Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ticking Off

"Ever unfolding, ever expanding, ever adventurous and torturous, but never done."

As I said, I've come up for air.

One by one, I'm crossing things off my imaginary list. I call it imaginary because it resides in my head. I know, that's not the most fail-safe, effective place for a list. What can I say? That is just how I do it, how I've always done it. Mostly well, occasionally badly.

Which reminds me, my inspection sticker expires this month and I need to have my tires rotated and balanced. Oy.

But on the ticked-off side, I arranged for my RMD for my inherited IRA, which will be automatic every year now, unless I decide to change it. I had my annual well-woman physical, but I still have to schedule a mammogram and a bone density scan. I need to make an appointment with my eye doctor too. New glasses! Oh boy!

I've sorted out some issues with my 401K and now I just have to pay the custodian's bill. And transfer some money that I collected as Houston Society of Glass Beadmakers Treasurer (just elected to a new term), and send the President the list of people who've paid their dues for 2015.

I've maxxed out the number of auctions I can run simultaneously on Facebook, and I'm momentarily caught up on invoicing and shipping, although that won't last long. After my two-week hiatus, I've been buried with Buy-it-Nows since I started listing again.

The Glassell Student Sale is over. As usual I sold some things but not nearly everything, so I did a fair amount of work for nothing, but that's life. Better yet, my 2D Design class is over and I completed the last three assignments.

Project 10 was called "Color Temperature Season Collage" and essentially was representing two consecutive seasons by painting 100 different shades of color for each. I almost enjoyed the painting part. I chose Winter (cool colors) and Spring (a mix of cool and warm colors) and did it assembly-line style. I used ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson, and lemon yellow, plus black and white (and gray).

I started with a squirt of a color, and added it first to white, little by little, painting a swatch. When I reached the deepest shade, I started over with the same color, adding black, a toothpick-sized amount, and when things got very dark, I started adding white in again (i.e. gray). It was shockingly easy to come up with 200 shades.

Then because it was easier than cutting squares, I used a heart-shaped punch. I pretty much randomly glued the hearts in place and I'm not displeased with the outcome.

Project 11, called "Texture" was a piece of cake. We had to select 10 different types of texture and cut out 5 pairs of "actual" textured material and 5 pairs of "simulated" texture examples. I took photos for my simulated texture - clouds, flowers, greenery - and used craft box items for my real texture. It was down and dirty and I think I did OK, but I missed the class when that project was critiqued.

And our final assignment, Project 12, aka "Matisse Paper Cutouts" was making a construction paper collage based on a piece of music. Our instructions were to "create different shapes and select colors that depict the mood of the piece of music you have chosen." I chose "Incomplete" by Alanis Morissette, because it was the first song that popped into my mind, and I admit I just cut out shapes at random and went to town with glue.

The result arguably represents the song or it doesn't. Art of this sort being completely subjective, and my goal being simply to have something (anything) done by the day after we got home from Hawaii, I didn't try to knock my own socks off. In fact, after the fact, I considered choosing a different song that better matched the result. "La Bamba" spontaneously occurred to me, but I'm sure I could have thought of something better if I'd wanted to spare the brain cells.

So that is that. I'm looking forward to a break from art school after 8 semesters. I wouldn't mind taking Beginning Digital Photography II, maybe down the road a piece. Oh, that reminds me, I have a few things I bought for my class, and didn't use, to return to Texas Art Supply. (This virtual list thing can be pretty random.)

As far as my online Living Writers class, I'm barely a dozen or so pages into the fourth (last) book The Zone of Interest. After finishing Freedom, I went back and looked at the discussion board and was disappointed in the (lack of) depth and breadth of the postings. I'm not even sure how to tackle a discussion of the book, except to say, I wouldn't call it a "Great American Novel" (sorry Time Mag). I found the characters caricatured and the plot a fairy tale and the sex and other bodily functional stuff both unrealistic and gratuitous. So there. Take that.

Hmm, on reflection, all three books that I finished (including The Orchard of Lost Souls and Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood) had fairy tale (read improbable) endings, although the latter is more likely to be factual, since it is an autobiography.

I'm looking forward to re-prioritizing my life. I'd like to stick to making beads and walking on the treadmill for a while. And writing. I wrote 76 posts in 2013, and this is only my 34th post in 2014 and it's past mid-December. I'm not sure whether it's a threat or a promise to say I'm planning to post more often next year, or moot, because I'm pretty sure my audience is primarily me (which is truly fine - I write mostly for myself).

Last night, Neil sat down on the sofa and his hand encountered a hairball. He recoiled, got up, washed his hands and returned to the sofa.

I said, are you kidding? You went and washed your hands but you didn't bring a paper towel to clean it up?

Neil looked at me and said, I worked today.

He redeemed himself somewhat by getting a paper towel and cleaning up the hairball.

I thought about his comment today. Just because I enjoy what I do doesn't mean I don't work. I'm pretty disciplined actually. I spend about 3 hours most days making beads. I estimate I spend a good 5 more hours daily, dipping mandrels, cleaning beads, stringing sets, taking photos, editing photos, writing auction listings, monitoring auction listings, sending invoices, printing invoices, packaging beads for shipping, and making trips to the Post Office. Sometimes I'm still wrapping beads and printing shipping labels well after Neil's gone to bed.

True, I don't get a bimonthly paycheck, nor do I get paid vacation or discounts on health and life insurance, or matching contributions to a pension plan, or stock options, or bonuses, or other perks that come with a salaried job. I don't earn six figures, as I did before I "retired."

I am still working though. I'm paying my share of the household bills. I'm picking up milk for Neil. I cook, in a manner of speaking, maybe 4 nights a week, even if it is just eggs, or soup and sandwiches, or pasta, or frozen pizza. I do all the dishes too. I'm the one who takes out the trash and the recycling, I'm the one and only one who cleans the litter boxes. I make sure we have cat food in the house and I feed the cats their daily canned food meal. I clean up 99 percent of the hairballs - and until last night that would have been 100 percent.

So yes, I work.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not going to say that Neil doesn't make it possible for me to do what I love. He pays the mortgage and taxes on this beautiful house. We have health and life insurance through his company. He pays the lions share of our vacation costs and he almost always pays when we go out to eat.

I pay for homeowner's insurance, flood insurance, car insurance, business insurance and an umbrella policy that would cover any coins that are in the house and not in the safe deposit box. I pay for utilities - electricity, gas, water, home phone, cable, internet access, home security. I pay the every-other-week housekeeper.

Of course I pay for all my own clothes and shoes and indulgences, hair and nails, massages, any medical co-pays for myself, groceries at least half the time, some of our travel expenses. Naturally my business pays for all the glass and tools and supplies and equipment I use for bead making, and any beadmaking classes and conferences I attend.

I'm not a kept woman. I don't consider Neil's money to be "our" money (or mine to be "ours" either). It just makes sense, when we each have our own children, not to throw it all into one pot. All that may change after Neil retires. And it would be nice in many ways to consolidate it all, but you don't get a second chance to do it right the first time. Not to mention we both have control issues.

For now, the status quo is working well. For us. And it's all about us.

OK. Off to check the kiln. And clean some beads. And dip some mandrels. The circle of bead life goes on.

Some recent sets.

"One day, I'll find relief
I'll be arrived
And I'll be a friend to my friends who know how to be friends

One day, I'll be at peace
I'll be enlightened
And I'll be married with children and maybe adopt

One day, I will be healed
I will gather my wounds, forge the end of tragic comedy

One day, my mind will retreat
And I'll know God
And I'll be constantly one with her night, dusk and day

One day, I'll be secure
Like the women I see on their thirtieth anniversaries

Ever unfolding, ever expanding
Ever adventurous and torturous
But never done

One day, I will speak freely
I'll be less afraid
And measured outside of my poems and lyrics and art

One day, I will be faith filled
I'll be trusting and spacious, authentic and grounded and whole

I have been running so sweaty my whole life
Urgent for a finish line
And I have been missing the rapture this whole time
Of being forever incomplete."

(The brilliant Alanis Morissette)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Going native

"If you try, you'll find me where the sky meets the sea. Here am I, your special island, come to me, come to me."

I'm pretty close to being able to come up for air.

It's been that busy.

Monday and Tuesday mornings I made beads for the first time in more than two weeks and it felt really good to be melting glass again.

Of course, I can't expect much sympathy for having spent the prior 10 days cruising between Oahu and Maui and Kauai and the Big Island. Or the five days before that when our kids and grandson celebrated an early Thanksgiving with us

Thanksgiving morning found us in an airplane for 8 hours, flying west.

I'm funny when it comes to travel. I dread it until I'm on my way and then I enjoy it.

The dread comes for several reasons. I love being home. I love sleeping in my own bed. I love getting up in the morning and having my coffee with my cats.

Packing is a drag. Men have it relatively easy. Women have to think about earrings and hair accessories and cosmetics and shoes. I have to think about medication and my night guard and my arm brace. Then there are electronics and chargers.

I have anxiety when I think about laundry accumulating in my suitcase. I have an inability to pack realistically and I often wear only one-third of the clothes I bring on any given trip.

At least I gave up the idea of bringing beads and stringing materials and wire and tools for making jewelry along the route. It was a good decision. I brought three books and finished one. I might have read more if I didn't get sucked in to United Airlines' in-flight wifi. I watched movies on both out outbound and return flights.

But mostly it's about the cats. I have separation anxiety about my cats, and since two cats didn't tug on my heartstrings sufficiently, I had to get a third cat.

I won't become a crazy cat lady. Shoveling two litter boxes is plenty. Vet bills have been astronomical this year (in a relative sense) because of what Neil calls the "Sugar Land factor." We live in an upscale community, services automatically cost more. And who wants to drive 180 miles with a cat to save $600 in neutering fees (because I could have taken Biscotti back to the rescue group for the surgery that was included in his adoption fee).

Not me.

Anyway. The night before we had to wake up in the wee hours (5 is a small number right?) to catch our flight to Honolulu, I went to bed at 9. I'm grateful that I don't easily rattle Neil, because tears rolled down my cheeks when he came in.

As soon as we get on our way, I'm all right again. Something about being past the point of no return. Heck, I'm in Hawaii, so I might as well make the best of it. Or maybe it's just that leaving starts the countdown to coming home.

By the last night or two of our trips, I may or may not even wish we had an extra day or two.

Hawaii really was grand. On arrival we explored Waikiki Beach. Our hotel was much like a Disneyland Park minus the rides, with multiple eateries and shops and water features and fireworks. For dinner we had the Hawaiian specialty, Loco Moco. Burger served over scoops of rice, with brown gravy and topped with an egg.

We rented a car on Oahu on Black Friday and went to the Dole plantation, which is no longer owned or operated by Dole, but they still have amazing Pineapple Whip. We hiked in Waimea Valley and enjoyed Shave Ice at Matsumoto. Well, Neil enjoyed his and most of mine, they looked better than they tasted.

On Saturday we boarded the Pride of America and chowed down on a big buffet lunch. One thing I really loved about our itinerary is that we sailed almost exclusively at night and were in port during the day.

Kahului, Maui, was our first stop. On our first day we took a waterfall and rainforest excursion. We trudged through mud and waded through streams and clambered down slippery slopes holding onto ropes. I swam in two waterfall pools.

Seriously. I stripped to my swimsuit and took the plunge. I'm practically Hawaiian now.

The water was icy and exhilarating. Neil took photos and worried about me breaking something. Like a leg or my iPhone.

It was great.

Tuesday we didn't have a formal plan, so we took a shuttle to Hilo Hattie's in Kihei to buy some "Aloha wear" as the ship's cruise consultant promoted it. Neil got a shirt with a pink plumeria pattern, I got a blue Hawaiian print sundress and we got Ry the most darling little pair of shorts and matching shirt. A 2T Hawaiian shirt. I want to frame it.

Wednesday we woke up in Hilo, on the Big Island. When we ranked our excursions - because that's how we roll - Neil and I agreed that our 4-mile hike in Volcanoes National Park, home to the world's most active volcano, Kilauea, was the highlight. We din't see lava - for that you have to take a helicopter tour - but we felt steam rising from vents, which was very cool, or rather very warm, speaking literally.

Our guide talked us into an unplanned stop for ice cream at the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory. Yeah, he really had to twist our arms for that. We wound up the party at Akaka Falls with another mile-long hike.

Another good day. Cats? What cats?

(We did see four domestic cats at Akaka falls. One even let me pet him.)

Thursday (could a week possibly already have passed?) landed us in Kailua Kona, the sunny side of the Big Island (Hilo is the rainy side). Ironically our excursion in Kona took us north back into the rainforest, and you can't have a rainforest without some rain. Right. This was our second waterfall hike and Neil swore he would swim on this one, but between steady precipitation and the resulting churn in the waterfall basins, we didn't have a second chance to strip down, and Neil's new swim trunks had to settle for only hot tub action back on board.

Friday's excursion was one I had pushed for and most anticipated - horseback riding. We awoke in Nawiliwili (I love saying that) on the Island of Kauai, and spent the morning riding in the Mahaulepu area. My noble steed was Cash, while Neil rode Nick, and it was worth bypassing the zip-lining, tubing, kayaking, whale watching and choppering over Waimea Canyon, although I wish we could have done all of them. OK, maybe not the zip-line.

We also passed on the Luau. It's a cruise, folks. All you can eat. And I've been to the Polynesian resort at Disneyland twice. Not to mention that I don't eat pork. It was nice that the ship was noticeably less crowded that afternoon. We even had the hot tub to ourselves for a short time.

The beach at Nawiliwili was nice too.

Friday morning we took a "behind-the-scenes" tour in the belly of the beast, visiting the backstage area of the theater, the kitchen area, the laundry area and - this was really cool - the bridge.

We left Kauai early on Friday afternoon, so we could sail by the Nā Pali Coast in daylight. The rugged coastline is reachable only by air or sea, and it was beautiful.

On Saturday, back in Honolulu, we took one last excursion, to Pearl Harbor. We rode a boat out to the site where the USS Arizona lies sunk. It was quite surprisingly emotional and I added my tears to the salty Pacific water.

And then we spent our last afternoon in Hawaii in Honolulu International, waiting for the seven-hour red-eye flight home. God bless Apple for personal hotspots and God bless HIA for having a Starbucks and a sushi restaurant.

Other highlights of our week were being selected by lottery to have a dinner with Chief Engineer, Lindsay, and Chief IT Officer, David, (and another lucky couple, Edie and Frank) in the ship's specialty Italian restaurant, La Cuchina.

And somehow, this also qualified us for a private "setting-sail" party as we left Kauai, complete with mimosas and the Pride's second officer. And the couple who were our dinner companions.

Oh yes, and getting home, somewhat bleary-eyed, and taking a snooze on the sofa, covered in cats. Nothing like a little absence to make the feline heart grow fonder. Even the aloof Biscotti napped on my knees.

I woke up in time to do two weeks worth of homework for my final Monday 2D Design class.

And oh what a relief it is to have that one in the can.

So now I'm back in the groove, which is to say, life on Facebook.

And by the way, despite limited Internet access for the 10 days of our travels, I still managed to buy both beads and glass online.

Mahalo Pele. Thank you Goddess of goddess of Volcanoes. And a hui hou. Until we meet again.

"Most people live on a lonely island,
Lost in the middle of a foggy sea
Most people long for another island,
One where they know they will like to be

Bali Ha'i may call you,
Any night, any day,
In your heart, you'll hear it call you,
Come away, come away

Bali Ha'i will whisper
On the wind of the sea,
Here am I, your special island,
Come to me, come to me

Your own special hopes,
Your own special dreams,
Bloom on the hillside
And shine in the streams.

If you try, you'll find me
Where the sky meets the sea
Here am I your special island,
Come to me, come to me

Bali Ha'i
Bali Ha'i
Bali Ha'i"

(Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

My so-called real life

"I live one day at a time, I dream one dream at a time. Yesterday's dead and tomorrow is blind."

I could tell another Facebook story - because there is one - but I'll give you a break and talk about my so-called real life today.

My fall semester of school has been very different from last spring. I loved both my online class about WWII and my studio class in digital photography. This term I'm struggling with both my online class, Living Writers, and my studio class, 2D Design.

The blame for my disenchantment with Living Writers falls mainly on me. I haven't been able to keep up with the reading, because I haven't made it a priority. I did OK with our first book, The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed. I finished it in the aloted time and made a contribution to the discussion. I read the supplemental material and enjoyed the videos and especially Mohamed's reading at Colgate. (It's really worth listening to. Until she read, the poetry in her words was obscured for me by the grittiness of the novel's plot.)

Then the wheels came off.

Our second book was Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. Weighing in at a hefty 576 pages, it was just more than I could handle. I'm a slow reader - attribute that to my ADD - and although the first hundred-some pages of the book kept my interest sufficiently, I didn't dedicate adequate time to finish it (by a long shot) and I wouldn't contribute to the discussion without having done so.

I did watch most of the Colgate video lectures as well as recordings of his Oprah Winfrey show appearance, among others, and Franzen's reading at Colgate. I also watched some of the supplemental videos and read his New Yorker piece, Emptying the Skies about the decimation of the songbird population in southern Europe. (Franzen is an avid bird-watcher and songbird-advocate.)

As you may know, or not. in August 2010 Time Magazine featured Franzen as it's cover boy, with the designation, Great American Novelist. The video lectures spent some time on what is a Great American Novel, or an American Novel for that matter. The answer, as far as I understood it, is that that characterization is open to interpretation. Wikipedia interprets it as a novel, presumably written by an American author, distinguished as being the most accurate representation of the spirit of the age in the United States at the time of its writing or the time it is set in.

Since I didn't slog through the book (yet - I still plan to), I disqualified myself for participation on the discussion forum, although I read some of the discussion and found it disappointingly superficial and uninspiring. Ironically this reflects some of my impressions about Franzen himself. He is charming at times, but clearly uncomfortable in a book-promotion role, and less than forthcoming when asked questions he just doesn't want to answer.

(I do have empathy for that. I hope this doesn't make me sound egotistical but, as a writer, I often feel the words come through me, not from me. So if I wrote fiction and you asked me my intent in making such and such a character act in such and such a way, I really might be as mystified as you.)

I decided to move on to our third novel, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Satrapi. Persepolis is Satrapi's memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, and it is a "graphic novel" more colloquially known as a comic book. It reads fairly quickly and I have no excuse for the fact that I'm only halfway through it and it's the final week of the course section. I might knock it out tonight, while Neil plays softball, although there are competing priorities.

On the bright side, it was made into a movie, animated naturally, and is available on Amazon Prime for $9.99. Neil said he'd watch it with me, so it's on the menu for this weekend. And I'm halfway through the video interview with Satrapi at Colgate, and I'm enjoying her energy, expressiveness, humor and adorable French accent.

What I should be doing now is getting a jump start on our last novel, The Zone of Interest, by Martin Amis. At 320 pages, with four weeks to go in the course spanning Thanksgiving and our trip to Hawaii, I'm not overly optimistic that I will be in a space to contribute. Again. But I'm taking all the unfinished books on the cruise and my commitment to myself is to finish reading them. I'll grade myself as passing the course if I do. (For the record, there is no official final exam or grade, or even the requirement that one read all of the books if one chooses to read only some.)

I wish I could say the same for my 2D Design class. I've attended all the classes except one, when I had the grandbaby here, and I've completed all the homework so far, at least technically. If I'm honest, I'd say that I've put in the minimum effort to get the work done, enough to pass but not to excel by any means.

It's hard to explain why I'm going through the motions only, but it's easier to explain why I'm not enjoying the class. I don't feel like I've learned a lot. The format of the class is that we look at the last week's homework results and then we get the next week's homework assignment, sometimes with a handout or a few slides to show examples. Since there are only seven of us in the class, not everyone attends every week, and not everyone who attends has actually done the assignment, we are looking at an average of four or five pieces of work.

After the next week's assignment is explained, most of the students spend the rest of the class time working on the homework. I've only stayed the full time once. Usually I bug out as soon as the "teaching" part of the class is over. It's possible I'd get more out of the class if I stayed and did the work there, including assistance or suggestions from the teacher, not to mention interaction with the other students, who seem very nice, and isn't that part of my reason for taking a studio class? To get out of the house (and off Facebook) and to have some real world connections?

No need to answer that.

So what have we covered in 2D Design since I posted our first assignment to find the letters of the alphabet in accidental images?

I liked our second project. The design element or principle (I can never remember the difference) was Line. We had to cut out 20 3-inch squares and create line patterns, in three primary or three secondary colors, using all six types of lines, then arrange them to create a composition with asymmetrical balance, harmony, unity. Here is mine.

Project three had to do with Grayscale. We had to paint a design with nine values of shading, using Titanium White and Mars Black acrylic paint. I am not fond of painting. Things get messy. But I got this done.

For our fourth project, Value, we had to grid a photo of a sculpture in 1-inch aquares and recreate it using pencils. Here's my halfhearted attempt.

Next up, project five, the Color Wheel. Painting again, but this was easier.

We painted again in project seven, Color Schemes. Using only two complimentary colors (opposites on the color wheel) we had to paint an image over a grid, using hues and tints (adding white) shades (adding black) and tones (adding gray). The colors I chose were yellow and violet. And who knew you could makes greens and browns as well as lilacs and ochres. I think this was an artistic best for me.

Project seven was sort of dull. We had to paint three 3-inch squares, using the same image and three colors, but manipulating the colors using shades and tints.

Project eight was Pointillism. Colors of Magenta, Cyan and Yellow. Self explanatory.

And project nine was Perspective. We had to create a collage, emphasizing the element of direction. I'm about as handy with glue as I am with paint. Which is to say, not very. We won't talk about the exploding glue incident, and the repeat of the exploding glue incident. I'm sticking with a glue stick from now on.

So there in a nutshell you have it, nine projects down and three to go.

The only trouble is, I have to do the last three projects by Wednesday, because after that, we're away until the day before my last class.

Wish. Me. Luck.

"I live one day at a time
I dream one dream at a time
Yesterday's dead and tomorrow is blind
And I live one day at a time

Bet you're surprised to see me back at home
You know how I miss you when you're gone
Don't ask how long I plan to stay
It never crossed my mind
Because I live one day at a time

There's a swallow flying across the cloudy sky
Searching for a patch of sun, so am I
Don't ask how long I have to follow him
Perhaps I wont in time
But I live one day at a time

I live one day at a time
I dream one dream at a time
Yesterday's dead and tomorrow is blind
And I live one day at a time."

(Willie Nelson)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sticky Wickets

"Disorder in the house, there's a flaw in the system, and the fly in the ointment's gonna bring the whole thing down."

Hard to believe, I know, but we had yet another fascinating Facebook discussion this week.

Well, maybe it wasn't truly fascinating, but I like alliteration.

One of my FB friends, who I met because we were partnered in my first Bead Soup Blog Hop, posed this question.
If you post tutorials on your blog with a copyright attribution/no copies/no derivative works and people still ask if they can copy and sell the designs ... what do you think? I feel that the design is clearly intended for personal use. Want to sell a few at a craft fair or to folks at work? Sure! Do I owe you a free idea from which you can profit with quantities of product made and sold without paying me? I do not think so. But I don't know that it matters what I think. This is the sticky wicket of the Internet. Once you give it away it is hard to get it back. If you are going to profit from the idea, what do you feel you owe to the designer? Anything? Nothing? Credit for the idea, a few bucks, a thank you, nothing? Thoughts?
And of course, after a slew of commiserating posts in response, I assumed my usual role of fly-in-the-ointment.

I responded thus.
I'll go out on a limb here and say, if you don't want people to make it and sell it, don't put the instructions on the Internet. Pictures sure, sell it yourself yes, sell a tutorial, absolutely. I think legally a copyright only protects you from having people re-post the instructions, or worse, sell the instructions. It's not the same as a patent or trademark.
My FB friend had the grace to agree, or at least not disagree.
Oh yes, this is true! I am just contemplating the complexities! Do you think, then, if I post a tutorial and clearly state that it is intended for personal use that I owe the reader the right to make a profit with the idea? I know the legalities. I am mostly contemplating the overreach! Just food for discussion.
I'm guessing by overreach, she was referring to people taking her idea and running with it to generate lucre. She seemed to be pushing the envelope by questioning whether she owed them some right to do so, when she clearly felt quite the opposite to be true.

I said this.
I don't think you owe the reader anything! We have a lot of discussion about this in the bead-making world. It's generally conceded that if you publish instructions, teach a class or sell a tutorial, you relinquish control over what people do with the info. The most you can do is to ask people to give you credit and encourage them to come up with their own spin.
Another friend contributed this. I'm still not sure what side he was on.
It's a moot point. The Facebook culture has changed what we mean by copying. Once I post something I usually consider it gone. There's no app for common decency or creative trust.
The original poster continued her pondering.
Of course, the reality is what it is, but still it fascinates me that people feel entitled to profit from your idea that they got for free. I am amazed that even among creatives, the idea that it is okay to profit from the tutorial exists. What happened to being inspired to make it your own? I know the reality, but I am still asking the moral question, the deeper question, do you feel I owe the people who read my blog the right to make money on my ideas? Because I already know they feel that I do and I want to know what creatives think. I don't think it's a moot point, I think it is one that is worth discussing.
Since I'd already answered that question, I posed a related one.
What if someone is selling a tutorial and you look at the picture and think, I know how he/she did that. Am I prevented then from making and selling that thing? Of course, personally, I'd want to make it uniquely mine.
She came back with this.
That is a good question, or say, and this happens every day, you see a finished good and think, I know how they made that ... is it okay to make and sell that thing? Reality ... people do it every day. Morality ... is it okay? Are ideas really all free?
Frankly, I don't think it is immoral or even see it as a moral issue. If you are an artist, if you consider yourself an artist, you won't want to copy anyone's work. Where's the creative gratification in that? But if you are just a hack, just trying to make a buck, and you see something that you can replicate and sell, well, isn't that essentially the basis of our economic system? Competition? Building a better mousetrap?

And just for the sake of argument, even a patent only grants exclusive rights to an inventor for a limited period of time, in exchange for detailed public disclosure of an invention. And an invention is considered a solution to a specific technological problem. Does art fall under that definition?

Trademarks serve to identify a particular business as the source of goods or services. They serves as a badge of origin, a logo. You can trademark artwork that you use to sell or promote your products or services. Do instructions for a project fall under that definition?

This was my last word on the subject.
I think it is OK, but that is just my opinion. Creatively I always want to come up with my own ideas. But here's another question. What if you independently came up with a design and later found out someone had previously posted instructions for that design. Would you have to stop making and selling that thing? There are many people who think they have invented some design or technique whereas in reality others have been doing that same thing.
The original poster was still grinding her original ax.
Yes, this is another pickle isn't it, Elizabeth? I believe ideas are out there and sometimes independently people come up with the same ideas, they are logical progressions or they are similar solutions. That to me is different from blatantly taking an idea and making it with full knowledge that it was not your own and then expecting to be able to make a profit from it on a scale basis.
The discussion rambled on without me and eventually she summed it up this way.
I am just baffled as to why people feel it is free for profit if it is free for inspiration. That's the crux of what I'm putting out here today. Why do we owe people the ability to make money on our ideas? I love inspiring creativity! I am all about it! We still have to eat and the conundrum is how to make your ideas make enough money that you can afford to let them go.
I'm not without sympathy. I don't think she owes her readership a meal ticket, but I also don't think her readership owes her compensation for ideas freely shared, or additional recompense for ideas sold in a tutorial.

So that is that. Maybe if I ever have an original idea that others try to copy and sell, my tune will change. Right now I think I'd be flattered that someone would want to take an idea of mine and run with it.

And all of this begs the question, why are the most interesting interactions in my life happening on Facebook of late?

No need to answer that.

Because shortly after the conversation above, a somewhat related Facebook discussion arose that bears further, um, discussion. It began thus.
I like to see what other artists make and challenge myself. Sometimes it's an epic fail, other times it's pretty good. But if it wasn't my original idea can I sell it? I am making snowmen lentils and really can't seem to make them my own. Really a snowman has pretty distinct features. What are everyone's thoughts? I don't want to hurt another artist.
Most artists don't regard imitation as a form of flattery, however sincere.

These snowmen lentils were made by Jeannie Galt.

I promise I'm not going to go into all 32 responses, just mine (which is wordy) and maybe a couple of others.
Personally, as an artist, I'd rather make my beads original. But there is a lot of copying. Bead makers buy and use the same frit blends, rollers, presses, silver wire, leaf, etc. Bead designs can't be copyrighted or patented. Consumers benefit by having more options. Most things have been done before and who's to say where any idea originally came from. As you say, snowmen have distinct features, can you give it a spin? Make them in fantasy colors, add eyeglasses or a pipe, a cherry nose instead of a carrot, etc.
Another bead maker said the same, but possibly more succinctly.
I don't think snowman lentils "belong" to anyone. I've been making them for years. They do have their own personality. I made one recently with a stocking cap instead of a top hat!
Not everyone felt quite the same.
I think if you have looked at someone else's lampwork bead for inspiration and yours pretty much matches the one you were looking it, then you shouldn't sell it. If you got your idea from some other source, let's say a greeting card, your head, or piece of fabric, and it still happens to look like other people's beads as a coincidence, then sell it. For me, there are loads of ways to make your snow person different from others. But it is hard to see and know everything that is out there already.
So, it's OK to copy an idea, as long as you aren't copying the idea from another artist's bead.

Another poster summed it up this way.
Nothing is new, everything has been done. When it comes out of your own hand it will have its own flair therefore it will be your own. If you keep looking on the Internet you will someday find exactly what you've made, made by somebody else.

A few years ago, a German artist published a tutorial for a cat bead. I looked at the picture and said, I can see how that is done. And I went into my studio and made a few.

But I didn't feel right about selling them online, even though I used different colors and changed the design on the cat's body. If I'd paid for the tutorial, I think I'd have felt the same. I sold a few at local bead shows, but somehow I felt that listing them in my Etsy store only invited criticism by other lampwork artists. The global community of bead makers is so small, that inevitably it would surface that I'd copied the design.

I stopped making that bead. If I take a class, I don't go home and make the beads that were taught. I like learning how someone else does things. Then I go off and do my own thing.

Don't look for snowman lentils from me any time soon.

"Disorder in the house
The tub runneth over
Plaster's falling down in pieces by the couch of pain

Disorder in the house
Time to duck and cover
Helicopters hover over rough terrain

Disorder in the house
Reptile wisdom
Zombies on the lawn staggering around

Disorder in the house
There's a flaw in the system
And the fly in the ointment's gonna bring the whole thing down

The floodgates are open
We've let the demons loose
The big guns have spoken
And we've fallen for the ruse

Disorder in the house
It's a fate worse than fame
Even the Lhasa Apso seems to be ashamed

Disorder in the house
The doors are coming off the hinges
The earth will open and swallow up the real estate

I just got my paycheck
I'm gonna paint the whole town grey
Whether it's a night in Paris or a Fresno matinee

It's the home of the brave and the land of the free
Where the less you know the better off you'll be

Disorder in the house
All bets are off
I'm sprawled across the davenport of despair

Disorder in the house
I'll live with the losses
And watch the sundown through the portiere."

(Warren Zevon)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Price is Right

"Every time we're stuck in struggle I'm down for the count that day. Every time I dream of quick fix I'm assuaged."

There was yet another discussion about pricing this week on Facebook.

It's an issue that just won't go away.

It kicked off something like this.
It's really frustrating to me as an artist and as a professional to see others sell their well-made and high quality work for dirt cheap.

Lately I have seen other beadmakers and even jewelry artists sell their items for prices which are so low that I don't see how they aren't losing money. This hurts the whole market and devalues art and high quality craft. I could never price a set of, say, 5-7 beads that took me 4 hours to make for $20. I barely make enough on my art to give myself any kind of livable wage.

I do understand that there are those who are hobbyists that are just trying to make up costs and that don't do this for a living. But you need to realize that this is artwork. Give your art a chance!
It was carefully stated and prefaced by the writer stating that this was her opinion and that she just felt the need to put her feeling out to the universe.

At last count there were 174 comments.

The first comments were along these lines.
I feel exactly the same way. "I just want to make enough to buy more glass" drives me nuts because then people who are doing it for a living are made out to be money grubbing artists who are charging too much. Recently, when I posted about someone saying my beads were too expensive, someone said that these people "whore up the market".
Others chimed in.
I know it's a bonanza for the buyers, but it does make things tough for those of us that need to make a small wage from our work. I guess it's the same with all artisans - there will always been hobbyists who just want to recover a little of their material cost.
I agree wholeheartedly! I don't make my living selling lampwork, but I firmly believe that pricing my work too low devalues EVERY one else's work.
I was the first to dissent.
I think pricing is a personal decision. I don't feel that anyone has an obligation to price a certain way so that another artist can make a living. And on the flip side of the coin, I've seen simple beads bid up to such ridiculous prices that if I was the artist I'd be embarrassed to take the money. For the most part I think high quality art is not devalued when someone sells their meh beads for low prices. And I think most of our buyers are savvy enough to recognize true artistry.
13 people "liked" my comment.

The original poster responded.
I do agree that pricing is personal, which is why I would never approach someone directly about it. I do think it's an important discussion for artists to have though. I am confidant in my pricing most of the time because my beads do sell. But when I see beads that are clearly as decent as mine or better being sold for a quarter of the price it just frustrates me and makes me question my own pricing.
For the record, this artist makes exquisite beads, small, perfectly precise and detailed. I own several of her sets.

Another poster carried on the torch (so to speak).
This is the big issue. We are all a little bit "I am not worthy" when it comes to our own hand produced work and when we see someone selling lower, we do question and maybe start to pitch our prices a little lower. So what happens, ultimately the market starts to get depressed, not because of what buyers are prepared to pay, but because of a lack of self belief by the makers.
Well, based on what I see for sale, some so-called artists are right to question their worth.

Of course I had some more thoughts.
I've been selling my beads on Facebook since February. On one of my first sales, I was so happy, and then someone posted a comment like, you should have charged more. It hurt my feelings, and I thought about it a lot. I don't think my pricing hurts anyone else, no one is going to skip over [the original poster's] beads to buy mine for less.
Of course someone had to stick their fork in it.
Lowering the prices on good quality work means that sometimes [full time beadmakers] have to justify to those customers why ours are so much higher. And everyone who says that it's your right to price as you choose, I understand. I just don't want people devaluing THEMSELVES as much as others. It shouldn't hurt your feelings to have someone say that you could charge more, that should be a boost!
It felt more like a dig than a boost to me. I said this.
I still don't see why, if someone is happy with their prices, they need to raise them because another artist has to pay the rent. That just hurts the consumer. I doubt most hobbyists have the skills and vision to compete with a true artist who has worked her craft full time for years.
I want to mention that for the most part the discussion stayed respectful. There was disagreement but no flaming (so to speak).

But then we were back to the W word again.
It "whores up the market" when you price your work too low! If you always sell your work cheap, that's what people think of your work as, cheap.
I knew I should have thrown in the towel, but I kept trying.
Who is to sit in judgement of what is too low or too cheap? If people think someone's work is cheap, how does that devalue the whole market? I think it makes the true artists look better.
And then I added an afterthought.
And just because someone can melt some glass onto a mandrel, get it annealed and cleaned, that does not automatically make the bead a work of art, worthy of a high price.
The original poster addressed me.
Elizabeth, I am talking about those beads which are done really well *and* priced really low. If something is done really well and priced really low, I think people will start to expect that all the time, and I believe that devalues all beads which are done well. We can agree to disagree.
I'm not sure where she's shopping, but I haven't seen any really low prices on any really well done beads. I said this.
I don't think it's so much about agreeing to disagree as that I'm just not seeing what you are seeing. I'm not seeing really well done beads priced really low. In fact, I see badly done beads or generic beads priced too high - and I see people buying them. But if that's what you are seeing, I believe you. And I doubt those are hobbyists or people just trying to cover costs.
The original poster responded.
Elizabeth, I see that, too - but it doesn't bother me as much for some reason.
Of course not. Because it counters the argument about the devaluation of the market.

She continued.
Maybe you and I have different ideas about what a bead should be priced as. Why do you doubt there are people who are good at making beads, but price them just to cover costs because this is their hobby and not their career? It happens all the time.
Although I just don't see any bargain prices on masterful beads, I was ready to fly the white flag, after someone else took issue with the word "generic." By which I meant ordinary, simple, basic beads, with not evidence of true talent or artistry. Not that there isn't a market for spacers and simple beads, but they aren't worth top dollar.

I bowed out.
I hope no one takes anything I say personally. I don't even know which group I fall into, too high, too low, just right.
And that is the truth.

My guess is the original poster, and those who feel the way she feels, would say, too low.

But if that were really the case, wouldn't everything sell? I sell a respectable number of beads, but by no means all of the ones I list. Sometimes beads will sell on their second or third outing, sometimes I restring them in a different combination and they sell, some I'd be embarrassed to list again, after they were passed over more than once or twice.

Sometimes I get a BIN (Buy-it-Now) literally within seconds of listing a bead. But a similar bead may languish, maybe sell for the opening price, maybe not at all. So I wouldn't say an occasional BIN suggests my prices are too low. Perhaps in the specific case, they were just right.

Or am I rationalizing? I don't know. I stand by my original point. Pricing is an individual decision. I don't have the time to figure out my costs anyway, or to time each bead and apply some sort of dollar-a-minute method. I have sort of a formula I use, based roughly on no bead being worth less than $2 and working up from that.

I've experimented with pricing, including raising my price a little, after an item doesn't sell, to see if perceived value affects the consumers. Often I just go with my gut feeling, i.e., how pretty I think a bead is relative to my other beads that I have established prices for. I long ago abandoned the practice of starting an auction at a low price. Once burned, twice shy, so to speak.

Now if I could just make a bead with the artistry of this one, by Angelika Kaufman. I'm watching the bidding on that one and sitting on my hands. For now.

Or these butterfly wing sets by Kim Snider that I snagged this week, for a pretty penny.

Here's what I've got. All sold by the way. And I'm happy with the prices realized.

I don't want more money for my beads. I want to be a better bead maker.

Then I'll want more money for my beads.

In the meantime, it's all about the validation, baby.

"Every time you raise your voice
I see the greener grass
Every time you run for cover
I see this pasture
Every time we're in a funk
I picture a different choice
Every time we're in a rut
This distant grandeur

My tendency to want to do away feels natural and
My urgency to dream of softer places feels understandable

The only way out is through
The faster we're in the better
The only way out is through ultimately

Every time that I'm confused
I think there must be easier ways
Every time our horns are locked I'm towel throwing
Every time we're at a loss we've bolted from difficulty
Anytime we're in stalemate a final bowing

My tendency to want to hide away feels easier and
The immediacy is picturing another place comforting to go

We could just walk away and hide our heads in the sand
We could just call it quits only to start all over again
With somebody else

Every time we're stuck in struggle I'm down for the count that day
Every time I dream of quick fix I'm assuaged
Now I know it's hard when it's through
And I'm damned if I don't know quick fix way
But formerly mistreat me silence now outdated

My tendency to want to run feels unnatural now
The urgency to want to give to you what I want most feels good

The only way out is through
The faster we're in the better
The only way out is through ultimately."

(Alanis Morissette)