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some of my little craft products

I just read an excellent article about Etsty on the latest BrushBuzz newsletter. I won’t go into the details (it is long but worth a read), but the gist is that as sellers get more successful, they outgrow the Etsy profile- ‘independent handmade’. And some leave to develop their product for production-  letting others do the making.

Etsy is therefore looking at reforming their policy to allow people to be designers only and farm out the production work.
Obviously there are inherent dangers in finding others to produce your product – once profit becomes a motive, the jump to employing third world sweatshops isn’t a large one.

Additionally, Etsy wares will soon be available in shopping malls and other brick and mortar stores.  Interesting……..

Actually the issue I want to address here isn’t about Etsy policy as much as it is about the intent of creators. I’m not against having a successful business selling your art, I know that for many this is rewarding. I’m mainly concerned about what happens to the transformative power of art when business values take over.

What I see happening with Etsy saddens me, because I thought Etsy was part of a wider movement to democratise art by eliminating the gatekeepers; and to make handmade goods carrying the qualities of care, craftsmanship, Read the rest of this entry »

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Following on from the previous post, ‘Limited space and no time..’, here are 5 things you can do anywhere anytime which will help to get you  creating again. I find that if I’m antsy and want to get materials in my hands but don’t know what to do, or am not feeling inspired, these little gestures can trick me into getting more involved than I intended to when I sat down. And if they stop with just the first part of the assignment (which only take a few minutes), fine, give yourself credit for accomplishing one creative act that day.  (This last idea is from Eric Maisel’s. ‘The van Gogh Blues’  Highly recommended to support your creative self at all times).

Assignment (Step) 1

Cut out a 1 x 1 inch (2.5 x 2.5 cm) square from a magazine, any magazine, part of a photo or part of the text.  Paste it down on a page of your sketchbook or another sheet of paper. Be selective where you paste it- in the middle is good, but so is on top, bottom or side. That’s all. Done.

If you are moved to continue, add more squares letting the first one inspire you either by color, theme, or design.

Assignment 2

Draw a small shape on a piece of white paper and color it in with anything you like- watercolors, felt tips etc. Done.

To continue building on this,  draw a 3 x 3 grid of these little shapes and color each one in as you like. They can all be dotted, striped, in one color, different colors. You can fill them in with bits of cut paper (old postage stamps are good), use pastels, whatever.

Now do one more 3 x 3 grid.

Collage and oil pastel

Assignment 3

Ok, take one of the grids from Assignment 2 and cut it up and rearrange it on another background. Done.

Assignment 4

With scissors or a knife cut a small shape out of some not too thin white paper. Color that shape in with pastel or soft colored pencil or graphite.

Shape cut from some scrap paper

Place the shape on a white background sheet of paper, and rub the pastel you applied to the shape out to the side so that it creates a shaded outline of your shape. Lovely.

Inspired?  keep applying pastel, oil pastel or some other soft medium to the shape and keep placing it on the background and rubbing the pigment onto the background with your fingers.

multiple shapes

Assignment 5

Take soluble watercolor crayons or any other media and just make stripes of different colors across the top of a white page. One row is fine. Done.

Want to do more? fill the page with little soldierly rows of stripes using any colors that strike your fancy. If the rows start to change or the strokes start to change shape follow that development and see where you end up!

(Optional follow-up assignment)

Combine any of these techniques and make a new mixed media piece on any of the given themes:

a city, fantasy animals, strange beings, cosmic landscape, secret garden, castles, towers, abstract forms, mystery alphabet, underground cave, deep sea scape, …..

Keri Smith’s ‘How to be an explorer of the world’ is a great resource for finding creative moments almost anywhere, anytime.

crowded work table

Several times people have commented on the difficulty of devoting regular time to developing their art without a studio space.

Even though I have a beautiful light workspace, it is comparatively small and I still have to work around all the projects I usually have going at once. So maybe some of the solutions I’ve found could help you to get your art done despite limited space and time.

Yesterday I wanted to start the day by doing a watercolour of some leaves I’d found on my morning walk with Lucie. I pushed some paperwork aside, got out a travelling watercolor box and some scrap paper and went to work. 15 minutes later, this was the result.

morning watercolor study

We’re not worried here about perfect art, but about continual effort, which leads not only to improvements and new ideas, but to accumulating a body of work.

Limited space, no time? – 7 Tips for working anyway

  1. Put everything you need to start work in a plastic storage basket. For a watercolor this would be: pencil, paint set, paper, brushes, water jar, paper towels or rag.  You can put the basket within easy reach and start whenever you are inspired or get an extra moment. Cleanup- easy! Dump it all back into the basket.
  2. Keep a sketchbook together with several drawing materials within reach.  I have a little cloth bag made by my friend Miriam which holds everything I need in the same place. I hang it on a door handle and grab it when the light falls on Bernardo the horse at just the right angle.
  3. Keep a basket of materials for several different media- for example, one for collage, one for wet media, one for oil pastels, etc.
  4. If you don’t have a slanted surface to work on, keep a thin piece of plywood about 10 x 10 inches, depending on your preference for size
    of working.  Put it in your lap and lean it against the table or your knees- instant drawing table!
  5. Make sure you have a mobile angle poise or other simple reading light nearby to illuminate your work.
  6. See how much you can get done in snatched 5-10 minute segments. A quick blind contour. One cut-out shape pasted in a sketchbook. Sometimes just handling the materials can ease that feeling of not being able to get to what you really want to do because of all your ‘Have Tos.
  7. Give yourself permission to do what you love first, before you start your daily ‘To Do’ list.Even if it is only for 10 minutes.

You can do this. You could try making a 30 day commitment to touch art materials to paper for at least 5 minutes every day.

Housing stories

September 6, 2012

Tiny paper houses

little collages with a house and vessel

Sometimes when other work has stranded, I make little collages out of discarded oil pastel drawings.

Yesterday I woke up with an irresistible urge to make tiny paper houses. I wanted them specifically to place on a miniature spice shelf ( a new addition to my studio, purchased for 60 cents at a second hand store).

I hadn’t intended to decorate them, but now I see that they are my oil pastels in 3D.

The image ontop of this page is inspired directly by Camillan Engman’s tabletop collections, and is also cut from discarded oil pastel drawings.

I love the shapes of houses and vessels, jars, bowls. It occured to me that houses are vessels, too. They contain our lives and loves and everyday rituals. They contain each of our stories.