Category Archives: Thinking out loud

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Around The World Blog Hop

My buddy Deborah Boschert tagged me in an Around the World Blog hop in which we answer four questions about our creative process and then tag two more bloggers to do the same. Check out Deborah’s blog post to read her answers and follow her links to read back through many other fascinating blog hoppers.

 

1. What am I working on?
I’ve usually got several things going on at once which each appeal to different moods and need.
• Right now I’m working on the next in my series of Security Blankets. This one has to do with the TSA and incorporates those blue figures I was working on a while ago, plus floral weaponry.
• I’m also working on a piece, or collection of pieces, for my Army Wife series. Inspired by eye momentos, either photographs or miniature paintings set into jewelry as a reminder of absent loved ones, I have transferred images of my husband’s eye (at specific time periods) onto hankies and am now in the process of embroidering the dates and locations of his corresponding deployments onto the hankies.
• And, in the background, I am working on creating a business in which I make stylish lap quilts from military uniforms. It will be called Modern Military Quilts and I hope to have more to say about it soon.

Star Quilt sm
 

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
This is a tough question for me because I’m not entirely sure what my genre is. I love to draw on the history of traditional quilts, but my work is definitely not traditional. I suppose I could categorize my work with improvisational quilters, but mine has narrative underpinnings. Of course, every quilt has a story, so it’s really just a matter of how far that story goes. I call myself an art quilter, and I suppose my work differs from many in that genre in that I don’t stick to just the quilt form, but work in other fiber techniques as the concept of the individual work dictates. But, already I can think of many artists who work in various fiber traditions simultaneously, so I’m not so different in that way. My work is definitely concept driven, but there is a precedent for that both in the art quilt crowd and in the greater art world. In fact, I worry that if I call my work conceptual I’ll be too readily compared to others who are far smarter than I in their artwork. Maybe my work is different in that it doesn’t easily fit into a genre, but that’s a little too self-important for my tastes. We all like to think we’re different in our own ways.
Momento of an absent loved one

 

3. Why do I write/create what I do?

I make art because I am, and always have been, compelled to do so. I love working with my hands and there is no lack of ideas in my head to fuel those hands.
 
Floral Weaponry

4. How does my writing/creating process work?
I start with an idea, of course. Then I go to my sketchbook, which is more like a diary or log book some days; I write the basic idea and then a conversation with myself about ways I could interpret said idea. Sometimes things flow, sometimes I let it percolate for a while and add notes a day, or a week, or on occasion a year, later. At some point, it’s time to get to the making, so I gather my supplies — which may be fabric from my stash, but recently has meant deconstructing a flag, culling photos from our albums, or experimenting with methods of sun printing human bodies. If I need to prepare a cartoon or grid to follow, as in Zeitgeist, Selfie, or Temporary Safety, now is the time for that and it includes some time at my computer working with Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. Click on the link to Selfie for a nice blog post about the process of creating that particular artwork. Of course, each piece is different, so for example, the process of actually making Selfie is very different than the making of embroidered hankies. I almost always have an idea in my head of what I want the finished artwork to looks like, generally, but it really takes form in the making. I never know exactly how each fabric or element is going to affect the others until I see it in the cloth. That keeps the process fresh for me. There is always room for adjustment, surprise, and serendipity while I’m making something. A piece is finished when I feel like I can walk away from it.

 

I tagged my local friend Lotta Helleberg to join the blog hop next. Be sure to check out her post next Monday, November 31st. Since tagging a second person was confounded by our good friend Murphy and his laws, my friend Terry Grant graciously offered the post she wrote only a little while ago. You can read her answers and follow her links right now.

Save the Date(s)

You know that feeling that even though you’ve checked your list, you are still forgetting something? I kind of feel that way about my blogging. I should have things to blog about, but I don’t, or can’t. I’ve been doing some follow-up work and thinking on my introspective, three year, planning. Before we went to Germany, we drove up to New Hampshire for a long weekend. Somehow, driving time always get my gears moving and I thought up an idea that may have some worth. It involves custom quilts utilizing military uniforms. Very practical, but also very personal. The idea meets my desire to create something that people actually want or need, while also giving me the space to continue making the work that may not have a place in the larger community. And the two are not mutually exclusive!

While I flesh out that idea, I have a few other things coming up which I will blog about as I get more details. I thick these are the things I think that I’m forgetting about, but I’m not really since the timing isn’t quite right yet.

Be Strong Always, Unraveling, Medallion, and Welcome Home

Be Strong Always, Unraveling, Medallion, and Welcome Home

In August my Army Wife apron, Unraveling, will be part of Fail/Safe at Hap Gallery in Portland, OR, curated by Marci Rae McDade. I’m super excited about this show as it’s the first where the curator has approached me instead of the other way around. I’ll have more details to share soon.

LaflammeSelfiesm

Selfie will be part of the Dinner@8 exhibit, Reflections, at IQF Houston. The curators have been posting artist profiles on the blog. You can read mine here. I haven’t yet decided if I’ll go to the big quilt show in November or not. Maybe I should go to Portland instead. Or to Austin in the Spring for Quilt Con. I’ll be sure to blog about it more as the dates near so as to remind anyone who is going to Houston to be sure to see the exhibit!

And finally, I’ve finished two quilts which I’ve been keeping under wraps as potential submissions to Quilt National. One is still a possibility, but I’ve decided that the other is perfect for a Privacy in America show planned for February at my local McGuffey Art Center. The show will be all media with participating artists working in oil, acrylic, photography, metal, and of course fabric. I’ll save my finished quilt for another post.

 

This is the wordy, introspective one.

Spending a weekend with other artist friends and looking at art inevitably leads to talk about what we’re seeing, what we can learn, where we are going, and the like. I had actually sent an email to everyone about some long range planning a few weeks previously, so we kept coming back to each of our thoughts on where we were and where we were going. After attending the SAQA Conference, I thought really hard about my Five Year Plan as an artist. I think about it every few years, but I quickly get stuck when I realize that I don’t even know where I’ll be living in five, or even three, years. This time, I told myself that was just an excuse to not do the hard thinking. I am at a point where I am trying to figure out where my work fits in the world. The quilt show circuit doesn’t seem to be quite the right fit, so I am wondering if I am focusing my talents in the wrong direction. Maybe there is something I don’t see in myself that I should be exploiting, like my design or drawing background, or a turn I should have made along the way. Or maybe, I really am a studio artist. I am compelled to make. I know that much.

I am in the enviable position of not having to support myself or my family, so I could/should just make art (since that’s what makes me happy), and leave it at that. But, unfortunately, I’ve learned that is not enough — I’m the type of person who craves feedback and context for my work. I am just not satisfied making solely for the sake of making. I am discovering that I want feedback — be that through sales, shows, collaborations, whatever. I find myself getting wound up when the quilt world posts happenings around Quilt Markets, and I think it’s because I see others getting feedback and finding a context. They are creating something people want, and I want to do that too. I want to feel like I have a purpose. I’d love to just be satisfied with making art, but not worry about showing or selling it, or producing anything marketable. The problem is that I know I’d be left bitching and moaning about how no one appreciates my work (because I’d get little to no feedback on it or context in which to put it).

One of the things that came up over and over again with my friends this last weekend is that art is a conversation. We say something, and we need someone to complete the sentence, or answer the call. I am trying to wrap my head around what my conversation is about. Where the intersection of what I can do, what I want to do, and what people want from me is. So, I made some lists to see if any pattern or epiphany emerges.

First,  I can’t make any site-specific plans. But so much these days is accomplished online, without borders. On the other hand, if I want to go a gallery-oriented route, being able to make connections in person really does seem to be the more effective modus operandi. I think this means that I should do what I can now, but some goals with just have to be more more long term or amorphous.

If I wanted my work to have more exposure and to grow a marketable side of it within the context of the creative world I am currently in, IQF (Quilt Knit Stitch, QuiltCon, Quilters Take Manhattan too?) is an opportunity to promote or pitch ideas — if what I have to offer overlaps with what they can provide. I keep seeing what others in the quilt and fabric arena are doing and feeling like I could do something like that too. But just because I can doesn’t mean I should. I may not have the skills or temperament to follow the same path. I need to find my own.

I keep asking myself, what is my “Do what you love; live your dream?” So many stories start with “I didn’t know what I was doing but I jumped in anyway because I loved it,” and now are “and it became the successful thing you see today.” I need to think about how I can do this — am I too timid to see the big idea, or am I just not clever enough to even have a big idea? One goal could be to find my big idea.

If the quilt shows and markets don’t offer any opportunities for me, then where should I go to find the kinds of connections I need? I need to seek the artier versions of the quilt-oriented bloggers, conventions, and products that I follow now. I should find things to get inspired by and wound up about that are more appropriate to the work I could be doing.

I can easily make a Three Day Plan. That is essentially tasks. In fact, I make a list of tasks/intentions each morning. But without a long term goal, I can’t really know if my tasks are making steps in the right direction, or if I am just going in circles.

My Three Month Plan is pretty well laid out too: Finish gun, TSA, and shroud quilts. Submit to Quilt National and QuiltCon. Follow through on Privacy show. Vivien pointed out that again, these are still tasks. I need goals at this point. Refine my elevator speech is one. Just the process of doing that will help me determine what it is I do, and hopefully give insight as to what I want to do. The weekend reminded me that I need to always be on the lookout for connections. Reach out to those who I admire, even if it’s just to watch. Cultivate a diverse group of friends (says one of those whom I admire). Keep learning!

Where I’ve been (that I can tap into because maybe I’ve been barking up the wrong trees):
• Crafty projects like costumes, plushies, knitting, and pin cushions
• Practical bed quilts usually riffing off existing patterns and trends.
• Fabric (or wrapping paper, or…) designs of a graphic nature.
• Graphic design in the identity, annual report, and ephemera vein.
• Teaching basic patchwork and quilting
• Writing about process and inspiration i.e: my blog, 12×12 book

What I do (because what I do should light a path):
• I make conceptually based narrative textiles in the themes of current culture, military life, homes and roots.
• I make scrappy, practical, bed quilts usually riffing off existing patterns (could these be marketed to upscale retailers if they were simple and graphic al la Denyse Schmidt Works line or Weeks Ringle? But more Americana, edgy?)
• I attend life drawing sessions

What IQF Houston (Quilt, Knit, Stitch, QuiltCon, Quilters Take Manhattan) offer (what others appear to be making happen through these venues):
• Show fabric design portfolio to company reps
• Pitch a book idea (technique based, or ?) Interweave, That Patchwork Place
• Pitch a magazine contribution
• Pitch a special exhibit (geek art, pop culture, cat quilts…)
• Make connections for teaching
• Look for sponsorship from thread, fabric, gadget, sewing machine companies. Bernina!
• Find a unique way to promote a gadget.

What in my general area do people want that they see value in?
Fine craft with a purpose/use (for example, bed quilts, jewelry, vessels, How-to books, classes to inspire and allow emulation).

Potential Three Year plan:
• Join a McGuffey-like art center wherever we move to.
• Have an elevator speech.
• Be proactive about shows at various types of venues and with friends and peers.
• Apply to and receive grants to continue making art in my current vein?
• Deepen my knowledge of Photoshop and Illustrator (specifically for use in creating fabric designs?)
• Learn how to use the embroidery module on my Bernina better and to digitize designs?
• Draw more, better, bigger…

What I already have planned
• Be a part of the Privacy show at McGuffey in Feb 2015 and help take the show to DC or beyond. “Those Who Would Sacrifice” and the TSA quilt in progress are well suited for this. Maybe return to woven envelopes.
• Homefront & Downrange show in NC summer of 2015 with photographer Hunter Rudd and selected works from Combat Paper.
• Submit to Quilt National 2015: Finish gun quilt and shroud quilt.
• QuiltCon 2015: submit Zeitgeist.
• Dinner@8: Selfie is accepted. Will travel for most of 2015?
• Unraveling apron to be in JAM show Marci McDade is curating

Talking with my posse this weekend, it’s become more and more clear that even though I have the opportunity to follow my Selfie quilt to IQF in Houston, or potentially Zeitgeist to QuiltCon, and network there, and I have a history with the art quilt world, the traditional art route may be better suited to me. My girlfriends see me closer to the fine art world, and McGuffey juried me in based on my drawings. I would stick with SAQA, but leave the quiltier quilt shows as pure enjoyment. Change my focus a little. Not dramatic, but a change. I would like to try to support my art habit through sales, grants, and other projects, which would all require getting my work seen and therefore validated. I will remain flexible. I will cultivate connections. I will focus on the art. I will make the art. And, I have accountability partners in my friends.