Get art into the world! : Pots on Wheels

You know I am absolutely passionate about getting art/craft/design out into the world. So when ceramicist Adero Willard (who I featured here) contacted me recently about this awesome Kickstarter she is involved in, I had to spread the word. It’s called Pots on Wheels, or POW! for short.

 

POW - Adero Willard - teapot

POW! founder – Adero Willard – teapot

 

Adero and six other ceramicists are fitting out a 17ft step-through van as a mobile ceramics gallery, displaying a diverse range of work from over 100 artists, including Molly Hatch and Ayumie Horie. The idea is to spread their passion for ceramics and share it those who may not have had the opportunity to touch potter’s clay before, or even know how a pot is made. Starting from the New England area of the US, they are driving around delivering workshops and hands-on education to communities, by visiting schools and community centres, and talking to people of all ages. “We believe that fine craft makes people happy. We want to share the joys of making with a larger audience. We’ll give hands-on workshops, and encourage new audiences, both young and old, to see, touch and experience well-made functional ceramics, made by a wide-range of contemporary artists.”

Besides the mobile gallery and workshops, the artists of POW! believe that the excitement generated through this project will spark new conversations, collaborations and outstanding new projects amongst  artists, communities and arts organisations.

 

POW - Kathy King - plate - 'any name here'

POW! founder – Kathy King – plate – ‘any name here’

 

With the Kickstarter program, there are some great rewards for people who pledge funds, including t-shirts, totally gorgeous original ceramics (shipped anywhere in the world), and even a visit to your location by Mark Shapiro and Sam Taylor, who will make pots and tell stories in front of your very eyes!! Sounds intriguing and very entertaining!

 

POW - Arthur Halvorsen - cups

POW! founder – Arthur Halvorsen – cups

 

It all sounds awesome, and I wish I could be there…

You can find POW!’s Kickstarter here. Get to it and support hands-on craft!

 

what you'll see at POW! - throwing a vessel

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Icon : Stig Lindberg

Icon: Stig Lindberg

Hellooo!!! I can spend hours ogling and sighing over the beauty of things from artists and makers throughout the ages, especially the amazing proliferation of items and artworks since the industrial revolution. So it is with the incredibly talented Stig Lindberg – a Swedish designer most famous for his homewares and ceramics produced while working for Gustavsberg Porcelain in the middle part of the 20th century.

 

stig lindberg - reptil - vases

stig lindberg – reptil – vases

 

stig lindberg - ornamental bowl

stig lindberg – ornamental bowl

 

Welcome to my new segment on design and craft icons!! There’s a good reason that people like Lindberg have earned themselves a place in the history books, and I think that we can always learn more from taking another look at them and their work, so in amongst presenting fresh work from emerging designers and small business help, I’ll be delving into these treasure-troves every now and then.

 

stig lindberg - platter - randnat

platter – randnat

 

Stig Lindberg - leaf platters

 leaf platters

 

stig lindberg - coffee pots

coffee pots

 

Stig was a master at design, inventive, often whimsical and humorous. He designed prolifically for Gustavsberg, everything from elegant, plain white tableware, right through to his distinctively bold graphic surface decorations. His forms were quintessentially mid-century Scandinavian, with their graceful curves and clean lines.

 

stig lindberg - 5-part vase

5-part vase

 

Stig Lindberg - cups and saucers - Bersa

cups and saucers – Bersa

 

Born in 1916, Stig studied painting at the University College in Stockholm, and went to work at Gustavsberg when he graduated in 1937. He became their Artistic Director in 1949 and stayed there until his retirement in 1980.

Principally a designer of tableware and probably best remembered for his leaf-decorated dinnerware, Bersa, he also produced a number of handcrafted pottery pieces, and also designed patterns for homewares and fabrics, and even several television sets for Luma.

 

stig lindberg - pottery fabric

pottery fabric

 

stig lindberg - herbarium

herbarium

 

stig lindberg - bulbous

bulbous

 

You can see more of his work here.

 

Design fundamentals: Gestalt (rhymes with Salt)

Well OK OK OK, Gestalt NEARLY rhymes with Salt, but it depends  a bit on where you live in the world and who taught you about it.

Anyway the question really is, what IS Gestalt and why is it important to design?

Gestalt theory came about in the 1920s when a group of German psychologists realised that our minds love to organise things because it makes them easier to understand. We tend to look at the whole rather than the individual parts, and compensate for missing information. We tend to group things together if we can, and we’re pretty good at recognising differences and similarities within a group.

These ideas are absolute gold when it comes to graphic design, but they are also fabulous for other types of design when you want to create something that’s very satisfying to look at and use.

There are five main principles – Similarity, Proximity, Closure, Continuation, and Figure and Ground.

 

similarity

When we see objects that are similar, we tend to see them as a group, like in these ceramic teacups. We also tend to appreciate the small differences between them more – I love these beautiful textures and small, delicate patterns.

{all images are linked to their respective sites]

tisaneinfusion -ceramic cups (unfortunately the site is all in japanese)

tisaneinfusion – ceramic cups (unfortunately the site is all in Japanese, so I can’t give you any more information)

It’s also a perfect principle in graphic design; for instance, using the same font throughout a piece gives it cohesion.

 

When there are multiple elements that are very similar and one element is obviously different this creates a disruption, which is useful for creating an interesting focal point, as in this necklace.

Kaspia Gasparski - necklace

Kaspia Gasparski – necklace

 

proximity

When elements are close together, we often perceive them as a single object, even if the elements are not the same. The effect is heightened here because of the obvious reference to another, different object.

yetiland - sweet music

yetiland – sweet music

Likewise in graphics, you can group different types of information together. For instance on your business card, you would group all your contact information together, and separate it from the logo/company name.

 

continuation

This is where your eye is drawn along a line or curve, and even if there is a gap or interruption your mind will project that line and connect it to any line or object beyond to form a continuous flow. Kind of like how you see leaves along the length of vine, or a teeny weeny flower at the end of a stalk, or your eyes follow a dashed line across the page.

 

figure and ground

Figure and ground refers to how we interpret the 2D shapes in front of us. In most instances, we see objects (figure) on a background. However, sometimes these can be cleverly swapped to become an alternative image. Often, we can’t see them both at the same time so we constantly switch between the two.

I love this poster for its succinctness. I certainly don’t condone smoking, but Jim Jarmusch is pretty cool. And I do like coffee.

 jim jarmusch poster

jim jarmusch poster

 

closure

This is definitely where our head fills in the gaps, so it can make sense of what it sees. In this wonderful illustration by Emiliano Ponzi the missing person is obvious, as is the emotion of the situation.

emiliano ponzi - divorce with regret

emiliano ponzi – divorce with regret

 

 

There’s heaps more to Gestalt of course, it’s an absolutely fascinating area of design, and so so useful in helping you make designs that are satisfying, interesting and very appealing!

 

I’ve written more about Gestalt in my new book on branding for small biz, due out shortly… If you’d like to get onto the early birds list and nab yourself a copy REAL cheap (like around half-price), REAL soon (like about a week!), just jump on board with your email address below (and you’ll get your bonus Biz Style workbook too). I’ll be sending out all the details in the next newsletter.

 *

Do you have any burning questions about Gestalt or about branding? Or you just don’t know where to start? Leave me your questions in the comments below – I’d love to hear!

Julie

Inspiring : Sas and Fez {ceramics}

Moving between her tiny spare room that doubles as a studio and store room and the electric wheel set up in a corner of her lounge room {and thankful for a “long-suffering and extremely supportive husband who tends to turn a blind eye to my creative endeavours as they devour the house”}, Catherine Keany of Sas and Fez creates wonderfully organic ceramics that have the  exuberant colour of Antoni Gaudi and the gentle stillness of a Giorgio Morandi painting.

 

sas and fez - stripe and spot ceramic collection

sas and fez – stripe and spot ceramic collection

 

“I have been lucky enough to do a lot of travelling so I am constantly influenced by the things I see. I recently saw Gaudi’s work in Barcelona and was absolutely blown away. The colour and creativity gave me the confidence to keep going with my current mindset. Ceramicists I am influenced by are Gwyn Hanssen Pigott and Pippin Drysdale. Their modern simple forms and clean colour palettes are stunningly elegant.”

 

sas and fez - sunny multi-coloured ceramic bottle

sas and fez – sunny multi-coloured ceramic bottle

 

Always busy making and drawing since she was small, Catherine first pursued studies in fashion design when she left school, but soon changed over to graphic design. She still works in this field, and enjoys the contrast of working in 2D on-screen, and coming home to work in the tactile 3D of clay. Whatever outlet she chooses, she thrives on being in ‘the zone’; “When I’m in the throes of a creative flow I get butterflies and an adrenalin rush and hours can pass by unnoticed – I love that feeling.”

 

sas and fez - multicolour 3 bottle collection

sas and fez – multicolour 3 bottle collection

 

Her foray into ceramics started a little while back when she was looking for a hands-on creative outlet and thought she’d give it a go at her local TAFE. “Once I was there I was hooked, I met great people and it is such an inexact science that it’s always interesting. I was making so much stuff that I was running out of people to give it to or places to store it so I had a market stall at work and sold most of my table which gave me the confidence to ask for money for my creations, so I started my Etsy store, SasAndFez {named for her two dalmations}. I wish I had more time to dedicate to it!”

sas and fez - cream oatmeal and black trim bottle

sas and fez – cream oatmeal and black trim bottle

 

It’s not just the making that has drawn her into ceramics. It’s the camaraderie that’s been built over time with other makers as well – “of celebrating the pieces that work or sympathising when a piece fails. Or standing around a hot fire waiting to see the treasures come out of the kiln after 12 hours of chatting and stoking the fire.”

 

sas and fez - black smoke fired saga ornamental bottles

sas and fez – black smoke fired saga ornamental bottles

 

She has two favourite pieces of advice that she interweaves ~

‘Don’t give up’

and

‘Life is for living’.

“I can’t give up being creative, I don’t know how!”

 

You can find more of Catherine’s ceramics, as well as some gorgeously chunky and colourful resin jewellery in her shop, SasAndFez.

 

Etsy : Is it on the slippery slope from handmade to manufacture?

audratextilestudio.etsy.com - textile ring

audratextilestudio.etsy.com – textile ring

 {all images are linked to their respective shops}

There has been been a debate raging ever since Etsy decided to change its policies on what constituted ‘handmade’ late last year. Those policies now allow designers and makers to outsource a substantial amount of what they do to manufacturers.

On the surface, that means that Etsy sellers who are struggling to keep up with demand can use outside help in order to grow their businesses beyond the kitchen table and the spare room. It means they can pass on the time-consuming and fiddly bits of what they do, leaving them with more time to put their efforts into the areas they’re good at and doing what they love doing, giving them the space to breathe and move forward. On the surface, it means designers and makers now have unlimited potential for success.

Those who agree with the change suggest that it’s unfair for Etsy to remain fixed in their outlook and therefore curtail the growth of these businesses. As Julie suggests in this Facebook discussion; “As a small business owner, I try to figure out the best ways to adapt to growth and I think Etsy is just doing the same. Are they really expected to start turning away sellers once they reach a certain level of “success”? “

 

willowynn.etsy.com - embroidered owl

willowynn.etsy.com – embroidered owl

 

On the flipside is the argument by some that Etsy, who has championed the handmade movement around the world since its inception in 2005 and has grown its own business by focusing on that key fact, is no longer that champion, but instead has become just another part of the capitalist machine – a dollar-hungry wolf dressed up in hand-spun sheep’s clothing. Many sellers are bitter about the changes, and say that it opens the floodgates for cheap, factory-made goods; they say that Etsy is turning itself into a second eBay.

The problems raised are several; not only is there the potential for Etsy to mislead or misrepresent who and what they are, there is also the problem of visibility for smaller sellers – their product gets swamped in a sea of factory-made. Buyers confronted with too much choice might either not consider the method of production, or if they do, simply get frustrated and click away.

Some sellers consider that Etsy’s change of policy ends up pitting successful sellers against factories. Helen, commenting on this article on wired.com says “I don’t buy it. Instead of solving a problem Etsy has had since the beginning – keeping factory made items off their site – they seem to be embracing it under the guise of solving another problem – helping people who have “outgrown” them.”

 

gumcrackkids.etsy.com - 3 crochet bottles

gumcrackkids.etsy.com – 3 crochet bottles

 

Which brings up yet another issue that Etsy has had from pretty much the get-go – sneaky factories and resellers posing as handmade businesses. This has ALWAYS been an issue, and one that always will be, as long as there are unscrupulous people in the world out for a quick buck. Is the change of policy going to alter that in any way?

I think we need to get a bit up close and personal with the new Etsy Guidelines to find the answers.

 

Everything on Etsy must be Handmade, Vintage, or a Craft Supply.

Handmade items are designed and created by the shops that sell them. Because transparency matters on Etsy, we ask sellers to list shop members and share information about manufacturers involved in creating their items. Reselling an item you were not involved in creating is not allowed in our handmade category. “

They also expect that you will –

Maintain a Transparent Shop.

People come to Etsy to buy unique goods directly from artists, artisans, and curators. Make sure that your items are allowed to be sold on Etsy and that you are representing yourself, your business, and your items accurately.”

Among the conditions of selling, they expect that sellers will –

  • “Only list items in your shop that are for sale and fall into one of our three categories (handmade, vintage, or craft supplies). 
  • Items must be accurately represented in listings and listing photos. 
  • Respect the intellectual property of others. If you feel someone has violated your copyright, you can report it to Etsy.
  • For sellers of Handmade items:
    • Do not resell items in our Handmade category.
    • Describe every person involved in the making of an item in your shop. 
    • If you work with an outside manufacturer to make items that you have designed, we ask that you share additional information with Etsy and share information about the manufacturers you work with on your shop and listings. We also expect that you choose ethical manufacturing partners.”

That last condition will most obviously exclude goods that might be handmade, but is produced by cheap, foreign and possibly even child-labour.

 

All of that seems pretty clear to me.

 

If all the sellers in the Etsy marketplace were ethical and honest, Etsy wouldn’t have a problem. Would they?

 

Now while we’re about it, I also take issue on the quality of what many of those same, complaining, small-time sellers pass off as “handmade”. Like all the folk with a pair of pliers and a box of beads who call themselves “jewellers”. Did they make those beads? Nuh-uh. Did they make the clasp? No sir-eee. Could they identify the working properties of different metals, and shape, solder and polish them? Hmmmmm….
(more of my thoughts on quality and skill here).

That aside, there have also been issues surrounding those who manufacture items with the new technologies – 3D printing is the obvious example. High quality prints are not available to the home-based designer; they have to outsource to companies like Shapeways. The new guidelines recognise and incorporate those technologies.

 

keymandesign.etsy.com - mira handmade shoes with violin keys

keymandesign.etsy.com – mira handmade shoes with violin keys

 

There have been some enlightening comments in these discussions. Are all the complaints coming from the small-fry of the Etsy world?

From Dennisse in the Facebook discussion: “I also feel that most people that sell their stuff on Etsy don’t have a business mindset and that means that they limit themselves. They’re creators and designers but for the most part, clueless about the entrepreneur world.”

And this from Dana in the same discussion : “I look at Etsy as a starting place- as you grow and build your brand, it’s time to put on your big girl pants and get your own website. Don’t just hang around forever and overstay your welcome. It’s not that hard to establish your own website, store, and customer base. Why would anyone want to hang around where they have to share the customers that they work so hard to get anyhow?”

But I think Allison hit the nail on the head with this comment : “It’s not a question of should. Etsy is a business, not a service. Though many of us may have once thought we were in some kind of visionary partnership, we were much mistaken. Etsy has consistently changed its terms and its product after it has been purchased by the users. A seller opens a shop, lists items, and expects the payment for listings to provide a consistent shopfront from day to day but this isn’t the reality. Etsy does what it wants, when it wants, for as long as it wants, for whom it wants. Any conversation about what Etsy should do, as if Etsy were a democracy, an online platform of, by, and for the community, is wasted breath.”

 

No, Etsy is not a democracy, it is a business.
They evolve and change as they grow, just like any business.

 

Etsy sellers need to take that on board. If they’re not open to change, then maybe they should get out. And perhaps Etsy simply has a marketing problem here. Or an administration problem.

If, as Chad Dickerson (Etsy CEO) says, ” The one-person shop is still the heart of Etsy” (1), then maybe they need to put more resources into monitoring what’s happening under their banner, to ensure that their promise of “handmade” rings true.

 

artesserae.etsy.com - marguerite ear studs

artesserae.etsy.com – marguerite ear studs

 

Whatever its current problems, it’s still a strong and thriving place. It’s a fabulous intro and business training ground to so many creative people with big ideas and few resources. I for one have learnt massive amounts from the experiences I’ve had and friendships I’ve made (and still have!) over the past five years.

 

There’s no straight forward answer, but I will stand up and say, I still believe in Etsy. Do you?

Or do you think I’m just being a Pollyanna?

Julie X

 

The crafted object : Nora Leschinski ~ wood carver and illustrator

Nora Leschinski grew up in a remote mountain village in the green forested heart of Germany. It was the perfect starting point for a wood carver, and nature provided its designs for inspiration.

 

leschiwelt - dandelions

leschiwelt – dandelions

 

Studying sculpture at art school opened up a whole new vista for her, and there she discovered her love for images and stories told through illustration, using the time to experiment with lots of ideas and many materials. An artist residency in France propelled her further into experimenting with paper sculptures and more graphical work.

 

leschiwelt - willow

leschiwelt – willow

 

Often working in small formats, Nora’s sculptures are richly tactile and colourful, her forms are simple and show a lovely play between primitiveness and sophistication. She feels good about working in this size – “It’s the small footprint needed for a closer look. And who it admits, is rewarded: worlds open up … and in the best case, there is the discovery of new ways of looking at things …”

Time and space to think are fundamental to her working process. Collecting all her ideas together, she puts them together in a large paper box which is divided into different areas according to themes. Over time, this has resulted in a “sizeable collection of brainstorms”, which she can constantly access. It’s kind of like a box of chocolates which can be taken out and savoured one at a time, or in combination to create new flavours.

 

leschiwelt - pomegranate

leschiwelt – pomegranate (and other things)

 

Also telling is her choice of favourite artist – Rachel Whiteread is best known for making concrete or plaster casts of the interiors of everyday objects – like bookshelves, bottles or even entire houses. Nora is also drawn to the colours and shapes of Expressionist painter Feininger and the simplicity of primitive art.

 

leschiwelt - blue flower

leschiwelt – blue flower

 

Now making her home near Bernsdorf, Nora works out of the huge barn next to her house; it’s her place to build and dream and create… “eventually things arise that you have just discovered”. The surrounding spaciousness rests her mind and allows her to”meet the plant and animal world with curiosity”.

Woodcarving has its advantages, and her skills for constructing household objects are useful when the need arises. Like many artists before her, she often fills her own spaces with prototypes – for contemplation, and to spark fresh developments and new directions. Wooden reliefs, lamps, furniture, and more, in many different approaches and materials. Many found objects “become something finished after sufficient cooking time.”

 

leschiwelt - owl

leschiwelt – owl

 

leschiwelt - flounder

leschiwelt – flounder

 

You can find more of Nora’s very fab art in her Etsy shop, leschiwelt, and on her own website, www.leschiwelt.de (sorry it’s all in German! – but you can always use Google Translate).