ask you questions. Mostly they just talk amongst themselves. You become something of a tourist attraction because people sketching in public is more like something out of Masterpiece Theatre or books about explorers and pioneers.

Once when my husband and I were traveling in England, we went to a wonderful little town called Hay-on-Wye that is on the English-Welsh border. We had traveled there for the used book stores, but in the middle of town is a partially ruined castle. Since it was evening and the book stores were closed, I planted myself on a bench across the street from the castle and began to sketch it. It wasn’t long before I was the center of attention for a group of Japanese tourists. As I sat there and sketched, they chattered, pointed, and took pictures. I simply smiled at them and went on sketching. I imagine I’m in three or four Japanese vacation scrapbooks. In my mind I imagine them pulling out the pictures of their vacation and when they get to the part where they were in Hay-on-Wye, there I am, sketching the castle.

Recently I took a train ride in Leadville, Colorado. The train heads up the mountain toward an old mine and just before reaching it, heads back down the mountain. A little after heading back down, they stop the train at the old water tower so that people can get out and walk around to look at the train, tour the engine and caboose, and look at the water tower. I had decided when we were going up that I wanted to sketch the water tower when we stopped there while going back down. So, when the train stopped, I found a rock, sat down, and began to sketch quickly since I had less than 15 minutes. I recall that people milled about, but they were mostly interested in the train and water tower. But, my husband who gets a kick out of people’s reaction to me when I’m sketching, says that I drew a fair amount of attention. More vacation scrapbooks with me sketching, I guess.

About three years ago, we went on a trip with my family to Yellowstone. I was looking forward to that trip because I had good memories of going there when I was a very small child. One of the places I sat down to sketch was Artist’s Point, because it has a phenomenal view of the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River. As I took my time to do a good sketch of the view and to add color with paint, I heard the voice of an older woman close, but a little behind me. “See, she’s sketching. You can do it, too,” she was saying. I turned to look and there was an older woman with a girl who looked to be about 10 or 11. Grandma and granddaughter? I smiled. The young girl, who was holding a typical 8x10 sketch pad and a pencil, was looking very nervous. Sketching in public can be unnerving and I decided to be reassuring. “It’s hard at first, but start small and don’t try to draw a masterpiece,” I said, or something along those lines. Then I commented that I found it easier to do it in a smaller sketchbook, because it was less space to fill and therefore less intimidating. Then I showed her my Moleskine sketchbook. Grandma approved and said they would have to get one like that, so I pulled the little pamphlet out of the back pocket of my Moleskine and gave it to her with suggestions on where to find them for sale. I got done with my sketch not too long after and left. I’ve always hoped that the little girl sat down and at least attempted a sketch. If she did she probably found it hard and was probably very dissatisfied with her efforts, but we all have to start somewhere.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Monday, June 06, 2005

Too Good a Quote Not to Share

This is from Richard Florida's The Rise of the Creative Class. He is quoting Carl Rogers from his book On Becoming a Person.

It has been found that when the individual is "open" to all his experience…then his behavior will be creative, and his creativity may be trusted to be essentially constructive…In a person who is open to experience each stimulus is freely relayed…without being distorted by any process of defensiveness, whether the stimulus originates in the environment, in the impact of form, color, or sound on the sensory nerves, or whether it originates in the viscera…it is available to awareness…This last suggests another way of describing openness to experience. It means lack of rigidity and permeability of boundaries in ocncepts, beliefs, perceptions, and hypotheses. It means a tolerance for ambiguity where ambiguity exists. It means the ability to receive much conflicting infomration without forcing closure upon the situation…This complete openness of awareness to what exists at this moment is. I believe an important condition fo constructive creativity.

The Dumbing Down of America

No, I'm not referring to the three Rs although that certainly applies. I'm talking about kids and electronic devices (EDs) otherwise known as televisions, Game Boys, Nintendo, movie theaters, cell phones, iPods, PDAs, and computers.

I don't have anything against these directly. Obviously since I'm using the last one on this list as I write this. But I do object to kids who don't spend most of their time outside playing and getting into mud, dirt, trees, sweat, and anything else you hear Beaver getting reprimanded for.

So what's the big deal? EDs shut you down and zone you out. There's no creative stimulation. "Sure there is," you say. Look at the games they play. That takes interaction and problem solving. Well…not really. On the surface most EDs are great. But if you really look at them and how they affect people, you begin to realize what they really do. For instance, have you ever come home from work and sat down in front of the TV? When did you finally turn it off? Probably when it was late and past time to go to bed. Excuse for doing it? "My job burns me out and I just need to wind down." Think about it. If you spend your day in front of a computer, you're using the same part of your brain that you use at work. You're using the stressed out part to de-stress. It doesn't work. That's why, when you get up in the morning, you're still tired and your stress level is back up by the time you're in the car on your way to work. I know this from experience. I'm not pulling this out of thin air. (One comment on the side here. If you don't spend all day in front of a computer, it's still not a good excuse to "de-stress" in front of the TV. At least read a book or talk to your family.)

Solution? Use a different part of your brain to de-stress.
1. Just figuring out what to do requires some creativity on your part.
2. If you're in front of a computer all day, get out and get active. It will allow the stressed part of your mind to relax because you're using another part. You don't have to go climb a mountain or go for a run (unless you want to). You could pull weeds in the garden, read a book on the porch, find a good spot to watch the bird feeder, rearrange the furniture, go to the park and fly a kite or throw a frisbee, …you figure it out.
3. The side effects…this is the cool part…is that it improves your creativity.

Now you're saying, "Okay, I'll give you the first two, but improving my creativity? Yeah, right!" I'm serious. I'm not a scientist or a medical doctor, but what truly creative people have known for centuries is that the more diverse your interests are and the more things you do that are apparently unrelated, the more creative you become.

Think about it. Creativity is creating something new by combining things that no one else thought to put together. How can you do that if you limit yourself to EDs? Most of what is created, even in the realm of EDs, is a result of things outside of that realm. A non-ED example would be the guy who invented velcro was inspired by the burrs that stuck to his clothing when he went outside for a walk. Electricity was discovered by flying a kite. There are a lot of stories like that.

Okay, back to the kids. I digressed to adults because kids grow up to be adults and kids who spend their time focused on EDs become adults who are focused on EDs. It's scary and I can only explain the enlarging of homes and the shrinking of yards by the fact that no one is using their yards because they're all inside with their eyes glued to the TV or the computer. Am I wrong?

So, what is the solution? Limit or eliminate EDs. I know it is very hard to eliminate, but you can limit. The only catch is that all persons affected have to agree. If Dad has to have his TV and Mom wants to get rid of it, you have a problem. But, if you can agree than it can work. For myself, I will confess right now that we have 3 TVs, 3 DVD/VCRs, 2 computers, 2 PDAs, and 2 cell phones. But I lost count of the books I have a long time ago and I've read 90% of them. My front yard is slowly being transformed from lawn to garden. I've been looking at my bike everytime I go by it in the garage and it's finally getting warm enough that I need to get it out and ride it.

The Creative Class

There is this great book called The Rise of the Creative Class. I recommend it to anyone interested in the American economy and creativity or creative people. I have to say, as a person who worked in service jobs for many years, it gave me hope.

I graduated from high school in the top third of my class from a school that, at the time, was ranked as being among one of the 150 best public high schools in the country. I went off to college on a full tuition scholarship and graduated four years later with a B+ average. I didn't get more than that because I was raised to believe that it was more important to learn than to get straight As. No, the two don't automatically go together. I had a college room mate who got straight A's by memorizing things and promptly disposing of the information after it was no longer needed. But that is a whole different topic to explore another time.

Richard Florida
talks about me in his book The Rise of the Creative Class. Or rather, he talks about people like me. I am a Creative. I'm part of a generation more interested in having jobs we enjoy, find stimulating and interesting, and that pay the bills than a job which makes lots of money. We also don't like to be stuck doing things the way our parents and grandparents did them. We tend to change jobs regularly rather than staying at the same place for years at a time. I used to joke that I couldn't get a job with my resume because I had done so many jobs that seem unrelated. The immediate assumption was that I couldn't stick to a job and couldn't make up my mind what I wanted to do. That all changed when I got my first "real" job in November of 2004. Guess what. I use everything I learned from all those "unrelated" jobs where I now work. I finally found a boss who understands the value of a diverse resume.

I hate neighborhood covenants because they encourage conformity and discourage creativity. I'd rather live in a run down neighborhood than a covenanted and perfect looking neighborhood. I think it's okay if my neighbor digs up all of her lawn and plants flowers instead. Oh, by the way, she did. And she's inspired me to do some non-conformist things with my lawn. I even painted my door orange. It looks great and I didn't have to get permission from a home owner's association to do it. Yes, Richard Florida talks about that, too.

Okay, this is more about attitude than creativity, but really…if you have the same attitude I do, go get a copy of The Rise of the Creative Class by Richard Florida and read it. By the way, he just came out with a book called The Flight of the Creative Class and I plan on getting a copy this week.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Collecting: Mine

I'm definitely a collector. So is my husband. We love art and love to collect it. We also love to collect "crafts." I put crafts in quotes because I'm not refering to the kitch stuff you can buy kits for at Hobby Lobby. I'm talking about the stuff that qualifies as art, but since it's not painting, sculpture, or some other form of "high" art, it gets classified as craft.

My husband just got back from a week in New Mexico and he brought back some real treasure. Our miniature pottery collection doubled. Our fetish colleciton tripled. Our Navajo rug collection was increased as well. My jewelry collection (yipee) doubled. He added several pieces to his jewelry inventory. Is it okay to call it jewelry when a man wears it? In addition, he added some antique pieces that we'll never wear, but love to look at. Yes…he definitely went overboard. But it's beautiful stuff. I can't make him take it back and I don't want to.

I just keep hoping that I'll have a neice or nephew who's interested in inheriting all of it some day. Maybe we'll just start a museum like the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos. I'll have to think of a catchy name for it. I've got about 50 years or so to think of one.

Thinking Outside the Box

Creativity is about thinking outside the box, right? Well, what's more outside the box than this?

I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulacity uesdnatnrd waht I was rdgnieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid. Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcusaeae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh?

So, satrt rarnegairng tihgns. Put tgihns in a dfeirfnet odrer or oinetirtoan. Canghe waht yuo're "spuoepsd" to do and see waht hnpaeps.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Alternate Forms

It gets really frustrating to not be able to make art. However, I've made the choice to go back to school and that meant putting away most of my art supplies.

I still do a few things just to keep my sanity. I found an old book press for $50 last fall that I used to print our Christmas cards. But that was more time consuming than I can typically afford. I make my own journals, but haven't had the time to really turn anything into a work of art like I've done before. I can't even begin to think about painting. Just getting everything ready to start takes a half hour and it's another half hour to clean up. In addition, once I begin and get in the groove, I really don't want to stop. I could give up sleeping, but I've tried that before. It just turns me into this super-bitch monster that I'd really rather keep deep inside in its cage where it belongs.

So I've had to come up with alternative forms of creativity, albeit low level, in order to keep from going crazy. Decorating my house (although, without a budget, it's hard to do much), needlework of all sorts, sewing projects of all types, writing in my journal, sketching ideas for the future in my sketchbook, etc. Nothing high level, just enough to get me by. As a result we've made a little progress in the home improvement department, we have several very nicely embroidered pillowcases, we have a new denim quilt for our bed (it took me 8 years), I've started to blog (never thought I'd do that ), and I've amassed a lot of great ideas in my sketchbook that I'll make someday. Hmmm... Someday never seems to arrive.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Spring Snow

Spring snows remind me that winter isn't quite gone. It falls on the brown grass, two to six inches worth, sometimes ten. Everyone gets out their shovels and removes it from their walks and driveways and pile it on their lawn. Well.... some of us. I tend to leave it alone knowing what will happen.

The sun comes out. It usually comes out that afternoon and sometimes the next day. But it comes out and it has power. The heavy spring snow rapidly melts and then, voila! It reveals the beginning of spring. The grass that was entirely brown the day before now has a striking touch of green. A few days later, there's more snow and the same thing happens. The snow melts back to reveal more green. It only takes one or two snows to make the green spread like paint on a wet piece of paper.

It keeps snowing every week or two through April and May, gradually replaced by rain. But the rain only finishes what the snow starts. The snow is the catalyst for spring because it protects the earth as it falls, melts softly into the ground, and soaks to the roots. Rain would just run off the hard surface of winter. It needs the softening of the spring snow to be able to do it's job in the early summer.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

My Artist Self

When I allow my artist self to take over I feel liberated and more normal. I spend so much of my time being something else.

I try not to allow creativity to be limited in my life, but for me to be an artist involves taking down my fascades, casting aside my reserve, and exposing my soul. Creative activity means to be me wholly and completely. When I am being a responsible, working adult I usually feel restricted and as if I must shut away an important part of me. It is so hard to recapture that everyday fascade that is so very necessary that it makes it that much harder to remove it in order to create.

Once I get started creating something, I don't want to stop. Not just because I am "in the flow of things" but because I crave the freedom and don't want it to end. There is an energy and perhaps an addiction in the creative process for me as well. However, either the reality that I have to go to work in the morning or sheer exhaustion, eventually forces me to stop and head for bed.

My Renaissance Personal Preference

When it comes to the Renaissance and art, I'll take the Northern version over the Italian version any day of the week. I mean, talk about powerful images. They move me down at the heart of my being. There are no soft, blonde angels gently smiling with their hands tucked in prayer. No, the Northern Renaissance was all about reality. Biblical scenes are portrayed with more everyday feeling than angelic bliss.

For example. Check out Matthias Grünwald's Isenheim alterpiece. Mary looks about to faint in John's arms, while Christ himself shows great physical pain in the distortion of his hands and feet.

In the engraving of the crucifixion done by Albrect Dürer we see the people around Christ weeping as if in great distress. Mary is cradled and supported in the arms of another woman.

Instead of showing fine young dukes out winning battles or gracing fine ladies with thier presence we see everyday people in everyday activities in Pieter Bruegel's work.

Now for you purists out there. You can have your Italian Renassaince. Heaven forbid that I should question it's place in art history or even the quality of it's artists and their work. But as for me, I connect with the Northern Renaissance much better and there are a lot of others out there who do as well and I would just like the "other" guys to get some recognition too.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Collector Wanna-be's

When I had collector wanna-be's come into the gallery where I used to work this was the advise I gave them. Buy what you like and buy what you can afford, but always by originals. That always seemed to be a revelation to them. So I'd break it down for them like this:

1. Buy what you like without worrying about quality or how much it's worth. Why wouldn't you buy something you like? You'd be surprised by how many people buy things because they think they should, or because it's popular.
2. Buy what you can afford. Most people don't realize that they can buy a work of art for the same price as a poster. Most posters cost about $30. For that much you can go to a local artist co-op and probably find something you like, something no one else has, and something made by someone in your community.
3. Always buy an original. For one thing, it's unique. No one else has one just like yours when you buy an original. But the really cool thing is that when you buy an original, there is just something better about it than a poster.

I've seen a lot of people who have become collectors by following those three basic steps. Now when I say collectors I'm not talking about the kind of people who have works of art that are worth more than my house. I'm talking about people who buy original art rather than posters because they love art regardless of it's dollar value to the world. Besides, how do you think those people with the seven figure art collections got started?

You'll eventually find, a few years down the road, that a number of things have taken place. You'll have a house full of beautiful art that you love. Your taste in art and your eye for good art has improved. You'll be able to "spot a deal" and often anticipate an artist's "rise to stardom" before their prices go up when they've been discovered. And, last but not least, you'll find that your world has expanded and your appreciation for life is deeper.

Creative Value

Having a variety of interests and a broad (though often general) knowledge of how to make things has taught me the intrinsic value of "handmade." When I see a quilt for sale, I know how good the quality is, how much effort was put into it, if the quilt is worth the price, or whether it's too a good deal to pass up.

I feel sad when I encounter people who have no idea of the value of something that is handmade. When they comment that it's too expensive, it's hard not to respond with a lesson in value. While they believe that $30 for a doily is too expensive, I realize that the maker is probably underpricing it. I get frustrated when someone looks at a $300 painting and says it's too expensive, because I know that the artist underpriced it hoping to eventually become well known enough to make a living from their art.

So part of my life mission seems to be to educate the ignorant, to teach them the value of what they encounter. Since our culture measures value with money, I like to break down the value that way. For example:

That $30 doily took 30 hours to make.
This shop takes a 40% commission on everything they sell leaving the maker $18.
The thread that was used cost the maker $10.
That means the maker's profit is $8 or $0.27 an hour.
Or
That $300 painting took 10 hours to paint.
The gallery takes a 50% commission on everything they sell leaving the artist with $150.
The paint and canvas that went into that painting cost $30.
Since the artist framed it himself that was only $100 and it took him 2 hours to do.
That means that he is only making a profit of $20 or $1.67 an hour.
When you factor in all the paintings that won't sell, he's not making anything at all.

So I guess my advice to people is, if it's hand made, it's value is not just in the money. The value lies in the joy, heart, and soul that the creator put into the making of it. Pay the money, take it home, and let what the creator put into it bless your life. Otherwise, walk out of the store, run down to the mall, and buy something machine made that will cost you half as much, wear out twice as fast, and has no life invested in it. I don't know about you, but I'd rather have handmade.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Creative People

Really creative people are never exclusive in their interests or hobbies. They usually have many that they cycle through one at a time or in batches and I am a perfect example.

One day, many years ago while at an arts and crafts fair, I was admiring some creations at a booth. Off handedly, I commented to my husband that I had always wanted to learn how to do that particular craft. The craftsman attending the booth said, "You can." "I don't have time," I responded. "Well then, you just need to make time," she replied. I left it at that. How could I explain to her that I had over 50 other interests and that one just wasn't quite interesting enough to add to the list at that point in my life.

I often envy those whose list of interests is short. By short I mean 10 or less. They can focus on their interests rather than flitting around from project to project like I do. They can mass produce things that can then be put up for sale at fairs without burning out or losing interest. But, then I have to remind myself, that while my interests tend to keep my attention hopping from topic to topic, I do know how to do a lot of interesting things and I do return to most of them on a fairly regular basis.

In addition, I benefit from all those interests. I have art on my walls, cloths in my closet, hats, mittens and scarves to keep me warm, embroidered linens, quilts for my bed, and beautiful books to write in that are all a result of my 50+ interests. I'll bet that craftsman doesn't.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Creativity Tool

One of the best aids to my creativity that I have found is keeping a journal. I actually carry two with me wherever I go. One for writing in and one for sketching in.

I found the perfect books about 3 years ago. Moleskines. They're the right size, they open flat (I hate books that you have to hold open), they have a pocket for odd stuff in the back, a ribbon page marker, and an elastic band to hold it all shut. I carry the lined one for writing and the plain one for sketching.

So, what do I put in these wonderful journals? Everything! In my lined one I put quotes, references, travel journals and notes, word definitions, things I'm thinking about, stories I make up, recipes, books to read, poetry, reviews of art shows, gardening stuff, school research stuff, etc. In my plain one I sketch when we hike or travel, I draw ideas for art projects, sewing projects, art book ideas, furniture designs, jewelry designs, clothing designs, architectural designs, etc.

The importance of these books in my life is that it allows me to continually think creatively even when I don't have time to make art. Unfortunately, that's most of the time. When I do have time, I use my journals as a reference for whatever I'm working on, or to refresh my memory about things I want to create.

When I begin a new one I put the date in the front cover. When I finish filling it, I put that date next to the first one. That helps me keep track of when I did things. I've also gotten a fine tip white paint marker to write the type of book and dates on the spine so that I can pull the right one off my book shelf the first time.

Everyone has a creative strategy and that's mine. I wish I'd started doing it years ago. It's made it so much easier to keep track of ideas, both new and progressive ones.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Beginnings

It's always scary to create something new. A new painting, a new story, a new garden... But that is part of the process of creating and that fear can even be a catalyst for what you create.

The blank canvas is so pure and undefiled that it can intimidate you into walking away. But the moment you make that first stroke with the brush, the work begins and the fear dissipates into excitment. You've begun and there is no turning back.

So, this is my first stroke. This blog has begun and I can only move forward. At this point I'm not sure what road it will take me down, but I do know for sure that it will have to do with art. I can't help that. I'm an artist and I'm in love with art and creative expression.

This will be an adventure and I'm looking forward to finding out where it will take me.