Do you shudder with fear or turn away with disdain when you see a show that has a theme?  It seems that many calls to artists request the artwork to meet an aspect of a theme, and some jurors are stricter than others about how closely a piece meets that criteria or not.

Moulin Rouge Deux (on right) at the Airport Appetizer show

As the Co-chair for Exhibitions for the Contemporary QuiltArt Association, I’ve seen both jurors who would drop a piece for not seeming to have anything to do with a theme, and others who were open to a very broad interpretation (such as the title had a word that related to the theme, but there was no other discernible connection.)

 Being more of a representational artist, working with a theme usually works well for me.  I like having a launching pad for my ideas.  For instance, at one show at the SeaTac international airport, my quilt “Moulin Rouge Deux” was displayed, along with other quilts with international elements.  You can clearly see the pyramids in the other quilt alongside mine.

Currently, SeaTac has another exhibit from CQA, this one with the name and theme of “Journeys.”  In this show, we had some fabulous entries which took many different interpretations of the theme.  I have two additional pieces in this show.  Here are some photos from this exhibit:

 Many interpretations of a broad theme.  After all, we can take literal journeys, by foot, car, horse, rail, air, boat, etc. or we can take spiritual journeys, journeys of the heart, or journeys of our imagination.

Rainier: Two Views by Colleen Wise

But what about when the theme is more difficult or restrictive?  I’ll go into that more tomorrow.  Pleasant dreams…yet another type of journey!

Piece I purchased by artist Gwen Lowery

Last Friday, a new favorite of mine, fiber artist Gwen Lowery, had a special showing of her work at Gail Harker Center for Creative Arts in La Conner, WA.  I became aware of Gwen’s work lately, when I purchased a piece she had made from an auction to support the new gallery being built at Gail’s center.  To find out more about this auction see my post “52 Weeks of Art- a Personal Challenge.”

Gwen’s work is incredible dense machine stitching. She was in one of the first diploma classes given by Gail here in the United States, and holds a City & Guilds Diploma in Design and Embroidery from the Gail Harker Center for Creative Arts.  Her pieces she has been working on currently are quite large.  One of the pieces she shared with us was approximately 12 x 15 feet ( 4 x 5 meters).  Gwen’s work is being shown internationally.  Unfortunately, since the pieces she shared with us are committed to shows, so I can’t share photos of them.  However, you can see some of her work on Gwen’s website and also on a page as an award winner from the Artist Trust Edge program for 2011.  Gwen was also a guest writer on Gail Harker’s blog with her post “Going Big“.  I look forward to keeping an eye on her progress as an artist and as an inspiration to my work, personally!

 

Last night I worked on finishing up the machine embroidered piece I started for my small art-quilt group, the Fiber Funsters.  This is the first piece in a series of challenges our group is doing, based on the book Twelve by Twelve: The International Art Quilt Challenge.  Each of us in the group will have a turn choosing a word to base the challenge on.  Then, the group members will make a small art quilt, sized 10″ x 16″, which somehow reflects that word, which we then present to the group in 2 months.  Why did we pick 10 x 16, rather than following the example of the 12 x 12 group?  We wanted to base our compositions on the Golden Mean or Golden Ratio.  This is where you use the ratio of 1 : 1.618 for your composition, making it more appealing to the eye.  If you’re interested in finding out more about about the Golden Ration, check out this YouTube video.

We were first challenged with “Opening”.   Any time I’m designing for a theme, I start with my sketchbook and brainstorm ideas for the concept or topic.  Opening invoked the following ideas for me:

  • Doors
  • Imagination
  • Portals
  • Beginnings
  • Writer’s Block
  • Purse/Luggage/Briefcase
  • Court (opening arguments)
  • Flower
  • Presents
  • Hands
  • Mail
  • Body language (open arms vs open legs)
  • Containers (boxes, food storage, etc.)
  • Windows

Since I love plants and flowers, I decided to go with an opening Stargazer Lily, my favorite flower, and fairly accessible to get at the grocery floral department. After taking photos and thinking through what sort of composition I wanted, I made some sketches. Since I have done a lot of machine stitch, I thought it would be fun to make this completely through thread painting. I broke out all the colors Of pinks that I had for the flower, and chose some spring greens as a complement to the pinks. The background I decided on is blue, to complement the dark rust/orange of the flower’s stamens. Here is a close-up of my stitch work:
Although the threadwork is time-intensive, I do love the result.  I will be practicing this more with my personal 5 x 7 challenge this year!

I promised I’d post pictures of my Viking Apron dress when finished, so here’s the whole costume, as well as my elder son Ryan and younger, Coleman, in their gear. The golden apron dress is made of linen, which I hand-dyed. I purchased the two Turtle brooches from Raymond’s Quiet Press, who makes historical recreations (from jewelry to helms.) I already had the strings of beads, which I hand-stitched onto the apron dress, in the Viking fashion. We had a fine time at the “Good Yule” feast, with a fantastic smorgasbord of both old Norse and Byzantine food.

Now that the Good Yule celebration is out of the way, I can get back to my regular creative life, at least until Ursalmas, the next big area event from the Society of Creative Anachronism, which my sons want to attend in the end of January. At least I already have a costume made now, so I won’t have to do that, although it looks like Coleman may now also be interested, so he may want to have me make a more authentic outfit.

More to come later tonight. Now that I have this out of the way, I can focus on more of the creative efforts closer to my heart!

OK, I know this has been done before, in fact it’s been done in a much bigger way that I’m going to suggest. But you have to start somewhere and I know personally what my bandwidth might be able to withstand.

I’m so hesitant to type this out… I feel a tightness in my belly… fear. Can I really say that I’ll do this? Will it compromise my other art and goals that I want to do?

Artist: Gwen Lowery

As part of my journey this coming year, I’m going to make one 5″ x 7″ composition each week. I’ll post pictures along the way, here on my blog. Notice I didn’t say fiber composition. Part of the reason why is that I consider myself a fiber and mixed media artist. While fiber is my favorite chosen medium, I think I can learn a lot through using different materials. I also think combining techniques can be quite effective. Why did I choose this size? It seems doable, but it’s also more than an artist trading card… it feels like it can be be art in and of itself, rather than just a practice piece. Not that these items will necessarily be successful- that’s part of the process. But I do hope to find satisfaction with some of these pieces I create. I think that having a manageable size will help me really work at producing, something I think I need to do, to increase my skills.

Artist: Deborah Zibrik

One of my favorite teachers, Gail Harker, had an exhibition and online auction of some of her student’s work. The show was called Black White and Red and it was all 5″ x 7″ works in values of those colors. She still has the pieces up on her online gallery. I was extremely happy to be able to purchase three of these small works, which are pictured here, and which I am displaying as artwork in my home. I had planned to do a piece for this show/auction, but didn’t end up making it a priority. When I went to the opening, I was somewhat ashamed that I hadn’t. I could see that making a 5 x 7 piece wasn’t all that unattainable, even with the demands of work, a family, my volunteer work for other fiber organizations (CQA and SDA, primarily), and everything else that puts demands on my time. So, it’s time to put it to the test.



Artist: Judy Alexander

In case you’re wondering about my fascination with windmills or ‘moulins’ in French, I am passionate about France and Paris. My husband, Randy, works in the international aerospace industry, and travels abroad regularly. He proposed to me on the shores of the Mediterranean and we’ve enjoyed visits to Paris and many areas in France numerous times. I started studying French in the fall of 2008. Between the beauty of the French countryside and the iconic portrayals of the Moulin Rouge in late 19th century art, I’ve developed a fondness for the imagery of the windmill. Guess I should add Holland to my list of places to travel someday!

OK, I’m going to be sitting down on Sunday with my Eastside SDA (Surface Design Associates) group, which was formed out of our Washington State SDA symposium which I helped plan last year.  This month, our topic is “The Business of Doing Art” and will include goal setting. 

So, I’ve prepared some questions for us to think about, as we write out our 2013 goals and objectives:

  • What skills do you already possess?  What do you do well?
  • What could you improve on?  What do you need to learn?
  • What sources do you have to learn what I need (books, online, classes, magazine articles, friends, a mentor etc.)
  • What are you passionate about? How can you bring some of that passion into your work?
  • Are there specific projects that you want to complete?
  • Is there a theme or series that you want to investigate in your artwork?
  • What professional organizations do you belong to?  What do they do for you and your artistic career?  How can your participation enhance or further your career?  If you don’t have any professional organizations that support you as an artist, how could you go about finding one (or more)?
  • Do you want to show my work?  What sort of shows or venues?  Are there specific shows or venues you’d like to target?
  • Are you organized to show?  What do you need to do to be prepared?  (Examples- how do you track your art, how do find opportunities, what do you need to ship and deliver pieces, do you have specific instructions for hanging and displaying your work?)
  • Do you want to sell your work?  What is your plan for getting sales (how would get a gallery to represent you; what sort of person or institution would be interested in the kind of art you make?)
  • What is the realistic projection of the number of pieces you will complete this year?
  • What additional organization of your studio or workspace do you need to be more productive?
  • Do you need additional tools or supplies to create what you want?  What are they?  do you have the funds to purchase them and if not, how will you raise the money?
  • What will you do when it gets hard?  How will you regain inspiration or motivation to work in the face of rejection, disinterest, or conflicting priorities?

Tomorrow I’ll be at the Viking Good Yule celebration from about noon until 10 pm.  For those who haven’t read this before, my 17 year old son is fascinated with Viking culture and at this point is planning to study anthropology and archeology.  So we’re going to a big Viking re-enactment celebration and feast.  I finished my “Viking Apron Dress” last night,  from a 10th century design.  It’s amazing to me how different Viking culture was from what the stereotypical idea of Vikings is in our society (for instance, they didn’t have horned helmets, although they do look pretty fun and impressive!)  I’m sure I’ll have some interesting photos to post from that and I’ll make sure to get one of my dress as well.  I’ll make sure to also have my sketchbook in hand and work on my Salsa! designs for the Mighty Tieton show.  Make it a great day!

Last night I helped my son Ryan finish up his wool Viking tunic.  This has been a terrific learning experience.  We went together to pick out the fabric (had to be wool for authenticity.)  He made the pattern from historic sources and his measurements.  I taught him how to pre-wash the fabric and straighten the grain, layout and cut the pieces.  I then taught him the basics of using my Bernina sewing machine (winding the bobbin, threading the machine, stitch length, type of stitch, etc.) and then let him go about constructing the garment.  We did one fitting prior to doing the final seaming, where I suggested we insert some gussets under the arms, to give him a more natural range of motion.  When it was constructed but not hemmed, he asked if I could dye it… the color didn’t go as well with his under-tunic as he had thought.  We did several samples to get the color where he wanted it (and because I don’t have a lot of experience with wool) and then I dyed the whole tunic. 

We were down to the final steps, hemming and adding some authentic hand-woven trim which he had purchased.  I think he really wanted me to do the hemming… but I got out a needle and thread, showed him how to do it, watched for a few stitches, and then let him finish it up.  I did go ahead and topstitch the trim on for him.

What a wonderful way to be able to contribute to him.  First, teaching him the basics of sewing and that he is capable of doing it.  Next, letting him pursue his passion-not just allowing him, but supporting and encouraging him.  Finally, being able to share this time with him… going to his event with him (yes, I’ll be in costume too) and letting myself be enlightened about how much this young man of mine really knows about the era and culture with which he is so entranced.

I still need to finish my Viking apron dress tonight, as the “Good Yule” celebration is happening on Saturday.  I’m excited to be doing a Viking embroidery class at the event, particularly after getting to see the Bayeux Tapistry last June.  More on that in the future!

One of the most difficult things to deal with as an artist is being rejected for a show or by a gallery.  It stops many in their tracks… some simply don’t enter shows for the fear of being rejected, others get depressed or bitter over not being chosen, and the worst of all is those who stop creating.  If you look at any successful artist, they’ve experienced rejection countless times. 



Monet’s 1869 painting “The Magpie” was rejected by the Paris salon and now is
one of the most beloved paintings at the Musee d’Orsay
Between 1748–1890, the Salon, the official art exhibition of the Académie des Beaux Arts in Paris, was the greatest annual art event in the Western world. At the budding of French Impressionism, the selection committee for the Salon was conservative and felt that the impressionistic style was lacking in finish.  The list of those illustrious artists who were denied entry to the Salon includes Monet, Courbet, Millet, Corot, Delacrouix, Whistler and Manet, as well as many more.  In 1863, the Salon jury rejected over 3000 pieces, leading the rejected artists to hold an alternate salon, which became known as the “Salon des Refusés” or the Salon of the Refused or Rejected.   Subsequent Salons des Refusés were mounted in Paris in 1874, 1875, and 1886.  Now we look at some of the fabulous art and artists from this period as some of the most treasured pieces in history… yet they were all rejected.

In the world of literature, writers have to have perseverance to get through or even thrive in the face of rejection.  Here are some comments from publishers… Guess which book/author they refer to (answers at bottom of article)!1

1.      “An absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull”

2.     “It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.”

3.     “We found the heroine as boring as her husband had.”

4.     “For your own sake do not publish this book.”

5.     “… so dry and airless, so lacking in pace, that whatever drama and excitement the novel might have had is entirely dissipated by what does seem… to be extraneous material.”

6.     “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias.  They do not sell.”

7.     “Get rid of all that Indian stuff.”

8.     “Unsaleable and unpublishable.”

The list could go on and on.  But what really matters is how do you deal with rejection? 

It’s funny, I had planned writing this article for our Contemporary QuiltArt Association newsletter to help encourage all of our CQA artists to continue (or start) entering in the CQA shows.  Then, the same day I wrote it, I received the notification from the Rio Patchwork and Design Festival for the works selected to be sent to two Brazilian shows.  My pieces were not included.  In fact (and I don’t say this to get pity or with any ill will) while I was one of the artists chosen by the CQA jury, I was the onlyone that was not chosen by the show organizers to have any pieces go to Rio.  Whew!  That’s hard to say… I feel like I’m really putting myself on the line between embarrassment and vulnerability.  Why am I telling you this?  I want you to understand that we all have this happen.  There are many ways of combating the negative emotions that can occur with rejection.

·         Ask yourself what you can do better.  Or, if appropriate, ask the one (such as a gallery owner) making the decision.  By analyzing any weaknesses you may have, whether in technique, design, presentation (photography), or topic/content, you may decide if you need additional practice, classes, or other forms of learning to master your craft.

·         It takes many no’s to get a yes.  Sometimes you just need to soldier on and apply to the next show, and the next, until you find the one(s) that accept your work.  Count every rejection as a step closer to getting accepted.

·         Realize you don’t fit in everywhere.  You don’t necessarily know why you weren’t chosen, but it may just be that your style doesn’t meet the aesthetic desires of the person making the choice.  In another venue, they may sing your praises!  Find the people that get you and what you are doing… ones that appreciate you.  Your artist’s style or subject matter may not be compatible with other artworks, your work may be the wrong size for what is being looked for, or the subject matter may not be appropriate, such as when a gallery only shows artists who are local or whose work reflects local subjects.

·         Keep doing what you’re good at.  Don’t compromise yourself and start doing something that you don’t enjoy or doesn’t express what you want to express.  In fact, the more you do what you do and the harder you work, the better you will get at it. 

·         Many no’s are temporary.  The no may turn to a yes when the timing is right… when they are looking for your kind of work, or when a different person sees it.

·         What’s next?  A great way to get over a rejection is to decide what you’re going to do next… either in the studio or as a way to get your work shown.  I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat.”  Sylvester Stallone

·         Don’t take it personally.  While your work may not have been chosen, it doesn’t mean that it is not valid or that you are not a good artist. 

·         Recharge your batteries.  Do something good for yourself… take a walk, go to a museum, get a massage, or nurture your studio space by adding something that makes you happy (an inspirational poster, plant, or new music to listen to while you work.)

·         Remember why you do what you do and to persevere.  While your art process may be a means of self-expression, there is joy when you share your art with the world.  Believe in yourself and persevere.  Persistence is probably the number one reason that most artists succeed.  Make lots of art.  Make lots of mistakes and learn from them.  Keep applying to shows and then make more art.

So, after licking my wounds for a day, I’m back at the sewing machine, starting my new piece for the Salsa! CQA show at Mighty Tieton.  Reading through different articles and artists’ experiences of rejection has been helpful… even inspiring.  While there may always be a bit of an initial sting when you find your work has not been accepted, you can use that as a poke to get you back in the studio, creating.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Authors & Books:

1.         William Golding “Lord of the Flies”  Rejected by 20 publishers

2.        George Orwell “Animal Farm”

3.        Mary Higgins Clark – short story

4.        D.H. Lawrence “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”

5.        Ursula K. Le Guin “The Left Hand of Darkness” won the 1969 Nebula Award for Best Novel and the 1970 Hugo Award

6.        Stephen King “Carrie”

7.        Tony Hillerman (when he started his Navajo Tribal Police mystery novels)

8.        Ayn Rand “The Fountainhead”

1Kerns, Michelle. “30 famous authors whose works were rejected
(repeatedly, and sometimes rudely) by publishers” Online: 

Oltuski, Romy. “Famous Authors’ Harshest Rejection Letters.” Online:

I find that the time between Thanksgiving and New Years is the perfect time to get a little introspective and to think about what you’d like to accomplish in the coming year.  There are many reasons to take this time and actually write out your goals. 

First, by writing out your goals, you help clarify them to yourself.  Is it more important for me to show in as many shows as I can get into or do I want to pick and choose?  Or do I want to forego a real push for exhibiting this year and work on developing my style and voice in my work?  By looking at where you’d like to be by the end of a particular period of time, you increase your ability to pick actions that will help you get there.

Similarly, if your goals help you pick proper actions, then you reduce “scope creep“.  When asked to do something, you can evaluate how it will help you with your goals.  I know it’s important to learn to say “No”, but it’s not always something I’m good at.  So, perhaps if I get really clear on my goals, I’ll be more likely to recognize when a request isn’t going to help me with the direction I want to go.  When you’re busily working towards your goals, you’ll find yourself presented with more and more opportunities.  You know the old saying, “If you want to get something done, ask a busy person!”  By focusing on your written goals, you can find keep yourself working towards them, rather than getting distracted by other potentialities.

As part of goal-writing, it’s a good idea to come up with a plan to help you accomplish the goal.  While there is plenty of data on the power of just putting the goal down on paper (and even then just sticking the paper away in a drawer somewhere), I personally believe that you get much further towards accomplishing your goal if you have a plan of action to accompany it.  Even if it’s just a list of to-do tasks, that will get you on your way.  If you want to go further, you can set objectives to accomplish for each goal, then make timelines, and evaluate what could potentially trip you up in your plan and how to overcome that (aka risk management) if the ‘risk’ occurs.
 
Ah, this is all sounding a bit dry.  I think it must be time to hit the sewing machine.  Before I do, I thought I’d share a link and a few photos from a fabulous textile tour to Guatemala I took a few years ago with my mother.  The hostess, Priscilla Bianchi, is a Guatemalan quilt artist.  She uses traditional Guatemalan textiles in her amazing quilts.  Tonight I found a book called Arte Textil Guatemalteco- Trabajo de Priscilla Bianchi, or Guatemalan Textile Art- the Work of Priscilla Bianchi online.  It is just beautiful, even if you can’t read Spanish, check it out! 

The photos here on today’s post are ones which I took when I visited Priscilla’s home in Guatemala City in February 2009. 

It’s funny, how you can be really organized in one area, yet swimming (or sinking) in disorganization in another.  Like many creative types, I struggle with organization.  At our local Surface Design Association meeting a few months ago, we had the topic of Time and Studio Management.  We all brought photos of our studio in its current condition.  We even had a $20 prize for the local Quiltworks store where we meet for the artist with the messiest studio, to encourage people to really not clean up before our session.  Well, since I offered the prize, I didn’t have to shell out any money when it was unanimously decided that my studio was the worst!  No, I’m not going to share those photos online at this time… maybe when I get to know you better.

On the other hand, I’m extremely organized in some areas… in setting and attaining goals; in developing organizational systems; in project management.  For instance, today I put together 3 different proposals for exhibition venues for the Contemporary QuiltArt Association (CQA.)  Two were for well-known musuems and the third for a city hall gallery.  Putting together proposals such as these requires a lot of organizational skill.  You need to find their requirements and do your best to follow them explicitly.  You need a personalized cover letter, artist statement, biography, artist resume, and images of your work.  The images needed to be picked and formatted to each venue’s specifications. I’ve been very successful with my exhibition proposals in the past and hope that I will be here again in the near future. (I’ll let you know where the museums/galleries are if we secure them.)

This year I’ve made slow incremental progress in gaining control over some areas of my life.  First and foremost, I lost 30 lbs that had been slowly creeping on over the last few years.  Next, I’ve been keeping up with putting all my clothes away (anyone else have oodles of laundry?) and making sure to keep my closet cleaned up.  Then, I moved towards keeping the corner of my bedroom clean, where my books, quilt magazines, art projects and miscellaneous junk pile up from whatever I’m working on or reading before bedtime.  And now, I’m working on the studio. 

Part of my problem is that I’m blessed with a large home.  So, whenever I run out of space, I just move on and work in another area. I also love to work in the evening in front of the t.v.  However, theis requires bringing a bunch of things from my studio into our “adventure” room (family/tv room.) I also am one of those people who just love to learn new things.  So I have supplies for all of them.  I’m working now at developing a place for each type of supply… a drawer of thermofaxes, a bin for stabilizers, all my scissors put away in the same place, so I always know where to find things. 

The outside of the old fruit processing plant

But, again, you can only do so much cleaning and organizing until you are cutting into your art time.  Today, I did some dyeing-the wool Viking tunic my son made.  Too much time has been spent in front of a computer screen.  I never did claim that I was great on the time management side, now did I?

I promised a few days ago that I’d post some photos from the Mighty Tieton gallery.  Enjoy!


You walk through part of the old warehouse…
… and open the huge Cold Storage door

To a beautiful gallery space