A Passion for Art Photography and for Saving Our Natural World

Guy Tal, Art Photographer and Educator

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Guy Tal found success working in Silicon Valley for six years and then at a Utah financial services firm, before deciding to give up both the rat race and the financial security at age thirty-eight to pursue art photography full time. “It was very scary after having ‘invisible hands’ put money in my bank account each week, but it was something I knew I had to do.

“I’d gotten interested in photography as a teenager, and practiced it semi-professionally for more than fifteen years, selling and publishing a lot; so I had a good foundation. When I started, I didn’t focus on selling my work, but on teaching about the creative process. By the time I left my corporate job, I already sold books and essays, and had published articles in national publications. My workshops had also gotten a lot of good feedback, and I had a good online following, and that’s what I relied on.

“There have been a lot of challenges in recent years that have made it very difficult to make a living in this kind of photography. Probably the biggest has been the change in selling stock images, which at one time was the major source of income for many photographers, and now, with the free services on the Internet, has largely died out. So these days, unless you’re a big name with strong client relationships, it’s very tough to make a living selling photographs.

“For me, focusing on instruction, leading photography tours and publishing, have proven to be a good business. There used to be a mantra in the business that photographers don’t buy other photographers’ work, but I never subscribed to that – probably because I didn’t find it to be true about myself. So, my customers and clients often are professional photographers, or people who intend to pursue it seriously. Rather than focus on the technical minutia of operating a camera, or simply drive people around to postcard locations, my workshops are about the practice of photography as art, on finding ways of relating to the natural world on a personal, interpretive, level, and expressing the significance of such experiences through photography.

“I work with people who are at many different levels, though I do weed out the very, very beginners, since it’s important to have a working knowledge of the camera out of the way in order to pursue creative work. It also offers a unique experience because we go beyond the well-known iconic views, particularly in some of the remote areas we visit in the national parks, and spend time on understanding the art and science of expressive imagery, rather than simply documenting natural phenomena.

“I offer some workshops where I’m the primary teacher, but I also sometimes collaborate with others. We give field workshops, and then every other year or so I offer a limited number of one-on-one internships by phone and Skype with up to five students.

“I approach the photography of natural things as a form of art and creative expression, and I believe that beyond producing aesthetic images, it can also be a means of finding happiness and fulfillment. My process is described in detail in my Creative Series ebooks, which outline my six-phase process of Concept, Visualization, Composition, Capture, Processing and Presentation.

“When I’m working on a piece, I think and visualize first, and then use tools to express the story I want to tell with the image, or a portfolio of images. It’s not about the technical trivia of using a camera, but about sharing something meaningful and personal.”

In an article in Aperture Academy, Guy said this about the biggest challenge facing landscape and wilderness photographers in the future:

“I think we are the lucky ones. We still have wilderness available to us, and revolutionary technologies we can employ to create images like never before. While I see technology improving, I fear that the experiences we are after are fast disappearing in favor of misguided corporate and political agendas. If at some point in the future you could have a 100-megapixel camera that weighs less than a pound and costs $500 but nowhere left to hike and experience and camp in solitude, there will no longer be a reason for what we do.”

Guy Tal’s work has been published in many magazines, including LensWork Magazine, Outdoor Photographer Magazine, Popular Photography Magazine, Digital Photographer, Landscape Photography Magazine, and On Landscape. He’s said, “I do not consider myself as a photographer who creates art, but rather an artist working in the medium of photography. Where some photographers take a representational approach to the landscape, I wish instead to use visual elements and natural aesthetics as evocative metaphors, creating images that are not merely of, but about places and things that have become personally significant to me.”


Pitch Perfect Music and Glass Art

Nina Falk, Musician and Glass Artist

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1. When did you start working in glass?

In 2003 I started working in glass, as a result of attending a show at the Glen Echo Park in Maryland. I saw a beautiful bowl, made by Zayde Sleph, and bought it. Shortly after, I learned that he taught there, and that he and his wife taught many of the glass artists in the area. Not only that, I learned, to my happy surprise, that there is a thriving community of glass artists in the Washington, DC area. This rich community gave me many opportunities to study more, and before long, to exhibit publicly.

2. What brought you there from music?

 I am still a performing musician. It is not unusual for a person to be drawn to more than one form of artistic expression. The sense of hearing and sight are closely aligned because of the vibrations they each create. The longtime concertmaster of the National Symphony, William Steck, took up quilting after his retirement and made gorgeous pieces.

For me, a passion for both art and music were present since childhood. I was blessed to have parents who were attentive to notice my interests and to provide me with opportunities to develop them. When I was eight I began to feel very serious about music, and studied at the Juilliard Preparatory Division with a teacher I adored, who nurtured my love for music. When I went to the Oberlin Conservatory, I was very committed to my life as a musician, but I took classes in sculpture and printmaking. In graduate school I made time to study weaving and bought a four-harness loom. I was a Fulbright scholar in London and Rome, where I studied violin-making. I loved working with my hands, but found that violin-making was not as creative as I wanted to be. It was illuminating to learn how the instrument was made, that I spent so many hours with as a player. Until I found glass, I found different avenues for creative expression in visual forms, but never focused on one in particular. Once I fell in love with glass, which happened almost immediately, I pursued it with the same intensity of purpose that is required for a musician to develop. I went to workshop after workshop, bought my own kiln, bought a second kiln, began to enter shows. I exhibited at the American Craft Council Show in Baltimore, the Washington Craft Show, the Northern Virginia Craft Festival, The Buyers’ Market for American Craft, and the Glen Echo show that had lit the fire to pursue glass.

Since I chose kiln-formed glass, it was not that difficult to maintain my musical life along with the glass work. Once you load the kiln, there is usually around 24 hours before the complete cycle is back to room temperature, depending on what process you are doing. During that time, I am able to practice the violin, rehearse, and play concerts.

3. How do you see the connection between the two areas of art for your work?

The inspiration for my work is in the oneness of all life, whether you see this as a secular or sacred phenomenon. This is seen in both art and music, and especially in nature. Since I am not a composer of music, usually the music inspires the art, rather than the art inspiring the music. But there are patterns that can be noticed in both, such as repetition, contrast, flow, and different forms…these exist in art, music, and nature. Unlike literature, much of the music I play is abstract, so the opportunities for inspiration are limitless.

4. What were some of the challenges starting to work in glass?

Besides needing to learn how to use the material, in terms of technique, including how much heat, how little, how long…there are many possibilities to consider. I am fortunate to be working in glass at a time when there is a lot of information out there that is shared by artists who came before me, as well as local colleagues. However, one challenge I think that affects all glass artists is that it is easy to get distracted by technical issues—the “how”—rather than “what” and “why”. It is very important for an artist to be true to his/her imagination, to develop it, and to listen to what is speaking inside, and not abandon that pursuit in the cause of technical skills. This is an issue, of course, in music performance, that many musicians are aware of. Virtuosity for its own sake does not hold interest over time. It is important for glass artists to stay true to whatever vision animates their work, and not let technical concerns be the driver of the piece.

5. What’s a typical day like?

It all depends on what stage I am at, in the development of a piece. It starts with an idea, or a client’s idea, and moves to a sketch, and then to tests, and finally to actually producing the piece. That production phase involves lay-up of the design elements, and multiple firings. For my tree pieces, it means creating the wood elements and working out how they will interact with the glass. For the large undulating wall pieces, after the series of firings, it means adding the installation hardware. The most exciting phase is the actual creation of the work, because it is such a pleasure to see your idea come to fruition.

7. How do you handle marketing?

Like many artists, I am sometimes introverted and not comfortable selling my own work. I am fortunate to have found a marketing assistant who has helped me with all aspects of selling, including pricing, and most important, getting my work seen. She sends e-mail blasts periodically to designers, galleries, art consultants. Sometimes I place an ad in one of the better craft magazines, which are often made available at shows as well as in bookstores and subscriptions.

8. How much time do you spend on exhibiting and on the business of promoting your work?

Because of my assistant, I spend only a small portion of my time exhibiting and promoting. Last year, I did a show with two colleagues in a cooperative gallery, and plan to do another in about a year. That will take a lot of time and energy, but it’s a great incentive to get new work accomplished, and I am eager to work on new tree ideas and new and larger wall pieces.

9. What tips do you have for others, organizations you’ve found useful, courses?

Even though the economy hasn’t recovered fully, it is good to do some shows, especially if you are starting out. You learn so much from other artists, and there is nothing that can replace the information you get from observing people notice your work. You get to see what gets the most reaction, the least, where they linger. It is important not to isolate yourself too much in the studio. And as I mentioned earlier, the Washington area glass guild is a fantastic community. Join whatever guild is near you, and connect with other artists. I also benefitted a great deal from taking courses (in design, for example) from non-glass artists. This strengthened my understanding of design basics and helped me to separate the artistic issues from the technical ones.

Nina Falk approaches her glasswork as a visual expression of the rhythms, patterns, and lyricism of both music and nature. The artist studied violin, sculpture, and printmaking at the Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio and won a Fulbright Fellowship to explore violin making in Europe. She studied kiln-formed glass at the Corning Museum of Glass and at the Pilchuck School. She is a founding member of the Arcovoce Chamber Ensemble. She was artist-in-residence at the Wesley Theological SeminaryEnhanced by Zemanta. For more information, visit www.ninafalkglass.com.


Art Quilting Growing Global: SAQA

An Interview with SAQA Executive Director, Martha Sielman


How did you first get involved with SAQA?

I got involved with the organization around 1999/2000 because I was making my own quilts and moving more toward developing my own designs making art quilts. At that time, Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA), which was founded in 1989, had about 800 members. They needed a volunteer to run the Connecticut region, so I volunteered.

We only had six members in Connecticut at the time, but when I heard about a local art show, I asked SAQA if we could exhibit, and they said yes. Sharon Heidingsfelder, SAQA’s executive director at that time, suggested I invite other members from the East Coast to participate. To my surprise, 50 people entered. I realized then that there was a need to find exhibit venues. Art quilters wanted to share what they had created.

That led to starting the “Fiber Revolution” group, made up of SAQA members in the northeastern U.S., which quickly began doing ten exhibits a year. I loved doing the organizing work for “Fiber Revolution” and found that I was spending more and more time on it and less time in my studio.

So when Sharon retired in 2004, I applied to be SAQA’s executive director. Since then the organization has quadrupled in size to over 3,200 members. We’re now international in more than thirty-one countries, and we see continued growth, including in Korea, Taiwan, Eastern Europe and Africa.

I’ve also been writing about the field in a number of books for Lark Publishing–Masters: Art Quilts, volumes 1 and 2; Art Quilt Portfolio: The Natural World, and Art Quilt Portfolio: People and Portraits, which was just published this past Spring.

What do you see as SAQA’s role as compared with other organizations in the field?

A number of organizations focus more on professional development. There are regional organizations around the country, like the Contemporary Quilt Association in Washington State, the Professional Art Quilt Alliance in the Chicago area, and Front Range Contemporary Quilters in Colorado.

There’s also the Surface Design Association, which has close to five thousand members and is also international. The difference is that they cover all types of surface design, while SAQA focuses just on art quilts.

How do you define an art quilt?

Definitions are tough, but I think the best is: A work of art created with fabric and thread. SAQA’s official definition is “a creative visual work that is layered and stitched or that references this form of stitched layered structure.”

Is there a divide between this and traditional quilting?

I see it all on a continuum. I think of traditional quilting as using designs and patterns that have been used for hundreds of years; contemporary quilting as using similar patterns while playing with color and form; and art quilting as completely original in design. But, as I said, trying to set a particular definition is a slippery slope and there are many, many counter-examples.

What important strides have been made in establishing quilts in the art world – as compared with the past?

There has been a lot more interest from the art world – at museums, at galleries, and from collectors. There’s a lot of cross-over happening between the fine art and craft worlds.

Have you seen increased interest in art quilting?

Yes, there continues to be very strong growth, including internationally. We’re finding that people, especially women, around the world are interested in working in fiber arts, in part as a reaction to the electronic world. Art quilting offers a different, wonderfully tactile way to express oneself.

What new developments, products, and techniques are you most excited about?

The biggest development that I’ve seen is the increased interest in long arm quilting machines being owned privately. The machines are quite expensive and take up a lot of space, so they were originally designed for industrial use – where people who bought them intended to do quilting for others. Now, individuals and small groups are buying them for their own use. I often talk with people who say they’ve been thinking about the purchase for a while and are willing to devote a room in their house – sometimes even the living room – to set up a machine. I think that reflects a change in our society to being less formal, and using space in the house differently.

There have also been changes in sewing machines, where some are more of a hybrid that can offer more speed and cover a larger surface area than a standard machine, but which are less expensive than a traditional long-arm.

Other trends I’ve noticed are the use of recyclable material, use of sheer fabrics, and working in three dimensions. On the color side, there’s a lot of use of neutrals now, rather than jewel tones and saturated colors.

I see growing interest in quilting because people have a desire to make things, to express themselves creatively, and to connect. Art quilting offers a great way to immerse oneself in doing all of that.

Martha Sielman has been Executive Director of Studio Art Quilt Associates, Inc. (SAQA) since 2004. Her career in art quilts began in 1988, when she learned to quilt, and has included more than 20 years of work as a professional artist, author, lecturer, curator, juror, and arts administrator.  She is the author of Art Quilt Portfolio: People & Portraits; Masters: Art QuiltsMasters: Art Quilts, Volume 2, and Art Quilt Portfolio: The Natural World.


Glass Art and Business: Artist Martin Kremer

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Martin Kremer discovered glass art at college, though not through an art program or formal lessons, but because one of his housemates got bored with the glass class he was taking and Martin took his friend’s scraps and his hobby and began to learn about glass on his own.

He bought a book on the topic and also began learning from others who worked in the field, one was a third generation glass artist, another taught him soldering, and other artists provided gentle corrections along the way. His experience taught him you can learn a lot when you’re not “spoon-fed,” but have the chance to struggle through the artistic roadblocks and learn what does and doesn’t work.

Kremer’s work began as a hobby, and then grew over time. He had additional good fortune when his wife got a great job offer in the early 80’s, which allowed him time to pursue his art seriously. Shortly afterwards, he started picking up wholesale accounts for his stained glass jewelry boxes, and he got involved with a craft co-op where he learned the arts business, including how to work with galleries. It took time to build, with places ordering 4 to 6 pieces at a time.

“Working with the craft co-op was helpful, and it was also important to get out to smaller retail shows” says Kremer. “But if I were starting today, I’d try to work with Buyer’s Market of American Craft and the American Craft Council Shows which both have mentor programs, since the major gift shows are harder to get into. It’s also good to connect with galleries and catalogue producers.

“Really, you need to get one good client to give you an economic base,” explains Kremer, “though you have to be careful with that because it can be a trap. There are two reasons: the first is that they often want you to do the same things again and again because that’s what they’ve found will sell; and secondly if you come to rely on that income, it’s easy to get lazy and to not explore new things. I advise people not to get in too deep with any one customer, so you can afford to leave when you’re tired of producing the same thing.”

“In my case with the jewelry boxes, I eventually turned the work over to one of my subcontractors, which worked out well. I also found over time that I’ve priced myself out of some markets – so you might find that you move from selling to craft shops to selling through galleries up to selling more expensive commissioned work.

“These days, the economy has made it more difficult for artists, from what I’m hearing from my peers. There’s a shift in the market because of the aging of the craft buyer. A lot of collectors are aging, and people are downsizing, which means they don’t have as much space for art as they used to. Also, kids are not buying big things to live with – so the demand is for more functional things that can sell in the $50, $60, $130 range.

“So, you can plan to cater to that audience, or choose to go the high-end, specialty route, though that’s a difficult market to crack. In my case, I’m doing furniture that combines steel and wood bases with glass on top. These can sell in the $5000-$8000 range for a console or occasional table. I’m finding with these that I enjoy the opportunity to collaborate with other artists on some of the pieces.

“My advice to beginning artists is to make the art that resonates with you. If you try to create for the market, it’s very hit or miss. Then take samples or models of your work around to decorators, architects and others who can recommend you to show what you can do. It may not be easy to do the legwork, but good work does come out in the long run.

“Local art centers can be a good place to start educating yourself because they’ll have beginner classes where you can learn – often how to fuse glass, because that’s easier, but also how to blow glass. Stained glass used to be in vogue, since it’s an easy entry point, but it can be limiting.

“There are also a handful of good schools that specialize in this area: Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina, Arrowmont in Tennessee, and the Pilchuck glass school in Washington State. Another good place to learn more is on the Warm Glass website, which is also connected to a studio that offers classes.

Martin Kremer is an award-winning artist who has studied blown and fused glass at the Penland School of Crafts, at Urbanglass in Brooklyn, NY and at the Corning Museum of Glass Studio in Corning, New York.

He started fusing by translating pattern to glass, with inspiration from Native American fabrics, Venetian tiles and marquetry patterns. That work led to the Ventana series of vessels, studies in contrasts: opacity/transparency, matte/glossy, all played out on a vividly colored palette. That series has recently taken a sculptural turn in the direction of walls, Paredes, and other structures incorporating fused glass with the same contrasts but with the addition of an architectural tension between free-standing pieces. They might be seen as models for large public monuments.


I majored in art and minored in juggling!

Scott Barnett, Artist
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From Dead Man’s Party
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When Susan and I first talked about my writing an entry for her blog, I had trouble figuring out what I wanted to write about, since I was currently juggling different specialties in the graphics industry. Then it dawned on me. THAT’S what I should write about- the necessary ability to reinvent yourself as an artist when need be, as well as juggling those different skills to continue to get work and stay relevant in today’s market.

I majored in illustration when I was in college and planned on being an illustrator in the workforce. After school, I looked to an industry that had provided me so much entertainment in my youth- comic books. So I focused mostly on comic book illustration and was making a reputation for myself when that industry suddenly had a major downturn in the ‘90s. It was a shock to me that after all my hard work (preparing samples for editors, meeting with them for feedback and advice, finally receiving work from some of them), I’d find myself in an industry that could barely keep the veterans employed, much less an up-and-comer like myself. I was naive then, what can I tell you? It took a while to figure out that I needed to go in another direction with my graphics career. Eventually, I settled into web design because it seemed like there was tons of work in that field. I bet you know where this is going, don’t you…

So, I switched gears and was hired by an internet company as part of their graphics department. It was a good company, with management that actually cared about their employees and rewarded them whenever they could. So what could possibly go wrong, you ask? Remember the timing- this was the year 2000. Remember what happened to all those internet companies back then? A ton of them went out of business during the dot com crash. I actually came back from a vacation, only to find my company gone. I mean, actually ‘gone’.  No lights on, no people…

As you can guess, I had difficulty finding work in web design after that gig dried up, due to the circumstances. So, I was forced to reinvent myself yet again, this time being introduced to the world of 3D modeling and rendering. An old friend and colleague showed me the software he was working in and I fell in love with it. I would never have thought I’d take to something where I’d be creating art entirely on the computer, since virtually all my education in school took place before computers took over. Yeah, I’m old- want to make something of it? I loved it so much, it wasn’t long before I was able to start using it professionally, even given the extensive learning curve involved in that type of software. I started bringing in freelance work from companies who needed photorealistic renderings of products that either didn’t yet exist or were too expensive to photograph. After several years of working in that industry, the economy tanked in 2008 (I’m sure you all heard something about that!) and most of my 3D clients dried up. So I turned to storyboarding, logo design and private commissions to bring in work. Essentially, nothing was off-limits, as long as it was related to the graphic arts and I could deliver to the client.

Point is, I’ve had to wear a lot of different hats to stay in the graphics industry, and in doing so, I’ve greatly diversified my skill set. These days, most of my work comes from 3D graphics and illustration (mostly comic book work), so I’ve come full circle, I suppose. Of all the disciplines I worked in, those two are my favorites, so I’m a pretty happy duck right now. I’m still always learning new skills and tricks, even after more than 20 years in the field. In fact, I’ve recently taken the leap into self-publishing; I teamed up with an old friend to create a crime fiction comic mini-series called Dead Man’s Party. Here’s how we describe it:

It’s called a Dead Man’s Party: an assassin puts a contract out on his own head and a select group of peers have thirty days to fulfill it. For the world-renowned hitman known only as ‘Ghost,’ ordering a Party is a last resort, a way to go out on his terms, at the top of his game. The invitations are sent, the killers are coming… And that’s when things go horribly wrong.

Publishing my own book and getting to illustrate my own creative property has long been a dream of mine, and I’m very excited about the press we’ve been getting about it. Don’t believe me? Check it out at www.DeadMansParty.org, where we post previews of the books, as well as reviews from critics. So if you’re looking for any type of advice regarding a career in graphics, I’d say this: It’s extremely rewarding being able to utilize your creativity (whether that’s in drawing, painting, web design, basket weaving, etc.), but it’s a career you REALLY have to want, because it can sometimes be a rough road, I’m not going to lie. But I’ll also say this- there is nothing else I’d rather do in this world than create. I’m happiest when I’m drawing, painting or modeling something in 3D. As for artistic techniques I use in, say, creating my comic book work, I’m not afraid to do a ton of research and find reference material to work from, and I’ve developed my painting style from a classic graphic arts education. What I mean by that is, if you want to draw comic books, learn to draw the real world first. Don’t just look at comic books to learn how to draw them.

In his professional career, Scott Barnett has been an illustrator, designer, storyboard artist and 3D modeler/animator. He and his wife live in New Jersey. His work can be viewed at the above mentioned www.DeadMansParty.org and www.ScottBarnettGraphics.com, as well as on Facebook and deviantArt.


From bulldozers to fine art with David Gelfman


David Gelfman, Metal Sculptor

“A visitor to my studio is just as apt to find me repairing somebody’s bulldozer as creating fine art,” says David Gelfman. “To me, the activities are not as different as they sound”. Indeed, Gelfman’s work delivers an exciting fusion of the industrial functionality of a bulldozer, and the form, delicacy and taste expected from fine art.

David Gelfman was immersed in the mechanics of creating at an early age. In his adolescence, Gelfman spent summers working for a metal fabricator, picking up tricks of the trade along the way. He also shared his father’s wood-shop in his own basement, and explored furniture design, along with many other skills. Gelfman’s insatiable fascination with machinery and farm implements has followed him since childhood. As a ten year old, he developed this interest, and continues to collect a range of machinery today. Gelfman realized his destination as an artist during his undergraduate education at St. Lawrence University (New York) and graduated with a BA in 1989. During the pursuit of his MFA (Rinehart School of Sculpture at the Maryland Institute, in Baltimore), Gelfman “began to focus in on the mechanics of creating the imagery that had previously just inhabited [his] imagination.” Since 1994, Gelfman has worked out of his studio in Ridgefield, Connecticut. The studio is a large barn, filled with a collection of mid twentieth century machine tools, as well as Gelfman’s in-progress works.

David Gelfman’s work flourishes from his expertise in manipulating materials. Through his ability to physically construct, Gelfman has produced a myriad of different types of work. Gelfman describes one piece, designed for and displayed at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art (Ridgefield, CT): “Many of the largest works Iʼve done are the result of [my] preoccupations with older technologies. One piece I did was a submarine which was in a show at The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art. We were asked to create works that were site specific. I made up a little dreamlike situation of the tide  leaving this submarine behind. I often have a childish beginning to a piece.” Gelfman’s sculptural work is based in concept, as well as the artist’s mental imagery constructed in quite a physical manner. In his purely sculptural work, Gelfman’s inspiration seems ever-changing, but draws from interests in antique machinery (submarines as well as tractors, sawmills and steam locomotives), geometry, and his six months a year spent managing commercial fishing expeditions. He has worked on pieces that are interactive, and considers the relationship between the sculpture and the viewer to be significant.

Along with working on purely sculptural pieces, Gelfman has worked extensively on functional creations. With the advantage of education in both materials and visual art, Gelfman pours much of his focus on artistic architectural metal work: staircases, railings, custom furniture, fans. Although these pieces are as functional as any piece built in a factory, Gelfman’s artistic taste and style shine through; his ability to create a form that balances artistry and operation is truly unique.

As a creative, Gelfman recognizes and speaks on the struggle that a career in the art world presents: “Art-making can be a compulsion that is difficult to control and it can go on hiatus.” Gelfman suggests a “healthy dose” of activities not based in creating art in order to stay balanced, and states that much of his time is spent working technically. However, it is hard to believe that this routine does not, at the end of the day, benefit his art, both in terms of skill and concept. The continued technical exposure to machinery informs his functional designs and influences his sculptural forms. This back-and-forth interaction gives Gelfman’s work the advantage of impeccable craft and the attraction of being conceptually unparalleled. While his sculptures are delicately constructed from the basis in large-scale machinery, Gelfman’s artistic architectural metal designs are decorative and entertaining, yet undeniably conceptual and of course, completely functional. David Gelfman’s harmonic integration of industrial mechanics and artistic finesse allow his work, sculptural or functional, to succeed and grow through his career. “I would say […] that I have been able to create unique things and demonstrate a singular style that is gratifying. I find that my work and materials do evolve…”

Gelfman has exhibited work in galleries in Connecticut and New York. Two large-scale steel sculptures remain on permanent display at the Connecticut Childrenʼs Medical Center in Hartford, CT. Gelfman has worked on private sculptural commissions, custom interior and furniture design and fabrication. He also recently finished renovating his own home.                                                                                  –contributed by Jordan Marker



“One price fits all” at this fundraiser event for a local art league

By Sherry Truhlar, President, Red Apple Auctions

Artist auction display - sketch

Last February (2012), two friends of mine headed to Old Town, Alexandria, VA to participate in The Art League’s Patrons’ Show.  For a $175 ticket, they each came home with an original work of art.  It was a sold-out night with almost 700 people attending.

I haven’t yet attended this event myself, but it’s gotten some good P.R.  My friends had read about it in Washingtonian Magazine’s “Best Of” issue where it had been featured as the “Most Fun Art Fundraiser.”

I share this concept (as told to me through their experience) as the idea might resonate with you.

This annual event features hundreds of original pieces donated by Art League and Torpedo Factory Art Center artists.  The number of tickets sold matches the number of works donated, so everyone goes home with a piece of art.  Some of the selections are worth $175 … others are valued at thousands more.

(You can see photos of the 2012 artwork on Flicker here:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/theartleague/sets/72157629236975371/ )

For reasons which will soon become obvious, guests are encouraged to view the works online and in person in the two weeks prior to the event.  They are advised to jot down the numbers of the pieces they find most appealing.  (The reason being is that they won’t have much time to decide at the event!)

On event night, ticket-holders crowd into the art space, taking up all three floors.  Seating is limited.  The announcer stands on the ground floor in the atrium area so he can be more easily heard and seen by those in the second and third levels.  Some guests lean over the railing to see and hear.

Tickets are randomly drawn as the event gets underway.  When the name of each ticket-holder is announced, he has a few seconds to shout out the number of the piece he wishes to claim.

If you’re lucky enough to be one of the first ticket holders drawn (my friends were in the 200s and 400s, respectively) it can be a short night for you.  Otherwise, the process takes several hours.  You’ll need to listen to each number called so that you can cross it from your list, should the chosen piece be on your list of favorites, too.

Though other prizes are randomly awarded throughout the night (e.g. tickets to shows, gift cards to restaurants and hotels), the focus is on the art.

Does it sound like the right fit for your growing art consortium?  My friends had fun and it’s a neat way to acquire an original piece of art.  It might just work for you.

see also 1/7/2013



Designs on the Fashion World

 By Harleen Kaur Chhabra, Fashion Designer

Harleen Chhabra designs

One of the biggest misconceptions about achieving success in the fashion industry is that creativity is everything. The competition in the industry has become so intense over the years that having talent just isn’t enough anymore. A very big part of succeeding in the business is networking and knowing people who can recommend you to someone who is hiring. The industry is so saturated that there are hundreds of unemployed designers all applying for the same jobs which leads to stacks of resumes for employers to go through. If you know someone who can recommend you and attest to your innovation, creativity or motivation as a designer, you’ll have a very strong advantage over the stack of resumes that are sitting on a recruiter’s or manager’s desk. In order to get that advantage, many young designers start out working for temp agencies that specialize in the fashion industry that will assign them short-term jobs where they can meet different people and build up a solid network of references. This is one of the best ways to get experience and network as a young designer and some of the leading agencies include fourthFLOOR fashion, 6The Solomon-Page Fashion, and 24|Seven.

Now, this isn’t to say that creativity and talent account for nothing because creativity is ultimately what allows a company to grow–and this can be applied to any business, even outside the fashion world. Marketing can only go as far as the product will allow, and fashion evolves so quickly that you have to either perfect something that’s already out there or create something that’s not. The problem is that almost everything has already been done. The last century has been filled with almost every style of apparel and accessories you can imagine, which has led to the last 10 or so years simply turning into a recycling of trends rather than the innovation of new ones. There’s not much left to do which is why a lot of designers focus their brands on perfecting certain trends or adding more value and function to their designs for consumers who are more concerned with the value and functionality of clothing rather than the aesthetics. I think it’s important for designers to really think about which of these markets they want to cater to–the value-driven consumer, the trend-driven consumer, or the traditional consumer.

Determining your consumer base is especially essential to those designers who want to own their own label someday because fashion is a consumer-driven industry. One of the biggest challenges a company can face is selling their goods, but this part comes easy when you design with your consumer in mind. Try sketching some stuff for a type of market you haven’t really focused on before–men’s apparel, outerwear, handbags, and shoes are some commonly overlooked fields that may be good to try. Not only will you gain confidence designing outside of your comfort zone, but you may also discover that you like designing for an unfamiliar consumer base better! This type of challenge helps develop designers in many ways and can really help foster creativity. Buyers hate to see–what I like to call–“stale” collections with trends that have been overplayed or overdone, which is why it’s always important to stay creative. A fun way to get some ideas for which other consumers to design for, look on fashion blogs and websites. Two of my personal favorites are Fashion Copious and Refinery 29.

Before beginning to sketch ideas for a collection, it is important gather all of your inspiration and post it on a board that you can look at while sketching. This helps to keep a cohesive look and mood throughout the beginning stages of a collection, and it’s actually my favorite part of designing because it’s where all of my ideas come from. I like to do small thumbnails of the designs first and then choose which ones I’d like to sketch and render since not every idea comes to fruition

Harleen Kaur Chhabra was born and raised in Northern Virginia and attended the University of Connecticut where she received a BFA in Art with a concentration in Illustration and Costume Design. She began her career as an intern for fashion designer Laura Dahl and has recently worked at the Thuy Atelier in New York City as well and the Connecticut Repertory Theatre. She is currently working for Nine West and does freelance fashion design work as well.

Readers with questions are invited to contact Harleen at HarleenKChhabra@gmail.com and to visit her website.




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Artful Original Thoughts: Artist Joann Mettler

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Joann Mettler has followed her artistic passion through a variety of mediums and has found some surprising and delightful subjects along the way. From whimsical pigs and cows to bowls full of flowers with hidden images; from the contents of her colorful shoe closet to capturing facial expressions and making them into a crowd of people-sized faces on wheels, her work is playful, discerning and insightful.

For her, being an artist involves active engagement with the process and her emotions as each work evolves. Here she shares some of her thoughts, entitled My String of Pearls.


Artful original thoughts – Joann Mettler

I paint to lift the human spirit.

Love empowers (a work of art). It’s all bits and pieces but in the end it is something that is deeper than the surface.

You are limited only by your imagination.

Painting is like a lottery ticket; scratch the surface and you’ll find a painting.

I try to find what is in a painting rather than putting it there.

I never know where my work is taking me…I just keep watching, working and following its path.

Creating is like walking through a cloud.

Painting is a process where you construct, deconstruct and then reconstruct.  What’s left is the painting.

To make art YOU need all of your emotions to make sense of your senses.

Artist choices tell the story of themselves; completely personal and inspired by all they have touched, felt and seen.

Art is visual thinking.

Paintings need quiet places.

Painting is my silent music.

In painting, you can’t get away from being yourself.

If you’re not you then who are you?

Your painting is your humble opinion.

Respect your creative hands and don’t expect perfection.

Don’t make it so right that it’s wrong.

I do what I do for you (the viewer)

Your art shouldn’t reveal everything.

A state of mind:  Just being there, No dimensions, No before, No after.

Clouds are like patterned smoke.

It’s not simple to keep life simple.

Is this the rest of your life, or are you resting for the rest of your life?

It’s not what happens to you in life rather it’s how you react to what happens to you.

A sale purchase unneeded is expensive.

Don’t make a decision if you don’t know what decision to make.

I’ve smiled a lot through the years and they’ve made some impressions.

There will never be another you.

Common sense adds up to more than dollars and cents.

I always read the fine print; it is here that you find some important information.

If I didn’t see out of the corner of my eye I wouldn’t see anything.

I try to show you something other than reality.

New isn’t necessarily better; better is better and not necessarily new.

YOU are responsible for your own boredom.

Be there for yourself

So much damage can be done with the turn of a screw.

For every curve there is an opposing straight on the human body.

I’ve seen the power of courage.

Death is the resolution to life.

I COLLECT SHAPES they give me information to recognize an object.  Simple shapes are distillations of objects which become metaphors for the actual objects and can be very descriptive.  I don’t paint things as they are, rather, I paint my perception of how they are. I take shapes out of context.  The outside shape doesn’t have to be related to the inside.

©Joann Mettler 2013



Considering a benefit auction to raise money for your art league? Hint: Don’t sell art.

by Sherry Truhlar, President, Red Apple Auctions

13 Artist auction display

You and your colleagues in the art collective want to raise a little money.  Maybe you want to have some cash available to help each other with scholarships to attend art classes.  Maybe you want to upgrade the A/C in your studios.

While you sit around debating how best to raise the money, someone mentions the idea of a benefit auction.  Chances are, you and your friends have been asked to donate to those types of fundraisers before, so it’s only natural that you’d be familiar with them.

“Everyone can donate a piece of their art,” someone suggests, “We’ll sell tickets to the night, and we’ll auction the donations.” In principle, it sounds like a good idea.  After all, you’re an art league and you like art.

But here’s the hard fact:  In many cases, you’ll raise more money if you don’t sell art.

Benefit auctions raise the most money when the items they offer have mass appeal.  You don’t want to sell just anything.  You want to sell items that many people want to own.

Auctions are based on the concept of scarcity.  It’s that old principle of high demand and low supply.  When a benefit auction offers limited, desirable merchandise to many interested buyers, they raise a lot of money.

But sadly, some auction planners begin to think that “more is better.”  They fill their auction tables with anything, thereby creating a garage sale mentality among guests.  Stuff sells cheap.

As an artist, here’s the challenge with making the benefit auction all about art:  Your work (in most cases) doesn’t offer mass appeal that guests are willing to overpay to get. 

What sorts of things are in “high demand” in a benefit auction?  What types of things offer mass appeal?

  • A 5-course meal for six prepared in your home … it could be used for an anniversary dinner, birthday celebration, or a promotion party.
  • A long weekend in a private home on the lake …it can be used for a family retreat, a romantic getaway, or a quiet sanctuary.
  • Two seats to the always sold-out pro-football game … it can be used as a thank-you gift to a star sales representative in my company, a birthday present for my husband, a surprise treat for my son-in-law
  • Unusual, “once in a lifetime” activities (such as serving as Grand Marshal in a parade or taking a helicopter ride over your house) … it can be used as a memorable anniversary gift, a story for my next blog, a check off the bucket list

These are the types of things that many people enjoy doing or would like to do.  Each item is attractive to multiple people for multiple reasons.

In contrast, your mixed media piece “Shark Study I” doesn’t offer that same broad appeal.

So what should the art collective do?  How can you raise the funds for that new A/C unit?

Go ahead, plan a benefit auction.  And do what others do — seek donations like those listed above for your live auction.  To raise big money, stick with “known quantities.”

And when it comes to including your art in the event, sell it in a different way.  For instance, set up a bucket raffle whereby guests can buy multiple tickets and drop their ticket/s into the bucket of the art piece they like most.  Should they be the lucky winner drawn from the bucket, they would be able to take home the art for the price of their raffle tickets.

Remember: Offering items with mass appeal will raise you more money for less work.  Unless your artwork has mass appeal – and most art doesn’t – it won’t generate the returns you were hoping to achieve.

To learn more about benefit auctions and charity auctioneer Sherry Truhlar, visit www.RedAppleAuctions.com. The site includes her forward-thinking blog, free teleclasses, and a complementary download of her annual Auction Item Guide™– that reveals the top 100 items sold in gala auctions last year.

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