Thursday, March 24, 2011

More Ramblings on Why we Create

I've been writing about how we can create better art, but more importantly I think I have to write about why we would create a craft or art. Through the years art has been primarily an expression of religious beliefs. There was a period in European history that even a noble-person's self portrait had to be incorporated in a religious painting. It's only been in the past few hundred years that Art has been used for self expression. We are very lucky to be living in this age.

As many of you know, I've lost my most lucrative selling venue recently. I was crushed at first, but it allowed me to look at you all and myself from a different perspective. I realized that what I was doing was spending a lot of my time promoting the venue I was selling on and not spending time, honing my craft, creating, or exploring the world outside of the venue.

I see what that venue has done to me and others. It has taken nice people and made rivals of them. It has created petty infighting, jealous rages, animosity and more importantly social (or anti-social) cliques. If you step back from what you are doing, you can see that it is the venue and your fight for exposure that has led to an unreasonable amount of stress in your life.

I, for one, am taking it easy. I plan to make money, not from my art, but other sources. I will go back to painting for creative release and maybe one day list them on Big Cartel.

Many of you are successful selling on Etsy, but if you aren't making minimum wage, after you factor in your time on your craft, photography, editing, listing, shipping, promotion, and constantly running to the Front Page or craftcult to see if you've made it. Is it really worth the stress?

I guess more than anything I would suggest that you look at your fellow artists as resources, not enemies. Relax and enjoy your craft and worry about the sales lastly. Do your craft because you love it, not because you can make money from it. You will be happier and your blood pressure and stomach pain will both reduce a bit. Say to yourself, today, I'm going to do something really different. Today I'm going to say a kind thing to someone who made me angry. I have, and it feels good.

If you choose to continue to sell on line, you do have to promote, you do have to try to get on the FP, but don't make your life revolve around it. There is a bigger world out there to live in. Success is not always counted, by the money in your bank account.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Art of Art - Lesson Three - A Passion for Life

I met Bernard Pfriem while attending Lacoste school of the Arts in France, while the man was still alive. He was remarkable. I knew him near the end of his life, but he had such an amazing passion for life.

Bernard started Lacoste School of the Arts in Lacoste, France. I understand that he purchased the Boulengerie (bakery) in 1958, where my very good friend Hank stayed while we were there, for the cost of one refrigerator. The School itself was a collection of buildings and an old limestone quarry.

Bernard was just 80, and had recently suffered several severe strokes. He had a soft spot in his head where a piece of skull was removed, and he spoked in a muffled tone from his half paralyzed mouth. He dragged his one foot a bit and had an awkward gait, but when we went on field trips to Aix or Arle, Bernard was always ahead of us somehow. He went on every field trip and moved faster than the youngest of students.

He was engrossed in life and engrossing to listen too. There were weekly lectures in his courtyard and some of the students stayed and talked with him till all hours of the night.
Bernard had lived a wonderfully full and active life and continued to do his art and oversee many aspects of his school until he passed away in 1996.

I will never forget trying to keep up with him as he breezed his way up the steep mountainside to our rooms in Lacoste. His passion for life, people and Art, brought him through even the most adverse conditions, and he lived his life with complete passion and joy.

Bernard's good friends were people like Henry Miller, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Gustaf Sobin as well as his many students

Bernard's passion for life has inspired me to think that there are no limits to what you can achieve in life. Age or disability can't stop the forward motion of an unstoppable force. There is something about the spark in certain people, the joy they see in every day life. There is something about joy, and a passion for art and living, that seems to make one as close to immortal as any human can get.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Handmade Disaster - Etsy Exposes Buyer Information

OK, I must admit. I have a grudge. Etsy closed my Daughter's shop for nothing more that being flagged a few times, without good reason. Then they shut down my shop because it had a link to hers. She persisted and opened new shops to sell on (we checked, nothing on the TOS about opening a new shop). Etsy kept shutting her down and eventually I got behind on bills helping her with the cost of living and they shut down all of my shops. 

I guess they didn't like what we were saying about them Friday when I found out that they were exposing buyers and their buying history to the world without their express permission, so they shut down my very innocent buyer account, and blocked my IP address. I must be a big threat to them. 

Anyhow, they are claiming that there is one little blog with irrational claims about what they did (post and email  to members) Their public (was that an apology?) You can't comment on this, but you can on the Thread. If you are a member and want everyone in the world to know what you think.

Here is a summary posted on the thread of the "few" blog articles about the abomination that is Etsy's privacy policy.

Consumerist -

Ars Technica -

BoingBoing -


Forbes -

Digital Trends -

Help Net Security -

NY Magazine -

NY Convergence -

Auctionbytes -

The Business Insider -

Gizmodo -

Village Voice -

The Mary Sue (awesome new geek chick blog, if you haven't seen it yet) -

Buzzfeed - - -

Yahoo - -

NowPublic -

Washington Post -

Geek Sugar -

Ten Second Widgets

I've been looking at tutorials on how to make widgets and I think My brain is about to burst. I thought I'd give you a tip on a SUPER EASY way to make a widget to link anywhere you want. You can add these to your blog, your website or your Artfire account. Any place that allows you to add a widget.

First you must join an image hosting site like or Search your own, but I trust photobucket. This site hosts images for you and give you HTML codes for them. Make sure the site is reliable, because if they are down, so is your widget.

Now pick an image for your widget. It should be fairly small. You can play with the size but most are around 120 to 200 pixels wide, but you might want a super big one, and you can. When I'm finished designing my images, I always use the save for web feature as this will give the best results. Also jpeg format is the most universally recognized, so I get in the habit of saving in jpeg.

Go to your host and upload your image. After you Upload you should see several different options for your image. You want to use the HTML code. It's easiest to work on this in a word processing program, but I work directly on the site I want to add the widget too. Take your code and past it where you want to work on your widget. You will see two URLs The first should be linking back to the host site and the second is linking back to your image. Just replace the host URL (should say href=) with the one you want to link your image to. Make sure you have your URL between the quote marks. Voila! Widget created.

You can test your widget here It's a great place to see if you got your HTML right.


I love that word. So very descriptive of the walks my mind can take. I've done a lot of things in my life, seen a lot. There is a mind packed with experiences that can take me around the world.

I was thinking about this stalker I had on Twitter, who did something to interfere in my life. Thought they could force me to make a decision, and I didn't meander the direction they wanted me to. It reminded me of a stalker I had briefly in High School. A 20 year old student had an instant crush on me. He was attractive, but the getting into trouble, failing, way to old, scary kind of kid you want to keep away from. He asked me for my phone number and I actually gave it to him. He really scared me.

That night he called me, talked to me about what he liked to do and random things. We talked for hours. Mind you, I really just ran into him in the halls, and basically met him that day. We had a very large high school. He ended the conversation with "I'll see you tomorrow, I have a surprise for you"

I didn't sleep all night. I couldn't go to school. I had a bad feeling about it, a sense that it wouldn't be good. I'm sure I looked like hell so my mom let me stay home that day.

I never saw him again. When I got to school the following day I heard that he was expelled for bringing a gun to school. He pulled it out and played Russian Roulette with one of my classmates. Fortunately no one was hurt. Fortunately that sixth sense or maybe my guardian angel told me to stay away, because I'm sure the gun was meant for me.

Our lives are meandering streams that takes us here and there, sometimes dropping us off at the most beautiful places, the hardest places and sometimes whisking us to the oddest places we can imagine. I'm hoping I meander a little bit more. There are still things I want out of life. I hope my mind meanders to the place I need to find a way to get there.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Small Circle of Friends

I've always loved Small Circle of Friends by Phil Ochs. Sometimes it just plays joyfully in 
my mind. Now with all the circling at Etsy it seems even more relevant. 
Here are the lyrics and YouTube Video. I hope you get it.
Look outside the window, there's a woman being grabbed
They've dragged her to the bushes and now she's being stabbed
Maybe we should call the cops and try to stop the pain
But Monopoly is so much fun, I'd hate to blow the game
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends.

Riding down the highway, yes, my back is getting stiff
Thirteen cars are piled up, they're hanging on a cliff.
Maybe we should pull them back with our towing chain
But we gotta move and we might get sued and it looks like it's gonna rain
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends.

Sweating in the ghetto with the (colored/Panthers) and the poor
The rats have joined the babies who are sleeping on the floor
Now wouldn't it be a riot if they really blew their tops?
But they got too much already and besides we got the cops
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends.

Oh there's a dirty paper using sex to make a sale
The Supreme Court was so upset, they sent him off to jail.
Maybe we should help the fiend and take away his fine. (*)
But we're busy reading Playboy and the Sunday New York Times
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends

Smoking marihuana is more fun than drinking beer,
But a friend of ours was captured and they gave him thirty years
Maybe we should raise our voices, ask somebody why
But demonstrations are a drag, besides we're much too high
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends

Oh look outside the window, there's a woman being grabbed
They've dragged her to the bushes and now she's being stabbed
Maybe we should call the cops and try to stop the pain
But Monopoly is so much fun, I'd hate to blow the game
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Art of Art - Lesson Two - American Da Vinci

I was going to write about Bernard Pfriem and Viktor Schreckengost this post, but I decided they deserve their own individual posts. I'm going to start with my good friend, the late Viktor Schreckengost

When I was little I loved to go to the Cleveland Zoo. Monkey Island and the Elephant house were my favorite places there. Mostly I loved the stylized Elephant sculptures that identified the elephant house. Here is a picture of the artist at work. Little did I know that many years later, I would have the opportunity to work with and learn from this amazing American Da Vinci.

You've probably never heard the name, but I am positive that you have seen or touched something designed by this man. Viktor was a product designer, an artist and a thinker. He created the Jazz Bowl on commission for Eleanor Roosevelt, he redesigned children's pedal cars for Murray, and even helped improve radar design for the Navy during the Battle of the Bulge. He was also an accomplished  jazz saxophonist.

I won't go into detail about the artist, his work and his life, you can read about him yourself. I will tell you about the person I had the pleasure of knowing. Viktor was my mentor.

Viktor was in his late 80's when He taught dinnerware and furniture design to my Industrial Design class at the Cleveland Institute of Art. The program was the first of it's kind in the US and Viktor was the man who started it.

Each day three other students and I would gather before class with the New York Times Crossword Puzzle and work together to complete it. We were all pretty bright, but there was always something that eluded us. Then Viktor would come by and fill in the blanks we missed.

He would tell us of his adventures, how he managed to get a tour of the Hindenburg but was so disappointed that he couldn't get a ticket for it's maiden flight. He talked about his good friend Cleveland safety director Eliot Ness. He could tell us about watching the architecture in Cleveland change in a way that made us feel as if we were watching it being built.

Viktor was kind and generous with his time, making sure he new every student and spending time with each and every one of us to make sure we had the best of his knowledge. He was also a passionate artist, continuing to create delightful paintings with his gnarled but experienced hands. Hands that he kindly let me use in a photo shoot for an ergonomic knife I designed.

In in 2006, at 100 years of age Viktor was awarded the National Medal of Arts. He passed away early 2008 at 101. His passion for art, design and encouraging others had given him the longest most rewarding life that any of us might aspire to.

Love what you do. Be passionate about your life and your work. Interact with others that share the same passion and share. And most importantly, live life to it's very fullest.

Please read more about Viktor Here - Washington Post Article 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Art of Art – Lesson One

There are Three critical elements that make Art good. It's what distinguishes the Street sign painter from the Da Vinci they are

One - Observation
Two – Technique
Three – Passion

Refining and working on these can only improve your life and your art. If you don't have these three things in your work, get a job as an accountant. If you're a little shy of them, have heart. You can grow. You're never too old or too rigid to grow.

Art is subjective, what's wonderful to one person, might be an abomination to another.

I had a design teacher in College that was so critical of what he considered commercial and or flawed design work. He hated thoughtless trendy art and even balked at the staples in the middle of a two page magazine spread (poor design). Then, one day while he was teaching, his heart stopped. I was in a nearby class and ran to see if I could help. He was conscious and kind of happy, waiting for the paramedics. At the time we didn't know what happened, He was barely 40.

I talked to him when he got back from the hospital. He had to wear a pacemaker, because it turned out had a rare condition that could cause his heart to stop at any time. He said when he woke up in the hospital the next day, he looked out the window and saw the sun shining through the trees and it was beautiful, and he turned around and saw his 80 year old roommate and his mylar smiley face balloons and they were beautiful too. He now had a different perspective of art. He walked through the fire and found beauty in even the flashiest, most commercial and ubiquitous thing. But it wasn't the balloon that was beautiful, it was the setting it was in. It was the old man, the hospital room, the mylar balloon with the sun shining through the window, and a renewed value of life, that was Art.

Observation: It is critically important that you observe the world around you very closely. Notice what makes people smile. Notice the colors at sunset that make you want to stand and stare a while. Don't just take in the colors, smell the flowers and the bacon cooking. Savor every bite of chocolate or that buttered popcorn.

Take 15 minutes out of your day to do something that is not routine. Skip a TV show to go to the Art museum, or walk in the park. Listen to the birds sing and stop and watch the sunrise. Da Vinci made sketches of animals and plants. He taught himself to write backwards and kept his notes that way. He constantly studied and challenged himself to all that he could know or do. We may never be Da Vincis, but how will we know if we don't try?

Next lesson Adventure and Passion: An observation on the artists Bernard Pfriem and Viktor Schreckengost.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Happy Birthday!

No it's not my birthday, but it is the birthday of a friend. Wishing her a happy birthday, and finding out she had to work, led me to remember one of my most interesting (and short) birthdays.

I was traveling to China with three male associates. They all knew that we were leaving the day before my birthday and that I was going to get cheated out of 12 hours. China was 12 hours ahead and we pass the international time zone sooo, I lose half my birthday.

We couldn't fly direct to China at that time, we had to come into Hong Kong and then take a bus, or in our case this trip, a car into China. We had planned to take a day of Vacation in Hong Kong, doing a little exploring.

None of my companions mentioned anything about my Birthday. We landed in Hong Kong and nothing. Kind of sad to loose half a day and not even one Happy Birthday. We all lined up at for Entry Document inspection. I was in a different line. Something about the agents there. They are so stern and ominous, even though my documentation was perfect, I was always afraid I'd get turned away and have to get the next plane home. Not a pleasant thought when you just flew for 15 or more hours.

My turn and up to the desk. Hand the dead serious agent my passport. He looks, I sweat, he puzzles at the passport, I shake and sweat some more. Then his stern grimace slowly turns up to a Huge beaming smile, and the agent that I didn't imagine even spoke English said "Happy Birthday". What a Pleasant surprise. I think one of the nicest Birthday wishes ever.

Oh, my companions finally wished me a Happy Birthday after I told them the story. And they took me out for drinks with the few hours I had left of my day.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Art of Art

You know the old saying those that can do, those that can't teach? Well apparently I am past my prime in doing and am ready to pass on my wisdom.

I suppose it's hard for me to create anew, when my over active mind is full of all the sights and treasures I've laid my old tired eyes on. I have a fairly eidetic (photographic) memory. Mostly for images, but occasionally I can see a page of text I have recently worked on. So when I remember my shock and awe at the size of the Mona Lisa, I'm still looking at her with the crowd of Japanese tourists posing in front of her. No Flash Please!

I can see the beautifully carved Buddha in the caves at Guilin, China and the lovely intricate metal and stonework and Tapestries from the Musee Cluny in Paris. I can even see myself working on the chalk ghost picture that I made in second grade, that I loved so much and still have.

Was there a point to all this? Oh yes. I have a lot that I can share and I've decided to do it here.

Lesson one of the Art of Art starts Thursday with the three most important elements of Art. The road to becoming a true Artist. I hope you'll tune in. I think it will be quite an adventure.
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