Monday, June 23, 2008

This and that (or where the heck did this month go?)

Well I had great intentions to post to this blog more often this month and suddenly here we are at the end of the June. I got to go see my friend Erin's work (http://www.freebird-designs.com/index.html) at an artists/craft show at the new art center in Yarmouth, MA. Her work is very delicate and pretty - not sure how well it was appreciated at the show - but she does well over on the Vineyard. Hoping to catch up with her there in about a week as I hope to go over and visit with my friend Betsy for a day while she is staying at the family "farm" (which sounds more like a vacation compound).

Erin telling me about this show - Celebration of the Arts Festival - reinforced an issue I have with arts and crafts shows down here. The Cape, which prides itself on having a great artist community, continues to fail those artists in getting word out about these shows. Most of them you almost have to stumble over to find.

Last year the Cape Cultural Center http://www.cultural-center.org/ was still in the midst of a multi-year adaptive reuse preservation process from its neglected past as an abandoned old bank building. The work they did on the place is amazing! I got to see some before and afters and the work they have done there is amazing. Last year's Celebrations of the Arts Festival was held under a tent with money from it used to help continue the restoration work. This center is a wonderful venue for artists privately mount a show of their work for a reasonable fee in a fabulous space. The Center's staff and volunteers help man the shows with the artist recommended to be there for the weekend. If a group of artists rented the space it could be one really fabulous place to have your art seen and even possibly sold! Yet, even my art friends who have friends in the various art guilds here had no idea about this show or about the space.

The Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce and their Cape Cod Arts Association have tried to make the arts here a part of the reason to come to the Cape. However, when they want tourists to spend $20 on a book - current only for that year - to find out about artists, artisans, shows and galleries they are missing the point. Even the Massachusetts' Artist Trail has books for $10 and a banner on members shop doors that can't be seen until you stop and go into the gallery or store. I know there is a better way and I am hopeful that Betsy will be able to put into play this summer a better method for tourists to find artists and events (yes we have a theory on how to do this and when she gets it going you will hear about it here). In the meantime, the shows and galleries here are left to pay fees to the Chamber for little results.

The Hyannis Artist Shanties are back - and you would be surprise at how few people who live here - let alone visit - know anything about them. Called "Harbor Your Arts" http://www.harboryourarts.com/ it gives juried artists and artisans a place to show and sell their work at the Harbor docks during the summer. They have most shanties with a single artist for the whole season but have one shanty with weekly rotating artists. If you are here on the Cape - living, summering or just visiting - make sure you go check them out.

- Gale

Note: See Clare's comments below regarding the artist trail books. When I went to purchase the book from the Chamber at an event last summer they were asking $19.95 (I was shocked) and the MA Artisan's Trail Guide book was on sale at Collections just last month for about $10, so I would be really pleased if tourists can easily find these books for $5.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Artists, training, education and the importance of continued learning

A few months ago, on the Orchid forum a debate regarding "trained" jewelers and metal smiths and "self-taught" got pretty intense. Goldsmiths were one of the first groups of artisans that organized into Guilds during the Middle Ages. To protect their trades these groups organized the precursors to the modern unions with set regulations on training, apprenticeship, journeymen and masters. The groups became so powerful that they began to have major political impact during the Renaissance and could determine who could practice their trade. I mention this because if you go back and look up this debate, that started with a request from a woman in the U.K. for some ideas on learning design techniques, you can almost still hear the faint rumblings of the old Guild system in some of the responses. There were a few gold and silver smiths who felt the only way to truly be an artisan in this field was to go through a formal program of training at university or a recognized jewelers school. Any one else was just a "crafter" or "hobbyist". I wrote about this discussion in my post of March 10, where I listed Karen Christian's great response and wonderful design exercises.

While I had formal art training as a part of my undergraduate degree, I do not agree that it is the only way to becoming an artist. In fact I do very little of the art I was trained in - oils, pastels, pen and ink, etc. and have spent the last several years working in more tactile mediums like collage art, beading, wire work and now silver smithing and precious metal clay. The only time I studied anything remotely related to these mediums was in high school art. That said, I did not just pick up a few books and wing it. While I definitely bought books to learn from, I enrolled in classes - adult education, single class offerings at craft and bead stores, and PMC classes at Metalwerx. I hope to take some more classes in glass slumping and more metal smithing soon. Why? To improve my skills, expand my knowledge and enhance my business. I may even take some business courses to help directly with marketing and managing my business.

In discovering a wonderful jewelry artist (Michael David Sturlin), I found this great article in The Crafts Report April 2004 where he was one of the artists quoted. It is called "What Does Arts Training Have To Do With Selling Your Work" by Suzanne Wade http://www.craftsreport.com/april04/feature.html. Sturlin started off self-taught and after several years started reaching out for formal training. He said it had a profound effect on his work, his productivity and his earnings. I have no idea what his earlier work was like but his work now . . . amazing! Here are his two sites: http://www.goldcrochet.com/ and http://www.michaeldavidsturlin.com/ (my advice - sit through the intro on the second site). He taught at Metalwerx a few years ago - before I knew about them - and I hope he comes back some time soon.

Well happy June every one! Gardening to finish tomorrow!

Gale