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!
Today might have been one of those days that people would point to as an example of why unCollege doesn't work.  Which is silly, because I remember quite a bit more noodling around from my traditional college days.  It would take three hours to write a paragraph for a paper because I was screwing around on Facebook and Youtube most of the time.  So I was actually quite a bit more productive today than I would have been back in my undergrad days, even though I was feeling really lazy and didn't accomplish much compared to the other days.

Today's warm-up was a complete bust, as the assignment was to go through your best friend's stash.  This would not be possible for me today, and even if it was I would feel pretty uncomfortable about it.  I don't like it when people go through my things, so why would it be okay for me to do it to someone else?  So I knitted instead.  Being super-unproductive, I knitted about 4 rows before I quit.

I worked on my weaving while I listened to today's podcast.  It was a continuation of yesterday's and talked about the rage for chintz (in the traditional sense of painted cotton) in Europe.  It was crazy-popular in England, although it was relatively inexpensive so people who were trying to show off how rich they were would wear silk underneath.  It was also very popular in Holland.  It didn't make much of a splash in Italy or France.  In England, rich women would give chintz clothes to their servants, so people complained that they couldn't tell what class people were by looking at them (the horror!).  It started out being popular for bedspreads and that sort of thing, but then made its way to fashion, which led some to gripe about people wearing their bedsheets.  Because it was so popular and relatively inexpensive, local cloth manufacturers were having a difficult time.  Most cloth manufacturers in England were producing wool and linen cloth, which are much more difficult to clean than cotton.  So the importation of chintz was outlawed.  People were very creative in finding ways around the laws so chintz continued to be worn.  Eventually European importers began to request certain themes or motifs on their chintz, which the Indian manufacturers would carry out.  For example, trees were very popular in Holland.

My weaving, which is not chintz.
Note the herringbone pattern. I should also mention that I actually taught myself how to read a weaving pattern today. Mostly.
Next I worked on drawing.  This was one of the assignments where I felt I was the laziest.  I set up a very simple still life.  Very simple.  I think it took me 20 minutes to draw it.  My last drawing took about five hours.
I promise I will take better photos one day. I want to scan this, but the scanner isn't talking to my computer. This should be indicative of my general technology-savviness.
I studied my design book after that.  This unit was about other principles in 2-D design (harmony being the one that I looked at yesterday).  I looked at variety, the counterpart to harmony.  This could involve contrast, meaning opposition or dissimilarity.  Contrast could be in color, value, or placement.  Elaboration of an area that lacked visual interest is another way of achieving variety.  Finally, one must take into account the dualism of harmony and variety.  You could, for example, achieve harmony by repeating shapes, and variety by making those shapes different colors.  Another principle is balance, which is what we perceive should happen with the objects in the work.  For example, a picture of a ball at the top of a painting gives a sense of tension, as we expect the ball to fall down.  Additionally, the way we perceive things, it doesn't look right when the mat around the painting is equal on all sides.  Usually the bottom part will be a bit larger, which makes things seem more balanced.  There are different kinds of balance: symmetrical balance, in which the two halves of the work mirror each other; approximate symmetrical balance, where equal visual weights are on both halves of the work, even though those halves aren't identical; and radial balance, where the visuals radiate out from a certain point on the work; asymmetrical balance, in which colors, shapes, lines, and negative area balance each other out (this I know when I see but don't know how to reproduce it myself).  Next I looked at proportion, which is the relationship in placement in a work.  The golden mean is a part of that, although I must admit that I don't really understand the golden mean and how it works.  I understand that there is some sort of ratio that the shapes have to each other, but that's the extent of what I understand.  Proportion could also mean the proportion of the work itself to the surrounding areas, or how much room the subject(s) of the painting take up within the picture frame.  In ancient art, the most important figure would be the largest, with other figures smaller.  Dominance is another principle.  Dominance occurs when a figure or shape dominates the surrounding space, whether through size, color, value, or something else.  Movement is the direction of the viewers eyes to different parts of the work.  Artists can manipulate what order the viewer looks at the image in by placing points of interest in different places on the work.  Economy is another principle of design, where the artist seeks to eliminate that which is unnecessary or confusing.  Finally, there is the problem of space: what sort of visual plane the artist wants to appear on the work.  A 2-D work with a flat plane is referred to as decorative and one with a deep plane is called three-dimensional or plastic.

Next, I worked on the dreaded task of removing the dye from my sample cloths.  Some of the overdyes ended up being quite interesting.
Tie-dye without stones
Tie-dye with stones
Folded. I like that this one kind of looks like ikat.
Finally, I worked on my business study.  I am still trying to come up with numbers for my start-up costs.  It is hard to get some straight answers about how much something will cost me.  I'm also trying to figure out if I need a business license.  I apparently don't need to be a citizen to sell at the Saturday market, but if I make over $15,000 a year I need a business license, and I don't know the legalities of that.  I guess it's a good thing that I have to figure all that stuff out before I can get started and cost myself a pile of money or accidently break rules.  But I've decided to figure out start-up and ongoing costs before I move to the next thing in the book.  Otherwise I will get too confused.  I really hate trying to figure money out but I also hate working for other people so I guess I'd better get over that!

I have filled in an application to volunteer at the Museum of Contemporary Craft.  I will most likely be handling transactions or directing customers, but it will give me the chance to see how a gallery works.  Besides, it's my favorite gallery in town.  So I will keep you posted on my progress.

Yesterday, I forgot to mention that I got my very own unCollege student ID card!  My wonderful friend Melanie Wallace, who has a laminator, made it for me.  Thanks Mel!