In the Moment

A lot of things haven’t turned out as we expected this year, which shows how ineffectual expectations are.  But we are in a better place now than any other time this year. The year began on another roller coaster–such is the life of artists.  We’re used to that.  But I was particularly burnt out on most everything.  A number of issues came together to turn us in another direction to market our work.

As a result, for the first time in 20 years we’ve been home all spring and summer without wheeling all over the country for art fairs.  The result has been comforting and restful, though a financial hardship.  We’re sorely in need of a vacation without connection to the outside world and the worries of marketing.  But being home has at least been without the horrendous stress of getting to and from the shows, the stress and danger of set-up and tear-down and the stress of being without our heavenly creatures.

So now that I’m getting the past tucked away and not focusing on the possible nightmare scenarios of the future, I’m coming back to the  center, in the moment.  The creative flow is back.  For a while now it has been momentary and with herky jerky contact, a result of high stress levels and not enough decompression.  It’s a matter of regaining conscious awareness of choosing to do what we do best and having faith that we’ll be carried by the universe to what ever purpose we can serve.

The new work is awesome already and getting better everyday.  We are extending the journey of marrying textures, materials and color. By experimenting with both new materials and new methods with already familiar materials, we are refining the textures.  Deconstruction of the surface to produce more layering has become much more important than in the past.

As a result, we’re looking forward to a schedule of shows beginning with the Memphis Riverarts later this month.  After our break, and armed with new ideas, I’m looking forward once again to shows.  As Robin said just the other day, the art fairs are instant gratification.  And they are–from the moment set-up ends until tear down begins on the last afternoon.  That in-between-time of the actual show is, or at least used to be wonderful….Talking to interesting patrons, selling art, seeing fabulous homes, visiting with artists, seeing some wonderful art and craft and alas eating wonderful food in little bistros.  It was a good time, and it will be again.  Here we come Memphis, Bonita Springs, Miami, Baltimore, St. Paul…….


To Miami–one last time

The Dead-End Tour continues (February 12th) –On the road for Coconut Grove–the last leg. Just had the van in the Ford dealership yesterday—the starter went out–suspected that it was going bad and took it in last week–they couldn’t find anything wrong–of course yesterday in preparation for this trip it wouldn’t start.  We had to use the old hammer on the starter trick to get it going and take it to the dealership to make our weekly $400+ donation to the “Ford recovery program”.  Last week we gave them $129 to fix the ABS sensor in the rear differential, because the $450 dollars we paid them to fix the problem two weeks before didn’t work–of course that was on top of 2-$100 diagnostic tests previously done.  We’ve spent more on repairs on this van than we initially spent to purchase it new!  This is the kind of headache that we and lots of artists deal with trying to get to a show.  Patrons have no idea of the expenses we incur.

So we left for Miami this morning–would normally be there tomorrow early evening, but Mother Nature is not happy with the world.  Atlanta iced over–Birmingham too, so we’re going the long way around–through Memphis, down thru Jackson, MS to the coast and turn left!  We’ll help the big oil companies, using lots more diesel!

Well, well, well….got near Memphis and our old friend is back—the ABS light went on again!  I will not miss the stress of traveling to the shows, worrying about the weather, the van and whether the patrons will show up.

When we began doing The Coconut Grove Art Fair  back in 1999 it was one of the two best art fairs in the nation.  All the top ranked artfair artists did the show, the economy was strong and sales were great. It was free for the people to walk and more than 375,000 attended.  It was wonderful people watching—everything from the lady with the little dogs dressed as clowns in a stroller, to International jet-setters shopping for art and multi-million dollar yachts at the Miami Boat Show.  But that’s all gone.  Now it’s drastically different.  Show promoters  by and large have come to view art fairs as big business.  Sponsors (like car dealers) get prime locations in the layout.  The show is now enclosed by fencing and patrons must pay $15 admission to pay for the bands that now play non-stop.  Attendance is down to 100,000 but there’s still 350 artists each paying $800 for their booth spot (and more for a corner or double). Most of the people in attendance don’t seem to be interested in or knowledgable of the art. And it’s more than just the weak economy that has devastated the shows.  It’s that everyone has jumped onto the art fair bandwagon and so there are way, way too many venues now.  The result is that the shows aren’t “special” anymore so the patrons don’t feel any need to buy when they see you.  There’s always another show nearby next weekend or next month, or they think they’ll just go online anytime they want, which in actuality they rarely follow-up on. It’s a shame because doing art fairs was one of the rare ways that independent visual artists could make a living from the sale of their art.

A patron that I made a special piece for some years ago brought her girlfriends to see us and one purchased from us which was a great way to start off the weekend.    In the end we had a good solid show—but mostly work we have to make and ship elsewhere.

I won’t miss the tension of sitting there all weekend feeling the pressure to make sales to cover expenses.  Buyers feel they have the upper hand now in negotiations and it’s so very difficult to keep your confidence up.  Set-up and tear-down are physically grueling.   Tear-down is particularly hard because you’ve sat at the show under stress waiting and waiting for a sale.  However this time we were smiling all through tear-down knowing that it was our last!

We’re headed home now and feeling so free!  We are ecstatic about the opportunity to now make art that we couldn’t do for the artfairs.

How Twitch Began

The last 2 years of my mom’s life were bizarre.  After her death in 2006, I was so distracted with the events that lead up to it that it became increasingly difficult to concentrate in the studio or to think of anything other than her and the family. Along with that sudden inability to focus on my creative life, I was finding it increasingly difficult to get juried into the most profitable art fairs.   We had never been into networking and we found out late in the game just how the politics of art fairs work. Robin was still able to get into many of those coveted shows, but the sales suddenly became sparse.  For example, 5 of Robin’s 8 shows in 2009 were zeroes.  Concurrently, I had a series of mishaps, involving a sprained ankle, then shoulder surgery, then a broken elbow and sprained wrist, followed by 2 dislocated fingers.  In the middle of this the stock market collapsed and then by the summer of 2009  Robin’s work was even more difficult to sell.  Our stocks had lost much of their value so I didn’t want to cash in our retirement funds to live on until the economy recovered which we were certain would happen shortly.   Without income we had to do something. We had zero debt of any kind so we didn’t have difficulty getting a mortgage on our home.  Under all of these circumstances it’s no wonder we made several poor decisions.

We decided to forego the unpredictability of getting in juried art fairs and instead opt for making garden sculpture to show in other venues where we wouldn’t have to deal with the politics.  We hired a studio assistant, invested in lots of new tools and began designing new work in a new material for us–concrete.  The designs were very Asian inspired, with a contemporary twist.  Not a single piece ever got finished……yet.

I ended up panicking and selling our stocks for fear the market would go even lower, so we took a considerable loss.  Then we wasted $9000 hiring an art rep from California.  We made it very clear on the phone and in writing what we wanted her to do for us, but she ignored that and cashed our checks each month.  We were forced to give up that venture and let our studio assistant go.

While sitting in the heat at the Ann Arbor Original show in 2011 showing Robin’s metal work to a non-existent audience, I suggested to him that we collaborate on a whole new body of work and I showed him some sketches.  He liked the idea I suggested, which was to use his minimal designs, my lush color and textures on wood. The idea was to create a body of work that we could sell at the art fairs that was lighter weight and so easier for us to exhibit and that would be in a more affordable price range. We decided to name this new collaboration TWITCH! –definition, a rapid movement.  Robin took a workshop and then began experimenting with enameling which he added to our designs.  The red orb on this piece is the enamel on copper.  red spirals 2

These designs are all about meditation, balance and tranquility, which we need in our life and nevermore than at that time.

What became problematic was that the expenses for doing the shows continued to increase, attendance went way down at virtually all shows, the public purchased a whole lot less because of their fears of the economy and in order to compete we had to keep our prices so low that we needed to do production work to be viable.  And therein lies a big problem, because Robin and I have never really had the temperament for large-scale production work, preferring to work in one-of-a-kind originals.  If we were staying at home to market our work we could lower our prices. Having always depended on the art fairs for sales, it’s hard to make that switch.

We are in the process of finding the right professionals to advise us on branding and marketing.  In reality this has come about just as it should have.  We were both late bloomers and we’re primed to make the best work of our lives.