Sunday, May 31, 2009

How to Score Great Gifts and Influence People

I have something really awesome to show you!

Those little scanners at the big box stores are awesome, but what if you could supplement your baby/wedding registry with handmade items? My Handmade Registry makes it ridiculously simple. Paste your Etsy favorites onto the site, share the email address, and you're done! Not only will you wind up with original and amazing gifts with impeccable craftsmanship that will last a lifetime, but you support independent artists and crafters everywhere, and turn on your friends and family to the handmade movement!

Here's a tiny sample of Etsy offerings that would be a big hit at baby showers:

Chocolate Orchid Changing Mat from Made By Kate

Baby Business Onesie from IsabellaBoo. So Distinguished!

This natural toy set by Wee Wood Natural Toys encourages sorting, counting and other important skills.

This Discovery Tote by Helicopher Studios creates an instant play space for little imaginations!

In other news, I have a really busy week ahead of me. I've pulled around 200 woodcut prints over the last few days that need a color screened in tomorrow, and around 100 screens to frame up before Thursday. More info on my next show later in the week!

Friday, May 29, 2009

On Craftivism

I just reached my 100th sale on Etsy about an hour ago (thanks, Brooke!) and I've been thinking a lot lately about the money that I make from selling art. I was recently asked if I would mind donating a piece to the art center that is organizing an upcoming show, and the answer was easy. Non-profit arts centers are on the chopping block in Michigan right now-- and I'm so infuriated that I sent our Governor a nasty letter about it when she announced her intent to cut this funding several months ago. (If you'd like to email Jennifer Granholm and tell her that the arts are not expendable, you can click here.) Anyway, I eagerly signed up to donate a piece, and started thinking about how I could help in other small ways. I tried researching museums and non-profit organizations that run art auctions-- when I came up largely empty-handed I started to change my approach.

If nothing else, my work is about the places I've been. When I think about all that these places have given me, I'm amazed. My perspectives and beliefs have been so heavily influenced by the beauty that I've witnessed, and really, the only way I give back to these spaces is through voting for politicians who may or may not rally around them.

I think that its time to put my money where my mouth is, so I started to look for organizations who are taking monetary donations, and that was much easier.

1) Alliance for the Great Lakes
This group participates in a whole variety of activities in order to help preserve the largest freshwater system on Earth, the Great Lakes. If you've never seen the Great Lakes, you're really missing out-- they're an amazing treasure carved out by the glaciers, every bit of shoreline is stunning. I grew up with parents who were passionate about trekking us all over Michigan to visit these lakes every summer, and I've seen all of them by lonely Lake Ontario (the little guy on the far right)

Later I had the good fortune of meeting a wonderful guy who loves visiting these natural treasures as much as I do-- here's a couple of his photos of our favorite spot on Lake Michigan.

From now on I will be contributing to the Alliance for the Great Lakes by donating $1 from every Petoskey Stones print sold on Etsy. Most of these prints are sold to lovely people who tell me about fond memories of childhoods spent hunting for Petoskey Stones on the shores of Lake Michigan, just like I did. It seems fitting that I use this print to help keep that experience alive for generations to come.

2) Global ReLeaf of Michigan
Global ReLeaf's mission is really simple-- they want to plant trees in Michigan. This group is based out of Ann Arbor, where I work and spend a lot of my time paddling the Huron. When you start canoeing all over the place you realize that the Huron is special-- despite the fact that it flows through one of the most sought after communities in Michigan, its shores remain almost completely undeveloped with the exception of sprawling natural parks.

Here's a slice of autumn beauty on the Huron:

I'd like to offset some of the lumber that I use to stretch screen prints, so from now on I will donate $1 from every Hiawatha Birches or Log Slice print purchased on Etsy in order to help them realize this endeavor.

3) Odwalla Plant a Tree Program
My original intent was to donate to this project, which is planting trees in State Parks throughout the country for the rest of the year. Then I realized that Odwalla is donating the trees, and all you have to do is click a button and they'll plant one in the state of your choice! Please take a minute to visit the site and have them stick one in the ground just for you.

I would eventually like to donate from show sales to these organizations too-- first I need to develop an inventory system that works (or an inventory system, period.) I write down everything before shows, but then I get home and don't feel like counting what's left (the crucial step I'm missing) and then I sell a few online and before I know it I'm just kind of staring blankly at my storage.

Hopefully my little donations will help plant a couple trees and clean up a few feet of shoreline in the woods and lakes that have done so much for me.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Two Features

Have I mentioned Printsy before? Its a quickly growing online community of printmakers on Etsy who share their work with each other. Each week a member shares their thoughts through a little interview-- today its my turn! Click here to learn a little about my history with printmaking, my materials and workspace and what not. Some photos of my process and workspace are included. Thanks so much to the the very talented Amie Roman for inviting me! Here's a photo from the interview of my latest print drying:

I pulled a big batch of woodcuts last night, and am about to tackle another. I decided to go with Sarah Vowell's The Wordy Shipmates for audio-book companionship and am loving it so far. It traces the history of the puritans who settled America with lots of humor and a sprinkle of sarcasm. As someone who was historically nerdy enough to complete the entire series of North and South books (followed by the Patrick Swayze mini-series rented from the public library) during one middle school summer (I can't believe I'm telling the internet this) -- I'm enthralled by Vowell's take on our past and love seeing the connections still vastly apparent between our country at its beginnings and at present day.

I downloaded this one through 2 free audiobooks when you sign up for a trial membership. They're not paying me to say that (obviously, since I have like 4 readers) but its really easy to give it a shot and very simple to cancel. I'm saving the other credit for our camping trip in June-- four hours in the car flies by if you're listening to a story. You can also find Sarah Vowell regularly contributing on This American Life-- the entire archives of which is available to stream by following this link.

All right, time to get moving. We took a decent-sized 5 mile trek down the river today and went to a holiday bbq-- I'm bushed!

Happy Listening (and Reading!)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Show Promos

Looking for something to do this weekend?
Come see me and all of these people:

at Movement 2009! In Detroit!

May 23-25
Hart Plaza
@ the Handmade Detroit Shop
(just to the right of the entrance gate)

My work will be there all weekend, my person will be there Monday from 4-9.


In other show news, I received some information and a stack of postcards from the Mt. Clemens Art Fair yesterday, and was pleasantly surprised to see that one of my entry photos had made the cover!

That's me in the corner...
(resisting the urge to sing REM.....)

Saturday's plan is to pull as many woodcut prints as humanly possible. I find that I get into the groove with woodcut prints much easier if I have an audiobook to listen to, so I'll be shopping for one to download tonight. Any suggestions? I listened to a big chunk of David Sedaris' When You Are Engulfed in Flames last time. I think I'd like to stick with funny essays-- that way I'm not totally lost if my mind wanders or I have a hissy fit over off-registration or some other trivial set-back.

Screen printing is more of a high energy enterprise, so I stick with my tried and true 'fast' play list-- lots of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The White Stripes, The Thermals, The Helio Sequence and so on. I would equate screen printing energy to fast house-keeping-- a lot of quickly moving back and forth in small spaces.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Feed Your Soul

I'm so excited to share this project with you!

Feed Your Soul is an off-shoot project of Indie Fixx to help supply us all with pretty art in these times of economic turbulence. With one click you open a PDF file of the art sized to fit a piece of printer paper. From there you can print it off on your inkjet at home, or send it off to your local copier. Final cost: the price of photo paper and a little bit of ink. I am all for affordable work, so I was really excited to participate in this project.

This also gave me the chance to skew the printmaking method to make a single, complex original-- something I haven't done in around a year. I opted for screen printing on canvas because I love the look of digital fabric-- it lends some extra dimension.I printed flat panels in all sorts of colors, cut them out and stitched them together to make this little guy:

We were only asked to depict something that feeds our soul in the download-- so I went with a little scene of our canoe chugging down the Huron. One of my favorite sections of the river channels through Nichols Arboretum-- the immediate scenery is lush and green with the slightest poke of Ann Arbor's skyline along the top.

You can download my print (or any of the others) right here

Monday, May 18, 2009

New Honeycomb Print

Used the same negative-print method over the weekend with this honeycomb print. I laid the yellow down first and then cut out and applied approximately 1 million little honeycombs before screening on the brown. I laid it out much more haphazardly than usual, but I think that the composition came out a-okay anyway.

Will be stretching around 40 screens tonight and attaching tags to all of them and taking inventory. Then I'll be ready to go for the Movement show, and thinking about the next one-- I have TWO weekends to get around for it-- a frightening thought! I'll be reevaluating after this coming show in order to decide whether or not to take a little time off the day job to get ready for the next one.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sneak Peeks

I've been stalling on buying more business cards. I get lots of compliments on my old ones, and they match my shop "look," but I was never really sold on them. My plan, should time ever permit, is to screen print designs on card stock and then print out info a clear mailing labels to put on top. A bit like moo cards, but with a handmade spin. I think I really just wanted my cards to feel unique from one to the next. I also wanted type to play more of a starring role than a supporting one-- and that's not really possible in anything you can order.

Then I commited to selling work in Handmade Detroit's multi-vendor shop at Movement, (formerly the Detroit Electronic Music Festival) and realized that if I wanted to truly take advantage of marketing to 80,000 people then I'd need lots of new business cards in a hurry. Like 10 days hurry. So I bought some textured cardstock and went for a skinny horizontal format on my inkjet at home.

I like how they turned out-- I'm still itching to print my own though! The script/western treatment in my shop name is on its way to becoming my new m.o. I think.

My work graced the pages of Design Sponge this week thanks to Chicago designer Amy Allison's home. Amy picked up some work from me last year-- I'm so happy to see it tucked away in her bathroom! She makes really beautiful screen printed textiles and pretty white ceramic work with an etched feel.

Can you spot it?

My piece for IndieFixx's Free Art Project will be up sometime between next week and the end of the month. Here's a little glimpse at the work-in-progress.

You'll be able to download and print the finished piece once its up on the site!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A creative activities update!

I've been out and about this past week-- the options for passing time are much more plentiful now that the warm weather has returned! I have managed to sneak in a little work and have also developed a really fun eye twitch in response to the work yet to be done!

As promised, here's the super exciting theme for the new flyer at the store:

We wanted something really fresh because green is shooting out of the ground like crazy, so we went with sprouting. My coworker Adam created the sprout from foam board and wire, and then applied multiple layers of felt on top before nestling it in this little shadow box behind plexi-glass. Several components of the actual sign were cut from paper that was applied to the chalkboard-- a totally new way of working for us that we'll definitely be coming back to. The rest of the store is filled with downed branches that we covered in kraft paper tape and little paper leaves.

In my own work, I'm happy to announce that I have a new favorite material-- his name is Mr. Burlap.

(click for texture bliss!)

I purchased this organic hemp burlap a few months ago, but just got around to using it this weekend. I love the effect when a somewhat modern image is screened on top-- the contrast is heavenly.

The only problem with Mr. Burlap is that he's really thirsty. These prints require at least 4 times the amount of ink required to screen a regular print-- the dried burlap weave is like a sponge! I haven't decided yet whether or not to charge more for these prints-- either way, I'm in love.

This reverse technique (where the negative space is screened in) is going to play prominently in the prints I pull in the next few weeks I think-- I'm hoping it will be a fun way to breathe some new life into successful images. At the same time as the burlap prints were created I pulled another Ladder Fern edition where the brown negative space is screened on top of a variegated panel of greens.

For this effect, I cut the screen opening to just under the size of my piece of canvas, and then dollop on a few shades of green in random spots and pull the ink across the whole panel. Then I screen the negative space on top in brown. I already used this method last winter with the Huron River Bed series, which I'll be bringing back in addition to these Ladder Fern prints and some Honeycomb style prints also using this method.

That's on my to-do list between now and the next show, in addition to (as always) pulling lots and lots and lots of woodcut prints. I have my work cut out for me!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tweaking the Plan

I had a fantastic time at my student teaching alma mater, Ann Arbor Learning Community this past Saturday at their annual Spring Fling Craft Fair. And I've discovered that my hunch after Handmade Detroit's Craft Revival continues to hold true. Rather than small individual print purchases making up the bulk of my sales, like holiday shows where folks are either looking for gifts or making very small personal purchases, most of my income from these past two shows has been the result of several large purchases. A lot of my customers have been looking to buy multiple prints that work together. I never really saw this as coming.

So I'm going back to the drawing board on my plan for this body of work a bit. I still have plenty of these prints to get me through the next show, but will be looking for additional work to coordinate more. I will be bringing a few images out of retirement (with changes) that will work really well to this end, but because I don't find that terribly exciting, I'll be doing some sketching this week to develop pieces that work really well with what I have in terms of color and composition. Being flexible is the name of the game-- and I can't say I'm not excited (and a little taken aback) when someone hands nine screen prints to me and says I'll take all of these! ( If you're reading this Willow, thank you so much! )

I have four more weekends before the Mt. Clemens Art Fair-- my very first multiple day show. (They haven't released a vendor list yet-- but if you're coming, please drop me a line!) I have no idea what to expect for this show, and I think its the first year they're offering a space for 'alternative artists' like myself, so there's plenty of uncharted waters. I've been doing an ok job rolling with the punches with these last two shows, so I guess I'll just make what I can, bring it, and see what happens. If I've learned anything so far its that I have no idea what will happen.

Design for Mankind = Food for Brains.

I wanted to share a whole slew of photos today, but I left my camera at work, so I've decided to up the ante and share some video instead. I was tipped off to Design For Mankind's Dialogue Series through contributor Kate Bingaman-Burt (from Obsessive Consumption) and whenever I stop in to check on the series I'm fascinated by the topics of discussion.

Design For Mankind - Dialogue Episode 8 from Design For Mankind on Vimeo.

In this episode the contributors talk about the future of art and design. What Craig Atkinson has to say is particularly fascinating. His basic point is that we saw graphics look really crisp and hi-tech in the 80's and 90's. Design that bears a more handmade aesthetic is something of a reaction to that era-- perhaps the apex of which was Starbucks Christmas 2008. In any event-- what's next? We've come to a place where the most current art of our time bears that sort of home-spun, handmade look. See illustration sensation Julia Rothman, for example. Basic line work like hers is HUGE in illustration right now. Or the entire soundtrack of Juno (which bears a basic line work cover) -- particularly that folksy theme song which you can now hear tweaked on endless mainstream commercials. Commercials which also LOOK handmade! Its everywhere!

As someone who not only participates in this design zeitgeist by hand painting signs 40 hours a week, but also hand painting faux sewn stitches onto handmade signs, I am curious to see what happens next. I recently made this poster for an upcoming MICE show:

Design doesn't get much more handmade looking than being popped into a .jpg of an embroidery hoop. Craig predicts that sleek design will soon make a comeback in reaction to the handmade craze, and even points to some airbrushed work he's recently noticed.

The episode prior is about the influence of blogs in the creative life of artists and designers:

Design For Mankind - Dialogue Episode 7 from Design For Mankind on Vimeo.

Blogs are a huge inspiration point in my work, but I definitely feel like its a bit much sometimes. Working too much from what you see out there on the internet can strip away your own voice if you're not also pulling from abstract, real-life situations. Its easy to feel drawn to work and say "I want to make that!" because you can, not necessarily because its the result of your own creative process. I feel this particularly with looser, more subtle images, but know that my strengths lie in making graphic work. I know that I'm not capable of working in this mode all the time, because its just not how I process visual information.

Its a lot to process-- how the work of our time is influenced by this relatively new global community-- how the handmade aesthetic is almost a reactionary force to our high-tech world and what we might do to push into 'what's next'

In any event, this series is really interesting and well worth a peek!