Monday, August 26, 2013

If the Phone Rings, Start Dancing

Last month, I talked about how to put your best foot forward when submitting your teaching credentials to a museum, gallery, or artistic center. In other words, how to get the administrative office to take you seriously and pick up the phone and call you -- instead of tossing your submission into the dreaded File 13.

Let’s say you were paying attention and put some of those ideas into effect. You amped up your credentials, wrote a killer artist’s statement, and rethought those photos. You blessed your revised submission, sent it out into the world and let Karma do its thing. And one day, out of the blue, the phone rings. You actually got a phone call from a curator! She/he has an unexpected opening in the fall schedule and needs to see a course proposal, like NOW. “Do you have something ready? We need to make a decision by Wednesday.”

OK. . . that’s only two days away. That means that no matter what plans you had for today, if you seriously want this opportunity, you clear the deck and write the best darn course proposal anyone has ever written… say, 20 minutes…..and don’t forget photos and samples….and get it to the curator pronto, hopefully, IN PERSON….no whining or complaining. Act like Ginger Rodgers. You are dancing as fast as you can……effortlessly, breathlessly, and backward, in high heels! This is the break you’ve been waiting for.

What goes in the proposal:

Title and Description of the Course: Make the course title descriptive and factual. Stick to the facts. Describe class in 150 words or less. Do not use jargon that will be unfamiliar to a novice or beginners.

Day, Time, Length, Etc.: Initially, you may be filling a slot created by a last minute emergency. But if you prove yourself worthy, you may become a permanent feature. While the teaching facility may be fitting you into an existing slot, it never hurts to ask for what you want. The museum where I teach, for instance, allows a 10-week term or two 5-week terms. I’ve learned that I get a different mix of students if I open it to both 10-week and 5-week students. It’s a three hour class and I’ve tried altering the days and times each term to see if it makes a difference in enrollment. It does.

Minimum/Maximum Class Size: What is your target audience? What is the demographic of your typical student? How can you help with recruitment? Do you have a “following?”

Facilities Requirements: What is the requirement for the size of the classroom? At the very least you need electricity, water, comfortable seating and adequate table space. What else?

Equipment: Does the facility have a kiln and tumbler? If not, are you willing to provide use of your own? Will you charge a fee for wear and tear to your own equipment?

Safety Issues: List and discuss any safety or allergy issues that may be inherent in this course, such as, the kiln, sharp tools, chemicals, fumes, etc.

Use of Teacher’s Tools and Consumables:  Establish a per-student lab fee to cover damage, loss, and replacement of your personal specialty tools, pickle, burnishing compound, antiquing solutions, tumbler use, stainless steel shot, etc.

Detailed Tool List: Students should be expected to provide their own PMC tools. You should provide a detailed checklist of all essential and non-essential tools, textures, non-stick work surface, Badger Balm, etc., that students should bring with them to the first class session. If, however, you are putting together kits, make sure to itemize exactly what is in the kit and the exact cost of what the student will receive.

PMC, Wire, Gemstones, Etc: Do you have adequate financial resources to stock enough silver and other costly supplies to accommodate 8 to 12 students for a 5 to 10 week term? Will you accept credit cards? Can you set up adequate security measures for yourself in the classroom? If you will bring supplies for students to purchase, don’t run out of supplies! It’s very important that students be able to depend on you for the items they require.

Specific Goals and Objectives of the Class: Outline the specific goals of the class. What should the students hope to accomplish and realistically set as their take-away at the outcome of their classroom experience?

Writing a proposal is a lot of work. But it is definitely worth the effort. You will want to refine and perfect this document every term as you figure out what works and what doesn’t. Think of it as a way to promote and protect yourself professionally.

Creative blessings,
 by Linda Kline
Director of Education

Friday, August 23, 2013

It's All in How You See It

It's interesting to see where other artists find inspiration and how they interpret it while creating their designs. I've been a fan of reality, creative challenge shows for a long time. And almost every new theme producers come up with, I fall victim to. At the moment I'm watching not only the ubiquitous Project Runway, but also the tattoo competition Ink Master, and the special effects make-up challenge Face Off.

In these creative tournaments, contestants are given a single element and asked to design something unique. It's amazing how different each artist's interpretation is! Last night the aspiring PR designers were taken 'Glamping' (glamorous camping) and came up with inspiration as diverse as skeletal tree shadows against the night sky, the froth of rushing water, a dying moth in the bathroom, and a love letter written to a husband. The clothing they made from these elements was delightfully creative.

When looking for inspiration for your jewelry, keep in mind that there are not only the obvious elements to work off of, but a whole slew of nebulous aspects that might take your imagination in an entirely distant direction.

Take my green chair for example. I could make a mold of the elaborate carving, or set a piece of lime green turquoise (magnesite), or riff off the pillow and make an illuminated manuscript themed scratch foam texture. Or I  could meditate a bit longer and think of the room that held this chair and what other decor may have filled it, or imagine the woman who sat in it, or picture the craftsman who carved the details. Maybe looking at this chair would bring to mind a scene of 18th century France, which might lead me to think of a foggy walk along the Seine. Perhaps the upholstery itself would influence a curvaceous box design. There's no telling where my muse might lead me.

The next time you're dreaming up a new confection, take a moment to delve deeper, look at every aspect, and imagine every possibility.

Posted by Lora Hart 
Artistic Advisor

Monday, August 19, 2013

What's on Your Bench?

All of the folks here at PMC Connection know how much you love creating with metal clay, and we hope you love making those creations with tools and materials you've discovered on our website. But we hardly ever get to see the wonderful jewelry and objects you've worked so hard to bring to life. So, we're bringing back our quarterly challenge so that we can share in your success, and so that you can toot your own horn a bit and share your work with the world!

This month we want to know "What's on Your Bench?" It can be a work in progress, a finished piece of jewelry, or just a shot of your messy bench showing the tools of your trade. I'll start off with a shot of some 'Exploded Lentils' and a tube bead turned posey pocket that I'm developing for a class.

The three forms on the right were all made from a single fine silver lentil bead,
using a jeweler's saw to cut and rearrange the parts. Unfortunately the
posey pocket and the pin are upside down, so it's difficult to see inside
(yes, that's a pearl set on the back of the pin). Whoops! 

As with all challenges, this one has guidelines that are important to follow if your photo is to be considered!

1. Take a photo of your work or bench. It doesn't have to be publication submission quality, but it does need to be well lit and in focus. 
2. Post the photo along with your real name, and tell us a little bit about yourself and the subject of the photograph to either the PMC Connection Facebook page or the CornerStone Flickr group. Include a link to your shop or website if you like. We'd love to stalk you and see all the lovelies you make. ;)
3. Deadline to post: August 30, 2013.

Also as with all challenges, this one has prizes that are super fun with a free marketing platform built in! Here they are:

1. The randomly selected 'winning' photo will be featured right here, in my next post for all the world to see, along with the information you've included in your submission.
2. PMC Connection will give you a $25 dollar credit to use towards the purchase of your favorite tools and materials.

There really is no 'winner', which means that there are certainly no losers. You'll all be winners for taking part and sharing your work with us and our readers. The final photo will be chosen with help from a random number generator - so everyone has the same chance to gain some fame. 

Thanks for playing along. You've got two weeks (August 30) to submit, and we can't wait to see what you come up with!

Posted by Lora Hart

Artistic Advisor

Friday, August 16, 2013

Creative and Professional Displays

All of us who sell our jewelry have the same problem: "How do I creatively display my jewelry at shows?"

I'm still on the quest. While I was at the recent Bead & Button show in Milwaukee I walked around looking and studying how everyone displayed their wares. I studied what booths I liked and why I liked them.

Was it because of the unique way jewelry was shown, was it the contrast of colors and textures, the varied display heights, or just the product being sold? Maybe its all of that and more.

I instantly knew what I didn't like. Jumbled messes of necklaces hanging together, booths that made me have to fight to get in to see what they were selling, jewelry without prices. I did walk away with some ideas. I wish I could have taken photos of the displays I liked, but the sellers may have thought I was trying to photograph their work.

I did stop and talk with one jeweler because her earring display solved a problem I had been experiencing. I had been using per-manufactured earring cards, but they didn't convey my brand and they were too short for my longer earrings. They were too generic and I had to hand write on the back of each card my name, the type of stone, metal type, and price. They were plain black cards with my ugly handwriting.

Looking at her booth, her logo, brand colors, and tag line were clear. These things were consistent throughout her booth. So, I asked her where she find long earring cards with her logo and colors printed on them. Her answer was simple. She used post cards. She made two earring cards out of one post card. Ingenious and cheap!

So I did the same. I created a post card that I could cut into two pieces. I placed white dots on the very top and bottom so I would know where to cut them into two pieces. Then I placed four white dots as a marker to put holes for my earrings. I used my background colors from my business card, tying in my brand, and then added my tag line.

On the back I have check boxes to state the type of metal and a place to write the stone type and price. My website is also listed. Very little ugly hand writing. I found a way to convey what I wanted a buyer to see and make it look more professional.

I still have some other display problems to solve, so I'm looking around to see what others are doing.
What are some of your unique ideas?

Until next time have fun claying around.


by Janet Alexander
Technical Advisor

Monday, August 12, 2013

Competition's Charm

Not so much anymore, but I used to be a competitive person. I could feel the hackles go up if I felt someone was one up on me. And thoughts would come automatically as to how I could get ahead. Conditioning or not, I would feel shame connected with this and am feeling it now as I reflect. I’m hoping that this might be something that everyone must go through in youth.

Bracelet Charms in Competition With Each Other
I really do not like the feelings associated with competition. Yes, let’s leave them behind. There’s a feeling of my inferiority and someone else's superiority. I feel a lot of fear of failure. And if I actually come out “ahead” I feel bad for being insensitive to my “competitor.”

So, I have conditioned myself to walk away from competition. Once I was in a class on art and business and the instructor was talking about knowing your competition. For an example, she explained that another PMC artisan (who was also present)  and I were in competition with each other. I felt my face go red from the sudden attention, but more so because I had not thought of this before. Later, when I had time to process it all, I realized I had felt misrepresented--I do not regard the other PMC artisan and myself as competitors. The instructor had just defined in part our relationship, a relationship we hadn’t yet had the joy of fully developing.

Competition is what sports is all about. This is where competition stimulates a reach for higher, faster, farther, more precise, etc. Outside of sports--say arts, education, marketing--some argue that competition stimulates higher quality, service, and product. Would I rather accomplish amazing stuff in solo to spite an opponent or accompanied by the cheers and support of comrades? I’ll take the support any day of the week.

Skipping topics here, I attended a Montana Board of Tourism quarterly meeting as a member of a panel of artists to crunch ideas on how artists fuel the tourism industry and how this board could further support artists in the state. A locally well-known, from-Broadway actor, also on the panel, told his story. In our little town of three to five thousand people (depending on the time of year) we have two theaters and three troupes. He said people thought he and his wife were crazy for starting the second theater company because one existed already. The fear? There won’t be enough people attending shows. He drew an analogy between an abundance of theaters and driving on the interstate. He pointed out how at exits all the places to eat and gas up line the streets and boulevards. He said the accumulation of services invites people to get off the exit, eat, and fill their tanks. Would someone likely pull off if there were only one gas station?  Not unless they were desperate for gas. This also is how my town’s downtown association works: they think of ideas to get folks downtown, not into just one store. By cooperation, each business gains more exposure and customers.
Bracelet Charms in Cooperation With Each Other

By emotional contagion, if you are around a person still living in a competitive world, your emotions will take you there with him or her.  It’s not easy to morph a potentially competitive situation into one of mutual cooperation, to focus on abundance rather than scarcity, on connection rather than separation. Cooperation is a phenomenon in the natural world of animals, plants, and other organisms. You don’t see many animals in their natural setting walking around in a state of competition-induced defeat or braggadocio. Sure, there is a hierarchy. For example, horses and dogs might spar for their place in the herd or pack, but in the bigger picture this benefits the herd or pack. Like respect and ranks in the military.

In humans, it takes certain mindfulness, perhaps enlightenment to walk away from anything that benefits one at the expense of another.  In a sense then, what competition does for us that lets us know it serves us is this: It causes us to be mindful enough to value and choose community, abundance, and connectedness.
A Charm Bracelet or "Mecca" of Charms
Ah, I can see it now. A PMC mecca in Montana. Anyone in? Or maybe I’m living in an idealistic world.  What are your thoughts and feelings on competition?

by Kris Kramer