DIALOGUE: A Visual Conversation

DIALOGUE: A Visual Conversation

"Project DIALOGUE" has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my career. In a nutshell, it's the story of what happens when a group of professional artists and a group of artists living with mental health disorders come together to talk about art. It's a story of creativity and community, of risk-taking and breakthroughs, of finding common ground.

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Creative "Tribes": OUTLOUD Artists

"Finding Common Ground" (acrylic on canvas) is included in the "Fresh OUTLOUD!" exhibit at Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center.

"Finding Common Ground" (acrylic on canvas) is included in the "Fresh OUTLOUD!" exhibit at Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center.

I'm a member of a few creative tribes—groups of artists, designers and creative entrepreneurs who challenge and support one another. Some of my tribes are local and others are groups of creatives from around the globe. Whether we meet in person or online, I find the community and connection to be vital to my artistic and professional growth as well as my personal well-being. Creative tribes inspire!!

OUTLOUD Artists is a community that 'adopted me' several years ago. The common thread we share is the time we spent studying abstract painting with our teacher, Helen Corning, who passed away in 2011 at age 90. Helen was a celebrated teacher and artist. She referred to her elegant paintings as "Haiku"—short concise poems. I can still hear Helen's voice today as I'm painting…"make it bigger" and "paint like a child and then come in like the mother to clean it up" area couple of the expressions she used as she critiqued our work. She was a crusty character with a heart of gold who wore her signature uniform—white blouse with collar turned up—with plenty of attitude. I find it remarkable that she inspired each student to find their own voice and distinctive style.

I've also learned a lot from my OUTLOUD tribe over the years. Our group includes members with diverse backgrounds in art as visual and performing artists, educators, designers, art therapists and an architect. It has been a great asset to tap into each member's unique perspective during critiques, challenge one another and share opportunities and resources. For nearly a decade, OUTLOUD Artists have exhibited their work together. This month our work is featured in the beautiful gallery spaces at The Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center in Frederick, Maryland through April 26.

Three Tips for Maximizing the Value of Your Creative Tribe:

  • Stay open and don't make assumptions—embrace the different perspectives in your group. Everyone has strengths and gifts to offer, so don't underestimate anyone and listen carefully for what might be that fresh take you need or timely words of wisdom. The members of your tribe should challenge the status quo and inspire you to try something new.
  • Be an active member—participate and share. What you get out of a group is directly proportional to what you give. Your generosity will help set the tone and define the group's culture. There will always be members who will give less, so expect that and don't waste your energy obsessing on a deadbeat member.
  • Recognize when the party is over—groups don't always last forever. If your tribe has reached a point where members are no longer challenging one another or providing the encouragement and accountability that is vital for growth, the group is no longer serving its purpose as a creative tribe. If it's time to move on, celebrate the group's accomplishments, be grateful for how the group has helped you grow and wish everyone well on their creative journey.

Do you have a creative tribe? I'd love to hear how they inspire you.

NYC + Surtex 2014

What could be more fun than a weekend in NYC?!!

We arrived on Saturday (5/17), the day before the Surtex conference, with no agenda for the day. For the first time in a long time, I arrived in Manhattan without a list of must-see art exhibits. Instead, I was craving a day to wander, spend time outdoors and be spontaneous. Traveling with me was my partner in crime, Ulf Wallin.

Our first stop was the wacky-and-wonderful YOTEL New York. This unusual hotel was inspired by upscale airline travel with a touch of Japanese influence. Great design, an innovative approach to hospitality (you can check your bags with their cool robot!), a walkable distance to the Javits Center, and the best coffee in town just around the corner (at Kava Cafe) made a believer of me.

Walkabout New York Style

Some of the highlights of our day-long walkabout include:

  • Brunch at Foragers City Table in Chelsea. We wandered in here by accident—a happy accident indeed! The enticing view through their windows at the adjoining market is what drew me in. Foragers is a farm-to-table restaurant that actually grows its own food—including meat and dairy. Excellent food and great atmosphere, the place was filled with locals.
  • People Watching! Hipsters, tourists, fashionistas and so much more. Check out that cute couple pictured above in the his and hers floral (found strolling about West Village, promoting their friend's fashion design). We saw at least three wedding parties in DUMBO striking a pose in front of various food trucks (also pictured above) for their wedding albums (who knew that was a thing?).
  • Stunning Architecture—glass and steel manipulated in such a way to take your breath away.
  • Scenic Walks—a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, along the Hudson through Battery Park City and north along the High Line.

A surprise visit with Katherine of Katherine Carey Millinery was especially memorable for me! Katherine is someone I met (online) through Jennifer Lee's Right-Brainers in Business 2014 Video Summit. I was so inspired by Katherine's beautiful hats, her sense of style, generous spirit and fabulous skills as a creative entrepreneur that I had to stop by her shop and meet her in person. Her hats are beautifully crafted, unique and all made by hand. Next time you're in Greenwich Village stop by 159 Bleecker Street for your hat fix and be sure to tell all your friends (check out the wide selection of Katherine Carey designs online)! (photos of Katherine and her shop by Ulf Wallin)

 

 

 

Surtex: Surface Design Business, Inspiration + Friends

Sunday and Monday was an exciting two-day blitz of surface design exhibitors, industry trends, networking, friends and panel sessions. I walked the show beginning in the Atelier Section, where artists primarily sell their work outright, instead of licensing their art.

One of the first people I had the privilege of meeting was Jane Dixon. The gorgeous bold graphics in her booth stopped me in my tracks. I loved what I saw! And as it turns out, Jane is as delightful as her organic, contemporary, minimalist designs. Jane works digitally, but she's no stranger to traditional media having exhibited her abstract works through galleries and dealers for many years. She hand painted the large banner behind her. With strong art and design skills it's no wonder her client list includes names we're all familiar with.

 

 

 

 

Constantin Constans also exhibited in the Atelier section of the show. I was intrigued by his elegant hand-cut designs which are sought after for high-end wallcoverings. Constantin creates his beautiful designs in his studio in Paris. He was accompanied by his charming daughter, Anastasia Constantinescu, who is now living in New York City where she works as a handbag designer. Note the translucent areas in Constantin's designs—fascinating!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another artist that I was inspired by at Surtex is Fiona Howard. She creates her contemporary textile designs using traditional skills such as lino cuts and cut paper. Gorgeous work! These are just a few of the many artists I met for the first time.

I also had the pleasure of meeting artists I had only known through online communities before Surtex. Let me introduce you to my 'tribe'...

Meet my MATS Mates!

Pictured above are some of the many talented artists in my "MATS Tribe"—the online community of surface designers that came together—from all over the world—through Lilla Rogers' Studio School. Lilla Rogers is a wildly successful artists' agent, illustrator, teacher and author. Her online classes, Make Art That Sells (MATS), are where I've learned just about everything I know about surface design and where I've met an amazing community of artists that inspire, teach and support me in many ways. It was incredibly exciting to meet several members of our tribe in person at Surtex!

  • Kathy Weller— Kathy is pictured with her sister in the upper left photo (either they're very close and know how to have a good time together, or they're damn good actors) and in her booth to the right of that shot. Witty, smart, creative Kathy's booth showcased her fabulous hand lettering and quirky sense of humor. Her characters are wonderful! If they don't make you smile, you've got issues even the best therapist can't help. Look for her Yoga Pals (Demdaco), Lenox Ornaments, Drinkblots coasters, greeting cards, puzzles and more. I love her credo, too!
  • Victoria Johnson— An English designer, living in Rome, Vicky is a prolific artist with a distinctive look. Her beautiful, uplifting on-trend work has great style and is infused with clever details. Her booth was filled with products covered with her beautiful designs. Judging by the steady flow of traffic at her booth, you'll be able to find her work EVERYWHERE before long! Vicky inspires us with her incredible work ethic, lovely designs and generous spirit. Read about her Surtex experience in her info-packed blog post. 
  • Stacy Peterson is pictured in the bottom right photo. A multifaceted and prolific designer, Stacy creates on-trend character collections for tweens, whimsical characters for those of us past our teens (with a little edge/attitude!), stunning patterns and fabulous wall art. She illustrated The English Roses Too Good To Be True, by Madonna. I ask you—who's the real Rock Star??!
  • Feng Liang is pictured with her sister in the bottom left photo and in her booth to the right of that image. Her work has been featured on products in Victoria's Secret, Walmart and more. Check out her blog for the latest photos of her work and product samples. Her theme-based booth made a big statement with color and featured lovely characters and patterns.
  • Aileen Tu (pictured in the middle photo at far left, in front of her gorgeous, lush banner) exhibited with Cultivate Art Collective. Their booth was hopping with designers and client traffic—it was exciting to see. Aileen works in a variety of techniques including mixed media, digital and photographic.

  • Bari J. Ackerman is the creative behind the Bari J. brand. She's pictured at the top left in her gorgeous booth, which she transformed into the most inviting space with her rich patterns and elegant paintings. Her space felt less like a booth and more like a living room, with low furniture and her stunning textiles on pillows and ottomans decorating the space. Bari is well known in the fabric industry for her successful lines of fabric, wall stencils, sewing patterns, and as the author of Inspired to Sew. She continues to expand her business with paintings and designs created for additional art licensing opportunities. Read about her Surtex experience here.
  • Sarah Ehlinger of Very Sarie is pictured in the upper right. Her elegant and whimsical patterns and illustrations and the Very Sarie brand are designed for to inspire creative living. Sarah's stunning booth with cohesive theme, gorgeous graphics and 3D flowers was a definite standout. With a background in theater, retail and design, Sarah was primed to tackle the challenges of booth design and conquer the curveballs thrown her way (such as the Surtex organizers sending her the wrong floor plan). I was impressed by her ability to stay flexible, adapt and rock the house in spite of things that were out of her control!  See detailed photos of Sarah's beautiful booth along with her must-read "5 Great Tips for A Smashing Debut" on her blog.
  • Christine Joy and Antje Martens-Oberwelland are pictured in the bottom right photo, in Christine's booth. Christine is not a member of the MATS tribe (yet!) but she was the lovely booth neighbor to Bari J. and a real delight to meet. She describes her work as playful, elegant and global. I had the pleasure of walking Surtex with Antje all day on Monday and we attended one of the sessions together. I learned quickly that Antje has a gift for story telling and her charming paintings of barnyard animals are inspired by her life on a farm in rural Ontario. A German native, Antje seems to be comfortable wherever she goes and her warm, genuine spirit puts everyone around her at ease. She's the kind of person you feel you've known forever after meeting her for the first time!
  • The motley crew featured in the bottom left photo are (left to right): Flora Waycott, Anne Blankman Bollman of Anne Was Here,  Melissa Iwai (in front of Anne), me, Jan Gerardi, Victoria Johnson and Antje Martens-Oberwelland. Flora and Melissa were Victoria's helpers, but I predict that these wonderful designers—as well as Anne Bollman—will be exhibiting next year! Jan Gerardi, talented and prolific children's book illustrator and author, joined Antje and me as we walked the show and attended sessions. It was great being able to connect in person. I hope that more of our 'tribe' members will be at Surtex next year.

Missed but not forgotten!

I was disappointed to have missed meeting Rachael Schafer in person, but I enjoyed reading about her week in NYC and time at Surtex on her blog. While Ohn Mar Win didn't make it to New York from England, her lovely work was represented by Cherry Red. Agnes Schugardt is another talented designer from our MATS Tribe who was represented at Surtex, but didn't attend this year. There's a long list of wonderful artists, from MATS, that I hope to meet in person one day. I'll never be able to list them all, but here are a few of the talented designers who have inspired me and shared so generously... Harriet Mellor, Jo Chambers, Dawn of Vivayne, Melissa Doran, Mary Tanana, Wendy Brightbill, Claire Picard, Emma Schonenberg, Nic Squirrell, Aisha Khan, Stephanie Corfee, Jen Burbridge, Larisa Hernandez, Anne Waters, Nicole Piar, Dustin Lindblad, Jennifer Wambach, Katie Doucette, Kathryn Cole, Danielle McDonald, Jordan Kim, Paul Daviz, Claire Lordon, Jill Byers, Susan Brand, Andrea van Dalen, Jennifer Appel, Kim Fleming, Emily Dyer, Carolina Coto, Amalya Porat, Deborah Trevitt, Siri Nadler, Katie Wood, Linda Tordoff, Son Atwal, as well as many others.

I haven't touched on the countless talented artists in our Lilla Rogers' Assignment Bootcamp class and in Rachael Taylor's incredible Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design courses. I am a huge fan of Rachael Taylor and her classes—but I'll save that post for another day!

Five Things to Remember About Surtex:

  1. If walking the show, be sure to ask permission to take photos and be careful not to monopolize exhibitor's time. They've invested a lot of money (some estimate $10,000) to exhibit at Surtex and need to maximize their time with clients and prospects.
  2. The booth designs that included products, mock-ups and other 3D elements were the most compelling. A theme or cohesive look is critical.
  3. I've met countless people—exhibitors, agents and attendees—who have been friendly, encouraging and helpful. Everyone shared the same message: "Follow your passion." And everyone was willing to share about their experience. If you're too shy to walk the show on your own the first time, find a buddy. And if you're exhibiting for the first time, you'll definitely need to enlist the help of a friend. It was nice to see partners, spouses, sisters and friends supporting each exhibiting artist.
  4. Successful exhibitors market to prospects before the show. Create a targeted list and be sure to put your booth number on your marketing materials. Your marketing materials and booth design should reflect your brand. If sending postcards, be sure they meet postal regulations.
  5. Don't compare yourself to others! Every designer has something different to offer. Marketing is just a matter of finding your perfect clients and letting them know how you can help them. It's a journey and we're all in a different place. As a newbie, I remind myself over and over again not to compare my beginning to another person's middle. Enjoy the ride!

Did you attend Surtex? What was your experience like? I'd love to hear from you! And now it's time for me to stop chatting and, as Lilla Rogers says, get crackin'!