glass artisan

Art and Design, glassblowing

Diary Of A Crowfunding Effort


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Brie Jackson & Parker
Brie Jackson of WSLS News in Matrix Gallery after the interview

 

In early December after considerable thought, I decided to begin a crowdfunding effort on the site indiegogo.com.  I arrived at this decision based on two main factors, both which converged together into one main stream.  First, I had been contacted by a number of people beginning in October inquiring if I was going to have glass blowing classes in the Fall like I had done every year for the last four.  My studio has opened its doors to the public for an event/class that I call the BYOB which stands for “Blow Your Ornament Ball.”  It is an opportunity for the person right off the street to design and help make their own Christmas ornament or suncatcher. Besides being a lot of fun, it is also very educational.  It has been so popular that by October and into November of this year, I had to put off close to 20 people about whether I would be able to do this event.  This is just how popular the event has become.  These were all people coming to me, inquiring.

I teach part time at Radford University, and for the first time since I began teaching in 2010, the classes which I was assigned did not have enough enrollment for the courses to go forward, which meant that I was without an important part of income.  Teaching made it easier to be able to open the studio for key periods during the year.

At about the same time, I had finally gotten the supplies I needed to make good on an old promise to a friend and colleague about turning a vase she had bought into a lamp.  As it turned out, her request was something that fit neatly into something I had been wanting to do for YEARS with the particular line she had inquired about which was converting a hand blown vase into a usable lamp.  It was one of those perfect kinds of matches.  I even had a picture from another client and friend from California who had put a candle in a piece from the same line in order to show me how how her piece looked.

The bottom line was that these vases would make a perfect side-step into lighting, and I already had people already interested. I set about making the alterations necessary to make this vase into a light feature.  The glass wall was drilled out and a light kit with an online switch was added.  It was a simple yet elegant solution.  I finished the fabrication at 3:00 one afternoon in November and couldn’t wait to see what it would look like in subdued light. The effect that it had on my foyer and my study was…..magic.

The Birth of a Campaign

When I went online with the new lamp picture to share with friends, the response was strong.  People were asking when they could get one of their own.  The only problem was there wasn’t a way that I could see to get the studio operation quickly enough to capitalize on all of the interest that had been stirred as a result of my initial reveal.

After some consideration, I decided to do the one thing that I had not done before, which was to FIND a way to raise the funds to bring this product to market.  The added benefit would be that, with an open studio in the winter, people would get to blow their own glass like they had become accustomed to over the years.  This was how the campaign was born.  With about a week worth of working up a budget, I arrived at a target cost for this project, which would enable me to open the studio and launch this new product, now called The Gaia Lamp across the nation with galleries that sold handmade American craft. I learned very quickly the ins and outs of crowdfunding and once I felt like I had learned enough, I began sketching out the beginnings of a campaign.

I decided to run what is called a “fixed” campaign.  In simple terms this is all or nothing.  Meet the goal by a given deadline and you are funded.  Miss that goal amount by the deadline, and you don’t get funded. People urged me to do a flex campaign, explaining that anything was worth something.  As I thought about that, I found that for me, it was beside the point to do that.  I wanted to be able to DO the project, not a PART of it.  Flex meant doing only a part of it (and really, who knew what part would get done, right?).  It also meant that the project might not even get done!  Now tell me, who wants that?

Flex funding is good for people who are raising funds for medical expenses where ANY amount is appreciated, and for nonprofits seeking to raise funds for their cause.  If people were going to give to MY campaign, I wanted to be able to have something to show them for it.  I wasn’t ready to compromise on this point; I wanted my donors to feel a sense of accomplishment in their efforts just as I also wanted to feel accomplishment and the knowledge that I now had the opportunity to move forward with the project.  I wanted it to be a win-win.  The heat was on, the clock would begin, and the race was soon going to be on….

The campaign began on December 1st and went until January 7th.  There was a consideration made for this being the Christmas season, which extended the original date times by an extra week.  I am glad I did this, but as it turned out, the campaign goal of $5,600.00 was met nine days before the deadline.  My concern was that we would have a dead zone for about a week straddling Christmas.  That was the thinking that drove the strategy in terms of time.

The first week was nothing short of a scorcher.  The campaign achieved 42% of its goal in five days.  This put the campaign in the fourth spot prior to being on the main page for Indiegogo in my design category internationally.  That meant that there were only four other projects that were performing better than mine in the world.  This boosted my visibility on the Indiegogo platform and resulted in people giving to the campaign who did not know me or were outside my own personal network or community.It is worth to mention that when you can achieve a given amount of donations in a short period, it will boost your visibility on most of the crowdfunding sites.  Your ability to hustle and get returns winds up boosting you on the site, which further helps your campaign by getting you attention you might not otherwise have.

Media Coverage

There were two newspaper articles written after the goal was met. I also had a news channel interview on WSLS with Brie Jackson about the effort which was very helpful.  I learned that all of the coverage I was getting was showing me just how important it is to be doing this kind of promotion as a matter of course in a business. The effort pushed me to do more than I had done before, and I think that this helped me to dust off some of my skills at self promotion that had gotten a little dry and maybe even stale with complacency and time.  I figured that even if the campaign was not successful, I would have put a spot light on what it is that I do and the products and services I offer, including the design dreams I have. I know that this might sound beside the point, but this effort taught me some important lessons that I needed to revisit, which was to learn how not to be resistant to tooting my own horn.

The Metrics

In the graphic below I have a screen shot of the campaign once it reached 104% and was very close to the deadline.  I have since gotten just over 109% of the goal with the campaign today, which is its deadline.  You can see the first week as the big surge forward followed by a lull that then went on to slowly grow over time.  The trend line was always upward, even if the angle of that line made me nervous at the time.  Would I make it with this kind of line?  Well, as I can tell you, ANYTHING can happen, and did.  The campaign went on with this up and down for a few weeks before the “big bang” took place, which had the effect of rocketing the campaign within shooting distance of the $5,600.00 goal.

indiegogo campaign final

In my case, I used Facebook at the main means of getting the word out, with newspapers and television news helping out a lot.  Since I was unable to properly track traffic from my newspaper and television exposure, its hard for me to say whether it had a material effect.  For those of you out there curious about running a campaign, indiegogo does have some good tools that help to track traffic and donations coming from a site that has a link to your campaign.  While I did not have any donations coming from the link on indeigogo for the tv news story, for example, that does not mean that someone didn’t bookmark my campaign for consideration later.  These tools do help, though, to show where donors and activity is coming from, and its important that you provide your campaign link because it will help you track where your contributions are coming from.

Another metric that indiegogo uses is logging the domains where traffic is coming from, not per isp, but by country.  As a result of this, I was able to see what visitors indexed by country were visiting my campaign page.  In the screen shot below you can see the first page of the most numerous page views for the campaign and where they were coming from.

indiegogo campaign2 12-28

The Power Of The Tweet…Blog?

While I was told that Twitter was king (or Queen) for campaigns, I only had about 30 followers (really) when this all began and had not had much luck finding out a suitable way to get people to sign up to get tweets from me.  Instead, again, Facebook was my most used social media outlet.

I blogged and found that there was very little sharing of my blog posts, which was largely due I think to both my level of followers as well as the type of followers I had. This is not a criticism of them at all, and is likely more about how I have chosen to write on the blog. I was not “plugged in” to the entrepreneurial universe with my blog, that was not its main focus. Perhaps my blog posts are too long and might not encourage people who are action-based to read and participate.  They might be too cerebral, too thought-based, I considered. I did have a platform with my blog, but when it came time to begin making some noise, I am not so sure that it was that helpful for getting the word out.  To break out of my own limited circle of readers, I needed to have outlets picking up my posts and sharing them or leading traffic to them.  In the end, my blogging was not a significant factor in garnering donations.  It did, however, serve to inform people who came from Facebook, for example, who wanted to read more about the campaign and saw the link on my page.

Perhaps if I had galleries following me, perhaps if I had crowdfund enthusiasts following me, then perhaps I would have been able to use this tool better.  Note to self; this is something to work on.  And really, to be truthful, my blog is a way to provide content about my business to people who are interested in hot glass and the studio in a more expansive way (instead of the short quips of twitter and Facebook).  It is an opportunity for me to discuss issues that may even be tangential but connected to making art, design, and hot glass.  I also use it occasionally as a tool for informing my art students where I work part time, and it may be that this represents a sudden shift in my content and might even put readers off who follow my blog, I don’t know.  Its been something of an experiment, and is one I will keep working on.  It may be that in order to gain more interest my post will become more trimmed down to meet the growing shortening “quips” we see on the internet.  Sadly, our world is becoming more like this as we are presented with content nonstop that all seeks to grab out attention.  I must admit that my interests with the blog are more along the lines of reading a chapter in a book, something to think about, delve into, to consider.  Perhaps I need to think about expanding my content to include more about my field, people in my field, and about how global influences are at work.  And really, anyone with ideas, I am all over it.  I have long thought that a trade of posts would be great….interviews with other artists….a round table….or posts that include gallery owners about who what when where and why.

The past week has been a busy one for me with ordering the supplies needed for the project as well as getting ready for a donor party at the studio, which I am hoping we can swing by the 24th come heck or high water.  Finishing first and early has its benefits.  And if you are reading this and you shared the news or gave, you did good!  You really did do a great thing that goes beyond just one simple campaign.  It gave me hope back, it gave me a place to create again and to launch a new product.  It has also made it possible for many people to come out and see what their own creativity has to offer them.  And that is a really wonderful thing.  <3

Onward and upward!  A village did it!

HERE IS THE CAMPAIGN LINK

Art and Design, glassblowing

My Indiegogo Campaign Link (Draft Mode!)


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Mug3 Version 2#1
Proposed Design For Coffee Mug Design Perk on Indiegogo. ©Parker Stafford

The campaign for the Gaia Lamp is swiftly getting underway with a link to the campaign on indiegogo.  Right now it is in draft mode, which means that I am making adjustments and changes can be made.  If you have suggestions from perks to ways to tighten up the copy, I am all ears (and eyes)! This new design is really great, bringing  to your homes or someone whom you love, a warmth and creative flair!  Its art glass AND lighting all in one!  Everyone who has gotten to see them have all remarked how it transforms a room. Wonderful anywhere mood lighting is needed.  Bedrooms, foyers, living rooms, the possibilities are endless.  While there is one sample that shows the work, I have a number of different sizes from approximately 7″ tall (mini night-light version) to the full-sized version on the campaign site (approximately 12″ tall) as well as a globe in the works.  ALL of these design have been made before, just not as a light feature, so there is no question about HOW to make them.  This campaign is full steam ahead!  So….share this with your friends because the more coverage I can get, the greater the possibility that I can reach my goal!

http://www.indiegogo.com/project/preview/22b29132

Want to contact me to find out how you can become involved in this exciting effort?  It can be as simple as sharing this post and the links with your friends and fellow bloggers. It can also be more involved, such as reviewing copy, and giving design advice about the campaign.  There are perks available for this type of involvement!

Proposed Mug Design For Indiegogo perk. ©Parker Stafford
Proposed Mug Design For Indiegogo perk. ©Parker Stafford

Art and Design, glassblowing

Getting Lit


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All drinking jokes aside, this week was one that was kind of big in one of those perfectly understated sort of ways.  It made a big splash, though, as people began contacting me about this new idea I was working on.  It has been….gosh…. maybe two years in the making?  It seems that this happens a lot with me.  It isn’t always because of laziness, but just how  things seem to happen. But the funny thing is that they almost always wind up as amazing for some reason, these back-burner ideas.  The really popular ones…In 1999 I came up with an idea for a galaxy inside of a rock, which I made the first prototypes for that year.  The pieces I made were interesting, but they were not worth writing home about.  Not for me.  Not for a business that set up shop in fairs all across the country whose success was necessary in order to support a business as well as a family at home.  For an artist, this is an order that is tall and is something you are always having to make strategic decisions about in order to keep the business solvent.  One or two flops can result in wasted time, lost revenue, and a sputtering business.

So this piece was  put on the back burner and after a couple of years were pulled off the back burner during a slow summer.  This piece has evolved, though,  from a time-consuming glass piece that took 40 minutes to make each,  to an awesome design made in six minutes with an assistant.  This goes to show how things can change in ways you could never believe could happen.  When you are blowing glass at 40 minutes per piece , it is hard to believe you would be making them one every six minutes. So that is the backdrop behind this next piece I am going to show you that got made this past week.

The story on how this piece came to be is an interesting one and shows that good things come to those who wait.

It was about two years ago during the holiday rush when I was hosting a long line of people who were coming into the studio to blow ornaments and suncatchers for the season.  This is a huge amount of fun for people. I have figured out a way to help people to make beautiful glass ornaments with just a few steps done by me with the bulk being done by the customer. When you consider that it literally takes years to master this art/craft, this is kind of big thing for people to have access to glass. It was during this that an old family friend, Ann Roberts, who teaches at Radford University and who I worked with the Glass Garden (see the archives) came to the studio with a group of people she put me in touch with who blew glass at my studio.  While she was at the studio one day during the holidays,  she was looking at this one vase I had.  It was priced as a second.  I explained that it had not turned out right.  Everything about it was technically right, the colors were off.  The colors had been laid on too dark and this made the piece….well….kind of muddied and dark.  I held it up to the light and saw that it looked fabulous with light shining down into it. Pity it was not a lamp, I said.  Ann then said something about maybe turning it into one. I had actually had this idea for years about making my vases into….LAMPS.  Beautiful stained glass windows of lamps…custom creations unlike anything you have ever seen.  And the idea for this project was born!

We talked enough about it that day when she was in the studio that it was decided.  I would hold onto her vase and would drill into it and try to light it from within.  Ann was game and so was I.

Things have been up and down and up and down since then in keeping the studio open.  The economy has not been helpful, but it is true that hotglass is one of the most expensive fields to go into next to jewelry.  It takes a lot to get a studio operational and keep it operational.  It is a challenge.  But I like challenges, and it is one reason why I was able to run the studio full-time for over 12 years until my shoulder injury shut the studio down for a full year, with efforts after that resulting in sputtering.  Penny-wise and pound foolish.  Yeah.

So even though the studio has been in hibernation, I was able to afford a special diamond bit that would allow me to drill out this vase for Ann.  Then, a couple of days ago,  I headed to my hardware store with vase in hand and got the materials I needed to light this piece up.

The result?  I took pictures.  Its an amazing piece, a wonderful idea, a great concept.  But one thing that the pictures don’t show is how the lamp affects the space around it.  THIS is the really cool part! The same warm feeling that you get when you start a fire was the effect that this vase had on the space.  It created a warmth and a feeling of peace. Cool, too, that the bulb was a fluorescent.  Normally, I would not use these for glass.  I have this love-hate relationship with fluorescent.  It is cheap, but it’s also not a full type of light.  It is a gas that gets excited.  There is something wan about this light, I have always felt.  However, moving through THIS glass, the rules seem to have changed.  And this is good because it makes this design efficient.

The vase shot a brilliant white orb from its interior up on the ceiling and the walls were bathed in its golden glow. This was something I was expecting, hoping for actually.  There was a great satisfaction standing there looking at how the ceiling was washed with this nice white orb on the ceiling.  It created the kind of diffuse light that I have ALWAYS liked.  Maybe it comes from my days working in a painting studio with northern light.  This kind of light always strikes me as festival lighting.  You know what I mean when I say that?  In the waning light of the winter, we have these festival and feast days.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years.  And having candles out and the fire burning bright just feels….cozy, right?  This was the effect this piece had.  Perfect!  I have some final shots of the completed piece at the end of the post.

Highlights of red, orange, yellows, and browns helped to seal the deal as I surveyed the effects this piece had on its surroundings.  The pictures are dramatic, but they sometimes can look more like a piece that is being lit really well from the outside rather than something that is lit from its interior.  This is being lit, obviously, from the inside, but if I had not told you this, you might not have noticed. The effect on the space was magic.  It was even better then I had expected.

So lets take a look at the results and I will try to get some pictures from my phone over here to look at so you can see a little more about the project.  I will warn you, my phone pics are not the greatest, but they work for field work…

The first part was drilling out (near) the bottom of the vase.  This is done with a wet feed drill bit embedded with diamond so the glass does not crack from the heat of the bit cutting the glass.

vase drilled

Then after this, I had to work out a solution for running a wire through this hole in a way that was secure and visually pleasing.  This is the bare wire I had stripped, ready to be wired into the light kit…

vase lamp wire

I had to come up with a custom solution for fixing the wiring in the glass. The solution that I came up with worked the first time, which was nice.  Sometimes these things wind up becoming a hunt for just the right thing.

 

The wiring was pulled out enough so that once I installed the light kit the light bulb could be pulled out of the vase to be changed (not everyone could get their hand down inside the vase).

vase lamp wire 2So the wire length is set in the pic above and the light kit will be attached to these bare wires.  Vase drilled, and the wiring fixed in the bottom of the piece.

Now its on to wiring the light kit.  But before I do that, let me show you a shot taken in the afternoon light on my living room floor as I worked on all of this that shows how the wire is secured in the piece.

vase lamp wire installedSo the fixing of the wiring will keep the wire from being pulled out from the interior of the vase. This is an interior view, below.

vase lampwire in the vase

Okay.  So now for the lighting kit!

vase lamp light kitI chose a heavy duty ceramic fixture that would give the light kit weight in the vase.  Being a prototype, there are more improvements that I will make, but all of this is entirely workable.

Once all of this was done and  I tested the light for proper operation, I installed an inline switch that will allow the user to turn the light off within a foot or two of the fixture itself.  This is a heavy duty light switch that is the best on the market.  It will last for years and is a nice safe switch to use.

Okay, so the rest of the pics are of some quick pictures I took with my other camera!

 

Lamp 1

What is cool about how I do this design is the dimensional quality that I can achieve, which is to say that when I combine colored glass powders with the other glass colors the effect has depth.  The effect is different from most anything else I have ever seen in glass (that is blown thin like this piece).  It comes from my relentless drive towards creating effects in glass that no one has yet done.  No one taught me this, I had to develop it through trial and error, through what large corporations call R&D.  I have been lucky in that most of what I have attempted has tended to yield really good results (even when tinkering).

IMG_9892

IMG_9902

 

Lamp 3

There are, currently, about three different applications of this glass design that I am thinking about using for lighting.  One is a torchiere-based lamp with a large sumptuous glass feature expanding out from the center. All of it, though, including the hardware, will have to be built from the ground up.  the stuff coming to us from China is simply too light weight for something of the kind I will be making.  So yes, expensive, but yet, one of a kind.  Unique.  There are people out there who value this kind of thing still.  Something so visually arresting and unlike anything else that it makes a statement in the room.  This is what winning design is about; winning designs help make a room.  Take a lamp like this out of its space and you are left with a visual vacuum.  Being custom, it has a look that is just….different.  The knobs to turn it on are heavier, made of better materials.  the knobs do not wobble in their normaly cheap housings. They are sturdy.  Being the Rolls Royce of lighting, everything is built to last.  This you know you will hand down to your children, to your grand-kids. People will talk about it, noticing it upon entering the room.  “Where did you GET that?” are the words so often said.

The other design is a more traditional table-sized lamp that includes a base that is lit just like this vase, but that also includes a lamp shade made using the same color design, but with a bowl/shade that it inverted over the upper portion of the light to create its sumptuous glow.  This one will have at least three high intensity lamps up inside the shade with a dimmable feature. The base will be broad, made of a sculpted bronze fitting that will give the entire design a nice stability.  It will have a masculine warmth with a cast bronze central shaft but with a verdigris patina (which is blue-green) to contrast and compliment the warmth of the glass.  The result will be striking and fabulous.  Interested in Art Nouveaux, I would design the base to have an organic effect, but not a rehash of the wonderful but now-overplayed Tiffany era bases which we have all grown to know.  Maybe I will call this Retronouveaux.  It will have a heavier build, which gives it a greater balance between the feminine undulating forms and a supportive solidity which will give these works something that the originals did not.  They didn’t need to.

This, though, is how these things go.  They often are the result of a number of interesting events that all combine to create something that is not always anticipated.  Now that this is out there, the question is where will I be able to take this…

What’s next?  Well….I need to get the studio running again so I can make some of these pieces.  That means ordering the glass, getting propane to run the reheating furnaces and paying for electricity.  Then after that, I have to work up waxes to use for the forms that will be cast in bronze.  Then after that, there is the investment casting that has to be made (this is making the heat-resistant mold that will hold the 2,000 degree bronze once it’s poured).    That, though, is enough fodder for another blog post!

Perhaps what is in order is a crowd funding effort to raise the funds to bring this design to market.  Now the question is, do I keep this on the back burner or strike while the iron is hot?

 

Art and Design, glassblowing

New Work


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Perfumer2
©Parker Stafford

If you are an artist then you know the importance of new work.  Developing new winning designs is a way to not only generate renewed interest in your brand, but it serves an integral effect of helping to keep you creatively vital.  I know that for me I get a big bump behind developing new work that helps to push production for a while.  I feel better.  Life just FEELS better to me and my mind is working in a much more fertile way as I wonder just what might be next on the creativity front.  Its as if the world moves from few options to one where options are just bursting at the seams.  Such is the effect that inspiration has on us.

The last four years have brought unprecedented change to my life.  From a severe shoulder injury, to a divorce, to managing an eight-entity partnership to being without a home and without income.  Being instantly disabled was no fun. The doctor explained I would not do anything except therapy with my shoulder for an entire year.   The combination of pain killers and discomfort and my inability to work was like a depth charge in my world.  It shook my confidence, it took me back to square one, and it also gave me a solid period of introspection into WHY I was doing what I was doing and caused me to step back and look—really look—at the who when where and why’s of all of this.. When the tree was shaken in this way I had to look long and hard and honestly at WHY I was motivated to do the things I was doing.  Why was I running a business in production glass?  It isn’t as simple an answer as you might at first expect.  Having a marriage break up during this time was itself a double-whammy and was made much more difficult by a spouse who sought to put children in the middle of it all while also limiting my exposure to them.  The economy was in the doldrums and I had few options available to me as I recovered just enough to wind up in another pot of soup.  And in the midst of all of this very terrible stuff was a center of clarity and purpose…..and even design.  I don’t believe in destiny.  I believe we create much of this.  A life can have a design that often escapes our notice but emerges in times when we allow ourselves to grow quiet.  If you step back and look at our culture and world as a whole, we really aren’t known as the species that quiets itself.  What we take as quieting the mind is akin to a brief distraction from the normal rush of inner dialog that goes along with our days.  You just never realize just how much you do it until you are suddenly without it.  Boom.  The sound goes off. The lights go out.  You are suddenly suspended within a deep blue buoyant ocean of a place.  What happens to you in places such as these?  In sensory deprivation tanks the mind is known to feed information out of itself for its own consumption just in order to keep the information loop it is so used to having supplied to it, going.  We never realize any of this until something comes along to put the brakes on things.  Its relative, so breaking the frame of reference just a little does a lot to begin to shift awareness, feeling, and being.

So, putting away the violins for a minute, I want to say that one of the few things that has helped me get through this period has been the ability to create.  During this time period I have had some of the biggest outputs of writing in my life.  I amassed a 700 page manuscript for a book, wrote several children’s stories and began developing new work and classes for my studio business.  I have written music, poetry, maintained up to three blogs and wrote an article for an online magazine on the subject of nonduality.  I was asked to teach at two colleges locally.  Now I teach at just one.  Part time and perfect.  It keeps me in the mix with young minds that want to be involved in new and different projects in a collaborative way, much as was done this past semester with my sculpture students in making blown glass sculptural forms for the Glass Garden project that I wrote about a few posts down the line.

Being able to have friends who serve as inspirational source-points can be incredibly important for turning the boat in your life around.  I know that for me, the creative was the one force that made the difference between madness and great joy.  It wasn’t a crutch; it was a means for changing how I thought, how I felt and how I reacted to the world around me.  A curious thing happens in the brain when we choose to feel differently; we do!  Our bodies stop pumping out things like adrenaline, which is a stress chemical and begins to pump out things like endorphins, dopamine, and other feel-good compounds.  The body is actually a loyal servant to our own minds and feelings and will most often mirror our thinking and feeling state as precisely as it can chemically. If you care to know just how fast this change can take place, observe as you allow your feelings to shift from one mood to the next. Our bodies can shift on a dime for us if we realize that it is we who control the boat and where its sailing!  Too often, though, we wind up being mastered by our feelings, and this can put people into quite dismal places indeed.  At the end of the day, though, until you understand that YOU are in control of all of this, even your own so very crazy emotions (that feel out of your control), you wont develop the sense of personal responsibility and self mastery that is necessary to have the confidence to take charge of your interior life and put it into a more positive direction.

Shell form 5 -b sizedSo art and creativity was a powerful way through all of this for me.  This was good, too, because I like simple and nondogmatic.  I happen to believe or feel that all of this here was not meant to be difficult but can actually be amazingly simple.  Like falling off a log.  Instead, though, we often set up barriers to our success.  I know I have.  Lots of them.  Why?  it all comes down to self love.  Not selfish narcisism, but rather a reverence for your own self as a gateway to worlds of wonder and boundless joy and love.  We tend to mess it up somehow, self-sabotaging most often.  Somewhere along the line we begin to feel that we aren’t good enough.  We are then on the lookout for any suggestion that we aren’t.  Our minds actually are on the lookout for ANYTHING that matches this pattern turning in our minds or hearts.  The thing about these patterns is that they are like plants; they will continue to self-propogate and can wind up getting worse.  You can also in that moment choose to go in the other direction and actively change the pattern into something different.  You can literally change your mind.  You can change how it operates, how it responds, how it chooses from a list of behaviors.  One of the most powerful ways to change these negative patterns is through creativity.  By being creative, you are granting yourself permission to be happy and to enjoy what it is you are doing as well as to begin to consider not just new ideas but also allowing yourself to enjoy something that you may have felt edgy or uncertain about (because maybe you felt like you just weren’t GOOD enough at it) for some time now. Sitting down with a guitar and playing music alone might at first seem like a lonely thing to do, but it can also be an incredibly nurturing thing too. Giving yourself the freedom to dream wildly and creatively is another way of honoring your own insides. It can be a game changer, it really can.  We now know that the very substance of our brains actually undergoes change as we begin to rewire the brain by developing different thought and feeling patterns.  We can see how different parts of the brain begin to light up when we move away from anxiety and uncertainty and allow ourselves to play and have fun. Play and fun are not mere idle activities; they are the very substance of what gives us long lives, healthy hearts, bodies and minds, and productive relationships.  When we are happy, when we are engaged, everything moves so much more smoothly.

As a result of all of this I remind myself that I need to stop what I am doing periodically and design new work.  Already I have begun some very different things.  Who knows if they will be of any interest.  When it comes to developing new work you do what you like and what winds up selling helps to support the business and more innovation.  Its not unlike a publishing company or movie producer that has blockbusters that help subsidize the less successful but just as worthy lesser known movies or books. I can remember making some of the ugliest suncatchers ever.  They were an experiment that went wrong.  I took them to a show and placed them in a basket on the floor.  They were the first things to sell and were gone within the first hour of the show.  So there is no way to gauge popularity; do what you like, make what you love and leave the rest to the fates.  Really.  If this is about pleasing other people, you are going to spend many sleepless hours trying to do just that when the only thing that ever made any sense or works is pleasing yourself.  I know maybe that sounds self centered, but you know, I have noticed that when I am happy, those around me feel that happiness and respond to it.  If I am not right then those around me are most certainly affected.  Instead of seeking to fill your cup from others, fill it yourself so that you are overflowing.  If we each did this we would each be in a lot better shape emotionally, and socially as a species.

This year I have embarked on some very divergent ideas creatively.  I wanted to do fish for my home.  I made some out of ceramic.  I wanted a garden because of how being amidst living things make me feel.  Last week I had a hummingbird buzz around my head as I stood stock still watching it move through the garden.  Bees and butterflies by the dozen are zooming in and out of this garden and it just lights me up to watch.  It lights me up to watch people enjoy making art, enjoying what they are doing.  I am making new work in glass, more different than anything I have ever done and yet its also some of the most satisfying so far.  I am breaking away from the vessel more and pushing blown forms into sculpture.  I am beginning to make water fountains; this was something I had NEVER considered but once I saw the results of what I and my students had created, I was hooked.  I wanted one in my yard, too. I wanted TWO.  One in the front, one in the back yard!  Here is glass and color and water all in one place creating sound and movement. Maybe its not highbrow, but I am a simple man.  Sometimes the sublime speaks to us through the ray of light peeking through the trees, or in the particular pthalo green we have on our pallet for the day.  In each moment, tucked between the obvious and the esoteric there is something and it is waiting quietly for us to recognize it.  When we do, it doesn’t require grandiose visions.  Its as simple as a smile, as grand as a waterfall.  It is in both, and it waits for all of us.  The gateway is in allowing ourselves, which is so very much like what making great art and invention is all about.