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Halloween Weather

What has brought me here today:

There’s a large part of me that is having a difficult time getting into the flow of the weather here. This seems like some sort cognitive dissonense. I think the weather should be colder. The days shorter, with less light. Almost all of the leaves should have fallen off the trees. Birds should be flying south. Frost should be on everything in the morning. And perhaps some snow should be falling as well.

Then there is all the Halloween decorations and reminders in the shops! There are signs in different neighbourhoods announding Halloween parades for children. Then there are venues holding Halloween events for children, in lieu of trick or treating. Some of the houses in our neighbourhood have lots of terrific Halloween themed decorations as well. I mean, BIG displays too!

Background:

As a child, I adored Halloween. I loved figuring out what I wanted to be for Halloween. Then getting the costume together. We always had homemade Halloween costumes. A mask or some additional details for the costume might be purchased. But the vast majority of the costume was made at home. My older brother made some cool costumes for us. I rememer my bother and I were a pair of dice one year!

Then there was trick or treating! Dear God! That was a miraculous event for a kid like me. The kind of kid who has not just one sweet tooth, but a whole mouthful of them. The concept of dressing up, going door to door, and getting free candy was all that was needed to pique my interests. Free. Candy. Oh! And candy that I was in complete control of too. No one could take it away. Or prevent me from eating it either. It was all mine.

There were candy exchanges. Every American kid who has trick or treated in the past can attest to this. My younger brother and I would go through our candy loot and make trades for favourite candies. I was a sucker for Smarties and anything chocolate. Jolly Ranchers were also a favourite of mine. Except the grape ones. Gross. Fortunately, our older brother (who sometimes took us trick or treating) loved grape Jolly Ranchers.

Worst Halloween:

The Halloween of ’78 suuuucked. A few weeks before Halloween, the chicken pox ran rough shod through my second grade classroom. I still remember my teacher coming over to my desk where I was working. She wanted to know why I was scratching my forehead so much. I remember her putting her hand under my chin and making me look up at her. She told me to put away my work and go directly to the nurses office. I was the third kid in the class to get chicken pox.

I still have scars on my face from my bout with chicken pox. It felt like I was sick forever too. In 1978 there wasn’t much to do about chicken pox other than send the kid home. And let the virus run it’s course. Oh. And lots of calomine lotion. Ick! I don’t rememer much of the fever part. The itching was the thing that got to me. I was miserable! Like I said, I scratched so much that I still have scars to this day.

There was no way I could go trick or treating. My face was a mass of big, red bumps and scabs. I wore a sheet and was a ghost to hide my face. My older sister and her boyfriend took me and my little brother out to a couple houses of his family members on Halloween night. One of whom was my second grade teacher! There was candy. But not nearly enough for my sweet-tooth-heavy sensibilities!

Present Day Halloween:

I did not think that the short time away from the US would make me so sensitive to some holiday decorating. The lifetime of accumulated experience prior to break from Halloween should have more weight. Or at least I think so. Finland doesn’t celebrate Halloween. There were never any big displays in shops or neighbourhoods. No trick or treating either. It’s too cold for that!

The thought of getting trick or treaters got me excited for Halloween. I may not be able to dress up and go get free candy myself. But I can make damn sure that the children who come to my door get awesome candy and someone who will tell them their costumes are awesome! But there’s no trick or treating in the neighbourhood we’re living in this year. The Halloween parades and planned events at different venues are safer for the kids. And I completely understand that. There will be other Halloweens.

Weather:

Many of my Nordic friends are posting pictures on Instagram of the weather. I honestly never thought I would actually miss the weather in Finland. But I do. Perhaps that’s incorrect. I miss all of the things that come along with the weather turning colder. Hygge is the word some people might be familiar with in the US. Everything gets more warm and cozy once the weather starts turning colder in early October in Finland.

The month of October, (Lokakuu: mud month) is the last bit of autumn that’s pleasant before November (Marraskuu: dead month, not a direct translation). Marraskuu is sometimes referred to as “the month that shall not be named” because it’s just miserable all the way around. It’s cold, wet, and dark. Most of the time, there’s no snow. Only rain. I cannot express adequately to you readers how completely miserable this month is. Cold. Increasingly dark. And so, so, wet.

Your reward for getting through November in Finland is December (Joulukuu: Christmas month). A month of tremendous HYGGE! And SNOW! Centimeters  and centimeters of lovely, white, noise dampening, easy-to-walk-on, light-reflecting SNOW! October is the reminder of the cruddy stuff that we have to get through (with the help of hygge) so we can enjoy Joulukuu.

My brain:

Right now, my brain is not seeing any of the above. It rained and was overcast for most of the day yesterday. Today looks like it’s going to be more of the same. The thing that is unnerving me is that there are green leaves on the trees! How can it be colder and rainy and the trees still have green leaves?! My brain is just not allowing me to adjust as quickly as I would like it to.

All the reminders of Halloween in the shops and the neighbourhoods combined with the off-kilter weather makes me feel unsettled. Like there’s something wrong. Global warming has a part to play in my current feelings of off-kilterness. I’m sure of that. Another part is that we’re living so much closer to the ocean. The weather is just not going to be like I remember it was as a kid. Or when I was living in central Finland.

So, what now?

I do plan on eating Halloween candy. As an adult, I can buy it and eat it for dinner if I want to. I won’t eat it for dinner. Maybe. The weather is just something I’m going to have to become accustomed to over time. There’s no way to hurry this process either.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

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Scary

What brought me here today:

I had a strange thing happen to me earlier in the week. By the time it was over, it had become uncomfortable. Bordering on scary. This interaction was with someone on a social media platform who is a follower. They admire my artwork. This person seemed to quickly go from pleasant admirer, to irritated and demanding in the blink of an eye.

The fact that I didn’t see how quickly the interaction had changed to a negative tone disturbs me. I was so pleased to chat with someone who had questions about how I created my artwork. In the past, I’ve had some incredibly lovely interactions with people via social media about my artwork. This must be why this negative interaction with this person disturbed me to the degree that I’m actually writing a blog post about it.

The incident:

I received a DM from a follower on Instagram. This person does not speak English. And I don’t speak her language. Messages had to be run through an online translator so we could understand each other. The conversation began like many that I’ve had. This person admires my work. They had some questions about some specific techniques and processes as well. It was pretty close to other conversations I’ve had with people online.

The first mistake I made was in taking a photo of a technique in process and sending it to them. This made the follower want more, in the way of a video. When I told them that I didn’t have any videos on YouTube or my website yet, this seemed to kind of make them pissy. My second mistake was offering to video chat and show them the technique. This failed miserably. My phone is old and the connection was bad. So I ended the chat.

This follower then started pelting me with video chat calls. I did not pick them up. This made the follower angry. They didn’t understand why I wouldn’t answer. I decided to end the whole back and forth by telling them that I had to work to do and that I could talk to her at a later date. The follower then got demanding. They wanted me to show them what I was working on. They didn’t understand why I couldn’t just set up my phone and let them watch me making art.

My tiny freak-out:

I really started to lose it at this point. I was scared. Whether or not the follower intended this or not isn’t the point. I just needed this person to go away.  Now. They were repeatedly told that I needed to return to work, and no, they couldn’t watch me work. When I stated that the work I needed to do was not art creation, but writing and computer work, it just seemed to piss them off more.

By this time, I had spent over an hour talking to this follower. There was work I needed to be doing instead of dealing with them too. To get away, I simply said that I wouldn’t respond to anymore of their messages. After sending five or six messages that I didn’t answer. They finally stopped messaging me.

I have not blocked this person. Yet. If and when they start this kind of stuff up again I will block them. My husband thinks I’m being way, way, way too nice. I don’t disagree with him. Giving people the benefit of the doubt is something I like doing. But believe me when I say, if  the line is crossed again, they will be blocked.

Nature:

I’m an incredibly talkative person by nature. Small talk is not something that I’m bad at either. I’m better at keeping my mouth shut now. Finland taught me that. I’m kind of an ambivert. There are times and places where I’m quite animated an chatty, like when I’m  teaching art to children. I require down-time in between these interactions to recharge myself. Time alone with my own thoughts is a requirement for a mentally and emotionally contented self.

Entrepreneurship:

I’m a small art business owner. A one-horse operation. This requires me to be a bit more extroveted in a few different arenas. Social media platforms are one way for me to be out there connecting with the people who like and purchase my artwork. The pandemic has made this kind of interaction the safest option for me and customers from a physical standpoint.

I require some down-time to be alone with my own mind in between my more extroverted interactions. Social media platforms are something that I can easily turn on and off when I need that break. Or when I have to work on any of the many pieces of my business that I need to. Creating my artwork is one of the ways that I prepare myself for interactions through social media.

Social media:

I do not consider myself in any way, shape, or form to be a social media big deal. The number of followers that I have is not incredibly large at all. Compared to many art creators, I’m a tiny little art fish in a HUGE art making and selling pond. That’s okay with me. I value all of the people who take the time out of their day to like and comment on my posts. I’ve made some insanely cool connections with fellow art creators that I value a great deal. These followers make me feel less alone in my little one-horse art business.

Currated content:

Who I am in reality, and the person I choose to show to the world through social media are not the same. It’s a strange dance. I know that I tend to over-share here in my blog posts most of the time. Time, and a lot of editing are involved in the creation of my blog posts. What ends up being posted has been carefully constructed for my readers. It’s definitely me. But it has to be noted that it’s a very currated me.

The same can be said of the photos that I post for people to see. I rarely post pictures of myself. Almost all of the photos posted on social media are of my artwork. The way I see things, I’m not selling my physical image. I’m sharing and selling my artwork. To be a bit more honest, I detest having my picture taken. What I personally look like should also have no baring on whether or not someone purchases my artwork either.

Parasocial interaction:

The curated content is what people who follow me on social media interact with. That’s me, but like I said before, a version of myself. I enjoy making connections with people. I’m a teacher at heart. Sharing my love of art and creation is a big part of my identity. A part of my identity that sometimes can overwhelm other parts of my identity.

I’m an artist who sells their artwork. There is a transactional nature at the center of my rationale of even being on social media to begin with. It feels callous to say that, but it’s true. Even when there is no money and goods being exchanged, this transactional aspect is in play. If you like a picture I post, you give it a thumbs-up or a like, or a pin. Or perhaps you visit my website and comment on a post. The algorithm has been fed, and I receive more viewings and more likes, etc.

The big problem with the scary follower is that they were demanding more of me than what they were paying. Liking my artwork on a regular basis does not give a perfect stranger access to watching me create my artwork. Nor does it allow them unfettered access to me explaining how I create my artwork, including patterns.

So, now what?

It’s a weird balance that I need to find. I want to be open and friendly with my followers. But at the same time, I just do not have the bandwidth or time to deal with the scary, demanding followers. There have to be some solotions to be found to this potential problem.

After talking with my husband about this incident with the scary follower, I will be making some changes. There were some rookie mistakes that I made in my initial interaction with this follower. Those mistakes will not be made again. This also made me think about the FAQ that I have on my webpage. I can make some adjustments to that. Then direct people who may get demanding to reading that.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.

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Personal Artistic Efficacy: Part 2

What brought me here today:

This is the part two of my personal artistic efficacy post. If you haven’t read part one, you can find it here. The original post just became too long to be read in blog post form. I’m not a spring chicken age-wise. The amount of accumilated artistic knowlege and experience that directly relates to my personal artistic efficacy is much more voluminus than I thought.

Edit: This post got longer and longer and longer as I edited it. This kind of seems like it goes against the whole editing process. I could have cut this post in two again. But having a part three to this subject just seem a little too much

Book binding:

I began to learn about book binding while still in art school. One of my instructors created a course in book binding. It was a awesome course too. We used this book. I loved getting to design and then physically create books. In this course, my education in graphic design, printmaking, and illustration all began coming together. A friend of mind at Herron took the course and wrote his own book about book binding!

I spent a large chunk of time creating handmade books. The coptic stitch quickly became my favourite way to create journals and sketchbooks. In my middle 20’s I was selling the books I created. I never made much money at it though. There were workshops that I taught at a small art paper store. And I did help the owner to create some packaging for some of her products. But the relationship soured and I stopped teaching for her.

What serves me now:

I still make my own sketch and notebooks. They’re incredibly simple saddle stitched little books. But they serve my purposes. There are times in which I do get a little more creative with my sketch and notebooks, but not often. The books I make for myself are much more utilitarian than my previous creations.

I do think that the time that I spent working with a needle and linen thread has served me well. Creating folios and precisely placing the holes, along with careful stitching, taught me a lot of patience. I had to be in the right fame of mind to put a book together. Rushing could result in split papers and warped book covers.

Jewelry:

I have only ever taken one jewelry making course. It was a silver clay workshop many years ago. I had a fabulous teacher who was certified in the teaching of the techniques of silver clay jewelry making. The course was so good that I bought my own tools to create more silver clay pieces. Some of the tools and materials were a little pricey, but worth it. I even managed to work with a small hand held torch without burning my house down!

The vast majority of my jewelry making knowledge comes from watching online tutorials and reading books. There was a lot of trial and error involved in my accumulation of knowledge regarding jewelry making. I also had an excellent friend who is way more talented and knowledgable about jewelry making that helped me when I had questions. The efficacy I have isn’t anywhere near what a professional has in this art form.

What serves me now:

One thing jewelry making taught me to pay close attention to the details. I had made up my mind to learn how to create a beaded chain. The kind with loops and wraps. Here’s a good tutorial for it. To create decent chain required a lot of practice. Even with the tutorials, I had to come up with my own way of working so that the beaded chain looked the way I wanted it to.

The other thing jewelry making gave me was the tools. I use my jewelry tools on a daily basis as a doll maker. My needle nose pliers come in all kinds of handly when I need to bend wire parts for the insides of dolls. Or for pulling a needle through a thick part of material. I also use my jewelry making tools while constructing my larger, paper mache dolls. Knowing how to use these tools has been a life-saver for me many times while creating artwork.

Ceramics:

Like book binding, I do have some professional instruction in this art medium. I didn’t take any ceramics while at Herron. The first ceramics course I took was when I was getting my art education degree at the University of New Mexico in the early 2000’s. I enjoyed the course and began connecting with that part of myself that enjoyed making little dolls and animals again.

During the last year of the program I was required to complete a year of student teaching. One semester was high school, and another in elementary school. A classmate and I were assigned to the same elementary school. We had agreed to help each other with firing the kiln. I didn’t feel like I was knowledgable enough to do it on my own. My short stature made it almost impossible for me to prep and load the kiln myself as well.

On the day that I needed to prep and load the kiln, my classmate bailed on me. She said she was busy. I attempted to get the kiln turned on and loaded myself. Long story somewhat shorter, one tearful call to my professor accompanied by one flash-burned right hand and arm later, I managed to get everything done. After this incident, I was terrified of kilns.

Baby-steps:

While still teaching art in the elementary school, I was fortunate to be assigned to a school that had a licensed therapist who was also a special eduction teacher. He had asked me if I could fire some of the work his students had created in class. I told him about my fear of the kiln. He came up with a series of exercises that would help me through my fears. It took an entire semester, but I did it!

I cannot adequately convey to you how scared I was of kilns at this point in my life. The teacher who helped me said he could see me start to shake when talking about using a kiln! Being able to use a kiln was such an important part of my job as an elementary art teacher. I had to try and get past my fear.

The next year, I took a ceramics workshop with a retired art teacher. He taught me even more about how to work with clay and kilns safely. This means, safe for the students and safe for me! During this ceramics course, I actually participated in a raku firing. The instructor made sure I was comfortable and felt in control during the entire firing.

What serves me now:

Up until my trauma with the kiln burning me badly, I had never had a powerfully scary experience creating art. Making art was a space in which I felt completely safe. Getting burned so badly made me suddenly unsure and unsafe. The teacher who helped me work past my fears, and the teacher of the ceramics work shop helped me to work through my fears. Then I had no problems working with ceramics and kilns.

My own fears highlighted for me how some students might feel in my art classroom. I could better recognise when as student was in a place of fear, and help them to work through it as well. The fact that my fear was specifically related to a kiln, helped me to see that a student may be fine with drawing, but painting may scare them.

Polymer clay:

I had been messing around with polymer clay since Sculpey became widely available in the early 80’s. Before Sculpey arrived, I would make and use salt dough to create little pieces of work. As a miniature hobbyist, I delighted in how easy it was to create realistic foods for my doll houses with it. The early form of Sculpey only came in white. This meant that all the finished pieces required painting. I didn’t mind. It was nice to be able to create tiny objects for my doll houses.

When I was much older, I did a great deal of experimentation with other polymer clays. Mostly Fimo. It was a little harder to work with. The clay took a while to warm up. But the colours were fantastic! Everything that I know about working with polymer clay I learned from a series of books whose titles completely escape my mind right now. But again, I am self taught.

I did make a lot of polymer beads that I used in my jewelry making. Several techniques that I learned from the aforementioned books created some amazing beads. While living in FInland, I didn’t do any work with polymer clays. Polymer clays should always be baked in an oven that is dedicated to non-food use. And I wasn’t comfortable with the off-gassing that would occur within our apartment oven.

Time to burn the house down:

While I was at UNM, I took a puppets and masks course. One of our assignments was to create a puppet show. I wrote a small skit, and then created four rod puppets. The heads and hands of the puppets were sculpted using Sculpey. I created all of the parts. Then turned on the oven to bake them. I remember sitting down on the sofa to watch something on TV. And then woke-up to my upstairs neighbour banging on my front door.

The entire apartment was filled with smoke. Black smoke was accumulating at the ceiling, and pouring out of my cracked kitchen window. My polymer clay was on fire in the oven. My upstairs neighbour saved my life. Once he was satisfied I was okay, he helped me open the windows and set up some fans to pull the smoke and smell out of my tiny apartment.

The happy ending to this was that I actually used the burned puppet parts. There was a lot of sanding and a tonne of paint needed though. After this scary experience, I never have put polymner clay in a regular oven. I bough a toaster oven. New Mexico is a warm, dry place. I used the toaster oven to bake my polymer clay in a well ventilated classroom or outside on the patio at home.

What serves me now:

Not falling asleep while baking polymer clay is one of the biggest lessons. Sometimes, even the simplest steps can go horribly sideways. In addition to using a dedicated toaster oven for all subsequent ploymer clay projects, a timer was also implemented as well.

I do love the colour and detail that polymer clays can offer. But I’m also aware that they are plastic. Plastic use is something that I’m trying to reduce within my art practice. In Finland, I began experimenting with creating my own paper clay. It was much more economical. I could use recycled paper and just a few items from the store to create the clay. The end product is biodegradable as well. Win-win.

The paper clay that I can make, or purchase also works much better in conjunction with paper mache. It’s light weight and sands well. I usually add several coats of my own homemade gesso to the surface before paining. And sand after the last coats are applied. That way I can get a more cohesive surface layer to the entire piece.

Crochet:

I started learning to crochet in my middle 30’s. There had been several previous attempts to learn how to either knit or crochet. They ended in a lot of knots and extremely sore hands and wrists. When I had to have some major surgery that would leave me in bed for an extended period of time, I decided to give crochet a try again.

There was a fantastic store called Village Wools in Albuqueruque, New Mexico where I bought yarn for doll hair. I picked up some beginner booklets, some yarn and a few hooks. The first thing I tried to crochet was a square. I made a triangle because I forgot to add the extra stitches when I turned the piece. Eventually, I figured it all out.

I didn’t really crochet in earnest until moving to Finland. It’s a very knitting and crochet friendly culture! So many people knit and/or crochet too. I learned how to create more intricate squares and then join them all together to make large afghans. Among the few things I brough back with me from Finland, includes several warm, crocheted hats and scarves.

Sewing:

I come from a family of women who sew. Most of my clothing as an infant, toddler and small child was handmade. All of my clothes were tailored to fit my body as a kid. Going to the ‘yardgood store’ was something I enjoyed a great deal when I was little. It always seemed to be quiet and weirdly good-smelling, or so I thought. The pattern books were so much fun to look through too!

There was no sewing machine that I could use in the house I grew up in. Which was probably a good idea. I would have probably broken it if given the chance. So I didn’t take a sewing course until I was in the six or seventh grade. And I hated every single second of it. Every. Single. Second.

An ill fit:

There was some kind of animal shaped pillow that all the students were supposed to make. My mother bought a pattern for a skirt and made sure the teacher taught me how to make a skirt instead. I hated how it singled me out from the other students. It made me feel like a freak. The fabric was nice, but the skirt I made just…was not good. This experience coloured my view of sewing machines for the decade or so.

Detente was achieved in my late 20’s with the gift of a Kenmore sewing machine from my parents. That machine was a tank! It wasn’t fancy, but it got the job done. The Kenmore machine was used when creating some of the larger, fabric and felt dolls I made prior to 2014. When we moved to Finland, I gifted the Kenmore machine to a friends daughters. I hoped that this solid, easy-to-use machine would help them learn to sew.

Embroidery work:

I create a metric tonne of embroidery work on a weekly basis, but I have never taken a single class, workshop, or online tutorial to learn how to do it. There was a book that I picked out of a public library discard box, published in the 60’s that I read. It had a lot of history of Nordic needlework traditions in it. Alone with some good pictures of what the stictches looked like.

I’ve only actually done needlework in front of a person once in my life. She was a skilled needle worker too. Her advice to me was to make sure that the back of my embroidery projects were as neat and tidy as the front.

Patterns a no-go in sewing and embroidery:

I concider myself to be an idiot in several distinct ways. One of the ways I’m an idiot regards my complete and utter inability to follow a pattern that was created by someone other than myself. I can sit down and create a set of patterns for a complete outfit for a large doll. While at the same time, I cannot understand a pre-made pattern for doll clothing that I might purchase.

The same goes for embroidery work. My sister is very good at creating counted cross stitch pieces. I gave it a try once and did not last more than a few minutes before I was completely disinterested with the whole concept. The pictures that I could create with the technique did not appeal to me in the slightest. Creating my own pictures. That appealed to me.

How has this served me?

Not being able to use pre-made patterns means that I can create my own unique artwork. I’m not using someone elses creative output as a starting point for my own creative expression. If I want to make a green doll with three heads, four arms and tremendously long legs. I can do that. There’s not fiddling around trying to retro-fit an existing pattern with my own ideas.

Creating my own patterns leaves me beholden to no one but myself. If a pattern works, that’s great. Sometimes a pattern doesn’t work. But that’s okay too, because I learned something while I was making the mistake. There have been some patterns by talented creators that I’ve been able to follow. What I’ve noticed about these patterns is that they all use the same materials and techniques that I use. So I suppose these patterns put me at ease from the start.

What does all of this mean?

Efficacy is built over time, practice and accumulated knowledge. Sometimes the knowledge comes from direct instruction. Other times, it’s self-guided. I’m naturally an intrinsically motivated person. Especially when the subject matter is of interest to me. If there’s a technique or material that I want to know more about, I have no problem seeking out information or people who can assist my learning.

I don’t easily give up on learning a technique either. More often than not, once I’ve learned a technique, pysanky for example, I move on to a new technique that I want to learn. Each subsequent technique adds to my overall artistic efficacy. This adds to my skill sets as an art teacher. Having working knowledge of a wide variety of tools, materials, and techniques gives me greater freedom to create my own artwork as well.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

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Day of the Dead

What brought me here today:

I’ve made mention in recent posts, of Day of the Dead. Part of the reason I’d be writing about it is due to my creating skull pins that reference this celebration. While I lived in New Mexico, seeing decorated skulls and skeletons was not an uncommon thing. Even when it was not October or November, these motifs could be found around town. As an art teacher, I had several different lesson plans that I delighted in teaching during the month leading up to the November 1st and 2nd celebration.

I was confident that placing some Day of the Dead adjacent artwork in my online shop would result in some solid sales for me. This is not what happened. I’ve sold two, and given away one. For the life of me, I could not understand why the pins aren’t selling better. I mean, come on! They’re super cute! Everyone wants a skull with their name on it! Right?

Okay. Back up a bit:

When I moved to New Mexico in my middle 20’s I felt as though I was either moving to the moon, or another country entirely. New Mexico’s a fascinating place that’s easy to fall in love with. As I’ve grown older, I’ve noticed that I tend to place myself into new living situations in which I’m the newbie, or in the minority in some manner. I was sucked-in by the vibrant cultures that were so new to me. It was an amazing experience to have as a young person.

New Mexico was the right place for me to be at that time in my life. There was so much to learn and explore just in the arts. Artistic traditions from Mexico were just too vibrant to ignore. The use of colour was something that was an arrow straight into my creative heart. For me, what Sesame Street and 1970’s Fisher-Price toys started as it related to my personal colour sense, the artisans of Mexico sewed up neatly into a complete package.

Traditional artwork:

The influence of colour that Mexican artists and artisans have had on my art creation is not the only thing I admired. There’s an element of creating something beautiful out of something that’s not so beautiful. The use of recycled and upcycled materials speaks to the ingenuity and creativity of the artisans. It’s the “What do I have?” and “What can I make out if it?” mindset that I utilise myself.

Carton board and newspaper is made into dolls and paper mache sculpture. Including amazing masks and intricate nativity scenes. Tin and aluminum cans are turned into laterns, frames, and intricate ornaments. One of my favourite types of metal work is the folding nativity scenes.

Oxacan animal carvings are also an artform that has influenced me greatly. Again, the use of colour! The imaginative designs of each of the creatures! And then to find out that it’s a fairly recent artform as well. Wow. There are so many artists and pieces of art to discover. Go here and have some fun looking through the different artists and their artwork.

More:

There’s so much more artists and types of artwork to discover in New Mexico. After writing that, I feel as though I need to make a distinction between Mexican and New Mexican art. You can’t just lump them together. They’re definitely related to one another. But there are distinct differences as well.

For instance,

Day of the Dead:

I need to acknowedge that I’m a white woman here. I cannot hope to adequtely explain the deeply held beliefs of the the peoples who have celebrated Day of the Dead in some form or another for centuries. At best, I see myself as a person who has a genuine interest and reverence for the celebration, culture, and the peoples to whom this celebration belongs.

You can understand why I don’t want to “white-splain” this celebration. When I feel as though I’m not knowledgable enough to adequately explain something to the readers of my blog, I add links. Wikipedia is something I use as a ‘jumping off point’ for subjects I may not know a lot about. Lateral reading is always needed before any real understand can be done concerning any subject. Then, trips to the libary and seeking out people who are part of the culture/are people who celebrate the Day of the Dead.

So, if you would like to start here at Wikipedia, it’s got some interesting information on how different Central and South American cultures celebrate Day of the Dead. If you’re interested in something that is more child-centered, with an activity, try here. There are also some cool websites like this one. This short video is also very good. It was created for a PBS affiliate.

Sausage and bones:

Now that you maybe know a thing or two more about Day of the Dead than before, let me tell you about my semester of student teaching at the high school level. Okay, maybe not the whole story. Perhaps just one thing. There was a student. He was a sophomore or junior (15 to 17-ish years old). This kid was ridiculously talented. I was in awe of some of the cartoons he’d just scribble off nonchalantly. His general attidude was in the crapper most of the time. He was a typical teenage boy in that regard.

One day, he drew this incredibly detailed pen drawing of skeletons on bicycles. The amount of depth that he acheived was insane. All along the winding hills the skeletons cycled on bikes. The path was lined with sharp, pointy sicks onto which large cartoonish sausages were skewered. The depth and detail drew me in. I remember asking him about the piece, and he blew me off. Oh, yeah. The kid detested me too.

Not long after seeing his drawing, I created my first skeleton doll. It was pretty simple. I used felt. The body was black. I appliqued the white bones onto the arms, legs, and head. The dress was bright red felt edged in burgundy, with appliqued sausages all the way around the bottom edge of the dress. I put a red bow on the top of her head. She also had little matching red panteloons, edged with burgundy felt. This doll wasn’t named.

Additional work:

This first skeleton doll was inspired by the cranky teenaged student who hated my breathing guts. Additional skeleton dolls took on more reference to the Day of the Dead types of skeletons I came into contact with. I honestly don’t know how many of these larger dolls (at least 40 cm; 18-20 in.) I created over the years. Some were gifted. There were times in which I was paid for them as well.

These larger dolls took so much time to create. I’m not sure that I would be up to doing this kind of work again today. Right now, the remaining 30 cm (12 inch) Day of the Dead inspired skeleton doll  have in my online shop is as large as I want to create dolls anymore. I like how intimate this size of doll is.

Back to the skull pins:

What I didn’t realize when I created the Day of the Dead inspired customisable skull pins is that not everyone is familiar with the Day of the Dead. Not everyone lookng at the items for sale in my shop are going to want a skull pin with their name embroidered on it. Hindsight would also make me think that not everyone wants to wear a giant name badge when out in crowds of strangers either.

For me, a Day of the Dead skull with my name on it is a beautiful reminder of how I’m part of earth. I have a life to live, and someday that life will come to an end. Just like everything and everyone who has come before me. And for everyone who will come after me. This is the only life that I have. So I’d better not waste it either. Soon enough, there won’t be any proof I ever lived besides maybe a few bones.

I don’t view this as scary, or macabre either. Death is just part of life. The very end part of life. It doesn’t always seem just or fair. Especially for those whom we love who have died too soon, or in pain. It’s an equalizer among humans though. No matter how rich, or beautiful, or smart you are. You’re going to die just like everyone else will some day. So yeah. A skull made of sugar and icing, with my name on it seems appropriate. At least to me.

So now what?

I hope that you enjoy some of the links that I provided above. And that they can prove useful in understanding the Day of the Dead a little better. As for me, I have a lot of work to do yet today. My fingers are itchy to start sewing.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

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All Business

What brought me here today:

Business brings me here today! To be specific, my small business! Halloween and Day of the Dead are both fast approaching. To guarantee delivery of any order by 31 October, orders should be placed before the 17 October. I’d like to thank all of the people who have already purchased Halloween and Day of the Dead themed artwork from me in the past month too!

Another reason why I’m creating this “businessing the business” post is because I need to get into the habit of writing posts like these. The kinds of posts in which I actually come out and say, “I would like it if you would purchase some o my one-of-a-kind original artwork. Because I am running a business and I would like to make some money.” (WHEW!) There! I said it!

(Sounds of me breathing into a paper sack here.)

New Items in Shop:

The seven imp dolls turned out pretty cute, even though I do say so myself. I placed wire inside the arms, legs, and tails of these dolls so that they can be posed. I thought it would add to their mischievous impish natures to be able to pose them as if they’re being caught in the act of pulling a prank!

I’ve gotten a little attached to a few of these dolls. It will be hard to say goodbye to them. But I like the idea that they will be going to homes where they will be loved and looked after. Medora, Ginny, Lucia, Flavia, Novalee, Miranda, and Portia are all looking forward to being adopted soon!

Remaining Halloween items in the shop:

I have other Halloween and Day of the Dead themed work in my online shop. Minerva, Lorena, Xochitl, Ginger, and Saffron are all still looking for a home. Just to name a few. There are also skull pins available. I will be taking any remaining Halloween and Day of the Dead items out of my online shop during the first week of November. If there is anything that you’ve been looking at, but not purchased yet, now is the time to do it.

Card table:

I will be participating in a series of holiday pop-up sales at a local venue here in Wilmington. It’s a great opportunity for me! I’ll be offering lots of dolls, pins, and other original art. I’ve been working on holiday themed plans for items I would like to add to my online shop. The series of pop-up sales will be a good chance for me to meet some new people, and introduce my artwork into the wider art-buying market.

I’ve not participated in any kind of face to face sales in several years. Part of me is tremendously excited about it. There’s another part of me is terrified. And yet another part of me is running through all the logistics of packing up and displaying my work. I am so glad I work small and light weight right now.

The venue isn’t large, so a small table with a a chair or two will be more than enough. I’ve started looking at buying a folding card table. I actually need another table anyway. There are several tables that I’ve found online that aren’t expensive at all. The table can be shipped to me too.

So now what?

I forge ahead with new plans and creations! And hopefully package-up some Halloween and Day of the Dead themed artwork to ship off to some customers!

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday,

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Personal Artistic Efficacy Part: 1

What brought me here today:

The artwork that I’m currently creating around the theme of dolls is not what I intended to do when entered art school. My current creative output seems to have very little to do with any of the subjects I studied. Art related or not. Long time readers of my blog know that the doll as subject matter is intertwined with my childhood that developed into a livelong love for dolls in all shapes and forms.

I recently overheard a conversation that made me ask myself questions about my own art education. What has my formal education in art has had on my current production of creative work? Has the time spent teaching art had any kind of impact on my artwork? These things have an influence on my artwork. But how much? And to what degree? Is the transferable knowledge be understood by those who view my artwork?

Graphic design:

When I was accepted to Herron in the early 90’s, it was small art school. It had about half of the students it has today. And a different location. I knew when I enrolled that I intended to study visual communications, i.e., graphic design. My intention after graduation was to work as a graphic designer. I progressed through the four-year program and felt as though I was a competent graphic designer upon graduation.

I had some jobs as a graphic designer. There was also a lot of freelance as a graphic designer. To be honest, I made steadier pay as a clerical temp. That’s what I would do while still doing freelance here when it came along.

Bad fit:

I may have been a competent graphic designer, but I was not emotionally well-suited for the career. Not in any way, shape, or form. I’m was too attidudinal with many of the coworkers that I needed to work with in advertising and graphic design. It was demeaning to me to have some manager with no art experience tell me that my work was bad. Then there were the clients who I never could please with my work. It was a horrible job fit for me all the way around.

What serves me now:

I enjoyed the hell out of my design courses at Herron. Even though at the time, I may have been less than pleased with my course work, myself or my artistic out-put. I worked very hard in my courses, and learned a great deal about design and typography.

To me, the evidence of an education in graphic design is so obvious in my artwork. But there are still some people who are surprised about this. I’m not sure if it’s the seeming incompatabily of graphic design work and my personal artwork? I apply the same design principles to my artwork that I did to any of my graphic design projects. After all, the elements an principles of art and design aren’t different for 2 and 3 dimentional artwork.

Today, my sense of colour, shape, and rhythm are used in the same manner that I used them as a graphic designer. I don’t question myself when working with these tools of art and design when creating my personal artwork. Nor did I question myself much about them when I was working as a graphic designer.

Illustration:

I took as many illustration courses as I could while at Herron. And while I think I was a competent graphic designer, I was in no way talented enough to become a working illustrator in the real world. The work I created in my illustration courses was timid and lackluster. Perhaps in with much more time and practice I might have gotten better. I just don’t think my heart was truly in it, if you know what I mean.

Bad fit?

I don’t like being told what to create. There is something inside me that just completely rebels against it. Again, I think with a lot of time and practice I could have been an okay illustrator. But I don’t think I ever would have been content as a professional illustrator. Or perhaps, I would never have been very good at illustrating other people’s thoughts and ideas.

What serves me now:

Those illustration courses introduced me to a wide variety of artisic media that could be utilized for illustration. Although I do remember absolutely detesting the work I had to do in one introductory illystration course in which I had to use Berol Prismacolor markers. The smelled awful! They were also pricey. And I could never get them to do what I wanted them to do either.

I learned a lot about how to use different drawing media, and how to use different media together in the same illustration. My illustration courses also taught me the importance of research for my creative work. One of the supplies I was required to have was a library card. Finding visual reference was expected of us.

In both my illustration and graphic design courses, we were expected to do a lot of preliminary sketches in preparation for our final work. Yeah. I learned to do a lot of sketches during my time in these courses. One strange lessons I took away was that my best ideas were usually in the first five sketches.

Printmaking:

I began taking printmaking at the beginning of my junior year I think. The first course I signed up for was Lithography I. Printmaking seemed to dovetail nicely into my graphic design major. It was the head of the graphic design department who recommended I take the course. This was one of two memorable interactions with him. Huh. Come to think of it, he and I didn’t have a lot of interaction period.

Printmaking fulfilled a natural inclination for me; making multiples of things. After my first lithography course, I went on to take etching and woodcut courses as well. Part of me felt like there was the possibility of becoming an illustrator using printmaking as my medium of choice. However, attempts at bridging the two while I was still in school fell soundly flat.

Not bad at all:

Fine art printmaking was the first area of artistic study and practice since my freshman year core curriculum courses. It was in these courses that I began exploring creative expressions that I couldn’t utilize within my graphic design and illustration courses. In my printmaking courses, I was making personal art that I was actually happy with. It was fabulous and messy and sometimes slightly dangerous. I still have a scar on my right hand from a chemical burn.

What serves me now?

If you’ve seen my artwork, you know I am constantly creating new pieces. The dolls I create can be similar, but they’re never exactly the same. It always seems like in each successive doll, I change something. Each change is an attempt to get closer to what I want to say creatively.

Study and practice in printmaking and illustration allow me to see the entirety of the piece of artwork that I’m creating. And how that piece fits into the larger body of my creative output. I change something a little. Create a piece of art. Then assess it. And make more adjustments before creating the next piece. All with the hopes that the body of work I’m creating fits together and tells the story that I want it to tell. If that is at all possible.

There’s always more:

My natural talkative nature has made the blog post that I wanted to post today exceedingly large. I’ve decided to divide it in half and publish Part 2 on 19 October 2021. I’m aware that not everyone who reads my blog posts wants or needs to sit down and read a gigantic blog post!

There is still much more to this particular subject for me to write about. My creative life doesn’t seem to travel in a straight line. And this may seem confusing to some people. While there may be a few things that I would change regarding my past. My education and experiences with the arts and creating art is not one of them.

My current artwork is a combination of myself as child and the artistic media ancy gained through years of artistic practice.

So what now?

Back to work! I’ve almost completed five imp dolls that I want to have in my online shop in the next few days. The boots for the dolls were finished this morning. And I have some additional details to add to each doll. Oh. And then I started the clothing for two additional imp dolls. Because I couldn’t resist trying out just one more tiny alteration to the embroidery and applique on their dresses.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

PS: There is something going-on with the spell check that I’m using for my blog. There may be some spelling errors that I didn’t catch. I’m a rotten speller. Sorry for the inconvenience.

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Back-Up

What brought me here today:

My insane need to document every step in my creative process with photographs. Actually, I had intended to write something else entirely. But here I am, banging away on my laptop about my bizarre habits as a creative. Well, I’m doing that while periodically glancing at my phone and wondering why Instagram is not uploading the seven photos of my work in progress that I just took and created an Instagram post of.  All the while wishing that all of the above was not causing me as much agita as it is at this very second.

BREATHE.

Some recent history:

Long time followers of my Instagram account (katie_kinsman_artist) know that I take a lot of pictures. Until a year or so ago, I posted pictures of my artwork in process several times per day. Every day of the week. I decided to reduce this to posting once per day on my personal Instagram account. What I’d discovered was that I was losing a chunk of time during my working hours just creating posts for Instagram.

Reducing the amount of posts to Instagram was not the result of taking less photographs. I would still take a lot of photos, but only publish a few. Now that I have Twitter and Imgur accounts, some of those additional photos are published on those social media platforms. If a person from any of my social media accounts finds me on another one, they’ll more than likely see some new content.

History from further back:

As a graphic design student in the beginning of the 90’s, I learned the hard way to back-up everything I created on computer.  I lost an entire magazine layout for a design course once. And it wasn’t really an entire layout! I had to create the entire thing again. I had to use a very early back-up copy that was nowhere near finished. The whole thing just made me so mad at myself. It was all my own fault. Creating a back-up can be time consuming, but it can save your like (time) when you have it.

Everyone who works with a computer on a daily basis, or for whom the computer and its documents are of paramount importance can identify with the need for a back-up copy. When I worked as a secretary, I backed-up everything that I thought I would need in case of some kind of catastrophic computer crashing incident. I also kept paper copies of important things as well. Everyone needs a CYA file, right?

My peculiar idiosyncracy:

Even for a trained graphic designer, I take an un-godly amount of photos. I use my cell phone for much of this photography. My photography skills have never been stellar. And I know this. As I said, many of the photos I take aren’t posted or displayed anywhere digital or physical. About 70% of the photos I take are just for me. So why take them at all? It’s not like I’m documenting anything of historical importance.

One of the reasons I sometimes placate myself with is; so I remember how I created a certain piece. Or perhaps, a reminder of the specific technique I used. There are times in which I cannot, for the life of me, remember exactly how I created something. Or at least all the steps I use. Photos can make remembering those steps a little easier.

I also think that there’s a part of me that knows I might need proof that I was the creator of a specific piece of art. I’ve had artwork copied/stolen and no credit/money given to me. This kind of thing really sucks. Having the proof that it was me making the piece gives me a certain peace of mind I suppose.

Yeah, psychological reasons:

Part of my identity is being an artist. A creative person. The artwork that I make are the parts of my insides that I pull out and make real in the physical world. Therefore, my artwork is me. For someone to take my work without concent or compensation feels like a personal violation. Having the photographic proof that my work is “my work” seems to be a small thing I can do to give myself psychological peace of mind.

Physical ramifications:

Well, that’s great, until I end up in a digital avalanche of photo files. Honestly. I thought that creating some back-ups of my photo files from my phone and computer would be a cake-walk this morning. But here I am, writing a flippin’ blog post about it instead of finishing, proofing, and posting the other blog post I wanted to post today. (It’s okay. The other blog post wasn’t very good.)

This morning, I discovered that I had not just a few hundred photos to back-up, but around 59 megabytes of photos to deal with. OH! And not just photos, videos too! Okay. No problem. I’ll just get them sorted. Do a little file compressing and get them all backed-up to the 4 terabyte back-up drive.

Nope:

That was what I was thinking this morning as I got everything set-up. I grabbed a book to read while transfered the files around between my phone, laptop and external drive. Four hours later, I was still nohwere near completing this set of tasks. I did finish two chapters in a Neil Gaiman book though. My frustrations burbled-over at about the midway point. So I decided to write a blog post instead.

The thing that’s killing me right now is that I’d rather be working on the four Imp Dolls instead of farting around with backing-up my files and photos. Or even writing a blog post. Being a small business owner who can be an emotional bag of squirrels in a Katie-shaped suit is not all that it’s cracked-up to be today.

So now what?

This is just one of those days in which some things have gone sideways in a way I hadn’t prepared myself for. I’m feeling rather crabby and I just need to put some things down and walk away for a while.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.

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Background Noise

What brought me here today:

I know that there are people who prefer to work in an almost silent environment. They find noises not connected to what they are working on as distracting. On the other hand, there are people who much prefer a more cacophenous work environment. With music, movies, people talking, etc., going on around then while they complete their tasks.

I’ve worked in both types of environments. As an elementary art teacher, I was once told by my boss Janet that I “tollerated a high level of noise in my classroom”. She also noted that the children were all actively engaged in their work and explorations. Janet chalked-it up to this tollerance being my own personal work style as an art teacher.

When I was much younger, and doing a lot of clerical temp work, the levels of noise would vary. Some offices were quiet as the grave, while others were a hub-bub of voices and office machinery. I was not encouraged to bring my own headphones or music to listen to while I worked by any of the agencies I worked for. And the office radio would never have been something that I would have touched either.

At first:

While we were still in Finland, my husband and I worked in very close proxilty to one another. My husband tends to ‘run hot’ temperature-wise. This makes wearing his large, sound-dampening headphones difficult. Especially during the warm parts of the year. I usually put my headphones in and attached them to my laptop. That way I wouldn’t bother him with whatever I was listening to.

I must admit, I rather liked wearing the earbud headphones. They were lightweight, and it helped to get me into the frame of mind to work by wearing them. My only complaint was that they had a very short cable. Sometimes I ripped one or both earbuds out of my ears when reaching for something just a little too far out of my grasp.

Wireless earbuds that would work with my MacBook were something I couldn’t justify spending money on. My MacBook was old. And I had no plans on replacing it with another Apple product. I did purchase an inexpensive pair of bluetooth headphones to use with my mobile. They worked well in the winter when my cap kept them snuggly in my ears.

Music:

I have a metric tonne of music on my old MacBook Pro. When I first started wearing my earbud headhones to work, I mostly listened to music. That didn’t last long. I have the irritating habit of singling along with the music I’m listening to. This includes keeping the beat with my hands, feet, and whatever is on my desk as well. My poor husband tried t see if he could get used to it. But in the end, the music had to be changed to something else less noise-provoking on my part.

Somthing different:

I turned to YouTube to find something else to listen to. At first, I listened to a lot of documentaries on subjects that I wanted to learn more about. Many of them history documetaries. I discovered some presenters that I enjoyed and listened to their entire library of videos. I listened to a lot of American Experience documentaries as well. That is, until YouTube took a bunch of them down.

There were also old television shows I found, like Fireball XLR and Supercar. Then there was Captain Scarlett and Thunderbirds. While I thought these shows were immensely cool, they all have terrible instances of misogeny, racism, and blind nationalist furvor that are just so wrong. Sometimes I was blown-away by the fact that these shows were for children!

I then discovered that YouTube had all the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes episodes. As I type, I’m listening to one right now, The Solitary Cyclist. From there, I worked my way through all the Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple  and the Hercule Poirot series. The majority of what I’ve listed above are things that I’ve listened to once and have been done with it. (with the exception of the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes)

Watching or listening?

You may have noticed that I say I’ve listened to these videos instead of watching them. Yes. I listen to them instead of watchinging them. Some people might think that I would be better off listening to audio books instead. No. For me reading is something I enjoy doing with a physical book. I need the physicality of the book to get into reading and processing the information.

What I’m doing by listening to videos while I work is creating a sufficient and comfortable level of background noise. This background noise allows me to concentrate on what I’m creating. Having the background noise also lets me slip into a nice flow state as well. My own thoughts simply become one of the levels of noise, albeit closer to the surface.

Two sides to a coin:

There are two large categories that I’ve divided my background noise into: murder and humor. Perhaps more aptly put, comedy and tragedy? These two categories are filled mostly by any kind of true-crime. Even the really horribly produced ones from the early 90’s. Now that we’re in the US, I’ve been plowing my way through all twenty-three back seasons of Dateline on Peacock TV. Prior to moving, I’d already devoured every crime documentary that YouTube had available.

There always comes a point during the day in which I find myself completely disgusted with the actions of the criminals on Dateline. I have to turn it off. This is when I switch over to the humor category. And back to YouTube to listen to Mystery Science Theatre 3000. I’ve also added Rifftrax, Cinematic Titanic and The Mads to the rotation as well. All four are part and parcel of one another. Sharing creators and writers.

I’ve been a huge fan of MST3K for a long, long time. I think it’s interesting that I know the dialogue of these shows so well. Sometimes when I sit down and actually watch the movie I’m surprised at how much that can be missed when only listening, instead of watching. After watching how wantonly cruel humans can be to one another on Dateline, MST3K is a great palate cleanser.

Present day:

The apartment that my husband and I have moved into is rather long. His office is at one end, connected to mine via a hallway. The construction of the building is such that if he tries to talk to me from his office, while I’m in mine, I cannot hear him at all. For the first month we were here, I continued using the earbud headphones with my laptop. So I didn’t disturb my husband. The temperatures were in the middle 30’s and he was having a rougher time than I was. There was no way I would make him wear his headphones!

Once I had my desk set up and started working in my little studio, he told me that I didn’t have to wear my earbud headphones anymore. He couldn’t hear anything that was being played on my end of the apartment. This meant that my talking back to the computer during the time I listened to my “murder shows” wouldn’t bother him. Many times, I’m saying “Get there faster.” and “That’s because you’re dumb.” to the people who thought they could get away with murder.

What does any of this have to do with creating artwork?!

I’m not actually sure. It does help me to generate names for the pieces I make. Which I suppose is rather macabre when looked at from a certain point of view. It’s much easier to see how MST3K and Rifftrax influences my artwork. Thinking that my “murder shows” have any kind of influences on my artwork is a little disturbing. Perhaps if the influence was to show me how not to be a horrible person would be okay I guess. However, I figured out a long time ago that murder was really super-wrong and icky. And had no plans to embark on some sort of career in murder anyway.

So…yeah. Hmm. Not gonna murder.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.

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Trade Off

What brought me here today:

I’ve been thinking a lot about employment lately. I’m a licensed visual art teacher (Ages 5-18) with ten years of experience teaching at the elementary school level. But I’m not teaching art at any school right now. I’m working for myself instead. My husband is my business partner. He runs his own small business Dancing Lights Press.

We both work from home. Each of us have our own work areas in the apartment. There are daily work hours. Sometimes these are extended for me. Because sometimes I just get on a roll and want/need to finish a piece. The same goes for my husband.

There are definite benefits to working for yourself. It’s not for everyone. There are trade-offs that sometimes need to be made. It’s important to know what these trade-offs are. And how to negotiate them. Being a small business is not something I ever thought I would do. Thanks to free programs like Tyobileet, my mind was changed.

First things first:

You’ve got to have some kind of business plan. My husband has a degree in business. With the help of Tyobileet, I discovered so much about myself and how I wanted to work. Tyobileet did so much to help me figure out all of the diverse ways I could take my art business. I felt as though I had within me so many different options to choose from. This also helped me feel as though I wouldn’t be narrowly defining what my art business would be.

Then the pandemic started. All my plans for teaching art workshops went completely sideways. I had to change around my business plan. A friend I made at Tyobileet suggested that I open up an online shop. Her advice was amazingly precise. She helped me to decide how I wanted to show myself and my work online with WooCommerce.

My husband’s first hand knowledge of running his own small business has been endlessly helpful to me. He might roll his eyes and say I don’t pay attention to him. But I do. Thanks to him, we each have long-form, fully fleshed-out business plans. The pandemic is still playing mary-hob with some of my plans. But that’s okay. I have plenty that I can do to work around it.

Road less traveled:

I thought that I would have more agita about this part of having my own small business. The path that my life and my art business have taken seem out of character for me as an individual. At least when they are compared to the trajectory my life was on prior to moving to Finland. That path was a well-trodden one. Teach art in the public schools. Do my “own art” during the summer. Sometimes sell my work at craft fairs. Retire from teaching when I’m 67-70. Then make art in my old age. And sometimes sell my work at a craft fair.

After living for seven years in FInland the aforementioned path just did not look inviting to me at all. The idea of going back to teaching art full time again in the US public school system was not something I wanted to do. I love teaching art. Being ground-down, mentally, emotionally and physically by the job of teaching is just not worth it to me. I have some borderline PTSD as a result of some of the things that happened to me as an art teacher. Things that I never want to go through ever again.

One of the trade-offs of having my own small art business instead of teaching art in the public schools is the regularity of a paycheck. For me, it’s the least easy of the trade-offs. There is security in knowing every two weeks there will be money in the bank. But when looked at from another angle, it’s trading off my mental, emotional, and physical well-being for a state-dictated amount of money.

Breathing room:

I’m an intrinsicly motivated person. Art has always been one of the central interests of my life. I need little prodding to begin my work day creating artwork. If it weren’t for my husband, I would work straight through meals and late into the night. This intrinsic motivation is great for being an artist. It tended to make my life as an art teacher complicated in a very bad way.

When working for myself, I keep to a daily work schedule. Much like I did as an art teacher. The biggest difference between the two (besides all of the children) is that I’m completely in charge of my own work schedule. My work schedule is flexible. I don’t have to teach three classes of art before I can walk across the hall and pee.

This morning, I had planned on finishing this blog post. My plan was to proof read it. Then finish writing a few additions. Then publish it. Instead, my husband and I walked to the grocery store for a few much needed items. While walking, I took some pictures for the Go Marielle Instagrm account I post to daily. The two of us talked about future plans and growing our businesses. We both enjoyed the walk, even though it did rain a little.

Adjustments:

I have the flexibility to adjust my work schedule like this as a small business owner. There are all kinds of small shifts and adjustments done to my work schedule throughout the week. I know what needs to be done. And by what time. The way in which I get to those points is up to me. As long as the tasks are completed well, and on time, I’m happy.

The other side of these kinds of adjustments are when I get a piece started and don’t want to stop. I have to stop and think about what tasks can be moved around so I can continue creating art. Some tasks like processing pictures, having to work on the not-so-fun parts of website and online shop maintenance, can be moved around.

Some tasks, like writing copy for items in the shop, or blog posts are done a little bit at a time. I’ll fill in time between other tasks by outlining a couple weeks of blog posts. Or setting up Instagram posts and Insta Story posts in Canva. The same can be said of designing and writing my Go Marielle posts. I have half an hour before my husband says lunch will be ready? Okay. I’ll drop in all the faces for a series of Go Marielle posts.

Off time:

There isn’t any. Well, that’s not completely true. My husband and I both work an eight-hour plus day each week. But that includes most of the weekend, and well past 18;00 as well. That walk to the store earlier? I always have Marielle with me, so I can take pictures for Go Marielle. I got work done, even though it wasn’t the work I had planned on for this morning.

The flexibility to schedule my own pace for work production means that I’m working many more hours than I did as a public school art teacher. But I enjoy what I’m doing. I’m creating my own artwork and selling it to people who are willing to give me money for it. And I don’t have a principal attempting to convince me that my fellow teachers all hate my guts while doing it.

Stuff:

Some of the things that I don’t have, don’t bother me. We live in an apartment we can comfortably afford. There’s no car to fuss and worry about. Our wardrobes are probably much smaller that most of our friends. None of those things bother me. We’ve made the decision to live in a rather frugal, John Wesley kind of manner. The items we do buy must have a positive purpose in our lives.

It may look as though I don’t have a lot. And that fact must make me unhappy. Nope. Not at all. I have a studio to work in, art supplies, and a crap-tonne of ideas. Plus the time in which to bring those ideas into the physical world. Oh yeah, and a husband who loves me unconsitionally and is a true partner in all of our endeavours.  Life may not be perfect, but I’m content.

Cost benefit analysis:

What I gave up was making me miserable in exchange for a steady paycheck. Adding to that misery, was the fact that I love teaching art. And yes, working for yourself can be a lot of feast or famine. My husband does an amazing job making sure that the famine parts of this inevitable cycle don’t suck as much as they could. And yeah, we have to do more planning when we want to go to Target, or the grocery store. But for me, I don’t have to worry about a car. The walk is nice and the bus ride not incredibly long.

These are the trade offs I’m willing to make so that I can live a relatively simple life of being my own boss as a small business owner. Perhaps it’s the way that I’m looking at these “trade-offs”. Some people may think that part of a trade off is puttin up with going without the thing your want, until you can somehow attain it. As if it’s a temporary time of unhappiness until…you get or buy what you want? (Car? House? Job? Significant Other?)

I look at my life as a small art business owner more like, “What do I have and what can I do with it?” So, I suppose this could be interpreted as a glass half-full kind of outlook? Perhaps. I sometimes think I’m far too sarcastic for that.

So, now what?

It should be noted that our current living and working situations will inevitably change in the future. Neither one of us knows what may happen in the next few years. I do love teaching art. And would love to begin teaching workshops again. I’ve ruled nothing out and prefer to keep my options open.

My small art business isn’t where I want it to be. But I’m working every day to get it there. I’m building up a body of creative work, along with my dolls and Go Marielle. These things not only allow me to hone my creativity, but show people what I’m capable of. Even when there isn’t a guaranteed paycheck at the end of every two week pay period.

And now, back to work!

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday!

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Getting Used to Here Pt. 2

What brought me here today:

We’re a little past the three month mark for living in Wilmington. My husband and I feel as though we just moved here yesterday. While at the same time, we’ve lived here for a year or more. This could be due to the fact that we returned to the US, and not another country. The US is familiar, yet incredibly different from when we moved to Finland. We’re still feeling a bit out of sync I suppose.

There are some things that I’m enjoying quite a bit. I guess Wilmington is growing on me!

People:

I’m getting much better at greeting people that I meet on the street. And I’m enjoying the interaction, even if it is brief. I didn’t realise how Finnish I’d become when interacting with people in everyday settings. Sometimes there would be a short verbal exhange at a bus stop, like “Has the #12 bus come already?“. But that was it. No small talk or joking around or anything like that.

Since we walk and take the bus everywhere, we interact with lots of random strangers during the week. In Finland I would never say ‘Hei!‘ and smile at a person on a walking path. That would be considered weird, and a little creepy. More often than not, I would say “Huomenta!“, usually to an older person on a walking path. But nothing more. And I’d say something similar to the bus driver when I got on the bus.

Interactions:

This past Sunday, my husband and I walked to do some shopping. Along the way, we discovered the Italian water ice shop open. We’d wanted to try some, so we got in line. There were several people ahead of us. One gentleman and his wife were picking up some water ice and a couple slices of pizza to take home. He was itching to get home before the football game started. He chatted away with myself and my husband while we all waited for our orders, and had a lovely time!

The week before, we had what I can only describe as the most intensely interesting bus ride of my entire life time. Here are some highlights. The bus driver’s son is in the hospital after being shot; his legs still aren’t moving. A woman that the bus driver drove past at at stop, because she was smoking a cigarette, got on the bus and was not happy with him. He told her he was trying to protect his health. She sat down, and an older lady asked the smoking lady if she remembered her. She did! They started reminiscing about family. THEN the smoking lady got up and walked to the front of the bus to show the bus driver she had tiny bottles of alcohol.

THEN…the bus driver encountered a car that was blocking the regular bus route. There was no way he could get the bus down the street. So, he backed the bus up, did a three-point turn, and took the bus in a different direction. He ZOOMED down the street, hitting every green light too! Then he hooked back up to the regular bus route, bypassing the block with the car obstruction. The entire time, there was more drama going on within the bus too! A lady that got on the bus was talking loudly with the bus driver. I couldn’t make out what they were talking about, but it was intense! My husband was white-knuckling it beside me, looking a bit overwhelmed by it all. He pulled the cord two stops before our regular stop and we walked home.

It was the most exciting, drama-filled bus ride of my LIFE. It was a complete three-act play in less than 20 minutes! I was ready to ride the bus until there was some sort of conclusion too! While walking home, we discovered that there was something happening about three blocks from our bus stop. There were a lot of police cars at a specific spot for what seemed like an incredibly long time.

Exploring:

My husband and I get around via the public bus and train system, and by foot. Neither one of us likes having a car. I personally hate having to worry about where my ‘giant, metal baby’ is and who might be doing some kind of damage to it. My husband hates all the added expenses that a car brings. Gas, insurance, parking, and maintenance. YUCK! Taking the bus or train takes a bit more planning at times. But the lower stress and worry for me is a fantastic benefit.

We’ve been conducting a once a week exploratory walk. Usually on Saturday or Sunday. And we include packing a lunch to eat in a park along the way. Sometimes our walks get a little out of hand too. One Brandywine Park walk was far too long. We were having such a lovely time that we completely forgot about the time. And how far we had walked from home. Needless to say, we plan our exploration walks much more carefully now!

I’ve enjoyed getting to see different parts of the city while doing this. It makes me feel so much more at home here. And it allows me to construct the visual map of the city in my head. Then I know how far one place is from another. It’s also added to my knowledge of the bus system and the routes.

Parks and green spaces:

I was so worried that moving to a city would mean that I would have to get used to not having plants, trees, and general greenery around me. It was as if I somehow thought that I was moving to a city made of nothing but brick, stone, and concrete. Wilmington is not that at all!

There are so many trees here in the city! Even downtown there are small green spaces that are well maintained with huge, lovely trees in them. Wilmington really goes out of it’s way to preserve and take care of trees. There are three lovely parks within a short walk from our apartment. And they are full of large trees of all kinds of varieties. The large oaks are my favourite. There are also tons of sycamore, linden, maple, and even a few walnut trees!

There are not a lot of ponds and lakes. But we’re on the Del Marva penninsula, and already so close to the Atlantic Ocean that it doesn’t bother me too much. One of the parks we go to has an amazing man-made pond that is part of an initiative to grow native species of plants. There’s ample benches to sit on and enjoy the pond too.

SQUIRRLES!

There are so many squirrels here! Every on that I’ve seen has been what I take to be a standard American grey squirrel. They’re not terribly afraid of people either. Some will stop and check you out from a comfortable spot on a tree. We’ve had some squirrels come very close to us while having lunch in a park. They must just be so used to humans, and humans with food, that they can afford to let their defences down a bit!

Grocery delivery:

I detest grocery shopping. I’ve never enjoyed it. Part of me thinks it’s because I can sometimes make horrible choices based on my level of hunger at the time of shopping. My husband is the meal planner and cook. Trips to the grocery store with him are now more like just taking a long walk and carrying things.

Having groceries delivered for us means that our work day isn’t interrupted by a three hour errand. The one grocery store here in Wilmington within walking distance is still quite a walk for us. Add to that lack-luster produce offerings, and you can see why we have our groceries delivered from the Sprouts on the northern side of the city. We can get to this Sprouts by bus. The problem with that is that it takes a three hour erran and turns it into a five hour errand.

We shopped at Sprouts before we moved to Finland. So we’re familiar with the brands on offer there. Plus, the produce is a lot better. I should note though that even though the produce is better at Sprouts, it’s not as good as Lidl in Finland. But that’s another post for another time.

So, now what?

This blog posts only covers the bigger high-lights of things that I’m liking about Wilmington. There are other smaller things, like bodegas that make hot sandwiches. Or all of the amazing historical architecture just in our own small neighbourhood. OH! And Italian water ice! These topics will all be addressed in time. I’m sure.

Completely off the topic, I do have two new items listed in the shop today. Cassandra Tuesday and Annabelle Wednesday. These two little vampire girls are looking for a good home where they can help celebrate Halloween! There are stories behind their names. Cassandra is named for Cassandra Peterson. You may know her better as the character she plays, Elvira Mistress of the Dark. Annabelle is named for a character from the movie The House on Haunted Hill. This was the first horror film Cassandra ever saw. The Tuesday/Wednesday parts of their names is for the character of Wednesday Addams. Her original name was Tuesday-Wednesday. Calling them Little Vampire Girls is for the Jonathan Richman song.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday!