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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On Not Minding My Own Business

erika-fletcher-YfNWGrQI3a4-unsplashI’m going back to just making art and not being an artist.  Having had the goal for years of being a successful artist, I recently woke up to the fact that indeed, I had arrived.  That means I’m good with where I’m at.  It’s kind of like where to stop on a painting without overworking it.  Once I attained the label of “Artist” it came with art fairs, shows, social media, websites, marketing, basically business.  I am NOT a business person and am an introvert on top of it. Looking back I had way more satisfaction when I was just playing around and gifting my work to friends and family. Seeing looks of delight on their faces was payment enough.

I used to think that being accomplished was something akin to notoriety, copy-3129360_1920profit, fame, status or similar. Now, I’ve come to the conclusion after many years, that for me, fulfillment is in the creative process and the sharing. Monetary gain is just an added bonus. It’s kind of like fishing.  It’s great being out in nature no matter what and if you catch a fish- even better.

Now that I have less of my life before me than behind me, I am becoming very mindful of how I spend my life’s energy.  Do I want to spend hours at my computer marketing my work on Facebook, Instagram, & Etsy?  What am I giving up to do that?  After experimenting withbranding_131 all that the last few years, it’s felt too sleazy, like dressing in clothes that aren’t me. Do I really need to brand myself?  Seriously, I don’t want to fit in a box like Ritz Crackers. Art galleries are there for a reason.  They take 50% of sales but they could work on the selling while I could be out hiking.

Author Marsha Sinetar, famously said in her 1989 book titled the same, “Do what you love, the money will follow.”  Well, maybe.  For me, it’s turned out to be “Do what you love because you love it- and get a day job that you can tolerate”. Retirement works too. Otherwise what you love may turn out to be another form of the daily grind.

It’s an individual thing crafting a creative life.  THEY (whoever THEY are) may say do this and that, but ultimately it’s very personal what being successful is.  For some, they are content with the time invested in marketing themselves.  Their time is justified. I applaud them. But for me, creativity is a spiritual experience. Monetizing it takes away the joy.   So with that realization, I am taking the priority of selling my art out of the img_2831equation.

My last public show will be the local Art Harvest Studio Tour in the first two weeks in October.  Lately, I’ve been in the studio doing lots of work.  I will have an array of mixed media prints, found object sculpture, and ceramics on display.  After that, my remaining pieces will be in local galleries and online light.  Then, I’m going to design that patio and walkway I’ve always wanted, write more, play more music, and do more hiking. See you on the trail!

To check out my page on the tour go here

follow your nose

 

The Art of Keeping On

 How we spend our days is of course, how we spend our lives Annie Dillard

img_2025Unfortunately, when we were born we did not come with an instructional manual on how to live our lives.  We are all individuals with unique traits and circumstances.  As we go through our days there can be a lot of trial and error. There are some principles though, that will serve all of us, especially in this crazy digital age.

As a creative type, I keep an arsenal of motivational reading nearby.  The creative practice not often respected by our culture so I need all the cheerleading I can get.  Thus keep goingsaid I was more than excited when Austin Kleon released his third book Keep Going about 10 days ago.  I even preordered a copy, unusual for me.  The tag line of the book is “10 ways to stay Creative in God Times and Bad.”  If you’re sighing right now and saying “Too bad I’m not creative,” think again.  We are all creative beings. With few exceptions, we all have opposable thumbs.  That means we can make, cook, write, etc.  If you have kids – that’s the ultimate creation.  If the word ART trips you up, just insert the word LIFE or HUMAN.

Like Austin’s other books, Steal Like an Artist (on unlocking your creativity), and Show Your Work (on how to become known), this is a small affordable manual ($9 on Amazon).  It’s an easy, read full of his entertaining graphics, photographs, and words of keep going 3wisdom as well as some of his kids’ artwork.  It’s divided into 10 chapters, shown below.

I have come to some of the same realizations as Kleon himself but it is so validating to see them in print.  If you are in need of a reference in how to live and stay creative, or know someone that does, this is a good one. Worth a read, worth a place on your shelf!

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Images from the book Keep Going, by Austin Kleon

 

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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The Blessings of Wintry Weather

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View from our porch Feb. 25, 2019

The start of our winter was mild with temps in the upper 50s and sunny skies.  The bulbs were fooled into poking their heads up a month early.  I worried about another summer of unseasonably warm temperatures and drought.  The snowpack was low.  Now our familiar Western Oregon weather has returned.  Rain and even a little snow dusts the yard.  There was even enough powder snow where friends and I drove up to Mount Hood last week for a day of cross-country skiing.  I haven’t been able to do that in years.

I celebrate winter. This is my creative time. It is a time to come inside, literally and figuratively.  Nature needs rest and renewal and so do we.

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THE RAINS CAME

And the humans complained

But not the Earth who soaked the sky water deep into all its pores

Nor the trees who quenched their thirst in grateful gulps from deep roots

Nor the bulbs gathering strength for their dazzling spring displays

Nor the deer hungry for tender green grass

Nor the salmon longing to swim upstream

Nor the bees dreaming of anthers heavy with gold pollen and pistels leading to chambers of sweet nectar

Nor the seeds shivering with anticipation of their impending emergence

Nor the  bears conjuring images of plump berries in their sleep

Nor I, with book and pen

Joining their ranks 

Resting,

Going within

Savoring the blessings

Of wintery weather

 

Studio Notes 11/5/2018

writing-828911_1920From my writing desk….

My second piece of prose “Bull’s Eye” was published recently by “Montana Mouthful” a literary magazine out of Missoula Montana.  This was in their latest“Haunted” issue on page 15.  They also were the publisher of my first prose piece “Looking for Abraham” back in their August Secrets issue on page 29.  Both were blind submissions so I guess got lucky!  In both cases, having a submission deadline got me focused and finished– even though my inner critic was whispering “not good enough.”  I’m so glad I followed Natalie Goldberg’s advice “Let others be the judge of your work”.

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