Monday, November 30, 2009

Promises kept and new projects

Back in March I was working on a commissioned project for a friend to give to one of her daughters’ teachers who had made the youngest daughter love to read. This project was a pin that needed to look like a book. I had hoped to be able to also use this project to join a challenge on an online group that was a “from design to finished project” challenge. I posted my design picture here (here it is again to remind you) with the promise to post the finished pin. Well the pin was a challenge all by itself! Trying to make a hollow form in PMC that would not collapse on itself as the organic matter burned off had me doing a lot of mental gymnastics. In the end, I decided to fire the piece in two pieces, using paper clay to support the shape at the firing and then firing a separate time to join the top of the book to the base and the pin back to the base as well. I think the results came out pretty good – no idea how the teacher liked it or if she wears it . . . hard to know what happens to my jewelry that is given as gifts. So here is the finished pin. What do you think?

I also had my first home party this weekend. It was a lot of fun and several of my friends made a good dent in their Christmas shopping. One of my items - Modern Holly earrings – was such a hit that I had to take orders to make more. The orders are well under way plus some extras for more potential orders. Check them out (click on image for larger image and to purchase).  There is a wonderful pendent that matches too! Free Image Hosting at

Off to finish up on the earring orders plus work on a fun charm bracelet I had started and never finished in time for the home party.
Gale R

12/8/09 Updated to new picture of Modern Holly Berry earrings - better photo

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Stand Up and Be Counted Survey Results

The Artist Foundation of Massachusetts undertook a survey of working and hobby artists of all types in 2008 which I have blogged about both when I encouraged others to respond as well as some initial information released earlier.  The survey was based on a similar one done in 2007, by Springboard for the Arts, Minnesota Citizens for the Arts, and the Minnesota Craft Council.  Interestingly the results - while based on more participants here in MA - had almost the same results. 
While the report is 63 pages, it is well laid out making it easy to read through the basics and even dig into some of the details without feeling overwhelmed.  Some of the biggest findings were that most of the artists make their living from outside jobs because they can not afford to just survive on their art - especially now with the state required health insurance.  Also, it is important to note that of those responding, over 80% said they vote regularly which make them a political force IF they organized themselves.  To see the results go to
One of the more interesting findings they had was about the economic base for the responding artists, I will quote directly from the executive summary:
Stand Up and Be Counted also provided valuable information about how Massachusetts artists are accessing grant opportunities. Although conventional wisdom is that grant awards support a significant portion of the artists community, Stand Up and Be Counted shows that that isn’t the case. Of the 2,264 respondents who answered the question, only 41% reported that they had ever applied for a grant; of those who said they had applied for a grant, only 35.7% reported that they had ever received one (or an in-kind donation for their art). Last, most of the grants awarded to the 791 respondents who answered the question were for less than $1,000, and 79% reported receiving grants totaling less than $4,999.
I have been following a fellow blogger who has a blog specific to making artists of all types aware of grants, stipends and foundations for artists, writers, crafters, etc., Mira's List and this comment from the survey really struck me because Mira's blog has become so popular (based from a popular email list she had) due to how difficult it is for artists to find grants and other funding for their work.  Also, there were comments on the survey from artists who lived in other countries for a time or who had duel citizenship about how they were supported and valued as artists in other countries.  Wonder what it would take to change the attitude towards artists here?  Let us try to use the power this survey gives us (knowledge is power) to make changes for artists.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Looking for inspiration? Part 2

So in my last post I mentioned I had 2 things I did to re-inspire myself. A few weeks ago I stumbled across back to back programs on PBS called Craft in America and the programs were the most recent programs in a series that started a few years ago. The two programs were titled "Origins" and "Process". Each episode in the series (there are 5 in total) focuses on "a journey to the artist, origins and techniques of American craft". This is done by focusing on a few different types of craft artisans in each episode. Looking at the work of the potters, weavers, blacksmiths, glass-blowers, basket weavers, metal smiths etc. and hearing how they learned their craft or what inspired them to create was amazing!

I was so moved by the two episodes I saw that I had to know more about the series and I discovered that there were three other episodes shows before the two newest ones. You can watch the first 3 episodes of the series in their entirety right off the website Each one is about 55 mins and are broken into segments so even if you can not sit and watch 55 mins at one time, you can watch a few sections and then select the next segment to start at when you go back to watch it later. Also, if you are an educator (not just art, but math, science, social studies and more) there are great study guides to use to go with the series along with some video segments not in the series - like the book artist talking about math skills she uses to figure out how to make the book look like she envisions it.

In the first episode "Memory", the blacksmith Ton Joyce, has some really inspiring and profound comments. He talked about blacksmithing being made up of portions of items that have been made by others in the past. He had found a very old item that had been fixed many times over by blacksmiths of the past. It reminded him of the patchwork quilts his mother made and that thought has inspired his work since then. He was commissioned to create a baptismal font and he asked the members of the congregation to bring in iron items that reminded them of their past and then made each item into a plate that was forged together like a quilt that made up the bowl of the font "the idea being that the babies are baptized in the ancestry of [the] entire community."

Go check the videos out and be inspired to really think about what your art means to you and where it comes from.
- Gale