Sunday, March 29, 2009

A is for Awesome!

A fellow Etsian recently included one of my focal beads in a beautiful treasury she put together. As always, I checked out the curator's shop and was thrilled to find that she had all kinds of gorgeous handmade greeting cards. I like to keep artisan cards around for last minute sending, and was in the need. Maybe one of these days I'll write on why my life always seems to be all about the "last minute".

Angela is the "A" in "A is for Artistic", the name of her Etsy shop. Her cards have a modern, fresh look, and I found several I just loved, so I decided to interview her for my blog. I hope you enjoy learning more about the wonderful artist behind these cards.

Q: What is your favorite part of your creative process? For me, it's going out to the kiln in the morning after my beads have cooled, and opening it up to see all the treasures inside. I imagine you have a favorite aspect of your art too.

A: It's hard to narrow it down to one favorite aspect of the creative process. I love the mixing of colors and textures and shapes, and I like shopping for new images and supplies to breathe new life into the process. But I guess my favorite would have to be when a new design comes together and I love everything about it. I'm a perfectionist, so it's not often that I love every aspect of the outcome.

Perfect Plum Posies handmade birthday card.

Q. What is your least favorite part?

A. My least favorite part of the creative process is mass production, because then it's not creative anymore. Sometimes I make 6 or 8 of the same card, and I'm bored with it by the time I'm finished. And I don't know if it's really part of the creative process or not, but I vehemently dislike the photography end of things. I have no good natural lighting in my apartment and no natural talent as a photographer, so I really struggle to try to come up with clean, clear photos. It is endlessly frustrating for me, because the cards are so much prettier in real life!

Q. How long have you been making cards? Can you describe a little of the process? Are there a lot of supplies and tools involved?

A. I started making cards when I was the president of the women's organization at my church, a few years ago. My original motivation was to make them more cost effectively than I could buy them, so that I could send a birthday card to each woman. When I look back at those cards, it's kind of embarrassing because they aren't very pretty. It blossomed into a personal hobby, and I've gotten much better at it. Then last summer I opened my Etsy shop and started to take things a little more seriously to try to help pay some bills.

Blue Daisies and Dots Thank You cards.

Q. In your opinion, what does it take to be successful on Etsy?

A. I am SO not an expert on being successful on Etsy, but I think it really does boil down to great photos and great customer service. I've seen exquisite photos that make me want to buy, even though the item itself isn't very interesting. I think that's what brings customers in initially, and great customer service is what keeps them. Many of my sales come from word-of-mouth customers in my local area, so I've been lucky that way.

Q. Is there an artist that inspires you in your work? Who might it be and why?

A. It may sound cheesy, but my artistic inspiration really was my mother. She passed away a few years ago, but I remember her as constantly creating, in a variety of media. If I ever had a problem or felt discouraged, she would say "you need a project" and we'd come up with something creative I could do to distract myself and feel better. For me, creating something, even if it's as simple as a greeting card or a nice meal, gives me a little lift and I find myself grinning. I think my mom would have been a huge fan of Etsy. : )

Q. What (other than other artists) inspires you? Is there someplace special you go or look for inspiration in your card making?

A. I am constantly aware of color combinations around me. I notice them in people's clothing, in interior decor, in jewelry, in nature, on television and in movies, and then I experiment with those color combinations in the cards I make. On of my favorites combos, red and brown, came from an Etsy treasury that I saw once, and loved. I recently made a card in purples and blues because a friend said that was her favorite color combination. I wouldn't have thought of it, but it was a great combo!


OK, if that's not enough to get you off the email thing and thinking about sending mail the old fashioned way, there's no help for you! Get over to Aisforartistic's Etsy shop and check it out!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Converging on Playfulness

"Mean Green Mother Earth", collaboration accepted into Bead & Button and ISGB's Convergence exhibition.

For months now Cyndie Smith and I have been giggling like schoolgirls, chatting back and forth with emails and Etsy convos about a collaboration we were doing for the ISGB and Bead & Button's Convergence exhibition. The piece was completed at the end of January and accepted into the exhibit in late February, and we're thrilled. Except for the part about shipping it off and not seeing it again until The Gathering, and not getting to take it home and fondle it until next year.

We've never actually met in person, but after virtually meeting each other in the Etsy forums we've come to admire each other's work, and we've become friends. I love the organic ebb and flow of Cyndie's mixed metal designs, and she's a huge lampwork bead fan.

When I learned that B&B and ISGB would be pairing designers with bead makers for the Convergence Exhibition I knew that Cyndie and I should enter as a team. When tossing out ideas about what type of piece to design, I went out on a limb and confided that I'd been dreaming of a man-eating neck piece for some time. Why? Heck if I know - sometimes these things just come to you and you have to help them to fruition. But once I shared my dream with her, magically she said that she would love to do something like that. I was thrilled.

That was the beginning of several months of intensely stimulating, intensely fun creative playtime. I would make the flower heads, or centers of the flowers, and she would make the surrounding neckpiece complete with twining leaves and tendrils. We shot ideas and sketches (OK, Cyndie sketched, I made and photographed prototype flower heads) back and forth, shared photos through Picasa web albums, and before you know it we had reached the entry deadline and we had an over the top neckpiece that was both entertaining and dangerous. Cyndie created an abundantly exotic wreath of copper leaves in various shades of patina that was the perfect complement to my glass beads. I added some glass berries and buds to coordinate with the leaves and flower heads and Cyndie brought it together beautifully. Don't you agree?

There was one moment sheer terror after I had shipped off the flower heads to Cyndie in January. The few I had retained showed some incompatibility cracks and I was mortified that Cyndie had incorporated them into the piece. The Vetrofond Odd Lot Parrot Green I had used was incompatible with the color I had encased over (to save my precious and dwindling supply of Parrot Green), and the toothy flower heads were cracking at the sides of the mouth. Quickly I searched the web to find people willing to sell part of their stash of this great color, and secured some. I made the replacement heads (solid Parrot Green this time) and we were back in business.

Here is the description we sent in with our entry:

Sometimes our ideas grow wildly when left alone for a bit, or when merged with those from a different perspective. This piece originated from the convergence of two individual dreams of a neck piece made from exotic plants, with carnivorous flowers threatening the wearer. Fed by near daily emails, "Mean Green Mother" clips from the Little Shop of Horrors movie on YouTube, and Etsy "convos", the idea for this piece grew into one coherent design from two artists living on opposite sides of the country. Reaching, grasping tendrils reach out for a toehold on the wearer, while clusters of copper leaves in varying stages of life cradle hungry flower heads. Some slightly amused, some ravenous, some only babies, all of these creatures are the product of a planet that is hell bent on one thing: survival.

We were thrilled to get the acceptance email, and the piece is in Bead & Button Magazine's hands now for photos. In May a catalog of the pieces in the exhibition will be published, and shortly thereafter the exhibit will visit the Ohio Glass Museum in Lancaster, Ohio, the Bead & Button show in Milwaukee in June, and the ISGB Gathering in Miami in July. I'm looking forward to attending The Gathering this year so I can see it in person for the first time.

Soon we'll find out whether our piece will be included in the special October issue of Bead & Button dedicated to Convergence designs. Some of the entries will be invited to do step-by-step tutorials and will include artist biographies. Other more wearable forms of our Mean Green Mother Earth designs will find their way into our Etsy shops and shows in the coming weeks.

My lesson from this incredible experience is to do whatever I can to help my ideas take shape, to not be afraid of them, to not hold back, and to fully participate, no matter what the risk.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Elizabeth Gilbert on Creativity, Inspiration

Elizabeth Gilbert at the 2009 Ted Conference.

Have you heard of the "Ted" talks? Ted stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, and it's an annual conference where the most incredible minds come to give short (18 minutes) talks on art, science, and more. I find most of the topics incredibly interesting, and the short format challenges the speakers to make their point concisely and compellingly.

Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of the best seller, "Eat, Pray, Love" (which I have not read), and her talk is on creativity, and the relationship between the artist and their inspiration, which she calls their "Genius". Do you feel like the creativity coming from within you is truly "yours", or that it only visits you temporarily? Are you simply the conduit for ideas to make their way from the ether into a tangible form? Alternatively, do you take complete responsiblity (for better or worse) for your creative successes or failures? In her Ted talk, Elizabeth embraces the notion that there is some measure of comfort in accepting only partial credit for our creative inspiration.

Elizabeth's perspective is that of a writer, but these questions can apply to anyone who creates.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Retreat to the Snow

Gotta love a virgin drift surrounding the outhouse.

Once again I'm woefully late in updating my blog. I've just been having too much fun, I guess. First the majorly great beady news (coming, I promise), then another bout with a cold, some actual lampwork bead making, and then another wonderful trip to the snow. We're lucky to live where we can go to the snow when we want, and leave it behind when we're done.

This time we snowshoed up to a remote Sierra peak with a Forest Service fire lookout hut, and it was invigorating and relaxing all at once. Well, relaxing once we climbed 1,000 feet over 3 miles and had a couple of days to just hang out, that is.

We backpacked in with our food, clothes, and minor bedding items (wool blankets provided at the cabin), and melted snow for water on the propane stove. We lived in style - the outhouse was only about 50' from the front door of the cabin! Due to the short hike and duration of the trip we were able to enjoy "real food", and didn't leave much behind. No stemware, mind you, but no freeze dried beef stew for this crew either. We dined on the Greek style braised lamb shanks I mentioned before, curry chicken and vegetables and Naan, chorizo burritos, and Denver omelettes. I'm guessing we may have canceled out any possibility of weight loss from the hiking...

Our friends Rick and Angela made the trek with us this year, and it was their first time. Rick hauled his guitar up that slope and his folksy, bluesy serenading made our time in the tiny, warm hut even more fun than usual. Liar's dice, singing along with Rick, napping, reading, day hiking and viking knit made for a very satisfying adventure.

This is the wonderful visual memory we departed with this year - a snowstorm descending on the peak as we were leaving the hut, and Rick singing a last song on the snow steps carved down to the front door as we locked up. It was sadly sweet to leave that way, but we wouldn't trade it for anything.

I promise to have new lampwork bead listings in my Etsy shop and some wonderful news for you within the week. I hope yours is going along swimmingly. At the rate it's raining here we'll be swimming along swimmingly very soon.


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