08 Jan

The Ubiquitous New Year Blog Post

So here’s where I sum up what I’ve accomplished in the past year and lay out what I hope to do in the new year. But I’m not doing that this year.

Everything changed in 2015. Well, maybe not quite that dramatic, but it was a year of transition for sure. My husband was medically retired from the Army, where he had served, and I have followed, for nearly 20 years. For the first time in two decades, we got to choose where we wanted to live. Needless to say, there was much soul searching (mostly on his part) as to how we/he wanted to see ourselves/himself. We decided to move first and find employment later and long story short, we purchased our very first home and moved across country to be closer to our families.

So now that we’ve been in Portland, Oregon for nearly six months, we’re settling in. For me, the biggest change is probably home ownership. We bought a 65 year old fixer upper and it will suck every ounce of time and energy I have if I let it. So, art has taken a back seat to home decor and renovation. And I’m OK with that.

I joined the SAQA Education Committee in 2015 and have been doing some writing for exhibition catalogs and venues. I need to continue to make time for that.

I had considered starting a new business, making custom quilts from military uniforms. I have the samples and the bones of a website ready, but the move, the house, my computer dying, my web host screwing things up, and now my camera in hospital, have all conspired to delay this project. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself. I just might not be the entrepreneurial type.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, I was feeling a little guilty about all the plans I have for the house and how to pay for them, so I decided that maybe I should get a part time job. And wouldn’t you know it, a job practically plopped right into my lap. I’ve now been working at The Pine Needle quilt shop for three months and I love it. Making art is fraught with angst. I might like what I create, but does anyone else? Have I communicated effectively? Has anyone else done the same thing before? Of course they have, and done it better too.  I’m always doubting myself. My making art is a negative cash flow too. I can’t seem to sell enough work or somehow monetize it so that it pays for the supplies and promotion. Case in point, I was invited to send work to a show in NY and now the unsold work is on it’s way back to me. The shipping costs are just a few dollars less than my percentage of the one sale. Getting work into group shows is a money loser too since I have to pay to enter and pay shipping. In contrast, I’ve caught on quickly to the systems at the quilt shop. I get along well with my co-workers. I love helping customers choose fabric, and I enjoy being part of combining fabrics for kits and bundles. I can sew samples if I want — thus playing with patterns and fabrics without expenditure or increase in stash. AND I get paid to do this! Imagine that — instead of me paying others hoping they’ll like my artwork, my boss is paying me for doing a job I enjoy and do well.

So I’m going to let 2016 unfold in whatever way it chooses. There will be art making, but there might be more house projects. And there will be work at the quilt shop. I’m donning the social media hat there, so I’ll be blogging my own story here and on Facebook and Instagram, but I’ll also be sharing gorgeous fabric and fun events on The Pine Needle’s blog, Facebook, and Instagram accounts.  I’ll share details as I get things up and running.

2016, show me what you’ve got.

TPN Katya

04 Dec

Feeling The Need to Rant

I try not to make this blog too ranty or political, but every now and then I just need to use my outside voice, and this is my platform. Yes, I ranted about gun control two and a half years ago and my opinions have not changed much since then. But I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since then about what I want to do about it.

Murica_detail

I could “like” and share posts on social media that align with my views, but outrage on social media is just so much hot air and nothing actually tangible. I could vote for leaders who’s platforms include issues I agree with, but I’ve been doing that for decades and even if my local politicians support the issues I support, overall the majority and/or oligarchs of this country have very different goals than I do.

I do think that we should continue to pressure politicians to pass (or simply enforce) gun control laws. Sure, background checks, limits on certain types of guns, and limits to amounts of ammunition won’t stop all gun violence, but it has been shown to slow it down in countries that do have stricter laws than the U.S. My vote will reflect this.

I also agree that this country is in dire need to increased mental health services and funding for them. What I don’t believe is that the majority of gun violence perpetrators could have been stopped by better mental health services. I sincerely think that most gun violence is much more a result of poor anger management skills. I have no problem paying higher taxes if that money is going to more and/or better social services.

One thing I think could actually happen soon is to lift the implied ban on gun violence research. In recent news, many doctors are lobbying lawmakers for this. I believe that in the long run, more research on the myriad motives for gun violence and mass killings, and research on gun violence as a health issue will lead us to better understand the problem and to better combat it.

Since it is highly unlikely that Americans as a whole would willingly “give up their guns,” I support the suggestion that gun owners purchase liability insurance for said weapons. Sure, illegal guns wouldn’t be covered, and home intruders and mass shooters couldn’t necessarily be held accountable, but how about the toddlers that accidentally shoot their family members, or the school shooters that use their parent’s guns to kill classmates, or the guy who shoots his girlfriend thinking she was an intruder? At the very least, the insurance could go towards hospital costs, burial costs, first responders, legal fees, etc. in a more direct line from gun owner to gun incident. Having a tangible way to account for the monetary costs of gun violence might encourage some to be more responsible gun owners, or to consider if gun ownership really is the appropriate choice.

Finally, I think that we as a nation need to start thinking long term and seriously work towards changing our gun culture. To this end I wish I knew how to attract the attention of Hollywood. Celebrities have as much, if not more, influence than politicians. Actors can refuse gun-heavy parts. We could enact common sense gun laws all day long, but as long as news and entertainment media keep convincing us that we are in constant danger and that we are all Bruce Willis saving the day with our indefatigable firepower, the short fused among us will keep turning to guns as the go-to problem solving solution. Lets stop watching TV shows that are quick to pull out a gun with the justification “I had no choice.”  Hey Hollywood: you are dynamic and creative — use that force to write scripts that solve problems and bring excitement without guns (or lets start with 50% fewer guns). Personally, I think use of cunning and martial arts is pretty exciting. How about inspiring creative thinking, hand to hand combat, and bloodless suspense rather than going first to shooting from the hip. (Wouldn’t it be interesting if disaffected young white men chose to practice parcour over collecting bullet proof vests and long guns because their TV hero is a parcour and MMA badass.) I’m not saying turn away from action and drama shows, I’m saying find ways to create that action and drama with fewer guns. It won’t be easy and it won’t be quick — but maybe the next generation will view gun violence with more disdain just as we’ve come to view cigarette smoking or drunk driving as socially unacceptable. Of course, maybe the next generation will view gun violence with disdain because they’re growing up with regular lock-down drills at school and that can’t not affect young minds. News and infotainment can work to change public opinion as well. I think recently there actually has been a shift away from giving attention to the perpetrators and putting more focus on the victims. This is a good shift. I saw a hashtag the other day, showthebodies. That’s probably too visceral a solution, but point taken.

Personally, I’m saddened by, frustrated about, and resigned to, the state of gun violence in the U.S. today. I don’t think there’s anything I can do about it. My thoughts are barely organized. My voice is small, but here it is.

 

18 May

Goals

Never satisfied with where I’m at artistically, I like to set some goals every now and then to keep me accountable in one way or another. I usually do this at the beginning of the year when the mood is in the air, but we’re moving from Virginia to Oregon in the next few months and that seems like a good time to make a plan so I don’t lose my way.

When we moved to Virginia, I decided that was the time to find a life drawing group and refresh some art school basic skills. I also made the decision to connect to a general art community rather than a quilt guild community. It worked out wonderfully, and now I’m looking forward to continuing that lesson in our move to Oregon.

I will definitely seek to continue with regular life drawing sessions. I am also going to try to find a community like the one I found in McGuffey Art Center in Charlottesville. I’m not sure if that will be a co-op gallery, or an extension of the drawing sessions, or an informal gather of like-minded people, but I will look for something. And I want to up the ante as well. One of the ways many artists support their work is via grants for projects and education. Now is the time for me to put on my big girl panties and do the planning and the writing to seek these opportunities. I don’t foresee ever being the kind of artist that can break even with sales alone, nor am I one for much schtick or marketing, so I think grants are a good pursuit. I also need to stop waiting for invitations to exhibit, and again, make those kind of opportunities myself by writing proposals and searching out venues. It’s not half as fun as just going in the studio and making art, but it’s what I’m going to need to do if I want to move beyond this as a hobby. And, I think I spend far too much time and effort on my work to get away with categorizing it as a hobby.

So, here’s to our first house, what should be our last move for a good long time, a new beginning in Portland, and a solid set of goals for when I get there!

29 Jan

And Now For Something Completely Different

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of going to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art with my friends Lorie and Jill. We went to see the Forbidden City exhibit of Chinese treasures, which was absolutely gorgeous. We took a little time afterward to wander around the museum’s permanent collection and I stumbled upon two tiny pieces that cracked me up.

Indian mini1

 

Indian mini2

 

These are part of a series by Italian artist Francesco Clemente. He takes antique Indian miniatures of little value and replaces their images with his own in the same style — except that his subject matter is much more subversive. I think what attracts me to these is that they look like one thing from afar, but tell a completely different story up close. I also like the absurd.

08 Jan

Part of Those New Year’s Goals

Some of my goals for the new year are to post to my blog more, update my website, and get better at promoting my work. I tackled an easy one first. I created a Facebook Fan Page and it’s going to be awesome. Why? Because I am somewhat ambivalent about my personal Facebook page. I know that FB is a good way to connect to people who might be interested in my art. It’s also a great way to keep in touch with far-flung family and friends. And then there’s the people from past lives or professional connections, who I want to stay connected to, but don’t necessarily want to know what they are doing on a daily basis, or want them to see all of my goofy antics. I’ve limited my Facebook “friends” to people I know personally or have established professional relationships with, and I try to keep my posts pretty art-related. It’s a tough balance and it means that not everyone who is interested in my artwork will be able to find me on FB to see what I’m up to.

A fan page is open to everyone. I will post my art, some inspiration and in-progress work, and information about where to see my work. February is a big month for me, so be sure to “like” the page to get updates, and tell your friends too. I may even end up posting more on my Kristin La Flamme – Artist page than on my personal page. My personal page will probably narrow down to travel, family, knitting, goofing off with friends. I may even unfriend a bunch of professional contacts if I know they are happily following my artist fan page — where my professional info will be. That would come in time though.

Next step should be to create a newsletter. That will be awesome for those who don’t do much Facebook.

29 Dec

It’s That Time of Year

As the year draws to a close I find myself getting all ambitious about what I hope to accomplish and organize in the new year. Here’s last year’s list, and the year before. 2009 was a good post, balancing out the previous year’s angst one. Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to feel this way in the spring when everything is bursting forth and being born, but I guess it’s a kind of clean slate after a busy birthdays to Halloween to Thanksgiving to birthday to Christmas run combined with new calendar year. January is typically quiet for me, and quiet leads to contemplation.

Americana VII web

So, what’s up for 2015?

Just sitting here writing this reminds me that I’d like to post more. Facebook has admittedly leached my sharing energy and I’m afraid I post there and rarely elaborate over here. I’d like to adjust that balance. I’m also on the verge of updating my website. Nothing big (I hope), but the current framework isn’t working well for me as I have an overflowing list of art that needs to be added to my online gallery and the gallery isn’t cooperating.

I’ll still be working on artwork ideas started in 2014. That flow from one year to the next never changes. I keep thinking I need to assign myself a more rigid work schedule. I could probably just start with less time online.

2015 is the year I’d like to improve my art marketing strategy. A newsletter may be in my future.

I will actively seek art venues for my work as opposed to quilt venues. Not to say I’m abandoning the latter, I just think I may have more audience in the former. I’d like to make “Craft the Internet” happen. I will admit that I have no idea where to start with all of this and that it scares and overwhelms me.

I’d like to have Modern Military Quilts (custom quilts made from customer’s uniforms) ready to launch when we settle on the left coast in the fall.

Yes, we’re moving this summer. This is scary too because we’re planning on buying a house for the very first time. I’m 49 years old and I’ve never bought a house. I am so ready though.

I’m still attending life drawing group. One of the ideas I’d like to pursue is to recreate some of my drawings in fabric and thread. Another idea is to institute Figure Drawing Fridays in which I post the fruits of Thursday’s session. That could get me posting more regularly.

I’ve been feeling the urge to paint/draw patterns. I’m very inspired by what Lisa Congdon has been posting on Instagram from her sketchbook and I readily admit the desire to copy the idea of those full, lush, pages. I also miss the sketchbook work I was doing when I took Melly Testa’s online art journaling class. I feel like I could revisit my tropical designs and quilt pattern ideas in a more casual, painterly way, filling sketchbook pages. It couldn’t do it daily, but maybe weekly. That might be a good way to get back to blogging more regularly. Last year’s daily self portraits only lasted three months though, so I’m not sure the staying power of this lark.

Speaking of regular posts, I was rather proud of myself yesterday when I realized that my new sweater dress was the same colors as a scarf I recently completed and together they made quite the fetching outfit. I had a fleeting thought of posting a hand knit each week as an ensemble, especially since I just finished a lovely aran sweater. Ha, I try to focus my blog and my message, but I just can’t escape my myriad interests and the schizophrenic posts they create!

And finally, that daily list I’ve been making? I stopped making it the last two weeks and I was completely discombobulated. I’m reading Art Inc by Lisa Congdon and she suggests a daily or weekly to-do list. It’s also the mainstay of “Getting Things Done.” The list stays.

11 Dec

On Finding One’s Audience

Zeitgeist web

I love this quilt. I think it’s funny, I think it’s snarky, I think it’s topical, and I think it’s well made. I am proud of it.

So now what? As an artist I kind of feel like my work is a conversation, so it’s not really complete until someone besides me has a response to it. I very much want this giant cat to go out into the world and talk to people.

Zeitgeist is my “fan art” inspired by the Grumpy Cat internet meme. I combined the cat with the styling of Louis Wain, a Victorian era illustrator who’s large eyed cats and zany patterned backgrounds were thought to be an expression of his mental illness. To me the combination of Grumpy Cat’s pessimism and Wain’s schizophrenia perfectly expressed the current mood of the US. To embody this in a quilt large enough to wrap one’s self in further pushed the wackiness of the concept. Yes, comfort yourself with your crazy cynicism.

My first impulse was to submit it to IQF Houston’s annual World of Beauty show in 2013. The Houston show responds well to representational, bright and bold work. Besides, between Quilt Market and Quilt Festival, that’s a lot of eyes on any quilt in the show and that’s a great conversation. Unfortunately, I paid a long arm quilter to quilt Zeitgeist which means it was work for hire and thus disqualified from entering.

So, I settled for the New England Quilt Festival and Pacific International Quilt shows. They were OK, but not really who I thought my target audience was. These were, in general, not the crowd to get excited about an internet inspired, bold fabric using, subtle commentary kind of quilt. Mostly, I think people wondered if this was just a portrait of my cat.

For the sake of contrast and to introduce it to a different audience, I entered Zeitgeist into Art Quilt Elements 2013. Based on the types of work that usually get in, I was pretty amazed that the quilt was even accepted. That piece had no business being at Art Quilt Elements given what is normally accepted and awarded prizes, and yet it won Best of Show. It was the connection to current culture that spoke to the jurors. Yet I wouldn’t have guessed that it would win anything when I entered it.

All along though, I was waiting for the call for entries for the 2015 QuiltCon (biennial) show. The Modern Quilt movement that puts on the show blossomed online. It markets itself to the youthful quilter or at least the quilter with a “fresh” aesthetic. Bold prints are popular amongst many Modern Quilters. Their quilts are meant to be used, not to go on the wall — though there’s plenty that are wall sized. And while I don’t believe that Zeitgeist exemplifies Modern Quilting (and that’s why it was rejected from the Modern Quilt Showcase in Houston), I did believe that the internet surfing, meme generating, bold pattern using, hip, younger show-goers at QuiltCon would understand and appreciate my quilt. I thought that could be an audience that would get excited about it and talk with it.

I’ve been processing the rejection from QuiltCon for a few hours now, and the thing that really sticks out to me is just how hard it can be to find one’s audience. I’m not emotionally crushed, just kind of baffled as to where and how I should be showing my work in this vein. My friend Lorie tells me I’m fishing in the wrong stream. I need to look at the Art world. My work may be grounded in the quilt tradition, but the quilt tradition in any of it’s guises is not my audience. I’ve been mulling over the idea of a “Craft the Internet” show. I admit that I’m scared and apprehensive to put on a curator’s hat and do the work required to create a show, but maybe that’s the way to get my work into spaces where it can converse with an appropriate audience.

08 Dec

It’s Snowballing

The end product might be beautiful, but The Arts are tough. There are a million ways that artists make ends meet, but when it comes right down to it, there appears to be a disconnect in American culture between appreciation for, and actual support of, the arts. Or maybe there’s no disconnect at all. Sometimes I think that the majority of Americans just don’t value the arts period. That’s another discussion though. What I am interested in sharing is the seeming plethora of public peeks behind the scenes and how they expose just how hard it is to make art and make a living at the same time.

First, I read this article by Jack Conte of Pomplamoose about what it takes for a mid-level band to tour, and why they’d do it at a loss.

That was followed up by this post which unfortunately had to defend the first because apparently treating one’s contractors fairly for their work, while expected in the corporate world, is seen as superfluous in the art world since doing work you love and doing work for money should somehow be mutually exclusive. And because apparently supplementing your income with tie-ins and intertwined companies is bad (though it’s perfectly OK for Martha Stewart’s empire).

And then this exploded the web: Revolva, the Hula Hoop Dancer that stood up to Oprah.

And was quickly followed by this one about what exposure does or doesn’t pay for by DIY Doyenne, including her insightful quote as to why:

There is a perception that if you make a living from your creative talents, you are doing it for fun, you know, you’re not really serious. There is a shocking lack of value placed on creativity.

Which then leads us into the Slate article about how we say we want you to think outside of the box but really, we can’t handle the boat being rocked. But again, that’s another discussion.

Closer to home, these discussions reminded me of the brouhaha that erupted within the quilt world a few years ago: Mollie Sparkles’ No Value Does Not Equal Free part one, and part two. (And be sure to follow his related links to the We are Sew Worth It blog posts.)

More recently this post by Abby Glassenberg that confirmed what I had suspected about fabric companies. Browse her site for lots of good, informative craft and sewing related articles.

I don’t have any answers, nor do I expect sweeping change. I just noticed that there seems to be a snowballing of explaining the nitty gritty. And the more information we know, the more appropriate choices we, as individuals, can make. Knowledge is power.