So it's been almost a year since I've blogged.  It's not that I stopped caring about being an artist or any such thing: I became pregnant.  I found pregnancy to be really challenging and I lost a lot of focus.  Then I had to move back up to Canada because I couldn't afford insurance in the States.  So I stayed in Vancouver with my parents while my husband (and studio) were in Portland.  Then the baby arrived almost 2 months early (hello there!) and I've been focused on that.

I absolutely love being a mama.  My baby is amazing and I have so much fun with him.  It's just incredible to watch him develop.  And to be honest, I've wanted a baby for a long time and it's better than I expected.  So I am very, very lucky.

I am, however, not finding myself to be cut out for long term stay-at-home momness.  My entire existence just can't revolve around my son.  So I find myself returning to art.  This is more difficult than I expected, as my schedule is subject to the whims of a five-month-old.  It's also a bit my fault, because I refuse to supplement  with formula yet haven't  been pumping, can't focus with my little guy around, and freak if another caretaker (including his father) takes him out of my sight for more than an hour.

Perfect opportunity to work on the business side of things a bit more.  I can type or read with one hand while I have boy on the boob.  My in-laws gave me a great book called Art Business Strategies.  It's put out by my beloved Interweave Press and is aimed at art quilters.  I don't quilt but I haven't come across anything that's not applicable to surface designers.  It also seems to be the best book on the subject that I have found yet.  I'm beyond pleased.

The chapter I am looking at now is about setting goals. It's important to choose goals that you have control over. "I'm going to get into that juried art show" is not an appropriate goal because you don't have control over how the jury picks submissions.  "I'm going to submit an excellent quality submission to a juried art show" is more reasonable because you are totally in control and can focus on the quality of your work, good photography, making the submission deadline, compatibility between the show and your work, etc.

So my goals this year are:

1. Get an Etsy shop up, running, and maintained.  I will be closing my iCraft shop because I haven't made a single sale, even when I did all the extra work that they say you should.  It just doesn't get enough attention for a beginner seller.

2.  Enter into galleries/shows.  Maybe I can aim for one submission a month at this point.  Be really anal about it.

3. Develop a professional website.  This one is great for documenting my educational journey, but it's not professional.

I think these are good goals for now.  I'd rather keep my goals modest at this point and adjust them when I need more of a challenge.  The wee one keeps me pretty busy and insisting that I do this full time immediately won't work!
I was racing to complete my panel for the blanket project this week, and I knit so much that I gave myself a repetitive strain injury.  This has been annoying for two reasons: one, it hurts; and two, it means that I can't work on my art right now (it's in my dominant hand.)  I have a craft fair coming up in a couple of weeks and I'd like to crank out some stuff.  Or knit.  Or work on my drawings.  All things I need my dominant hand for.

I did manage to finish this set of napkins before the injury.
I also managed to help an artist with her work.  She is doing a project in which she has people write about a major illness on vellum tags and she will attach them to glass bottles in an installation.  Here was my contribution.
While I recover, I'm going to be working on my web presence and maybe watch some podcasts and stuff.  I already listened to an Art Biz Blog podcast, about the importance of a blog, and how Facebook doesn't replace a blog.  I think that's true, although Facebook certainly helps me a lot with my marketing.  My blog can help others in different ways though, like inspiring them to teach themselves or run their own business.

Well, I'm off to go continue to market my works!
I have completed my first semester of my UnBFA, and it totally didn't go how I expected.  But that might be a good thing.

I set out an educational plan at the beginning of the semester.  First, I wanted to teach myself surface design.  I am proud to announce that I have achieved my goals in that regard.  My work is very much improved, and people seem genuinely impressed when I show it to them.  I get a lot of joy out of what I make.  Through practice, I have grown so much as an artist.  It's really weird for me to be tooting my own horn like this, but damn, I'm getting better!  I can't wait to see what the next few months will hold as I continue to grow.

I finished my design book.  There weren't as many practice opportunities as I would have liked, but I am starting to see the principles being applied to my work.  My skills have improved enough that I can actually explore different ideas, particularly in form and color.  So that didn't quite go how I thought, but it certainly has changed my work, and I think it's for the best.

I didn't get to work on drawing as much as I would have liked.  However, my drawing did improve.  This is partly due to the study of value in my design book, and partly due to having the tool of a blending stump.  I did not learn to draw from imagination (something I am currently weak at) but I will continue to work on my drawing from observation, at least for a little while.

I didn't get to Art History at all!  Fortunately I studied it a bit in high school, so I'm not completely clueless.

I didn't finish those business books that I intended to read.  I had to actually run a business, though.  I watched several Art of Photography podcasts, which did improve my photography a little.  I listened to Art Biz Blog podcasts and read some of the website.  This site is tremendously helpful and I hope to continue to study it.  I learn something every podcast or blog post.  Also, I am happy to announce my latest development in my business: I'm going to be in the Crafty Underdog craft fair!  It will be January 8th.  It's not a lot of time to prepare and I'm going to be scrambling trying to come up with displays and business cards and stuff, but it's a start.  I'm also working on three large commissions that are consuming my time and energy.  They are sort of like term-end projects.  Very exciting.  Furthermore, I am working on my first series that is intended to be more on the art side of the continuum and less on the craft side.  I am hoping to get into a show, somewhere, sometime.  So this business thing is going somewhere.

I did not get to go out to galleries and see as much art as I would have liked.  Practicalities of life made this difficult.  I did make it to one excellent lecture and one mediocre one (albeit with great art) and am keeping my eyes peeled for more.  I have gotten to volunteer at the Museum of Contemporary Craft a few times now, and I'm making great connections there and learning some of what it takes to run a museum (it takes a whole lot!).  One of the advantages of volunteering is that I also get to see the exhibits.

I am also taking it upon myself to improve my hand embroidery and am looking for a way to learn tatting.  I'm not yet sure how I will incorporate these things into my work, but I am sure that they are important!

I am starting to form plans for next semester.  I will have to continue to study surface design and am going to try my hand at some small shibori projects.  These will involve stitching a design, pulling the thread tight to bunch the fabric, dyeing it, and then undoing the thread to reveal a pattern.  I will have to do this on small pieces at first because it will take me a year if I try to do it on a tablecloth or something.  Additionally, I'd like to work on my weaving a bit.  I've only woven one project on my loom (due to lack of funds for suitable yarn) and would like to continue to practice.  I need to learn to dress the loom by myself, which is a little daunting but I've done it twice now with supervision.  So I will try to hunt down some yarn that will work.

In drawing, I need to actually get that drawing book out of the library and practice more.  I might continue to work on drawing from observation for the time being and learn to draw from imagination in a future semester.  Hopefully I will also be able to study art history this semester, but my focus will probably be on other things and I might have to let this slide a little longer.

Business study will continue unabated as I learn to run my business.  I think it will be much the same, bopping around finding what I need and then implementing that.

I will also be taking my first "continuing education" class this semester.  Really, it's just an hour or so class that cost me five dollars, and it's not even fiber-related, but there you go.  It's something and it's getting me out meeting people.  I will continue to listen to various podcasts (I probably have hundreds of hours of podcasts now) to learn more about the art world.  My husband has also tracked down episodes of Art:21 online, which is a great series and very educational in contemporary art.

So, that's my end of semester report!
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!
Day 21 took place over a number of days, as I've been sick with a nasty cold recently and haven't always had the energy I needed to do all my work.  But I chipped away at it and this is the result.  The information I am presenting is not in the order that I did it, but rather the order I can keep it all straight in my head.

My warm-up was to "listen to what nature was telling me".  The book even suggested that I consult a book about nature omens. Now, I don't actually believe that there is a such thing as a nature omen, so I had to make of it what I would.  It did occur to me that I don't spend a lot of time just observing nature and appreciating it.  The book suggested that I do a visual journal entry about it, but I didn't even know where to begin, so I decided to go out with my camera.  I figure that photography can be a kind of a journal, and I am eager to improve my photography.  So I went for a walk with my camera and took pictures of nature changing for fall.  I particularly liked the red red leaves and the squirrels that were so happy with their acorns.

Autumn fruit.
So red!
I watched a fantastic podcast about the Jawaja leather workers of India.  They were doing a presentation via Skype, with a translator.  Theirs was a very inspiring story.  Thirty years ago, they were so low-caste that they weren't allowed to draw water from most of the wells.  The traditional way of leather working in India is to scavenge for dead cows, as you're not allowed to kill a cow.  So this was a despised profession.  The leather workers were very poor.  Their elders decided to ban the scavenging of dead cows and work on shoes (feet are kind of taboo in India) in order to raise their status.  This had the unintended effect of making it even more difficult financially for the leather workers, as they had to buy processed leather, and couldn't sell as much.  Eventually, they decided that they had had enough and began to work with design schools and craft councils.  They helped develop products that could be marketed overseas.  They began to sell to Maiwa and made enough money that they could eat twice a day (they were eating once every two days before that) and own houses.  Since the presentation, customers have been so interested in the leather work that they have had to carry extra stock.  Their bags and purses are very popular and they always have a large selection on their website.  I was very happy to hear about the improvement of their lives and I hope they become even more prosperous.  Their social standing in the village has also improved and now they are allowed to draw from all the wells.

I have been working on a drawing of crumpled paper.  This is going to take me a few days., I think.  It requires a lot of concentration and patience.  So far, I think it looks like cloth, but we will see how it looks when I am finished.  I will post pictures as I have them.

I watched more podcasts on the Art of Photography.  The first one I watched was about scanning negatives, and it reminded me of my first full-time job as a digital scanner.  It was a good refresher, and I learned about adjusting the histogram more finely than I did at work to improve detail in the photo.  The next one I watched was on dynamic range, which is the range of values in a photo.  Ideally there should be a wide range of values in order to show the most detail, unless you are doing high contrast on purpose.  You can adjust the values in the computer to improve the range.  The next one I watched was pretty cool, on tethered shooting.  This is where you set up your camera to load pictures directly onto the computer so you can tell if they are exactly as you want them (it can be hard to tell on that little screen).  That way you can adjust your settings to tweak the photo.  This technique is used especially for catalogue photos.  The final one that I watched was on time-lapse photography.  It's very interesting because you have to set your camera up to take these photos at set intervals and then not touch it.  You can't adjust the lighting levels or anything or it will look strange.  There are programs that you can get for your computer that will play the time-lapse and you can make a little video.

In my design book, I reviewed the chapters on shape and texture.

In surface design, I am proud to say that I have my bolt of cloth!  I have spent the last couple of days preparing the cloth and have cut the pieces for the order for my brother.  I have also been working on dyeing some other pieces that I was experimenting on, and I am washing out those pieces now.  It doesn't sound like I've done a lot but preparing an entire bolt of cloth takes a long time!