Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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A New Direction-Wall Art

Along with creating my Spirit Messengers and other sculptural artwork, I’ve been experimenting with other ideas to expand my body of work. The reality in today’s art world is that one line, one size, does not fit all. Most artists need to expand their line of work, leverage their skills, and create artwork for a broader audience.

Some options in this area might include cards, small prints, wall art, and jewelry. Offering polymer clay classes is another way for me to leverage my skills as an artist, reach a new audience, share my knowledge and help others ignite their creative muses.

Underwater Studies

Several weeks ago, sometime after the BP oil spill, I was sitting at my work table puttering around with leftover bits of clay. Normally I’d ball up the leftover clay scraps and deposit them into my scrap clay bucket. These bits are often reconditioned into a muddy sheets of clay and used as interior armatures for my Spirit Messengers and other sculptural pieces.

But on this day I followed my intuition. I rolled the various bits into different shapes, poked them, textured them, put one color inside another, and applied them to random sheets of leftover clay. Next thing I knew, I had three miniature underwater studies on my worktable.

Underwater Study #1

Underwater Study #2

Underwater Study #3

Each underwater study measures approximately 1.25″ wide by 2.25″ long, except for study #3 which is closer to 1″ wide by 2″ long.

Of course, as often happens when creating new art, I’m now asking myself what to do next with these pieces. I bought several sheets of luscious cardstock to use as backgrounds. However, these tiny studies need something else to complete them. I’m thinking about another layer of polymer clay, slightly larger than the central piece, placed underneath. And maybe some type of border to frame the central piece.

This is when a bit of experimenting happens. I’ll try one idea. Toss it. Try something else. Toss that one. Maybe go back to the first idea. Eventually I’ll set the whole thing aside until I can look at it again with fresh eyes. That is the current situation with these underwater studies.

Polymer Clay on Canvas

For this next piece I drew inspiration from the artwork of Serena Wilson Stubson that appeared in the May/June issue of Cloth, Paper, Scissors. What drew me to Stubson’s work as it appeared in CPS was her use of circles. I love circles. Round. No beginning. No end. Circle of Life; all that.

However, when I looked at Stubson’s work, I thought, hmm, I’d like to give that a go and incorporate polymer clay into the finished piece.

For my piece, I worked on a 5″x7″ canvas. I applied a page from an old book to the canvas as my base layer. I chose three words from the book page as my inspiration for the title of this piece.

Bewildered Garden Angel

This piece incorporates layers of paper, paint, oil pastels, text on vellum, polymer clay and wire.

I’m not sure if this will go anywhere, as far as becoming a new line in my body of work. But experimenting and playing are important parts in the creative process. Maybe this will morph into something else. Or maybe it will just be a groovy little artwork on canvas.


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Dim Sum and Inspiration in Chinatown

Today we visited Chinatown for Dim Sum. We have never enjoyed the experience of authentic Dim Sum before this adventure. I try to eat a vegetarian diet, yet today, with an adventurous spirit, I knew sticking to that diet may not be possible.

If you’re not familiar with Dim Sum, it is the Cantonese term for a type of Chinese dish that involves small individual portions of food, usually served in a small steamer basket or on a small plate. The servers pass by your table with carts of food. They explain, as best as possible, each food item and then you choose if you want to give it a go. When you are served a dish, the server puts a small stamp on your sales slip. The stamp tells them what food item you purchased. Essentially, you run a tab that is tallied when you’ve finally had your fill of Dim Sum and then you pay your bill.

Dim Sum is very popular on Sunday. We arrived around 10am and were seated promptly. If you arrive closer to noon time, you may find yourself waiting in line for a table.

Busy Dim Sum Dining

We started with two varieties of shu mai, red bean buns (my all time favorite), and a couple more shrimp dishes.

Shrimp Shu Mai

Then things got interesting. We saw the ever popular chicken feet, were offered ribs, beef items, meatballs, sausage, and a watermelon drink with tofu and honey (if I understood the explanation correctly.) We passed on the beef and other meaty items and stuck with veggie, shrimp, and tofu options. Boring to some, perhaps. It was also fun to look at other diner’s tables and see what they were ordering.

Dim Sum Cart (egg rolls, BBQ buns)

Dim Sum Cart with steamers

After about an hour or so we all started to slow down on the grazing. A server came by with a cart of colorful looking buns. We thought she said the one bun had seaweed inside. Yum. I like seaweed. Sure, let’s try those.

Eric passed the plate over to me…with three large, round, green balls on it.

Mystery Balls

Hmm, okay. As we joked about the green balls, the manager came over and explained what we had in front of us. The balls contained a filling from the durian fruit. Durian is the “king of fruit” in Asia. However, it is also a rather stinky fruit even though it contains a creamy interior.

Well, if I wasn’t going to eat chicken feet, I guess this item would be my culinary adventure.

Inside the Green Balls

Yes, it was a bright nuclear green inside, which made us laugh even more. However, the taste was rather, uhm, tasteless. I could detect a faint scent; not exactly noxious but not overly pleasant either. (I’ve since read that the stinky smell tends to dissipate by the time the durian fruit arrives in the US.)

We each tried a piece and joked about glowing later on.

Inspiration in a Chinese Grocery Store

With full bellies, we left the restaurant still talking about our experience and ventured into the shopping area of Chinatown. Here were more restaurants, bakeries, shops, and grocers.

I’ve been into a couple local Chinese grocery stores in my neck of the woods but nothing like the one Ken took us to in Chinatown.

When we entered the store, we were greeted with the smell of fresh seafood. In tanks there were eels, carp, crabs, and other critters. In the meat case were cleaned, fresh chicken, chicken feet, duck, and other items. (I glanced at both of these cases and passed them quickly.)

And then we came to the produce area. Oh.My.Goodness. Here were vibrant eggplants, squash, and huge daikon radish. So much inspiration in the colors and textures of these food items. First, the durian fruit which filled the green bun that we had at Dim Sum.

Durian Fruit

The Durian fruit has a spiky exterior which was sharp to the touch. In this picture, the spikes look like a mass of tiny bird beaks, pencil tips…or a bunch of nipples.

Beautiful pink fruit

We didn’t get the name of the fruit shown above. It was shaped like a tear drop with these soft pink with green tipped petals. If you recognize this fruit and know its name, please let me know.

Chinese Spring Squash

Chinese Okra

I love this okra’s bent and twisted character. It has a slightly nubby texture with little ridges. It looked rather sensual laying there.

Mystery Veggie

I’m not sure of the name of the veggie pictured above. Perhaps a type of cucumber or squash? It also had a wonderful skin with ridges and bumps in the crevices. Any ideas what this might be called?

Green Onion Root

I loved the textural effect that happened with this stack of green onions. The root ends draped over the edge of the produce display like a little forest of whiskers.

Chinese Long Green Beans

Finally, I was quite taken with these Chinese long green beans. And they were long; a good 16″ at least. Laying in bundles they reminded me of long, luscious fingers longing to stroke your hand.

Thanks to Ken and Verjik for a great time in Chinatown.

Eric, Ken, Verjik

Eric and I

Capturing My Shadow

As I lowered my cell phone with the camera still turned on, I caught a glimpse of my shadow in front of me through the camera lens. This made me giddy like a little kid. There in front of me, my elusive shadow. I remembered how we’d try to catch our shadows as kids. And there it was. Unaware.

I snapped this picture.

Finally I gotcha!

Me and My Shadow


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Took a Leap-Polymer Clay Class Scheduled

Over the weekend, I stared Mr. Fraidy Pants in the eyes and kicked him out. He was really putting up a fight and keeping me from moving forward with my plans to prepare class samples for a meeting at Ink About It.

Once I told him to bug off and wrote down my turn around phrases to counter his negative voice, it was like being set free. I spent over 14 hours between Monday and Tuesday finishing samples, writing class descriptions, and visualizing my meeting at Ink About It.

This morning I spent a few minutes meditating and visualizing, put the final touches on a couple samples and then packed everything to take to the store.

I’m happy to say that I took a leap today, the net appeared, and, after today’s meeting,  I’m on the schedule to teach the first polymer clay class at Ink About It!

And I didn’t even break out in a big, bad sweat.

My class at Ink About It, Liquid Polymer Clay Bookmarks and Tags, is Friday, October 1, 10am-2pm.

Full description, samples, and pictures will be available at Ink About It by the end of August. I’ll also keep you updated here on my blog and on my Facebook Fan Page: Amy A. Crawley Fine Art (HINT: Become a fan. I post almost daily updates on my fan page-new artwork, links, and all around creative goodness.)

Below is a picture of the pieces I took to Ink About It today. The bookmark samples are in the lower portion of the picture.

Class Samples

We also talked about a possible polymer clay ornament class for November or December. Stay tuned!

And Mr. Fraidy Pants? He’s looking for a new gig. Be careful though; he has a sister, Sally Scaredy Pants. Sometimes they like to work as a team.


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Fear Factor

I have a meeting mid-week with a local art/craft store to discuss polymer clay teaching opportunities. I’ve been preparing class samples, writing class descriptions, experimenting with some other ideas, and deciding on other details like fees, materials and supplies.

This is an opportunity I’ve been building toward for the last couple of months.

And today I ran smack dab into Mr. Fraidy Pants.

SPLAT!

I believe he has been sneaking around in the shadows for the past few days. I know I’ve got this meeting. It has been on my calendar for a few weeks. I initially looked forward to it, was really focused and excited.

Then I hit some sort of wall. I couldn’t focus. I found myself lingering over distractions the past week. I kept telling myself “get off your butt and get to work.” And then I’d sit some more in front of the computer.

It wasn’t until today I realized what was happening.

FEAR

I’m feeling the fear as this meeting gets closer. The fear is starting to crack my confidence. THAT voice is shouting at me “Who do you think you are, thinking you can teach a class? You can’t teach a class. You don’t know what you’re doing. Don’t be a fool. You have no skill for this.”

Ouch!

Kicking Mr. Fraidy in the Pants

On one hand, this can become a problem if I start listening to this voice. On the other hand, I can listen to the voice and ask it why it feels this way.

That is when I realized I am nervous about this meeting.

It reminds me of the first time I approached a consignment gallery to sell my artwork. My palms get sweaty, the armpits get damp, I talk way too much, and I think my laugh sounds stupid.

Fraidy Pants also tells me that he fears being seen as a fake or a fraud, that the artwork will look dorky, that the samples are inadequate and that I’m really not ready to take this leap.

Well thank you for your honesty.

I decided to take a walk. A little movement can be good; gets the blood flowing, takes your mind off things.

And then I used the turn-around technique.

For every negative thought, I turned it around to make it a positive:

You can’t teach a class became I CAN teach a class.

You don’t know what you’re doing became I DO know what I’m doing.

You have no skill for this became I DO have skill for this.

You’re a fake became I have been working with polymer clay since 1998 and continue to develop and perfect my skills. I’ve had my artwork published, entered into exhibitions, and have won awards.

Your art is dorky became I express my individual style through my art.

The turn-around seems to be working. Mr. Fraidy Pants is slowly walking away.

I returned to the studio and started working on some more potential class ideas. At last check they weren’t coming along as well as I’d hoped and I may have to put them aside for now. That is okay. I’m learning more about my strengths and areas where I need improvement. It is all about practice and learning from failure.

Mr Fraidy Pants has been a little quieter, though I see him sitting in the corner waiting for a opening.

I give him a little wave. I tell him I’m doing much better, thank you very much.



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Support Networks and Goals

Sigh. I’ve fallen behind in my posts on my progress in the Right Brain Business Plan. Oh well. All I can do is pick up where I left off.

The Right Brain Business Plan (RBBP) e-course ended last week. It was both sad and uplifting. Sad because I’ll miss the weekly emails from Jen with our assignments and her mid-week and end of week check-in. It was uplifting because I finally feel like I’ve got a much better handle on the direction of my business. It was also uplifting to see how far my online classmates have come in developing and growing their businesses.

Support Networks

A major part of any business venture is the support network. This can include people you look up to (as in mentors), your closest buddies, people you go to for advice (advisors), coaches, art reps, and so forth. This network can also include assistants, VA’s, accountants, bookkeepers, your web designer, and more.

Of course, one of the hard parts about forming your support network is asking for help. What? Me? Need help? I’m superwoman (or superman), I can do it all. You’ve heard the excuses, you’ve used them yourself I’m sure. My favorite “I’ll just do it because then I know it will get done.” Been there, done that control dance. It can be a lonely dance.

So how does one go about identifying and growing your support network? First, think about what your role is in your business. What do you WANT your role to be in your business? Consider the usual roles people assume in small businesses, like production work, bookkeeping, and marketing. Are there areas in your business that you aren’t good at or don’t like doing?

Be honest.

Bruce Baker once said when you are an artist (or any soloprenuer), you either assume all those roles (bookkeeping, marketing, etc), partner with someone who will assume some of those roles, or marry someone who will help with some of those roles.

Yeesh!

Granted all of us try to do it all at the start. And that works for a while. But then you realize your role is to make the art, not spend hours on the marketing or once-a-month bookkeeping. Then it is time to think about hiring an assistant in the studio, the bookkeeper, the marketing guru.

And this doesn’t mean you have to pay all these people. Perhaps you barter for services, trade artwork, take someone to dinner. Remember, you’re creative. All exchange of help and assistance does not necessarily require an outflow of money.

As part of this assignment, Jen posed several questions that helped us look at our roles in our businesses and our network. I admit to falling under what I call the superwoman category. I wasn’t totally surprised by this. But it also pointed out in black and white where I have some gaps in my support network.

Because this class uses our right brain creative skills, I created a simple mobile to acknowledge my support network. Each card is labeled with the particular support group and on the back I listed who I would turn to in each group. The cards are attached to each other with silk ribbon. This gives me the flexibility to hang the mobile in my studio or to fold it and carry it in my business plan vision book.

Support Network Mobile

Setting Goals

Once we developed our support networks, it was time to focus on setting some goals.

Yes, I hear you moaning. Goals. Ick.

After working as a Speech-Language Pathologist for several years, I had a very hard time writing simply stated goals. I had been trained to write detailed measurable goals in language that just seemed absurd for my business goals. However, business goals and therapy goals do have some things in common:

  1. You need to define the goal
  2. You need to figure out all the little steps you’ll take to achieve the goal
  3. You need to set an end-date for reaching the little steps and, subsequently, the big goal

I know lots of people don’t like setting let alone writing goals. I’ve learned over the years that I need the structure that goals provide. And I also need the support of other people to help keep me in line in achieving my goals.

(Psst, if goals aren’t your thing, check out Jen Louden’s “Satisfaction Finder” which helps us lovelies define the standards by which we’ll be satisfied; what some folks refer to as “enoughness.” This item comes recommended to me by a friend. I’ve not tried it myself nor have any affiliation with the product.)

I’m fortunate that I have two accountability partners to help me reach my goals: Sarah Marie Lacey, a wonderful painter, who I approached at the beginning of the year via our acquaintance on Twitter. We check in with each other every week, exchanging our goals for the week, and updating each other on how we did the previous week.

My other accountability partner is in the RBBP class. I sent a shout-out, asking if anyone wanted to work as partners and Beth responded. In this accountability partner relationship, I send Beth very specific goals with end dates (eg: Review 6 month revenue goals by 7/9/10.) And she is very good about checking in with me and asking my status on getting those goals done.

I typically write my daily priorities and to-do’s in a notebook that stays on my desk (just below my computer monitor so I always see it.) With the RBBP course, I was motivated to reuse an old white board and convert it into my Goal Board.

On my Goal Board, I drew a 6 by 5 grid. The first column (far left) is for my goals. Each goal is written on a separate sticky note. The other columns are for the to-do’s, folks I can turn to for support, target dates and actual completion dates.

Goal Board

What I love about this Goal Board is that it hangs on the wall directly across from my work table, so I see it everyday. With it being so visible, I can check it once a week, pull off stickies and update them or write a new one. I also love how colorful it is (love those brilliant colored sticky notes). That means I CAN’T miss it. It’s really in my face.


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Carmen Birrdanda

One of my goals this year is to teach polymer clay classes in the fall. I’m planning to teach a series of beginner classes locally as well as offer classes on polymer clay art dolls.

The fun part (most of the time) in developing classes is working through the process of creating the artwork that you teach to your students. This is when you learn how many steps it actually takes to make the end product and whether your short-cut processes will really hold up. It is also a time to improve on your construction techniques. (Hmm, I’m sensing a future blog post here.)

One class that I thought would be fun is sculpting over a burned out light bulb. Burned out light bulbs can’t be recycled and disposing of them in the trash contributes to more waste in landfills; waste that doesn’t readily decompose. Sculpting over burned out light bulbs is, therefore, good for the environment.

Before the 4th of July holiday I started experimenting with this idea. What resulted from my experiment was Carmen Birrdanda.

Here is how she looked before her arms were finished:

Carmen Birrdanda-raw

Here she is after being cured in the oven, sanded, and antiqued (arms still not finished. She’s looking a little impatient.)

And here is Carmen in her final form. Her arms are finished with a mixed media technique. She is a bit of a cheeky bird with an independent streak. Note the red nail polish on her toes. Her sign reads “Will sing 4 seed.”

Carmen Birrdanda

She has an “inny” belly button. We discussed the possibility of a belly button ring or a little bling but decided she wasn’t quite old enough for that type of embellishment.


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Inspire Me Baby!

Inspire Me Baby! is a new feature on my blog. In these posts I’ll share my inspiration for certain pieces of art I’m creating.

Today’s inspiration comes from our veggie garden, specifically the Bibb lettuce that is bolting in all this heat. When I walked into the garden, I was immediately drawn to the bolting lettuce; its size and shape. Quick, grab the camera to capture the idea.

Top shot of the lettuce

Bolting Lettuce Front

Bolting Lettuce Back

Naturally, for me, I immediately saw inspiration for an art doll; something with a loopy, wavy bodice.

But before following that stream of thought, I decided to sketch the lettuce. I printed out the pictures above, sketched what I saw, and then colored it with water soluble oil pastels and colored pencils. In the process I remembered how much fun it is to sketch and color.

Bolt 7/12/10

Now I’m thinking I may play with the digital images in Photoshop and make a three or four panel piece using the various images and then engineering an art doll inspired by the whole lot.

Stay tuned.

Inspire me baby!

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