• In Which It All Gets Done Handily, A Photo Essay

    On: July 12, 2018
    In: Art Biz, Artmaking, Community, Studio Journal
    Views: 54
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    New booth banners

    By the time you read this I will be one or less days away from my only major in-person show this year: the annual ACGA Palo Alto Clay and Glass Festival. There’s an unholy amount of prepping to do to ensure I represent myself well in a constrained 10′ x 10′  setting.  Add to that the fact that I haven’t been able to do this show since 2015 and have both cream-of-the-crop older and brash hot-out-of-the-kiln work to share.  Still, after five times, I know my drill and the Festival itself is fantastically organized, so it will all happen as it should.

    After the art was finished and curated, I got curious to photo-document the maelstrom created by the show preparations. It matters that it’s done at a measured and sane pace because it’s absolutely the optimum way I support my exhibitorship in advance. The photographing, the pricing, the list-checking, the rounding-up of all the booth and display parts, the packing, the snacks and the changes of shoes all count. So, with only a few days to go as I write, here’s an annotated behind the scenes photo essay for you. Let’s start with the uncurling of the brand new but long-stored booth banners relaxing in the sun on the hot tub cover, looking like the Star Wars opening crawl — if it were done in classic Cooper Black  (a typeface “for far-sighted printers with near-sighted customers.”) 

     

     

    Airing tableclothsFrom the banners in the backyard, we move to the airing of the stinky tablecloths in the front yard. You know how laundry smells when you forget it in the washing machine? (Yes, you do!) Take that pungency down only a notch and you still need a couple of days of sun, air and fresheners to banish it. Wonder what acridity the long-stored EZ-Up will waft over the festival grounds when I get there and set it up?

     

     

     

    Tables and stoolIf we turn our gaze from the yard to the porch, we see things beginning to be staged for loading in the car. Note that slick folding stool. I absolutely cannot stand up all weekend long bobbing my head to the nonstop conversations. It exhausts me in mind, body and spirit. While mind and spirit need longer and more subtle remedies in order to reknit the “ravelled sleave of care”, I got the body handled with that stool. It takes a load off in the present moment. Even perching on it with one bun does the trick and – bonus points – I know what to do with my hands too.

     

     

     

    Front porch photosWhile all the booth things are gathering on the front porch, there’s finally a foggy morning with the perfect soft and directionless light which lets me take photos of the last of the new works out of the kiln. Whew! I was going to have to break out all the photo floods and the last thing I need is more stuff to commandeer.

     

     

     

    sales stuff and instructions

    I operate my cash register out of an open 5 x 8″ file card box. It discreetly holds what I need to make transactions and at the end of the day folds it all up and snaps shut.  I always include a small notebook to write down the tips, suggestions and references that come not only from my visitors and collectors, but from the other artists in the ephemeral Brigadoon that a festival creates. I also use it to write the coups de foudre that hit me about how I could improve my XYZs next time. Here, too, resides other key paperwork like the Festival map and detailed Exhibitor’s Instructions.

     

     

     

    pricing henpecked bowls

    Over the years I have tried many ways of price-marking my work. First requirement: stickers that stay stuck! After that: Small or large? Large and handwritten. On the bottom or the side? Usually the side, but for sure easily visible and not covering something interesting. This year I added one green highlighted sticker to a random piece (that may or may not be in this photo) which reads “Yay! You found the FREE one!” A reverse scavenger hunt in which I Free Bomb my own booth and get to watch.

     

     

     

    Stuff to Load in Car

    OK, it’s all packed and moved to the driveway behind the Element. Just know that all of the artwork – except the larger items – is contained in those four lidded Rubbermaid tubs in the back with the stool leaning against them. Everything else is in support of displaying, protecting and selling. It’s a rather mad and expensive endeavor, really.  At this juncture, though, I am too far into it to think about that because, even when I have reduced it all to a new minimum, I am still anxious to see if it all fits.

     

     

     

    All In

    And it does! Is it me, or does this look like the big gray hippo that just swallowed my weekend?

     

    –Liz Crain, who knows a bunch of you readers live an inconvenient distance from Palo Alto and/or have lives which won’t permit you to come by her booth to high five her for all the excellent prep-work and, just maybe, the pretty good ceramic art.  But, for those of you who don’t have those impediments, here’s the link to her Events Page for all the scheduling and orienteering particulars to help you need. Scroll to the second entry on that page and thanks.

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  • My Back Pages

    On: June 21, 2018
    In: Artmaking, Community, Creativity, Studio Journal
    Views: 108
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    ceramic centerpiece

    “Centerpiece” Clay, Stains, Glazes, 2013

     

     Up in the attic pawing through tubs teeming with my older ceramic work, I sat chuckling and chucking a goodly portion of it. Then I hauled the remainder down into the daylight to plead its case for retention. Concurrently,  I clicked to the outer reaches of my Artwork Image Folders, creating sleeker organization and curating like hell. (Don’t worry, as of this writing 17,127 files remain.)  This trip through my overgrown creative back pages has served to both inform and to deeply overwhelm. SO much work and so many changes of techniques and styles! For clarity’s sake, couldn’t I have settled, made only one or two styles and just been happy?

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  • We Nourish Each Other

    On: May 31, 2018
    In: Artmaking, Community, Creativity, Studio Journal
    Views: 241
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    Artist's Alchemy Set 2018

    “Artist’s Alchemy Set” Found and Acquired Objects, Ceramic, Underglaze, 2018

     

    If this was a chapter in my autobiographical how-to book (working title: Fired Up), it would be much longer and charmingly anecdotal, starting with one premise but taking off on profound and oh-so-meaningful tangents before returning to a heart-rending culmination. But, instead, it’s a journal entry and it needs to get in and out in 800-1000 words. I think I can do it – particularly the heart-rending part – and I will tell you the word count at the end.

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  • All My Clay Chickens Fly Away

    On: May 3, 2018
    In: Artmaking, Community, Creativity, Studio Journal
    Views: 286
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    Big Broody Ceramic Chicken

     

    As it turned out, three events this Spring in the same town at the same time invited my ceramic works to participate. One entailed making a chicken, any kind of clay chicken, to be shown with dozens of other chickens in a group setting on a lawn. A second asked me to add larger works to those they already displayed in their Gallery Shop. A third was an annual statewide ceramics exhibit, juried, curated and fairly prestigious. I was happily All In with all three and here’s a briefly annotated photo essay so you can be All In along with me.

     

     

    Nakie Time and Homefire 1957 at California Clay Competition 2018

     

    Starting with the third event, the California Clay Competition – held annually at The Artery in Davis, CA – entices me yearly, yet I have only entered one other time (2012) and was accepted then as well. Like most folks, I dislike being rejected and it takes a special effort to cowgirl-up enough to feel the worth of my entries in that statewide arena. This time I took the leap because the juror was Tiffany Schmierer, a beloved former instructor, and I simply wanted to formally place my recent work before her eyes, even anonymously….even if she did not select it. These two pieces, Nakie Time and Homefire 1957, are from my personal collection and it means the world to me to display them in this venue in a heady group of mega-talented artists, with her blessing to boot.

    I went to the Opening Reception, but “forgot” to wear my nametag.  Few know me by sight there, so I had the tremendous joy of watching a man encounter Nakie Time, do a double take, smile broadly, get out his phone and ever so slightly tilt the can to the right angle and take a couple of shots, chuckling the while. I got to watch him fall in love! What a testimony.

     

     

    Ceramic Cans at the Pence Gallery

     

    Meanwhile, a few blocks away at The Pence Art Gallery, I have many of my ceramic cans: beer, spice and assorted, available in their Gallery Shop. The Exhibit Coordinator asked if I had anything larger to augment the Gallery during  annual Ceramics Conference and beyond. Yep, I did. I selected a few more pieces from my personal collection that I am now willing to part with. It was a pleasant surprise to see them at the head of the stairs on pedestals looking right at home. I’d say it was an honor to bring them there.

     

     

    Cabrillo Ceramic Chickens

     

    And lastly, there was that lawn-ful of chickens who flew into town for a long weekend. The Cabrillo College Intermediate Ceramics class, plus friends, made dozens of them. There were eggs and chicks and even a fox under the henhouse. They were elegant and thoughtful, ranging from astonishingly realistic to goofy and endearing. It was great fun to wander through the display a few times and discover new angles and personalities. I had dawdled and dithered in making mine until I was nearly out of time. With three weeks left, desperation focused my mind and hands and the Muses/Kiln Gods supported me. I called her Big Broody – she’s up top there – but the Cabrillo crowd quickly dubbed her Mother Clucker cuz she was of heroic proportions and obviously about to hatch something wonderfully badass.

    –Liz Crain, who remembers attending the Davis Clay Conference (CCACA) weekend back in the day as an astonished ceramics beginner, never daring to imagine being a participant in the all the exhibits and galleries she was in awe of.  Still feeling a tad like Lizzy From the Block, which is probably a good thing, she nevertheless was right at home this year, a refreshing evolution.

     

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  • The After Effects

    On: April 12, 2018
    In: Art Biz, Artmaking, Creativity, Studio Journal
    Views: 287
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    Messy Studio

    Studio “Before” March, 2018

     

    It’s been a jam-packed past year but the greatest push of it culminated throughout the past month. I find myself now in the rain shadow of a solo show, which dovetailed with a massive studio purge and re-org, and followed by a chaser of insights into my creative process.  A Holy Trinity of tensions and releases, really. Then there are the After Effects from all of it. I can name three.

    After Effects of the  Solo Exhibit — I created the works for my solo show over nine months’ time. The parts, pieces and possibilities took over my creative space and nearly all my thoughts. It was great fun, actually, to be so willingly swept away. At showtime, however, all those projects left together and the tidal surge of purposeful focus and activity ebbed away, leaving me beached and a bit bereft. Fortunately I have come to expect this and was already looking beyond it by planning the Next Things. That sort of segue really really helps. What caught me by surprise was that my tiny studio was clearly wrecked, as you can see above. (The rest of the space was woefully worse and I could only walk in about 18 inches.) As I half-heartedly began to tidy my way in, it felt daunting: the normal touches of post-exhibit funk combined with literal blockage, not enough space to sort it out and no sane or happy way to begin even one of the projects I had on the clipboard. One cannot organize clutter, but one can purge. So I purged.

    After Effects of the Purge — The purge became a total remodel: new huge storage shelves, new task lighting, new configuration of workspaces. It is still in the fine-tuning stage as I write, but enough radical rearrangement has occurred that I can no longer find things automatically, even if nothing is in my way. It’s created an odd Not-My-Life sensation. I bump into the edges of the new configuration, walk to the “old” spot to set something down, and feel like a visitor in my own place. As a kid I used to get all happy deep-cleaning my room (I know, that’s weird…) but then I would sit in it feeling strangely empty, utterly afraid to mess it up again. It’s sort of like that now in the studio and I relate it to the very real fear of a blank canvas. I gingerly started and stopped several new projects, making sure to stow them neatly on my designated Works-in-Progress shelves. But that feeling of needing things to stay unsullied is death to creativity, at least mine, so I spent some time wondering why and how I needed to be creative at this new juncture and had some freeing insights.

    After Effects of the Insights I’ll spare you the wonderings and just cut to the epiphany and what it might mean. All this time (decades) I have thought that the art objects that I made, and especially what of them I shared with the world, were the point of my carefully coddled creative process, the crux of the biscuit, as it were. That a favorable reception of the beautiful things themselves – by me or anyone – was the goal.  It’s not.

    I realized that the physical objects I make are merely the by-products – sometimes even detritus – of the process itself. Their existence, aesthetics, esteem, and economics are diversions. The classes, art biz books and websites, coaches and gurus, mentors and clay buddies, ceramic sales, festivals, exhibits, competitions and online events are busywork. My carefully defined core values, product families, price points, merchandising methods, and selling style are gimcrackery. The countless artist statements, social media posts and magnificent manifestos? Fluff. I’ve suffered failures, imagined slights, had inappropriate envy, false hope and creative exhaustion, thinking it was all necessary to the cause. Guess what? It’s not.

    When these realizations sunk in so deeply that I felt the truth of them in my bones, in my interstitium, in my vagus nerve, I laughed out loud. For me, in this lifetime, Process is the Product! Any residuals are delicious gravy. The core reason I create is to give myself something I want to look at, marvel over, and fall in love with. Nothing more is really needed.

    –Liz Crain, who of course reserves the right to carry on with the whole biscuit, apostrophes and all.

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  • With A Lotta Help From My Friends

    On: March 8, 2018
    In: Art Biz, Artmaking, Community, Creativity, Studio Journal
    Views: 599
     2
    Games People Play Ceramic Exhibit

     

    This is my Oscar Acceptance Speech. Or maybe it’s my Jimmy Fallon-style Thank You Notes, and I promise to keep it short and heartfelt. But guys, just look at that shot of a portion of my Games People Play Solo Show! To make such a sustained effort in the studio and to see it showcased so nicely gives me a thrill over and over. It’ll be great to move on to whatever’s next, but first, a moment please, to acknowledge the crap ton (a technical term) of help from my friends that I had in bringing it to this point. It would have been insanely harder, if not impossible, without them. In no particular order, other than what my perforated remembrance affords, they are:

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  • Games People Play: Glyph Con and Packrat

    On: February 28, 2018
    In: Art Biz, Artmaking, Community, Studio Journal
    Views: 640
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    Two Ceramic Games

    Rear: “Glyph Con,” Ceramic and Metal, 2018 and Front: “Packrat,” Ceramic and Glass, 2018

     

    I finished in time! Here are the final two of the seven ceramic games I will have in my March, 2018 solo show at Roscoe Ceramic Gallery in Oakland, CA. One is a 3D version of Concentration, the other is a fun ceramic faux log form for Mancala. Let’s check them out.

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