Tuesday, August 3, 2010

tips for surviving in a challenging economy

Crafts artists form a great community. When we get together these days we share our tips for surviving in an economy that I think we would all admit is a bit challenging--to put it mildly. What I found interesting about this time were the very distinctive approaches that 3 of my friends are using--each one so suited to their own personalities and experiences.

I have known David Bacharach since I started as a quilt maker. Even then he was considered one of the leading metal workers in the field with years of experience making wall hangings that manipulate the textures and colors of metal in ways no one else can. Recently I noticed that he has added some  outdoor sculptures that use a wonderful array of found objects he says he has been accumulating for thirty or forty years. He told me that he had been wanting to make large sculptural objects for a long time. What a great approach in a challenging market--make a new line of work that can be used in the garden--while retaining his love of metal and the skills he has developed doing it.

One of my favorites is the free form praying mantis attached to a long pole it can sway and bob up and down in the wind. Isn't it fanciful and fun?

Another wonderful work is this weathered cube with an owl on top of it. Don't you just love the textures in this piece? The owl is the perfect finishing touch IMHO.

Another favorite was hard to capture at his booth. There was a bird and a bird's nest swinging on a pole sustained by a shovel. The movement and interaction were mesmerizing and the shovel brought a smile to my face. I know I want one.

A different approach is being used by my friend Kathy Cooper. Kathy is known for her wonderful floor cloths in the most wonderful colors. Floor cloths for those who don't know are pieces of canvas painted by the artist and treated so they work as a rug while being so much easier to clean. As she puts it, she is "using color to infuse your home with energy, spirit and enthusiasm".

Just look at her booth--this woman is NOT afraid of color is she?

I love this arrangement of smaller rugs showing how the difference in color can really change the feeling of the rug. How could you ever choose which one you wanted?

Kathy has long been known for her classes and workshops on painting floorcloths. She explained to me that many of her students and her customers are scared of color so she will be taking an intensive cseminar this fall in the use and psychology of color. As a result she will be able to get paid to do color consulting with her customers--an added skill. In addition she is planning to augment her line of courses to include one that will teach her students to not be afraid of color. Again,  a brilliant solution that so uses her skills and interests.

My friend Max Rosenthal is actually doing something that at first glance seems counter-intuitive. Max makes very strong jewelry that uses found stones, agates and fossils set against bold and powerful patterns in the metal work. She also worked in the corporate world for a number of years--she is one of the most organized and self-assured women I know. This is Max wearing her jewelry--you can see that even her booth echoes the patterns she uses.

And here is a close-up of one of her necklaces that centers on fossils and patterns in the metal to make a  statement. Yes the fossil is a lovely mauve color.

Anyhow, Max's solution was  to take on an apprentice to help her with her jewelry making. She found a young gentleman who had studied some of the aspects of metal working that she uses (Yes, she explained it all to me but much of it went right over my head--whoosh!!) She arranged for him to get training in other areas. By now she said that some of these tasks--and again please don't ask me to explain--he can do better and faster than she can. In addition because he is younger, he can help her market to a younger audience--something we are all trying to do--right? Again, a brilliant solution and one that uses Max's business acumen as well as her jewelry skills.

As for me, I am being a lot more active on social media to increase my market as well as working hard to make new quilts. I also have a few other plans up my sleeve--so to speak--but more about those some other time. And you, are you having to work harder in a difficult economy? What solutions have you come up with?


  1. Hi Ann,

    I agree; we have to leverage our skills these days. I am doing that by starting to teach polymer clay classes, venturing into creativity coaching, and learning Photoshop Elements so I can create a new line of work using images of my art.

    As challenging as all this is, I think we should use this time to our advantage. The more we leverage our skills and reinvent, the better positioned we'll be down the road. (At least I hope so!)


  2. Those are great ideas Amy. Thanks.