Thursday, September 24, 2020

Starting A Business

Well, it's here, I'm graduated and settled into life post graduate degree. I think the schooling is helping me be a more savvy business person, but who really knows in the long run. All I know is I'm happy with where my life and art is currently. It took about a year post school to figure out what I could physically handle. I moved to South Carolina and back to Washington. I got married and we traveled (still do), and my husband supports my art and life choices fully.

 I've  begrudgingly come to the conclusion that my physical disabilities make the realm of fine art an impractical career track. I would suffer for minimal enjoyment. So now I don't do shows, residencies, teach, or write grants. I have planted myself firmly with both feet in the fiber arts.

I spin, and knit, and crochet, and dye, and talk about all of these things. I go to knitting and spinning retreats, take lectures and classes, and make, make, make. I teach when asked and help if needed and it's right where I belong.  So this blog will continue to be about art but this time it will have a twist to it. I'm going to take you on the journey of my life living with a rare disease, and how I go about living and making purpose in my day-to-day life.  I want this blog to raise awareness, and I would like people to see the ins and outs of life with a disability; all of the unseen unheard nuances that mostly go unnoticed by the people that don't live every day with me.

 This blog is moving. You can find my ramblings and meanderings through the world of the fiber arts here : Bits N Bob's Boutique. I've now been an active fiber artist for 11 years, and before that I crocheted for the fun of it. Living in the Pacific Northwest is providing me lots of opportunities and avenues to get to know the  professional side of this art form.

You can find my busniess here and here:

Bits N Bob's Boutique (ETSY)

Bits N Bob's Boutique (Ravelry) 
I  own a business. With my sister. How did we get here?…


The making of a fiber artist

 It turns out I'm a terrible writer. I completed my art piece for thesis in a timely manner. It was concise, it was reflective, it was intriguing, and it was well crafted. The only hangup I had was in my writing form.  Thankfully I had some super supportive advisers and a very supportive editing crew, including family and friends, and I managed to get through the thesis with minimal bumps and bruises. It took me a little longer than June, and I was a little embarrassed by that, but in the end I think it worked out for the best. I'm going to post my thesis in the right-hand margin for  anyone that may be interested in reading.

 What does all of this have to do with where I'm at now?  It turns out that when I make art I personally have to research why things are made the way they are, and where they come from, and how to do it in the most homemade way possible.  I'm intrigued by who did it first, where they may have learned the skill,  and how that skill has progressed to how we interpret and use it today.  I then take it one step further because I like to torture myself. I try to find ways to create  using that skill but modifying it so that it works best for me and what I want to use it for. Because ultimately, I never want to use the skill I am learning for the craft it was invented for.  I like the challenge, and I've never been able to work inside parameters very well. Just ask the Navy.  This usually results in a certain level of tears and stress that makes my husband frustrated, because he doesn't like to see me overwork myself. It's something that we are learning to live with and work through together, and he's been very helpful in helping me try to be more precise about the things I want to make and do. 

 I'm a painter by training, but grad school has taught me that I'm a sculptor at heart. I love to make tangible objects, and have some form of use for said objects.  I have also found that with my fibromyalgia and syringomyelia I can't use certain crafting materials that I used to use regularly. I've learned to make modifications, and I'm  physically and mentally happy with the new direction my art is taking.  I can get more done with less tears! This may seem to be getting long-winded and taking forever, but it's going to get really good I promise. 

 All of these revelations have led me to lean down my studio practice. I'm moving away from pottery completely and selling all of my equipment. I 've switched to a more body friendly sculpting material, polymer clay. I started experimenting with polymer clay while I was in grad school, but at the time I really wanted the effects of ceramic and glazes, and I really didn't have the time to learn all the necessary skills to work with polymer clay and get the effects I wanted.  So now that grad school is over I'm working with polymer clay exclusively.  I get to use all of the color theory I've learned over the years to develop colors and palettes not readily found in pre-mixed colored polymer clay.  I've also found that my pottery skills translate entirely over to this new craft.  It's less messy which means less cleanup, and I hate cleaning up, so it's a win-win. 

 I'm still using my woodworking skills, but now I'm using them to craft usable objects. I've developed a kick spindle  that is small, transportable, and easy to use when my physical conditions overpower me.  It's also easy for me to build, and I still get to use my woodworking skills without having to overwork myself. You can check out my spindle at my Etsy shop,  because after creating one for myself I realized it is an object that could be used by others  and there really isn't a very big market for them in the fiber arts. You can find kick spindles, and they are great, but they are really expensive, and I wanted to make something for people that can't afford a really expensive spinning wheel. 

 I'm also moving in the direction of fabric arts. I made a quilt for one of my thesis project flag boxes, and I found it to be a rewarding experience. So, I decided to find a way to continue quilting without having a huge insurmountable project in front of me. So that's why I make coffee cup corsets for my shop. It allows me to do some quilting  and fabric matching without it being a giant blanket. 

 I had initially started the shop so that I could sell handspun hand dyed yarn, but I quickly found that the amount of time spent making the yarn was not worth what I could actually ask people to pay. So I still dye fiber, and I still spin, and I still knit amazing things, but now I do it just for myself and others. So there you have it, me, as a fiber artist.  

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Stress During Thesis

Thesis semester is stressful.

There is no way around it. To properly complete the program I've had to front load all my work. Of course, the initial writeup of the Thesis takes place at the beginning of the semester. Once that was done I immediately jumped into "tweeking" my project for graduation. This has been broken up by a Thesis reorganization. So really my semester has been about 50/50 art making Thesis writing.

So the stress comes in unexpectedly. I wasn't feeling like I had more work than usual until I realized that any little change in my life led me down the path of extreme freakout. Every...single...change.

I'm trying to keep my workout routine intact so I don't make the stress worse, but my social life is taking a major back seat still and probably will until I graduate.

Moving on...

I had my first face to face meeting with my Mentor. Ultimately, the flag boxes I have created are complete. Now it's a matter of making the resource shelf fit with the overall feel of the boxes. We spent most of our time discussing that, as well as, what I can do with my life when I graduate. I feel like that aspect of the degree is seriously ambiguous. I mean, what do we do once we graduate if we don't want to be a full-time teacher? How do we get grants, how do we get shows, how do we get to know the people we have to know in order to make these things happen, what shows should I decline, how do I choose a gallery, is there room for local art fair work to go with my "high" art most people won't buy?

Claudia was really helpful with answering these questions. She is a very sharing person and I really appreciate that. Sometimes it feels like people don't want to share because they worry there will not be room for everyone in the art world. I feel like if you are good enough it doesn't matter who you share with.

Anyway, writing my Thesis is also helping me frame my work better and figure out what art I want my art to be associated with. And although I'm not making any "new" work for the graduate exhibition I think the work that I have tweeked has taken on a "new" glow.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Surfacing To Post

So I haven't been on my blog because every spare minute of my life has been absorbed by making art and writing my thesis. I figured it was time to post some form of update. I've decided to try to make this semesters posts informative in regards to the thesis semester process for my future self, and for others that may be curious about the program.

My first week back I tried to take a few days off, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it...until I got sick. So while I was sick I brainstormed and decided instead of doing a ceramic insert for the flag box I am completely going to redo I am going to do a knit flag. The only problem was I didn't know how to knit. So I took my sick down time to learn to knit.

The following week I was functioning mentally and physically again so I began reading for thesis. I read all day every day ALL WEEK LONG. At the end of all that reading I rewrote my thesis outline to include what images I wanted. I also had a Skype meeting with my mentor to try to figure out the balance for the semester. She recommended I get some help with the massive workload. I decided to take her advice, and the following week I hired a studio assistant.

I spent 7 days writing my first draft thesis to include the bibliography, images, citation, but not the abstract. I turned the draft into the writing tutors and waited 3 days for feedback. I then made the necessary changes to grammar and sent it off to my lovely editor, Lindsey Schmitt with a deadline. She returned it with content comments. After editing a second time I sent it to my mentor who graciously did a quick turn around so I could edit for her comment suggestions and get it turned in to my adviser. First thesis draft done I began focusing on studio work.

With my assistant I have removed all the rebar from the boxes, patched, painted, and varnished (thanks for the tip Kevin Blake) them to completion. I had her cut all the quilt squares for my replacement quilt piece, cut out the shapes for my resource scrapbook, and put all the boxes back together. I have knitted the knit box insert, constructed the quilt box insert, and redone the military medal and ribbon insert. This required I rip the other box inserts apart and put them back together with the new surfaces. I've been putting in between 50 and 70 hours a week. The only reason this is possible is due to my ability to stop living since my boyfriend is on deployment. I have tendinitis in my right arm, eating has become an after thought, my pets feel neglected, my house is filthy, and I'm running out of clean socks and underwear. I don't recommend this normally. Normally I try to stick to the 25 hours a week in the studio to maintain sanity and my health, but I have to meet the catalog photo deadline, and I want my new project in the grad catalog. So that means I'm going to kill myself and my assistant with studio hours until the deadline is met.

With that said. After averaging the hours from February and half of March over the 18 weeks that make up the semester it works out to roughly a little more than 20 hours a week. Crazy right?! I know. I don't know if I'm going to post pictures of this project because I would like everyone to be surprised. Don't worry Sunanda, I will send you pictures so you know I'm on track.

I will, however, post pictures of whatever new endeavor I attempt after I complete the requirements for this flag box project.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Trying Something New

So my boxes are just about done. Waiting for my big F to go away and my boyfriends pinched neck nerve to subside so we can put the last three backs on and I can paint them. Hopefully, we will get them done tonight.

Since my boxes are done I decided to try my hand at an idea for a ceramic anchor sculpture. I used a 20lb anchor and about 32lbs of plaster. It is the biggest heaviest thing I think I have ever made, and it was not 100% successful.

Turns out all the poking and prodding to remove the anchor from the plaster left huge gaps between the mold pieces. So I tried building the clay body like a slump mold and sticking it together with tons of slip and clay chunks. My Frankenmold is now drying. In a few days I will know if all of this back breaking work and money was worth it. I'm feeling like it probably wasn't, but at least I've tried. It has also made me realize that I physically cannot handle such large objects. So back to the drawing board with that idea. I think for now I will stick with my necklace boxes.

Next week is Thanksgiving and the last week of studio time for school for me. I've been busting my butt to get everything done for shipping, as well as, a few weeks time to rest my poor beat down body.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Seven Boxes in Five Months

The work I have been doing for the last six months is almost complete! At this rate I will have it done by my deadline of December 1st with corrections as well. The boxes were surprisingly difficult and time consuming. The backings look great but they each had to be tailored to the specific box it would be attached to. Overall, I'm really happy with the end result. There are many future possibilities for this series as well, but for now I need a break! So here it is, 7 boxes in 5 months...
The colored glass beads have writing on them, but the picture is too small to show that detail

flash so you can see the crushed velvet.

same box different lighting



Quilt. I restitched with thicker white so you could see the quilting.

Land of the free.

Scrapbook flag has had a few reworks and it is at a stage where I'm going to start constructing and completing it.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Once The Paint Dries!

Well I'm surfacing for air finally! Papers are done and projects are coming to completion! So it's time to put some pictures up. I was planning on completing 5 of the boxes today, but my dog had a medical emergency that has taken my whole day. He should be back home tonight though and I can complete the 5 boxes tomorrow before seeing my mentor on Wednesday.

My third paper was about how the work of Rosemarie Trockel and Elaine Reichek use feminist art to create institutional critique. Studying these artists as well as some basics on semiotics helped me come up with the text in these pieces. Some of the writing is much more subtle, but every word was researched and decided upon very deliberately.
I may display the boxes on the floor in a similar manner. They all have holes to mount them on the wall as well.

The rebar is labeled, "honor, courage, commitment" 3 Navy Core Values
The centerpiece complete.

crochet stars (still needs to be ironed so the star centers show better)

Cross-stitched forget-me-nots and a common military phrase with loaded meanings

quilted star complete.

The centerpiece, a pillow with the medal and ribbon attached and iron on transfer.
close up. If you look closely "land of the free" is quilted into it.

Beads. See below for explanation...
 So I had a major meltdown with the ceramic bead box. Specifically, the beads. I fired them without thinking about the shrinkage rate of the stringing holes. Once fired the holes were too small to stilt again for the second glazed form. Fixing the problem would take too many man hours and I had already spent over 80 hours making the 2,140 beads. So I did research and chose Czech drop beads. They have a long history of disrupt due to wars, but continue to be made in Czechoslovakia despite the adversity Czech bead makers endured. Not only that, but they are the exact shape and size to match the ceramic beads I had initially created. 

That's all for now...