Life is a river and other ruminations

Friends treated Dave & I to a day trip down the Deschutes River last weekend. It was beyond wonderful. And symbolic… a sappy way.

Into the rapids

Into the rapids

In my world of summer shows once April-May comes I feel like I'm on a river trip dropping into a rapid. And I don't pop out of it until September. For me it means paddling as fast as I can all summer long, never looking up, and hoping all turns out well. Last year had its rocky spots; we lost our canopy & all of our display to freaky wind in Des Moines & I managed to break a shoulder running for the porta-potty at Art in the Pearl. But it had its highs, great shows…and our dot was married to a most wonderful man at our home.

This year it was a great year, minus any rocks, flips, or personal injuries. We had interesting weather, snow in Laramie-Wyoming, hid from a tornado in Seibert, Colorado, 3 days of rain and great sales in Belleville, Ill. We made it thru Des Moines with only one threatened wind storm that never came, more great sales and a beautiful drive home that took us north of Joplin, Missouri the day the tornado hit there. We were lucky. While we were saving a turtle that day in Missouri, helping it cross the road, Joplin was hanging on.

Pissed off turtle

Pissed off turtle

We had more rain in Salem (the first rain on the show in 35 years!) and welcomed being in Bellevue, Wash in a lovely inside parking garage. At Art in the High Desert-Bend, Oregon, the show we help produced with 3 other board members...we were honored, surprised and deeply touched to be awarded a Bench Mark Award by the AHD artists to us for putting on the kind of show they wanted to come to.

Our 2011 Benchmark Award

Our 2011 Benchmark Award

And we ended the show season at Art in the Pearl, Portland, Oregon...our other "home" show. We love the Pearl.

…And now its September the post show month. And this year I am determined to take September off, the calm after the rapids. A corny analogy to be sure, but apt.

after the rapids

after the rapids

I’m cleaning the studio….which you can see it badly needs, packing for a wonderful trip our son and his lovely lady; planned by them just for us, taking long naps, riding my bike, and enjoying the delayed summer as it finally is hot in Central Oregon.

messy workbench

messy workbench

A fine end to a wonderful show season. Thanks all for making it memorable, profitable, full of laughter, and coming along with Dave & I for the ride.


Preparing for the next show

I'm currently getting ready for a rare February show. Rare because short of traveling to Florida there are few to none shows in the Pacific NW in the winter. But the Bellevue, Washington Art Museum folks (who also put on the Bellevue Museum Art Fair) have started a new show, just for jewelry: Indulge. Held a week before Valentine's Day it promises to be great fun. Plus the dot, Sarah is also one of the participating artists.

I've known about this show for months. I've known I need to get my inventory up after a very successful last show. So why am I now in the last few weeks working like crazy to build up my inventory when I could have done it at my leisure for several months? This seems to be a common thing for artists. While I beat myself up for not doing all things earlier, I wonder about this. And I've come up with a reason...that satisfies me for now.

For me, it takes a while to get into the groove of creating. Its a state of mind and will, and frankly once there its all-consuming. The rest of the world must wait while I create. It is not something I can switch on and off; I'm more like the little engine that could. It takes me a some time to get rolling.

I know Dave-the-hub, as well as myself would be much more relaxed if I did not approach work this way. But after years of trying to break out of this habit, I'm still in it. This seems to be an artist thing. Many friends complain of the same syndrome.

Our house is now adrift in the flotsam and jetsam of a show. We've pulled out the display pieces to sort and repair. Our old boxes have cracked and Dave purchased new purple ones to carry our traveling retail store from place to place.

Dave & display pieces & the dining room table.
Dave & display pieces & the dining room table.
new boxes
new boxes

The dog wanders amongst the piles. She's seen it all before. Her favorite thing is that she gets to sleep in the clean laundry that is not getting folded and put away.


And so it goes. I don't know whether I should be worried that I can't compartmentalize better so I can jump from task to task. Or I should thank my lucky stars that I can focus like a laser when I need to.

All the same, none alike

O's all different

For years I have tossed around an idea of making a series. I like the idea of a defining set of parameters within which you design and execute your art. I think it leads to something new and wonderful, though I'm not sure what. And I like that "not-sure" part.

Poetry is full of tightly limited creations. The sonnet is a poem of 14 lines with a formal rhyme scheme, and usually 10 syllables per line.  There’s not a lot of leeway to branch out. Yet English literature is filled with amazing poetry in sonnet form. The Japanese haiku (a poem of 17 syllables, in 3 line, of 5, 7, and 5) with a nature theme is something all children have worked on in schools often with delightful results. And of course, limericks are a wonderful example of how rigid limits can push creativity and humor to new and glorious heights.

Throughout history visual artists have also used a set of rules to corral and then turn-loose their creative muse.

Monet had his hay stacks.

Jim Dine-a contemporary painter, has a series on bathrobes and hearts.

Recently a friend, painter-Marla Baggetta, completed a series of 100 images of the same scene. It was her series that reinspired me to again look at doing a series.

Craft artists have also done series.

Pat Flynn has done a series of heart pins.

And one of my favorite series is Kiff Slemmons, Insectopedia. A series of bug pins, based on the alphabet. K is for Katydid.

Insectopedia-Kiff Slemmons

cmf-head-avatar Carla

Great Zeus! - Zot! - Eureka!

"I so admire how creative you artists are. Where do you get your inspiration?"

.....waiting for inspiration

Good question. Every time I am asked that question I am flummoxed. Inspiration is a tricky thing. When I am very lucky, or very good I walk into just the right spot in my studio and ZOT! a truly great idea comes to me in a flash. The 3 rings in my top banner were a marvelous Zot moment.

My friend and fellow jeweler, Jack, challenged me to get over my prejudice to diamonds. I'd always thought they were over-hyped, stupid stones, boring, transparent, clear, no color; plus there are millions of them around.  Bah humbug, who needed them when there are so many other fine stones in the world. But Jack nudged some of my thinking around and I started relooking at diamonds.

My main gripe with diamonds is that much of the jewelry made with them, makes it all about The Diamond. I am a metal worker. I want my work to be all about well... My Work and the diamond's just a punctuation to my designs.

My 3 rings above came from this double-dare of Jack's. The idea formed in a quick moment of insight, fully-developed. I even found some colored diamonds to use. Bliss. I regularly thank him for his goading.

But mostly my designs are hard fought.

Jestsam & Flotsam
Jetsam & Flotsam

I am currently working on a design I know isn't that good. But the damn thing will not vacate my head until I make it. I know it will end up in my scrap pile...I have days like this. Its like clearing a plugged drain. Once I have design out of my head and at least partially realized I can go on to other things. I have a whole pile of dumb ideas that I poke at from time to time, trying to figure out why I made them. And sometimes they lead to inspiration, often not.

Usually my designs are evolutions from past work. No Eurekas! just hard slogging work. I make something like it or love it, look at it, start to examine it, think about it, and have a better idea of how to do it next time. This drives Dave-the-husband crazy. Why must I keep messing with great designs?  Why do I move on to my next NEW IDEA, when I have so many old great ideas I can still make? I  dunno. I think that's what it means to be an artist. We are always looking ahead to see what's there, how we can do it better, how it can change, evolve, morph into something else.

So when I go back to work, and I do find its work; divine inspiration is a rare event, no matter how good I am, or how many different places I stand in my studio waiting for it to happen.


Man Jewelry.....

What do guys like, want, wish for in jewelry?

I currently have a friend, P, who is bugging me for Man Jewelry. I'd love to accommodate him and the other men who have stared wistfully in my case and asked...."Do you have anything for men?" No.....I don't, but I should.

What is it guys want in jewelry? Cuff links, quirky lapel pins, bracelets, pendents, single earrings, manly rings?

P is now pondering this question. He hasn't answered me yet. But for all the other men who feel left out of the jewelry game, the question is now yours too. What would you like to see me make for men? Write me, let me know. The first Manly piece I make will be named for the Man who gives me the best answer.

Carla cmf-head-avatar

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

There are many kinds of artists. Some feel once one is an artist in any media, one can take on any other media….be it photography, graphic design, or web design. I have found that being creative in one area does not necessarily translate to another.

My jewelry photog, Gary and I, struggled yesterday to get a shot of a pair of earrings just right. Actually I struggled. He had done his job, mine was to "style" the earrings into a pleasing arrangement. He took the photos, we evaluated each shot on his monitor and I continued to tweak, as he adjusted the lights.

I am often asked if I take my own photos. I always snort "No" But why not? My father was a photographer, I learned at his knee. I have a friend who is a professional commercial photographer who willingly shares his tricks. I’ve seen Gary shoot my work many times.  I can certainly get a camera that has the capacity to take the images. But as I "styled" my jewelry and Gary rearranged his lights, I knew without a doubt that I shouldn’t be photographing my work. It's not within my creative suite. Its not within my studio set up, I don’t have the years of working in the field.

Consider when Michael Jordan left basketball to play baseball he had a short and unstellar career. Joaquin Phoenix is a great actor, but it remains to be seen if he can be a great singer. We’ve all designed or seen designed the MSWord business cards and/or brochures, that could be titled "Fun with Fonts". I’ve certainly designed my share of bad over-done graphics. But I learned my lessons the hard way & I don’t do graphics nor am I designing my website.

I recently, had the opportunity to observe a jurying for an art show. There are some wonderful artists out there, its damn exciting to see their work. But not all artists are photographers. And as the jury commented several times, "What were they thinking?" What indeed. They didn’t further their own carefully crafted work, with their poor photography.

As my photog sez, it’s not what camera you use...that’s just the recording device. In photography it’s about the lighting. And I am convinced, that is a skill that must be developed over years. As a jeweler I can tell you its not the metal and the bling, its how its put together. The fact that I am a creative person doesn't mean I should take on ALL creative projects that come my way.

I am best at being a jeweler. I’m at home there. I am a poor photographer, a font frolicking graphic designer, and a clueless web geek.

I don’t always have the time or money for it but I have learned to hire, barter, beg, pay-over-time, whatever it takes to get the right creative professional for the job I need done. In the long run it is cheaper and saves more time.

This blog entry is for my Photog-Gary Alvis, WebGuy-Michael Hamilton, & GraphicPeop. Thank you for being so good at what you do, so I don’t have to.

Coming soon:  Thoughts on jury & booth images. The good, bad, and the GAWD AWFUL.

cmf-head-avatar Carla

Remind me again, why am I here?

Art Shows/Festivals are the inevitable end to months of production for art show artists. Some artists love 'em, some hate 'em. I love doing shows. I can't help myself. Hubby Dave has accused me of thinking each show is my personal block party, put on just for me to have fun with people.

Dave working, me gone visiting.....

I routinely disappear during set-up to greet friends, catch-up, laugh. While he is relatively tolerant of me waltzing off to visit instead of helping, he does ask I touch back in periodically to help.

But what's to love about shows?

Art shows are hard work, usually following weeks of long days in our studios. Shows are a strenuous 3 days of standing in all sorts of weather from blazing heat, to winter snow (it happened in Scottsdale, AZ), high winds-that can lift one's canopy and send it flying, torrential rains, bugs, dust, fumes, loud music, kettle corn smoke, etc are all to be endured.

Artists must pack up their precious work to get it safely to the show + they must also bring with them all the display apparatus, canopy, weights, stakes, credit card machines, packing materials, ground cover, nice clothes, food, and more. This gets stuffed into small vans, large vans, vans with trailers, trucks, trucks with trailers.

Time to set up.

Upon arrival at a show artists spend hours setting up their 10' x 10' retail space, setting out their art, arranging it. This requires schlepping all this from a van or truck, lifting, reaching, tugging, pulling, pounding, screwing, and sometimes painting....

Set-up in rain & wind at Des Moines 2008.

And then after long hours in the studio, a long drive, a long set-up we artists retire to a motel room to rest and get ready for day 1. We're exhausted.

But on show days we dress up in our clean clothes, slick our hair into shape, and try to remember how to be a salesperson, instead of a solitary artist.

We endure silly questions & comments, "Did you make this yourself?" "My niece does work just like this" "Its awful expensive, could you tell me where you get your supplies?," "What is it?" and try to smile and remember why we're here.

We get hungry, eat too much festival food, must use endless porta potties, our feet hurt, our backs hurt, we're tired, and often grouchy. This is no way to sell art, we think.

Then someone walks into our booth and starts talking about our work. Our head's rise and we realize this person "gets it." They understand what we are doing with our art, they love it, and they want to buy it.

A connection is made. I never know my end buyer when I create a new pair of earrings, but they are ever on my mind as I work. I consider how the earrings will hang in their ears, the comfort of a ring, how a bracelet will fit. And finally at the show, I get to meet these people, who I have had a silent dialog with as I create my jewelry.

It's a golden moment.

All the hard work, bad weather, funny food, lost sleep, is forgotten in the joy of connecting with people. Be it customers or fellow artists, I find art shows feed my soul as much as making my art.

Where'd she go this time?