Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Who to invite:
Opening it up to the public was far too risky on several levels. Primarily, my studio is the back bedroom in my rented house, so there were real safety issues, both during and after the open house if I didn't control who came. Also, parking is problematic; opening it up to the public had the potential to increase the numbers beyond what I could handle (or have that dreaded no one show up happen).
If my studio were a stand alone structure large enough to display a good number of pieces, then I would be somewhat less concerned about large groups of strangers traipsing through. If all I wanted to do was exhibit work, I'd definitely find a space off-site and broaden the invitation.
All in all, I liked the informality of the event, having control over who came, but also having a professional air to it all. I think I struck a good balance.
If in the future I decide to broaden the guest list to include people I don't know, I would feel the need to have a person in every room of the house where the guests would be milling, as a security measure. I think I would still worry, though, about the odd miscreant who'd come to case the joint.
How to invite:
On a whim, I also decided to invite some business people I've had contact with since moving here. These little fliers just didn't seem appropriate, so I printed up a more formal card with one of my quilts on the front and mailed them a week before the event. To be honest, I was disappointed that only one of the six responded and came. Maybe that's a good percentage as these things go, but I would hate to spend the money to send out a lot of formal invitations if only a few responded. On the other hand, those people now have a sample of my art in hand and may be passing along my information unbeknownst to me. I guess the best thing to do is keep cultivating contacts and leads, that all important mailing list, send out personal invitations as I can afford it and not worry about how many actual bodies show up.
Don't do this alone!
Particularly on the day of, I'd recommend letting someone else totally take care of setting up and monitoring any refreshments. This same person(s) could also be taking coats, pointing arrivals to the guestbook and explaining which rooms are included in the tour. I really should have roamed a little more than I did, and I probably would have if I hadn't been standing at the door as people arrived. Probably should have been farther in the room, near the guest book.
Oh, yes, and don't forget to eat before hand! I was smart enough to have a second cup of coffee before guests arrived, but I erroneously thought I'd nibble on food all afternoon so didn't need to eat lunch. Well, that didn't happen. I developed a terrible headache and eventually had to excuse myself to escape to the kitchen and wolf down some food.
Of course, after everyone left, there was clean-up to do - putting away the leftover food, moving furniture back into place, putting out the garbage. It was nice to have a few bodies around to help. And to give their impressions of how things went. And to crash with while watching a movie after the adrenaline wore off.
Final thoughts (well, I think they're final):
Speaking of comments, I was particularly interested in how the men responded to my pieces. I guess there was some fear that they would find them not to their taste, too feminine perhaps or not of the kind of subject matter that would appeal. Such was not the case. One even commented that he particularly like the different colors of threads I used in the quilting of one piece. (And no, he is not the husband of a quilter.)
Overall, these people are quite art savvy. I guess that's why I valued their reaction to my work. I trusted that they would not gush to make me feel good then roll their eyes when my back was turned. They weren't sure what they would see, only knew that it was not going to be quilts in the traditional sense. I watched carefully for that first unguarded reaction as they caught sight of my pieces, and it was nearly universally surprise and delight. I knew they were getting it by the comment of one woman who said to several people, "These expand the concept of what a quilt can be." Thanks!
The other comment that sticks in my mind was one that still puzzles me: "Your quilts are so happy! Such bright colors and just happy!" Huh? She obviously didn't take a close look at "Camelot" which is anything but a bright happy quilt! She kept going on about one quilt in particular, one that is all rich dark fall colors. Mmm. Well, I wasn't about to argue with her.
Someone seemed surprised that I'd be taking most of the quilts down, thinking I'd want to leave them up to enjoy. Oh, please, don't make me try to explain how uncomfortable I felt surrounded by so much of my own work. It hadn't occurred to me that up until now, I'd only viewed a few pieces at a time, one or two in several rooms of the house, or seen one or two pieces displayed with many other quilters' work in traditional shows. It made me feel very odd surrounded by so much of it, knowing that I alone was the focus of this "exhibit." Not that I haven't thought about what it would take to put on a solo show and what that would be like, just have never done it before. It took me a long time to get comfortable with so much of it surrounding me. I think it is because every piece carries so much baggage, has some story behind it, represents some kind of struggle, and often reminds me of my limitations. It was like a huge tribunal throwing accusations at me, with only one or two taking my side and saying, good work! Ah, I think it was good for me to face that and get over it.
I think I already mentioned this in a previous post, but it was also a good exercise "curating" this group. Collecting and grouping and displaying so many pieces spanning a number of years helped me see just what I've been doing and where my work has led me, willingly or not. It posed questions I had not thought to ask, and some work impressed me as better than I originally thought. I was also surprised that a few pieces that I had only seen in the studio and not on my walls look better under "normal" lighting than the daylight bulbs.
The added bonus, of course, was to have a group of people who don't know my quilting journey, or really very much about me in general, affirm that this is work others can relate to, appreciate, even want to purchase. It definitely has given me incentive to get back in the studio and produce more, and assurance that the themes I'm working with are ones that appeal to the locals. Not that I would actively create with a particular market in mind, just that it's reassuring that what I love to make has an audience here.
Perhaps more importantly, though, by opening up to this particular group of people, I may be commissioned to make additional pieces for the church (beyond the piece I am donating), have an opportunity to exhibit work in the gallery they hope to incorporate in the new facility, and have my name spread by them to others in the community. They have already expressed interest in hosting an "artist koffee klatch" after I mentioned the idea of the artist salons. All these things suggested to me, not me asking to have it happen. I like that!
Monday, February 19, 2007
After having gone through this process, I have a better idea of how much new work I need to have ready if I decide to make this an annual event. It also clarified the direction my work has taken in a way that just flipping through my chronological files or viewing a few quilts now and then has not. Have I let myself get into a rut? Am I taking enough risks, pushing myself enough? Am I keeping the series work interesting? These are all questions I hadn't really considered until I gathered up these pieces and viewed them as a whole. An excellent exercise I'd highly recommend.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
The two smaller quilts in the picture below were hung by the single hook/safety pin method. They flank a space where I had hung a large framed print. I stored the print away and intended to use the hook to hang this similarly-sized quilt with the wire strung on the dowel. When that failed, I had a silly notion. You don't suppose that the dowel would rest on top of the picture hook and balance in place? To my surprise, it did. But would it be prone to falling off at the slightest breeze. Nope. I'd stumbled upon a great solution for areas where I didn't mind putting up a hook.
In addition to the quilts hung on the wall, I interspersed some of my favorite journal quilts and one 12 x 12 quilt as you can see in these last two pictures. Click on any picture for a larger view. These have no hanging sleeves and I wasn't about to add any to them. Instead, I thought I could use easels and this worked very well. In fact, I plan to leave some of them sitting out in my living room because they look so good that way. They weren't quite stiff enough though, so I had some mat board cut slightly smaller than the quilts and slipped one behind each journal quilt.
I found these relatively cheap (under $2) plastic easels at Ben Franklin. They came in clear and black and I bought some of each, plus two more expensive wood ones to augment several I already had on hand.
After everything was in place, I added signage. The simple way to go was to print just the title and year of each piece (excepting the journal quilts) on a 3-1/2 x 5 index card. More information was available on the separate price list placed on the table with my business cards, guest book and artist information. In cases where I had exhibit postcards or specific artist statements, such as for "Camelot" and my Changing Perspective piece, I put those on the wall as well. These were held in place with a little putty designed for the purpose.
I spent time over two days getting all this up, making sure I was done a good 24 hours before the guests arrived in case there was a problem with falling quilts or signage. Remember, this was my first go at this and much of my method was trial and error.
More to come...
Don't let the pictures fool you - they really did spend time looking at my quilts before they plopped themselves down to chat, eat and even ask me a few questions. Note the suddenly perfect-mannered Jesse at my feet (yes, I'm the one on the left decked out in artist black and a pieced vest). When all her stuff, including her bed, moved to the utility room, she saw the writing on the wall and decided she'd rather behave than be locked away from all the fun.
As you can imagine, today I am totally wasted (as is the dog), so will post pictures and more details over the next few days.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
My attraction to the arts...has always been about the journeys within yourself that they can lead you to. However, art not only talks to us, but also to itself.Particularly interesting are the conversations that paintings, sculptures and other works can have with each other when sharing space in an exhibition.A painting's meaning can radically change depending on what's hanging next to it. How a set of pieces are arranged can change the meaning and sense of an entire gallery or museum. Sort of like how rearranging the furniture in your house can change the way you feel when you walk into your living room.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Friday, February 09, 2007
I also stopped at a quilt shop I've been meaning to check out. As I've been working on Grid 3, I decided I might need to add another color - the whole thing is pretty monotonous pink and plum and teal. But wouldn't you know it - I study the batik to find it has yellow in it, but I have no yellow decorative thread in my collection. The shop didn't have a lot to choose from, but one of these two Superior Threads King Tut's ought to do the trick. You might be able to see better if you click on the image for a larger view.
I've not used this thread before, though I've heard rave reviews. It is much finer than I expected for its 40 wt designation. In fact, it is finer than the Oliver Twist thread I've used in the satin stitching for this piece. It is extra long staple Egyption cotton and the varigation is in one inch increments. If I use it, it will be the horizontal and vertical lines crossing through the squares and I will use one of the pre-programmed embroidery stitches on my machine. Or I may run a line of beads instead. Or maybe both. Yet to be determined.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
The half dozen formal invitations have been printed and mailed, reminding me that I really need to start an art address list. I tackled a few dirty spots on walls and scrubbed down a lot of woodwork yesterday. It's been needing to be done since I moved in, but it was pretty far down on the priority list and eventually, I quit seeing it. Until now, of course, when I realize how many roving eyes may be passing through my house soon. Today I made valances for two of my three studio windows. Something else I've been meaning to do, but not nearly as fun as making quilts. The third window is too wide for the old Java sari I planned to hang over it. Instead, I wrapped it around the curtain rod and called it good. The valance fabric, by the way, has the same blue and goldish green as the sari and all works with the green woodwork around the windows.
Before doing the valances, though, I really needed to work on something quilt related. I've not all week because of the open house chores, and I could sense myself getting off-balance and anxious. The heck with what I should be working on (that challenge quilt). I just needed to sit at the machine for a bit and calm myself. So the first lines of machine quilting went into Grid 3. And it did make me feel better.
I'd ordered curtains for my bedroom and patio door. The patio door ones were on backorder and the bedroom ones were an awful color and the wrong length so were sent back for exchange. I'd heard nothing on either for awhile, but yesterday I got notification that the bedroom ones had been shipped. And this afternoon, Mr. UPS showed up with the header for the patio one. Maybe I'll have them up by the open house yet!
A lady from my church told me she had a dream about me the other night. I was having an opening at a very posh gallery and she said my work was very beautiful. I laughed and said, well, that's where I hope I'm headed and I also hope that my actual work lives up to what you saw in your dream!
Sunday, February 04, 2007
I made copies of this informal, down and dirty invitation to distribute at church today, and the response was enthusiastic. As I believe I mentioned before, this is a safe place for me to start with my first showing and a way to thank these people for so warmly embracing me upon my arrival as well as getting to know a few of them on a more personal level. I'll be sending out a more formal invitation to a few others I've met since arriving - like the gal who cuts my hair (an artist in her own right the way she wields those scissors!), my insurance agent, the property management rep who helped me find this rental and the potter who's work enticed me to add to my collection of bowls. But mostly this is a way to return the favor to the church community that has taken me in.
And since that is my primary audience, I wondered if it would be appropriate to have a list of works for sale with their prices. I figured a few people might ask if anything was for sale, but wondered if it was presumptuous of me to be so blatant about it. However, after I made my announcement, a lady asked me if anything I'd have displayed would be for sale and do I ever make work to order. So I decided I was worrying unnecessarily. Must be bold!
Lots to do then, in the next two weeks. Again, by having a specific event looming, I have booted myself into action. Business cards, bios and the like will get updated, that price list generated and who knows what else that I've been putting off.
Alyson B. Stanfield of ArtBizCoach.com recently had tips on editing, and they were not exclusive to the written word. Dang if I can find the reference now, but there was a comment somewhere alluding to the fact that a really good artist knows which works to present to the public, a different kind of editing. Then I've been following Thelma Smith's blog as she documented her steps as curator of an exhibit. She emphasized that every entry was worthy of inclusion, but she had to consider not only how the various quilts would work together, but also how they would work within a particular setting. She in fact curated two additional groups for inclusion in traveling exhibitions. Even the best work may not find a home.
I mention this because I've had lots of time to think about which works I want to display at my open house. I have limited room, of course, and must stay focused on my overall goal. As the date nears, I find my mind sorting and envisioning various groupings and themes to make sense of the variety of work I want to put out. A few traditional quilts keep sneaking in to my consciousness and I am undecided about showing them. I could have a "traditional work" room just to show a little historical context. But on the other hand, I might not want to send mixed messages since I'm not actively working in that style at the moment. No, I think I want to stick with quilts that show my more recent journey, the ones heavily drawing on nature and the experimental ones. Editing. Curating. Showing my best, most interesting work and placing it in a way that will create flow and continuity, impact without overwhelming. In this case, less is definitely more.
So I best get to work...
Thursday, February 01, 2007
In the meantime, icicles form. As the snow makes its curl, the icicles angle until they are hanging sideways. How weird is that?