Showing posts with label connections. Show all posts
Showing posts with label connections. Show all posts


Kindred Connections

When we last left our story, I was working on a new mirror design, inspired by a quilt I'd seen on Flickr.  The sneak peek of it, in its very early stages was this:
Here, many days and much angst later, is the finished piece: 'Kindred Connections I', which refers to my own heritage:  African American and Native American. Did I start out to create a piece which combined these two? No.  I realized what was happening about 4 days into the 5 day process (definitely the longest I've had since the infamous Guild challenge piece from last fall), and once I did, it became a bit easier to finish.  I often forget that when I'm confused about the direction I'm trying to take with a piece, I have to let it go where it will.  Forcing things to work never works.  But, when I let go of the process a bit, and become more open to the possibilities, things come together--often in ways I never "intended".    Below is a close up of one of the two polymer clay pieces.  It is textured, painted, and rubbed with PearlEx powders.  Attached to it is a multicolored feather with a metal swirl jewelry finding set on top.  I'm now inspired to create another in the series (this time without the blaring yellow which caused me much consternation!).  So stay tuned.      


Indie Business Breakfast

June promises to be an interesting month here in North Carolina. For the first time in Raleigh, there will be an Indie Business Breakfast, hosted by the Carolina Mixed Media Art Guild (CMMAG). On Saturday, June 6th, the topic will be:

How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Brand and Attract More Paying Customers For Your Business!

From the promotional release:

"Lisa Stewart, CREATIVEGoddess of ECStewart Designs in Raleigh will be the featured speaker. She is an award winning designer and illustrator who, along with her husband and business partner, creates an extensive line of sophisticated images that are licensed on all kinds of elegant home accessories and personal products designed to enhance the lifestyle of the sophisticated customer. Lisa is a graduate of Western Michigan University's School of Graphic Design and Fine Arts.Through the years, Lisa and her husband have become intimately familiar with the challenges artists and crafters face when seeking to make the most of the financial opportunities that flow from their gifts. Lisa and her work have been featured in dozens of magazines and news outlets. Lisa will share from her experience and answer your questions about everything from maximizing online sales to achieving favorable publicity. If you want to learn how to use free and low cost social media tools to entrench your brand in your niche market, you need to follow Lisa's lead! She can help you turn your artistic talent into a vehicle that will help you enjoy your craft while also living a lifestyle you have always dreamed of."
About Indie Business

"Indie Business is where independent business owners connect, collaborate and succeed. We share tips and how-tos, and use the latest branded new media tools to create new relationships and expand our spheres of influence. Indie Business Breakfast is hosted by Donna Maria Coles Johnson, founder and president of the Indie Beauty Network and Indie Business Media. Known as the Chief Executive Indie and the Original Lifestyle CEO, Donna Maria is passionate about empowering people to maximize their potential through small business ownership. You can follow Donna Maria’s entrepreneurial journey at You can also connect with her on Twitter at and on Facebook at"

I'll be attending the breakfast, wearing both my CMMAG Vice President's hat as well as my Kindred Spirit Studios hat ('haven't quite figured out what to wear to set both of them off!), and will have a piece of work on display. I'll be very interested to learn how else to use social media, and whether Twitter makes any sense at all (right now, I'm in the 'why in the world would anyone want to know I'm eating a salad for lunch?' camp) for my business. But these days, every little thing which can help with marketing, promotion and sales is much appreciated!

If you'll be here in Raleigh, or can make the trip, registration for the breakfast, which will be held at the John P. "Top" Green Neighborhood Center is here.

See you there!



One of the things I love about doing shows is connecting with, or reconnecting with artists whose work I admire.
Art & Soul was no exception. I got to reconnect with Courtney Tomchick, a clay artist whose work resonates with me. We met for the first time last year, and I was glad to see her in Charlotte.
Unfortunately, she doesn't have a website, but here are some examples of her work.

The other very cool thing about doing shows with like-minded artists, is the practice of trading work. Courtney and I traded work; she loved one of my 12x12 clocks, and I love the "totem" shown here, hanging on a wall in my studio, which is the first wall piece specifically for the studio. Thanks, Courtney--'hope you enjoy your clock as much as I'm enjoying the totem.


The results are in...

For one of the new shows I've applied to for this year: the 53rd annual Boardwalk Art Show and Festival in Virginia Beach, VA. My work was not accepted. I've heard it's very difficult to break into this show, so I will keep it on my list for next year. The same organization, the Contemporary Art Center of Virginia, presents another show there in the fall, and I plan to apply to that one too. This is all part of the ongoing process of finding the right combination of date, venue, booth fee, promotion, and buying audience which makes it an excellent show for my work. I'm still searching, and I anticipate hearing soon about 4 more shows...'keeping fingers crossed--that works about as well as anything does after you've followed the directions, sent in your application fee, and let your fate be decided by a nameless, faceless jury. What a process! The disconnection is disconcerting, which is perhaps why I've gravitated to things which will restore a sense of connection.

One of these seems to be an exercise/dance class which suits me. This is no small feat, given my aversion to most organized forms of athletics (the last time I recall really enjoying sports was in elementary school relay races). The class is called Nia, which is described as "a personal growth, body-mind-spirit fitness program that uses The Body's Way to achieve physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual fitness and well-being." Wondering what Nia stands for, I discovered on the website it was once known as "non-impact aerobics" and "neuromuscular integrative action".

My own association with the word Nia is from the African American observance of Kwanzaa. Nia is the fifth day of the seven day celebration, and means "purpose". The name of the class resonated with me because of this association, and when I read more about the classes, I was intrigued. I found a class meeting nearby, and signed up. The first class was this morning, and while it will take a bit of time to get the hang of the sequences of movements, I feel I did well for a first timer. It felt good, and I can see once the movements become more natural, I will be able to 'go with the flow' of the mind-body-spirit connection. If this interests you too, see if there's a Nia class near you, and try it. Then, let me know what you think.


Points of Connection...connecting to?

My points of connection list is done, now it's time to find the publications which will find my life and work interesting enough to publish an article I've written, or a feature about me. During the teleseminar, Jennifer King suggested researching magazines in the 2007 edition of Writer's Market. Since it's over 1100 pages, and about $30, I elected to borrow it from the library (plus, it's November--buying the 2007 version didn't seem like too good an investment!). I've found 8 magazines so far, with reader descriptions which would seem to be interested in me and/or my work. Some of them were new to me--Fifty Something and Complete Woman, to name two.

So now, the challenge is to write the pitch letter to wow the magazine editors, and compel them to contact me for more. I will also write an article, to send to smaller magazines, such as Polymer Cafe, which requests full articles and feature interviews.

I'll use the article which appeared in Raleigh's News and Observer newspaper in July of 2006 as a jumping off point. Thinking back on that experience, it was fun; the reporter and I had a 45-minute telephone conversation, a photographer came to shoot me working on a mask and some of my shadow boxes which were on my living room wall, and ten days later: the article you see here appeared. 'Hope my process is as enjoyable and successful.


Points of Connection

I participated in a teleseminar last week, conducted by Alyson B. Stanfield of Art Biz with guest speaker Jennifer King. The subject was: How to Get Your Art Published in Magazines. This is one of the new directions I'm exploring as a result of this year's less than stellar retail shows. Speaking of which, Judy Dunn has a post about her disappointing retail experiences on her Artrepreneur blog--I guess it's nice to know it's not just me, but I do know that; the craft market is soft, and the forecast is not encouraging.

Jennifer, who was formerly editor of three art magazines, directs us to list all of the interesting things about ourselves and our artwork, which will connect with the readers of specific magazines. Her point is that every magazine has a defined constituency, with a common interest, and editors search for features and articles which align with that interest.

So, here's my Points of Connection list:

In my early 50's
Mother of 1 teenage son
Lived in New England, now in the South
Worked in textbook publishing
Changed careers in my 30's
Formerly designed jewelry
Teach art part time
Write blog on art
Create Afrocentric home furnishings
Polymer clay artist
Mixed media artist: acrylics, rubber stamping, handmade paper, beads, embossing
Create masks with African-inspired motifs and themes
Travel to art fairs and festivals, primarily in Southeast

How will items on my list connect to magazine readers? What magazines are out there for me to approach? This is what I'm working on now...details to come tomorrow.

Meanwhile, color and pattern inspiration from natural abalone shells.

Make interesting connections today.


New Directions, New Habits

Now that I've decided on my new directions, I realize I need to establish new habits to make them possible.

My Art Salon group is nearing the end of its time, and the last session is entitled 'Create Good Habits'. Here are some of the things on a checklist of "what to do now":

Take an art class
Visit a museum
Attend an art lecture
Apply for a grant
Write about my art
Write about other people's art
Update my mailing list
Practice speaking
Call a customer
Attend a motivational seminar
Host an open studio
Review goals
Enter a juried exhibition

The lesson also asks us to decide what things we need to do daily, weekly, monthly and yearly to stay in "tip-top shape" with the marketing of our work.

For me, working on at least 2 things a day, every day will become a new habit to focus on. I know myself well enough to know that if I don't have a pressing product creation deadline, such as a show, I'm more likely to spend time on Internet research than on creative playing or developing a new technique or refining one I now use. I also realize I must put down the many ideas I have for new products, new embellishments for masks, and new clock designs I have at those odd moments (like waiting at red lights, in the shower, or just about to fall asleep).

As a planner and list maker, this is right up my alley. I've begun the process by making a list of the things I need to accomplish this week. This makes me focus, and I just love checking off the boxes when I've completed a task--a quintessentially Virgo trait!

So, blog posts may be shorter for awhile, as I focus on the rest of my list (blog posts are on it, of course!). But, as always, I will share my inspirations with you. Today, it's Ndebele women painting their houses. These come from The History of the Ndebele Wallpainting Project, the Ndebele People, and their Art

"It is women who have been the practitioners of the artistic forms that are such striking Ndebele cultural markers. In beadwork and wallpainting, women have an outlet for the expression of their experience of the world, of their aspirations, and of their identity as individuals and as part of a group. The first paintings' imagery came primarily from the women's beadwork traditions that go back hundreds of years. "

I also want my art to be an expression of my experience of the world, my aspirations and my identity. Time to get back to it.


Festival in the Park, Part Two: Color Comments

"Blue Leaf Clock" 12"x12" wood base with leaf-embossed polymer clay face. Hand tinted paper leaves decoupaged on acrylic washed wood base. $125

"Oh! Such beautiful colors!" "I love the colors you use." "Wow, those colors are neat!" "Beautiful work. Love your colors."

I hear comments like this every time I display my work. Using the Bruce Baker model, I try not to just say thank you. So, I've had to develop a range of replies. My responses include: "I do love color...what's your favorite?" to "Thanks, I try to make beautiful things people will like," to "Do you have a favorite piece?" But, when it's very clear the person is using the color comment as an exit line to "escape" from my booth, I do just say thank you. Bruce is right sometimes: when you engage people in conversation after they've given a compliment, it will occasionally result in a sale. In my own experience, telling the story of how I created a piece will usually interest people, but it won't always make a sale.

So, what's behind the color comment? In some cases, I can tell it means: "Wow, there's NO way all that color will fit into my decor." For those 'beige is best' people, it's what they think is a polite, complimentary exit line. For others, it means: "Tell me more about how you designed this." I love talking to these people; they're genuinely interested in my work, and do want to hear my "story".

Every time I'm at a show, I realize just how difficult it can be to close a sale. As artists, we often think our work should speak for itself, and we shouldn't have to convince people to buy it. I confess to believing this too, to some extent. I don't try to convince or persuade, I try to show why my work resonates with the person I'm speaking to, who's already shown interest in it. Because, when all is said and done, if the work doesn't move you, it's not right for you, and I frankly don't want you to buy it. When someone is drawn to pieces which resonate; I try to support her reasons to make it hers. Picking up cues from what she mentions, or what she's wearing (since what you like in clothing often mirrors your home decor taste), I can often 'close the deal' in a way that's comfortable for both of us. I'll be the first to admit I'm not a great salesperson, but I do feel I can connect with customers or potential customers who truly appreciate my work.

Festival in the Park and Art and Soul of South End in Charlotte were my best shows by far this year. I hope my work will be accepted for inclusion in both again next year. Until then, my focus will be to find similar art-based shows where people interested in hand crafted work come to buy.

Next: Part Three: Meeting Artists


Inspirational Adventure

Sometimes a news story just captures your attention, makes you want to be part of it, and makes you feel like standing up and cheering (even if you're hearing it while driving!). The story of Barrington Irving did that for me. He is the 23-year old pilot who will become the first African American, and the youngest person to fly solo around the world. He began his historic journey on March 23, in Miami; he'll clock more than 130 hours of flight time in his single-engine plane, dubbed "Inspiration," and will traverse four continents. He calls his trip a "World Flight Adventure," and when asked why he wanted to undertake this challenge, he said he wanted to inspire inner city young people, and all youth to consider pursuing careers in aviation and aerospace. "They can look at me and realize that if I can achieve my dream, they can too. I wish I had a chance to bring every child tracking the flight on my adventure, but I will be carrying all their hearts with me in the plane," Irving said when he left Miami. "This is what fuels me-having youth believe in what I can do, so they can also begin to believe in themselves." Barrington was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and raised in inner-city Miami. His interest in aviation was spurred by a chance meeting with a Jamaican United Airlines pilot, who took him to see an airplane cockpit when he was 15 years old--after that, he was 'hooked'. He's expected to return to Miami during the last week of May, and I hope it will be covered in the media, and I'll make sure to watch it while sitting at home, so I can really stand up and cheer his achievement. Way to go, Barrington!

This year for
my business has been an adventure, too. I've committed to step out into the world of professional shows, increased my production, revamped my booth design, developed new products (here's my latest clock), made connections with other artists, and committed to marketing my art in a more focused way. Luckily, unlike Barrington, I'm not flying solo--I have a network of artist friends and helpers, as well as the invaluable support and assistance in all things of my husband. 'Still a work in progress, but I'm enjoying the ride so far.


Connections and Transitions

While artventuring around the Internet recently, interesting connections resulted. Upon finding my blog, Ri Henson of Riclectic asked me to become a part of hers, which showcases the work of African Americans in the interior design and home decor fields. Of course, I readily agreed, and you can see the wonderful results, here, thanks, Ri! And, as a result of reading her blog, I've contacted another about featuring my work...I'll let you know if anything comes of that. One of my customers at Art & Soul of South End read a comment I made on another blog, and contacted me...we're planning to meet when I go to Charlotte again in September. And, in "real life," I brought together two women who are friends of mine who didn't know each other, and it turns out they know someone in common...connections again.

On the application front, I'm done for awhile, and maybe for the year! Last week was Atalaya in South Carolina via, and Festival in the Park in Charlotte. Both are in September, on successive weekends, and I'll need the month of October, w
ith no shows scheduled to recover!

We've taken the plunge, in preparation for our upcoming outdoor summer show season, and ordered a new tent! After doing some research we decided to go with the Trimline Canopy from Flourish Company. It will arrive early next week, and will begin another transition for our display. We started with a basic EZ-Up tent (doesn't everyone?!), with two tables, and what I thought were very cool paper banners. Our first outdoor show was Artsplosure in Raleigh, and until it rained, the display worked well. Once the deluge began, we learned that paper inside the tent might look cool, but is utterly destroyed by water (yes, we knew it before, but to actually see all that work literally go down the drain was not pleasant). The 'live and learn' adage applied here quite strongly. We changed the display for the next outdoor venture, which was Festival for the Eno the next summer (this year will make our 4th at this great show), in Durham. We replaced the paper with vinyl flooring--we painted the Adinkra symbols on the four gessoed front sides of the flooring panels, and painted the back sides as a neutral background for my work. The panels were suspended from the supports inside the tent. They repelled rain, looked great, and we used this solution successfully in several shows.
Each show presents new challenges. For Artscape, Baltimore last summer, which required that we share a 10'x40' tent with two other artists, my husband constructed customized easels t
o display my Ancestress shadow boxes since we couldn't use the Adinkra panels. The easels worked well, too, although they required a fair amount of time to construct on-site. Here we sat, in a rare quiet moment at that show, which was a fantastic experience; one I hope we'll be able to repeat this year--keeping my fingers crossed to be able to participate--'still on the waiting list.
This year, we ventured into the arena of indoor shows, which necessitated the purchase of ProPanels. I've shown this setup before. They also worked well outdoors, under our old tent in Charlotte. Capital Jazzfest will be the first outdoor show where we'll use the new tent, electricty (show hours end at 10pm!) and the ProPanels all together. Photos to come!