Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Throwing in the towel

There are days when we all feel that we've had enough. That throwing in the towel and getting a real job seems like the better option. When what we create seems to have no meaning for anyone else and is fast losing its meaning for ourselves. A few years ago I found myself in this kind of deep, dark, abyss. I found myself doubting the merit of my work and, well, what was the point any way? Maybe it was time to quit.

Earlier in the year I had submitted an application for a Saskatchewan Arts Board Individual Assistance Grant. On a day when I was feeling particularly blue and depressed, I received notice that another grant application that I had applied for, for our provincial Ceramics Association, Sask Terra, had been turned down. So I called Doug Townsend, Visual and Media Arts Consultant, to discuss what we could have been done to make a better proposal. At the end of that conversation, I broke down and asked about my own submission. Doug's reply was (something along the lines of), "You haven't received your notice yet? Well, they always send out the unsuccessful letters first." My reply was, "You mean I got my grant?". Followed by, "Not only did you get it, you got all that you asked for." My reaction was not what I imagined that Doug expected to hear. I literally broke down in tears on the phone. "This is just what I needed. (sob) I was about to give it all up and get a real job. I really needed someone to believe in me and my work."

That news was exactly what I needed at that time. The grants are selected by a jury of your peers based on merit. It was the vote of confidence that I needed to continue pursuing my artist vision. I would like to think that I had the fortitude to plow on, grounded in the certainty of my abilities. Unfortunately, I suffer the frailties of humanity. So, I guess the moral of the story is, never give up.

On another note, the next time I saw Doug I'm sure that I saw fear and trepidation in his eyes... Would he experience another emotional outburst?

I am grateful to the Saskatchewan Arts Board and the jury of my peers for believing in me.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Guiding hands

Over my lifetime, there has always been someone there to lend a guiding hand. They seem to come into your presence just when they are needed. Or perhaps, you happen to instinctively put yourself next to them when you need their wisdom.

In this particular case, I seemed to be chasing around in circles. I thought that I was doing all the right things. Submitting applications, getting my name out there, you know the drill. But all that I seemed to be doing was spinning my wheels. I ran into Jack Sures, a professor emeritus of ceramics from the University of Regina. Jack has a well earned ceramics pedigree a mile long. So I put the question to him, what was I doing wrong? His answer was simple, "its all about the work."

I went home and thought about it. I come from a business background. While I was doing all the right things on the business/marketing end, I had forgotten that in the end, it is all about the work. Mediocre work promoted, is still just mediocre. I vowed to put the effort into producing work of merit. Work that I could be proud of, that pushed boundaries. I promised to step outside my comfort zone and try new things. To grow artistically every day.

I am grateful for a few words kindly shared that significantly changes one's outlook.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Our first meeting.

On September 13, I met with Lee Brady (pictured at right) to discuss our mentorship. While I had forwarded a copy of the proposal I had submitted to CARFAC, he hadn't got it. Seems that I had an old email address for him. Have you ever wondered where all the lost emails disappear to? Do they go to the same place as all the missing socks? But I digress!

We met over coffee at a really neat coffee house on Broadway Avenue in Saskatoon (Saskatchewan, Canada). We talked about the mentorship, what I hoped to accomplish and what I was interested in exploring. As it turns out, we are both working on investigating similar properties in our sculptural work. Lee is working on fused glass wall pieces that hang out from the wall,
playing with the refracted light colours on the wall. It was very exciting to discover common ground and to realize that this mentorship has the ability to benefit us both significantly.

Lee also brought some reading material for me and we discussed what equipment and materials that I would need during the year. We are given a small budget for materials/equipment. While I have some equipment (grinder, pliers, nippers), it seems that I will need to purchase a controller for one of my kilns. That kind of blows the budget out of the water. I'm going to look at the cost of retrofitting my new kiln and the cost of an external controller (Ramp Master). Any one know of where I can get a good used one cheap?

Our next meeting is the scheduled group meeting in Craik, Saskatchewan Canada on September 19. That's when we will get to meet all the other pairings.

A mean, cold northerly wind is blowing here today, reminding us that winter is just around the bend. So t
oday I am grateful for windbreakers.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Body of Work

I remember when I first started out to become a professional artist. I kept hearing this term body of work. What did this mean? After all, I had what I thought was a body of work. I had made lots of successful pieces, some that had even been exhibited. I was an artist after all!

Salt Water Bowl, Marigold Cribb

Thankfully, I asked this question of Marigold Cribb, a weaver, with whom I was working with at the Saskatchewan Craft Council. She was kind enough to take the time to explain what this meant. I guess she was my very first mentor. She explained that it was all well and good enough to make individual pieces but a body of work was a group of pieces that related to each other in some way, or another. For instance, they could be related in form, colour, firing methods, etc... It shows a certain maturity as an artist. Now, twenty plus years after her educating me, I laugh at my naivety. It all seems so simple now but back then it was a huge hurdle.

So to those of you just starting out on your artistic journey, find one idea that that has captured your interest, follow it until you become truly bored or another vein of thought captures your interest and you will have a body of work.

Today I am grateful for the wisdom of experience shared.

Friday, September 25, 2009


On August 11, 2009 the news came that I was selected for a CARFAC Mentorship pairing. I was relieved and ecstatic about the news. Then with supreme arrogance, I acknowledged to myself that of course I got the Mentorship. Didn't I work hard on my application? Wasn't I clear about my goals? Didn't I spend hours polishing my proposal? Hadn't I found the perfect mentor?

The truth is, as I see it, is that the art world is subjective. Everyone one else who sends in an application has gone through the same process as you and has submitted a proposal every bit as good as you (or should have). The question is, is what you proposed of interest to the selection committee? Has it captured their interest?

Yes, there are some basic fundamentals to all applications that can see it screened out. Did you submit all the information required? Did you submit it on time? Are you images good, clear images? Are the images representative of what you are proposing and does it represent a body of work? Are you capable (preferably proven) that you can deliver on your promise?

Given that all proposals start on even ground, what makes yours stand out from the rest? In my limited experience I've come to the conclusion that it is three things. Honesty, clarity and passion.

Honesty of your work. By this I mean have you reached into your soul and created work that comes from within you. Pieces that have been made with sincerity and integrity; that reflect who you are and what you value at this particular point in time. Clarity. Have you clearly articulated your vision and what you hope to accomplish? And lastly, passion. Is it evident in what you have written that you are truly passionate about your vision? Does your enthusiasm shine through?

I'd be interested in hearing what others feel makes a winning proposal. Anyone out there?

Today I am grateful for youthful enthusiasm and exuberance. It brings a smile to my face.

On Being Grateful.

I'm on a personal growth/development jag right now. Actually, I am almost always on one. The topics just vary according to the latest thing that captures my interest.

When I was last at the public library I perused the CD section looking for something interesting to listen to in the studio. I had got completely jaded by the garbage that is on the radio. I stumbled across a CD by Robin Sharma, a leadership and personal development guru and thought, why not?

Yes, I did listen to all
4 discs. And yes, I did get something out of it. A few salient ideas. One was on being grateful. We often ignore all the good things we have in our lives and just focus on what we don't have. How very sad. So I've decided to add to the bottom of each post, what I am grateful for on that particular day.

I am grateful for my aches and pains. It is the body's way of reminding me I'm still alive to face the world for another day.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Let the Waiting Begin!

The deadline for submissions was July 15. I sent off my polished copy on July 13, ahead of the deadline (but not by much). I had done my best submission ever, had arranged for a great mentor and now I just had to wait. We were informed that the successful applicants would be notified the week of August 10.

I'm not much for waiting. It has taken me years to learn patience. So I tried to block it from my mind. From time to time, it would creep back into my thoughts along with the self-doubt. What is with us artists? We continually seem to see the worst. When we complete a piece, all we see is what is wrong with it, or what it could be, not all the good things it is. My husband, Ian, often shakes his head at me. For the thousands of "I love your work" that I receive, I only seem to hear the one negative thought. Is it just artists, or people in general who think this way?

I think it is time to change my ways and try to see the beauty and accomplishment in what I create. I still need to see the what could be, otherwise, there would be no growth. No experimentation. No pushing the envelope. But for the moment, in the moment of saying it's done, I will just bask in the glory of my own perceived genius and enjoy my work!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Other Part of the Equasion

Preparing the application is just one part of the process. Finding a suitable mentor is the other. In principle, the CARFAC Mentorship Program will match you with a mentor. The truth is that a good mentor is critical to the success of the pairing, so best to seek out and submit applications together.

The Cultural Careers Council Ontario, Get Mentored!, suggests starting a list of candidates of people who have succeed in achieving the goals you have set for yourself; the candidates success usually being an expression of:
  • technical competence
  • professional status and prestige
  • knowledge of their industry, discipline and/or organization
  • an ability to work closely with others.
So I looked at what I needed to learn. In order to integrate glass into my ceramic sculptures it is necessary for me to obtain technical knowledge of glass; gain an understanding of the technical aspects of combining glass with ceramic and develop design skills for integration of non-ceramic objects into my sculptures. I was looking for a glass artist who
  • exhibited high degree of technical competence in glass
  • is well versed in various forms of working with glass (cold, warm and hot)
  • has worked in clay
  • shown an ability to work closely with others
After speaking with some friends who work in glass about what I proposing to do and who I was considering, they strongly recommended that I contact Lee Brady. I've known Lee for years and he previously had had me out to his studio to talk about glass. I love and respect his work. Would he consider mentoring me? I just had to make the call.

Left: Nestweavers by Lee Brady

The call was easy. He was interested and willing to submit a joint application. So we were in the horse race!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Application Process

The application process. Always challenging. How does one articulate a dream? But I wanted it so bad I could taste it. I really needed to get this mentorship. So, for once in my life, I started to work on the application early, not leaving it to the last minute.

To apply, I had to submit a letter of application with the following:
  • your reasons for wanting to be a participant
  • a brief written statement about my specific ambitions or goals as an artist
  • a brief outline of current work or specific projects that would benefit from support of the program
  • an explanation of how I would take full advantage of participating int he program, devote adequate time to the development of my projects and goals while balancing other commitments
  • a resume describing education, training, exhibitions, and related experience
  • ten images with slide list
I already had an Artist Statement and images on hand from my exhibition, Interplay. I also had an up-to-date resume (One of my anal-retentive habits. I religiously keep it up-to-date. Never know when you will need it.). But the rest. Well, I drafted and rewrote, sweated over, rewrote... You get the picture. Selecting just the right word or turn of phrase. Then I enlisted the help of my daughter who is studying at this time to become an editor.

My first stuff I sent to her came back red. And I thought that I could write. I rewrote and sent it back. It came back again with more red. Discussions ensued about content. More rewriting. More editing. Then finally, it was done. But was it?

I decided to send it to a friend who's opinion I value for her assessment (as a non-artist). Did it say what I wanted it to? When I asked her what she thought I was trying to do, her summary confirmed what I was trying to say. Eureka! The application was ready to submit. It had taken over a year to prepare.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Next Step.

My next step was to apply for a Saskatchewan Arts Board Individual Assistance Grant. I received the grant, which enabled me to take three months off from my production work and devote myself to exploring sculpture. During this period I deliberately broke away from what I was doing and played with different firing methods, larger forms, texture and working without colour. Through this process, I rediscovered primitive firing! I loved the lack of control and the immediacy of the process. The subtle effects of fire and smoke over the architectural forms . I began to look at ways of using form and texture to manipulate light.

It was also during this time that I found an image of a piece of jewelery that I found to be inspirational. The stone had a very landscape feel to it and I wanted to recreate that feeling in clay. I created a series of "wall jewels". As I made the pieces, I began to see the possibilities of incorporating glass and crystals into the work as a way to increase the dynamic tension and create greater contrasts. I have since become fascinated with following this line of investigation.

Unfortunately, I have little knowledge or understanding of glass. I realized that I need to acquire the technical knowledge and skills of working with glass. What was the best way to learn what I needed? The CARFAC Mentorship Program worked very well the last time. Would it work for me again?

Sunday, September 20, 2009


You might ask, what is this Mentorship experience I speak of.

CARFAC Saskatchewan (Canadian Artist Representation Front des artistes canadiens )
offers a mentorship program. In its 10 year (in its present format ), the Mentorship Program seeks to create opportunity for productive and supportive relationships between established professional artists and visual artists wishing to develop and enhance their artistic practice.

In 2004/2005 I was granted a Mentorship with Les Potter, a multi-disciplinary sculptor. I had wanted to pursue the making of more one-of-a-kind sculptural pieces and I felt that this would be the impetus that I needed to propel me in that direction. The pairing resulted in my floral bark series, which saw the juxtaposition of a soft flowing floral on a textured "bark". I was incredibly proud of this body of work.

It was during this Mentorship that I was introduced to the work of Henry Moore. A well-known British sculptor, Moore placed one of his large sculptures in a farmer's sheep pasture, He explained how he enjoyed the changing nature of the sculpture as it interacted with the sheep, the landscape and the changing light. I became fascinated by the idea that a sculpture's relationship to its environment, in particular, light, affects how the viewer perceives the work. Now what to do with that idea?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Here we go!

Blogging. Striking fear in the heart of a technologically challenged person such as myself. So, as I step off the deep end and jump into the morass, bear with me.

I've wanted to start a blog for a while. Unfortunately, I couldn't think of anything that I could say that I thought would be of interest to anyone else. Then, as I was researching blogging, I came upon a story about a blog where an artist journals her experience preparing for an exhibition. Well, why couldn't I do the same with my Mentorship experience? It would be interesting.

So, there you have it. This blog is my opportunity to share my Mentorship experience with you. Welcome aboard my journey!