Open Thread- Inspiration

Inspire Someone by EBSQ Artist Tara Catalano
Inspire Someone by EBSQ Artist Tara Catalano

There’s no question 2008 has been a tough year for so many EBSQer’s.  Many of us (myself included!) are overdue for a creative jump start. What gets those synapses firing and itching to make something new?  

Looking forward to 2009, we’d love to know what (or whom) inspires you to keep creating art.

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Open Thread: Staying an artist without losing your soul…or your shirt.

Back in July, my editorial dealt with what then looked like general tough times, rather than the serious economic crisis that now faces us. It’s three months later and I know so many of you (and us as well, to be quite honest) are struggling to make ends meet.  And in times like these, it’s hard to stay true to being an artist, particularly when it feels like you’re putting more into it than you’re getting back.  Since the proposed bailout legislation failed to pass in Congress earlier today, my original post seemed particularly apt and worth dusting off. July’s editorial offered the following coping strategies:

  • Work smaller. This may be a no-brainer. But if you haven’t tried it yet, it’s worth doing. Smaller art often takes less time to create. Less materials go into it, generally. Smaller art is cheaper to ship. And you might be able to offer this work at a much lower price point. ATC’s (Artist Trading Cards) and OSWOA’s (original small works of art, a 4 x 6 format) are quite popular with both artists and buyers right now. This could be a great way for a new collector to jump in and get an original from you now, which could lead to a larger purchase in the future. 
  • Offer reproductions.  Even if you don’t have the leisure time to crank out new work the way you used to, you can still make a fair living selling quality reproductions of your work. Imagekind does fantastic museum-quality prints at reasonable prices. You can order your own to resell at your leisure or have customers order directly through their website. It’s a great way to keep your work out there in circulation, and again, a print purchase now could lead to the purchase of an original at a later date. 
  • Make your art into something useful.  Along the lines of making reproductions available, why not also make your work available as a t-shirt via Spreadshirt? Or as a mug through sites like cafe press and zazzle? And again, this is a way to keep your previous work earning you some extra income even if you’re not able to create new work right now. 
  • Try a less expensive media Now, we’re not talking about downgrading to canvas board and student-grade paint. But if you work in metal, perhaps you might want to try a less-expensive alloy and use it in a creative way so it doesn’t feel like a compromise. Or maybe move to a series of drawings on gessoed paper instead of your large oils on gallery-wrapped canvas. Or take up photography. Try working with found/recycled materials. Anything to keep you creating.
  • But we know our ideas are surely the tip of the iceburg. Are you creating differently because of the current economic situation? What are your coping methods for staying solvent AND staying an artist? I look forward to continuing this much-needed conversation via comments for this post.

    Open Thread: When artistic license isn’t

    Those of you who know me know that I’m not just an artist; I’m also a huge tech geek. And so it’s with great interest (and concern) that I’ve been watching the most recent internet kerfuffle at the convergence of my two areas of interest.  You may not be aware of the latest viral video that is the darling of the same tech community it parodies, “Look, It’s Another Bubble” by The Richter Scales. At the heart of this controversy is a photographer, Lane Hartwell,  who found out that yet another one of her photographs was used without her permission in this beloved video. Like many of you might have been in her place, she was pissed that her copyrighted work was used both without permission or attribution.

    Yes, it was a good video. I personally passed it around to a lot of like-minded friends before this whole thing blew up. And I can understand that people who enjoyed this video are mad at the photographer for not just giving her blessing after the fact and spoiling everyone’s fun. But now this woman is being called, among other things, “a whiny bitch” for protecting her copyright and being a spoil sport, and some claim she’s impeding on The Richter Scales rights to use the piece in question because the end result is a parody. People have made fun of  the quality of her work, and the quality of her character, saying she’s money grubbing and wants a piece of the viral pie, or is taking advantage of all of the publicity she’s receiving for having this video taken down all over the net while she works things out with the other party. It’s personally disheartening to see an artist villified by a community of which I am normally proud to be a part. 

    So let me put this to you: if this was your photograph being used in this video, how would you react? Would you be thrilled to have your work (sans attribution) appear in a video gone viral? Or would you, like Lane, be pissed that your rights were being infringed upon and try to do something about it? Was the usage of Lane’s photograph fair use, much as parts and pieces are used in a collage, for example?

    For further context:

    From the photographer in question:
    From the infringing party:
    A representative post from the tech community:

    We greatly welcome you thoughts on this issue. And if copyright issues are important to you, please pass this on!

    Food for Thought: State of the Biz

    This was originally posted in the EBSQ Glass Forum (now viewable by the public!) by resident glass artist Dawn Thompson and I felt it was extremely appropos for Labour Day. If you’d like to weigh in on this conversation you can post a comment  here or respond to Dawn directly in the EBSQ Glass Forum

    It’s tough out there folks! What strategies are you employing to compete?

    The glass business is certainly not unique in being hard hit by China, but it has definitely been particularly hard hit, along with other labor intensive fine craft. The stained glass lamp business in the US is virtually non-existent, with the exception of repairs. In the span of 5 years, nearly every lamp maker in this country has been put out of business. Cheap Home Depot lighting has taken a product that was once considered to be truly a luxury item and reduced it to trinket trash. Of course the product itself is not trash. It takes hours of painstaking skilled labor and is intrinsically beautiful. But perception is everything. Where once, the customer was willing to pay for that beauty, now they perceive it to be “cheap stuff” and can’t understand why a lamp made by an aritsan, taking many hours and hundreds of dollars in materials, should cost any more than the one at Wal-Mart.

    Panels are suffering the same plight. As are garden items, chimes, fused vessels, jewelry…..the list goes on. When I first saw Dianne’s garden stakes and Andrea’s wind chimes on eBay, I had never seen anything like them. And they were fetching good prices for their work. But in the last several years, I’ve seen similar, albeit inferior, products in the aisles at Hobby Lobby. It is a known fact that the Chinese manufacturers’ marketing teams scour the internet to see what labor intensive craft is popular and fetching good prices. Then they copy it and sell it to US marketers for pennies. Their turnaround time is staggering to me. How quickly we have to adapt!

    The smaller items suffer less, as time and materials make them more affordable to the consumer, and thankfully, some consumers are still willing to spend on artisan made craft.

    Add to that the massive influx of “hobbyist” competition in online sales; those who truly don’t care if they make a profit, or are even paid at all for their work, but are simply subsidizing their hobby material expenses, and the full time artisan is in a real bind.

    Are we being phased out? Is there a place for us any more?

    I believe there can be, but it calls for hard work and hard choices.

    One choice is commission work. I don’t know of any artist that would rather realize someone else’s vision rather than do whatever moves them, but for me, it is a necessity. To get good consistent commissions, you have to develop a whole different set of skills. Patience. Making the client feel special and involved. Educating the consumer. Easy for some, tough for others.

    Another tough choice; maximizing the efficiency of your operation. “Elite” materials v. affordable materials. Home studio v. outside studio. Difficult and unique products v. fast, easy and saleable products. More expensive marketing v. legwork and simply “getting your stuff out there”. This requires experimentation and is in constant flux.

    Above all, I’ve found that I have to be adaptable. The moment you’ve come up with a fast, inexpensive and unique item, someone will copy it and offer it for less. You have to constantly be changing and stretching.

    What are your thoughts? How are you adapting? What are your strategies to compete?

    Food for thought for the long weekend!


    languishing in our walled garden

    A Breath of Fresh Air by Poxodd

    A Breath of Fresh Air by Poxodd

    A long time ago, in an internet far far away, EBSQ used to be a 100% open community. Anyone could post on our forums. And often did. Much bitterness ensued. And we built a wall around our city to keep our residents feeling safe.  

    Six years have passed since our forums went, for the most part, private. We’ve weathered a lot of ups and downs.  I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to keep a community healthy since then.  Our community is harmonious, no question. Folks are generally happy, and quite comfortable. Real friendships have grown out of conversations started on our forums. But I also fear that walls are keeping as much out as they’re keeping in, and we’re becoming stagnant. I’ve been slowly trying to nudge folks toward opening a window or two in our wall, and letting a little fresh air in.  One existing section that I’d love to see go public is our media-specific forum. I think EBSQ as a community could really benefit  if the wider artistic community had reading / posting access. I have to say, I have been surprised at the resistence I’ve been getting. 

    Open Community  vs Walled Gardens

    Now, there have been some good arguments for why members don’t want to open this subdivision of our online neighbourhood to the general public.  One artist is learning a new technique in her media and has a lot of questions. She’s concerned that she’ll appear unprofessional to people who might have otherwise bought her work.  Others feel this section should remain strickly a perk for paid membership and that folks have to pay to play.  Some folks just want the privacy to say whatever without having to worry about whether the section is public or not. One artist came right out and said she doesn’t like change. Period. 

    Here’s my problem with the above arguments. I think our forums would become even more valuable if this small but important section was open to the public. It would allow us to tap into a pool of knowledge we don’t currently possess while also letting our members add their collective wisdom to the general search engines for anyone to find.  Regarding the previously mentioned artst who is learning a new skill–wouldn’t it be great if she actually had the courage to ask her questions publicly and someone who might not have been familiar with out community otherwise stumbled upon her questions and was able to give an answer that wasn’t available within our existing community? Or what about the non-member that was thinking about learning scratchboard art and found that we have in our community what I consider to be an expert in the field? Why can’t artists just talk shop? 

    Now, we’re not talking about throwing our doors wide open. We’re simply talking about metaphorically cracking a window and letting in some fresh air.  As it is, I feel our lack of diversity, our lack of openess is killing our community. Slowly perhaps, but killing us all the same. 

    And so we put it to you, who ARE our community. How do YOU feel about this issue? If you’re a paid member of our site, we strongly encourage you to come vote on the poll we created to debate this issue internally. And if you’re a registered user, but not a paid member of EBSQ, or even just an artist who’s been considering EBSQ membership, we’d love to hear from you as well via the comments section of this post. Do we keep the walls up? Or may we crack a window?