Category Archives: The creative life

Talking about creating an artistic life!

Just Can’t Quilt While the Sun Shines

It is hard for me to get studio work done when Springs arrives.

Snow Canyon Park is 12 minutes from my house. 

Now that I am in Southern Utah with a new home and a garden to plant, landscaping to improve, trees to trim  and a lawn to maintain spring takes me outside.


I really had a lull in my studio production that I only became panicked about when all my quilts  were out in shows or committed to shows. “How did this happen?”

As it turns out I was working on other tasks like…….
Gardening.
Being “Nana” to a perfect 1 year old who lives 4 hours away.
Taking a Mediterranean cruise.
Working on functional quilt projects.
Investing time for my critique group.
Working on my computer skills.
Hiking.


It all adds up to time away from production. …..Or does it?


Actually I am further ahead than I would have been if I stuck to slugging away in my studio. During this time I have been gathering ideas, collecting images and working on creating visually challenging compositions with the help of digital media.

In early March my husband and worked hard on getting our yard in shape. We trimmed bushes and trees that had been ignored for years. We hired a contractor to extend our garden wall. I put in a simple patio of red pavers, added new garden beds and planted pots.

During the process I discovered a great app that modifies images taken  by my iPhone. It’s called PicsArt. It can do typical edits like cropping the image , adjusting the contrast, or color. What is special about this app is the filters that completely transform a picture. It’s great fun to play with a phone photo while taking a short break from another project.

                                                   My phone is an “art tool”  

This spring I really explored the camera and the basic editor by forming a habit of collecting and editing images daily. Now this is an integral part of my artistic practice . I delete   more pictures than I take because I review and edit my saved images working to improve the quality of each composition.

 

 

A man walking near a Cathedral in Malta.

My husband and I went on a Mediterranean cruise in late April. Like all tourists I took lots of pictures but I also kept the habit of selecting and editing photos at the end of the day. During the excursions I discovered the value of a selfie stick as a very functional tripod. I began looking for people and places that would be more than documentation of a place. 

When I came home  and settled into a work routine I discovered a new line of inquiry. My current portfolio has been focused on using family portraits because they have an immediate subtext. As I look at my current file of potential projects I am included some of my daily photos.           

The tiny tourist on a swing in Sorrentino.

What binds this work together is my fascination with a story. There is a photo taken of me and our family dog Jimmy. It is the morning before we took in for his last visit to the vet. As you can see I manipulated the image but the story behind the project is my primary source of inspiration.

My last day with Jimmy

 

Now I have a very large selection projects. Some are  vintage family photos, others are pictures taken of people that I met on my travels and some are photos documenting my life. I am working harder on using digital software to push my own limits. 

Until next time….
Margaret

You can see my work……. 
Turmoil
International Quilt Festival – Chicago, Illinois: April 2017 

Under The Western Sun
Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, Golden CO
April 27 – July 25 2017

H2Oh!
National Quilt Museum, Paducah Kentucky
June – September 2017

Sacred Threads
Herndon VA
 July 7 – 23 2017 and Traveling through out the country!

Pathfinders
Southern Utah Museum of Art
Cedar City Utah 
June 30 – August 26 2017

The View
St. George Museum of Art
St. George Utah
April 28 – August 16 2017

Untethered Thread
Poway Center for the Arts
Poway, CA
June 1 – June 24, 2017

35th Annual New Legacies
Lincoln Center 
Ft. Collins, CO 
July 5 – August 26

Interpretations: Conversations
Visions Art Museum
San Diego, CA
October 21 2017 – January 7 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oops! Handling failure….

There is a difference between a mistake and a failure

failure-copy


 

I ruined a quilt I spent thirty hours on!

H2Oh! in progress

H2Oh! in progress

I had worked very hard on a potential entry in the SAQA exhibit H2oh! The last step in my process is covering the surface with a matt varnish with UV protection. My rational has been to seal the surface to help protect it from handling the quilt, fading and to ensure any lose threads cannot be pulled.

 

I have always used the same water based product. It came in a money saving gallon tub. The tub would last a year.  In this one case the entire surface of the quilt looked cloudly after it dried.  Panic set in.  I went to my local art supply store to consult with the manager. He said the cause could have been the product getting too hot, being over mixed, too thick, inconsistent drying during the heat spell, etc…  In the future he suggested I use a very thin spray varnish to avoid any potentional clouding.

There was no turning back. H2oh! went into the garbage as a total failure.


“A failure by my definition is a mistake that cannot be undone.”


One of my options after closing the lid of the trash can would have been to reorder my origonal design from my “Spoonflower” account. Having completed the project once and keeping a photographic record of my progress; I could easily duplicate this project. It would be the quick path. Instead, I thought of the failure as a message from my art angels to step back and reflect. Maybe my failure was ment to be. 

When I finished my JAM portfolio in the early spring, I submitted a portfolio of 7 art quilts. I believed I was creating two distinct series of portraits. One was portraits of spirtual practices like mediation and the other group were portraits investigating my family.

My mentor suggested that I needed to stop seeing my work in seperate catagores. The work I was making should be an extention in large body of work. With each new quilt I creating for myself new challenges and addressing problems with previous work.  Don’t repeat, expand!

A portrait of meditation.

A portrait of meditation.

A portrait of my Grandfather

A portrait of my Grandfather

 

 

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Was the failed work an  authentic extention of my previous work?

I responded to the “H2oh!”  theme by making a portrait of a process of meditating to the sound of water. When I meditate, I often just put on the sound of water a let my mind quiet. This would be another portrait of of a spiritual practice but was I creating new challenge?  Was I moving forward creativily or resting on established formula?

On balance, I did spend a great of time on this project  improving technically but very little time on anything else. Recently, I have made an effort to use thread as a stonger design element. I have started collecting a large number of threads that allow me to use thread much like I would use colored pencils.  From that limited perspective, I was challenging myself.  Thread

 Looking at any project technically is not enough. An artist needs to express something deeper. So I chose to move to another project. This time it is self portrait. The self portrait has so much potential both technically and thematically as an exploration of who I am in the context of where I came from.

(I have not abandoned working on entry for H2oh! I have an abstract portrait for sound of water and photo of my father in law as an ocean life guard.) 

Portrait in progress. From a photograph of me in 1976

Portrait in progress. From a photograph of me in 1976

 

Until the Next Time
Margaret

You can find my work at:
Textile Museum at George Washington University
"Diaspora: Stories of Migration"
through September 4th

New Legacies
Lincoln Center 
Ft. Collins, CO
July 5th - September 3rd

SAQA Benefit Auction
http://www.saqa.com/memberArt.php?ID=1186
Bidding starts September 16th

Turmoil
International Quilt Festival – Houston, TX: October 2016    
International Quilt Festival – Chicago, Illinois: April 2017 

SAQA - Portfolio 21 
Type: SAQA Portfolio 
Price: $29.95

Mesquite Local News
Article "A splash of Color"
Featured Art Quilt "Namaste"

 

 

Artist of the Month

In my local gallery I had a chance to be the artist of the month. gallery

 During April I put up a solo show in the Mesquite Fine Arts Gallery.  I was the “Brown Bag” speaker and I had an article published about me in the local paper. All of this is great publicity; but more importantly it helped me expand my thinking as an artist.


When you make art seriously  the primary consideration might seem to be selling to the public.

article

The bigger question is how do you find or create an audience who is willing to buy your art?


 At a recent art opening,  a fellow artist mentioned to me how selling provides her with validation. There is an “ah ha” moment when an image an artist creates gets purchased. A little voice  says to the artist “Someone gets the message” “Someone appreciates my hard work” “They appreciate my  creativity”.  In my opinion, sales in the short term is only one aspect of feedback and validation.

brownbag

Lectures and presentations are something that I found to be helpful in building an audience for my work and helps me as an artist clearly articulate what I do and why. At a recent lecture at my small gallery; I gave a presentation to an audience of artists and non artists. The presentation was called “The Metaphysical Quilter”. In addition to galley members, the lecture attracted several quilters and crafters.

I decided that instead of an exclusive slideshow of my own work; I would use the time to educated the audience about the art quilt movement. Using the SAQA definition in an opening slide (a creative visual work that is layered and stitched or that references this form of stitched layered structure.”) I immediately got the attention of audience members who are traditional quilters. Next I provided some background information.  I highlighted the groundbreaking show at the Whitney museum in 1971 ” Abstract Design in American Quilts” which built a bridge between the art world and the world of quilt makers.  Picture1

I moved onto a explanation of process. For any audience interested in art there is always deep curiosity about how the product gets made. During the general description and pictures of my studio and the tools I use encourage and received numerous clarifying questions. Questioning helps an audience became more engaged and interested.

Sewing station

I took the time to set up my own process and to pass around examples of my work including an unfinished large work. It was encouraging to see people looking carefully and getting connected to the materials.

The last portion was showing off. I included a resume with some recent successes including work on display in three states, at the Textile Museum housed in George Washington University and in the International Quilt Festival in Houston. By the time I showed the slides of my work the audience had a much greater appreciation of my work and of art quilting in general.

Selected for SAQA's "Turmoil" IQF Houston

Selected for SAQA’s
“Turmoil”
IQF Houston

After the event; several people came up to me and said “I had no idea”.

I encourage artists in the quilt world to participate in education like local lectures; if they want to develop the kind of audience that will place enough value in the art quilt to become purchasers.

Until next time……..

Margaret

 

Success!

I got accepted into a international art show at a museum, two art quilts into a regional art show and I won “best of show” at a National Small Works display at a local gallery.


Two Definitions of  “success ”
1. the accomplishment of an aim or purpose (internal reward)
As an artist I am driven by internal rewards. Much of my studio time is spent creating for long hours on a project that may never be shared with  an audience.  Currently I am working on a portfolio that includes vintage family portraits . This series allows me expand my skills and to explore some very complicated relationships.  Making these quilts is an opportunity for intellectual growth and personal healing. Creating this series is it’s own reward no matter if anything I make gets shown or sold.

Small Works

Winner of a National Show at my my local gallery

2.the attainment of popularity or profit (external reward)
As member of several arts organizations and my local gallery I have many opportunities to get the external rewards. When I am included in local (Mesquite Fine Arts Gallery), regional ( Above and Beyond at the Lakewood Cultural Center) and national displays of art quilts (Diaspora at the National Textile Museum) I gain a larger audience. In the future, this may translate into income from sales, lectures or teaching.

At my local gallery there numerous opportunities to sell.  I am in the process of creating small gift items that quickly produced and can be sold at reasonable prices. My blog, web gallery, facebook and other forms of social media; are my virtual gallery. My work and my voice can be shared to a worldwide 21st century marketplace.

If the attributes of success are popularity (getting into shows), profit (selling or winning cash awards and accomplishing personal goals; than I am a “success” …………this week.


What about the day, months and years I spend
not being a “success”?
Quote

I wrote about Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book “Big Magic” in a recent post. The book describes the author’s perspective on living as a fully committed creative person. In the book Elizabeth recalls making a contract with herself as a teenager to be writer, to fully commit herself to the writing and not to “success”.   She argues that as artists we should be fully open to magic of inspiration. Inspiration is the idea that floats into an artist’s head cannot be denied. According to Gilbert, a committed artist fearlessly pursues ideas.


 

An artist life is a  cycle: Create, Evaluate Move On.
It’s the moving on that often trips me up.

It is much easier to use external rewards to set your artistic direction. If you get into a show or sell a particular image over and over again the world is letting you know you (your work) is liked. Who doesn’t like to be popular? Be aware: There is danger in this logic.

No matter how well liked something is, a true test of value is being authentic. Is your creation you? You at this moment in time? You sending out a message to the world or speaking to yourself? Be true to yourself and trust your vision.

“I’m far more moved by authenticity. Attempts at originality can often feel forced and precious. Authenticity has a that never fails.” quote from Elizabeth Gilbert’s’ “Big Magic”

until next time……..

Margaret

 

 

Setting a Price for Your Artwork

time-is-money-concept-alarm-clock-and-lots-of-euro-coins_fk5XwiRd

I have been involved in putting together a wonderful art show called “Above and Beyond”.  My first task after the jurors selected artwork was to put together a list of values for insurance purposes. As I looked over the wide range of  what artists thought their entry was worth, I realized how tough it is for artists to figure out value.


Value can be assessed by sales.

Compare artwork in a similar style, size, media and quality selling in your area.  If you are an artist that sells on a regular basis then your customers are helping you determine the correct value. Ask too much and your art sits in inventory. Ask too little and it fly’s off the shelf. Demand is the key factor, so you price accordingly. Shopper

Value can be assessed by a third party  appraiser.

An appraisal determines the potential market value  not what the work of art will sell for today.  An appraiser is an expert in the field and they will charge a fee for their service. The appraised value does not take account any aesthetic considerations. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the image is or how well the composition works. I would use for this service is for insurance purposes. (Imagine my studio going up in flames)


 

My preferred method for pricing is a simple formula:
materials + labor=price.

*If I am selling at a gallery or had to pay for an entry fee, I add 
those costs into the sales price.

Don’t sweat figuring out the cost of materials.You are an artist, not a CPA. I use ball park figures compiled twice a year. Have a list of supplies on hand for art that will be sold and a few credit card receipts. Keep it simple.  Artist Expense Report

Since I work with fabric,  I use a ballpark estimate of the number of yards I will use for each art quilt. I add in the cost of a spool of thread (no I don’t use a whole spool for each art quilt, but I but at least one new color when I start a project! ). A single charge for brushes, paints and other mediums covers the expense of keeping those items on hand.

Example 1: I keep 5 packs of markers, 20 paint brushes, 2 sets of water colors and 12 bottles of paint which I will use up over a 2 year period. I will complete a project a month. Add the approximate cost of these supplies together and divide by 24.  

Another method is look at what you spend on an average for supplies and how often. So if you are working on a major project once a month and adding to your supplies every 4 months; divide your average cost of supplies by 4.

(Good news: This will help keep you away from those impulse purchases!)

The price for materials  remains constant for large work.  
For smaller work I divide the cost by half or less.


logo

Until I found a program called TOGGL keeping track on the time spent in my studio was a pain. Now it’s easy by  TOGGL ‘s time tracking software. The program is free for single users. Learning how to use the program takes very little time. Before I start working on a new idea I create a project in toggle to log my time. At first I numbered my projects, but I found using a working title helps. I also use different color code to identify the type of project I am working on.

Screen Shot

Screen Shot

When I enter my studio I log into TOGGL, click on the project and start a task. I found it helpful to set up specific tasks related to my process. My first task is making small studies to develop an idea. (DESIGN) The second task is using computer software to create fabric. (IMAGE) When the fabric arrives I paint (PAINT) then I quilt. (QUILT)  When I am done I finish the edges and mount the work to canvas with a hanging sleeve.  (FINISH) The last step is to photograph.


 

From beginning to end I know just how many hours I invested.  Flas-back.-New-Toggl-Reports-UI

When I am done with the project TOGGL provides me with documentation of all the hours spent on this project. I now have a system to price my artwork that fully explains to my buyer why I assigned this value. As I get more customers and I improve the quality of my work I can give myself a raise.

There have been some big “A Ha’s” when I started using this process.

  • After I have developed an image to work with, I can make small versions quickly. This means I price them at a rate that will attract more buyers.
  • Larger work takes more time in the design stage than I thought, but completion once the idea is fully formed is actually pretty quick. Working a series shortens the design time.
  • I waste time when I my equipment and materials are not organized, clean, serviced and ready to go. Be fully prepared to work makes a big difference.

Try logging studio time and see if this helps you figure out a reasonable price for your art.

Until next time……….

Margaret

ps. I used TOGGL to log the time it took me to write this post, do a little edit, find and upload images. 3 hours.