Sarafina Fiber Art

Sarafina Fiber Art

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Diversify and Survive... no Thrive

I am no Professor for sure, but one thing that I took away from those school years is that diversity is key to the over health of our planet.  Each and every organism (and matter) plays a role in the survival of the others.  Everyone and everything is important.

In a personal sphere, I have learned the same holds true to my physical, mental, spiritual, and occupational health.   Sometimes I do or make something new and realize that without the many forks in the road and paths I have traveled, I would not be able to do exactly what it is I am doing right now.  

I fear have frustrated my friends and family with sudden changes in direction.  I think it can be unsettling to those in the passenger seat.  One minute I am a painter mountain biker yoga-er horse back rider, the next I am a shop owner wing chunner felter spinner.  Tomorrow I might try something new.  When I started martial arts I actually had a friend say to me, "But that's not you."  Yes, it is now.

Good times with Carmelita and riding buddies.  She is living with someone else now but horses will be a part of my life again.

The things is... here's the thing.... the thing is, once you learn something, you have it with you forever.  Each path we take twists together to form a complex and strong cable (Thank you, spinning, for that analogy : ))  For example, I apply the posture, relaxation, I breathing I learned in yoga to everything I do.  My love for and involvement with horses as been a huge influence in my health and career.  Even within the horse world, learning new ways to communicate with my horse has changed my perspective on almost everything... minimal effort for maximum output. 

I won't go on about every hobby and lesson.  But my point it is, follow the faint voices that beckon you in a new direction.  Even if it leads no where special, you will not regret it.

Time to go kick some but and spin some fiber. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What is a Successful Artist?: $$ and Cornerstones to Success

After graduating from a pricey private college, I professed to my Mom that I wanted to pursue art.  I am positive that this was not music to her ears, nor gave her the feeling of security and well being for her daughter.  She is a very practical and careful (smart) person and, among other things,  said something to the effect of, "Not many people make it as an artist." Now, I am not saying that her words became a life long challenge of wills, however, I would not mind proving her wrong and being the exception.
Commissioned Room Screen from 2006 - pre needle felting

 First of all, we should define "making it" or success as an artist.  This will mean different things to different people.  Does it mean supporting your family?  Making at least minimum wage?  Or just feeling good that someone wants to buy something you made?  I can't speak for you, but for me it means making a decent income to the work I put in.  (And eventually, yes, I would like for my husband, Dave, to be able to quit his job and do something he loves too - maybe after the boys are out of college. )  

As usual, my Mom is right.   Not many artists make it.  Maybe it's because artists face mountainous challenges.  I will list a few:

being taken seriously
high gallery fees
the whims of our creative spirits
right brained strengths
left brain weeknesses
health insurance
fluctuations in the economy/luxury items
creating something people want
building a reputation to raise prices
finding outlets/buyers
managing careers as a business on top of being a good artist

Some of these things are concrete, some vary from person to person.  Let's punch out a few and focus on some.  No, I do not work for free or for exposure.  Galleries serve a purpose, are integral to the arts, and need to make money too, but in my opinion 50% is too much (even so I keep my prices consistent no matter where I sell - an important part of your business strategy).  We tend to jump from one creative inspiration to another, makes it kind of hard to build on our momentum.  We are not always the best at keeping records and dealing with numbers.  We usually live without the security of health insurance unless we are covered by a partner.  We create a luxury item and when the economy tanks, the artists dwindle.

That leaves us with the last four items on the list.   Points that we have to take seriously and at which we must work very hard.    These are the corner stones on which your success is built.  You can create all day upside down and all around, but if you don't make something people want, build your prices and reputation, SELL, and manage your business, you will not make money.

Creativity is the fuel of our work.  We would not feel fulfilled if we could not make our visions come to be.  I have a graveyard of unsuccessful paintings and unfinished wool sculptures.  Not every single effort will yield the Mona Lisa, and we have to experiment and follow the muse, but we should do our best to find the balance between our inspiration and a product that will create income.  What are you most driven to do?  What are you better at making then others?  For my current business, at this very moment, this looks like teaching, Supply Packs, and a growing supply of fibers for needle felting.  When I started Sarafina Fiber Art I was busy making needle felted rabbits, foxes, and critters of all types.  Once you have figured out where your niches lies you begin to build...

I can't tell you how many of these bunnies I have made.

Building your reputation and raising your prices is a multi fold origami of tasks and focus which includes branding, promoting, visual "look" of your business, social networking, website, and creating demand.  With Talbot's help, I created this logo for Sarafina Fiber Art.  I use the green speckled background (made with watercolors on Kitty Wallace Museum grade pastel paper) on my website, my business card, my social networking, my logo, and behind most of the pictures I take of my products.  It is a visual sign to buyers that I am unified, organized, serious, and professional (not always the case, but hey, I try).  Just one example of a step you can take to give solidarity to your business, create recognition, and begin to build demand.

Selling your work might seem like the obvious goal, but it goes hand in hand with all the other cornerstones.  Not only do you have to make the product and create the demand, you have to get the product out to the buyers.  For me, this is an etsy shop and teaching workshops.  For many artists and crafts people it is traveling to shows or selling galleries.  No matter what it is, you have to make it happen and often.  People can't buy it if they can't find it.

I started cutting back on outdoor shows because I didn't feel I was hitting the right target
 Finally, artists must manage their business.  That means book keeping and number crunching, but it also means moving forward and making brain decisions not always heart decisions.  It would be nice if we could follow our whims, sell all of our heart felt creations no matter how crappy, and get what we think we deserve for them.  But making money is it's own craft.  One we have to hone.  It can be very creative!  You actually HAVE to be creative to make your artistic soul into a business.

When it's all said and done, I have yet to report on my taxes an annual income that I feel is sufficient.  But the goal to do so keeps me driven.  I feel successful in the sense that I am indeed making some money, providing a product that people like, providing work to others, and seeing my business grow.   I am also in love with my job and enjoy every minute of it - not something many can say - and that is priceless.   


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

To Each Their Own cRAzY

Some days, I feel everything acutely.  These days can be difficult because my mind leaps through my anxieties, focuses on my conflicts with others, plays on fears regarding my kids,  digs up old sorrows, and I can't shut out the insurmountable problems of our planet.  That's a lot for one little mind to handle.

But the very same days, in the very same state of mind, I also find the most far reaching positives. New directions on unknown roads all of a sudden feel safe and possible.  The colors, textures, and animals of nature manifest into creative inspiration.  And the laughter of my family settle into the most sacred deep place in my heart.  I feel like anything is possible and see the world  - really see  and feel the world.

If I can touch or hold Dave, he brings me back to center, like a human anchor.  His energy is calm and weighty.... maybe one of the reasons the universe placed him into my life. 

Although these days feel overwhelming, I am learning not to let them worry me.  The alternative would be not to feel at all.  I try to settle into the yin and yang of it; leaving the negatives behind and taking the inspiration and love half into the next day.

I know we each have our own CrAZy.  I believe that without these extremes we would not accomplish the tasks unique to us, whether you believe that God, the Universe, Nature, or nothing, is behind these differences; we are one and our differences are actually what help exist together.  God put a bright yellow post-it on this matter; the relationship between smallest krill and the largest animals ever on Earth, the Blue Whale. 

Believe in your place here and learn how to make your crazy extremes be felt. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Big Move: Setting a Goal to Re-use and Re-purpose

I am faced with a big decision.  To move to a larger commercial space (read as "MONEY") or stay put in our cozy mill (read as "squashed, smooshed, packed, limited").  I have a plan... a vision.  So I know that the move would bring to be many more goals and opportunities.  To our followers that translates as products, classes, art shows, a place to craft with friends, and convenience.  Today, I am on the path to make the move.  When I actually sign the lease I'll be sure to let you know.

The space is large and industrial, a plus because we get to build it out to our specifications and a minus because we (I) have to pay for the build out.  But I love to plan and new things excite me (I just found that this is because I am an Expressive Driver.  To take the personality test go here - (don't worry, he won't sell your email and you can unsubscribe easily)  I am setting a goal and a challenge for myself and wanted to include you.

Front of the space to be finished

Back of the space to be finished - sorry it's not in focus

Front of side to be left unfinished for storage and washing of wool!

The goal for the build out as well as all the display is, as much as possible, to use what I have, what is natural, and things that have already had another purpose in this world.  There should be a financial savings without sacrificing form or function. 

Of course much of the construction phase requires standard building materials.  No way around pressure treated 2x4s, insulation, drywall, and such.  But we could really have fun coming up with ideas for workstations, wool storage, display shelves, and decor.  The look will be clean industrial meets barn meets general store - is that clear? ; )  Here are a couple of ideas that I have:

Floor: cork?
Work Stations: as much as possible use existing cabinets and top with wood.
Round display table: large painted cable spool on casters.  I have a friend in electric.
Wool storage: cut up concrete tubes and/or vintage bins from auctions
Workshop table: I have sections of wrought iron fence I want to weld and top with barnwood.
Counter/Checkout: I would love to find an old piece
Shelves:  Really looking for ideas here! I have access to affordable barnwood

Of course you probably don't know what I already have floating around my home and in our outbuildings but please don't hesitate to comment with your ideas.   Or better yet, let me know if you have anything tangible to contribute or "know a guy who knows a guy."

Onward into Project Sarafina Art House!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Formal Critiques

Critiquing artwork is both precarious and helpful.  If you submit your work for critque you will gain insight to your strengths and suggestions to make your future art even more fabulous.  I would like to find a way to present formal critiques online via YouTube and my website.  In preparation for that, I am going to spend this blog contemplating what a good critique should be, for me as much for anyone else who cares to think about it.

My first formal critique was in college art class.  We all pinned up our work at the end of the day and  had at it.  Of course we all wanted for everyone to love what we made the best and the criticism was a difficult pill to swallow.  But I learned to look forward to the conversation.  I began to see how helpful it was to analyze our work.  It's a critical step and second half to creating from your heart.  I also began to realize how much I learned by examining another person's art more thoroughly - the process serves the critique-or as well.

The first part of a critique - gushing.  The good news first is a friendly way to begin a critique.   Compliments are important, but even the compliments should be pointed.  We need to hear specifically what a person likes about our work; what they see that we did well or, in a more emotional aspect, what moves him or her about the work.  

On Facebook we make a lot of vague comments.  That's cute!  Very nice.  Wow.  Amazing.  Well done.  Etc.  Vague does not imply that we don't mean what we say -  we do.  But those kinds of compliments don't make much impact in a critique.  We must be as specific as possible in order to make the most impact.  Don't gush like a spilled glass of water.  Gush like one of those long range water pistols at the carnival that make the racehorse move.

We put our heart and soul into what we make and usually make something to the best degree of our capability, so why would we want anyone to say anything critical?  The critical half of the critique is equally as important.  Just because you did your best does not mean that your "best-line" isn't constantly moving.  Critical insight will move that best-line faster.  I'd say I improve with almost every creation... of course there are always flops periodically messing up that pretty learning curve.  But generally, the whole reason you study an art form, as opposed to just making art, is to enjoy the process of moving that best-line.

A few points to consider when we are critiquing art are style, method/technique, execution, quality, materials, composition, color, size... and of course there are more.  It's important to try to see the creator's point of view.  (Which, by the way, serves the critique-or as well as the critique-ee, pushing us to recognize other points of view and grow our own vision.)  Make your points in the spirit of pulling from the artist that next level.  Do not ask the creator to jump to your peak but to their next level.  Again, be as specific as you can with your comments. 

Critiques are not for everyone.  Deciding if it is for you has nothing do with how serious or skilled you are or whether or not you are a professional.  You may not want a critique if you are as happy as clam making your art and that is all that matters.   Only participate in a critique if you are willing to and wanting to hear the feedback.  Or, if you are in a class and have to. ; )

I will plan to critique needle felted sculptures in a video format.  I need to have the piece in my hands.  If you are interested you would have to ship your art to me and be prepared for me to have it for a month or so.  The details of how to apply, along with an agreement, will be announced once we sort it all out via my Facebook page and newsletter. 

(We could also try a formal critique on Facebook.  I will have to think about how to do that.  Needle felting, for me, is very hands on so I am not sure if we can work from just photos.  I would love for more people than just me and the artist to participate because I believe it helps everyone, not just the artist.  Feedback welcome on this subject.)

More soon on this subject.  Happy creating.