When working doesn’t feel like “work”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what makes good work.  Back when I was still working full time at the newspaper, I would come home, we’d eat dinner, and then I’d happily go downstairs to my studio and make ATCs (Artist Trading Cards).  It would sometimes take me three hours to make ONE card!!  But I loved it so much.  I would get “in the zone” and the hours would melt away.

I had that same feeling yesterday – and I hadn’t had it in SO long. I spent the day experimenting – just doing whatever came to me – and I had a total and complete BLAST.  When you’re an artist, these days are essential!  But I’d been holding back for some reason when I was at home.  The great thing about a good residency is that the space is conducive to this sort of play – and Standard Projects has that in its DNA.  :)

More about the space – it’s so laid-back!  I mean, you’re free to come and go as you please, and Claire is really all about letting you hang out, or not – whatever you’re comforatble with.  I worked yesterday, with only small breaks for lunch and coffee, from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m.  And the space is SO COOL.  Here are some photos of the workshop, which is directly above my little apartment.  Incidentally, this is where my Deconstructed Collage workshop will be held this Saturday from 9-noon!  There’s still time to sign up, if you’re interested – just follow this link!  :D

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Afterward, all of us in the house hung out and then Claire made us dinner.  We were talking about authentic work, and Ricki, who’s the other resident here this week, was talking about a conversation with a guy at another residency.  He had said that when your work is authentic to you, people are going to respond to it more.  That comment really resonated with Ricki – and then with me.  I’ve been so consumed lately with whether or not others will like my work that I’d sort of lost my own sense of what I’m trying to accomplish.  I’m slowing getting back there, and it’s been great.

And speaking of great work, Ricki’s project is a very specific one – going into bars, bringing the sewing machine, and asking people if they have any ink with text in it.  If they say yes, and they’re up to it (I guess they almost always are), that tattoo is then rendered by Ricki in machine embroidery.  Isn’t that so fun?  Here’s the best part – they don’t get to keep their own tattoo, but then either trade another tattoo or buy one.  So it’s this whole sharing community, and Ricki gets to meet all kinds of neat people. How’s that for authentic work?  :)  Oh, and I received one as a gift last night – it’s literally great!  :D  I love it!  :D  You can see more of what Ricki does on Instagram.

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Here’s the patch I got of someone’s “great” tattoo – and that’s Ricki in the background.  :D

Here are some of the projects that I did yesterday.  It’s so amazing what happens when you just listen to yourself.  More of that today!😀

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Greetings from beautiful Hortonville!

 

Back about six months ago, I heard about Standard Projects through Kate Mothes, who is the founder of youngspace.  Youngspace is a fun, project-based enterprise that specializes in pop-up galleries that feature emerging artists.  I had the pleasure of showing two of my pieces at one of those pop-ups back in late March.

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I knew Kate and Claire, founder of Standard Projects, were friends, so I checked out the SP website.  On it was a submission form for a residency at her place, which she said were typically 1-2 weeks.  So I signed up.

I was so happy when I heard back from Claire!  We cemented the week of August 21 as my residency week.  And here we are!

I got into town last night and met Claire’s friends Shannon (who lives here) and Ricki, who’s also doing a week-long residency!  Claire’s sister Grace and her partner Jane showed up a while later, and then other friends came over for a fire in the fire pit.  It was fantastic. We ate brats and snacks (I had brought salsa and baba ganoush that I had made), and had some drinks.  SO fun.

Before the day begins I thought I’d show you what Standard Projects looks like from the outside – here’s the front door:

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…and here’s the entrance to Found + Collected, the awesome retail space/gallerette that is also housed here.

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The space is actually in the old police and fire stations!!  It’s SO cool.  And Claire has made the residency space so cute and cozy!  Here are some photos of my own space, where I’m currently writng!  :D

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I’m off to work – I can’t wait to see what happens today!  :D

 

 

 

Well, NOW I’ve gone and done it….

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Yep.  I actually bought an etching press!

I wasn’t expecting to, but my friend Nicci and I were at Jack Richeson & Co. in Kimberly (Wisconsin), and there it was, a floor model that was about 80% off the retail price.  I called Brian for some advice – it was still enough money that I wasn’t just going to purchase it without a “family meeting”.  :D

Once Brian gave his advice (“I think you should!”), I brought this baby home.

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Good news – I’ve cleaned my studio since this photo was taken!  :)

I am a little embarrassed to tell you that I didn’t use it right away; I wanted to wait until I took my printmaking classes at Richeson, just so I knew what to expect!  The teacher, Heather Oetzel, has the same press that I do, so she knows its quirks and what it does best.

Oh my GOSH!  I am so glad I took those classes.  Yes, I’ve done many sorts of printmaking before, including relief and monoprints.  But on an etching press, it’s so different.  The tree that you see, above, was a monoprint I made on Plexiglass using the press.  I love the fact that I can just work on it without the ink drying, unlike the monoprints I make on the Gelli (which of course has its own benefits).

Here’s the linocut I made in class:

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I’d made linos before, of course, but never on the etching press! I really love the color coverage, and now I don’t have to use mounted blocks!

And lastly – this week (today, actually!), I finally tried drypoint etching.  Oh myyyy.  I think I’m in love.  :D

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Okay, so it’s no Dürer, but I can’t wait to try more!  With colors!  :D  I might want to take some of Brian’s photos and start from there.

With this purchase, I sort of feel the tide shifting in my work.  I don’t quite know how I’m exactly going to incorporate it into my fiber art, or collage, but I will.  And I already made a collagraph this weekend, which I’m very happy with!  I used some masonite and just glued evergreen branches right onto it and then varnished it, using Future floor wax.  That stuff works perfectly!  :D

 

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This is the collagraph plate AFTER printing – it held up beautifully!

 

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….and here’s the collagraph!  I really love this technique!

My first 5-color reduction linocut!

Last Monday, I tried something that I’d wanted to do for about three years, but was always hesitant because of the fear of screwing up.

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Color 1 – yellow

That’s a big one for us humans, isn’t it?  Being afraid to take risks or try something new, because what if I fail, and then everyone finally figures out that I’m a fraud and then no one will respect me?  No?  Too far?  :D  Well, I’ll admit that I have these feelings from time to time – EVERY artist does at some point!

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Color 2 – adding the orange

I’ve been making lino prints for about three years now, and after my Print Exchange last year, I feel as though I’ve got the basics down.  I love the carving aspect and I adore mixing colors!  And I feel like my ink coverage is pretty darn good.

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Color 3 – just a touch of brown

But reduction prints!  Holy moly.  That was a whole different animal!  My fear was that I would get through my first colors okay and then at the very last point – BLAMMO.  I’d cut the wrong parts out and my prints would be ruined!  All of that hard work down the drain!

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Color 4 – finally adding the black!

But would it really be wasted hard work?  I mean, think about scientists – they don’t stumble across the cure for polio, inventing the telephone, or figuring out the cosmos on their first day on the job.  They toil for YEARS at discovery.  Why do some artists feel like we have to be perfect the first time we try something?  I know I’m guilty of this sometimes.  It’s all about learning and process.  And yes – we may have some missteps.  SO WHAT?  You try again and learn from your mistakes!!  Seriously – what is the worst that could happen?  This?

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The more I see this “mistake” print, the more I like it and want to incorporate it into a collage!  :D

So l learned LOTS of lessons with this print – that I have enough skills to make a 5-color (counting white) reduction print; that once again, I will not wither and die if I happen to make a “mistake” (even though there are no mistakes in art!); and that I have more patience than I thought.  And I very thoroughly enjoyed this meticulous process!  I can’t wait to get started on my next reduction print!  :D

 

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The finished print, with the chalk pastel background!

So what if you tried something that always made you nervous or scared that you’d fail at it?  And what if you did it and it actually worked?  You might be surprised at what you’re able to accomplish and how much more you know than you think you know.  Maybe that should be your challenge for the week!  Go on – what’s the worst that could happen?  What’s the best?

My Week in Monoprints!

What a wild week!  I was totally immersed in paint, brayers, Gelli Plates, and new folks taking my monoprint classes!

For those who may not know, a monoprint is a stand-alone print; that is, it is not an edition and is not made in multiples.  Before the Gelli Plate came along, most people either created their monoprints on an etching press using Plexiglass, or would have to literally make a tray of gelatin (EW!) and print from that.  Of course, the gelatin would eventually break down and/or get moldy.  And those of us without an etching press were also out of luck.  Gelli Plates to the rescue!  They’ve been a lifesaver!  And I probably never would’ve tried monoprints had it not been for this amazing product.

This week also marked the first time for me teaching at Moraine Park Technical College (MPTC) in the Personal Enrichment realm.  I’ll be honest – I was nervous.  But it went SO well! I only knew one of the 12 (TWELVE!) students in the class.  But everyone did such great work.  Here they are, showing off their favorite prints.  Everyone made about 20 apiece!  :D

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My second monoprint workshop was last evening at Cujak’s Wine and Coffee Bar, located in downtown Fond du Lac.  I taught a collage class there last summer, but this class was FULL (TEN!) and there are folks on the waiting list, so I’ll teach it again in March!  Here’s everyone diligently working on their prints.

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What surprised me about both classes is the output!  I’m afraid I didn’t get any photos of the MPTC folks’ work in progress, but I did have some time to get some snapshots of the Cujak’s group’s prints – HOLY SMOKES.  Check out these beauties!!

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I had the best time this week, and I hope all of my “students” did as well!  They always teach me more than I think they learn, for sure.  I just let them go and they did the rest!

Facebook – the Tie that Binds

Well, with artists, anyway!  :D

I had coffee with my friend Sue today, and we got to talking about various social media that we use.  I told her I use Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. But the interesting thing about all three of these is that they’re all tied back to….

Yep, Facebook.

Love it or tolerate it – it’s a BOON for artists.  Never before have we had such a platform to showcase our art!  Just today I saw at least 10 of my friends post new photos of their latest artwork.  When would that have ever happened even 10 years ago?!

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Sure, some argue that the art market is saturated, that artists can no longer command high prices because a buyer can potentially find similar work at a lower price.  I’m sure that happens.  But I know one thing for sure – I’d be lost without it.

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My art is not for everyone.  I work in media that are just gaining attention, like collage, encaustic and embroidery.  I don’t have an art degree, and I’ve only been creating art for 10 years.  I would never be represented by a big-city gallery.  But with Facebook and the rest?  I can not only show my work, but talk about it.  I think the story helps the work.  And I can also promote my fellow artists, which is something I really enjoy doing.  Hey, if we’re not helping each other, then what ARE we doing?

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Take this post, for example.  From WordPress, it’ll be broadcast to the ubiquitous Facebook, Twitter, and my Tumblr feed.  See what I’ve done there?  I’m using social media to talk about social media, and showcase some of my work in the process.  What an age we live in!  :D

Six years ago today….

January 2, 2010, my life took an amazing turn.

It was the day that I first spoke to the amazing Pam Kueber on the phone.  Pam had recently asked me to use one of my ATCs (Artist Trading Cards) on her burgeoning website, Retro Renovation (which has since become a powerhouse!).  It was a card that I had made in November of 2009, wishing all of my friends a Happy Thanksgiving.  She liked it so much that she used it on her site, which I had very happily obliged her to do.

Happy Thanksgiving 2009 ATC

So when I got an e-mail from her the morning of January 2, 2010, asking her to call me, I got that roller coaster-gut feeling.  We talked, and she outlined an idea that she had where I would make a collage a month for her.  A PAID GIG.

The only glitch in this plan was that she wanted me to craft a collage for her that day, so that she could use it on her site the following day.  We were set to see our wonderful friends Eric, Jason and Amy in Milwaukee, and we had to leave in about an hour.  In my first draft of the reply e-mail, I told her that I couldn’t do it, because I didn’t have enough time.  Brian said to me, “I think you DO have enough time if you just started working on it.”  So I did.  And she loved it. (It’s the featured image, above.)

And we made it to Milwaukee on time.  Here’s where it gets really amazing: that one collage and the offer to make one a month led to a very real and terrifying discussion with our friends about the possibility of me leaving my job at The Reporter and attempting to do my art full time.  (These wonderful friends of ours were so lovingly indulgent to even entertain the notion with me; I can’t imagine how much of a bore I was that night.)

The next day, Brian and I spent the entire day with our Pros and Cons list, and made the decision together that I would hand in my 2 week notice on Thursday, January 7.  One look at my boss’s face told me I had absolutely made the right decision – she was all at once sad that I was leaving and ecstatic that she wouldn’t have to lay me off at some point.  And I got an amazing send-off from my fantastic co-workers, complete with a Food Day to End All Food Days.  :D

LTHYI - Stacey far shot

And Pam Kueber did indeed hire me to do a collage a month, which morphed into a “Love the House You’re In!” contest, whereby the monthly winner would have their house rendered in collage by Yours Truly. (You can see the entire scope of my time at Retro Renovation here.)

Pam Kueber, thank you again for taking a chance on this neophyte and giving me the confidence to follow through with my dream.  To my friends Amy, Jason and Eric, thank you for listening to me stream-of-conscious think that evening.  And to Brian – thank you for believing in me like no one else.  I owe you all a HUGE debt of gratitude.  And I continue to “make it ’til I make it”.  :D

What can I say – I just love art. :)

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