Inspired Art and Living with Fiona Stolze

Art For Art’s Sake….Or Is It Just Another Job?

Last night I just completed one of my latest artistic creations. I had painted a premade silk top in varying shades of pink and fuchsia and then applied some gold patterning to the front in gutta for special effect. I then sewed it together, ironed the seams and put it on in front of the mirror. I was really thrilled with the final result, mainly because it was in my favourite colours and because it was a great fit.

My eldest son was really supportive when he saw it and assured me that other people would be interested in having one, too. So I began thinking about different ways of marketing this sort of product and how to go about it all. Then came the process of working out how much it would sell for.

Now that’s where is gets really interesting. The bottom line is that I have spent a few hours creating a beautiful work of art and in order to fully honour myself and the whole process, I have to put a price label on it that boosts my self-esteem. And yet, the average person somehow doesn’t go there with their thoughts. They see a top, work out in their head what they would pay at their favourite store, and wonder why on earth I would be charging so much more…..

I wonder why, indeed.

It’s funny when you turn it all around. If I were to ask someone how much they earn per hour, then get them to add up what they would be earning doing my work, plus the material costs, they begin to look a big sheepish when they realise that it’s all fair play.

And then of course, when someone buys a piece of art, whether in a frame or as wearable art, it is to some extent totally unique and expresses a very individual energy. This is an element which needs to be fully honoured too.

In fact, it’s a very long story when you sit down and think about it.

But at the end of the day, each artist needs to work this out for themselves. Their prices will reflect their self-worth.

Being an artist I know that you can’t but help create artwork. It’s totally inbuilt. So it’s no use pretending that you can work in a 9-5 job and find satisfaction. The resentment and the lack of fulfillment creep in at some point and burst it all open at the seams. Try forcing yourself to do something else and notice how the headaches, or the sleeplessness creep in. There’s just something really huge missing. And yet how many artists are faced with the dilemma of holding down a job they hate in order to pay the bills, while juggling with their artistry after hours or at the weekend.

I would so love to earn a very good living through my artwork and know I am not alone there. Every day all sorts of issues around this topic crop up that I need to look at. It really is an ongoing process and a journey that is fascinating. And knowing so many other artists, I see them too working their way through exactly the same questions.

Lots of food for thought. And I shall continue to document this journey and the insights I gain as I move forward.

Thanks for listening. 🙂

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May 22, 2010 Posted by | INSPIRATIONS | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Going to the Art Fairs

Well, I did it again. I attended an art fair over the weekend and it was the first one in quite some time. In fact, it was the first one I’ve attended since we moved away from Ireland so I was dipping my toes into a new area, namely the Bristol arts and crafts market.

They always say that you should never participate in any show or fair untiil you’ve been there as a visitor first. And there’s really something in that.

This was the first time I’d been at this particular event in Bristol, a converted church with a reall goth feel to it. I don’t know about the Feng Shui of the place, but it definitely could do with a good workover.

I had booked a stall for the two days and was intending to do some silk painting demonstration during this time. The only problem was that there weren’t enough people to demonstrate anything to. In fact, there was a decided lack of visitors full stop. Those of you who have done these events will know what it is like. Over lunch time there aren’t many people coming through because everyone is having lunch. The busy time tends to be around 3 – 5pm.

This time, however, not only did no-one come during lunch time but they didn’t even turn up after lunch. In fact, they didn’t turn up at all. It seems that no-one really knew the event was on. And that’s decidedly bad for those who have paid money to have a stall.

The usual nonsense started. The stallholders all started to wander around visiting each others’ stalls and buying some little bits and pieces to cheer each other up.

For the last hour it was dead. The only reason I stayed put was that, since I was going to be there the next day, I had to leave everything in the hall overnight and that meant staying until the event finished at 6pm on the first day. It was a completely different story the next day as I knew that I could bolt whenever I wanted to. And that happened around 3.30pm. It had all become quite unbearable and I got really honest with myself, knowing that no-one was going to come in and buy lots of items in the last couple of hours.

So I slowly began to pack everything up and take leave…

It’s hard when you attend these events and are optimistic that you will get some new leads, lots of sales and connections, as well as loads of tips from the other artists. I didn’t even cover my costs and was certainly not alone there.

And the question arises – what could they have done differently. Well, that’s always a very good question. I had the feeling that the organisers were well on the way to finding out the answer to that one all through the weekend. Was it due to the fact that they left everything until the last minute? Did it have anything to do with the fact that they didn’t do any really effective advertising? Even with the best event in the world, you’re not going to have any success unless you let people know it is happening.

From my experience there are certain things that can give you some clues as to how things are likely to run. First of all the pitch fee is a great give-away. If you get the stall for next to nothing, then you can be sure that there is some correlation here with with the likelihood of a high number of visitors. Low fee, low attendance. If the word has got around that the event is a great success and you are likely to get good sales, you can bet that the organisers will be cashing in on this with the fees they charge. However, a few pounds more is well worth it if you have the prospect of doing very well on the day.

Go onto the forums and ask around. Your fellow artists and craftsmen will be more than willing to share feedback with you as to how they did. The events that do well tend to be booked out well in advance and you might be lucky enough to get on the waiting list.

Another thing to watch out for is whether or not there are other arty events running at the same time. In this case there was indeed another event which was going head to head with the one I was at. It was even charging an entry fee and the art work was in general much more expensive. But it was well-established and won the day easily.

In fact that is something the organisers need to pay attention to if they want to have any success at all and draw crowds in to their event.

I know it’s not easy and it was probably quite a daunting task getting this whole thing off the ground. But the unverse has a way of making a very clear statement when we have rested on our laurels and taken certain things for granted. There was certainly no mercy being shown. However, this wasn’t bad in many ways. I just keep coming back to Edison who discovered 1,000 ways of how not to make a lightbulb.

I wonder how many ways the organisers found of how not to run a successful art event….??

May 22, 2010 Posted by | INSPIRATIONS | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Creating Gorgeous Little Clutch Bags with Panels You Have Silk Painted

Now that really is very decadent. Talk about luxury. Being able to completely custom make your own beautiful clutch bag for an item that not only really catches everyone else’s eye but is totally unique. Well, the good news is that I took the plunge after years of deliberation and designed my own lovely little clutch usiing both gold and silver gutta together with a melange of purples and blues. The result was indeed a delight.

I”m going to be documenting my process in a post here on the blog for you to read.  Over the weekend I will be at an art fair having lots of fun so as soon as that is over, you will be able to read what I have to share.

So do come back to find out what happened. Even better, why not subscribe to this blog so that you don’t miss out. Look forward to seeing you very soon.

May 13, 2010 Posted by | EXPERIMENTS IN SILK | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

And This is What the Fuchsia Top Looks Like Now it’s Finished…

So…moving on from the last post, I’m now going to let you see how I put the final touches to the top I was making in lovely fuchsia and pink.

fiona stolze, silk painting, silkandart

Tying off a small section of silk

Now I hadn’t steamed my silk yet, so I had to be very careful in handling the top. This meant keeping it well away from anything that could cause the tiniest of bloops and mess the silk. I certainly couldn’t steam iron it to remove the creases although that would have made  applying the gutta much easier.

But before I talk about what I did, I want to share something quite funny. As my fellow silk painters will

fiona stolze, silk painting, silkandart

Capillary action of the silk dye

agree, there is often an element of surprise involved when you paint on silk. And this project was really

no exception. As you can see from the photos in the last post, I had tied a small bunch of the silk with some wool, exactly where Iwas intending to paint the gutta on after the steaming. Well,  I painted the silk and stood back to admire my work. But it was then that science took over. It’s called capillary action. And what that means is that when you create a narrow space such as a tube, a liquid can then travel up through it. My husband tells me this is an effect of the surface tension. What it basically meant for me was that the bit of silk I had wanted to stay white became pink….and so I had to rethink the next step of my painting project. 🙂

I  took out one of those bamboo hoops you can use for embroidering. I marked the exact centre and then fitted the silk in place. Now,

fiona stolze, silk painting, silkandart

Applying the gold gutta pattern

some of you may know that when you apply gutta to white silk, it penetrates the fabric creating a barrier for the dye you paint on top. However, when you

fiona stolze, silk painting, silkandart

Applying the dye to the pattern

have already dyed the fabric, any gutta you apply will not act as a resist but sit on top as decoration. So I painted a small mandala pattern in gold gutta and let it dry. I could see that it had not fully gone through to the reverse due to the fact that it had been applied on top of the dye. This meant that it would probably leak past the lines. And I didn’t want that to happen to this lovely top.

So I had to hold my breath and mix some dye and get started. I used a very small brush so that the area in question would not be flooded and very slowly and carefully applied the dye, keeping it as dry as possible. Any leaks would also create hard edges which I definitely did not want. Time seemed to stand still as I worked the tiny brush, filling in the dye where I wanted colour…and then I was finished. Wow, not a bloop in sight. Oh, joy!!  I sat back, grinning from ear to ear, thrilled that it was now complete and that very little could go wrong now.

fiona stolze, silk painting, silkandart

The completed fuchsia silk top

Next step was the steaming, which unfolded without a hitch and then out came the finished item. I was jumping about with joy at that point, knowing that the end was very near. The next morning, after the top had lain and cooled for a night, I steam ironed it and then pinned it together at the side seams. A quick tension check on the machine and we were ready to go.

And there we were. Ready to go. These pictures document some of the steps involved and give you an idea of what was going on. It was such good fun. I always find that when I’m making something purely for pleasure,it always flows just that bit better than when I’m making something that has to turn out a specific way.

I’m going to be making some of these in different colour schemes and am planning on putting much more energy into silk wearables in the months to come. If you’d like to wear one of my creations, do get in touch.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this and seeing what I’ve been up to. I promise to publish a photo of me wearing it as soon as the Bristol weather allows for it. 🙂

May 11, 2010 Posted by | PAINTINGS IN PROCESS | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Painting a Crepe de Chine Top in Nummy Fuchsia

It’s no secret that I adore fuchsia. So just recently it was particularly exciting for me to paint myself a new fuchsia top. These photos

silk painting, fiona stolze

Wet sculpted crepe de chine

here document the first few steps that I took for my creation. I decided to do without the frame and just make lots of mess on the plastic sheeting on the table.

In contrast to the orange camisole top I recently sewed and painted from scratch, I decided to use a pre-sewn ladies top for this job. This garment was sewn at the shoulders, so all I have to do is pin the sides together and sew it up when I have completed all the usual stages of painting, steaming and ironing.

The first step involved spreading the top out on the plastic and giving it a good soak. The next part is fun because I push the silk around, sculpting it into different shapes, twisting and moulding it until it sits in a way I am happy with. I then mix my dyes, or dilute them accordingly, select the brushes I’m going to use and off I go.

Once the dyes have been applied I then leave the top to lie and dry for 24 hours. You have to really make sure it’s in a safe place and can sit undisturbed without any kitties or hamsters going for a stroll and stretching out on it, or chewing on the edges for a taste. Come to think of it, you have to make sure no members of the family are likely to trip and slosh their coffee over it either…

silk painting, fiona stolze

Painting the dyes on the silk

I’m lucky in this respect as I have an attic room which other family members very rarely enter and they know that my artistic endeavours have absolute priority up there. 🙂

Okay, 24 hours have passed without any major mishaps. What next? I carefully lift up the top and shake it out to see how the colours have dried and how the patterns look. Pinks and fuchsias always look very exciting and uplifting so I can’t wait to have a look the next day after painting. I never rush to steam my work after painting. It normally spends a full day on the table or hanging before I get it ready to be steamed. This ensures it has thoroughly dried and sort of set before the next stage.

The next job was to lay out the paper and roll the top up on the pole to be steamed to fix the dyes. Normally I take care to lay the silk out really flat to ensure no creases are there as they tend to get steamed into the silk. However, the magic

silk painting, fiona stolze

Fuchsia silk top ready for steaming

fairies always help out when I do wet sculpting because I roll up the crushed silk and yet it doesn’t seem to have any effect whatsoever on the final outcome. I suppose that blows that myth straight out of the window. Ah, old habits die hard. Next time I steam, I’ll be taking ages to ensure that nothing is crushed. Talk about double standards…:-)

One thing I don’t do though is touch unsteamed silk in any way in case it gets messed. Any of you who steam silk know how easy it is to get the slightest bloop on the silk. So that is the main reason why I don’t iron any creases out when the dyes are still not fixed.

Okay, that’s as far as I’m going to go in this post. Here are the first few pictures. I’m hoping to do the second part tomorrow to let you see the last stages and the final item.

See you then.

May 9, 2010 Posted by | PAINTINGS IN PROCESS | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment