Wednesday, October 28, 2009

To Market...To Market.'s what I'm thinking....

Judging from the e-mails I receive every week from artists and want-to-be-artists from all over the country, I would have to say that marketing is a big concern for many. Marketing, productivity, creating a signature look...all that good stuff. There is the creative side to this business and there is the business side to this business. Mostly you just want to know how did I go from that first gallery or shop that carried my work to being in 50 shops, 3 catalogs, 2 museums, thousands of private collections and dozens of magazines and newspapers? And you can't market unless you are fearless. Wanna know how to do that? Market fearlessly?

Obviously one blog can't cover all that marketing your work entails.....Marketing begins in your studio with the basic concept of your work, it's appeal, your ability to produce in series...your ability to see the big picture of where this work fits in with what is out there. I am surprised by how many artists don't understand the need to work in series, especially if you have your sights set on galleries. Lots to cover there...

As a matter of fact there is a BIG difference in the work you produce for stores and the work you produce for galleries and how each is approached. There is an etiquette involved in dealing with galleries for sure, just as there is an etiquette involved in presenting yourself to newspapers and magazines. PR is a whole 'nother story. I owned my own PR business when I lived in LA. I got ya covered on the PR stuff.

On and on and on...soooo much. But these are things that need to be conquered if you are ever going to make your living as an artist. I am a "working artist." That is...I do this full time. The operative word is WORK. This is a business and it is WORK. Lovely, gratifying work...but work nonetheless.

So in my first workshop at my new studio house a few weeks ago, we had a great discussion about finding your way through this business of art. I realized after our question and answer period that I had a lot I could share with you and share with you I shall. Why would I keep this to myself? I'm gonna give it up to you.

I am writing the text for it now, but in a few weeks I will begin filming a new workshop series called The Marketing Mindset. And you know what... as much as it is knowing certain is a mindset. There are definitely psychological aspects to fearless marketing. Hmmm...maybe I should call it Fearless Marketing. So many decisions to be made as you begin to market something. My plan is to have it up in December (so you can ask for it for Christmas) but more importantly so you can start 2010 with some fresh ideas and some new tools in your marketing tool belt.

So let me know what YOU want me to be sure and cover in this workshop. Leave your comments below with your thoughts and marketing concerns and I'll see what I can do to incorporate them into the series.

I teach because I want to make a difference in the lives of artists. I am an artist because I want to make a difference in the world. The world will never know about you unless you know how to market what you do.

Added 1/1/2009... I'm not one for wasting time. The site is up in its pre-videos form. Take a peek. Here.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Hey All! Don't miss out on this fantastic giveaway of a gorgeous piece of art! Lesley Venable is holding her drawing tomorrow. I received one of these books today and they are amazing. Soooo beautiful and rich with detail. I can't wait to take this ...class right along with all of you who come to my studio in February. You really should try and get in on this generous giveaway and get info on taking a class to make one these beautiful books while you're at it.

A beautiful multi-layered Reliquaries Altered Book like the one she is teaching in her workshop at my studio in February can be made just for you. I want one! All you need to do is mention Lesley's so cool class on your blog and link to her on my Studio Retreats page. Leave a comment on her blog that you have done that and your name is in the drawing. Lesley's blog has all the info.

AND if that wasn't of the first 5 people signing up for her class will get 50% off their registration fee. That's a 1 in 5 chance. Good odds.

This "Bound Reliquaries" book is so beautiful and Lesley is one of the finest, most talented artists I have met. I can't wait for her to teach this class and I can't wait to see who wins this work of art.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fabulous Fishburn...Sarah That Is

How did I get so lucky? Today I received the Artist Book in the mail that Sarah Fishburn will be teaching at my studio the first weekend in December. OMG....what a cool project....what a beautiful book. Of all the amazing collage artists out there, I am lucky enough to live a half hour from one of the best there is and she is coming to my studio. The book is a treasure. I am in awe of the beautiful layers of papers, transparency, tape, stenciling and I can't wait to participate in this class myself...right along with those of you who have already signed up and those who will soon. $250 for a weekend with Sarah? A no-brainer baby. Ever since I saw the amazing work in her collaborative book with Angela Cartwright, "In This Garden," I've been hooked. Secrets of her fab signature style will be taught in this special 2-day class. I mean...just look at the amazing layers on the photo I'm showing here. Don't you want to learn how to do that? I do! Very cool.

Sarah wrote a blog yesterday on the intimacy and special atmosphere of a small class...and I couldn't agree with her more. We are limiting this class to 10 and this will give everyone a chance to have some good one-on-one with Sarah.

And you've got to check out the really super giveaway she is having in conjunction with the workshop. This is one not to miss. What a generous heart. Get the word out gang. You don't wanna be the reason your artsy friends don't know about this class, do you? :-)

See you in December!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Make Mine Magical

Expect magic. That's what I told my students this past weekend at the first retreat held in my new studio house. You have to approach each day expecting magic. If you're not looking for are you going to recognize it when it happens? Well at least that's what I tell them. But this weekend I found that I didn't have to be vigilant in my search for magic...magic smacked me right upside the head and then proceeded to follow me wherever I went. As a matter of fact it followed all of us. For three days we had a shadow and it's name was magic.

I love talking about art almost as much as I love making art. I will expound on the life of Georgia O'Keeffe ad nauseum and I will pound the pulpit at the temple of collage with powerful sermons of the mixed media variety. I am an Art Preacher. I love to tell stories and I love to inspire. And I love to hear stories and be inspired. When 6 women come together and cocoon inside a cozy Victorian cottage with snow falling outside (a fluke I might add-gonna be 70 this week)...and their main purpose is to make art and seek creative zest...magic happens. Art is preached and creative roadblocks are breached.

Five wonderful women graced me with their presence for those 3 days. We learned the language of fabric collage and we told stories in thread and fiber that will never be on Amazon but are chapters in a book we will refer to time and time again. We laughed until I swore the house was tickling us and we bonded in a major way. For almost ten years I have made my art almost daily. It supports me financially, nurtures me spiritually, and satisfies me artistically. What more could a girl want, you ask? How about sharing it openly. In sharing what I do, why I do it and understanding where it comes from in each of us, a new dimension has been added to my artistic life. You can call it can call it preaching...

I call it magic.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My Secret Weapon. Reprint.

As a fabric artist who strives to make her work look old, worn and deliciously weathered, I have gotten pretty creative through the years with ways to accomplish said weathering. From burning, to coffee-staining to simply leaving it out in the elements. But I have one trick that I can't really take credit for, but I take advantage of it just the same. I have a dog who loves fabric as much as I do. She's a funny little part Corgi, part terrier (and even a little Lab) named Fiona, "Fi" as we call her. She has spent her life (all 5 years of it) lovingly by my side, which means she's a studio hound.

We got Fiona from my sister when she was 4 months old. The first time we left her alone to go out to dinner she experienced rather extreme separation anxiety and basically ate the slipcovers off the sofa in my studio. If you've watched my HGTV segment in the video section of my website, you have seen this lovely sofa with fabric covers designed by yours truly. The scene below is what we came home to that evening. We called it a Fi-asco. My poor Chocolate Lab, Josie, was traumatized.

Thus began Fiona's love affair with fabric. Whenever she wanted to play tug she would snatch a piece of fabric from by piles. If she needed a nap, her place of preference was usually the cubes in my studio where I stored my fabrics.

Then she got particular and I got my secret weapon. She began selecting, and yes I mean actually looking through the fabrics and choosing the one that caught her eye. The beloved fabric of the hour became the fabric of the month. She took it everywhere with her. Up the stairs, down the stairs, out into the yard. She played with it, slept with it and generally adored it.

At the end of the love affair of threads, she would suddenly abandon it and select another. What she left behind was a tattered, hole-filled, frayed and funky piece of cloth. Now what do you suppose I could do with THAT? Perhaps wash it, coffee-stain it and turn it into art? You betcha! My studio assistant came across one of Fiona's Fabulous Fabrics in my stash one day and said admiringly, "I like this piece. It's so old." I swear Fiona looked at me and winked.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Don't Quote Me...Reprint

Before I was an artist I was a writer. Before I was a writer I was a singer. Before I was a singer I was a skinny little girl with glasses from a trailer park in Wisconsin...but I digress. I have always loved the story. I loved to read anything I could get my hands on, loved the southern stories in the southern accents of my father and his brother (the southern preacher). I loved sitting on a stool reading to my mother while she did the dishes. I loved words.

Singing and writing were always just different ways to accomplish the same thing..TELL THE STORY! When I began doing fiber art it was only natural that words would become a part of that. Actually they became a big part of that. Almost from the get-go I started putting quotes under my cowgirls and almost from the get-go people started responding to them. But you know, I'm not so clever. I can't even really take credit for the words. I've just learned how to listen. A good writer needs to know how to do that. I've had collectors say in not just a little confusion..."But I thought Calamity Jane really said that!" And I always respond "She did. She said it to me." More than once they've looked at me as if to say they hope I keep taking whatever medication I'm on. Oh well.

But I take the words these women (and sometimes even men) say very seriously. Some of them are well known and the history books have recorded other words they have spoken, but many are nameless, unknown keepers of our history. They have never been given a name, but for the first time I have given them a voice. I don't think they would mind. I also think in a way they speak for me. Selfish I know, but hey it's my work. They say things that maybe I don't have the guts to say in the real least not right out in the open. I like people to like me and they may be less inclined to do so if I said "Ain't afraid to love a man...ain't afraid to shoot one." Even though at times that might be how I felt!

In the early days of making my work I was in a marriage that was situated well on the other side of dysfunctional...about the time I was "listening" and writing my first quotes. At a gallery show a woman took her time walked all around the room and read every single quote there on display. One of the girls at the gallery then introduced her to me and explained I had made the fiber pieces and I even wrote all the quotes. The woman frowned slightly-looked totally bumfuzzled and said quite seriously..."But you look so nice!"

So I figured I needed to incorporate a few less hostile females into the overall fabric (no pun intended) of my storytelling. So I brought in mothers and teachers and wise women of native heritage and the story became more well rounded. I heard them speak serious words, empowering words that made me proud to know them. But I have to admit, I still like the words the sassy girls say the best. "I took to makin' trouble like most women take to makin' biscuits." How can ya not love a girl with that kind of 'tude?

Put all you have into your work so that it says what you want it to say...but remember that your work has things it wants to tell you too. Hush. Be still.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

You See I Had This Idea.

I am sharing once again with you the blog I wrote way back in March to explain to you where the work I do came from...since so many of you have asked.

Here it is...

It's an amazing thing when a gift falls into your lap and as soon as you unwrap it in your mind you know exactly what you're going to do with it. That's kinda what happened in April of 2000. A few months before that I had read a book on the journals of pioneer women and was really impacted by their strength and the haunting ring of their words. Something started to tug at me. Somewhere in one of those books I saw where a woman who had gone West in a wagon train had later made a momento of the journey by taking an old weathered piece of the tent they had slept under and stitched a blurry photograph someone had taken of them to the piece of fabric. She had then written in thread simply "Piece of the old tent." Something continued to tug at me. Not long after that I watched for the first time in quite a few years parts of the Ken Burns PBS Series, The Civil War. Here Burns touched you visually with the power of the old photographs and grabbed you emotionally with words read from the letters of that time. Something started to bug the heck out of me.

Then the gift appeared. On a Sunday morning in April the solidified thought of what I would do with the inspiration I had received didn't exist...but by that evening I had put together what would be the first of thousands of pieces of work that I would sign my name to over the next eight years. Now mind you it was a distant cousin of the pieces I do today, but the idea was there. I knew that what I wanted to do would require putting layers together and that it even might mean sewing. Problem was I didn't know how to do that. I didn't like sewing...or so I thought. (Years earlier, when I was a professional singer, I almost quit a band I was in because they wanted me to sew my own costumes.) I didn't own any fabrics really...why would I? But the more I thought about it the more I wanted to stitch that photo down just like my "tent-lady." I gathered up some unprimed artist canvas that I had in my little paint studio, a couple of pieces of cardboard and a couple of cotton blouses whose fabrics I didn't mind sacrificing. Strangely enough my husband at the time, had a little $100 Sears sewing machine in his workshop where he would make little pouches for all the electrical cords he took out on the road with him when his band toured. I had to read the manual on how to wind a bobbin. As it turned out, the imperfection of my sewing was perfect for the rustic, old look I was going for. He also had some photo-transfer paper on hand from trying out photos on t-shirts before the band made them to sell. Basically, I had no idea what I was doing.

The first piece you see above was rough to say the least...and not exactly what I had in mind. Tried it again with the Sadie Austin piece you see next and felt like I was getting a little closer. A big mostly cardboard piece followed (still lacking in the fabric department). Not happy. Then I did my first Annie Oakley piece and something clicked. I knew from the beginning I would recognize what I was after when I saw it. That piece was closer to the story I was trying to tell. Gave myself a good talking to. I decided that if I wanted to ever be good at this I had to give myself permission to be bad at it for awhile. Being bad at it wasn't a problem. But then I did something that made all the difference. I stopped trying to tell "my girls" and my materials what I wanted them to say and started listening to what they were already saying. The first of well over a hundred quotes, that I would write via this "listening thing" followed, and the gift was completely unwrapped. God signed the card in big, bold letters and I have been taking his winding roads and winding bobbins ever since...thanking him every step of the way.