Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Word of the Year for 2013: Cultivate

It's goal setting time again. I can't resist the urge to make New Year's resolutions, even though studies show they pretty much don't work. There's such a feeling of virtue in setting down all those fabulous plans for the upcoming year. This year I'm going to try a concept I heard of from a few other bloggers, having a Word of the Year as a theme to live by for 2013. After discarding the obvious words like "create" or "balance", I ran across the one that resonated in my heart: Cultivate.

I love gardening, and having just left my beloved garden behind when we moved to our new home, I definitely want to do some cultivating of a new garden in order to feel connected to the land I live on. I need to cultivate my business, too, updating my website and being more consistent about sending out newsletters and scheduling classes and keeping up with inventory and on and on. And I also need to cultivate some good habits, like walking even when my walking buddy isn't available and eating my veggies. Last but not least, I want to cultivate my relationships with friends and family, rather than just taking them for granted as I am wont to do.

The resolutions will still be made, but I hope that by tying them to my word of the year, I'll remember to dig the groundwork and fertilize the young resolutions so that they will grow strong and healthy and not be choked out by the weeds of day to day life.

What's your word?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Triaging the Season and Trying Not to be Whelmed

Lately my head has been overflowing with all the things I need to do for the upcoming holidays, my upcoming holiday show, my upcoming gallery opening and reception, random household chores, and continuing the moving process. It’s easy this time of year to get overwhelmed. One response to that feeling leads me to going off on random internet searches for things like whether or not one can be whelmed. (Turns out you can, if you don’t mind sounding archaic and/or just plain dumb. It pretty much means the same as the modern overwhelmed. Underwhelmed is actually a fairly young word, originating in the 1950’s as more of a joke than anything, but persisting because it turns out to fill an empty spot in the language.)
When my friend invited me to a spur of the moment dinner to celebrate her birthday yesterday, my first instinct was to make up an excuse not to go, because I just didn’t have time to spare. Think of all I could accomplish in the four or five hours I’d be at her house. But ever since Glenn had his heart attack, I’ve tried to remember what’s important. And number one on the list is people. Tied for number one is taking care of your health. So I went to Kristine’s party, and I had a great time and came home ready to spend today getting down to business. Maybe I’ll have one or two fewer pairs of earring to sell. Would that have been worth ignoring my friend's special day and missing out on an evening with great friends AND carrot cake? I think not.
So I’ve promised myself that I’m going to triage the season. If I’m not enjoying something, I’m going to stop and ask myself if I’m at least going to enjoy the result. (Because, let’s face it, cleaning toilets just isn’t that much fun, but I’d rather do that than live with yucky ones.) I make jewelry because it makes me happy. Selling it makes me happy, too, but I can’t get lost in that aspect or I won’t succeed. (And if what really makes me happy is making lots of money, I should be thinking about picking a more reliable way to go about that!) During this hectic holiday season I’m going to try to set my priorities so that taking care of myself and of the people in my life don’t get set aside for the sake of urgent, but less important, tasks. That means my walks with my walking buddy get squeezed in even if we have Pillsbury pie crusts instead of homemade. Birthday dinners for dear friends always get to take priority over making a pair of earrings or searching for which box is hiding the Thanksgiving placemats. And if my blog gets posted on Sunday instead of the previous Wednesday, I’m going to cut myself a break and pat myself on the back for posting it at all. (Insert back patting here.)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Goals and Challenges

Despite all my good intentions, my blogging has been pretty much non-existant. My daughter, Amanda, has challenged me to a blog challenge. We're each going to try to do a post a week from now through Christmas. If any of you want to join in, feel free! If we manage this goal, we may up the ante after the New Year. I know that setting goals works. My walking buddy and I have moved from one very slow walk a week to a minimum of three hilly walks a week, all by setting goals. I've moved forward in my jewelry work by setting goals, too. One of my goals for this blog is to publish some tutorials--but first I need to just write regularly!

One goal that I just acheived is getting my work in a gallery. I just set up my display in Gallery Saratoga last night, and I'll be one of the December Featured Artists there. Woo Hoo! Stay tuned for the dates for my Artist Reception. You're all invited!

This weekend I took three days of soldering and fusing with metalworking teacher extradordanaire, Joe Silvera. I'm setting a goal to practice my soldering regularly until I am as comfortable with it as I am with metal clay. I've also recently received my certification in New Mokume Gane, and I will be developing some classes in that technique.

And, the best change of all is my new studio in Gilroy. Glenn and I moved here in May, and I'm thrilled with my new space. I can have up to 10 people at a time around my gorgeous table that Glenn built me, and I have a spot for soldering, finishing and an office corner, too. My goal here is to get it set up in the most efficient way, and to keep it that way! So far I'm having trouble with that, as I still have too much stuff. (The photo at right is from our inagural workshop with Lisa Barth.)

What goals have you set lately?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Where do you get your ideas?

Back when I thought I was going to write the Great American Novel, I went to a lot of writers’ conferences where the number one question from aspiring writers was “Where do you get your ideas?” Generally the Famous Writer Presenters had been asked that question so much that they had a raft of stock answers—“From the Sears and Roebuck Idea Catalog” or “From the Idea Fairy”. Some of them would even go on to try to answer the question seriously, but I really got the sense that it was one of those questions that, if you had to ask it, you probably were in the wrong line of work. I always felt a little cheated and a lot uncreative.

Then, when I was teaching in Pasadena a couple of weeks ago, my student Patty Dean Wolford, who is looking to move into teaching, asked me, “How do you come up with ideas for projects to teach?” I found myself flummoxed at first and tempted to give her the Sears catalog line.

Patty Dean is a talented and precise artist who will one day be a fabulous teacher, so I thought she deserved a careful answer. I walked her through the way I had come up with the Silver Linings silver and resin cloud I’ll be teaching at Bead Fest Santa Fe. (  ) Together we came up with the title for her first class. But her question has stayed with me for the past weeks since I got home from Pasadena. And when something stays with you like that, I figure it means you need to work it through.

The thing is, an idea doesn’t always spring, fully formed, from your soul to the finished piece. So when you’re looking for an idea, you can take a number of routes to get the ideas flowing. The Silver Linings piece came from several seeds. I wanted to experiment with UV resin, so that meant the piece was going to have color. I’m a metal clay artist, and I wanted to try syringe as a frame for resin, so that meant I could have thin lines and flowing curves. As an artist, I’m drawn to images that speak to the places I’ve lived in, from the dogwoods of my North Carolina childhood to the incredible variety of nature in my adopted home in the Bay Area of California. It was cold and grey and I’d been down in the dumps, so the cheerful flowers and sunshine motifs didn’t appeal. I started sketching outline shapes and the one that seemed both doable and fitting to my mood was a cloudbank with raindrops dangling from the bottom.

My skill set includes traditional wire work and beading techniques, so making my own connectors was as easy as having to use purchased findings, and lots faster than having to order some. And I always have a big stash of jewelry materials, so finding the right piece of fine chain to dangle the raindrops from was a matter of digging through one of my bins.

What I’ve learned from deconstructing this project is that an idea can start from a number of impetuses and then is developed by more influences. So if you’re looking for an idea, here are some places to start. Pick one, then mix and match to develop your idea into a project you want to make.

• Is there a new product I want to experiment with? What are its properties? A year ago I didn’t know much about resin, so I signed up to give a presentation to my guild to give myself a deadline to learn about it. Then I tried to include it in lots of my work over the past year.

• Is there a new technique I want to try? What shapes or inclusions or tools, etc. can I make with that technique? When I wanted to learn to make metal clay hollow cones, I started with cones for necklace ends. The problem is that I don’t make a lot of necklaces that use cone ends. Then I realized that the cone shape was perfect for the center of a daffodil, which happens to be one of my favorite flowers, and I made one of my all-time favorite pieces.

• What do I love? What do I dislike? Maybe you think hearts and flowers are overdone, or maybe (like me) you think they are iconic. Are you drawn to cities or mountains, or (again like me) it is a matter of mood. I’m a cat person, so I’m not likely to make dog jewelry. Except if it is for my walking buddy, the stately standard poodle Regis, who really isn’t a dog at all. He’s people.

• What am I good at? What do I want to get better at? Making my own findings is easy for me, so I can incorporate them in a piece without worrying about it. A lot of my pieces were pretty two-dimensional, so I deliberately set out to create some designs that were multi-part and/or dimensional.

• Who is my target audience? I’m interested in teaching my projects, so they have to be accessible to a group of beginners, and they can’t require esoteric materials or tools. On the other hand, I want to sell to upscale galleries and sophisticated women buyers, so I’ve pretty much given up on man-made CZ’s for my pieces that are intended for sale rather than teaching. Instead, I’ve started using natural precious and semiprecious gems and stones. I am inclined towards making classic pieces that are a staple of a woman’s jewelry wardrobe, rather than the trendy pieces that are good for a season or two. That choice informs the materials I use and the designs I create.

Maybe you haven’t done enough making to know the answers to what attracts you in your own work. If that’s the case, open your jewelry box and analyze the pieces you wear all the time and those that always get passed over. Are you drawn to line and form? Geometric or organic? Do you love color or tend to stick with metals? Do you like antique designs or modern? Then go to your sketchbook and work for an hour or two, putting together the pieces you like, rearranging them and adding to them, until you come up with something that says “you.”

And that’s my next-to-last tip. At the 2009 Metal Clay World Conference, I took a class from Alan Revere on design. It made me understand the power of keeping a sketchbook and making variations on a theme until I reach one that calls out to be produced. I’d never been a fan of sketchbooks before. In fact, I was of the “can’t draw a straight line with a ruler” school of self-deprecation. But since I’ve been keeping a sketchbook and putting down ideas as they occur, or sketching thoughts that spring from something I’ve seen as I see it, I feel that my work has reached a higher level and my ideas come more easily. I even took an online drawing class from my local community college to feel more comfortable with sketching.

The last piece is to get out there and make something, anything. There are studies that show that with 10,000 hours of practice, you can become an expert in anything. Do you want to be an expert at reading blogs or at making jewelry?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Yippee Skippee!

This catalogue for Bead Fest Santa Fe just came in the mail, bundled with my copy of Lapidary Journal Jewelery Artist. And that's my silver and resin cloud on the cover!  Those little letters underneath say "Pat Evans" for all the world--or all the subscribers, anyway--to see. I'd been feeling a little down because I haven't heard from Bead and Button, which at this point means that I didn't get in. Getting this positioning on the cover for Bead Fest makes me feel a whole lot better.

The show is in March...I'm really looking forward to the trip. My cousin and I are going to drive there and sightsee all along the way. Anyone else up for a cool jewelry vacation to escape the dregs of winter? Santa Fe is going to be a great show, and I'd love to see my friends there. (And there are lots of cool classes besides mine.)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Feeling like a beginner....

I started taking some online art classes through my local community college. Although I think of myself as a jewelry artist, I don't think of myself as an "artist" artist. Being in a beginning digital art class with people who can paint rings around me is a humbling experience. (We won't even discuss Beginning Drawing.) However well I end up doing in these classes, I've already learned one big lesson--I'm remembering how it feels to not know how to do something, how frustrating it is when the teacher seems to assume I already know some vital step, how different my final product is from the image in my mind, how much better everyone else's work seems than mine, and how afraid I am that I'll never be as good as the other kids. I may not ever be able to sketch like Degas, but I hope I'll at least keep all these emotions in mind the next time I teach.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Summer work

It must be summer
when starfish hijack my art
and waves call my name