Monday, December 4, 2017

Reaching Deep, Reaching Out, and Betty Reid Soskin

Betty Reid Soskin is a 96-year-old, African-American woman who became a park ranger in her older years and still gives many talks a week at the Rosie the Riveter Visitor Center today. She is calm, down to earth, and quietly amazing. I heard her last summer; she draws her listeners into her world as she speaks thoughtfully and matter of factly about her life. Since the talk I attended I've followed her blog, which touches me with every post. Her talk also inspired me to read To Place Our Deeds: The African American Community in Richmond, California, 1910-1963 (which I recommend). I was particularly interested in the WWII era because the history that is taught initially makes it seem as though all races worked together in harmony toward the building of the ships and participating in the war effort. If you read more carefully you see that black workers didn't get as good health care, there were separate black unions who had to pay dues but who had no votes, housing was built primarily for white workers, and the discriminatory list goes on.

All of this is important background and deserves volumes on its own. But one recent post that I feel I can comment on shone light on Betty Reid Soskin's creative spirit, a deepening that perhaps allowed/and allows her to continue moving forward. Her creativity is manifested in her talks, which are neither written nor rehearsed, but come from deep within herself. In her post, she shows how she needs time to situate herself, to respond to the people around her, and to gather her thoughts. A great teacher's work. 

I would say artist as well.

I've seen her only once. But I felt close to her as I read about her process: understanding the need for space, for quiet, for an opportunity to dive down into oneself in order to provide. Be it a talk, a book, a visual work, an experience. Each person has the potential to reach many others, even in daily acts; a calm tone and kindness in life and art can in ripple outward.

*

More about Betty Reid Soskin
Betty's blog

If you are nearby, I recommend that you go hear Betty Reid Soskin yourself. Check the calendar for dates and times.



From birds to Betty to the wider world. Here is a bit of process info: watching the osprey web camera and visiting the osprey nest, which is next to the Red Oak Victory ship, got me interested in WWII shipyards, which is what brought me to Betty and a better understanding of history.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Tool for a Line

While I like the look of freehand embroidered text, I found that keeping the lines somewhat straight, particularly with a large block of text, can become stressful. How do other people mark their fabric? In The Ultimate Sashiko Sourcebook (which auto correct insists is "sashimi"), Susan Briscoe, the author, lists a whole page of fabric marking tools. I've tried white pencils, white marking pens, even regular pencils and regular chalkboard chalk, but found they either don't show up or don't come out. She mentions a "Chaco liner," a tool that has a little wheel that picks up powdered chalk and lays it down on the fabric. I found the tool, the Clover Pen Style Chaco Liner Yellow, at my nearby Jo-Ann's, but it's also available through Amazon.

The chalk brushes out easily, which means I must reapply the line, but that's just fine. When I'm done I can quickly wipe it off. No need to wash!



It has a little duck-billed tip.

Clover Chaco Pen Refills, are also available. They come in white, blue, pink, yellow.
I found the yellow worked well on both dark and light colors.

Tiny dotted rotating wheel at the tip.

I'm happy with it.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

New Art Quilt/Open Book: Sweet Osprey Dreams

After spending the summer closely attending to the sfbayospreys.org web camera and finding myself a little obsessed, I found I needed an outlet. All this daily input of watching the chicks grow up, watching the parents feed and teach the babies, the loss of one of the chicks, the eventual seeming disappearance of the other—all of this input had to get stored somewhere, and my head was too full to contain it.

There's an upcoming call for art quilt entries on the theme of "Dusk to Dawn," an aspect of night. Since I had screenshots from the web camera of the birds sleeping, it seemed like a good way to sew my obsession into the theme. The web camera goes to infrared light at night, and I luckily had some black and white images to work with. I started two quilts: "When Birds Sleep" and "Sweet Osprey Dreams." I still have much embroidered text to do on the first, but I've finished "Sweet Osprey Dreams." Abbreviated as SOD, it is what the Live Chat folk (also known as WWOC) wish each other at the end of the day.

The large image is from a photograph I took of the whirley crane, the structure that holds the nest (see this post for details). Embroidered words point out the nest, the nest camera, and the "around the nest" camera. Pandion Heliaetus means osprey. My text says, strangers meet as friends / watching the birds sleep by the bay / sweet osprey dreams.



Sometimes all the things you've learned and all your interests align and combine into one project. Here, I've incorporated: photography, embroidery, drawing, letterpress printing from wood type and photopolymer plates, solar printing with colored dyes, and sashiko stitching for waves (seigaiha) and fish scales (urokozashi). More about sashiko here.






It's good that the ospreys only have family time from March until September, or I wouldn't get anything done. (See last osprey post here.)

Bald eagles, however, breed roughly October through January. I noticed that at night on the North East Florida Eagle camera they wish each other SED (Sweet Eagle Dreams). That's the camera I'm not watching. Really.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Getting Your Art & Writing Out There

At a certain point you may find yourself with a pile of files, albums of photographs, or boxes of artwork that need somewhere to go. What to do? If you want to get your work out there you have to do your own marketing, and that means devoting time to the business section of your process. Someone once advised, "Take one day a month and send work to magazines and enter calls for exhibitions." Opportunities on the web are astonishing, really. There are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of calls for submissions. Where to start? For now, let's talk about preparing to submit to magazines.

1. Make sure your writing is formatted properly (more in this post). Each magazine has its idiosyncrasies, but the default position is: a simple 12-point font such as Times Roman; single-line space for poetry; double-line space for prose. The web doesn't like tabs, but some magazines will be able to accommodate your formatting. Many magazines read blind, others want your name and contact info on each page. Check each magazine for guidelines.

2. Research! You may have a list of recommended magazines, but plan to spend time with the magazine itself. Some things to look for if you are sending out writing:
  • Find the editor's name so you can address your cover letter to a human (there may be more than one).
  • See if the editor has an interview online, such as in Jim Harrington's Six Questions For…blog. Would you be happy or comfortable in a room with this editor?
  • Read at least five samples of the work to get a feel for tone and style; is the work lofty or gritty? playful or serious? hard emotional subjects? nature-oriented? absurd? confessional? witty? (More about reading the magazine in this post.)
  • Check the guidelines.
2a. If you are sending out art, make sure your images are of professional quality. Magazines these days are hungry for high-quality art. Always check the guidelines. Recommended:
  • High resolution, 300 ppi, approximately 1M file (check if they want .jpg, .png or .tif)
  • Good, natural lighting and/or crisp contrasts, in focus, even lighting, color corrected
  • File with recognizable name and title, such as: name-title_of_work
2b. Some magazines are looking for audio files. Follow the guidelines.

3. Have several third-person bios ready. Some magazines have a word or character limit. Write a 50-word bio, a three-sentence bio, a 75-word, and a 100-word bio to keep handy. Update as needed. Artists may need to create a combination bio/artist statement. See more about writing a bio in this post. Third-person biographies generally begin with your name and include who you are, what you do, any publications or items of note, and where you are located.

4. Submitting. Each magazine has a Submissions page. Follow the guidelines. You may need to set up a Submittable account if you don't have one. It is free, easy, and they are a good company that does not share your name.

5. Keep track of your submissions. A sample spread sheet that you can create in a word processing doc is here. If you send again to the same magazine, make sure you do not send the same piece. You can also note how long it takes to get a response and if you got any further encouragement.

Many magazines accept different types of work. Rattle, for instance, accepts a poem a week that responds to the news, accepts one photograph a month for poets to respond to (Ekphrastic Challenge) as well as many other categories for poetry. Blink-Ink is an always themed print zine that accepts lively, (approximately) 50-word stories. Split Rock Review is looking for creative, nature-inspired art and writing. Up the Staircase Quarterly looks for poetry, reviews, and art. Nanoism, published every Wednesday, takes Twitter-sized fiction (140 characters, max). Eastern Iowa Review looks for lyrical and experimental essays and fiction. Concis accepts short works: 25 lines or under 250 words and art. Diagram looks for schematics, labelings, and things disguised as other things in words and images. Star 82 Review looks for short prose, poetry, art, erasure texts, and word/image combinations.

You can find more listings at Poets & Writers, through your Submittable account, and many other places online. Just sending out to magazines one day a month can get you started.

Learn Things! Good luck! And Keep Sending!