Monday, August 25, 2014


Portfolio Books

A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Smart phones and tablets have made it much easier for us fiber artists and art quilters to show people what it is that we create, rather than relying on imaginations that too quickly jump to underwater basket weaving and grandma's feed-sack quilts. I have photos of my work on my phone and am all too happy to pull up a picture when anyone shows any amount of curiosity. But my phone is small. So, I've taken to bringing along portfolio books whenever I think I might be in a situation where someone might want to see my work.

One of the best things about these books is that I can make one for each series of my work, or the different facets of my work. I don't have to worry about confusing my fabric collages with my bed quilts. I can choose to show one portfolio or the other, depending on the audience. My dad complained yesterday that he has to scroll through my blog to show his friends my work when they come to visit, so today I made a brag book that has all my recent work.

 Portfolio Books

There are many ways to create these books. I have a Mac computer and it's set so that all my photos download directly into iPhoto. So, I've found it very easy to choose one of iPhoto's project templates, plug in the photos, write descriptions, upload it all to Apple, and expect a shiny book to arrive at my door in about a week. Other online printers and photo services also have similar templates, or you can design your own solution from scratch. The books that I order from Apple are best in small quantities, but I really like the elegant template, quality printing and absolute ease of creation.

Last week I was in Oregon and attended a reception at a gallery where one of my Army Wife aprons  was part of a group show. I shared my Army Wife portfolio with the curator, and she asked if the gallery could keep the portfolio for the duration of the show. Of course! It will be a great ambassador for my series. I also showed two other portfolios at lunch during a quilt show in Portland as everyone sitting at our table was introducing themselves and describing what each of us does. Handy portfolios are now as much a part of my art business as my business cards are.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Art of Fine Craft

Liz here today. Anyone else wondering where the summer went? I wanted to sit in the sun this morning with my coffee and a good read so I picked up the June/July 2014 issue of American Craft. In it discovered a great article titled Hot Glue & Staples by Bruce Metcalf. He questions whether craftsmanship even matters to the contemporary art world. Mr Metcalf and I both agree that it should!

Mr. Metcalf gives us 4 standards to which we can look at art (our own or others) to help us determine which is art and which is not.

Al B thinking about the next step

The first is that good art demands careful thinking. Metcalf holds that clear, interesting ideas and a compelling concept are key to good art. Bad ideas abound and they result in bad art. "Good concepts require careful work. In other words, there is a craft to thinking, a way of thinking carefully, as opposed to being sloppy and stupid".

Second, 'The artist must know his field'. I see so many examples of failure in this arena in the mixed media world. Someone who knows her field is so often copied by those who don't know the materials, techniques and tools. They create something that on the surface is similar but doesn't have the soul of the first artist. Then they run out to teach it. This makes me crazy! The unwitting student doesn't get the real meat of the field and is left not knowing much more than how to copy. I won't get on my soapbox even though it is tempting...

The third standard is that 'the artist must be able to translate the idea into a visual experience'. Art is and always has been about communication. This is where the artist must continually circle back to the concept from the first standard and work through their knowledge of the second standard to determine how to express the essence of their idea. Does the form they envision communicate the idea clearly, uniquely, and in a compelling way?  I think this is often done intuitively as the artist goes through this dance back and forth through concept/idea and material constraints instinctively.

Fourth, 'the last component is exercising control over composition'. How do you arrange the elements of the idea, remove or add distractions to make something interesting without losing the concept or idea of the art? While the basic principals of design and composition may seem so old school, you can't make great art without understanding them.

 I agree with these 4 standards. I have never written down my process but it follows these 4 standards pretty closely. Generally I spend more time in the thinking stages because they guide the production stages. Of course the many years I spent learning my field and time spent studying in other fields to add in what is useful to me, help make the execution stage fairly straight forward and often relatively easy. Not that I don't struggle with parts and nothing ever gets birthed without going through an extended ugly stage!

What do you think of Mr Metcalf's 4 standards? Does it resonate or leave a sour taste in your mouth? Leave me a comment below.
You can read more about Bruce Metcalf and see his beautiful jewelry on his blog and website.