Friday, December 2, 2011

First Snow

What a beautiful morning!  The first snow of the winter in my part of Michigan fell last night.  We got about 6" which is not insignificant.  Trees are bending deeply due to a thick coat of very heavy wet snow, especially the evergreens which provide wider surfaces where more snow can accumulate.  Wet snowflakes bind together more than dry snow, so even the one inch diameter leafless deciduous tree branches are supporting up to 2" of snow.

Many aspects of the First Snow scenes are inspiring:  the contrast of very white snow against dark tree trunks and branches, the texture of tree bark highlighted by white snow skimming the raised surfaces, the bulbous surface of snow blanketing the wetlands thus changing the shape of the plants it covers, the tracks in the yard from deer and rabbits, the sparkle of ice crystals in the snow as sunlight is refracted through them, the silver-blue color of the unfrozen lake as it reflects sunlight and the silver-gray unfrozen lake when clouds block the sun….  So many things to tantalize the senses!  Even the smell of pristine, fresh air coming south from the arctic.

I want to weave a white winter sculpture.  White upon white, with silver and thin black lines.  Maybe with sky ice blue.
Contact me if you are interested in this piece and we can discuss the possibilities.

Friday, November 18, 2011

From Vacation to Sculpture

It is strange that the best ideas come when I am not pushing for one; when I am not concentrating on anything and not even thinking of anything at all - simply allowing my mind to wander.  Magically a thought, image, feeling, concept or idea just shows up floating in the foggy landscape of my mind.  This is the creative spirit part of what I do. 

To simply go with that first idea is not enough.  The original concept must be developed and matured.  This is the training and experience part of what I do.  I am sure many, many other artists work this way.  It is a major difference between true art and so-called "art" that is just a gimmick.

To continue from the last post in this blog, I was at the beach 'thinking' of literally nothing; just feeling the life of the moment.  I was in such a non-thinking state that I did not realize my hands were sculpting the wet sand.  To the left is what came to be.

The sand shape is nice but not special, in fact it is predictable.  The top part has 5 somewhat equal lobes.  Predictable.  The bottom part tapers to a predictable finish.  The whole thing is nice, but boring. 

Four years after the shape flowed out of my mind, I came across this photo and saw potential.  Not as it was, but as it could be.  I scribbled many different designs based on this shape in the sand, eventually morphing the shape into the finished piece shown below.

             "They Know the Language of the Waves on the Sea" 
                                   measures 6 ft. x 4 ft. x 2 ft.

As the weaving progressed over the next 3 months or so, I felt transported back to that fabulous vacation on that fabulous beach.  I felt I was floating on the soft undulating waves as I wove the undulating shape of the basket.  I felt the aqua sea around Bonaire as I pulled each piece of rattan out of the water it was soaking in.  I could again see the hot sun reflecting off the clear water, turning the sea into a glowing liquid universe.  And I felt the tiny sparkling splashes of the peaceful waves. 

I also thought about ancient south pacific sailers that somehow were able to travel between islands so far apart they could not see land.  According to archeologists, they were able to navigate by 'reading' the boat hull vibrations (caused by the waves) against their bodies,  This was before radar, sextants and even compasses.  Back when humans were more connected to the earth than we are today.

In the end, the piece included the waves, color, sparkling light, undulations, breaking wave splash, even a journey between islands.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Back to This Blog's Mission

ArtPrize 2011 is over.  I did not win a quarter of a million dollars, but I did receive many kudos, some wonderful, wonderful comments and it was fun!  Now it's time to get back to this blog's original mission which is to show how sensory input gets changed into art - at least how it does so in my work.

Several years ago I won an award at the Coconut Grove Arts Festival.  The prize was for 1st place in my media category - fiber.  There was a cash prize and a round trip ticket to Curacao, in the Netherlands Antilles, near Venezuela.  Pretty cool, right?  It sure was!  A friend of mine also won for his media which was wood, but had no intention of using his airline ticket.  So I bought his ticket for my husband and the two of us flew out of Miami the following winter.  We chose to spend a week on the island of Bonaire which is one of the Antilles.  The other two are Curacao and Aruba.

It was a long flight, 4-5 hours.  From Curacao we flew to Bonaire and took a shuttle to the resort.  I had to pay for the flights between Bonaire and Curacao and the week at the resort, of course.  What a trip!

Bonaire is a true desert island.  Very little grows there naturally, because it is almost 100% sand.  I don't know if it was an exaggeration, but we were told that all the plants were imported.

There is no fresh water source.  All the fresh water comes through a de-salination plant.  We were careful to not waste any.
 One of the many 4 ft. iguanas.  We were told not to touch them, because their skin carries salmonella.

Since we had not rented a car we stayed at the resort almost the entire week.   That was certainly not a problem!  Every day we hung out on the beach, read books in the shadow of rustic beach cabanas, swam in the crystal clear warm shallow water or kayaked out 1/4 mile to a docking raft and walked the rest of the way to the reef.

The restaurant served good food, but there was little fresh produce because, we were told, it is very expensive to import.  After a few days another couple that did have a rental car invited us to dinner in town with them where I pigged out on a very expensive, huge salad!

On another day we took the resort shuttle into town for a few hours of sightseeing and shopping where I accidentally found a craft fair!  It seems everywhere I go, some kind of art or craft show magically appears!  We learned this one sets up only on days when a cruise ship docks.

The best day trip took place near the end of our stay, when we hopped on a large catamaran to go snorkeling in the bay.  Talk about gorgeous!  Unfortunately, I did not have an underwater bag for my camera, but I'll never forget the beautiful reef!

One day I was hanging out on the beach and absent-mindedly started moving the sand around.  I was in the perfect place: relaxed, full of new sensory input from several luscious days in a completely different place, not thinking about anything and completely happy.  An hour  later, I realized my hands were creating a shape so I just went with it.  After another hour, the shape was finished and I took a photograph.

At the time I had no plans for the design.  Little did I know how important this shape would become ......
       (more about what happened will be in the next post)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Prepared, Fly Fishing, Server Crash

This happy lady is totally prepared to view ArtPrize.  She has her camera, sunglasses, water bottle and bag for artist cards all strapped to her clothing!  A real ArtPrize Fan!!

Out in the Grand River, 3 fly-fishers cast throughout the afternoon during ArtPrize.  The shot was taken from a window at the GR Public Museum.

The ArtPrize server apparently crashed last night, Tuesday.  I heard stories of it coming back online, then quitting again, but it was still out at 6:30 this morning.  Throughout the day - Wednesday, the last day of Round 1 voting - the system was completely out of commission, for any voting, for info through the website and even registration of more voters!  It was a trying day, and frustrated the artists as well as the voting public.

We got word this evening that all would be back online at 8 pm Wednesday, but as of 10:00 pm it still was not up.  A message on the ArtPrize home page states that the Round 1 voting period has been extended through 4 pm Thursday, but first it has to go live.  Artists are worried about losing all those votes and the public is frustrated they cannot vote yet.  Some are not even registered.   ..... sigh

Sure hope they get it together soon!

A few viewers have written comments on my ArtPrize piece.  Click here to see them. (scroll almost to bottom of page)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"Rusty, A sense of direction/ self portrait of the artist", by Ritch Branstrom plays outside the Public Museum.

The Holiday Inn in Grand Rapids have bicycles to loan during ArtPrize, for their guests at no charge.  Such an easy way to see all of ArtPrize!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Artist Jennifer Cronin is showing a wonderful painting in the Grand Rapids Public Museum during ArtPrize 2011 titled:  "Untitled no. 1 (from the peculiar manifestation of paint in my everyday life)

The painting perfectly shows the anxiety encompassing artists as we toil with vague concepts and ideas rolling around our minds and souls;  it shows our restlessness as we struggle to get the idea out of ourselves and into physical form so that it can be shared with others.

This is what Jennifer wrote about this painting:

See more about Jennifer Cronin here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A fun exhibit at ArtPrize:

Do you remember the children's toy called "Barrel of Monkeys"?

How about giant size steel monkeys ......

                                         ......... hanging from the "Blue Bridge"

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

This pic was shot at tonight's Opening Reception at the Grand Rapids Public Museum for artists hosted there during ArtPrize.  My good friends Allan Teger and Barbara Krupp stopped by and Allan took this nice shot of me with the piece I have on display.  Allan's wife Barbara is also showing during ArtPrize.  Her great work is at the JW Marriott.

A big crowd of Museum members and artist's guests were the first to see the ArtPrize work hosted at the Public Museum.  I handed out lots of cards!

Now for some sleep to prepare for tomorrow's crowds!

Monday, September 19, 2011

ArtPrize 2011

Have you heard of "ArtPrize"?  It is an international art competition and exhibit held throughout the entire city of Grand Rapids, Michigan with HUGE prize money.  I will be participating in the event this year which takes place September 21 - October 9.

The Rick DeVos of Grand Rapids created ArtPrize 3 years ago as an attempt to hold a novel event meant to show that "Art is Important!" and show thousands of people what a great city Grand Rapids has become.  The first year they were overwhelmed with success!  From the "history" page of

"Neither the organizers nor the city were prepared for the massive public response.

By the first Sunday, restaurants had run out of food. By the next Sunday, hotels had run out of rooms. On the final day of the event, a line to see the winning piece stretched down the street for over two blocks. Ultimately, the venue with the winning piece would host over 80,000 visitors, while the number of total event visitors topped 200,000. Total votes cast during the event: 334,219."

The second year was bigger and this, the 3rd year, will be bigger still with 1,582 artists, each showing one piece.

After applying, I planned on contacting 2 specific registered venues to see if one of them would allow me to show a piece at their location.  But before the date when artists were allowed to start contacting venues, one of the two places I desired contacted me.  Of course I accepted!

I will be showing "They Know the Language of the Waves of the Sea" at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, at the top of the stairs;  a great place within a great venue.

Here is a photo of the piece just after I hung it last week.  The museum lighting had not been aimed yet, but this pic shows the scale of the piece.

Prizes you ask?  First place is $250,000!  Even 10th place is no small amount - it is $7,000.

The general public will vote on the winners.  Visitors can only register to vote in the city, during the event.  After registering, voters can vote for as many pieces as they want the first week.  After that, the top 10 winners will be announced.  Voters can then vote once, for their favorite of the top 10.  Voting is done online or by text.  Last year, kept a running tally of the top 100 vote getters throughout the first week and I assume that will be the case this year as well.

If you are in Grand Rapids for ArtPrize, first go to this page on my website for hints on planning your trip.

Have fun and vote for me!

Other links:

Grand Rapids Public Museum

Monday, August 22, 2011


Have you ever wondered what the life of a traveling artist like me was like?  You can read about my experiences in this blog.  Up until his death in 2006, artist Dale Walters wrote an entry in his travel blog nearly every night.  His website is still online here.

I will not be able to post as often as Dale did and I am certainly not a poet, but if you are interested in this story of my travels and how I turn what I see and experience into art, you are welcome to bookmark this blog address.

About the world of Art and Craft Shows

There are thousands of artists in the United States that participate in art and craft shows, fairs and festivals.  Some 'do' 30 or even 40 shows per year, most average 7 - 20 and some "do" only 1 or 2.  I exhibit in 10 - 12 art and fine-craft shows per year.  Most artists that participate in shows also have other markets for their work such as:  gallery representation, corporate art consultants, museums, the artist's own gallery - usually at their studio, sales directly through their own or group websites, wholesale sales to retail stores, auction websites and international sales.  Art shows are not their only exhibition venues.  Most artists also participate in solo or group exhibits at Art Centers, Museums and other places where the exhibition lasts for a month or more without the artist's constant presence required.  We are a very diverse group in not only our art but also in the way we sell our art.

There are different 'levels' of art shows too.  That is, sophistication of the art and fine-craft on exhibit, from the "highest level" museum affiliated shows such as Lakefront in Milwaukee and Smithsonian in Washington D.C., the "next level" shows such as the St. Louis Art Fair, the Brookside Art Annual in Kansas City and the LaQuinta Art Festival in California, "3rd level" shows such as the Peoria Fine Art Fair in Illinois and the Oklahoma City Art Fair, to "4th and 5th level" shows and even "Loving Hands" events such as church and school bazaars.  There is room for all types of show and an audience for each.  The SOFA and Art Basel shows are different in that galleries rent the spaces at these events rather than individual artists.  The galleries choose which of the artists each of them represent to 'show' at their event.

There are different levels of 'purity' (for lack of another term) artists choose for their businesses.  Some do all the work them self, even collecting all of their materials from the woods, prairie, desert or jungle and a few even grind their own pigments to make their own oil paints.  Others do all of the art work and hire someone else to frame their paintings or drawings.  Still others create original pieces and hire companies to mass produce pictures of their paintings (giclees), numerous copies of photographs (the originals are either bytes in digital format or negatives in film format) or casts of their original 3D pieces (pottery and bronze or other metals).  There is room for all types of work, all methods of creation, as long as the artist is honest and up front about their production choices.  Most shows, certainly those in the more sophisticated levels, have certain requirements with regard to production of the work sold at their particular show.  I suggest you ask requirements of the shows you attend, and double check with the artist to be sure you are getting what you pay for.  In my own work, I purchase coils of rattan but my husband and I collect & process the palm.  I do all the creating, designing, weaving, backing, painting and finishing myself. 

So that is the world of "art shows" in a nutshell.  Admittedly, it is a generalization and not everyone will agree with me, especially with regard to which shows belong in which level, but this should give you the general idea.

I have participated in about 250 shows since 1985. 
I produce the website
I served on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Independent Artists for six years, as Board Chair for 3 years and Acting Executive Director for 2 years.  I retired from the Board in December 2009 but remain a supporting member.

For the first 20 years of my career I traveled around the country mostly alone except for the long trips to Florida and California.  My husband, Barry, joined me on those trips so he wouldn't miss the fun!  After retiring from the auto industry 7 years ago, he now travels to each show with me.  It sure is nice to have some help at set-up, load-out, erecting the tent and carrying all the display panels and large artwork! 

Now that my husband is traveling with me, we are able to take longer trips.  I can do some weaving on the road, especially while we are in Florida with his mother or California with my family.  We see loads of interesting sites along the way which I will be posting about in this blog.

I just finished reading "A Sunburned Country" by Bryson.  It is a travel book on Australia sort of, but a good story as well. He reports on unusual places and social aspects of the white Australian people, though it lacks a world of info on the Australian Aboriginal peoples.  Maybe his next book will be exclusively on that population.  Anyway, unusual sites and the true culture of a country are more interesting than the usual tours as he wrote in this book, and exactly what I intend to post about here.

Do you have any questions?  I will answer questions on this blog.  Send an email here.