Sunday, October 14, 2018

Form and New Work: Where Is My Home When My Home Turns Against Me?

The creative process can be frustrating, mysterious, and joyful. Part of the process for me is answering the questions, "What do I want to say?" and "What do I want to make?" Once those are decided, the larger work begins. This past year I've been making work specifically to submit for consideration to themed shows, so at least I've had a starting point: a subject. But from what angle? And which form will it take? What stirs me up so much I have to express it? So many questions must be investigated.

The theme was "Forced to Flee," in the most general sense, a look at immigration. I began with some solar prints of a photograph I had taken of people walking and standing around: the feet. I had other photos of things left at the curb, lamps and books, so I made prints from those as well. My goal was to make a kind of checkerboard with positive and negative images and in two different colors and to make all the corners line up, a technical challenge as well.  I did that, for the most part, and then was stuck; the little patchwork was pretty small. Luckily, I started this project months in advance. All the printed cloth went into a bag, and I put it away. For the moment. To incubate.

I re-read the call for entries. I thought maybe I would do a map of the world, stitched lines connecting and crossing, but the idea sat limp with me. Then our world changed again when it became clear that immigrant children were being separated from their parents at the U.S. borders. Immigration policies and realities were even more in the forefront. And that seemed so important, but also so fraught.

Eventually, I found it was the form that wasn't working. I wanted to put a face on the individual, what it feels like, and how it connects to those who are physically safe in their own houses, or to those not safe in homes for psychological or emotional reasons. And then there were the fires in northern California. So much displacement for so many different reasons. A garment seemed a better fit. A jacket or coat. With pockets. Imagining running out the door and stuffing things inside. A garment to cover a person, to house a person, to serve as a shelter, perhaps. And as a metaphor.

In the 1990s, I had made a couple of Japanese-style hanten jackets from a book I no longer own, Make Your Own Japanese Clothes: Patterns and Ideas for Modern Wear. I still had the jacket I made for myself, so I pulled it out and studied it.

photo by V

It was tricky to copy. But I remembered that it used cloth efficiently, in rectangles, even the special triangular-looking sleeves, so I decided to go ahead with it. I thought about scraps and things left behind, collected and discarded, and I printed wood type on the cloth I had eco-dyed (a post about the method here) and used those pieces. I also created some new scrap collages with my scrap colors (a post about the technique here).

It needed some stitching. My slow brain couldn't remember a word and looked it up as I visualized it: "marking time with lines of bundled sticks." Tally marks! Of course. How we count, how we began to count long ago when fingers and toes weren't enough. Groups of fives. I stitched those with the eco-dyed linen thread on the lighter side of the front panel, then added the natural color for variation. I like the look of marks and irregular lines to show the hand, that a person was here.

And in a graphite gray on the darker side of the front panel. 

A long, slow hand-sew on the collar.

In this case, the form was all important to firing up the creative process. It just didn't want to be a rectangle.

The back panels are printed: "Other / Mother / Brother / Another." I also wanted it to embody human dignity. Inside, there are pockets, and the inner bottom panels say: "I ask / I do not beg."

Any of us could be in this position, as Other, as traveler against our will, a stranger. And even if we weren't, then perhaps we could step into another's clothes and understand what it means to ask,
"Where Is My Home When My Home Turns Against Me?"
That's what stirs me up.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

A Year of Fees: Are Art Entry Fees Worth It?

I've always been against entry fees on principle and for most of the thirty-plus years I've been a practicing artist and writer, I have stayed away from shows and submissions that have fees. I wrote about fees before in this 2014 post and came to this understanding in this 2017 post. This year I tried an experiment; I entered every show that sounded interesting whether it had a fee or not. Today marks one year since I began the quest. Here is the analysis.

Was I successful? I have to ask myself what success means to me. I need to be honest about this evaluation because it turns out (if I got the math right) I spent $624.00 on fees and memberships. Looking back:
  • What did I hope to achieve from these unrestricted submissions?
  • Did I achieve my goals?
  • Will I continue in this mode?
Each question branches into more question-twigs. Good questions, I think, for any artist to contemplate; the answers propel the next steps. In fiction, the question is: what does the character want? Here: what did I want to achieve?
  1. To get work out of my studio and make way to create more.
  2. To show new work.
  3. To sell work.
  4. To gain opportunities I wouldn't have if I didn't pay an entry fee.
  5. To see where my new work fit in a new environment/community.
How did the story go? Did I achieve my goals? 

1. To get work out of my studio and make way to create more.
The quilts piled up. The only thing that didn't take up physical space was my writing, which I did not pay to submit, and I did get several things published this year (see this list). So, the answer here is: not really.

1a. Did I create more? which leads to: Did I learn anything new?
Because I created new work for each themed show, particularly for the SAQA shows, I stretched and learned new techniques and processes. Answer: I created a ton of work and learned a ton.

2. To show new work.
I got to show my favorite Osprey quilt, "Sweet Osprey Dreams" to the Osprey Live Chat peeps who live in the area. So that was a plus. There was no fee since I was a member of California Society of Printmakers (or you could call it the membership fee: 50.00). 

I was also excited to have my "Hand Gun" quilt accepted by SAQA for the Guns: Loaded Conversations exhibit debuting at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles and traveling to the New England Quilt Museum. Those felt the most important to me. So the answer here is: satisfactory. But if you look at how many submissions and fees I paid to SAQA, the answer is less clear; I paid 239.00 to SAQA for fees and membership, total.

3. To sell work.
I sold nothing through the exhibitions. (In comparison, I did okay on Etsy.) I only sold work at Roadworks, where I got a booth in exchange for carving the linoleum for the big three-foot print, and that was the best experience I had all year, both monetarily and emotionally. But for the purposes of this experiment, the answer is: no.

4. To gain opportunities I wouldn't have if I didn't pay an entry fee.
Again, SAQA wins for me with the gun quilt. I also was accepted into a SAQA regional show where I got to show my felted books (scroll down when you go to the link) as 3D quilts. I also started learning about other annual shows that do not require any fees. The answer here: yes, but proportionally small in comparison to what I paid overall.

5. To see where my new work fit in a new environment/community.
I learned that my felted books gain a better reception within the fiber arts community. I learned that my quilts, unlike most quilts I've seen, are not heavily based on craft, but more on art, concepts, text, and materials (no surprise). I guess this is why I still think of them as books. I found that printmaking on fabric and sewn into quilts might show better in a printmaking environment. Answer: gained good knowledge.

Will I continue in this mode?

I've re-upped my memberships with SAQA and California Society of Printmakers. I'll give SAQA another year, partly because I'm working on a project I hope to have ready to submit by the end of the month, and I'm excited about it. I'll probably stick with CSP and just submit to the free shows, of which there were many opportunities this year. And I had a lucky break with the gun quilt, which was worth the SAQA admission and membership. 

The results are mixed and complex. Juried shows are subjective, as I know when I wear my editor hat. I bought a few tickets but didn't exactly win the art lottery. But I did learn a tremendous amount about sewing and the craft of quiltmaking, so if I were to categorize the fees as Education, it was absolutely worth it. The other aspects are debatable. This is anecdotal, so it's hard to know if this is typical or not. It's one artist's data point. 

Conclusion: It doesn't seem sustainable over time, but I'm glad I was able to try it, once. I think it was the right time on my art path to do it.

Related: I entered a proposal and won the 2018 Anolic Family Jewish Book Award. That was free to enter and is a generous grant for a 2018-2019 project. 


10.3.17. 1 quilt submitted and accepted for exhibit. SAQA membership. 40.00.
10.17.17. image submitted and declined for journal. SAQA membership. 0.
11.16.17. 3 quilts submitted and declined for exhibit. no membership. 35.00
1.5.18. 3 quilts submitted and declined for exhibit. SAQA membership required. 40.00
1.7.18. 3 felted books submitted and 2 accepted for exhibit. SAQA membership. 9.00
1.25.18. 10 quilts + books submitted and declined for exhibit. CSP membership. 35.00
2.13.18. 2 quilts submitted and declined for exhibit. SAQA membership. 40.00
2.27.18. 1 book submitted and accepted for exhibit. no membership. 40.00 (upon acceptance)
3.13.18. 1 image submitted and declined for journal. SAQA membership. 0.
4.5.18. 2 books submitted and declined for exhibit. RAC membership-discount. 35.00
5.18.18. 1 quilt submitted and accepted for exhibit. CSP membership. 0.
5.27.18. 2 quilts submitted and declined for exhibit. SAQA membership. 40.00
5.25.18. 1 quilt submitted and accepted for exhibit. RAC membership. 0.
6.11.18. 1 quilt submitted and declined for exhibit. CSP membership. 15.00
7.1.18. 3 quilts + 1 felted work declined for exhibit. RAC membership-discount. 45.00
7.17.18. 1 print submitted and accepted for exhibit. CSP membership. 0.
[9.24.18. 5 quilts submitted. JURIED, pending. CSP membership. 0.]
[SAQA Journal, Volume 28, No. 3: photo of my accepted quilt from 10.3.17 appeared.]

Total Entry Fees Paid: 374.00
Number of Entries (not counting those in brackets): 16
Number of Artworks Entered: 41
Number of Accepted Artworks: 7
Total Acceptances: 6
With Entry Fee Acceptances: 2
Pay after Acceptance: 1
Member Acceptances: 3

I joined the following organizations that are related to this tally:
Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) 70.00
Richmond Art Center (RAC) 80.00
Berkeley Art Center (BAC) 50.00 [this members' show is upcoming, I missed it last year]
and re-upped my juried membership to California Society of Printmakers (CSP) 50.00
Memberships: 250.00

Total to SAQA (including fees): 239.00 (7 entries, 2 acceptances)
Theoretically the acceptances cost 119.50 each BUT the venues are excellent: San Jose Quilt and Textiles Museum in 2018 and New England Quilt Museum in 2019.

Total to CSP (including fees): 100.00 (4 entries, 2 acceptances)
These acceptances were for members' shows with no fees. So, theoretically they cost 50.00 each. Bridge ArtSpace in Richmond, CA; Piedmont Art Center in Piedmont, CA. I had entered another but declined to pay for shipping it back so withdrew it.

Total to RAC (including fees): 160.00 (3 entries, 1 acceptance)
Members' show. Theoretically, this members' show cost me 160.00

Total to BAC: 50.00 (remains to be seen)

Other fees (non-member, random): 75.00

Total 2017-2018 Costs: 624.00