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Preparing For My First “Last Thursday”

 
Currently I’m preparing for my first seller’s booth, which will be held on the Last Thursday of the month in the Alberta Arts District festival of NE Portland. There is much work to be done and yet, as I have never done this before, I have no guidelines for expectations. I am unsure how much inventory to prepare, how to organize my booth, and what all I should bring. I haven’t yet seen when sellers can show for set up. So, I feel the stress of all this and more as the day approaches.

When trying to answer how much work is “enough” I think of what I should accomplish before the festival. Certain pieces need to be stained, many need to be finished, and nearly all need pictures of them taken. I recently decided to install hardware on the backs of many pieces so they can be hung, but I haven’t purchased any yet. Some pieces I feel I could spend countless hours sanding and finishing before they are considered ready for selling. I have a few commissions lined up that I should finish before the festival despite knowing those jobs don’t add to my final inventory. Each time I think about what I should do next, I just want to cut new designs.

The vision I have in mind for my booth is one of two scenarios. I see myself with a nice professional set up like I am used to seeing at other events. A booth with a canopy, nice tables with black cloth draped over them and all my pieces hanging up or somewhere in plain sight with no clutter. The other vision is me sitting on the concrete with a wool blanket and all of my pieces on the ground next to me. I feel that the former is almost too nice for this event, being the kind of rough edged street festival it is, and the latter is pretty unpleasant during the rainy season. I purchased an old luggage trunk that I plan to display a few pieces in, and I do have a small card table. This time of year can be pretty wet so I am really considering purchasing a canopy. If that ends up being the case, I’m sure everything will fall into its place under the cover.

I feel a little bit like I am preparing for a camping trip. The big things are obvious: bring the art, bring a table, bring a chair, and maybe a canopy if it’s wet. It is the small things that I really need to have forward thinking in order to not leave behind. I have gone camping and not brought a pillow, a toothbrush, or underwear, but I always have the sleeping bag and tent! As I write this, it occurs to me to bring a lock box and some change. That is the kind of stuff I am talking about. I also need to plan signage. One of my big objectives is to use reclaimed materials so I feel like that should be obvious at a glance.

Despite feeling some fear, and stress, I know that this event will go well. I am sure I will hand out all of my business cards. I know there will be interesting people to meet. Worst case, if I decide that selling isn’t going well I can attend the event like I have in the past, get some good food, and see some cool things.

 
 
Ever forgot something important and remembered only too late? Let me know in the comments!

Phase II of Up Wood Working

 
Wow. 2014 is gone. What a transitional year it has been for me! So many new gifts, friends, and opportunities. Only a year ago I was struggling through my divorce, I had a foster child, and I was working without pay under very stressful conditions. Thanks to my men’s work, I found the inner strength to quit my job, I went and lived like a monk for a while, traveled around the states and then went to Canada where I built a canoe and paddled nearly to Alaska with Indians. Upon my return I became inspired to make art and build community. I started Up Wood Working within two months of conceiving the idea. Now I’m ready to take the next step.

When I started out, I knew there would be a period of time, at the beginning, where I must learn my tools and research my craft.  Visions of piles of scraped projects and a box of broken bits, were in my thoughts, next to the idea that  I might retire, an old man, with never making a cent from my passions. I kept telling myself that I was going to do everything right, I was going to go slow and be cautious, but my overwhelming drive to move forward took over. I have hit the ground running with no plans to slow down. I have broke somethings, and I have made some lame pieces but I’m not incompetent, I am capable and what I have is desired!

This week I worked hard at building my internet presence through social media and a lot of personal messages. I spent hours searching friend lists, looking for people I knew, and then I contacted them each individually. It was nice to reconnect. Now I have plans to meet up with some of these individuals and others may commission me for work. After all the effort I have 49 “Likes” and a lot more work to do but I feel my field of influence growing. While the Up Wood Working website is still developing, I feel the pressure to have it complete and polished with ideal content and a growing fan base. At the same time I am working on many pieces, some are only in my head, some are drawn up but not cut, and some are laying in my shop waiting to be finished.

Since the new year I have been feeling a shift. I know my tools better then ever, I have confidence that I can make a great art piece, and I am starting to sell myself. It feels great to walk into a shop and say: “Hi, I’m a local artist, would you display my work?” and to really feel it, or to go to a thrift store with that creative twinkle in my eye like: “I’m an artist collecting materials.” I enjoy spotting construction sites, introducing myself to one of the workers, sharing my mission, and walking home with a load of reclaimed wood. All of this is culminating within me, and I feel that shift. It is the feeling of arriving.

Next is Phase II. Now that I “know” what I am doing, I intend to spend the next year working street fairs, farmer’s markets and conventions, building my audience, and honing my artistic style. I plan to step it up with my internet presence even further and use marketing with a planned expense budget. At the end of the year I will have a huge portfolio and hopefully many fans. Then I can prepare for Phase III, which can be one of two things. If I am happy where I am with the work load and the commissions I am receiving, then I can focus on building and maintaining the vision of traveling up and down the west coast selling my art at different shows and markets, or if I want to ramp up into a bigger set up then I will start a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds to rent a studio and buy larger equipment. With more space and better tools I can make finer detailed pieces which are also much larger, such as custom doors and furniture.

I don’t know what the next year has in store for me, but I am ready and excited. I will keep talking to people, and meet more artists. I will keep pushing to sell myself and become a fixture in the Portland art community. I can’t wait for the day that I meet someone for the first time and they happen to own one of my pieces.

 
 
Ever dropped by a shop and asked them to display your art? Let me know in the comments!

Signing up for Faerie Worlds 2015

 
Part of my business model includes selling at fairs, conventions, and markets. So far I have participated in several as a patron but I have never had my own seller’s booth. When considering it, I had assumed it to be a complicated process that would cost a lot of money and require you to know the “right” people. Well all of these things might still be true but this week I took the leap and I was surprised at how easy and short the process was for me.

The idea to sell at booths hadn’t occurred to me until I met a local artist who makes a living doing just that. My plan was to sell online and by word of mouth. I met this man through my personal development men’s work while traveling. We were both attending a leadership training course in British Columbia and I had brought one of my pieces as a gift to another man who had hosted me earlier in the year. The piece was the world tree surrounded by Celtic style knot work. Every one who saw it was interested and asked me many questions and blessed me many times for my work. One man in particular asked me where I sell my work and at that time I had only sold one piece and that was to a friend. He shared with me that he makes leather bound journals and travels around the northwest and sells them at street fairs, markets and craft shows. I asked how it is that he began selling in these spaces and he explained that you just pay a fee and sign up! He even shared that some are free and the ones he does pay for are usually under one hundred dollars for the duration of the event.

After hearing how easy and cheap it is I became dreamy-eyed with the idea of spending all my time traveling and selling up and down the coast, that I would meet fantastic people and visit great places as a job! I spent enough time in B.C. that the whole notion was put in the back of my mind and frankly it seemed out of my reach again. When I came back to Portland one of my goals was to attend Last Thursday on Alberta. It is a local event that occupies 15 blocks of NE Portland, where art vendors and performers can vend with no fees, registration, or designated spots. To me, it is a perfect opportunity to live the life of a vendor and work through all of my first-timer hiccups. I also hope to build community with other artists in the area and pick up skills and tips to help me with my craft. The event is on the last Thursday of every month so my first time will be January 29th.

I am excited to reach the goal of attending Last Thursday but I know that I need to book other events as well. It’s difficult for me to think of all different niches that my pieces would compliment, especially since I can do so much, but I haven’t found that one thing I’m really good at or really enjoy. On top of that, then I have the challenge of finding all the events in the next year that fall into those categories. There is a huge variety that range from small one day flea markets to conventions with thousands of attendees. One event that I did find with the help of my partner was Faerie Worlds.

Faerie Worlds is a music and arts festival held annually near Eugene Oregon. I think it has been around for ten years and has a market place of over 150 vendors. They are a “Soft Footprint Event” meaning that they use 100% green electrical power and they have a comprehensive recycling program as well as organic and vegetarian food vendors. The event looks fun and is aligned with my mission of helping the earth through art and mindful living. I signed up for a vendor booth through a brief electronic form on their website. They reviewed my application and called me within two days. The staff were very responsive to some questions I emailed them and with all my questions over the phone. It did cost me a hefty amount for my first event but I look forward to attending and I believe it will be a great experience for my future endeavors. Plus, I have many months to prepare, so in the meantime I will work hard at smaller events. So here is to Faerie Worlds 2015!

 
 
Have you ever ran a booth at an event, have some great first time stories? Let me know in the comments

Holiday Surprises

 
The nature of holidays dictate an element of unknown, I think most people are aware of this and find joy in the mystery. This week I have been blessed to spend time with friends and family, eat good food, and work on my art. As a young, growing business I have many things on my plate at once. At times I feel like I have a strong grasp on my current state of being and I am prepared for the next step but that element of unknown can really throw a wrench in the works.

Thus far, the majority of my work has involved cutting along 2-D vectors. I really enjoy doing this kind of work, it has a quick turn around. On the other hand I do find it bland and overly simplistic when I think of my artistic vision and my advanced skill sets. Keeping with the theme of taking new steps I began experimenting with 3-D carving. There are many challenges with cutting 3-D contours, which is why I have been hesitant to move in that direction. This week I thought to myself “Why not? I’ll try it out!” I made my design, I set up the table and turned on the router. Now I want to take a moment to share that my router has been making loud popping noises and sparking when I turn it on for a little more then a week now. I haven’t put much thought into the matter because this only happens briefly while it is getting up to speed and there doesn’t seem to be any other performance issues. So I turned on and it popped and sputtered like usual and I started the piece and left for a bit. When I came back the router was no longer running despite being on. I tested the power strip and it was fine, I vacuumed out the router as best I could and that made no improvements. Then I disassembled the housing and started blowing out the innards with compressed air. Still nothing. So I unscrewed every screw and kept blowing it all out. I have never owned a router before and I was in that curious/panicky state that made me have no desire to slow down and do some research. Finally I conclude I have done all I can at this point so I decide to try the power switch again. Well, it turned on briefly and shot blue sparks out and then stopped working completely. After that I gave up and declared it dead and began to clean up. When I went to turn on my vacuum it too was dead. Now I was really panicked but I quickly figure I popped the breaker and after checking the box, sure enough that is what happened. I was done for the night. The next day I decided to take it a bit slower, I tried doing some research about cleaning the router and didn’t find much. I even resorted to trying the Hitachi manual book but I couldn’t find where I had put it last. Upon inspecting the housing I saw a scorch mark that lead me to believe that there was a short when I turned it on the night before. I started screwing everything back in and getting the innards back in place, after everything was in decent order I turned it on and was relived to see that it was running and there were no sparks! The next hour was consumed by trying to close everything up. The exact order of wires and where they want was an enigma of brightly colored spaghetti and I had to take the thing apart about eight times over. Good news, it is not perfect, but it is together and it works. My next mission is to build a dust collection system so this doesn’t happen again.

The second bit of unexpectedness that happened this week was being gifted my new logo. It was designed by CandyApple Creative Arts. I have been needing a logo since inception and I had a vague idea of what I wanted. While spending time on Vancouver Island I had a vision of a tree growing with the lettters “U” and “P” forming in the branches and the “U” having an arrow growing from its left arm. Then the words “Wood Working” along the bottom. I intended the image to create the idea that what I make is “upcycled” an nature friendly. After working with CandyApple the designer gave me this:

First Draft Logos

 

I liked the art and I plan to turn it into some carvings but it wasn’t the classic logo iconography I was looking for. After some back and forth we came to what you see now and I couldn’t be more pleased.

Over the next few days I plan to continue cutting my 3-D reliefs, finish my light box and some other cool things I will reveal in next week’s blog!

 
 
Do you like the new logo? Let me know what you think in the comments!

Finding A New Dimension

 

Many mediums I am accustomed to working with are 2 dimensional. When I am painting on a canvas, or making digital art, qualities such as depth and lighting must be artificially realized. While carving wood I am discovering the deep potential that specifically light has when designing, painting or presenting my pieces.

Last week I went to a Phantogram concert at the Crystal Ball Room. First off, the venue itself is always inspiring to me, built in 1914 as Cotillion Hall, it has been used as host to dance, music, poetry and other entertainment over the years.  I love the mix of the old and new. As I scan overhead, I see the classic ballroom architecture and the beautiful murals on the walls. I feel like I have fallen through time and that I should be dressed in my finest while leading the woman I’m courting in a waltz. Then the vision changes when the music starts. Phantogram is a mix of synth street pop with airy vocals and hip-hop beats. On stage and film, they visually replicate the phenomenon from which they take their name. Using clever projections, beam splitters, mirrors, and I’m sure lots of other tech that I am unaware of, they make 2-d images appear three dimensional.

I find my self in this bath of visual and auditory stimulus and my mind goes into a meditative state. All sorts of thoughts run through my mind, some mundane, and others odd, but overall I feel a rush of inspiration. I have the impulse to try and capture the moment but I remember the folly in that mindset so I try to stay present with the experience. It was great to see Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter do their thing. When the show was over I concluded the event with good food and good company.

 

When I get back to my workshop I know most of that night is lost to me, but I can sense an imprint left behind. I have cut two more “cross contour” pieces. One of them I was inspired to use news paper as the foreground. The other I have not yet painted. With this style of cutting I notice the shadows have a greater effect on how the piece is perceived. I wonder if I can create illusions that capitalize on this concept. I want to play with projecting light on a surface and tracing lines to create an effect but I haven’t yet worked through that idea all the way.

This next week is Christmas, so I anticipate it being hectic, but I plan to build a Light Box. The advantage to having my own Light Box is I will have a small set to take photos on that will give me clean white backgrounds with well diffused light sources. I am pretty excited to build a new tool for my art and I am really excited to be able to replace most if not all of my gallery pictures with ones of much higher quality.

 
 
Do you have any cool examples of lights and shadows used in art? Let me know in the comments!

Finding My Artistic Voice

 
When I walk through an art museum I don’t often see anything that resembles the wood carvings that I make. What does that mean?  Does that mean I am not an “artist”? This week I explored that while cutting my most recent project, a set of converse shoes sitting against a chain-link fence. The style is called “Cross Contour” and is popular with line drawings. I have two more pieces in this style planned and will put them in the gallery together.

To me art is a human activity of self expression that evokes emotion. It is comprised of skill, message, and medium. I’m trying to figure out where I fit into that definition. The image of the shoes is not owned by me, but it inspired me. I greatly enjoy iconic “pop” art. I own a pair of converse shoes and in them, I have walked hundreds of miles. To me, they conjure up visions of american sidewalks, street-sports, and street artists. The lines give the feeling of setting sun, or setting time. These shoes are loved but also discarded. The wood I cut has been saved from being discarded, at least for now.

I feel the most skilled when I’m working with my equipment. The feel of the saw dust under my (usually bare) feet, on my hands, and the metallic clink of my tools as I use them makes me feel like a craftsman, like a hard working artisan. As for my message, it is in my medium. I choose the piece of wood, I put my hands on it and I look at it hard, each one has so much unique personality.  I can tell when I really like a piece because I run my hands over it often, I keep looking and touching, trying to really know all it contains. I can’t help but notice every scrap pile on the side of the road or burn pile in someones yard. My ability to spot wood is uncanny. Although most is too rotten, or the wrong shape or size, when I find a good scrap of wood, it really excites me.

This week I had fun with the shoes. After filing and sanding, I added some color to make the image come together a bit more. I really like the abstract style and I definitely want to learn how to paint/draw my own imagery in the cross contour fashion. I look forward to more schooling this winter. My journey as an artist evolves with every piece and I am excited to explore the next level.

 
 
Let me know what you think of finding artistic voice in the comments below!

My Return From Vancouver Island B.C.

 
Sometimes it is necessary to get away, to escape the regular, to release from daily habit, but if one does “get away” it is always important to return. I just spent six weeks on Vancouver Island. I had a great time doing yoga, meeting artists, and defragging my mind. I read books, took long walks, and spent a lot of time and money in cafes. Now I’m back, refreshed and ready to start working again. I have the opportunity to look at what getting “back to life” means to me.

First I spent some time breathing, it is important for me to breathe into my body, and breathe into the space around me. Many things have changed. In some ways both Portland and Nanaimo feel equally foreign and homey to me. After unpacking a bit I began plugging back in, I turned on the computer, updated, scanned, and signed on.

For me, eating right is a big part of self care and routine, so I walked to the store, bought a bunch of fruits and vegetables, some almond milk, and made a smoothie. Each step is part of a fluid moment that is familiar and methodical, in which I take time to reflect. I want to do it right this time, I want to stay on top of things and not let responsibility overwhelm me. I want to have patience for my family and friends. As I am the creator of my reality, I have the power to manifest each desire.

Soon I will turn these efforts to the place I find daunting, the workshop. That is where plugging in and getting things going again will be a real effort for me. I need to build and design and think and be creative.  Specifically my next step is to build an enclosure for my routing table and incorporate the new vacuum I purchased so I have a dust collection system. I need to clear floor space in my workshop so I can set up more equipment, and for the Holidays my plan is to make tree ornaments and holiday themed pieces for friends and family.

 
 
Let me know how you “get back to life” in the comments.