Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Woes of independent artists

Last night, Hillary Went to a show of three local independent musicians at Workplay and it sparked some thoughts she wanted to share about being an independent artist:

Last night, I was sitting at Workplay, my favorite local venue for music, waiting on a show involving three alabama musical acts. At about 20 minutes past when the show was supposed to start, I started looking around and said to my husband "everyone who's here except us has a beer but no wristband", which means one thing: they were all either band members, band crew or friends and family of band members. I felt really bad for the bands, but I've been here before, and everyone has to go through events like this. Every visual artist has probably had at least one opening where no one showed up except mom, every band has to go through at least a few shows that are only them and the five friends they could manage to get to give up thier other saturday night activities, and every craft artist has sat through shows where they sell $20 worth of stuff and see 10 people all day.

As an artist of sorts, I get the cruddy position they were in. They probably didn't get gas money for the night, and might even be in debt due to paying for a venue they didn't come close to filling. It would be tempting as a band member in this situation to suggest that we not go on, or that we do 2 or three songs and go home. Believe me, during the bad craft shows, I often want to go home before lunch, but I usually stay at least until other people start breaking. Surprisingly, it has paid off quite a few times. I have had days where I did horribly before lunch and made 2/3's of my sales between 1 and 3 and managed to pull down a decent amount. If I had left, I would have missed the money, but also the opportunity to speak to people who appreciate my work and the opportunity to network with other crafters. A slow day is great day to go introduce yourself to other artists and share ideas.

Luckily for us, the bands all did a decent length set, and luckily for them, we saw a few more people with wristbands toward the end. They still probably didn't get much more than gas money, but they got to play music they love, and they got a little more exposure for hanging in there and doing the right thing. This is the only way any artist, be it a musician, an artisan jeweler, a sculptor or a performance artist, gets anywhere. You have to stick to your guns and keep going even if you go through several events with no response. This is sometimes really hard to do, because artists want a connection. Of course, we want a paycheck, but what we really want is to connect with people who appreciate what we do. Which, unfortunately, we often have to do a handful of people at a time.

In my opinion, the 2 best things people can do for an artist are 1. try to make a connection with them, even if it's just a simple "wow that's really unique", and 2. tell other people about the artist. I didn't actually go speak to the band, but I absolutely applauded, I'm going to leave a comment on their myspace pages and I'm absolutely going to tell people about it:

Daikaiju was absolutely amazing. I don't know how a group of musicians can possibly get that talented and go mostly unnoticed. The best way I could describe their sound is "hardcore surf fusion". That was some of the fastest and most skillfull guitar bass and drum playing I have ever seen. Please check them out, and tell other people if you like them. If you don't, find someone you do like and tell your friends about them. Artists need the love, but we know not everyone loves the same thing.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Finding inspiration

In an article on blissfully domestic, Dee Perrin
details some ideas on how to find creative inspiration. Sometimes this is a very elusive thing, and Hillary wanted to talk about some of the things that give her inspiration, including some of the things Dee speaks about:

"Probably the most obvious thing to do is start flipping through your craft books/magazines. I know you have a few laying around collecting dust. You may find a pattern you forgot about or just never got around to trying."
I have a few books with really great ideas that I have never tried for one reason or another. When I really want to create, but have no idea where to start, I often go through my books. Even if I don't end up making a project in the books, sometimes one of those projects will spark an idea with a similar theme or color scheme. My two favorite books are probably Bead and Button's "Elegant Earrings" and 1001 beads. I like the first one because the designs are different, challenging, and highly customizable, and because, as all of Bead and Button's booklets, the instructions and materials list are very clear and specific. I like 1001 beads because, even though the materials and instructions aren't always spot on, the designs are beautiful
and the pictures have really inspired me many times.

"Dig through your stash. Whether you are in denial about it or not, every crafter has a stash. Fabric, yarn, ribbon, papers, stamps - something is bound to get you excited."
I absolutely agree. Sometimes when I am digging through my stash, even if it's for something else, I will find a bead that jumps out at me and tells me how to use it. Sometimes it's a bead I've seen a thousand times before and have never been inspired by or sometimes it's a bead I have been wanting to do something with for a long time, but have never been able to figure out how to use. Either way, it's a great feeling to finally figure something out and then be able to create beautiful jewelry based on your vision.

My third and fourth ways to get inspiration are similar to Dee's third and fourth, but, as with everything, I do them my own way.

Dee's third suggestion is to browse etsy for inspiration. My counterpart to this is to look at other jewelry, be it beaded items on etsy, or diamond solitaire rings a Zales. I personally prefer to get out and look at things: at the mall; at craft fairs; at little hole in the wall indy shops; at Wal-Mart; everywhere. Looking at the jewelry may give me ideas and getting out usually gives me a much needed break from sitting in the chair staring blankly at the same thing for hours.

Which leads nicely into another major way that I get myself "un-stuck". I put the jewelry/project down and go do something else altogether. I make jewelry, I do other crafts, I create dances and I cook. Sometimes I get stuck on a necklace and sometimes I get stuck on a dance step, but if I keep getting stuck at the same place and nothing is getting me going, I just walk away from it. Dee suggests putting the project down and doing another quick and easy project so that you feel better about your ability to finish a project. Personally, I find that if I have been stuck on something for a while and am getting frustrated, it is usually best to put down that activity altogether and come back to it later -- usually in a day or two. If I get stuck on a piece of jewelry, for example, and then try to work on more jewelry, I just get really down on myself for not finishing the first piece and I worry about every minute detail of the next one, and any little mistake a I make becomes catastrophic. Whereas, if I just put it down and do something unrelated for a day or two, when I come back to it, it magically makes perfect sense and finishing the project becomes easy.

Another major way that I get inspiration is just by living. Sometimes music inspires me, or clothing I see at the thrift store, or a phrase someone says during the course of the day. There's even a seller on etsy who likes to place custom requests for jewelry from other artists and make jewelry for her own shop based on passages from books. I've actually gotten some really great ideas from some of the selections she has posted from books. In fact, you may see some designs based on some of those passages in the near future. An example of that I have been talking about it the piece below. It was inspired by the song "Half Jack" by The Dresden Dolls.
The most important thing I do regarding my creativity is not limiting myself. Even though I primarily make beaded and wire wrapped necklaces, there's no reason I can't try my hand at a ring, or a hair clip or a style I've never tried before. The piece above doesn't even fit in a category... it's not a pendant, nor was it ever intended to really be a part of a jewelry piece, but the song gave me a vision, so I created it. Not only do I not limit my style, I don't limit anything. Maybe this feeling I have that I was trying to create a necklace around would be better expressed in a dance or a poem, so I do that instead.

Now that I have shared some of the ways I inspire creativity in myself, I'd like to hear from you about what gets you going. Some of the best ideas I've ever had have come from other people and I'd love to have you share with me.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hippybeads has joined Retro Handmade!

Happy Hippy Jewelry is proud to announce that we have joined the Retro Handmade Etsy Team. "Retro Handmade is a group of Etsy sellers who specialize in handmade vintage-inspired items that resemble things from the past or create things that have retro vibe." Being that all of Hillary's jewelry pieces have always had a teeny little bit of a Hippy vibe, we thought it would be a perfect fit! To give you a little taste of what our new teamembers can do, we picked out a few photos of items that we really liked on the Retro Handmade Ning page. Keep in mind, our list is only a very small sampling--there are many talented retro-minded artists that make a lot of amazing things in this group.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

New beginnings, Charity and experimentation

As some of you may know, Hillary Wilson, our artist and proprietor announced the opening of a new high end jewelry business. Many of you may be wondering what this means for Happy Hippy Jewelry. This means that we can re-focus on what we originally started doing: fun and affordable Hippy jewelry. For a while Hippybeads tried to take a turn for the serious, and quite frankly, it doesn't suit us well. Now that Hillary has an outlet for creating things that are high quality and formal, she can help return Happy Hippy back to it's original spirit of experimentation, creativity and artsy shenanigans.
In that spirit, Hillary has recently been working on some new and unusual pieces.

The first one
is different in style than many of Happy Hippy's other pieces, however it marks a return to using some re-purposed materials and odds and ends to create something surprising and beautiful.

The second one isn't complete yet. Hillary is creating a unique piece for Arty Party 2009, an annual art auction fund raiser for Birmingham AIDS Outreach (more on that in another post). It's still a work in progress, but we wanted to give you a sneak preview: