On NPR, to talk about “handmade”

Under the Radar announcement.jpgI’ve done an interview on “Under the Radar with Callie Crossley,” about trends in handmade, the current handmade marketplaces, and Etsy Artists of Boston.  You can hear it here: “Connections to Nature, Artists Transform Handmade Crafts into Trend.

It’s Spring! (Sort of!)

Mega Mushroom Magnet web close-up  So Spring comes with a bit of a qualifier, because I’m in New England, and we literally had a snow-storm last week.  But ‘technically’ it’s Spring!  Yay!
The Hieropice Botanical Magnets have multiplied!  I now have Mega versions available, with sawtooth hangers on the back so you can hang them as wall-art if you want.  Yay for options!  I like the idea of these for personalizing an office space or classroom.  I always vote for bringing more nature into a space.
garden magnet trio web
I’ve also been etching many more glass decanters with my botanical illustrations, and the magical land of all things kitchen and home, Greentail Table, carries a selection of them.  So if you’re in the Newton, MA area, stop by and check it out!  They have such great stuff in there.   Ceramic succulent plants, little bird chopstick-holders, screen-printed nature-themed tea towels…  It’s just beautifully-curated, and they also feature workshops on floral arranging, local cuisine, and entertaining, so you know, it’s just a cool place to hang out.

I’ve updated Hieropice.com to feature my newer items, and am looking forward expanding my product line further.  Happy Spring, all!Hieropice Decanters at Greentail Table March

Botanical Magnets, Art Markets, Oh My!

It’s Small Business Saturday y’all!  I love that there is a day to celebrate shopping small, though I wish every day were a day to recognize, and make a conscious effort to support small businesses.
Sometimes the products that we sell cost more, because we source our materials differently, trying to ensure they are produced with care or fairly, humanely, that the workers who create them or harvest them are paid a fair wage etc.  Sometimes we are making our products by-hand, or making them here in the United States, where labor costs, commercial space, utilities, and the cost-of-living is significantly greater than developing countries, and thus, our products cost more.  So if you can still support us with your shopping dollars, we appreciate it!
This holiday season, I am introducing new pieces to the Hieropice product line, Botanical Magnets!  They are miniature landscapes designed to attach to any metal surface, and come in a variety of styles.  I will have them at my upcoming art markets at the Old South Church Christmas Craft Fair on Saturday, December 3rd, and at the Etsy Artists of Boston chalet at City Hall Plaza December 16th through 22nd.  I love  making them.  Tiny, perfect ecospheres preserved in time.  Yay, nature!  And yay, handmade!

Autumn has arrived!

I am so thrilled that Fall has finally come. It is the best season, in my opinion!  There is an incredible natural color palette that forms just about everywhere in New England that makes every vignette look like a painting.
I’ve been experimenting with making my own liquors and bitters, starting with a cardamom/vanilla pod-infused liquor that I haven’t gotten quite right yet. I figured, why just make the glass vessels, but not the liquors to go in them?
For my first attempt, I toasted the cardamom and vanilla pods, which gave a powerful flavor, but perhaps too anise-y/too much like licorice. So the next batch was made with raw pods, and no vanilla. We shall see how it goes!
I collected a number of my etched glass vessels, etched and painted lanterns, and all things Autumnal for this Fall-inspired scene to remind you of why Autumn is just the best thing ever. A number of these pieces are available at my Hieropice on Etsy shop. Happy Fall!

New Workshops, new shows!

fern, shell terrarium web
Excited to announce that I’ve added a couple of new workshops to my August roster, in addition to the upcoming glass-etching workshop on August 27th. I’ll be teaching two workshops on terrarium-building on August 14th and 23rd!  These two classes will focus on how to create sustainable tropical ecosystems under glass, with step-by-step Moss and plants for terrrarium workshopinstruction and tips on keeping your terrariums beautiful long-term. Attendees will get to personalize their terraria, and we’ll use truly unique glass vessels (no fishbowls here!) to build in.  Very excited to offer this class at the Presentation School Foundation in Brighton, as previously, I’ve only offered it and Brookline Adult and Community Education and Newton Community Education.  If you live in the Greater Boston area, or will be on August 14th or 23rd, join in!  You have to pre-register to attend, register here.

This Sunday, I’ll be exhibiting at SOWA Boston, debuting some new pieces. I’ve created new terrarium ornaments, botanical-gilded lanterns, terrarium shadow boxes and botanical-etched decanters. SOWA is open from 10 AM – 4 PM on Sunday, and is free to attend (it costs $10 to park, but you can use the parking voucher at any of the vendor booths!)Gilded Botanical Lantern 2

Lichen, moss, and making things

lichen in handI am still as obsessed as ever with all things botanical.  I took the most truncated vacation ever, and, as it was me on vacation, spent a significant portion hunting for lichen to use in future terraria.
I have also had this long-term plan/goal, to make lighting around my terraria, and I’ve been playing around with a bunch of different concepts.  I’ve built some pieces, created elements, but haven’t quite created anything I feel represents what I see in my head.
BUT I had a thought while I was on vacation, and when I returned, started working on it.  I just completed it, after a bunch of experimenting.  Lots of cutting glass, applying chemicals, applying more chemicals, changing techniques, and I quite like what I’ve made now.  Here it is!IMG_4902 My phone is pretty abysmal and ancient, so photos are not great, but I’m pleased with how the lantern came out.  It’s a bit hard to see the reflective nature of the floral pattern on the glass in the photos, I’ll take others somewhere down the line.  I’m looking forward to playing with the techniques more to create more pieces.  Yay for being in a creative period!

New Stuffs!

Green Orchid Bud Vase close webI am expanding the Hieropice product line, after a couple of years of awesome responses to our terrarium ornaments.  I used to do a lot of glass-etching in my youth, and started incorporating etching into last Winter’s ornaments.   During the holidays, I offered ornaments with etched designs and pressed botanicals.  I am now expanding my etched pieces to bud vases, lanterns, cruets (those dispensers for oil, wine, etc.) and more, that I offer at art markets and online at Hieropice.com and hieropice.etsy.com.  The pieces featureEtched Fiddlehead Frame 2 web the thematic elements customary of Hieropice, ferns, orchids, and bits of nature I fall in love with as I explore.  I create original drawings and etch them onto reclaimed glass, and, in the future, will create some pieces that incorporate more glass techniques (mosaic, stained glass, painted glass, etc.).  I hope you enjoy these new pieces, I am really enjoying creating them!

FYI, if you’re in Greater Boston, you can still register for one of my glass-etching workshops taking place on August 4th and August 27th, at the Presentation Foundation Community Center.  Pre-registration is required, and the registration link is here: http://bit.ly/29ztFz6

Make It Your Own: Glass-Etching Workshop

Olive bottle and blue bottle square web
If you’re in the Greater Boston area (or you will be in August), come to one of my workshops and make something awesome!
On August 4th (Thursday) at 6 PM and August 27th (Saturday) at 1 PM I will be teaching workshops on glass-etching at the Presentation School Foundation Community Center.  The Center is at 640 Washington Street, Brighton, MA, and we’ll be in the New Balance Room on the lower level.
We’ll take reclaimed glass and transform it using custom stencils we’ll create right there in the workshop.  Your own original artwork, permanently emblazoned on glass that you take home with you the same day.  A vase, perhaps?  An oil diffuser?  It’s up to you!
And no, you don’t have to be an artist to participate, I’ll teach you everything you need to know!  You can register here (registration is required, no drop-ins).
The workshops are 18+, because, you know, chemicals and all.  Safety gear will be provided.  I will be teaching terrarium-building workshops in August as well though that are all-ages, so stay tuned!
Holding fern-leaf vase web

Oh, is it wedding season?!

Lia's Bouquet.jpgThe folks at Etsy reminded me it’s wedding season!  While my appreciation of weddings is primarily relegated to drooling over bouquets, head-pieces and gowns, I did remember serving as a bridesmaid in several friends’, then my sister’s, wedding.  I got my dress together, my shoes, my makeup, my hair, and then, despite being a jeweler, found I had no clue whatsoever what jewelry to wear.
The weddings were all fairly traditional, with bridesmaids in similar, if not identical dresses, and I wondered if I’d blow up the whole cabal with some off-kilter embellishment.  And if you’re thinking, why worry about such a thing?  I hand you the following anecdote.my hairdo and fascinator at Glo's wedding
Standing in the chapel doorway at my best-friend’s wedding, I went to take the arm of my assigned groomsman, a gentleman I had just met, before we walked down the aisle.  I was wearing the pre-selected bridesmaid uniform, marcasite post earrings and a feather fascinator.  He leaned over to me and whispered, “Now, we don’t want to take any attention away from the bride, now do we?”  Ahem!  So, people notice these things!
Accessory-shaming aside, I thought, there should be tasteful, customizable jewelry pieces available, preferably that a bride can select and purchase for her bridal party, that she could match to their dresses.  The bridesmaid would’t have to worry about selecting appropriate jewelry for the occasion, and the jewelry would double as a gift from bride to bridesmaids as a thank you for supporting her on her special day.Set of gold drop earrings main
I have just listed a set of gold and semi-precious gemstone drop earrings in my Hieropice on Etsy shop, customizable, of course, for exactly this purpose.  Earrings are available in turquoise, lapis lazuli, coral, and malachite, and other colors are available upon request.  The set comes with four pairs, but more, or fewer, are also available.  Happy wedding season, everyone!

A realization

There has been a bit of upheaval, of late.
With the invitation to outside investors, Etsy invited a lot of scrutiny, which led to some of those same investors realizing, rather late in the game, that Etsy hosts a rather large number of sellers who vend items that infringe upon the copyrights of well-known companies, like Disney, and Sanrio.
I’m talking about that Hello Kitty necklace and that baby blanket featuring Elsa from “Frozen.”

Elsa-Inspired Hat

Elsa-Inspired Crocheted Hat, from Etsy

Yup, unless the vendor paid to license those characters from their parent companies, they’re likely infringing on a copyright/trademark by utilizing that imagery on their items (with some exceptions).
And once some of the investors who purchased Etsy stock at $30/share and watched it tumble to $16/share shortly after “discovered” these items in the Etsy marketplace, suddenly they became a problem.
Of course, you can purchase the same infringing items on Ebay, on Alibaba (where many vendors openly rip-off reputable Etsy artisans and imitate their items/infringe upon their copyrights), and a million other sites, but the rip-offs are a bit less visible when they’re being pumped out by the thousands by large overseas manufacturers tacking-on fake designer labels than an independent artist illustrating an homage to a character they love from a film.  And then, there’s also not a share price drop to think of with those other companies, either.
The lawsuit is a loser, as a basic Etsy search would’ve given these investors all the info they needed, and no one can make up for your unwillingness to do your homework.
But the kerfuffle did bring into focus this whole issue of manufacturing, and the role it plays in the business of art-making.

Etsy manufacturing summit

Etsy holds a summit on manufacturing in the marketplace

Many of us, who hand-make our art, whether we’re willing to vocalize it or not, envision these massive, overseas sweatshop-style businesses, that have zero interest in quality, running ginormous machines day and night, spitting out replica after replica of meaningless, rip-off junk, paying dozens of workers pennies to put sloppy finishing touches on before the onslaught of under-priced garbage floods our marketplace.    And then our work, that we slave over, that takes us forever to complete, that we actually care about, that we’re already under-pricing because if we priced it correctly it’d never sell, gets buried in that market, because these manufacturers are getting better and better at faking it.

But the reality is a bit different.  I’ve done the math, many of us have.  I know, to make a living at what I do, to sell my pieces at the prices I do, to make enough pieces to sell, to achieve any of the goals I have for my life, to buy a home, to travel, it is simply unrealistic to continue hand-making art, one-by-one, and selling at affordable prices.  There are some artists who are exceptions, I imagine, who transition seamlessly from doing crappy art-school paintings to selling individual pieces regularly for $500,000 apiece, with no selling-out in between.  I know a guy.  But they’re exceptions.  And they also bypass the mass-marketplace and go straight to high-end; their work is reserved for the rarefied few who can afford “aaahhht.”
Any artist who starts to achieve some success at their chosen medium has to figure out how to do what Etsy calls “scaling up.”  I will define it as, “making/selling your stuff in a way that allows you to make enough money to live, but not to go insane/die of exhaustion, but also, achieve your goals.”  And it looks different for every artist.
I recently heard an interview with Jonathan Adler, of ceramic vase fame, on NPR, and he was talking about how he made it as an artist.  It was a good story, of landing his pots in Barney’s early in his career and taking off from there.

Jonathan Adler on Martha Stewart

Jonathan Adler making a pot on Martha Stewart

I literally watched Jonathan Adler “become.”  I used to watch him on Martha Stewart’s show, showing off his vases, how he made them, etc.  And now he’s an industry, with stores everywhere, and his name is synonymous with “style.”
But his interview was bullshit.  Because Jonathan Adler probably hasn’t made a freakin’ vase in years.  He probably hasn’t touched a single object in any of his stores in years, he probably doesn’t even know what they sell.  He has a “design brand,” now.  He’s not a famous artist, though he sold himself as one, in this interview.  He’s rich, he’s famous, he has indeed succeeded, but is he a successful artist, if he doesn’t actually MAKE any art any more?  If his success hasn’t come from his art, but from his merchandising, his branding, his expansion into other arenas?
And that difference struck me like a brick.  Because I went into an online artists’ group recently, during a period where I was working through a ton of online orders I’d received on the same day, many of them for the same item, and so I was making almost the same item over and over, my hands were cramping and I was sick of seeing this piece I once loved the design-of.  I wanted to smash it and refuse to make it again.  I was just weary of making things for other people, that felt like they had nothing of me in them any more.  I was satisfying my customers, but not myself.

miniature pig by Hieropice

Me sculpting a miniature pig for a pendant

And I asked if these other artists in this group ever felt like they were one-person-sweatshops, and just didn’t want to do it any more sometimes.  And several of them totally could relate, but several said, “oh come on, that’s a great problem to have!”
I literally made ‘sad-face’ upon reading that.
A great problem to have?!  I knew what they must be thinking, that to have people wanting the things you’ve created, to be willing to spend money on them, and to have steady business is indeed a good thing for an artist.  It’s often the goal when you’re in art school, to “make a living as an artist.”  Huzzah!  Success!
But I also realized, a person who could see this as a “good problem” is not an artist.
I hadn’t realized until that moment, that perhaps not all of us who are making things and selling them are, in fact, artists.  Or would even call ourselves such.  Our motivations may not be the same.  Some are creating because they enjoy the act of it, and are selling as a bonus.  It’s a pass-time, or a hobby.
Some are creating because they’re simply able to, they may not always enjoy it, but it brings in income.  They could stop tomorrow and move on to something else they find more interesting.
Some are creating specifically to make revenue, and will, whenever possible, remove themselves from the creative process.  Making is a means to an end, and they are looking for the best possible way to monetize it.
I’m creating because I feel I’m an artist, it’s my identity, not my hobby or my job.  The urge was there before I sold a thing, before Etsy or craft shows.  I don’t really have a choice whether to create; in fact, I tried majoring in Psycho-Pharmacology in college, but ended up spending all of my time doing artwork instead of reading my textbooks.  Because creating is my passion and the thing that drives me.  I don’t really care whether I sell things, I very much care about the integrity of what I create, its originality and quality, and I also very much care about whether I enjoy doing it.  So when it feels rote, repetitive, and divorced of my creativity any more, I don’t want to do it.
So if I’m honest, I’m fearful of reaching that Jonathan Adler moment.  When I realize I’m not going to achieve the success I want if I insist on my own hands touching each piece of artwork that is sold with my name on it.  It’s very well-accepted in the fashion industry; you know Versace didn’t sew a stitch on that dress you bought, but it still commands the price.  But I still despise the idea of not creating my work with my hands, and I don’t see the manufacturing process as a part of Hieropice‘s future.

maasai beaded coasters

Maasai beaded coasters, that I photographed in Tanzania.

When I began, I envisioned working with Maasai women in Tanzania in creating the Maasai-beaded line, and I hope to still see that come to fruition, one day.  I wanted to improve upon the technique, build up the visibility of my Maasai-inspired pieces here in the West, and head back to TZ to train a small cooperative to create the pieces with me, using fine materials and my designs.  No machines, just women, hand-beading with a (modified) technique that originated in their own community, bringing revenue back into that same community.  That’s about as far away from my own hands as I’m ever willing to go, I think.  Not far.

*Disclaimer – I actually love Jonathan Adler’s stuff, no hating here!  Props to you, Jonathan Adler.