Month: March 2014

Art and Design, spirituality

Creativity Made Simple


I will be the first to admit that I am not always someone who can sum things up simply and quickly for my readers.  Instead of writing in broad sweeps, I often get caught in detail.  Today, I am going to attempt to keep it simple.   So let me know how you think it goes!

One of the things that I have observed as an educator is that we don’t teach students how to be creative.  We have not done this because we do not understand it enough to be able to teach to the subject.  This is beginning to change, however, and it is a good sign and bodes well for us as creative thinkers.   I am going to share with you what I believe are the core issues that are related to being creative.

Create The Right Environment

This is crucial to good creativity.  I firmly believe that many people need to create a safe space within which to let their creativity flow.  What is so interesting is that sometimes this safe space can be in the middle of a lot of activity.  It is often said that there is anonymity in numbers.  Sometimes you can be around people while also being alone.  Sitting in a coffee shop or in a subway station, you can sometimes feel safe and alone in the ubiquity of the herd.  Sometimes, though, people may need to be alone, really alone.  This can be your bedroom, or a special place in your home where you have everything you need in order to think.  The truth is, the safe place for being creative is more in your head.  Find the match for that and you have a big piece of the puzzle. Discover your comfort zone.


In play as in being creative, we have to give ourselves to the moment.  If you have ever remember being a child slipping into the world of play, you know just what I am talking about.  This is in truth one of the simplest and most basic of states of being.  It is funny, too, because we are also the most self-conscious about it.  A child, when watched by its parents when at play, will lose its surrender become self-conscious, and will lose, almost instantly, the creative impulse that is found in play.  Remember what I said about finding your safe place?  This is why.  You need a way to surrender to the creative impulse, to loosen up and allow the flow to come.   This is something you allow.

When inspiration comes, don’t rationalize the process.  Tap that flow, I say.  You can always go back and revise writing for grammar or re-work a sketch so it fits into a frame or hangs on a wall.  A song can have all the main elements right out of the chute with a few remaining things to clean up or rearrange.  Don’t let the craft get in the way of why you are here; play!  You can always clean things up later!

The act of surrender is a suspension of expectation. This is why many artists will often say they begin to create without a firm idea of where they want to go.  There is a very good reason for this that has more to do with the function of the right brain instead of the linear goal-oriented left brain, but I promised to keep this all short and to the point, didn’t I?  We do not find creativity, it finds us.  We allow, we surrender.  We become available.  We do not pursue, it pursues us.  Having said this, there are all sorts of combinations possible in this basic impulse.  Some create very rational and even stiff controlled work while some are more fluid.  These are more related to outcomes and what you choose, later, to control.  These are all a matter of choice; do you like writing jazz or do you like writing classical?

Surrender is a simple thing.  Its source-point is found in being willing and able to just play.  When you do, you are working with the very forces within you that are the leading edge, if not the very experience of inspiration itself.  An aperture within you opens, you feel wonderful, and something just flows.  The more you attend to it, and the less you seek to control it or tamp it down with fear or any form of uncertainty or feeling of propriety, the more it reveals itself to you.  By learning to cultivate this in your life you can be more creative.  The great thing about this is that you do not have to be an artist.  You only need to be a human being!

Art and Design, glassblowing

Here I am

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I now have a presence on Tumblr, a rather feisty sort of place where images tumble like fish during spawning season.  How do they do it?  How do people post so much information?  Ah, it is the mobile generation!  Okay, so this is my stab at it!  More pics, less yackety-yack!   For content in the Tumblr-universe, check us out there:

To Facebook:

“Like” and get all sorts of deals on classes and merchandise.


To Tweet:



Enjoy and I look forward to seeing you in the multiverse!


American Made Alliance

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Today I am sharing about an advocacy group whose goals are to assist small creative businesses in advocating for their needs in the American economy.  This is an important group because it serves business at the most fundamental of grass roots, which are those businesses that are start-ups, what are now often being called “microbusiness.”  All businesses, unless they are created out of venture capital and go corporate from the starting gate, are defacto microbusinesses. The trouble today in our increasingly globalized economy is that small business is often defined as those entities that have about a hundred employees.  What this tendency to identify misses, however, is that small business is the backbone of all new ventures and economies, and most start out with far fewer than 100 employees.  There are many businesses that may have as few as one or two employees.  This often means that for small business or microbusiness owners, we simply do not even show up on the radar of special interest groups, lobbying groups, and legislators.  There is no one there to speak on our behalf to help raise awareness about the little guy, the microbusiness owner.  Bear in mind, these seemingly inconsequential businesses have in recent history created as much as 15 billion dollars in new business for the American economy!

So it was today that its founder, Wendy Rosen, a long-lived advocate for the arts and small business, sent me an invite to the AMA’s new presence on facebook, which I have accepted happily.  With the Alliance’s presence on facebook, it has gotten easier for fast and easy communication to flow between all interested parties.  If you are concerned about the plight of small business, are a small business owner, I encourage you to check them out and support their cause.  To help tell their story I include the following taken from their facebook “about” page:

AMA protects, defends the rights of artisan makers. We promote the positive impact creative people make in the growth of the new economy.

The American Made Alliance strives to open new market opportunities for American made products, preserve the authenticity of American Made, prevent fraud regarding country of origin and inform legislators and consumers about the importance of the economic impact of supporting American Made.


Founded in 2005, the American Made Alliance serves the interests of 125,000 professional independent micro-enterprise studios and 20,000 retail businesses who not long ago provided a 14 billion dollar contribution to the US economy.

The American Made Alliance is a 501c(6) trade association engaged in advocacy efforts supporting the start-up and growth of micro-enterprise in the professional artisan and light industry sector in urban and rural communities throughout the United States.

Through its campaigns, projects and partnerships, the American Made Alliance strives to open new market opportunities for American made products, preserve the authenticity of American Made, prevent fraud regarding country of origin and inform legislators and consumers about the importance of the economic impact of supporting American Made.

Through it’s position papers, advocacy and consumer awareness projects, the American Made Alliance strives to impact public policy and trade legislation. In addition, the association seeks to define a national agenda that supports and benefits all who depend on the creative arts for their livelihood.


Its founder, Wendy Rosen, began The Buyers Market of American Craft as a wholesale alternative to the existing shows for American made craft makers decades ago.  It has grown to become the biggest show of its kind in the U.S.  The show, which has been located in Philadelphia for most of its tenure, has recently moved to Washington D.C. and has changed its name to the American Made Show.  Rosen has been a tireless promoter and advocate for artisans who own small businesses and small business with made in America products.  She has spoken to Congress, has lobbied on behalf of her industry by creating a forum and source-point for small business advocacy through the American Made Alliance which was founded in 2005.

Their facebook page can be found here:

and their contact information is below.

Phone (410) 262-2872





The Wild World Web & Copyright Protection


It has increasingly become common for people to feel as though the images of creative work is fair game for use on their own sites.  The increasing use of these sites have led to a lot of problems for artists and creative types.  For example, Pinterest, which is a “pin” board for images people find interesting enough to share, is a kind of visual social media.  However, there is little that is being done to protect the artist or originator of the image from copyright infringement.  Facebook is similar and there have been cases where work by creatives has been taken and actually sold as visual content.  When someone takes an image from your web site and pluncks it down on Pinterest, for example, it can then be pinned by others, effectively shared across a vast network wherein it becomes hard to track down who originally lifted your content and provided no attribution for your work.  For some people, it all sounds like a tempest in a teacup, but let me explain why this is simply not true.

Let’s say that you are a potter and you make a bird house.  These birdhouses are actually your very best seller. It gets published on a few sites, including a gallery web site as well as your own site.  Someone shares the image on a place like facebook, Instagram,  or Pinterest without attribution and someone sees it, likes it, and lifts the design in an effort to please a boss who is working on developing ceramic designs for a production company in Haiti. The pieces get made and the potters sales drop through the floor. It takes months to find out why this is happening until the culprit is discovered.  By then, the damage has been done. A bird house made that sold for $75.00 domestically in the U.S. is now being sold for less than $20.00 through a Haiti production company and the design is being sold through multiple catalogs.  This market has now suddenly been destroyed through cheap recreations and now the potter, with fewer resources than before, has to find a new next best design in order to help sustain the studio.  Yes, it is theft, and yes, it is not right, but the burden is on the artist to prove infringement and thus pay  the lawyers fees in order to take such a suite to court.  Often, it isn’t even worth it, unless the artists operation is a big one, and most often these are small family run businesses.  The story I have just described to you actually happened to a family pottery whose work was stolen by a Department of State official in the U.S. and given to a production house in Haiti, which then used the concept in total to make their own work, all in the name of economic development.  You can see how some small misplaced impulses wind up creating big consequences for the small guy and gal.

Sites that make it better for protecting work are Tumblr which have an online protection policy and also a way to track images that are shared across its network.  This is very good, but it also means it is only traceable through their site and not others, which can happen.

So what are some solutions for artists? One is to make sure that your images that are posted online contain embedded watermarks.  These watermarks serve to degrade images that are copied, revealing a watermark that will most often identify the artist or maker in some way. Other options are to also have your images contain your name and the © symbol.  However, anyone bent on stealing is going to brush this away with Photoshop in a matter of moments.  The other option is also to make sure that you document your images so that they have dates tied to them, which often are the case with digital media. You are, as the maker of your work, granted copyright for all of your work.  It is automatic.  However, getting others to honor your copyright can be another matter.  One solution also is simply contacting the company and explaining to them that the work is yours and explaining that surely this was all a misunderstanding, and try to go from there based on that.  It is possible that the offender is not aware of the infringement and might agree to pay you.  It is also possible that your inquiry is ignored, in which case the only alternative is to go the legal route.  Give them some time, though, to respond.  What is reasonable?  Two weeks would be more than reasonable.   But try the first route always because most people don’t intend to steal.  It is important not to make people feel defensive, but simply present a clear and firm explanation of the details with supporting information with a plea that the matter be settled amicably.  And hope for the best.  The next step is a letter from your attorney which is called a Cease And Desist Order which helps pave the way for going to court, if it comes to that.  This letter explains the nature of the infringement and asks that the activity stops.  By documenting the steps that you take from the beginning with registered mail letters to the parties involved, then cease and desist requests, and then court action, you have provided magistrates with the necessary information about your efforts at resolving the matter prior to something going legal. And in the end, I think most issues can be cleared up without ever having to use “court” so don’t do that unless you have to.

One resource worth mentioning if it comes to needing to work an issue through the legal system is who pursue copyright infringement and intellectual property rights with no upfront costs to you. It is founded by an artist and their profile looks good.  They seem to understand the issues very well based on personal experiences that led the founder to create the company to begin with.

Most often as artists we need to keep educating the public about the importance of proper attribution for creative work.  The more we do, the better people will understand and act on it.  Sometimes something as simple as raising awareness is all that it takes.  When that is not enough, consider talking with imagerights. Are there solutions that worked for you?  I would love to hear about them!