Breast Cancer Art Fundraiser

Jenn Mason, the editor of Cloth, Paper, Scissors magazine contacted mixed-media artists six weeks or so ago and asked if we’d be willing to make a piece of art for their Artists Give Back fundraiser for the National Breast Cancer Foundation. (Please be sure to click the link above and read all about this cool event!) Artists were chosen because they’ve been either 2012 contributors to the magazine, or teachers at their CREATE mixed-media retreats. I’ve been honored to have done both this past year.

Being a successful longtime artist, author and designer herself, Jenn knows how busy working artists often are juggling it all. She made it super simple to participate by asking for either a 5×5 or 8×8 canvas. The only other rules were that it had to be fairly flat and uplifting. Easy peasy.

Since I had just received a brand new box of Susan’s Industrial Chic Mixed Media Line to design with, I knew I wanted to incorporate something from it into my canvas. Also, as much I do love the color pink now because of my sweet little girl (I used to despise it), I was trying to keep from being too cliché so I wanted to work in my favorite turquoise with pops of red color  palette. I also wanted the piece to feel relaxed and happy, which is why I included my handwriting in it. Still not a big fan of my handwriting, but I’m trying to be more forgiving of such things. I had some of Ranger’s Grungeboard in my studio from a class I taught years back that I used for texture, a large chipboard lowercase b that I had from a Creative Imaginations project from way back and of course, ICE Resin paper and a resin-filled bottle cap from my stash. The long metal piece in the middle is new Industrial Chic.

Cloth, Paper, Scissors September/October issue is hitting news stands now. The art made for this fundraiser is gorgeous! And the coolest part is that anyone who wants to can own a piece by purchasing it from their Etsy shop, which went live on the 28th. My piece is up for sale. I’m hoping one of you take it. As a matter of fact, if someone who reads my blog buys the piece and let’s me know by email, I will send you a handmade ICE Resin bezel charm as an extra bonus goodie.

Go check it out. Be inspired by great art and help make a difference too.

Blog musings part deux

vintage lightbulb photo

First of all, let me shout a big thank you to everyone who read my last post and took the time to respond on my blogging conundrums . There were so many thoughtful comments of both information and support here and on my Facebook page. Everyone gave me lots of ideas to ruminate upon!

As I read the comments and thought about it over the weekend when I was camping with my family, I wrote a mental pro and con list regarding my blog. I don’t wish to bore you with all the details of the machinations of my brain, I do want to say that all this thinking did give me a “lightbulb” answer.

What hasn’t changed since 2005 is that I still love to write. Blogging gives me an outlet for my words. I’ve never been much of a daily kind of journal keeper  – written  or visual. Rather, I tend to write when the muse strikes and something inside wishes to escape. I also write for deadlines, but that’s a totally different kind of writing, much akin to my days as a working journalist. My columns fit into this category for me, not my blog.

I also have things I want to tell people, such as when and where my classes are and what events I’ll be at with ICE Resin and Susan Lenart Kazmer LLC (our company) or when my books/articles come out. I often have fun things to share, like art projects or blog hops. I enjoy being at a mixed-media or crafting event and have people come up to me to tell me they read my blog or saw a Facebook post that meant something to them. It makes me feel  good about the time I spend working on all of the behind-the-scenes things that I keep quite about until the time comes to shout them from the rooftops.

I truly love what I do. Words and art and business are my passions. I’m just as passionate for my family as well. Because the driving force for social media is my business, I tend not to share as much on this front because I find myself walking a fine line between sharing too much or too little.

When it comes to what I write about, I’m not so great at pretending. I’m real. What you read on my blog or Facebook/Twitter is the same person you’ll meet in real life. I believe in sharing information about the process of writing craft books or art columns, developing products, teaching or whatever the subject may be because I’ve met many people drawing the same path.

As someone who does marketing as part of my career, there are too many messages — both subtle and overt — that sell us stuff by making us feel “less than”.  One of the things I’ve learned in my fortish years, it that I am not “less than” anything. There are things I’m good at and things that I, frankly, suck at. It’s not a judgement call. It just is. Part of having my blog is sharing these thoughts with other people and learning from them because we’re more alike than we are different.

So…ta da! Bottom line. I’m still a blogger. My lightbulb moment though is that I will continue to read and listen to the pundits and experts on social media because it’s part of my job and because there’s a lot of good information. I will continue to share my stats and “platform” marketing strategy with the people whom I’m doing business with who care about such things. However, I am not going to blog just to blog. This may mean three times in one week or it may mean two weeks of  inactivity.

All of the social media research suggests that I’m going “weaken my blog position” should I follow my instincts; that you all will grow bored with me and unsubscribe. Or that other artists who faithfully maintain their social media will rise ahead. The experts may be right, or they may be wrong. I love a good challenge. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Course, you’ll know the answer because if my instincts are wrong and the experts are right, you won’t be here to read anyway. If that’s the case, please let me truly wish you an Artful life right now. In the end, that’s all I really want for all of us.

Thank you for being here and helping me to process. It’s been a great few days!

Blogging conundrums

I’ve been blogging on and off since 2005. When I first began blogging, there weren’t that many people really doing it outside geeks and tekkies and writers. Of course, writers. When you have this need inside of you to write, pretty much any medium that allows you to unfurl your words into the world is a good one. That’s why I began all those years ago. You would think that as long as I’ve been doing it I’ve figured it out. Ummm, nooooooooooooo.

When I first started a blog and excitedly sent the link to my friends, at least 75% of the email replies were “What’s a blog”? Can you imagine how you would look at a person nowadays if he asked such a stupid question?

I remember in those early the days my blog was an online diary because no one as really watching or listening. I was bummed at the time, but now I realize the freedom I had to learn about the medium in near silence. I kept that one for a while and then shut it down. I took a break and then started a new one with a different focus. After a while, I grew bored with that one and shut it down because I had changed and the focus I was so passionate about at the time became much less important.

When I made the decision to start showing my visual work as an artist/designer, I began a new blog for my business. My poor little blog suffered terribly because I was writing and maintaining another one with my current business partner and her former business partner. I poured my heart and soul into the company blog. The business changed, and I’ve since been maintaining this one.

Now I’m at that point again. The precipice of a cliff I’ve been at before and have always chosen to jump, ie. shut it down and take a breather. Why? Blogging is work. Yes, there are a lot of craft bloggers and others out there whom are making money from their blog and spend a lot of time maintaining it, but I’m not one of them.

I’m not sure if the general population actually gets how much time goes into great blogs…lots of time spent on things that happen long before they’re published all pretty and perfect. Time spent thinking up subject matter, time spent making the projects or art or vignettes or whatever, time spent photographing them with good lighting and great angles, time writing it and then time promoting it. Many of the best blogs these days are no different from magazines, and that’s what makes them successful. We love pretty pictures and free information. Who doesn’t? Sure the advertisements are annoying, but that’s how these hardworking folks get paid for all that time and creative energy. Advertisers who want our eyeballs.

Facebook changed blogging and so did Twitter, as they introduced the concept of microblogging to the world. Engage an audience in 140 characters or less, and that includes a shortened link to a pretty picture. Speaking of pretty pictures, let’s look at how Instagram and Pinterest are changing blogging yet again.

What I’m saying is that the cliff I find myself at is so familiar because with each new generation of social media, what I first began seven years ago is starting to feel very old school at this moment. The question I keep asking is this: If I’m this busy in my life right now raising a family and working, aren’t there millions of other people in the world feeling the same way? Aren’t they trying to juggle their social media along with their lives and feeling just a wee bit frustrated as I am?

Sometimes I envy my husband. He’s a brilliant computer geek with a great job where he does programming and puts out fires in the office. He’s never blogged. He doesn’t Facebook or Tweet. He is as tekkie as they come, and yet he doesn’t buy into the whole sharing your life with strangers movement. His work is so cutting edge that sometimes I think he drives a time machine to work, and yet his style is decidely old school. Man, I love him.

While I sound like a curmudgeon, please don’t mistake my musings. I don’t plan to shut down my blog. It’s never been one to get a ton of comments, but my stats show it’s not like the early days when I was the only person to read my blog (other than my mother, of course). I’m just re-evaluating my time and asking questions. I tend to process things out loud and then let it simmer.

What do you think? Do you blog? Do you enjoy it? Do you think you would lose business if you went to microblogging only? Be honest, do you really have the time to read other people’s blogs the way you used to? Inquiring minds want to know.

My day with Stephanie Lee

I did something I don’t normally get to do at this past Art Unraveled and that’s signing up for a class. I’ve been eyeing Stephanie Lee’s 9-hour class on sculpting three-dimensional santos sculptures from styrofoam and plaster gauze for over a year now. I really enjoy Stephanie’s work and have heard from others that she is an amazing instructor. Despite the fact that I had just moved back to Phoenix, wasn’t even remotely ready for my kids to start a new school and was teaching my own classes, I decided it was a “now or never time” to dive into the experience. I’m so glad I did! Particularly after working so much in jewelry this past year for the book, classes, etc. it was incredible to work larger and three dimensionally.

Strangely enough, my favorite part of the class was the first evening when she taught how to connect the styrofoam block and egg shape together and also to the santos wooden base, subtractive sculpting techniques, and then adding dimension to the form with plaster gauze. The artmaking process was both meditative and electrifying, and I was literally on an art high when I had to force myself to stop for the evening. If I could have worked through the night, I would’ve been one happy camper.

Unfortunately, I had some ICE Resin business I had to attend to with Susan Friday afternoon, so I really only got the morning to work on my figure. In my head, I envisioned doing some kind of Mother Earth sculpture, but for some reason her features turned out stern and old maid like. In order to soften her features, and also to learn from Stephanie how she paints faces, I gave my figure to her steady hands and asked my dear friend Barb Solem to roll the camera. With Steph’s permission, I’m posting the film here, as I think it might be helpful to others as well to hear and see her creative insights.

After the faces tutorial, I took my figure and started to add some mixed-media to her. A bird’s nest for a hat, some silk leaves, a pear to represent the fruitfulness of my creativity, and a momma bird and eggs to also represent the sacredness of new life and my creative journey. Unfortunately, I had to stop and wasn’t able to continue my piece. She’s still sitting in my unfinished office the way I left her, but it’s really Ok if she is never fully complete. I thoroughly enjoyed the process and spending time learning how to work with plaster gauze from my magical and oh-so-wise friend Stephanie Lee.

Here’s wishing you an Artful day. Sorry I’ve been gone for so long. Things are settling down a bit more now and I have breathing room to blog again.

— Jen

P.S. If you are lucky enough to live in a city or be attending an art event where Stephanie is teaching her Santos class, jump — JUMP!!!– on the chance to take this class. Not only will you learn a ton of techniques, but I promise you will expand your mind and heart in new ways under her tutelage.

Finding a New Normal

It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks. First the move and then a mere 7 days later, teaching and vending at Art Unraveled, a fabulous annual mixed-media art retreat held each August in Phoenix. I love that AU is in my hometown, even more so now that we are back in the Valley of the Sun. Carol, our social media maven for ICE Resin was on hand to take pics at AU, so I’ll be getting some of those from her and do an update in my next post.

Today, I’m trying to breathe deep and find my equilibrium. Deadline for next year’s teaching proposals are Friday and I have samples to create. This is a challenge because I still have a non-functioning studio. My hubby moved tables into the family room last night and, as soon as I finish this post I’ll be digging through boxes for my basic metalworking tools and the supplies I need to make new work.

School started for my kids yesterday morning. It was hectic getting them ready and then figuring out the drop off procedure for a brand new school. My daughter turned 3 and started pre-K, and my son started junior high. Big transitions for both. The baby’s been taken care of by a family friend three days a week and grandma the other two days I work since she was 8 weeks old. Her new ladybug backpack and new pink tennis shoes for school made her chatter happily and incessantly all morning. Though she’s ready for preschool, her eyes were wide as she held my hand and walked through the doors of the “big school” with me and her brother. She was excited and frightened.

My son has gone to a small country school since preschool. I was worried about the change and how we would handle a new urban school. Like all moms, I was hoping he would make a new friend on the first day of school and not feel too stressed. I know 7th grade is a huge transition year. Puberty and hormones are already part of my household. Despite this knowing, I couldn’t help second guess our decision to move the family when the reality of change hit full force.

I set my alarm to wake up early this morning so I could have some peace and quiet to myself. As I was sipping my coffee, I thought about my children and mentally wrapped them in a blanket of love and safety. It’s difficult to let them go into this new world, but I know all of us must find our new normal. I thought about the soothing words my dear friend texted me yesterday when she knew I was struggling some. “Strength and growth follow change,” said Tami. I know that already, only one day later, my family is a wee bit stronger.