I love summers. I seem to think they are for shaking things up and creating a little bit of change. One of the things I’ve been working on this summer is a bit of re-branding.
Allowing Sea Air Arts to focus on buttons – fused glass, of course!
I’ve been tweaking the website for a slightly new look and will write my future button related blog posts there. I’m also fine tuning the SeaAirArts Etsy shop to focus on fused glass buttons.
Creating A Scattered Creative to allow my creative side a little more freedom of speech 😉 A place to show off my other creative pursuits and explore being a multiple media creative/maker. My future blog posts on that journey will be found on that website. I also will be moving the other things I make to sell to my new AScatteredCreative Etsy shop. Things like knitting patterns, handwoven scarves, hand dyed fabric and yarn, and jewelry. The things I usually sell at the local crafts shows I do.
Creating Deborah Pym Harowitz so that my future inner artist can have a more serious home. Well, as serious as I’m capable of. This website will be my Mother Ship that points to all my other online hangouts. Not much there so far but, a place to grow.
I probably will not post here much, and I may recycle some of my older posts found here to one or two of the new blogs on occasion. This is all still a work-in-progress but, I hope you will follow me to my new digs and visit every so often.
The other day, someone asked me that question (yes, all makers get some form of this same question), “Why make buttons, Jo-Anns has lots of them for cheap”!
I especially cringe when the question is delivered with the condescending tone and attitude that you are some sort of sub-species because you haven’t figured this out yet. The best response is to NOT get defensive. Just realize that they are feeling threatened by your obvious creative skills and are already in full-on defensive mode themselves (it works for me!). Their auto-response is to make you feel like an idiot so they don’t have to. Don’t try to educate them at this point, their wall is up and nothing you say will get through. Accept that they are not a member of your tribe and never will be. Answer with a polite and non-committal “because it’s fun” and let it, and them, move on. If they are not already on the defensive and are genuinely interested, give them a polite and educational answer. This is the same attitude you need to respond to people who complain about your prices because they can buy “the same thing” for cheaper at Wal-Mart. They are not your market, let it go. You don’t need to get philosophical.
“Well, it’s not the same thing but it will do the same job” is an acceptable answer. This is the answer I give to people who can’t comprehend why I weave fabric, knit socks, spin yarn, or dye my own anything. Back in the 90’s I taught beginning sewing classes at the local House Of Fabrics. The first class was always opened with a trip around the table asking my students to introduce themselves and tell us why they want to learn to sew. The most common answer was “because I want to save money”. This told me two things: they were clueless, and they were encouraged to learn to sew by their grandmothers. That is a very old fashioned idea and not a realistic goal. The ones who answered with “because I can’t buy what I want to wear” told me they were there because they saw the true value and potential for learning to sew. To ease the shock of the naive, I would ask them why they didn’t just go to K-Mart for a skirt and point out that it would be cheaper than making one when you consider the cost of the fabric, pattern, zipper, button, thread, sewing machine, iron, ironing board, pins, scissors, and this class. They would immediately start whining about fit issues, color and style choices, etc. By the end of the conversation they had come to grips with the fact that saving money was not on the table. They were really there to learn to sew because what they really wanted was better fit, more of their own style, their favorite fabrics, and an outlet for their creativity. That last being the biggest reason, just the least acknowledged. My job was to teach them the basics of how to sew – and – to be OK with the fact that they were allowed to be creative for creativity’s sake and not because it was practical.
Why do so many of us feel guilty for wanting to do something creative? It could’t possibly be because our public school system has officially decided that all creative pursuits are non-productive and a waste of money could it? Don’t even get me started and apologies for the digression.
Making something is a form of creative expression. Humans have to create, It’s in their DNA, they have to. Granted, some more than others. But we all find a way to express that. Even a weight lifter is a creative. They are creating a better body, bigger muscles, less fat, whatever. They are changing something and that is a creative process.
When you solve a problem, that is a creative process.
So how do you answer the truly curious? The genuine questioner? This is an opportunity to educate! Don’t waste it.
“I make fused glass buttons because I love the contrast of smooth glass against fabric. I could never find a mass market button that was worthy of the work and effort I put into making my clothing and wearable art so I had to make them. And, I love melting things.”
If you are a painter, you could explain that you have so much to say, but you think in pictures. What better way to tell your stories? It wouldn’t hurt to add that you like the feel of paint under your fingernails (or not)!
So, why should someone buy your work instead of making it themselves? Well, some won’t. Some will copy what you have done and think themselves clever and creative. They don’t get it either. They are not in the majority but, it’s going to happen, get over it. There are those that love what you do, understand the creative process enough to know that it’s not as easy as it looks, and want to add some real quality hand-mades to their lives. Some are creatives and makers themselves, but can’t do it all. Most of my button customers are wearable artists. They want the smallest details of their latest creation to reflect the care and art they put into their garment. That includes the buttons, and I can provide them. Just like I will buy someone else’s buttons if they are ideal for what I’m making – or their hand painted fabric, or yarn, or earrings…
The biggest part of your tribe will be other makers (and they won’t ask that question). But, there will also be art lovers who chose to express their creativity in other ways. One of my customers is a marketer who needed to look professional for a business meeting with a huge client. But she also wanted to look subtly arty – she replaced the plastic black buttons on a pricey wool blazer with fused glass art buttons. It was stunning and effective!
So, did I answer the original question of why make (fill in the blank) when I can buy it for cheap? I did for me. And anyone who gets it. Maybe not for a non-maker. But, the ones who don’t get it are not my market. I can live with that and it doesn’t hurt my feelings.
What is it about brutally cold winters and the aftermath of the Holidays? January was a month for wanting to hibernate. Like a bear. The week after Christmas and the first week or two of January usually finds me plotting my next year’s goals, coming up with a “theme” for the year and plotting strategy. Not this year, I floundered. I’d think of the year’s priorities for my creative and business life and five minutes later they would all change. What should I be doing? What should my goals and priorities be? Harrumph.
I’m going to blame some of it on the winter. I just don’t like being cold. It is also less painful than blaming all of it on me 😉 But, some of it was my review of 2014. I just didn’t make the progress I had hoped for a year ago. After some serious review of what I did and didn’t do, I decided I just cast my net too wide. To many fish to chase, too many ideas, goals and projects in the works, all at once. With so much that I wanted to do, I couldn’t focus on one thing long enough to do any of them. So, I spent a little time whining (not much, I’m not a whiner by nature). A little time being stern with myself. And a fair amount of time trying to suss out the cause of this “shot-gun splatter” syndrome I’ve had lately. Let’s face it. All of this soul-searching and mind delving stuff is pretty subjective. The bottom line? I’m tired of floundering and want to move forward. You can only stand at the fork in the road so long before you have to pick one. Even Gandalf finally made a decision based on nothing more important than the smell of the air.
So I decided one of my causes was too many distractions and my “theme” for 2015 emerged.
I made some decisions about what I want to focus on this year; buttons (obviously), wearable art (and all of it’s components), and growing the business. That will give me focus (well, more than I had) and still give me latitude. This could be dangerous but so is feeling creatively trapped. I still have some strategy issues to work out but, I have focus. Yea!
My hibernation (for want of a better word) was not spent sleeping though. I made my daughter some Dragon Paws.
I made some custom ones too.
I made a dear friend some hand warmers for her healing hands.
I turned my “Simple Toe-Up Socks” class I teach into a pattern and it’s currently in the hands of my editor, so watch for that to be released on Ravelry soon.
I made some custom buttons
I have my taxes done 🙂
I played with fire. Yes, I need more practice 😉
My FiberArt Group has a Fiber Art exhibit hanging in Gallery 194 in Lapeer, Michigan this month and I have several pieces in that. The Artists’ reception was very well attended and we all got quite an ego boost ;-). Getting art ready for the show was hugely motivating and invigorating but, I’ll talk more about that another time.
Meanwhile, my floundering turned into hyper-focus and the effects on my blog were the same. Ignored. Oops.
Spring seems to have brought me back into balance. I feel like I can move forward and still take a little time for life, tea, blogs, and chocolate (not that there wasn’t any before).
So, how have you weathered the winter, and the first Quarter of 2015?
Fall is always my busy time of year. The few shows I do each year tend to gather in the fall. In a way, this is great – it gives me the rest of the year to work on what I want. In the late summer and fall I need to work on stuff for my shows. But, those are fun too – it just keeps me really busy! The first show was with our glass group, GlassAct! at the Stony Creek Bead Shop in Ypsilanti, Michigan. A fabulously gorgeous shop with the most incredible beaded jewelry on display and run by two great lady beaders. It was a really nice and fun day and even profitable 🙂 Who knew beaders liked buttons so much?
The next show was Sunday, October 5th at the Southfield Civic Center in Southfield, Michigan. Bead Bonanza is a beader’s dream as it has so many wonderful bead shops and bead makers in attendance each year. I had fused glass buttons, glass beads and fused glass pendants available. Once again, this is an easy show for me as I’m part of the GlassAct! booth and get to enjoy the atmosphere, camaraderie of my glass group – and sales – with minimal show work. I like this arrangement 😉
The next show was Winter Wonders and was on Saturday, November 1st in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. This is a great show and has lots of gifts items for Holiday shopping from all kinds of wonderful glass, bead and jewelry artists. I had buttons, beads, pendants, finished jewelry, woven scarves and other gift worthy items available. The snack table alone was worth coming out!
The last show I have scheduled is the Heritage Holiday Bazaar on Sunday, December 7th from noon to 4 pm at Heritage Spinning & Weavingin Lake Orion, Michigan. This is the show where I get to haul out all my stuff: buttons, beads, pendants, jewelry, woven scarves, hand dyed fabrics, hand dyed yarns, sewn goodies… you get the idea. A wonderful way to really get into the Holiday spirit and do some serious gift shopping. Again, there is a munchie table that is always fantastic (usually thanks to Clara).
There is nothing quite like a one-of-a-kind, hand-made gift for that someone special to help tone-down the commercial 3-ring circus that mall gifts foster. I hope to see some of you at our last show and look forward to some familiar smiling faces! One of these years I’ll get the knack for posting about all our shows BEFORE they happen – sigh.
Meanwhile, back at the studio(s). I have gotten a few things done for me. Aside from the sneak peaks in the photos above, I have finished two (count them, 1 – 2) pair of socks! The summer socks can be worn through the fall over another pair of socks to keep my feet a little warmer.
And the grey socks will keep me cozy right up to snow-fly when I trade in my Birkenstocks for my snow boots.
I’ve made progress on the Epic Sock Challenge (six at a time on one needle), but they are still too short to stuff the yarn into each toe. This means I spend more time untangling balls of yarn than knitting. What was I thinking?!?!
I’m also doing some Dragon Paws for my daughter with a modification; she is getting short fingers instead of the pattern’s fingerless mitts because I’m writing a new pattern and needed to work out the fingers part. I’m getting really close to ruffle & bead time! I hope she will have these in time for the Holidays.
Since I didn’t get a photo taken of her Dragon Paws, here is a photo of the great Grey Herons that were in my back yard the other morning – I never knew they were so big – and beautiful!
One of the things I’ve been doing a fair amount of this summer is weaving. My looms have been calling to me and I always feel like its a guilty pleasure to sit and weave. But a gift giving event came up and it was the perfect excuse to do some. It came and went (actually), but Emily Post said you have a year to get a gift to a new bride and groom so I’m taking it! I decided a new bride needs some kitchen linens – made out of cotton – I’m confused….
Terminology aside, I found a pattern in the Summer 2013 issue of Handwoven, and fell in love with the idea of kitchen towels, or placemats, or a table runner – how about TBD (to be determined)?
So, I contacted her Mom and asked about her kitchen colors. Not my usual palette but, I’m always up to a challenge. So last May (ish?) I put a 12 yard warp of black, white and grey on my smaller, 4 shaft loom. I really only needed about 5 yards for the project I had a very rough idea for but, I’ve never worked with 8/2 cotton before and wanted lots of room for error. Picking her accent color for the pattern bands I started weaving.
My weaving time is in the evenings after dinner. Progress was made a little at a time, night after night. I have to say – I really enjoyed weaving on this. So much so, that I started to “not rush” as I didn’t want it to end. It’s a little like reading a really great book – you just don’t want to say good-bye to the characters! When I realized this, I solved the problem by planning a pair of scarves to weave next and winding the warp. Back on track. I finished the 12 yard warp (about 11-¼ of actual weaving) and cut it off the loom!
That’s a photo of the fabric laid out on my 40’ porch – yikes! No wonder it took me all summer to weave it. After washing and pressing it there were a few surprises; the background texture in the solid areas was the first one. It’s stunning, and full of character and I wish I’d planned it! But, alas, I cannot take the credit. It’s simple plain weave. The texture is a result of a phenomenon called “tracking”. My only explanation for this showing up so predominately is that because I used a 4-shaft loom and was weaving an overshot pattern, the plain weave areas were not threaded on the standard 1, 3 and 2, 4 shafts but a little more randomly – it is still a simple plain weave, but with a twist 😉
The second surprise was the weight of the fabric. Not as thick or hefty as I was planning. The only other “towels” I’ve ever woven were with 3/2 cotton and quite “Placemat-able” if you know what I mean. This is a little soft, thin and drapey for placemats. I love how it turned out, I just have to figure out how to reach my original plan, or what to alter it too. I usually weave garment fabric so my mind is wandering to the obvious solutions for a sewer. I’ll keep you posted on my progress and my final results.
Meanwhile, the loom is already warped with my next project; a pair of scarves for the Fall Show line-up in a luscious Merino/Silk blend, hand dyed by Heritage Spinning & Weaving in Traverse City Cherry. Sampling has commenced.
Here in Michigan, we’ve had an odd summer. It’s been humid, but not hot and the nights have been dang cold. I mean, it was 43˚ F when I got up today – brrrrrrrrr… Add to that some very foggy mornings and I swear, fall arrived the first of August! I like to walk the dog as early as I can so I can get to my day. We live on a country road, it’s not a long walk, just about 1.5 miles up to the highway and back. But it’s a nice half-hour and a pleasant way to start things out.
But I’m a fair weather girl – not too hot, and not too cold. So I needed a sweatshirt for my morning trots down the road with my Shadow. I had this bright chartreuse pullover sweatshirt that I never wore. I love the color but the neck was too small for pulling over my head. Just enough annoyance to have me reach for the zippered hoody instead. But I couldn’t be seen in this unseasonable fog we’ve had. So I pulled out the chartreuse pullover and decided to up-scale it. I put a zipper up the front – of course it was too long so I had to trim it and get creative at the neck with a fabric and bead ‘stop”.
Hubby says it looks like a bow tie. Not my intention but, as Doctor Who would say “Bow ties are cool!
While I was at it I pulled out a silk screen I got from Smudged Textiles on Etsy and added a few metallic turquoise swirls.
It was a quick and fun project to help brighten my mornings and make me more visible on the road. Somehow that is very satisfying. 🙂
Have you been able to up-scale something that was languishing in the back of your closet and made it a new favorite?
“The real need is to capture and utilize more of the creative thinking we do. If you have systems and habits ready to leverage your ideas, your productivity can expand exponentially.” – David Allen
As creatives, we don’t need to sit down at a table with the intent of dreaming up ideas out of thin air. We get them zapped to us from the aether. Everything that crosses our field of vision, or that we hear, bombards us with ideas. Constantly, randomly, and at the most inconvenient times. They are brilliant (sometimes), fleeting, and quickly forgotten. We need to drop what we are doing and capture them in some way or they are gone. The key is having a capture system that is easy, always with us, trusted, a habit, and easy to retrieve. Finding the best method that works for you is, sadly, mostly trial and error. I have arty friends who are 100% digital and arty friends who don’t even own a computer or cell phone. Obviously the same system won’t work for both.
Let’s Digress; Sketchbook Verses Notebook
For years I carried a blank book with me, everywhere. Sometimes they were lined and sometimes they were not but I thought of it as my sketchbook. I used it to jot down ideas I wanted to remember, things to do, stuff to look up, scribbles of things to try. I even glued in pictures from magazines and catalogs. Everything from weave structures to color combinations to jewelry techniques to story ideas. It was mostly written words but some scribbled pictures as well. It was not pretty but, if I wanted to remember it, that is where it went. Because it was a physical book that I had to find an empty page in on a regular basis, reviews were somewhat automatic. But things mostly got seen again (and remembered at a later time) by accident. I still have a couple and they are fun (funny) to look through but finding something I vaguely remember is impossible.
Then, two things happened; the digital age and the sketchbook-as-finished-art trend. Suddenly, about the same time as digital notebooks became widely available, the Internet was full of posts about sketchbooks and journals that were stunning works of art in themselves. The message (probably not intended) that I got was – how can I consider myself an artist if my sketchbook looks like a train wreck? I quit carrying it, afraid someone would see how ugly it was and judge me. I started exploring digital notebooks that were not nearly as easy or convenient but that no one else would ever see. The biggest problem? I got out of the sketchbook habit. My idea capturing system fell apart.
The Four Ways to Capture Ideas:
text; hand-written or typed
sketches; hand-drawn or digital
My search for a more technological alternative became a nightmare. The tech wasn’t where I needed it to be yet. Creatives use all four methods to capture thoughts. I couldn’t do it all with one device. I had too many apps. Too many ways to collect ideas. Too many places to store thoughts and other information. Some stuff was in Bento, some in a spreadsheet, some in folders full of Word Docs and Pages files, some in bookmarks, on Pinterest, SpringPad… You get the idea. It was scattered, irretrievable and worse, no habits or system for review. But all these apps were still in their infancy, just like my system. Some of them have grown-up and work much better (Evernote!). My point is – pick one or two and use them. If a feature you need is missing, you can always switch later. The most important part is getting in the habit of doing it. I think it was Michelle Connolly of Get Organized Wizard who said
“No system is going to help you get productive unless you make yourself use it.”
It’s true. Just pick something, get comfortable with it, and use it. Hint: When choosing one, if there is an app that is wildly popular with millions of people and it’s been around for a long time, it probably will work just fine for you too. Just sayin’.
Tossing my sketchbook was stupid. Especially for the reasons I did. My insecure inner-child has been reprimanded. It was a system that evolved on it’s own and worked, to some degree. Thanks to Lynn Krawczyk and one of her articles in Quilting Arts Magazine (Issue #58, maybe?) and on her blog, I’ve started carrying my blank book again. I’ve quit calling it a sketchbook so I don’t have to feel queasy when an artist sees it. It’s clearly my “Notebook”, for taking notes. Ugly, wordy, incoherent thoughts and un-recognizable scribbles, for my eyes only.
But I’ve also learned the value of digital – organized! My notebook pages can be scanned and tagged and stored in Evernote for easy retrieval (and then torn out so none ever need see them but me). I have an app on my phone and iPad that makes it super easy to put quick notes into Evernote. For quick and easy idea capture I can put in a text message, voice message, photo (with notes), or web link into my “Ideas” folder and review it later. I can take notes at a guild meeting for the next guild newsletter and know where they are. Being able to do this with my phone was a game-changer – it is always with me, always handy. Since my notes are saved to the ‘cloud’, should my phone disappear or self-destruct, I still have them. For ideas that need brainstorming I use the paper notebook. I can think things through better with a pen in my hand than fingers on a keyboard. But oddly enough, for writing I compose better on a keyboard than with a pen. I suspect it has something to do with random brainstorming verses linear thinking and being able to type faster than I write.
A Review System – trusted retrieval
Capturing all your great ideas won’t do any good if they are captured and forgotten. A “Review” system is needed. One that is a habit and is trusted. It’s very easy to forget your ideas if you never see them again. With a physical notebook, at least you pick it up and use it regularly and your chances of flipping through and seeing old ideas are much greater. But, with digital notes – out of sight, out of mind. A system can help with that. I’ve set mine up as a weekly task. I pull out my physical Notebook and look through the things that I’ve added to it since last time. Most of them get scanned and sent to Evernote where they are tagged and filed in the appropriate Notebook. The things that I put directly in Evernote are reviewed, tagged and put in the appropriate reference notebook or on my “Projects To Pursue” list or “Tasks” list. If I put something in Evernote that needs to be acted on before the next review day, I make a reminder out of it and it nags me to do it like a calendar appointment. This is a fairly new system for me and I’m still working on the “habit” parts but, so far, so good.
Tagging is a way to find stuff again. A tag is a label that you attach to a file. You can then sort by your tags and find only the files that are related to your search. You also have folders or Notebooks. For example, I have a Notebook called “Recipes”. I can clip recipes from any web site into my Recipes Notebook and tag it with “Slow-cooker” and “poultry”. Finding it later will be easy. The key here is to not get carried away. It’s easy to build up 18,945 different tags. That is not helpful. Pick a few you will really use and stick with those. If you are saving an idea for a necklace you can put it in your “Jewelry” Notebook and tag it with “copper”, “fused glass”, and “product idea”. At worse you will only have a dozen or so files with the same tags and at best you will be reminded of a similar great idea! Set up Notebooks and tags so they make sense to how you will hunt for them. You can always edit them later. A final word about reviewing: Review, tag and file recent additions regularly. It will keep you from being overwhelmed by a huge glut of unprocessed notes. The alternative is to tag and file them when you make them. This is great if you are not in a hurry. The other habit you need is to review your “Projects To Pursue” Notebook (or whatever you have called it). I plan on doing mine every month or quarter to see what idea is ready to be moved to an active project. About once a year (or five) I will review the Notebook labeled “Wild Ideas” that I assumed will never go anywhere when I put them in it. There may be a good nugget hiding in there, or a few laughs if nothing else 😉
Have you developed a system for idea capture that works well for you? Share it in the comments.