Behind the Scenes

As artists we get mainly recognized for the art work we produce. However, times have changed and a full-time, professional artist does no longer spend all her time in the studio creating.

Nowadays, up to 50% of time is spent on the aspects of running a small business with tasks ranging from accounting, finding exhibition opportunities, keeping track of inventory shipping out to galleries or coming back home, communicating with potential clients about commissions, and all sorts of marketing. Marketing efforts include writing emails, newsletters and yes, blog posts. Another marketing tool is the artist’s website.

A website needs to be up-to-date in terms of information with the latest dates for exhibitions or classes and images of the newest art work. Moreover, it needs to reflect the latest trends in design. Years ago it was trendy to have a black background. The images looked stunning on black background but the white font of the text was difficult to read. So black or gray font on colored background became the hit. And then came the revival of the white background.

As technology is evolving websites need to follow closely. Everybody looks at websites not only on their computer monitor but also on a laptop or tablet and a phone. These devices all have different sizes for their screens which requires websites to be responsive. “Responsive” means that the website is coded such that it adjusts to the size of the screen for optimal display.

In addition, we all become more and more connected. We use Facebook or Twitter to communicate with friends and clients, we stay professionally engaged through LinkedIn or Google+, post new work on Pinterest or advertise our hand-made gifts on Etsy. These are only a few places that modern artists are supposed to regularly send images and information to to stay on top of their game.

It is a lot. And there is a time when “a lot” becomes “too much”.

I wanted to do an overhaul of my website. So far I have designed, coded, and maintained my website myself. But the latest trends of websites being responsive, the overwhelming offers of widgets (little computer programs that are embedded in a website to do all sorts of things), linking various social media to each other  and the completely unrealistic expectation that all of this will work once I am done with my new website caused the jitters!

Consequently, I shopped around and decided to hire Holly Knott. Holly is a web designer AND she is a fiber artist. The perfect combination for what I need. She has created plenty of websites (take a look at her work at http://hollyknott.com) and therefore, gave me a myriad of option to choose the layout from. She explains processes with great patience and –  so far – has not complained about my requests for changes such as maybe a darker orange? Or maybe teal? Less blurry? How about …? 🙂

I’ll let you all know when the new website goes live. Until then, I will work behind the scenes. To give you a preview of the new look here is the top part of the homepage.

new homepage 06-2016

Generosity and Gratitude

Earlier this month I took a 2-day long workshop with Katie Pasquini-Masopust. We had a long supply list of items to bring.

On the first day we explored watercolor and mark making using a variety of approaches mixed with watercolor. On the supply list it said “black ink” and therefore, I bought a vessel with black ink for calligraphy. The ink itself was good, but for the technique Katie showed the vessel would also need an eye dropper. Well, mine didn’t have an eye dropper, hence Katie generously let me use hers.

Another technique involved soap bubbles like the ones kids like to blow. Some people brought the plain old containers with a single hole for blowing one bubble at a time. Others had manually operated bubble guns, one had a battery powered bubble gun. Hmm, batteries not included. No bubbles from that gun. One person brought a very fancy large ring with lots of shapes in this one ring. Too many bubbles at once. No good either. Consequently, we passed the plain old simple containers around and everyone got to try this technique.

Throughout the day we shared the supplies we had. We helped each other out whenever a person didn’t have the correct supplies or theirs would not work properly. We all had fun and I heard a lot of “please” and “thank you” on this day.

Watercolor Experiments

 

On the second day we focused on turning a selected watercolor painting into an art quilt. Of course, we needed fabric for this. I was lucky because I lived close enough to drive home for the night, which also gave me the opportunity to select my fabrics according to the watercolor painting I had chosen. However, those students who spent the night in a hotel were limited to the fabric colors they had packed.

One student sitting close to my table had brought fabrics according to her color scheme but her painting had a lot of white in the background. Unfortunately, she didn’t have any white fabric. Without a white background fabric she couldn’t do much. Since I had more white fabric than I needed for my project I gave her what she needed. I was grateful for all the supplies that were shared with me the day before so it was not a big deal for me to share what I had.

However, instead of leaving it at that she gave me one of her hand felted, hand-embroidered art pieces. I was blown away by her generosity. I received an art piece for exchange with a piece of plain white fabric! I know, I’m a lucky girl.

I am grateful for the experience of the 2-day workshop, for the camaraderie and the mutual support, for sharing supplies and advice so freely. So thank you fellow art quilters. And thank you, thank you for your generosity, Jenny! Your piece hangs in my studio so I get to enjoy it every day.

Print

 

Balancing Your Goals

     When setting goals we are supposed to do this with SMART in mind. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
I’m working predominantly goal-oriented. My plate is usually full and when an unexpected opportunity appears I just add it on top of my plate. Lately, various unexpected opportunities appeared. I had worked towards these opportunities but did not expect them to materialize so quickly. As a result my plate was more than full. Typically, when I have a lot of work I work a lot. However, I reached a point when 24 hours in a day were not enough anymore to keep up. I  looked at my priorities again but could not decide which opportunities to let go of.
     Therefore, I decided to reach out for help from a professional. I had followed the blog posts by Renee Phillips and her articles published in Professional Artist Magazine for quite a long time. Renee is an artist coach, an art writer, and the founder and director of Manhattan Arts International.
     We discussed the three most important goals I would like to meet in the next 6 month and the steps I had planned to achieve my goals. Renee gave me a lot of feedback on improving the steps I wanted to take. In addition, she came up with ideas to replace the things which don’t work well for me. More importantly, we analyzed the projects which do not bring me closer to my long-term goals (as in 2-year or 5-year plan) and which – at some point – I should bring to an end in order to focus time and energy on what I really want to do. All very valid points in streamlining my career.
     At the end of the one-hour long conversation she presented me with an opportunity. One I could not say no to. So I just put it on my plate, on top of everything else. Now my plate looks fuller than ever. Is that what I had hoped for from this consultation? No, not really. But Renee identified the weak point in my SMART goals: Time. It is up to me to decide how quickly I want to clear my plate. I can nibble on it, I can choke on it or… I can savor it. This is the key to balancing my goals!
fruits-Tanja_Sund

freeimages.com, Tanja Sund

Experiencing the Beauty of Art

It is hard to believe that one week has already gone by since I was in Washington, DC for the American Made Show and the Award Ceremony for the Niche Awards. Considering the current snow blizzards up and down the East Coast I’m glad that I don’t need to be there this weekend.

Back in August 2015 I had submitted three of my art quilts to the Niche Award which is a competition in various categories of Fine Craft for professional artists and art students from the US and Canada.

The jurors selected 180 pieces as finalists from a pool of more than 1600 submissions, more than 1,000 of them from professional artists like myself. I was surprised to learn that all of my three pieces had been selected as finalists, “Lavender Fields #5” and “Sunset #2” for the Art Quilts category and “Wall of Depression” for the Decorative Fiber Art category.

Art Quilts

I decided to take the time and go to DC to exhibit my work rather than sending photographs. Since the Award Ceremony is in conjunction with the American Made Show, one of the biggest whole sale shows in the US, I was hoping to be able to chat with other fiber artists, and maybe a couple of gallery owners.

Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out that way. Technically, art quilts belong into the category of Fine Craft but they look more like paintings made with fabric and thread, therefore appearing more like Fine Art. There were plenty of representatives for galleries and high end gift shops but none for high end (= expensive) art for the wall other than clocks or mixed media collages.

I still enjoyed seeing all the wonderful pieces other artists created ranging from fused and blown glass to pottery, lots and lots of jewelry, wooden pieces for the kitchen and table, small wooden cabinetry, metal clocks and a lot more. No matter what medium, I was always drawn to the same style which is also reflected in my own work.

The award ceremony for the Niche Awards was a presentation of slides from the art work created by all finalists, presented by different well-known representatives in a Academy-Award style: “and the winner is….”

Not me.

Of course, I was disappointed but at the same time I’m honored that my work made it that far. Even better, I realized that as an artist I have arrived at a place where I know what my art should be in terms of style as well as message.

Seeing all this beautiful art work was inspiring. Now I’m back home in my studio feeling inner peace. I am where I’m supposed to be.

Basic RGB

 

Diving into the New Year Head First

I’d like to wish you all a happy New Year. I know, I know, this is already the second week of the not quite so brand new year.

To my defense I have to say that the old year and the new year simply blended into each other.

I’m still working on the four art quilts that were commissioned by the large hospital in Minnesota. They are due February 1. I’m making nice progress and expect to finish on time.

Mid-January I will be in Washington, DC to exhibit three of my art quilts which were chosen as finalists for the NICHE AWARD. The art work submitted by the competitors in my categories are gorgeous. I cannot imagine that one of my pieces would be the winner. But let’s see what happens.

Professionally speaking, 2015 has been a very successful year. My goal was to have a solo exhibition and I did have a solo exhibition. But “unfortunately”, I sold almost all of my abstract landscapes. This leaves a void in my portfolio and makes it more challenging to apply for other solo shows. Strictly speaking I can apply with the pictures of the sold work but in case I get chosen to exhibit I will not have sufficient art work to hang on the walls.

Consequently, my goal for 2016 is to produce a larger body of work which will then allow me to apply for solo shows again. Usually, I only set one challenging, yet attainable goal for each year. I like goal setting because it is working towards a big target, a great accomplishment, a large step in my career. It’s the big picture I have in mind.

Other people prefer resolutions over goals. For me resolutions mean a constant focus on smaller steps. Of course, many small step can lead to great achievements as well. This year I decided to be brave and try a resolution. I decided to pick something that requires smaller steps and along with it long-term commitment.

When it comes to all the aspects of art as business for me the most difficult of them all is marketing. To educate myself a little bit I read books and blog posts about marketing (in particular for introverts), social networking and getting involved in your arts community. Of course, I will not do all those things at once but try to find what works for me and improve these skills. My wish is to connect with my viewers/readers in a way that reflects my style. I have to apologize in advance, it is highly unlikely that I will give a car salesman pitch.

The third approach people often take at the beginning of a new year is choosing a word that encourages them, motivates them, brings them forward. Just one single word which holds a lot of power. After some consideration I chose the word “noteworthy”. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “noteworthy “as “important or interesting enough to be noticed : deserving attention, worthy of or attracting attention especially because of some special excellence.

In my humble opinion I think my work has reached a level that it is “noteworthy”. In the last couple of years my work revolved mainly around silence and solitude, sorrow and healing. My statements are gentle and soft-spoken. Nevertheless, they are “noteworthy”.

I think I put new ideas on my plate for 2016:

  • Create a body of strong work which deserves attention,
  • Attract attention to my art quilts through various social media
  • and along the way I might even become more confident and I change from “not-worthy” to “noteworthy”!

My dear reader, would you like to share your goals, resolutions, or motivational words for 2016? I would love to hear what your focus will be.

Noteworthy

Noteworthy by Christine Hager-Braun, 2016

“Do You Celebrate Thanksgiving in Germany?”

I have to admit that after living in the US for almost 17 years I haven’t lost my accent yet. However, it is not quite as easy anymore to pinpoint where I’m from.

A few years ago I was at a supermarket. ‘Tis was the season and after learning that I’m from Germany the cashier asked me: “Do you celebrate Thanksgiving in Germany?”

Of course, I first thought of the pilgrims who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean on the Mayflower, settled at Plymouth Rock in 1620 and in 1621 after a bountiful harvest celebrated a feast together with the Native Americans who had helped them survive the first year. Many years later this celebration has developed into what we call now Thanksgiving.

If we center Thanksgiving around the pilgrims settling in America then the answer to the cashier’s question is no. It’s a holiday based on American history.

However, when we focus on celebrating a bountiful harvest then the answer is YES, at least for the region where I come from, as well as many other rural areas.

I grew up in an area where winters would start in early October and lasted into April, sometimes with flurries into May. The warm season is short. The soil is full of rocks and after plowing the soil children would help their parents (or their friends’ parents) to collect the rocks from the soil before bringing out seeds. Most farms were small family farms. The adults in the family would hold a full-time job and tend to the farms in the early morning and then after their regular day job. The farmers grew corn, potatoes and grains like wheat and rye. Vegetables and fruits were grown in small gardens close to the farm house. In addition, most farmers had a few cattle as well as a small pond for fish. My dad had a fish farm (along with his day job) and in the spring helped the folks in the area to stock their ponds. Farming in our area certainly was hard work.

No matter if the harvest was bountiful or not the first Sunday of October was dedicated to celebrate “Thanksgiving” in the church communities. The majority of church communities in our area were Catholic. Our church was decorated with flowers and in front of the altar fruits and vegetables grown in our area were spread out. Next to the altar was a 5 feet tall crown entirely braided from various grains that were the sources for flour to bake bread – and wheat for the beer, after all, I’m from Bavaria. We gave thanks to the Lord for providing for us.

What does Thanksgiving mean to me now?

My husband and I moved across the Atlantic Ocean (albeit on an airplane and not on a sailing boat) almost 17 years ago. We found work, we found friends, we became part of the community. North Carolina became our home. There is a lot I am grateful for, on the large scale and in the details of everyday-life. Therefore, I would like to say to you:

Thank you for being part of my life and Happy Thanksgiving to you!

Christine

Basic RGB

Moving on

Yesterday my solo exhibition ended.

Of course, taking an exhibition down goes much faster than installing it. After all the art quilts were packed in the car, the signage labels taken off the wall and the guestbook and remaining postcards tucked away in a basket I took the time to be in the gallery and reflect. The gallery was flooded with sunlight, the walls now bare, making the space look bigger than it felt with the art quilts displayed.

It has been a great experience, better than I could imagine!

When I was notified that I was juried to have a solo show I felt rather unsure. For many years I volunteered to install art quilt exhibitions for the Professional Art Quilters Alliance – South (PAQA-South). For those shows we typically hang 40-45 pieces on two floors. Space always felt as a limitation. How could I fill these walls with a (cohesive) show? Kris Carmichael, the director of the Page-Walker Arts & History Center, was very encouraging. “Give your pieces room to breath!”

I felt I needed to work larger as larger pieces have a bigger “presence”, they have a stronger impact. So far, a piece measuring about 20″ x 30″ appeared big to me when I created it but in a gallery with high ceilings it looked small. I pushed myself to bigger dimensions and although I was initially intimidated I learned to enjoy the larger scale. When I created the last piece for the show it turned out to be the biggest piece I had ever made (48.75″x 58″). Now I feel much more confident about working large.

Letter

In the course of the seven weeks my work was exhibited there were two receptions, I gave two artist lectures and presented a brief summary about my work in an art salon held in the gallery. I sold several pieces and made many new connections. Best of all, quite a few people approached me to share their personal experiences with me, the way they connected with my art and what they imagined in my more abstract work.

What else did I learn? I learned that I need to believe more in myself. I don’t mind working hard, after all I turned my hobby into my profession. I enjoy what I’m doing, art is an essential part of my life. I found my visual voice, I’m ready to show the world not only bits and pieces of me by submitting work to group shows, I’m ready to make a statement with a cohesive body of work. The opportunity for this solo exhibition allowed me to “grow up” as an artist. It was a lot of work to prepare for this show, but it was so worth it!

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