The Anatomy of an Open Studio Tour

img_3017Every October the Art Harvest Studio Tour provides an opportunity for local artists to open up their studios for the public to get an intimate look at their work and process. Thirty or so juried artists about Yamhill County, Oregon participate. Studios are open for the first two three day weekends in October. Some artists are clustered in the local towns and others, like me, are peppered about the wine country in quaint settings. Art Harvest is in its 27th year.  To visit studios there is an $8.00 fee for a button which acts as a wearable ticket to gain entry to the studios

For some Art Harvest is a purely recreational experience, making a fun day with friends, buying a few small items and going out for a nice lunch in between.  Others are serious art buyers looking for unique pieces to purchase directly from the artist. Some drive as far as 200 miles away to make a weekend of it or fly from across the country to visit relatives during tour time.

For artists, it’s a chance to have a more interactive experience with people while avoiding the commissions and control that galleries levy.  Often being on the studio tour can lead to other sales and contacts.  I made sure I had items such as magnets and notecards of my prints that were only $5.00 for “takeaways” and for gifts.  Most of my things were in the $20 to $50 range on up to a sculpture for $380.

Spring Migration

I was on the tour 20 years ago and then had a hiatus for a teaching career and raising my son.  Now in retirement, I thought I would give it one more shot. It’s a huge undertaking and expensive for the artist.  The entry fee is $300 which pays for the glossy catalogs, advertising, buttons and a part-time coordinator. Artists must also volunteer on one of the many committees to make the tour function.  On top of that, I had expenses of at least $200 for art supplies and display materials.  That means I had to earn $500 before I would start to make any type of profit (For anyone wondering why art can be expensive, this is why!) Here is a timeline of the tour experience for the artist…

March– Submit application, images, and fees

April– juried in. Continue to amass a volume of work in ceramics and mixed media monoprints.

Summer– attend committee meetings.  I served on the education committee to facilitate school children visiting participating studios.  Make more art!

StandingMaskAugust– drop off two pieces of work to be in the Chehalem Cultural Center show running for the months of September and October.  (Many stop by this exhibit first to decide which studios to visit). Be filmed by a local cable access show Wild Geese mary oliver tributecalled Arts Alive.  (See video here.  My spot starts about 15 minutes in)

September– distribute signs and programs to local businesses and organizations.  Get work framed.  Clean out the studio with a dear friend who offered to help me.  Drape tables, add lighting, hang wall pieces and arrange ceramics on the tables. It’s a huge undertaking to get a studio from a workspace to a display area!

October– Price all work. Place bright yellow At Harvest signs along the routes leading to my studio. Oct. 4-6 AM and Oct 11-13 open my studio from 10 am to 5 PM.

Black Sheep 3Fridays were very slow so I had time to finish up items not yet completed. Saturday & Sunday could get quite busy.  I tried to spend as much time with people as I could to visit and answer questions.  In between weekends I made a new herd of ceramic sheep as the first one was almost sold out. The following week was spent in recovery mode.  I’m not used to that much talking and being “on” since I taught middle school!

Overall, the studio tour was a great success.  Beyond making a respectable profit, it was so sweet to get such validation of my work.  I had numerous visitors make a beeline for my studio after seeing my pieces at the Cultural Center show or seeing my page in the program.  My new work is quite eclectic and unusual.  Working alone as most artists do, I

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Tea Time 2

have to work hard at times to keep my insecurities at bay so having such positive feedback was food for my soul.  Thematically I range from whimsical to spiritual depending on what needs to manifest.  It’s not for all but there were a fair number of people that resonated with it and gave me positive feedback.   It was a great time to  make new friends and connect with old ones

I let a few favorite pieces go during the sale.  Thes beautiful pieces were kept in storage as I had no place to put them in my house.  I was surprised at the twinges I felt as some of these were purchased and left the studio with happy customers.  But art should be seen and enjoyed, not hidden away so they needed a new home.  I was especially pleased when they were adopted by friends.

If you have not participated in a local open studio tour, try it!  Lookup for them online in your area or afar.  It will take you on a mind-opening adventure with not much expense.

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Beyond the Studio Door

“Failure is success in process”- Albert Einstein

Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”  ― Salvador Dali

img_2951So you walk into an art gallery or an art festival and there is the fruit of the artist in all of its magical glory, looking like it was created effortlessly.  What you don’t see is the plethora of mistakes and sometimes heartaches that go into making art.  It’s a part of the process.  If you aren’t willing to fail, you are not going to learn.  This is especially true in the medium of ceramics.  There’s no way you can work with mud and transform it into permanent objects without running into some challenges.  There are so many variables to contend with in the making- construction, drying, firing, glazing, and firing again at a temperature around 1800 degrees Fahrenheit.

img_2950This week before my open studio on the Art Harvest Studio Tour of Yamhill County I img_2960opened my kiln to find my share of disappointments.  The beautiful grape leaf plate on the upper left (traced from one of my grapevines leaves) has a crack down from the notch of the leaf shape.  It’s still lovely but not saleable.  I’ll use it though.  No one will notice under a pile of carrot sticks.  Those three lovely bowls with incised grape leaves rubbed with iron oxide all cracked.  This was a img_2961puzzle.  Maybe they got jostled when I removed them from the press mold?  These will become part of a mosaic on my future walkway. Then there was the barn owl sculpture with hairline cracks in two places – maybe from cooling too quickly in the pit fire?  I love this piece though and I am not sad to keep it.

The failed prints I have cut up and am using in other img_2962incarnations such as “quote blocks,” little sculptural pieces with collages.

Thankfully, there will be plenty of other lovely things to look at my studio sale-  but the invisible mistakes will be just as much a part of it for me.

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Beautiful Failures

They are the cracked

The not quite right

Products of my hands

And soul

Victims of experimentation

Poor judgment

Or forces beyond my understanding

 

Sometimes their enduring beauty breaks my heart

Their fatal flaw rendering them undesirable to others

Then sometimes their glaring shortcomings

Are so embarrassing

They are destroyed or reincarnated

Taking on a new form that will touch my soul

Or someone elses

 

The buyer will never know

That my work is built on beautiful failures

Marveling at my wonderful talent

Wishing they could have it too

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The Art of Play

“Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.” -Joseph Chilton Pearce

easels-372847_1920When I was a child I would sit down with a set of crayons and draw without much intention other than just being in the moment with my colors and paper.  Painting was even better.  There was nothing like afternoons in school where the math and reading were put aside for time standing at the easel with giant paper and pots of tempera paint.  I remember painting with big fat brushes with long handles pictures of skies, big suns, houses, horses- the usual subjects for a little girl.  The paintings I made were often brought home and gifted. There was not a lot of attachment to the pieces as there were always more paintings and drawings to come.

At some grade in school, the easels were put away and we were subtlety given the message that art was not important and academics were.  Art was play, nothing to be taken too seriously.  Good grades, college, and a career were.

Continue reading “The Art of Play”

Lessons from an Orchid

May the beauty of your day, take your breath away  – unknown

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I’m in sort of a lull in a creative sense.  My energies are spread elsewhere now that my husband is recovering from knee surgery.  This period draws parallels to an experience I had with dormancy and reblooming…

It was a gift, an orchid plant for my desk at the end of my last school year before retirement. Six blooms of royal magenta, tinged with highlights of yellow cascaded down like the contour of a woman’s haughty hip.  It was one of those grocery store variety orchids, nothing too out of the ordinary except for the color of the flowers.  They positively glowed like a stained glass window in the light.

I absorbed the beauty of these blooms every day for weeks until each slowly shriveled, dried and dropped.  I sadly removed their spent forms one by one.  What was left were several deep green ovate leathery leaves and the tall, now naked flower stem in a plain clay pot.

“I just throw them away” a friend commented on my bloomless orchid.  But I could not, the only crime of this plant needing rest after a grand performance. I remember my father saying that he got his orchids to bloom again.  After enjoying such a spectacular show, I felt it a crime to sentence this plant to death in the compost pile.

I left the orchid on my bedroom window sill, watered it, and waited.  Over a year passed and I realized that it probably needed special nutrients to bloom.  I purchased some spray fertilizer just for orchids.  In a few more months, I had a stalk full of orchid flowers to enjoy again.  It is now in its third bloom.

This experience got me to thinking how we humans too need to be nurtured in life to bloom and then given periods of rest.  This reminds me not to give up in dry times, be patient and to get the self-care I need to be creative.  The compost pile of life awaits soon enough!

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Out of the Ashes

IMG_1992When any of my pets have passed on I make a piece of artwork to remember them by.  Though I love photographs, my personal interpretation of their spirit provides more meaning and facilitates closure.  Sometimes it’s a clay sculpture, a tile, a ceramic mask.  This time in remembrance of Dougie, my sweet 14-year-old Golden Retriever we had to put down last week, I made this collage.

This piece pretty much summarizes his personality- colorful, happy-go-lucky, playful and a little goofy.  The painted paper I used for his face, tail, and the spirals are from a failed print that came from a printmaking workshop.  These so-called mistakes are torn up and placed in my collage box for a future reincarnation- a lemonade out of lemons kind of thing.  To be able to repurpose these disappointments into other forms that are pleasing to me is very gratifying and highly symbolic.

Out of the ashes we can find beauty.  We passed the Spring Equinox. Winter is behind us. The daffodils are blooming in the yard.

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Being a Verb

fairy-2573105_1280It’s a risky business calling yourself an artist or a writer.  People tend to hold you in higher or lower esteem than you actually deserve.  Then there is a matter of assumptions…  Attend a social gathering and then introduce yourself as a brain surgeon to one group a people and then a waitress to another.  You will be treated accordingly.  Thus I prefer to avoid labels entirely preferring when asked what I do using more of these descriptors:

I write, I make art, I play guitar, I sing, I garden, I am recovering from teaching middle school, or whathaveyou.  Then there is the added pressure of living up to your label.  It’s far more enjoyable to be a verb.

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Verbage

I would rather be a verb than a noun

I would rather emerge, shine, fly, dance

And kick up my heels

Rather than just be a person, place or thing

Let me describe an action, state or occurrence

And wedge myself in the predicate of a sentence

Give me the energy to escape the box with a pretty label

And end with the pleasure of being all used up

My wings in tatters

My breath gone

When my time on Earth is done

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So Why Put a Bird on it?

4efEveryone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?

David Attenborough

One of the most famous sketches in the hit show “Portlandia” is the “Put a Bird on It” sketch” where Frank and Carrie, the actors mock the epidemic use of birds on crafty, artsy items that abound on Etsy, other internet commerce sites and of course, Portland hipster stores. (I live an hour from Portland).  Not too soon after, T-shirts, cups, and posters started appearing with the meme, “Put a bird on it.”

Beyond being a birder at an early age and loving the uniqueness of birds.  I have several feeders about my house and so love watching the chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and juncos as they feed.  They are my neighbors.  They fascinate me as they have with humanity for centuries.

Continue reading “So Why Put a Bird on it?”