This last week I started a new job while beginning prep for a class I’m TAing this weekend and starting prep for Somerville Open Studios. Having been strictly on the metalworking wagon the last couple of months, starting a new job, even a part-time telecommuting one has been harder than I ever thought. I think I threw a tantrum this week, but I’m re-focused and committed again and will make it work because, well, I actually AM excited about much of it and it’s a perfect situation for me. So, this coming week will be a great test – I have two very clear things to do and practically nothing else: – Get through the code on the iPhone app I’ll be working on and understand most of it; get prepared for Somerville Open Studios.
Yesterday, I made a BIG foldformed sculpture – the whole thing would fit in about an 8″ sphere. I’m thrilled with it except that it’s also flawed in a way that I can’t let it be sold. I’ll post a photo here, but not until I have another made – I want you all to understand, by seeing the flawed and a (hopefully) perfect piece side-by-side, how the flaw practically ruins the piece. Metal is wonderful, and it’s nearly infinitely workable, but sometimes flaws can be fixed only by starting over – melting it down, rolling it out, and doing it all over.
The large piece is destined for the front display at my studios space (Artisan’s Asylum – check the links!) but I need to make about a dozen more smaller items of various kinds in order to feel like I’ll have a good display – of course I also plan to be making during SOS, but I want a solid collection to start with. As I’ve mentioned before, these are simply practice pieces for the most part, but I hope people like them enough to give me feedback and maybe even to buy a few so I can buy more copper!
I’ll be fashioning some sort of table and display for things too, and I’m not sure just what I’ll do for that, but that’s always the fun part anyway. I’ll keep it small, but professional. Lots of levels. Black with a subtle pattern tablecloth/cover. Maybe a paper-machie bust for the brass necklace if I get to it. It’s all the fun part!
For anyone on the area, please drop by Artisan’s Asylum at 10 Tyler St. Somerville, MA 02143 on Saturday and Sunday, May 5th and 6th, after noon. I won’t be the only one showing, and I certainly won’t be the “one to see”, so come by and get inspired to create.
This week, I spent some time in New York City. My hubby is there for work, so I tagged along to enjoy the sights, see some friends, and look for new inspiration. It’s that latter part that I’ll speak to today.
I have heard a lot of people say things along the lines of “I’m really good/interested at X, but I can’t seem to get inspired to do X” or “I’m waiting for inspiration to strike” or one of a hundred other, similar quotes that all boil down to the same thing: They are *waiting* for something to happen *to them* in order to be creative. I know exactly what that’s like, but I think by breaking through this, it’s making me a better creator.
Things inspire me every day, but I used to ignore it or, maybe more accurately, I didn’t really know how to pay attention. Then I stopped waiting for something to strike me and say “THIS HERE!” and instead started asking “WHAT IS IN THIS?” Doing this has changed most days from mundane to magical. There wasn’t some particular moment where I changed, it was just recognizing a pattern of behavior in myself and addressing it. Once in a while, I would get back from a walk or a trip to a museum or market or a night out and feel refreshed and excited. Other times I didn’t, and even when I did, I still usually ended up sitting in front of a screen of some kind, allowing that energy to drain away. The first realization I made is that, by and large, the times I was inspired were when I was connecting with the world around me, seeing and hearing and conversing, thinking and sketching and investigating. The second realization is that the difference between the times I connected with the world and those when I did not was largely a state-of-mind, something within myself, and something I can control. This had led me to the strong belief that if I seek inspiration, I will find it. Everywhere. All the time.
In: Me, Observations
When I picked up a copy of Vance Packard’s “The Hidden Persuaders,” several years ago, I was looking for resources that would help me better understand the growing unease that I had with the techniques I saw being used for marketing products and services. I had no idea that I had picked up one of the best introductions to the fundamental concepts behind those techniques available. “The Hidden Persuaders” reveals and discusses a fundamental shift in the way marketing was executed, introducing the reader to the concepts of motivational research and psychological studies and how they are used to drastically increase the effectiveness of marketing activities. These are the same concepts that drive nearly all marketing and advertising today, and, in some cases, have been taken to such extremes as to make one’s skin crawl. One of the most amazing things about “The Hidden Persuaders,” though, is that it was published in 1957.
Wikipedia has a reasonable summary of the book, which, I’ll note, wasn’t available new from 1966 until 2007, and copies are readily available. This is one to read if you want to understand how marketing shifted from ads featuring bright logos and straightforward claims to sensory bombardment finely tuned with FMRI machines.
Since reading this book and doing more study in these areas, I’ve started to form this picture of a massive decision that was made in this country in the post-WWII era that affects us all today and may be at the root of many of our current social problems. During the war, we built a truly impressive industrial country. At the end of that war, we suddenly had a lot of capability coupled with a lot of pent-up desire for things that had been in short supply during the war. Luxuries were suddenly permissible again, we all felt good having been on the winning side, we wanted to celebrate, and so we did. We chose to make stuff, consume stuff, envy our neighbors the stuff they had, and impress our peers with the stuff we had. The workers and factories (and, importantly, the businesses behind them) were happy with this because they got to keep churning out stuff. Consumers liked it because stuff was cheaper and they could live like kings. So, yes, we chose stuff and money and status. Who’s surprised by this? Certainly not me.
But the other choice, while harder, would have led to long-term security and prosperity. Maybe less stuff now, but everyone could have had what we need instead of a few having everything they want, and the rest of us left wanting what they have all the more for it. But that choice meant willpower to control our consumption, and anyone who’s ever been on a diet will tell you where that path often leads. It also meant ascribing value to things not quantifiable, like happiness, and measuring success in ways other than riches. Those are hard things for people to agree on, so we made a choice and we live with the consequences today.
However, I think that humans are actually smarter than this. I think that we are capable of making good decisions as a society. But I think we are terrible at stopping to think about what those decisions should be. The inertia of an entire society is elephantine, and trying to make that creature stop is a gargantuan task. In fact, until we address the way marketing is handled today, we don’t even have a chance of slowing it down. The rocket boosters that marketing fueled by motivational research and psychological research have strapped to the sides of that elephant make it nearly impossible.
Vance Packard envisioned a future that we are living, and he did so over fifty years ago. He warned of many of the societal problems we have today, and expressed moral concerns over the use of these new marketing strategies. That we collectively chose to ignore his warnings so far is disappointing, but with so many of his warnings borne out, to do so any longer is simple willful stubbornness. We have witnessed changing sentiment already with the Adbusters-initiated Occupy movement, but we’ll need more for long-term change. For now, read this book. I’ll be re-reading it myself, as I continue to delve into marketing and advertising topics here.
In: Criticism, M&A, politics
I have recently accepted a position with Karen Christians of Cleverwerx as her assistant. This is awesome for me as I get to help her organize things using technology while she teaches new metalsmiting and jewelry creation techniques I haven’t used before. I’m very excited and it’s been going quite well so far. Today, I taught a student how to use electronic soldering methods to connect jewelry components. Solder paste and a butane pencil torch are amazing for this, by the way. (Be sure to use lead & toxin free solder!)
I also forged my first non-fold form piece of metal. I took a bar of brass about 4″ long, 1/4″ wide and 1/8″ thick and ended up with the neck piece below. I’m happy that I was able to control the metal to make the exact shape I was going for, including forcing the sharp curve at the bottom and the sweeping curves up the sides. The sides are the same length and curvature – something I had to continually correct and guide during the process. Once forged, I added the ball peen texture to the front mainly to hide the flaws… There are still many flaws in this item, but it drove home just how much metal is like clay. I’m still smitten.
I think I owe you all a marketing & advertising post. I think by next week…
In: Me, projects
I recently had need to dress up as a zombie. Specifically, a zombie with victorian-style influence. In my case that latter part ended up being a somewhat lame tux shirt from Goodwill and a kinda-awesome ascot I whipped up out of some wide lace. However, a white shirt, lacy ascot and black eyeliner does not a zombie make. But add some blood, and you’re in business.
I really don’t like things that have been spattered with “blood” in completely unrealistic ways, so I wanted to solve that in this case. I figured that the best way to do that would be to, as close as ethically possible, replicate the acts that would result in the blood splatter. Since I’m not too keen on eating brains myself (and I question whether an appropriate quantity of blood would still be present in any commercially available specimen) I got the idea to substitute a sponge. I figured if I stood in the bathtub and bit down on a sponge filled with blood, the resulting splash would properly color my costume.
In: Me, projects
I have a lot of facets of my life. Some parts are more integrated than others, and some take on more or less importance at various times. The raw, creative force in my has been on the rise for some time, and it is this that I have been unleashing in a much more regular fashion as of late. However, in doing so, I have really begun to understand the necessity of tending to all parts of my life and not getting so focused on one thing that necessary care and feeding of other important aspects is neglected.
Today, I had a professional, therapeutic massage. The experience was one of my best, with a therapist who was not afraid to really lay on the pressure and who had a laser-guided precision in her strokes. While the specific act of having a massage is, I can finally admit, important to my overall well-being, it’s the idea that taking care of my body is a necessary thing for me to do. As I sit here creating today, I find that I am more focused, less distracted, happier, more energetic and generally just more excited to be doing just what I was doing yesterday. I have taken the time to care for my body for a change, and it has highlighted the need for more attention to be paid there.
This has also let me realize that I have other parts of me that need time too. My literary and writing interest has, once again, lay dormant for too long and I am itching to write. I have a lot more desire to be social than I once was, and, believe it or not, I have to make time to go to parties and gatherings. A lot of my life, I’ve kept my sexuality in a bottle, but that, too, is important to embrace and care for as needed. My wardrobe, cleaning around the house, correspondence with friends – you name it.
I used to look at lists like this and become overwhelmed with the time and effort involved just in keeping up, but these days I look at it differently. Taking care of these parts of my life allow me to connect with my primary passions much more fully and effectively. Staying healthy lets me work more. Staying connected with my friends inspires me to create more. Spending time with my sexual partners keeps me more focused when I’m working and dressing the way I want to dress makes me more confident in all aspects of my life. And the feeling of going home to a clean, organized home cannot be understated. Caring for all the facets of my life isn’t a chore, it’s just part of being a fiercely creative person.
In: Me, Observations
Recently, I’ve been playing with metal. I think I may finally have found *the* medium I love. Really love! While toying with engraving and considering trying my hand at chasing and repousse (which I still intend to ASAP) I stumbled upon a technique called Fold Forming. And I fell in love with metal all over again.
Fold forming is a technique that relies on metal’s plastic deformation properties to shape a piece. By folding, hammering, annealing and unfolding, amazing organic shapes can be obtained quickly and satisfy even the newcomer like me. It really is as simple as folding a sheet of brass or copper, hitting it a lot with a hammer, heating it with a blowtorch and unfolding. Of course, with a basic technique like that, only relatively basic results will be achieved. However, after an understanding of the technique and the reaction of the metal is obtained, repeated annealings and workings, foldings and unfoldings, and careful planning, the result can be an absolutely stunning form — many of which would be difficult to create in any other metalsmithing method.
I really can’t stand homophobia and living in a culture where being anything-but-straight is just gaining broad acceptance, every chance that we have to show people that homophobia will not be tolerated is a positive thing for me. Except when it goes to extremes – extremes are never good.
Danah Boyd reflects on the recent decision in the Dharun Ravi case. Ravi has been convicted of a list of crimes and, in many ways, blamed for the suicide of his gay roommate, Tyler Clementi. I believe Ravi’s actions are inexcusable and that he should bear some consequences for them, but this decision is extreme, placing the blame on Ravi for an environment of homophobia far beyond Ravi’s control.
“This case is being hailed for its symbolism, but what is the message that it conveys? It says that a brown kid who never intended to hurt anyone because of their sexuality will do jail time, while politicians and pundits who espouse hatred on TV and radio and in stump speeches continue to be celebrated. It says that a teen who invades the privacy of his peer will be condemned, even while companies and media moguls continue to profit off of more invasive invasions.”
I urge you to read this post (and more from Boyd when you can) and see if you think justice was done.
In: Criticism, politics
If I have a single subject that I’m super-passionate about, it’s the way marketing and advertising exists within our society. I have many observations and opinions related to this broad subject and I am going to start exploring them here. The only reason I haven’t written a lot more about this subject is the erroneous thought that I had to have all the topics I wanted to address outlined and organized so as to present my arguments in a logical, argument-building fashion. The catch is that I don’t have all those topics identified yet and, even for those I do, I don’t really know what foundations I need to build for them because, well, I haven’t written them yet. So, another perceived barrier removed and the start of a long, potentially wandering, periodic series of my thoughts on Marketing and Advertising. Read the rest of this post »
In: M&A, Observations
I’ve been drawing, off an on, for about 8 years now. I think I may have averaged about two drawings per year, which is totally pathetic, but it is something I love and need to continue to develop. I need it, if for no other reason, to better realize so many other of the things I want to do. I am a planner, and a good drawing helps a ton. In this project, however, the drawing was the final product. Read the rest of this post »