Writing an Artist’s Statement

I’ve participated in a few gallery shows over the years, but they’ve all been pretty laid-back.  None of the curators has ever asked me for an artist’s statement or a resume.  This fall, however, I am hoping to participate in a show at the Society for Contemporary Craft.  These folks are the real deal.  They want all the documentation.  I didn’t have an artist’s statement ready, so this week I sat down to write one.

  1. I dreaded doing this.  I am not good at critiquing anyone’s art, and the thought of trying to condense the essence of everything I have ever made into two short paragraphs was daunting, to say the least.  I couldn’t immediately start writing paragraphs, so instead I started with a big, sloppy brainstorm.  Using a few of the prompts on Molly Gordon’s site, I began to scribble out words that I associate with my work.  I had written around 50 terms before my brain naturally started to hone in on the ones that seemed most relevant.  The terms “bright color,” “childhood,” “irresistible,” “immaculate,” and “collect/organize/categorize” were the gems I pulled from the pile.
  2. My next step was to brainstorm a few sentences using the terms I chose.  The sentences were disparate and unconnected at first, and what I wrote was far too detailed.  I was trying to give the most complete picture of my work possible, but then I remembered that that’s not really the point of an artist’s statement.  The point is to tell people who are unfamiliar with your work what your art tries to accomplish, and how you make that happen. You can add some context and personal history to the mix, but that’s really just gravy.  As soon I realized that I didn’t need to list every material I’d ever used, or every art-related thought I’d ever had, my sentences began to cohere.

Before I started working on my artist’s statement, I was liable to describe my work as “eclectic,” and myself as a Jane-of-all-trades.  I had only vague notions about what tied everything together, because I don’t examine my motivations very carefully when I make things.  I just “feel inspired.”  Now that my statement is finished, I no longer wonder why artists are encouraged to write them.  I’ve come to see that I have a unique and coherent style, even when I work with different media or subject matters.  And now I can describe that style confidently in just one or two sentences.  It’s been both empowering and enlightening to write my artist’s statement.  I gained some insight into my process and motivations, and I’m glad to say that I like what I saw.

You can read the full statement on this page in my “About” section.

Note: I also had to write an artist’s resume, which I did by combining the guidelines found at the Artists Foundation and the College Art Association.

Thing-A-Day 14 & 15: Custom Vinyl Toy

I know I didn’t post a separate thing for yesterday but that’s because I spent both days this weekend (and many others beforehand) finishing up my Yoka bear for the DKE traveling Custom Yoka show.  I made new things for it each day, so I think it still falls within the bounds of my commitment.  If you’ll recall, my initial string-art-turned-embroidery idea didn’t quite work out because the toy was too small to puncture or sew, so I sketched up a feathered griffin idea instead:

I basically stuck to this plan but I turned his arms into the wings and changed the colors a bit.  Here’s how he turned out:

I’ll take better photos when I have some time during daylight hours (I started a part-time day-job so that’s been tough) but I wanted to give you a sense of the process in the meantime.  First I made him a polymer clay beak and little claws (I used gold).  After baking I attached them with a two-part super glue for plastics from Loctite which worked extremely well.

Next I made him two polymer clay eyes (using white clay), which I fired, glued and painted in three colors using acrylics.  He looks cute and doe-eyed here, but watch out!

Next I used more polymer clay to make angry eyelids.  They flattened out a bit when I baked them, but they were so thin that I was able to bend them back into shape while gluing them.

While I was waiting for his eyelids to cook, I wrapped his arms in wire to make bendable wireframe wings.

I glued some felt on top of the wire so the feathers would have a base.  When it was dry I trimmed the excess (not pictured).

Next I cut out a million tiny felt feathers.  Mostly I used a teardrop-shaped hole punch that works on fabric — sort of.  It punched through the felt most of the way but every piece was still attached by a little piece at the bottom that I had to snip off with fabric scissors.

One by one I glued the feathers on his body.  I started with his feet and his belly.

I also glued little felt pads for the bottom of his feet.  They look white here because I overexposed the shot, but they’re really the same blue as the feathers on his belly.

I also added a tail, which is just 22-gauge wire wrapped in felt.  I poked a hole in his backside for it but I didn’t glue it in until the end, after I’d trimmed it.  By the end of the day on Saturday, his body was finished.  I cut a few feathers in half for the tufts on his “ears.”

Sunday was mostly spent on his wings.  The long feathers I cut out by hand.  I cut a bunch of skinny triangles from one long strip of felt, then rounded off the ends with my fabric scissors.  Ta-da!

I made everything so that his joints all still move. His wings are also bendable so you can fold them at his sides, make him take off, or have him swoop in for a landing.

Your instruction for today is: customize a small toy to make it way cooler than the original.  You can customize a blank vinyl toy (or even a roll-on deodorant), pick up an action figure at the thrift store, or turn that old carnival teddy bear into something way more bad-ass.

Your inspiration for today comes from a few of the other artists in the traveling Yoka show.  Some people painted…

Some people felted…

…some people sculpted…

…and some people covered.

Some people had more ideas than time.