E-Books and Pondering

I’ve been reeling from a particular e-book that was recently released, written by “Sister” Diane Gilleland of Craftypod fame (www.craftypod.com). It’s called Creating a Blog Audience. It’s the “sequel” to another e-book that she published called Making a Great Blog, and when you put the two together they pack a mind melting whollop that has really made me sit back and ponder stuff. (Incidently, I don’t know why she calls herself “Sister” Diane, but it works. She’s preachin’ good stuff, lemme tell ya!)

First off, let me say that I’ve listened to all of the episodes of Sister Diane’s podcasts, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I was raving to a colleague about it one day, only to learn that she actually listened to Sister Diane, too! My friend isn’t into the podcast universe as much as I am, so to learn that she had actually heard of it was a real surprise! I download it off of iTunes (I have a Mac computer) and listen to it while I work in my studio. Makes me feel like I’m multi-tasking with the best of them, and actually getting twice as much done!

When I heard that she was releasing this book, I pounced on it and downloaded it and the other blogging book she wrote. Both come with extra “workbook” sheets that let you complete her exercises that she outlines. And those exercises have been incredibly interesting to me.3878035847_8b44d88b8d_o

I read the first book straight through, and loved it. Just to help explain the impact it’s had on me, I now have a poster on my wall by my computer that lists the “reasons I write on my blog”. It’s quite useful in maintaining my focus! I’m now measuring everything I contemplate writing about against those reasons, and it helps me figure out appropriateness, validity, and usefulness.

But the second book really made me sit back and think about stuff, and I’ve had to actually set it aside for a bit because it’s made me realize I have a lot of self-educating to do. In the second chapter, it poses a question: “What kinds of crafts do your ideal audience members like to do?” And that perplexed me. I realized very very quickly, I had very little idea of the kind of crafter/artist I was writing for. I was just “putting it out there” without any real thought behind who might actually be interested in any of it.

And that led me to realize that I don’t spend nearly enough time actually reading other people’s expressions. If I am going to write anything that is relevant and interesting to anyone, I have to know what else is being said, what they’re interested in, and provide a reason why they should read my blog in the first place.

empowering-orthers-to-achieve-successWhich led me back to my reasons on my poster. And it’s slowly starting to sink in that my reasons for writing the blog are rather “self-oriented”. I started this blog to help promote my wearable art business, and I’m coming to see that simply isn’t enough. Who wants to read a blog full of self-aggrandizing advertising? I certainly don’t.

So from here on out, I’m not only going to update you on what I’m working on, but I’m also shifting the focus away from me and more toward things that are interesting in a more practical sense. Philosophy, tutorials, interesting links… Since I’m not teaching theatre anymore, I might as well use that “bank” of resources and share them with you. Things like costume history, pattern drafting tutorials, online costume resources, material resources, small business advice, theatrical crafting materials, period styles and ornament, clothing accessories, theatrical movements, philosophies, art history… I’m excited about making this blog my classroom.

If I can help my blog audience relish their artistic capabilities through lessons, advice, examples, projects, and juicy discussions, then this blog will serve a purpose beyond simply being a tool for me. It can be a tool for you, too.

And somehow, I feel really empowered by that, you know?

Lunch with Friends

Today I had lunch at the Big Kitchen with my friends, Ingrid Helton and Shirley Pierson.  Ingrid was my supervisor at the Old Globe Theatre for many years where I worked on her construction team.  She taught me everything I know about mens tailoring, and has since gone on to start her own line of children’s clothing and had a toy store for a while.  Shirley just graduated with her MFA in Costume Design from SDSU, and is now working as a professional costume designer.   I met her at the university I used to work at, where she was a non-traditional student as her husband taught there.

Ingrid and Shirley and I had a wonderful conversation about a lot of different things, and we’re working out a lot of different kinds of plans and ideas for the future.  But at one point in the conversation, I shared with them my fears regarding the development of this business and my first tenuous steps into this new industry.

I think I am one that likes to plan…  It is part of my theatrical training to know where I should be ending up, and working toward that goal/reality step by step by step.  Theatre is very much a process, and I spent a lot of money getting taught that process over several years, and earned two degrees as I learned it.  As a theatre person, it’s my instinct to need to plan things out–without a plan, one gets hurt.  The old adage goes, “Cheap.  On time.  Looks good.  Pick two.”  Well, the art of theatrical planning is to make sure that adage doesn’t apply, or at least work well within their parameters.

But this Relished Artistry endeavor is a bit different…  I realized I know where I want to go, but I’m taking this baby step by baby step because I am unsure of how to get there.  I feel very much like a toddler.  I know I want to go from point A to point B, but actually getting the muscles to obey my commands is another story… And knowing that my brain is just learning to send the right signals to the right pathways to get what I want is going to take practice…

It was an incredibly reassuring lunch being with these two ladies.  They both have experience in different ends of what I am doing.  And it’s heartening to hear their words of encouragement and validation that I am indeed on the right path.  I can’t do anything until I get a “line” or a “collection” established.  Worrying about the next steps that I don’t know is pointless.  It will come.  One thing at a time.  The end goal is clear, but like that toddler I need to concentrate on one leg moving at a time.  It is also good to know that they are there for whatever advice I may need.  First things first:  establish a body of work.

So.  To that end, I am sharing with you a “sneak preview” of one of my next projects.  Club wear.  I’m calling it the “Hot Relish” series.  : )    Here’s a pic!  Until next time, live life with relish!

HotRelishPreview1web

A Trip to Liberty Station

I’m not at all sure if many of you know what’s been happening with Liberty Station over in Point Loma… This si what happened to me on Sunday.
My friend Robin Sanford Roberts (a professional theatrical set designer whom I worked with for 6 years as a colleague at the university I used to be at) is now teaching with a brand new arts endeavor–the Bravo School of Art. She’s going to be four different classes for them in a variety of different subject all the way from Scene Design to nature creatures made from shells and rocks. Some of them are oriented toward kids and others toward adults. The entire project is really quite fascinating–the school is just getting started and will be offering a variety of different classes in techniques and styles.
Their open house was this Sunday, and Robin invited me to attend. I had never been to Liberty Station before. It’s an area that’s just getting redeveloped from being a former Naval Training Center to being a real hub of community in the Point Loma area. One of the former barracks has been renovated to be a series of really beautiful art studios and retail spaces, and that’s where the Bravo School of Art is.
So my partner, Jonathan, and I drove there, and I must say I am very very impressed. Wow. What an instant community with still more growth and expansion left to do!! First off, there’s a lot of retail stores and chains already moving in–the building opposite of “Barracks 19” (where the art studios are now) had an Ace Hardware in it already, with an Art Quilt Gallery diagonal from that… Quite an eclectic area, it’s being promoted as the new arts hub of San Diego, being a new sort of “Balboa Park” experience. It’s well manicured lawns and open spaces are certainly sunny, and it has a wonderful campus/collegiate feel to it that makes all the businesses there seem like wonderful amenities.
We got into the barracks, walked upstairs, and went into the studio. It’s charming. You really can’t tell this used to be a barracks at all–each studio has light pouring in from multiple windows, and even the hallways between the studios that line the outer walls have windows and big glass doors. It feels like quite an airy space, and you can look into the studios and watch the artists at work. The lower floor is for studio/retail space, and they have to be open to the public during the day as well as have a retail component. It’s an incredibly intriguing location!!
I got to meet Alan Ziter, the Executive Director of the NTC Foundation, who gave me and Robin and her husband and my partner a quick rundown of the facilities and showed us the last available studio on the second floor. 324 square feet, with wonderful windows on the east side, and a big glass door on the west. Flooring had been put in so the it wasn’t concrete, and all the walls were painted a clean white. Electricity wasn’t included (which he said would run about $250 a month), and it didn’t appear to have water which could be a real problem when you’re dealing with fabrics and dye and such… But we’ll see.
It was intriguing as a studio space, and I will be talking to my friends about it as we have lunch on Tuesday. Yeah, my “long story that I wasn’t gonna go into” that I mentioned in a previous blog post involves two of my friends and I going in on a studio space together. So we’re looking.
But regardless, the Bravo School of Art is on it’s way, and their course offering are quite eclectic. Robin had hoped I might figure out a class that I could teach, but my first instinct was to teach sewing, and the classroom/studio isn’t equipped to accommodate that… So there are other things I could teach that are outside of the box (for example, one of Robin’s classes is called “Poetry Box”, which has nothing to do with scene design but uses the skills she incorporates in her scenic design process and applies them to other ends), but I think I need to ponder that a bit more. I think I’ve got my hands full making a stock of clothing just yet, but sometime in the future, Watch Out!!! : )
Okay, this is a book!
Live life with relish!

Barracks19Ext

I’m not at all sure if many of you know what’s been happening with Liberty Station over in Point Loma… This is what happened to me on Sunday.

My friend Robin Sanford Roberts (a professional theatrical set designer whom I worked with for 6 years as a colleague at the university I used to be at) is now teaching with a brand new arts endeavor–the Bravo School of Art. She’s going to be teaching four different classes for them in a variety of different subject all the way from Scene Design to nature creatures made from shells and rocks. Some of them are oriented toward kids and others toward adults. The entire project is really quite fascinating–the school is just getting started and will be offering a variety of different classes in techniques and styles.

Their open house was this Sunday, and Robin invited me to attend. I had never been to Liberty Station before. It’s an area that’s just getting redeveloped from being a former Naval Training Center to being a real hub of community in the Point Loma area. One of the former barracks has been renovated to be a series of really beautiful art studios and retail spaces, and that’s where the Bravo School of Art is.

So my partner, Jonathan, and I drove there, and I must say I am very very impressed. Wow. What an instant community with still more growth and expansion left to do!! First off, there’s a lot of retail stores and chains already moving in–the building opposite of “Barracks 19” (where the art studios are now) had an Ace Hardware in it already, with an Art Quilt Gallery diagonal from that… Quite an eclectic area, it’s being promoted as the new arts hub of San Diego, being a new sort of “Balboa Park” experience. It’s well manicured lawns and open spaces are certainly sunny, and it has a wonderful campus/collegiate feel to it that makes all the businesses there seem like wonderful amenities.

We got into the barracks, walked upstairs, and went into the studio. It’s charming. You really can’t tell this used to be a barracks at all–each studio has light pouring in from multiple windows, and even the hallways between the studios that line the outer walls have windows and big glass doors. It feels like quite an airy space, and you can look into the studios and watch the artists at work. The lower floor is for studio/retail space, and they have to be open to the public during the day as well as have a retail component. It’s an incredibly intriguing location!!

I got to meet Alan Ziter, the Executive Director of the NTC Foundation, who gave me and Robin and her husband and my partner a quick rundown of the facilities and showed us the last available studio on the second floor. 324 square feet, with wonderful windows on the east side, and a big glass door on the west. Flooring had been put in so the it wasn’t concrete, and all the walls were painted a clean white. Electricity wasn’t included (which he said would run about $250 a month), and it didn’t appear to have water which could be a real problem when you’re dealing with fabrics and dye and such… But we’ll see.  [Edit: Alan Ziter emailed me and mentioned that the utilities and common area fees are actually 25¢ per square foot… Quite a difference from $250 a month! Much much more affordable…)

It was intriguing as a studio space, and I will be talking to my friends about it as we have lunch on Tuesday. Yeah, my “long story that I wasn’t gonna go into” that I mentioned in a previous blog post involves two of my friends and I going in on a studio space together. So we’re looking.

But regardless, the Bravo School of Art is on it’s way, and their course offering are quite eclectic. Robin had hoped I might figure out a class that I could teach, but my first instinct was to teach sewing, and the classroom/studio isn’t equipped to accommodate that… So there are other things I could teach that are outside of the box (for example, one of Robin’s classes is called “Poetry Box”, which has nothing to do with scene design but uses the skills she incorporates in her scenic design process and applies them to other ends), but I think I need to ponder that a bit more. I think I’ve got my hands full making a stock of clothing just yet, but sometime in the future, Watch Out!!! : )

Okay, this is a book!

Live life with relish!

A Visit to an Art Studio

I’ve been on a quest to find a studio space to move my stuff out of my garage.  There’s something about a studio–it focuses a person into keeping their art part of their job, their livelihood.  If I go away to work, I somehow focus my attention better…  It’s the “work-at-home” syndrome that worries me–I don’t want to not get things done because I’m working at home.  Instead, going somewhere else to work might be a better option for me.  But I’m still at home right now, and with no income as of yet, my possibilities of moving out are pretty slim… hehe…  I have some colleagues that are thinking about going in on a space, and working together might help us expand our possibilities and job prospects…  There’s a whole ‘nother story to that, and I won’t go into it yet, but suffice to say a studio space would work for me on a number of levels.

So I went downtown today to visit my friend Joan Mathison.  Joan and I worked together at the Old Globe Theatre for a number of years in the costume shop, and she has always been working on her paintings in bits and pieces since I’ve known her.  Now she works for a company that does… well…  architecture/interior design stuff…  I’m not really sure, but it’s sort of artistic.  She has her own studio space that she does painting in, and her skills have developed rapidly in beautiful directions–her landscapes are quite stunning.

She’s one of the few “studio artists” that I know.  When she answered my email she felt she didn’t know much about the San Diego art scene.  I can only suppose it’s because she paints when she can–it’s never been her sole vocation that I can remember.  But when I got to her studio to talk about her space, she could have fooled me.  Not only was she on the Board for the building, she knew practically everyone that had a space there.  I was walked through many of the spaces, and she introduced me to some of her fellow tenants!

When I got there, I realized I’d been in the building once before many years ago.  It had been hot and crowded as it used to be on a walking tour of art studios in the downtown area of San Diego–a once per year event called ArtWalk that has since moved out of downtown.

But it was under different management now–folks that care about making sure artists have affordable studio space, and that there remain artists in the downtown area (San Diego’s downtown urban renovations ala a new baseball park have out priced many of the artists that used/lived in that area…).  One of the last holdouts.  And now it was a lot nicer.  Still no air conditioning, and most of the spaces have lower walls on the communal second floor, but it was intriguing. The third floor, where Joan shared a very large 600 square foot studio with another artist, had more private spaces all off a central gallery area where they would have shows.  Hers was one of the very very few that actually had water.

My conversation with Joan brought up a lot of topics to think about.  What direction I was gonna take this, why wasn’t I at my university job anymore, were there similar folk like myself in the building…  Most of the artists used their studios for painting, but there were a couple that had sewing machines there, and even an actual tailor.

It was food for thought.  Just under $150 a month for the much smaller spaces (Joan shared one of the biggest studio spaces in the building), all utilities included.  Many artists brought in refrigerators, extra lighting, etc.  One artist who didn’t have windows in his studio arranged to have his portable AC unit there for an extra $50 a month. I’m not sure how many spaces were there–35 maybe?

I’m not sure what to think about it.  I’m not sure I’m in a position to afford something until I get my feet on the ground, and yet “going in” with my colleagues could make it affordable.  Hm.  Food for thought.  More on this later.

The pic is of the building.  Yeah.  It’s above a Hooters Restaurant.  Ha!!     : )6_best_brokers_pic

Perpetually Revising Definitions

Okay, I did a bit of thinking.  I’m revising my idea of what “wearable art” is.  I went around google for a bit, and found some frighteningly beautiful pieces of art that are wearable.  I found contests and exhibitions regarding it.  I found vendors and jewelry makers that create it.  I even found artists and museum shows.

All of these folks feel that they are making wearable art.

This morning I told my partner, Jonathan, “This isn’t art!  What’s the point?”

And he said back to me, “There doesn’t need to be one…”

And that’s sent me in to a sort of freefall..   I suddenly found myself trying to justify my feelings to myself.  He was right in one sense, I guess.  Art doesn’t need to have a reason–decorative art is indeed art just by pleasing the eye.  It doesn’t need a reason to be art any more than that.

Dictionary.com’s first two definitions of art are thus:

1. the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.
2. the class of objects subject to aesthetic criteria; works of art collectively, as paintings, sculptures, or drawings: a museum of art; an art collection.

Hm.  To me, the thing that stands out here in both definitions is the word aesthetic.  And thus, I am reminded that all art must be viewed and appreciated in the appropriate context in which it’s meant to be perceived.  If it’s a decorative print on a t-shirt, or the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, each context is what it is and we value each expression based on how that context provides the criteria, or aesthetics, we use to evaluate that expression.

So I’m flipping through these different wearable art sights, and I’m coming to a conclusion that is still in it’s seminal stages…   The problem with a lot of art, abstract art especially, is that we (as viewers) don’t have the proper set of criteria in which to regard each expression.  It’s like someone excitedly saying, “Watch this!  Watch this!” as he shows you a 5-second video snippet of the vast emptiness of the Sahara.  And you do, and then he says, “Did you see that? Did you see what I’m talking about?”

See what?!?  What were you supposed to be looking for in the first place?  There was no context.  No aesthetics.  No frame of reference.  Are you just supposed to be able to read his mind regarding what he wants you to perceive?

A lot of art would be appreciated a lot more if we didn’t jump to conclusions before reading artist statements or asking questions.  We can appreciate it’s form, shape, color, line, mass, texture, and space–it’s elements.  And sometimes that’s entirely the point–we ponder that at first and then it leads us to more pondering, and suddenly we’ve taken a journey in our heads that was prompted by this piece of art.  Sometimes the journey is the point.  More often than not, however, it’s the feelings that are elicited by the combination of those elements that make you feel something.  And because you feel something, you think about things.  And the journey that you go on in your head and your heart is not so distant and cerebral, but emotional and personal.

And that’s a lot easier to do when you let the artist help you, or take photographs on the web simply as that: pretty pictures.  It’s only part of the story…

On a very basic level, Art Stimulates.  That’s it.  Done.  Pretty simple.  How it stimulates, why it stimulates, when, and who…  And how well…   Those are the bigger questions.  And there are no simple answers.

So in my quest to try to decide what is wearable art… Well, I guess I’m still looking but I feel a lot closer.  Wearable Art is, at it’s core, wearing something that stimulates.  The how, why, when,  who—those are aesthetics.  Those vary depending on context.  So I can’t be too quick to judge what is wearable art, because the art part of it is completely wide open.  The wearable part I can have strong feelings about!  And the art’s effectiveness based on how wearable it is!

I guess, in the end, I’ve learned that I’m just looking to create my art in a different context.  It isn’t the art that’s wrong, it’s that I’m applying my desired frame of reference on garments that aren’t meant to fit into it at all.

So I’m gonna look at things with a different eye, now, and try to develop some new aesthetics, criteria, and frames of reference when I explore more wearable art.

In the end, it’s heartening.  My foray into the wearable art world is just as valid as any other’s.  And that’s a really good feeling.

Live life with relish!