BAM!!!

I just found out I’ve been juried  into the Bellevue Arts Museum (BAM) ArtsFair! It’s the first time I’ve applied to a show for about 8 years. Jackie was also accepted into BAM; she has been in one or two art fairs a year since about 2000, so we pretty much know the ropes, but we’ve neither one done the BAM show before. It is a biggie, 320,000 attendees last year

I applied on a whim, literally after the deadline. I was helping Jackie with her online application and photos, and we made the deadline for her, but then they extended the deadline over the weekend, so just for fun I uploaded some photos and clicked the “apply” box, not expecting anything to come of it. Surprise! (953 artists applied, 325 were accepted.)

The five pieces that got me juried into the Bellevue Arts Museum ArtsFair

Fair info: http://www.bellevuearts.org/fair/index.htm

Now I have to figure out what to sculpt, always the hardest part for me. And pronto!

Aristophanes—done for now

 

I’m done with the wet clay sculpting phase for Aristophanes.

I just finished placing all the hollowed out and re-assembled sections back on the armature temporarily to get all four legs/feet to agree on what’s level, and will leave everything uncovered to firm up for a day or so before moving them … ummm … somewhere! to dry for several weeks before firing them.

66,000 Generations of Reason | Step by Step

Attic Gallery says a collector is interested in my “66,000 Generations of Reason” and he’s curious how I made it. So I sent the above screen capture (from my Mac finder) to the proprietor today. It’s pretty low res, but gives a general idea of the steps involved. The gallery said they printed out some copies to have on hand for anyone else interested in my work.

The prospective buyer wasn’t sure how/where to display this large a piece … it would need about a 4′ x 4′ pedestal, admittedly quite a commitment of space. It would be easier if my sketchbook would give me wall pieces to make instead! But mine is not to question why …

Aristophanes progress

 

Steve Eichenberger | Sculptor

I hollowed out the top/final section of the torso tonight. It was pretty dry, which made for difficult and slow going with regular loop tools. I like to cruise kitchen stores for clay tools, and awhile back I bought a sturdy metal gizmo (shaped kind of like a grapefruit spoon) and broke the plastic handle off the shaft so it fits in a drill. Spinning at high speed, it removed the hard clay handily. 

 

Steve Eichenberger | Sculptor

I still need to hollow out and re-assemble the above pieces plus the two front legs (not shown) … then I think that’ll be it for hollowing. I’d like to finish the hollowing-out stage tomorrow. I have ideas for what I’d like to make next.

RACC Panel: Professional Presentation for Artists

Best Ways for Professional Artists to Approach Galleries & Museums

 

Notes from an RACC panel discussion I attended Feb. 6, 2010

 

Panelists:

– curator of a university gallery

– two curators/retail gallery managers of art/craft institutions

– three downtown Portland fine art gallery owners

 

Two of the six panelists prefer CD’s

 – photo label on CD helps

– have ALL your info on the CD, including resume, contact info, statements etc

– an accompanying printout (thumbnails of what is on CD) is helpful

Scope out the gallery before sending anything to see if it’s a fit with your work

Dropping off a packet in person is OK as long as you do NOT interrupt their day, especially if they are with a customer. Do not bring actual artwork with you on a first contact.

All panelists kept coming back to: IT’S THE WORK! The rest is relatively unimportant compared to the work itself, and GOOD PHOTOS of it. Art education/degree not all that important compared to the work. One panelist said they’ve seen promising artists derailed by going to art school. Even “pipe fitters” who decide to become professional artists have as good a chance as someone with an MFA if their work is compelling, and in fact their journey may add more interest.

How do gallerists find artists? 

– actively go out and look for them

– or, artists come to them

– BMAC (Buyers Market of American Craft)

– magazines

– art blogs

– showcards / postcards

– existing gallery artists telling them about artist friends they think would be a good fit

– online networking leading to studio visits

– looking in windows of artists’ studios

– art festivals/fairs/shows, anyplace art is on display—so seek to show your artwork wherever/whenever possible, you never know who might see it

Don’t go to a lot of expense producing a fat packet to send out to galleries, because either:

– they will know from a quick glance at three to five photos that they love your work and will follow up by looking at your website (there are so few openings that they must “love” your work to even consider you)

OR

– they’ll know from a quick glance at your photos that they don’t want your work so all the extra fluff will just be a waste of paper, time, postage and money (and will make the gallerist feel guilty). If the photos don’t move them, no amount of other information will make any difference.

Artist statement is very important, but keep it short. Same for bio/resume/CV—don’t “pad” your resume.

FaceBook, LinkedIn etc OK for show announcements and other news tidbits, but not as a substitute for a website.

Website is almost a requirement—well designed, simple, presents your work well, no bells & whistles, easy to navigate.

Do not sell via your website in a way that competes with your galleries. Prices should be at least as much (retail) as your galleries.

Panelists were split on the question of whether you should have pricing info on website. Said it’s OK to have some “sold” items if they are representative of current work.

They want to see a “body of work” as opposed to a few in this style, a few in that style … they assume the artist hasn’t “found his voice” if the work isn’t cohesive.

Think of your approach to a gallery from the gallery’s perspective. Put in writing why / how you think your work would fit in with what they’re trying to do.

OK to ask names/contact info for major collectors, in fact, it’s Oregon law that galleries give artists contact info for major purchases (although customers are not required to give contact info to gallery).

Don’t give art to a gallery that’s similar to work you’ve been selling out of your studio for less. Several such issues came up: basically just deal fairly, transparently, and with common sense. There needs to be trust both ways.

Studio visits:

– have a treat for the visitor so their blood sugar isn’t sagging (one panelist closed her eyes and mmmm’ed imagining blackberry cobbler, another EMPHATICALLY emphasized how important it is to have a treat for him…lol’s from audience)

– have more than three or four works for them to look at to make it worth their trip

– they use what they learn about your process and about you as an artist to help sell your work

– figure on about an hour to hour and a half, be prepared with specific things to talk about and show them

– all panelists seemed to really like doing studio visits

Having galleries in other parts of the country is a PLUS in many cases (as in ‘oh, yes, her work is also at so and so gallery in Chicago and New York’).

Be prepared for a LOT of rejections; MOSTLY rejections. It’s just math—hundreds of artists apply for every one accepted. There are MANY reasons for work not being accepted that don’t necessarily reflect poorly on your art (full stable of artists, not a fit with the gallery, too expensive, not expensive enough, looks too much like an existing artist’s work, too big, too small, etc etc). But do keep applying and applying and applying. Persistence pays, but badgering is counterproductive. All panel members felt “guilty” about not having time to get back to every artist, rejecting artists, perhaps discarding their materials (if no SASE) and so on. They don’t like “shotgun” marketing from artists because of this guilt syndrome and because it just takes up time they could give to considering more serious / targeted artists’ packets. Look on gallery’s website for exactly how they prefer to be approached. One panelist said his gallery has recently switched to an ALL electronic application process, to save expense for artists, to save paper, and to make it a bit less painful to deliver the 99.9% “no thank you”s. 

If you do get an appointment, be on time. One panelist wants your shirt to be pressed and don’t come with b.o. (he says, “I’ve had to step back from some folks.” ha)

Gallerists/curators are inundated with artists, and can’t respond to each and every one…often don’t have time to chat about your work or tell you why they don’t want it in the gallery. If they love the work, they will get back to you…although it may take a year, or even two or three. Some said they will sometimes offer suggestions of other galleries they think might be a fit for artists they reject. Their first priority is to market work of existing artists already represented by their gallery; to make a profit for the benefit of all concerned.

One panelist said flat out, if you want to make money from your art, get outside of Portland. Portland is really quite a small town. From Portland downtown galleries to Mother Goose Gallery to White Bird Gallery on the coast—80% of repeat buyers are the *same people* he claims. Said his retail store volume is down about 10% due to recession, majority of sales volume is from “under $50” items.

One of the non-profit curators said that due to return shipping costs, they are more likely to feature local/regional artists (in this down economy).

Bottom line: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE WORK!!!

© Steve Eichenberger, all rights reserved

“Aristophanes”

I’ve decided what to name the larger of the two hare sculptures I’m working on:

“Aristophanes”

Big name for a big sculpture.

He seems ‘aristocratic’ to me, which triggered the name. It is derived from the Greek words aristos, meaning ‘best,’ and phanes, meaning ‘appearing.’ (My choice has nothing to do with the 5th century B.C.E. Greek playwright of the same name.)

—————

Finished assembling bisqued Reprieve.

(Photos on Feb 2 post)

More hollowing out of Aristophanes, upper torso.

The “Long Story” of how “Reprieve” got his name

  

"Reprieve" bisque fired, assembly stage. Steve Eichenberger | Sculptor

 

“The Long Story”

Soon after Jackie and I met, we “accidentally” discovered that by combining our talents/skills/knowledge/aptitudes, we could make ceramic tile.

After much research, trial and error, humorous and spectacularly unsuccessful attempts at moldmaking, and then finally producing a collection of about a dozen designs (we now have over 300), we launched a handmade tile business in 1995. I worked full time at it until it was built up enough for Jackie to quit her outside sales job and join me making our fledgling line of hand-pressed, bas relief tile.

The business grew fast, we moved to an industrial space, had six kilns running on three-phase power, up to 11 part-time employees, and … found that we didn’t have time to make art anymore.

We thought a larger company could take our tiles to the “next level,” so in 2000 we approached a corporation we had done a lot of business with about the idea of teaching them how to make tile.

They said yes, so we licensed our designs to them (we owned the designs, they had exclusive rights to produce them), they made our tile line, and gave us a royalty on every tile.

That worked fine for the first few years, then gradually less fine for all concerned until

SUDDENLY AND UNEXPECTEDLY

I found out by a chance phone call that they were going to cease making tile five weeks from that day. Did I mention it was unexpected?!?

This was about a year and a half ago, right when I was on fire artistically … felt I was ready to make some moves … on the verge of putting myself out there in a bigger way.

But then we got the news about tiles, our beloved tiles, our future income forever till we’re wrinkly all over tiles.

On the one hand we were happy and relieved to get “our baby” back under our control once again, but it meant changing our lives entirely and abruptly.

So I immediately swallowed my artist self whole in an instant. He didn’t have time to utter a word, because I put him in head first and gulped. It was brutal, but that’s what I did.

I literally hacked up and threw away a major work in progress since time was of the essence if we were going to jump start a national handmade tile business from scratch in just five weeks!

We also needed space and lots of it. We looked briefly at industrial spaces, but decided it might be “safer” financially (prophetically, looking back) to shoehorn tile operations into our existing studio space.

So I gave up every square inch of my former sculpting space to tiles. We hired and trained people, hired electricians to max out our incoming electrical capacity, bought and wired kilns, made hundreds of tile molds, bought dozens of gallons of glazes and began the arduous process of glaze testing/matching, and on July 1 of 2008 we started producing orders for our dealers all over the country.

The first few months weren’t pretty, but our employees/artisans did a fantastic job of hanging in there and learning and improving to the point that now they have taken our tile line to a new level of quality and beauty beyond our expectations. They’ve raised the bar to the point that I can’t even press a “good enough” tile anymore, not for this crew!

Now, when an order comes in, I have confidence in our team to take it and run with it, and know they’ll do a great job.

It has been a huge undertaking maneuvering the business to this point of efficiency/competence, but the reward is that my day to day involvement has gradually become less necessary.

We had exceptionally good tile orders last August, and decided to re-invest the profits into more studio and storage space. So we had a local contractor build a brand new 14 x 20 studio for Jackie and a 12 x 16 first class storage barn on a slab. I was very involved in the construction, wiring, painting and so on for most of the fall … it was fun, actually!

And then, after everything and everybody else seemed to be pretty well taken care of and humming along relatively smoothly, I began re-organizing, discarding and efficientizing (hey, it’s my blog, I can make up words) to re-claim a 10 x 10  foot corner of my former studio space just for me, just for sculpting. When tiles returned to us out of the blue, I thought I might never have time and space to sculpt again … which has served to make me appreciate all the more deeply the opportunity to resume making large-scale ceramic sculpture once again.

Hence the name of the first piece I sculpted in my new space — “Reprieve” — of a hare that had been stoically sitting in the same position day in and day out, ears limp, eyes unfocused and gazing forward at nothing.

Then a rousing voice, stage right, hollers at him to come on over here and sculpt! He lifts his head a little, then begins to raise up, and slowly turns to see if it could be true, cocking an ear in the direction of … click: freeze frame: “Reprieve.”

Told you it was a long story.

 

 

"Reprieve" bisque fired, assembly stage. Steve Eichenberger | Sculptor