I had a number of learning experiences this last week, although none to show you pictorally at this time.

First, I applied for one of the local craft fairs.  I have yet to hear if I have gotten in, but it seems like a good fit and is an affordable place to start building my craft fair presence.  It's called Crafty Underdog and it's a bimonthly event at a local theatre-restaurant. It sounds like a lot of fun, and my husband and I are going to attend the next one to see what it's all about and who's selling what.  While researching craft fairs, I came across this post on one of my favorite blogs which included a PDF of tips for sellers who hate selling.  I'm not very good at sales, despite several years of retail experience.  The PDF is so immensely helpful.  It even includes questions you can ask your booth visitors to start a conversation rolling without being an aggressive salesperson. All I can say is THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!  I tend to slouch behind my booth with a frightened look on my face, which isn't terribly inviting.  They had suggestions like standing in front of your booth.  It has made me so happy.  Even if I don't get into Crafty Underdog, it's very useful for other craft fairs I might get into.

I also came across this article via Facebook.  It's about the many hats that a performing artist must wear, and is an answer to the question of "do you just do this or do you have a job?"  As I am discovering, being and artist, performing or otherwise, involves many jobs, not just making stuff.  So in addition to the actual production of art, I am a marketer, agent, seller, social media coordinator, administrative assistant, accountant, business manager, PR person, delivery girl, website designer, photographer, graphic designer, and hopefully soon, a teacher.  So that's 14 jobs.  On top of that I volunteer at the museum, educate myself in art (as well as all the other jobs that I don't have much experience in), try to live as self-sufficient a life as possible (made my own toothpaste today), go to church, edit my husband's manuscripts, and spend some quality time with my husband and friends.  I try to squeeze a little exercise in there as well as it makes me feel much better.  I am hoping to add more volunteering too: I'd like to get involved in some kind of feeding-the-hungry project, and I'd like to teach Sunday School.  But I am not going to go hog-wild trying to add everything at once or it will make me crazy.  I should also point out that I have a friend helping me with ad copy on my online store and my husband helps me with the social media.  Nevertheless, I am extremely busy.  So when people ask me when I'm going to get a job (because people do ask me that) I can tell them that I have 14 and don't have time to take on any more right now.

I had a good time volunteering at the Museum on Thursday.  It was pretty slow, which was kind of boring, but it's also a great environment because everyone is an artist and everyone is interested in everyone else's work.  So although I did it to learn about how a museum is run, I actually am doing a fair bit of networking and promoting my business.  Totally not what I expected!  I also got a bit of time to look at the exhibits.  I never have enough time on shift to spend the hour and a half you really need to look at everything, but I can get things in bits and pieces.

After my shift, I went to a lecture by the artist Kanishka Raja.  I really enjoyed looking at his paintings and his influences (he does incredibly detailed paintings which sort of reference surrealism and magical realism).  However, his talk used what I call "Academicese" which is language that is so highly peppered with field-specific jargon that it is unintelligible to anyone outside the field.  There was talk about mitigating the interstices between modality and ornamentation and such.  So I have a good idea of what his art looks like and no idea about anything he said.  It was worth it to see the art, however.

I listened to a couple of podcasts from Art Biz Blog.  The first one that I listened to was about gratitude, which is lovely (it was her last podcast, so she was thanking her listeners.  One thing I did get out of it was the That Is Priceless blog, which takes famous works of art and gives them new titles.  It's hilarious.  The second one was about how to get free stuff for marketing information--mostly advertising the blog itself.  The last and most helpful one I listened to was about people who did all their art marketing without the help of the internet.  One person did her sales through a mailing list sent out to friends and family.  She sold shares in her research trip to China and financed it that way.  The local newspaper heard about it and she sold even more shares.  Another artist sold hundreds of paintings through her mailing lists, displaying things at restaurants and selling at fundraisers.  She uses postcards for a personal touch.  So those are good ways to get the word out in addition to messing about on the internet!
 
 
I have been working on some new pieces.  Lately, I am into incorporating some of the ideas that I encountered in my design textbook.  First, I have been looking at color.  In this piece I was incorporating complementary colors.  Those are the colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel.
This one is a study of red and green.  It's not particularly Christmasy, which is a risk when working with those two colors.  The red was pole-wrapped and the green was tie-dyed.  I machine-embroidered in black on top of that.  I like the contrast of the two colors, along with the black.
This one is a study of analogous colors, or colors that are next to each other on the color wheel.  I started out with the yellow, which is pole-wrapped, and then pleated with green on top of it.  Next, I added the orange swirls, which are block printed.  This wasn't enough for the composition, so I added the machine-embroidered blue circles.  In doing so, I actually created complementary colors, the blue and orange.  I chose a circle for the embroidery motif because it was similar in shape to the swirls but not exactly the same.  In this way, I incorporated both harmony and variety.
In this one, I fold-resisted in orange, added glue-resist swirls, and painted with yellow.  Then I block-printed the orange swirls on top.  This one shows analogous colors better than the last one, and uses more harmony than variety.  I was a little disappointed with my glue-resisted swirls, because they are hard to see, but they turned out pretty well in the photo.

I am also working on a tablecloth for some friends.  So far, it has taken me half an hour to pleat it, and then 45 minutes to tie it for tie-dye, and another half hour to take the elastics out.
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After tying for tie-dye. It's kind of pretty like that, but really not practical for a tablecloth.
 
 
I had a fantastic week art-wise.  First, I am working on a series that I started with my wall hanging with the Proverbs passage.  I have decided to do a series that incorporates that whole story, the one of the capable wife.  I'm currently working on the next section and will need to do one or two more.  My husband and I decided to approach a few cafes to see if they would display the series when it was finished.  I'm very excited about this.  It was my hope to do more sort of gallery stuff along with my stuff for everyday use, and I'm glad I'm doing it.

I had my first shift volunteering at the Museum of Contemporary Craft.  It was amazing!  It was during an event called "First Thursday" in the Pearl district of Portland, where all the museums and galleries are free for the day on the first Thursday of every month.  It was very busy, and I helped checking bags and policing to make sure people didn't take flash photos or touch stuff or talk on their cell phones.  (Just a public service announcement:  you can't take flash photos in a gallery.  The flash damages the art.  Some galleries don't allow photos at all for copyright reasons.)  It was great fun.  The other volunteers are all amazing people, and I had a fantastic time.  I also got to see the exhibits (not get a good look, but a look nonetheless) so that was an added bonus.

Friday, I went to a public lecture that was put on by the Museum and the Pacific Northwest College of Art.  It was about one of the exhibits, Studio H.  The presentation was by a woman who had a non-profit design firm.  She wanted to use design to help change the world.  She got hired by a school superintendent in Bertie County, North Carolina.  The public schools in the county were doing really poorly, with not enough teachers and not enough funding and all the top-performing students going to private school.  It is a very poor, sparsely populated area.  First, the woman and her partner designed some classrooms to help create a better learning environment.  Then, they got a brilliant idea.  They would become high school teachers, teach a class design for the community, and then hire them over the summer to build something.  They hit a lot of road blocks, but eventually opened a design class in one high school.  The students had a lot of trouble in the beginning.  Some of them didn't know how to read rulers (like they didn't understand the concept of an inch), some were scared of hammers, and some had never taken an art class.  So they had to focus on the very basics in the beginning.  Then, students had to build a corn hole board.  They were given directions for the board, but they had to come up with their own design for the front.  They were given two colors and a verb to work with.  The verbs were things like "twist" and "stretch".  They ended up being very beautiful, and the kids got to learn about how precise they needed to be with building things.  Then they had a giant corn hole match.  Their next project was to build chicken coops, where they had to build models and design the coops.  The coops required a feeding area, a roost, and a run.  They built three coops (after very many models) and gave two of the coops to families in their community.  The last coop is in the museum.  Their final project for the year was to create a structure for the farmer's market.  Because Bertie County is a flood and hurricane area, they had very particular building codes they had to work with.  Because their floor had to be raised, it ended up being the perfect height to unload trucks from.  The local egg farms had bays with eight docks for loading the trucks, so the students made their structure with eight docks on either side for local flavor.  They made built-in tables so the vendors didn't have to bring their own.  It ended up being beautiful and the vendors and the shoppers loved it.  So the students got a great education and summer jobs, and the community got some much-needed building done.  It w
 
 
I just wanted to do a little report on some outstanding podcasts I watched last night.  They were all from Art:21, which I highly recommend if you are at all interested in contemporary art.  Also, they were all very short, usually somewhere between two and five minutes.

The first on I watched was actually not my favorite.  It was about an artist who had spent several years sculpting a giant ball sack that he was going to put a chair on top of.  One side had something that were supposed to look like balls and the other had something that was supposed to look like a penis.  It just looked like a messy blob of a sculpture to me, and I found it quite ugly.  Not that art necessarily has to be beautiful, but I do like beautiful art.  I like art to have beauty and ideas.  This piece seemed to have neither so it didn't do it for me.

The next one was about an artist who made thousands of small unique shapes.  They were all about four or five inches high and about three inches wide.  The artist collected various objects over the years and cast those in plaster.  Then he stacked the various plaster shapes together, using endless variations so that each stack was unique.  He then cast the stack in plaster and painted the resulting sculpture.  In the gallery he displayed them in a huge, shallow box.  People would look at it and not believe that the shapes were all actually unique, but they were.

The one after that was a video artist who was taking a break from video.  She was interested in the idea of technology and looked for an early reference to technology.  The earliest one she could find was the tower of Babel story from the Bible.  So she created her own language using a series of lines, and on a giant piece of board, wrote out the whole Babel story in her language.  She even included a code at the bottom for anyone crazy enough to try to decipher it.  I was in awe because I'm always interested to see how Biblical themes can be used in art, especially for non-devotional purposes.

Then, I watched one that was about a photographer who did some fashion work, although she wasn't normally a fashion photographer.  She worked on the project for several weeks.  She found some very odd-looking models, and had them pose as if they were in parties.  Then she edited a picture of a party or a restaurant in the background.  She didn't like that, so she took those out and did weird light effects in the background so that it looked like everyone was standing in front of a strobe light or disco ball or something.  She also made it look like she had used flash in all her photos, which she hadn't.  Her work wasn't my favorite visually but I was quite interested in the process.

The final podcast was with the same artist as the ball sack.  I liked this series of work much better, however.  He was fascinated by the idea of combining art and amusement park rides.  In the gallery, he set up a series of spinning projectors, so that images on the walls would spin around, giving the effect that the viewer was in a spinning ride.  Another work was a square structure with doors that open and shut rhythmically.  The structure would slowly spin open, so that the walls were sticking out and the structure was no longer a box, but four walls sticking out.  The final one was a structure that spun actually quite fast.  The idea was that a viewer could go inside and be stationary within the structure, yet the world outside would be spinning around.  It spun so fast that I don't know how anyone would actually get inside it, though.

So those five podcasts were very educational and I am pleased that I managed to fit a little learning into my busy day!
 
 
A few items:

I have adjusted prices in the store for Cyber Monday.  If you were thinking of getting something, I recommend that you do it now, as I am going to be raising my prices soon.  I realized that, even though I was more or less paying myself a little over minimum wage in the studio for the time I worked on my projects, I wasn't paying myself for the time I spend marketing and researching and whatnot.  The two take up roughly the same amount of time.  So I will be raising my prices to reflect this.

I heard about something called the Artists Advent Project in which artists donate a piece of work to the public domain for everyone's enjoyment.  I am thinking of what I can donate.  There is a small list of things I have to do in order to participate, such as use a certain hashtag in my promotion, choose a copywriting method, and sharing it widely.  Advent is a very special time for me so I'd love to participate.  More about that soon.

I have also discovered (via my husband) about a fantastic website about having an art business called Art Biz Blog.  It's got lots of amazing tips, as well as a podcast.  I have been neglecting some of my studies lately and I need to get back to it, particularly about business.  It's especially good for me because there are tips for introverts like me.  I'm not one for hobnobbing, but I can carry business cards with me, and when people ask me what I do, I can give them a business card.  Also, social networking is a big sales driver, which is cool.  I'm pretty proficient at Facebook but my Twitter skills suck.  Maybe that's something I can improve on.

Speaking of my husband, I want to plug his blog, Author/Author.  He is a fantastic writer and this is his blog about the process, as well as letting readers know about his upcoming work.  He is also participating in the Artists Advent Project and is giving away a story.  I suggest that you check it out.  You're sure to enjoy his work.

One more thing:  this blog has been accepted into the Fiber Arts Blog Ring.  The link is on my home page (I haven't figured out how to add it to this page).  I encourage you to check it out and look at the work of other Fiber Artists!

Well, I think I've just convinced myself to set up a Twitter account!
 
 
So, head on over to my store at icraft.ca/mouse-and-bear to catch my Black Friday sale.  Sale prices won't last long so if you're thinking of buying anything, now's a great time!

In other news, I have been working on a few more items for the store.  They aren't posted yet but hopefully we will see them there soon.  The first is a set of placemats that I made.  I originally intended to make them almost the same as another decorative cloth I had made, the one with the blue background and leaves.  This one.
However, since I'm not skilled enough with the dyes yet to create something that looks exactly the same as something else I've made, when I had finished the dyeing and the block printing the work didn't have enough depth.  Depth is something that I really want to have in my work, so I had to find another way around it.

I thought of doing machine embroidery, but it didn't really appeal to me with what I was doing.  I had, however, picked up some nifty stuff called Jacquard Discharge paste.  I had bought it a little while ago but I hadn't used it yet because my book said that I needed a respirator, which I didn't have.  I scoured the product website to see if they called for a respirator, but they didn't mention it anywhere.  So I thought I'd try it with an open window.  Anyway, the fumes weren't bad at all, much better than many household cleaners, so I was fine.

I had tried discharge before with bleach.  It was kind of cool but I wasn't crazy about it because it was smelly, messy, and hard to control.  With Jacquard Discharge Paste, it's thicker and you can paint it on.  I decided to try to print with it.  The prints were kind of messy, because the stuff kind of has the texture of raw egg whites rather than something thick like textile paint.  However, I liked the sort of ghostly images it made, and I feel it gave the work the depth it needed.
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These are a set of four placemats.
I also worked on a wall hanging that became a bit political.  I tie-dyed the piece in green, and then pole-wrapped it with red, and then made a flour paste and spread it over top.  Then I took a skewer and wrote Proverbs 31:10-16 in it.  Proverbs 31:10-31 is about "The Wife of Good Character" or "The Wife of Valor" which is used by both feminists and complementarians to describe the ideal woman's role.  I have always been shocked at the very different ways that it can be interpreted.  When I read it, I see that this ideal wife is hardworking, financially independent (through her own work, not inheritance), smart, and joyful.  Complementarians tend to read it as a demonstration of how a woman should be submissive to her husband and take care of the home.  I sometimes feel like I walk in a weird world as a religious feminist, with religious patriarchy on one side and feminists who believe that religion is necessarily demeaning to women on the other.  I personally find a lot of strength from passages like this, and I want women to know that they have the option of being both religious and egalitarian.  So this is a work of self-expression for me.  As such, it will not be turned into placemats (which would be really labor intensive anyway) and am going to keep it as a wall hanging instead.
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There's the whole piece. You can't make out all the writing, which is fine by me because it makes it look like an ancient document, as well as avoiding the kind of pushy evangelism that I hate.
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A close-up. You can see the slight crackle effect left by the flour paste resist.
 
 
I love books, and there's no reason why books can't contain my art!  Here are my latest set of bookmarks.  On all of them, I have done a zigzag stitch on the sides and allowed the ends to fray rather than seam them.  This is so they will lie flat in a book.
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Pleat-resisted and dyed, glue resisted and painted with dye.
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Pleat resisted and dyed, glue resisted and painted with dye.
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Scrunch resisted and dyed, glue resisted and painted with dye.
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Tie-dyed, glue resisted and painted with dye, block printed with textile paint.
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Painted with dye, glue resisted and painted with dye again.
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Pole-wrapped and dyed, glue resisted and painted with dye.
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Pole-wrapped and dyed, glue resisted and painted with dye, block printed with textile paint.
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Tie-dyed, glue-resisted and painted with dye, block printed with textile paint.
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Pleat-resisted and dyed, glue resisted and painted with dye, block printed with textile paint.
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Tie-dyed, glue resisted and painted with dye.
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Pleat-resisted and dyed, glue resisted and painted with dye.
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Pleat-resisted and dyed, glue resisted and painted with dye, block printed with textile paint.
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Painted with dye, glue resisted and painted with dye again.
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Pleat-resisted and dyed, glue resisted and painted with dye, block printed with textile paint.
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Pleat-resisted and dyed, glue resisted and painted with dye, block printed with textile paint.
In other news, I have been working on a piece that I'm very proud of.  I don't have a photo of it yet but I'll try to get it up as soon as I can.  I wrote part of Proverbs 31, which is about the Wife of Good Character.  It's a verse that is used by both feminists and complementarians, or people who believe that men and women have separate roles.  I use the feminist interpretation, which I take to mean that the ideal wife is economically independent and has a good work ethic.  It's my first sort of political work, and it was fairly labor intensive so I'm going to have it as a wall hanging rather than a placemat.  I don't want to be making four of these, unless they are a series for a gallery or something.
 
 
I have some things to show you.  I've been working on lots of stuff and I'd like to share it.
These are the placemats and napkins that I made for my brother and sister-in-law.  They have been pole-wrapped and dyed, school glue resisted, painted with dye, block printed, and machine-embroidered.  I stayed up until midnight the night before I left for my trip to Vancouver, BC in order to get this to them.  They were very happy with what I had done and actually took them into the party that we were at to show everyone, rather than leave them in the car where I had given it to them.  So I was very flattered and enjoyed everyone's interest in my work.
This is a fabric sketch that I did.  It is tie-dyed and machine-embroidered.  I usually do more to the fabric, but I am trying to learn not to do too much.  I sometimes want to create depth so badly that I end up overdoing it.  It is important to know when to stop in art.  I think this is a good example of knowing when to stop.  I love the color and the juxtaposition of the circles with the squiggles.  I also like how the black and orange contrast.
This is a bookmark that I made.  It is pole-wrapped and dyed, glue resisted, painted with dye, and block printed.  This is an example of where I wish I stopped before I did.  I think it would have been better without the leaf.  It's not bad with the leaf, I just think it would have been better without.  I did a zigzag stitch around the edge and left the frayed edge on instead of hemming so that the bookmark would lie flat in a book.  Otherwise I think it would add too much bulk and could fall out too easily.
Another fabric sketch.  It is pole-wrapped and dyed, glue resisted, and painted with dye.  I think the color combo works pretty well here, although I did the same combo on some other pieces and they ended up looking muddy.  I like the swirly thing too.  Usually when I'm doodling I do henna designs, which is great but I am trying to expand my horizons a bit because I've been doing henna designs since I was 15 years old.  This is an example of a shape or line formation that is inspired by, but isn't, a henna design.  It's still fluid and whimsical but not the exact same thing that I've been doing for 17 1/2 years.
Here is another fabric sketch that I did, a little larger than coaster-sized.  It is painted with dye, glue resisted, and painted with dye again.  The design is supposed to be cherry blossoms.
Another slightly-larger-than-coaster-sized fabric sketch, scruch-resisted and dyed, and then glue resisted and painted with dye.  X's are a little out of my comfort zone but I like them.  This one is borderline muddy but I think the X's save it.

So there you go!  I have many more items I have completed, mostly bookmarks, but I have to redo the photography.  More show-and-tell when I have done that!
 
 
Hi all!  I am continuing my trend of not much study, more work.  Although I should point out that I am learning a lot as I work.  I have heard that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery at something, and I can see how that is the case.  I am learning so much so fast right now!  I'm sure that won't always be the case (learning plateaus for a while, sometimes) but it's been quite a ride so far.  I've made a few sales, mostly commissions, and great feedback for my work!

I have an announcement:  I have opened my online shop!  You can find it at icraft.ca/mouse-and-bear.  Also, I am already negotiating my first sale!  ICraft is sort of like Etsy, but it suits my particular needs better.  So far, I only have a few items up but I will be photographing and adding more items soon.  So I hope you will come on by and check out my store!
 
 
Here are some more photos of what I've been working on.  Some of these are for my brother and my sister-in-law, and some are for inventory purposes.
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Painting yellow dye over the resisted cloth. It should turn out more yellowish when it's set, but it will still be a bit greenish.
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Printed.
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Printed. With the weirdness of the dye, I think this one is pretty much finished.
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Printed with fall colors.
I have had a few snippets of time to work on schoolwork, although not as much as I would like.  Here is what I've been working on.
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A warmup in which I altered a photo by dampening it, then coloring with water-based markers.
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Beginning of my crumpled paper drawing. I need to keep working to make it look like paper and not cloth.