The New

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Large companies can pour millions into new products each year, hiring experts called consultants to help direct them in their dream of new products and new directions for their businesses.  In the world of the artist, this too also happens, but on a mini-micro scale.  You wake up one morning and you say to yourself that an old idea that has been rolling around in your head and heart needs to be embarked on.  For an artist, this means hundreds of hours  of learning this new kind of work and who knows how much money poured into the effort.  When it comes to something like this, there is absolutely no guarantee of any sort of return.  You go by your instinct, your gut, and your wits.  And you want to know something?  My experience has been that many of my most compelling and interesting designs that I personally love often find only a luke-warm reception at least in the beginning.  I have actually shelved what would later become one of my most popular pieces for over a year before returning to it.  When it hit the shelves people looked at it like it was something from another world.  That is to say, they didn’t see it as the unique thing that it was; they saw it as unrecognizable.  This is sometimes the problem with the new.

Before a line of new work is even hot off the presses, it comes under no scrutiny, no flag waving crowds or lines of adoring fans.  Unless you can do something that often strikes most artists as utterly distasteful: you hype the living shit out of it.  You hype it so that normal people who have never bought art before sit up and take notice.  They take notice because, well, they are so tuned into the hype.  I am not talking about what an artist normally does to promote themselves. I am talking about what some people will do in order to bring in the crowds, people who might not have come in the first place.  These people are more drawn by the interest of others, the crowd, the feeding frenzy.  To do this on a large scale means celebrity or the feeling of possible celebrity.  And who doesn’t love a celebrity?  A quiet unknown who is rising through the ranks?  Still, its hype most often, anew form of hype that doesn’t look like hype but still…it is.

The truth is, there is a very small number of people who don’t see the hype, don’t care about the hype and buy with their heart.  And these people are actually the visionaries, the people there when the work was not hyped, was actually affordable, and are often of modest means.  the people who come rushing for the hype are the folks who will put down $40,000.00 for the “next big thing” because, well, it looks good on them or in their house.  What we are talking about is status.  It is also worlds away from authentic art making (unless you create artifice  in order to pander to the rich).

Artists are often caught in this odd cross-fire of authenticity meeting popularity when things take off for them.  The desire to hype can get the better of some art dealers and gallery owners, and artists too.  Look, we all want to prosper, but at what price does this happen?  For those who “make it” there are now funds that allow a person to do so much more than wonder if they will make the bills this month or the next, whether the six thousand poured into the new line of work will yield anything of substance. The number of artists who were obscure in their time is right up there with the fervency of hype.  Renoir would say how he bought his villa with a painting of an empty vase sold ten years previously.  Picasso would sign checks knowing they would never be cashed because, well, his signature. It is indeed a strange world.

But look, the lifeblood of an artist isn’t the money.  It is the excitement over the next new thing, the new idea, the new process, the new way of saying perennial messages that have been born into each generation and recur in slightly different ways from one century to the next.  Our dreams are those of the Romans, the Greeks, the Pelleponesians, the Shakespeares, the kings and queens of Ur, all told now in a recognizable dialect.  Before it is a “thing” we are there in the innocence of the moment in the studio, scribbling on napkins, sending notes to friends, or making the discovery that could change a lifetime.  We were the true believers before anyone dared to even dream it.  It is this piece of our lives that the beloved collector wants a piece of…the early work, albeit a little rough around the edges, but is work that suggests that there are more pieces that will follow, and if the artist is lucky enough to sell enough to fund the next round of work, they do, and the work evolves.  And hopefully, the work evolves fast enough that it stays ahead of the curve so that the artist can turn enough of a profit so that s/he can make more….and survive to make for another day.  This is not an easy proposition because artists have to be both lovers and shrew business people.  I can tell you that it is hard to do both equally well, and as history shows us, artists tend to be lovers over the shrewd type.  This is so because it takes a huge amount of passion just to get your through the 80 hour days, weeks, months, that are required to become good at something.  And for an artist, this can mean remaking yourself with new techniques and ways of working every once in a while.  You don’t get there with shrewdness.  You don’t calculate passion or love.  You simply have to have it in you as a lover.  And like all great lovers, you can’t be thinking about dollar signs when you are throwing yourself into the next big thing.  To do this requires a singular sense of authenticity, passion, and love.  Anything else simply robs the work of the life that animates the work, that gives it that presence that is often unnoticed by the great unwashed but that the lovers of art pick up on and see.  It takes a lover to know a lover, even if one does not make art and the other does.

So it is that yesterday I had this “congealing moment.”  I know how that sounds, but I cannot think of a better term that feels so equal to what actually happens….The moment involved an idea I have had in my head literally for decades that involved a type of work that I have considered doing in glass.  I just wasn’t completely sure how I would do it.  My mind had been putting these pieces together off and on for a long time, but I just didn’t know exactly what the end result would be.  It was a bit like staring at Monet’s paintings of haystacks early in the morning…..they were images that had some shapes, yes, a suggestion of form, but were largely vivid blurs in my mind.  That really is how these kinds of pieces can be in our minds.  I know that other artists do the same thing because I see it in my art students.  They draw a quick sketch and then say, “I will “art it up” Mr. Stafford….you know, I will make it awesome!”

So really what is happening is there is something that is not completely fleshed out for the artist in their mental conception of the work that they just know they will get worked out in the final work. They just know, right? So sometimes that golden moment happens, that bit of genius that flows out into the work, and sometimes it doesn’t.  Sometimes we kind of waive our hands in the air, explaining a new idea without really knowing what it will be like.

(“Insert some kind of colorful awesomeness here _____”)

It isn’t that we are fooling ourselves as artists.  In fact, this sense we often have, that it will be awesome, is quite simply derring-do.  It is born out of confidence in ourselves, and it is ballsy.  As a result, I am loathe to be too critical of it. I was in fact in just such a place, parked with my idea for over a decade (at least) while this idea, apparently, gestated very slowly in my mind or creative spirit.  And then it happened.  It happened very quickly, almost too rapidly for me to even notice.  If I had been too distracted, it would have been gone and I might not have even noticed it.  Look, I have hundreds, thousands, of ideas a lot like this fleeting through me.  It is just how it is.  And most often, this happens in a state that is different form ordinary consciousness.  As a result, unless you sit with the idea and hold it there, it can literally just evaporate in exactly the same way that a dream you had last night is  nearly impossible to recall.  Steve Jobs once described all the things he “knew” when he was on LSD that he completely forgot when he came back down to ordinary consciousness….but he knew that it was something and he wanted to add a little piece of that in his work, which he did.  So, yeah.

I didn’t need LSD to get to that moment.  It was all there, fleshed out in the moment clear as day.  It was so complicated that I knew that in order to work it out, I would have to possibly spend months developing enough elements just in order to develop the work.  These pieces depart completely from everything I have done and dip into art.  How they are done is through a series of layers of imagery that are literally carved out of layers of glass at room temperature and then layered into the glass.  On the one hand, I could wind up with a cheap Venetian looking “fish bowl” (you know those….they look like fish in a bowl and are made by layering all these elements in them) or I could on the other, push the idea so far that I come up with the level of complexity I am looking for, which is not unlike a multidimensional “trip” through a dream world that actually is beginning to look a lot like how complex our lives have gotten today.  The trick, I know, as I waive my hands in the air, is to invest the “landscape” of these glass pieces with the level of complexity that keeps them from being cute or quaint and pushes them into new territory altogether.  And that, dear reader, is the hard part of art.  It separates the girls from the women and the boys from the men.  Hopefully in the end it serves to unite us all in a new kind of vision.  😉

So that is what is on the plate for now.  Naturally, I can’t say too much about it right now, not until I develop the work because until I do that it is much too easy for people to take an idea and run with it.  And that is the other side of the coin, but I will spare you that dimension of our work as artists.

The new work will mean that I will do something unusual, which is I will need to create photographs, images, and drawings, all of which will be put down on paper to form the basis of the imagery that will be cast into place with these pieces.  And to do them well will mean that the imagery remain crisp. That will mean selecting certain colors over others.  There will be choices that will have to be made that will be exacting, like building a three-layered canvas made of glass that you will be able to see through.  Some will seem like dreams, some like memories.  Perhaps some will fill the space with a sense of life.  Will they?  That will be up to all of the efforts made in the studio and out of it.  For now, there is a lot that needs to be done in the moment that will lead up to determining whether this work will be worth the time and trouble.  These are the untold hours, the invisible hours, that go to make a new line of work what it is. And this is the life of the artist.  More than money, more than anything else, this is what gets my blood pumping.

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American Glass Manufacturers Under Fire

This just in…..this article is from Architectural Glass Arts.  I am including the article in its entirety for all who might be concerned about over reach of regulation from up on high.  Spread the word. -Parker

SOURCE LINK:

http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=6b0adb646b23845dc5f96fed3&id=3a40357fe1


 

Advocate for Glass Art
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If you’ve been following the news in the glass world…

You already know that Spectrum Glass is halting production and going out of business in the next few months. Uroboros Glass in Portland will be picking up production of the System 96 product line. However, the situation in Portland is growing out of control with knee jerk reactions to some sensationalist journalism not based on science, but based in fear and speculation. Production at Bullseye Glass is being suspended with the prohibition of use of the heavy metals necessary to produce colored glass.

There are a handful of glass manufacturers in the US who are being forced to introduce expensive equipment into their manufacturing process without a clear and reasonable timeline for implementing these procedures. If you would like to contact your Representatives in Washington to let them know that the glass art industry is a precious part of the US economy that we don’t want to see disappear due to unreasonable regulations, a sample letter is below. Feel free to change it up. If you’d like to learn more about the situation, there is a group on Facebook dedicated to Glass Artists for Air Quality.

To find your Senator: http://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/
To find your Representative: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

Dear Senator or Representative,
This week Spectrum Glass in Washington announced that after 40 years of producing colored art glass they will be closing their doors in July. They are the main American manufacturer of many types of colored art glass. This affects an estimated 30,000 Stained Glass, Fused Glass and Glass Blowing Artists, Stores, Art Studios and Hobbyists across America. Fortunately, arrangements have been made for Uroboros Glass in Oregon state to take over production of some of their Art Glass Product line. But there is still a huge problem threatening the American Art Glass Community.
The entire U.S. art glass industry is now being evaluated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with respect to potential new regulations. Spectrum is the first to announce it’s closure, but other glass producing companies are also evaluating their options. Uroboros Glass has suspended production of two-thirds of their glass while EPA re-evaluates their standards. Long-standing interpretations of air quality regulations are being reevaluated, and if new regulations are applied to our industry, it would require substantial capital expenses. Spectrum Glass Company has operated well within existing environmental guidelines and has been the only stained glass manufacturer to employ baghouse technology on furnace exhaust. Still, they have already accrued extraordinary, unanticipated expenses since the start of the EPA evaluation and cannot withstand additional investments of an unknown scale. These business collapses will have a ripple effect across the country.
What you need to know:
  • The stained and colored glass industry is a small, but home grown American manufacturing phenomenon. It’s unique in the world, provides steady manufacturing jobs for American workers, and is an exporting industry as well.
  • This industry of just six manufacturers is facing $2.5-3.5 million of capital investment due to regulatory changes with no advance warning. This investment may prove too much for several of them to bear.
  • Government intervention is needed for them to meet the goals of the new regulations in such a short time frame.
  • The industry is willing to meet new regulations, but it needs reasonable time to do so.
  • The manufacturers are all owned by single individuals and their families, who work daily at their plants. They don’t have the resources of publicly traded corporations to simply pay up and move on.
  • These manufacturers supply thousands of other businesses and craftsmen who depend on their unique glass styles to complete their work. They are now at risk of being put out of work themselves.
  • The very suppliers who have created the iconic glass of the American stained glass legacy are at risk due to this situation.
  • There is currently no actual verification that the glass industry is connected to the detected toxins. EPA did moss testing, a new science, which raised public concern. They retested and found the levels to be safe. The current EPA review and imposed freeze of production is all based in fear not fact.
I want to protect the environment, but I do not want to crush an American Art Industry on assumed causation.

Please do whatever you can to prevent the loss of small businesses, jobs and and entire art form. The American Art Glass community needs your help.

Regards,
Your Name

Copyright © 2016 Architectural Glass Arts, All rights reserved.

 

“Life beginning Over Again” Renew!

Retreats! Give a look at this post by a fellow blogger…

Dr. Lisa's Inspiration

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“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

We start the journey of “life beginning over again” with stopping and renewing ourselves. One of the biggest

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Writing Your Educational Philosophy

This article is written for my graduate students in ART702 Studio Management at Radford University.

 

Increasingly, schools that advertise for positions in higher education ask for a teaching philosophy.  It seems simple at first blush, but putting together a teaching philosophy can be daunting, especially at first.

If you are minting your first version of your teaching philosophy, there are some things that you will want to consider.  First, the document should be broad so that it can encompass a world of issues.  In many ways less is more, but perhaps even more importantly, efficient is best.  But are there really any rules?  If there are any, no one gives them up. Like that helps on your first go-round, right?

You might feel like you have no idea what your teaching philosophy is about, but you in fact do, even if you don’t know it.  For example, you do know how bad teachers have impacted your learning over the years, right?  So given a negative, you might be able to work from that in order to begin thinking about what it was that you didn’t like in their teaching and correct for that.  The corrected version, then, is you.

Now think about the things that all the best teachers you have had embodied.  Think about all the things they did and said, or maybe didn’t bother to do (which could be just as important) and think about what those things meant from a teaching perspective.  Let’s say you had a teacher that always listened to you and always encouraged you to talk about your work without interrupting you or inserting hard critical advice at a time when it wasn’t needed or wanted.  Maybe that.  Or it could be that no matter what, you know they had your back.  Or how they conveyed technical information.  And you know, you might find that some of the characteristics come down to character, to personality.  And you know, how about that? How might personality play into it?  Truth is, you can’t teach personality, right?  So what might that have to do with teaching and a philosophy?  Now I hope its obvious that I am not saying that you try and address personality, I am of course using it as an example.  A what if.  You, you have to deal with what is.  and I hope I can help you see a little clearer when we are done.

I will give you some examples that I know were operative in my life.  I had a great high school art teacher.  I was increasingly showing interest in 3-D work and this meant that I was veering off the beaten path since most kids in high school were 2-D and thus often did projects together as a group.  But me, I was suddenly hungry for 3-D.  So when I asked about what was possible, my teacher told me how I could throw clay and fire it using the kiln and pottery wheel.  We had a few glazes.  I could do stained glass, small projects.  I could do a kind of jewelry work cutting copper sheet and polishing it.  So I took off on all three of these things.  She gave me the barest of demo’s with each.  She kind of showed me the way and I took off on my own pretty much.  I liked that.  And for me, it was a perfect approach.  In time what I learned was that as a teacher was that we learn by doing, and art is certainly “doing” for sure.  It led me to examine the fine line between needing to know when to convey information and when to stand out of the way and let the student do it.  So this experience was huge for me.  It was all the bigger because this teacher was highly esteemed by nearly every student who darkened her door.  Catherine Pauley.  She was, and is, the best.

I also had a number of very good teachers in college, and each of them form the basis of the things that I try to do with students.

But just as a teacher can give, another can take away, and I had a teacher in graduate school who did this.  He took away by having favorites.  I saw what this did to all of us.  It made us hyper-competitive.  This teacher chose students for opportunities because he liked them.  Now, 20 years out, I can look back at the people I went to school with and see who is using their degree and who is not.  Its interesting because I am one of the few who is still using his degree, and I was never one of the golden children who would be approached with an opportunity to do a public commission. This experience taught me a lot about what NOT to do with my students, which is NEVER to set up a pecking order of favorites.  It’s probably  hard enough as it is to not create the appearance of favorites just in regular conversation in class with students.

I believe there is a better way.  I know there is because the art world is competitive enough as it is without my adding the kind of thing my teacher did to the mix.  Don’t get me wrong; I really admire my old teacher, I just didn’t agree that his way of operating in this regard was helpful in the  short or long run for any of us.

So there you have it; two of my most intimate takes on how my educational philosophy was, and continues to be formed. Me, I had to find a way to express this simply and directly.  And for me, my educational philosophy is a series of important notions that I bring to teaching in the arts.  What I had to do was to put it together into a narrative or work that reads well and also expresses who I am. This is not an easy document to put together!  But by starting, you have the document, and as I have told you before, it is a living document and it will naturally change over time.  I can tell you that five years after graduating with my M.F.A. my teaching philosophy changed a lot (I had digested a lot of new experiences) and it also changed a lot when I did more teaching as an adjunct at Radford University.

While you may not have done much in the way of teaching, you do know what makes a good teacher.  If you are committed to teaching the way you believe makes a good teacher, then by golly, THAT is a teaching philosophy!  this is your guiding light, a statement of principles that you find important in your career in education.  Oh, and you know, that philosophy can change from one year to the next.  I know mine has.  What has changed mine has been my own experience in education.  Like instances when I saw a teacher being unfair to students, like me and others, and was able to see what the fall-out was from that.  I bet you didn’t think your teachers might be teaching you how to teach based on a negative model, right?

I am loathe to mention this next part, but I am going to put it out there not because I feel I would personally do it, but because it is relevant for some people, which has to do with the type of school that you are going to teach at.  Yes, context can matter.  So I ask you, what is the context? Would there be a difference between teaching at a community college, an all-women’s school, a baptist-based small liberal-arts college?  think about that one for a minute.  Would your teaching be different for a school with a strong ethnic population? Fact is, these kinds of things are relevant.  It might be that yes, you do teach differently in an environment where the first language is not English.  How would you deal with this?

What I am saying here is that context could well change how you teach.  How I teach beginners is different from how I would teach graduate students.  I write about this in my education philosophy because I think it is important.  I expect certain things from graduate students that I do not expect from undergraduates.  I want the school that is considering hiring me know where I stand.  To avoid any misunderstandings, but also to be clear about how I would run a program, for example, were I to be hired.

The bottom line here is that a good teaching philosophy will clue people into who you are as a teacher.  So to begin, especially if you are having trouble getting started, I suggest that you make a list of all the characteristics that you can think of that you esteem, and even the ones you don’t, and begin from there. Think broadly and generally and let those general principles be your guiding lights. Oh, and one detail; keep the document within a page to two pages.  Say what you need to say, so if it has to run longer, then the reason is a good one, right?  There are a lot of suggestions about how to go about this important document, and there are some very good advice out there.

To learn more about this important document I am including some links to a variety of blogs and pages that discuss this in some greater depth that will help you even more in your quest for the perfect education/teaching philosophy.

http://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education/students/graduate/six-tips-for-writing-an-effective-teaching-statement.html

http://theprofessorisin.com/2011/09/16/thedreadedteachingstatement/

http://chronicle.com/article/How-to-Write-a-Statement-of/45133/

http://www.fctl.ucf.edu/facultysuccess/professionalportfolios/philosophies.php

http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/writtenmaterials/teachingphilosophy.php

A World OF Delicious (FREE) Digital Content

 

Museums today are in a state of rapid change.  They are changing due to our changing landscape in the digital domain. As a result, many museums are making their content available in an open and free way to those who view their web sites.  Some museums have NO limit to how the images are used, while others have some restrictions, such as unlimited noncommercial use.  To find out the specifics, you will need to read the fine print.

To assist you in this effort, I am including a list of links to a variety of museums world-wide who have open content.  A sampling of them:

 
 
 
http://www.metmuseum.org/ (Use acronym OASC for the copyright-free stuff)
 

Insurance For Artists

The market for insurance that caters to the arts community has been shaken up by the economic shocks that have taken place over the last seven years or so.  Many old companies that were old stand-by’s are gone.

As an artist, you can always talk to a conventional insurance provider to get you the kind of insurance you might need for an open studio event, a show, or for ongoing insurance to provide you with the niche coverage you need to protect you from loss. Right?

It is nice to have someone who understands you. This is why I am happy to provide you with a great company that understands the needs of artists from different media.  Many artists are already using this great company and the fees are affordable for event coverage.  The name of the company is ACT Insurance, which stands for Artists Crafters & Tradesmen.

The company has two main choices  the artists can choose from: event coverage and ongoing policy coverage.  And as you might expect from a company like this, they understand that insurance for us often needs to be non-site specific, which is nice.

I suggest that your read through their list of exclusions before deciding on moving forward.  If you do sculpture that is part of an installation process, for example, ACT wont cover you. The nice thing is that their web site is very easy to navigate and you can go through their information quickly.  You can call them at 888.568.0548 and you can click to them here:   Insurance For Artists

Here’s to a great new year!