Monday, January 27, 2014

I found a great quote the other day that I wanted to share. 

"The important thing to remember is that no project is the ultimate; each is a step along the road. Enjoy, experiment, take chances, have fun: this is the learning process. Learning to see, then using what we see is a lifetime project. I have yet to finish a piece that I couldn't visualize improvements to. I keep reminding myself of what a gallery-owner friend once told me. She said that she differentiates between art and craft, not by the medium, but by the attitude of the person who created the work. A craftperson produces the same thing over and over, an artist continues to change and grow."   
                                ---- Dorothy Bird

I feel like I have been straddling a line between art and craft for years; and the way I have perceived my own work, along with others' perceptions, has led me to constantly re-question this idea of what is art and what is craft, and what the hell am I doing??

In the Fashion Department at SCAD, craft was a 'dirty' word. A fashion designer was NEVER a crafter and the very idea led my professors to sticking their noses even higher in the air. Of course, this made me want to incorporate crafts even more into my designs. It was easy for me to see past the kitsch, housewife stereotypes that I believe they were hung up on, and instead saw the variety of skills and techniques that encompassed my notion of craft. Honestly, to this day, I still don't really get why they abhorred the idea so much.

In my need to always be different, I have relished the idea of blending two supposed different areas of concentration, in an attempt to see both of them in a new way. I have never once doubted my ability to blend art and craft successfully, but I can't help but hear the naysayers. The galleries that turn me away because they don't perceive what I'm doing as fine art. The people who look at my work and can't understand that it's not a sweater.  I guess there are those who have such ingrained ideas as to what fine art is and what knitting is that I perplex them with my muddling. And now I'm so far deep into it that I don't get what's so hard not to get. 

Today, as I slowly carve an art career path, the foundation I am building my name upon is entirely craft-based. Knitting, crochet, have completely replaced the traditional canvas, paints, brushes. I find that the limitations of knitting, the rules that cannot be changed, give me enough parameters to allow my creativity to flourish, and free myself from the 'blank canvas' syndrome. To me, this all feels right. 

So how do I define art and how do I define craft? I don't think either need to be limited to one person's definition. Isn't art a visual display of hand skill and execution? Don't tell me that you have never seen a quilt that expresses love and beauty. (If you haven't, let me know, and I will show you.)

So let's have a big middle finger towards the boundaries of definitions and stereotypes, and show the world what creativity really means by being open to it all.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

"The New Forest"

completed and ready for framing. This piece breaks my heart a little bit every time I look at it. We are in the midst of having all the forest around our house get torn down to build a solar panel farm. It makes me sick to my stomach when I think it about it. I just want peace and quiet and nature around me. Can't everyone just leave me alone??!! I should've made the panels twice as tall as the house with evil faces on them. Ugg.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Wanted to share this recently completed filet crochet piece, "Tig Ol' Bitties"! After I finished "Ain't That Some Shit!", I declared that I would never crochet lace again... yeah, that didn't last very long. Adam encouraged me to make this piece as a complement and follow-up to the last one, and he sold me on this idea when he also came up with the phrase, HA! I loved it though. I physically developed very early on and was surrounded by many ittie-bittie friends, it wasn't till college that I made a friend with larger bitties than me. I specifically remember a high school party where I was given a name tag with this phrase on it by Chris Martz, and the nostalgia of that memory was enough to make me want to crochet this. Also, what's more feminine and beautiful than a great rack?? Everybody likes tig ol'bitties!

Behind the scenes of my photo shoot. Cats, they just GOT to sit on everything! And I just realized now that Adam is using my giant handshake as a blanket, ha! 

I realize that I haven't posted pictures of this piece... I had intentions of working into it more and I'm still a little fuddled on how to take a good picture of it. I was calling it Handshake Rug because my original idea was to felt it and use it as a rug. but all the natural dying I did with the yarn (all the yarn, excepting the black, is hand-dyed) might potentially disappear if I douse this with hot water over and over, which is needed for felting. Still simmering on this... 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

I've been thinking lately about how I wanted to share my new experiences with Etsy. I just recently posted some things for sale, and made my first sale; giving me a chance to figure out how it all worked and really understand the benefits and drawbacks of using this form of online retail. YES, I am just now figuring all this out and NO, I didn't educate myself before I dove in. 

For one thing, it is incredibly easy to do. The accessibility is phenomenal without having to commit to a monthly membership fee (as in Big Cartel). 20¢ to post an item for a few months - chump change - very easy to hand over. What I didn't realize is that when you actually sell something, there's a transaction fee (88¢) and then another 20¢ to repost the item (if there are multiples available for sale). Ok, so now we're up to $1.28 -- a little bit more than that 20¢. 

Then it turns out PayPal takes a percentage of your transaction as well (if this is the form of payment you are using) and since they handle the money, they automatically take out their fee (2.9% + 30¢ per transaction). Once again, something I didn't educate myself on before-hand.

SO, I'll use my first actual sale as an example to where the profit margin is and how much a seller can actually earn.

I charge $25 for a print, and then you have to predict shipping costs, so I chose $4

My buyer pays $29 to PayPal. They take $1.14 so now there's $27.86 in the pot.

Etsy charges 20¢ + 88¢ for this item, so now we're at $26.78.

The actual item cost $8.08 to have printed, now it's $18.70.

Finally, shipping. I screwed myself here because of a couple reasons. I didn't have any shipping tubes so I paid a premium price for one at the post office ($2.49) and then, since it was right before Christmas, and I wasn't sure if this was a Christmas gift, I decided to ship it priority to make sure it got there in time. (ALSO, I feel like shipping Priority is the only way to ensure that the USPS won't fuck it up.) That cost $6.10. Chomp, chomp, eating right on through my profit.

My net profit was $10.11.

Yikes! Now, I'm not saying that I don't appreciate that $10 (and covering the $8.08 print cost), I guess that's a decent profit. It by no means pays me for the hours I spent creating the original art, or figuring out how to photograph it, editing it on the computer, sourcing a printing company, or committing to a large order out of my own pocket. And once I got over being mad about it, I understood that these companies are providing a service and they are justified in getting paid for it. I guess I was more shocked that this money that someone thinks is going to an independent artist is getting reduced to less than half their total payment. 

As I've gotten older, I've made a strong priority to support other artists, crafters, musicians, etc. as much as possible, and support the big companies as little as possible. Through this experience, I've come to the conclusion that to live up to this commitment, it means shopping in person with cash. Even Square takes a little to process a credit card. Convenient, yes, but a small reduction to the artist's profit over 50 transactions can really add up.

Shopping anyway you can where you are in direct contact with the seller is the greatest opportunity to support the talented people you admire, like buying CDs at a merch table instead of going to iTunes. Or going to craft fairs in your area. You could even contact local Etsy sellers, and ask to meet in person to make a sale. If they are committed to making a living with their skills, I promise they will show up.

SO, in conclusion, I've decided to step up my commitment in supporting other artists, by not only purchasing their goods, but considering how I choose to pay for these things. I applaud people to choose to shop at Etsy over other forms of retail but globalization can have its drawbacks. I say, 


Friday, January 3, 2014

Have to point an arrow towards this article from Beautiful/Decay  ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------>  FIBER ARTIST LOVE

I'm sure y'all are aware of Google Alerts. A friend set me up one where every time my name gets published on the Internet, I receive an e-mail with a link to the article. This was about 4 years ago and since then I've only gotten obituary notices about Ann Tilley Shaw from Texas or Ann Tilley Wills from Alabama. Occasionally a genealogy notice but never anything that actually has to do with me. Needless to say, I was pretty floored to find a link to this article in my inbox that was not only about me but a rather glowing criticism on my art! I though Kristin Bauer summed me up pretty well, and I got to learn about some other artists that I hadn't heard of before (Hello, Erin M. Riley! Baller!) Anyways, I highly recommend setting up a Google Alert on your name because I'm sure there are people out there saying wonderful things about you and it will be just the thing that makes your day!

"Ann Tilley's fiber works, specifically her text based works strike a chord of nostalgia and domestic irony.  They are incredibly clever in their usage of phrase and their rendering and delivery captures certain moments of awkward American culture.  Patterns that are reminiscent of doilies and Cosby sweaters deliver humorously mismatched phrases in an aesthetic of cuddly kitsch."