Fearing Good

I'm trying to get to the good stuff, but why's it being so elusive?

I guess we are always in varying degrees of transition often, but last year felt especially like that. So 2018 is about putting my feet on solid ground. And putting my money where my mouth is. 

I am working to let go of a few things and tie up loose ends because I feel like I can't move forward until those things are off my plate. I do see progress, it's just really damn slow.

One current thing that is sticking for longer than I planned is leaving my position as Director of 17th Street Studios. The plan was to be done at the end of 2017, but there are still things to do, so the new deadline is the end of this month. 

There is actually a LOT to do, so while I am ready to start some new projects, I can't get to them, and it's been frustrating. 

My work schedule is about to get a whole lot more structured beginning this next week, and I am really looking forward to that. Did you know I have four-ish jobs? And I am leaving one today to start a new one this week. I'd like to write about that, too: Leaving places and people on a good note as opposed to hanging on out of... fill in the blank all the reasons anyone sticks with anything too long. I have a lot of experience in the latter.

So I'm trying to be patient right now, and still, slowly like a snail, chip away at some projects that I'm hoping to dive into as soon as possible. 

I worry that my life will always be like this, though. Having too much going on to get to the good stuff. There are so many things out of our control, we could never know what we have to take on from day to day. I don't know how people do it with kids and their unpredictability. How?

Maybe part of it is accepting that this is all a part of life, and to make sure we are taking care of ourselves as much as possible (eat well, sleep well) so that in all the tiny moments I have, I can chip away at the ideas that are nagging at me.

This requires so much discipline, planning, and forethought. I like the idea of this, but I also like spontaneity. And I'm the person that sticks around at the party til everyone is leaving- no matter how much I told myself I'd only stay for an hour or two. I think living this way is also important, because people are the most important. It's such a struggle to find that balance of a solitary creative life and one that is enriched by engagement with others, not just superficial encounters. 

I do feel like this is more so how it will go for a bit... until I have three jobs or less maybe. What would my life be like if I could spend the better part of the day making art? I'm not sure I'd know what to do with myself. The thought it terrifying... which is maybe the cause of all this slow moving of letting go. 

Fear. There you are, you ole Grizzly Bear.  

In the year 2018: I am clutter free.

I'm a big planner. Like, I think I'm probably addicted to it.

I love making lists and getting out my planner to outline my week or month. It's fun for me.

I do this all year long, but December is "The Show" because it's when I like to think about a whole year at once. What do I want to accomplish by next December?

Here is one of a few Goals:

I want to finish my several year-long Organizational Journey. 

When I turned 30, I started organizing my home. It was a much needed gift to myself.

Beyond being a semi-hoarder of sentimental and useful-to-me-possibly-one-day-in-the-future things, around that time, I had received a ton of furniture and objects from family members who had passed away or sold second homes. I was also really unorganized with papers. Just drowning in them.

At the beginning of my Organizational Journey (I don't know what else to call it. Let me at least make it sound like a great adventure!), I read Getting Things Done by David Allen, who my boyfriend at the time called my real boyfriend because I talked about him so much. I'd sort through some things and one of us would say, "GTD!" I really geeked out about it, which I feel like my imaginary bf David Allen would appreciate. 

And then last year I read The Magic Art of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Y'all, I know she's a little out there, but I LOVE her. Both books have helped me so much.

Three years in, I'm on round maybe 47 of purging and decluttering. I feel close to being finished but I still have to move my studio contents home, deal with stuff in my basement, and go through a last round of sentimental things.

For example, yesterday, I went through my grandfather's pin and cuff link collection. He passed away a few years ago, so it's not as easy as you'd think. My general rule was, I kept any with his initials on it or any with a "Tennessee" or "Memphis" theme, and put the rest in the "Goodwill" bag. I feel ok about it.

I have to tell myself that he was sensible enough of a man to say to me, if he could, "Beth, don't go wasting your time and energy holding on to something that didn't mean that much to me. Live out your life how you want to, just like I did mine!"

He was a good man who lived and full and interesting life, and I know I need to let some things go, but I want to keep some things that were his, just because they were his. 

I also have these ornately detailed, white porcelain Goddess statues from my other grandfather, also who has passed away. If I remember correctly, he brought them back from serving in the Navy in Japan during WWII.

I mean, how am I supposed to give those away?? He was serving in the war and picked those things out to bring back home! I cannot get rid of them. 

They are a little creepy (I kind of like them) and just sitting on the dresser by my bed. I had this thought recently that they might be bringing me bad juju. And then I have to remind myself that I don't really believe in that kind of thing. Not really. Anyway, I'm keeping them.

Anyway, that's where I am with this. I feel so close to being done. The papers are still plaguing me. I'm a collector of magazine pages (for art reasons) and I have all these handwritten notes from the past decade I need to go through, organize digitally, then toss. And then there's the bins of photos and letters from other people. And then, digital files and pictures. Phew, that's going to be a doozy. The photos on my computer and external harddrive are a disaster. 

Any tips would be helpful, especially for how to organize photos and back them up. Or if you're a friend and want to drink wine with me and make some scrapbooks. I'm not joking. I've been waiting to get to the scrapbooking level for many years now.

2018 is it! I had no idea getting old and boring would be this fun!

 

 

Beth Lassos Her Thoughts

When I was in high school, CDs were all the rage. Obviously. And I had a group of friends that was all about music and festivals and live shows. We were always talking about bands and going to buy CDs, a collection I still have today. So I always had this ongoing list in my brain of albums I wanted to buy, but this weird thing would always happen to me whenever I'd walk inside of Best Buy. 

I'd forget all the albums I wanted to buy. All of them. And sometimes I'd buy something that wasn't even on my "list," and I'd walk out of the store wondering what had happened to my dream of owning something else.

This magical loss of ideas and thoughts when I need them has been prevalent throughout my life. As an adult, I at least started writing things down, and actually became quite obsessed with making plans and lists. I became a crazy hoarder of little scraps of paper with notes on them and piles of colorful post-it notes. 

And then I'd lose the lists and notes or they would get buried in other papers and mail I neglected. And whenever I'd "enter the proverbial Best Buy," I could never remember anything I'd written down. I couldn't remember the plan. 

Over the past year or so, I've become far more disciplined, to cast a wide net and capture all of the ideas and wants I have, so that I can actually go after them. I have a system that involves the To Do app in my phone, my calendar app on my phone, a dry erase board I made from an old window, an Inbox tray with little notes and reminders I've written myself, and a beautiful mint green leather-bound planner. It's not a perfect system because of my own nature to wander off, but at least I know where my ideas are when I'm ready to come back to them. After I've broken through the fence and explored the neighborhood like a dog with ADHD, my plan is waiting for me back at home when I'm ready.

I also have a manila folder system cataloging all the magazine pages I rip out for artworks or personal projects. And I have a more intricate system of how to capture ideas on writing and art that involves voice memos in my phone. 

Because when I sit down to make a piece of artwork, I completely forget that idea that would not quit badgering me when I was at work and couldn't do anything about it. Or while driving in my car to Memphis and couldn't do anything about it. These pesky, incessant ideas come to me when I am in no place to do anything about them, and when I have to the time to create, they hide! I think this might be one reason artists drink a lot or go mad. It has been maddening. 

So I decided instead of accepting alcoholism or going insane as my lot in life, I will be fastidious, steadfast, and vigilant. I will be ready at all times (as much as possible!) to take my "lasso" - all of my tools I've mentioned above- and wrangle in that idea when it comes, even when it pops into my head when my hands are in a huge blob of bread dough at the bakery where I work. Because they LOVE to pop up then. Because they are jerks sometimes. 

Or, if I was Elizabeth Gilbert, I would say instead, they are not jerks, but rather gracious and generous to even visit me at all. So I must be ready for them. It would be irresponsible of me otherwise.

My Creative Barriers & Some Possible Solutions

I've been thinking a lot about the barriers between me and producing artwork. While I think about art or making art all of the time, especially the business side of things, the time I take to sit down and make work pales in comparison. 

Here are my barriers, or what have been barriers that I've remedied:

1. A studio that I don't like being in/ that's hard to go to.

This is a hard one to explain. I've always been thankful for my studio at 17th Street Studios. I used to go there at night and there was a time I could be there multiple week days for hours at a time. I am still grateful for it, and once I break through the resistance it takes for me to get there and stay there, I can get work done.

As I get older, I want to be home more. In my younger adult life, I really have avoided being at home for various reasons, mostly mental health ones. But as I find more peace in my life, I feel this desire to move more slowly and make everything as simple as possible. 

My studio at 17th Street has become this obstacle for me in the times I have to create, which are late at night or early in the morning. I don't want to leave my house at those times. I want to walk around in my pajamas and drink coffee or make dinner and drink boxed wine. 

My old studio also has these yellow tinted windows that, for a long time, didn't bother me, but over the past few years they have. I neeeed good light. 

I live in a house now with a big white room with two big old wavy glass windows that I'm slowly making into my studio. I also have a basement with wood-working tools where I can make a mess and spray paint things. 

That has been a HUGE desire for many many years: to have everything I do creatively all in one place. I had hoped for that at The Salvage Shop, but that wasn't the road for me. Beginning in 2018, that dream of consolidating everything will be a reality.

I can't wait.

2. I'm scared what I want to make has all ready been made. 

I'd never intentionally rip off any other creative person. In all honesty, I am not well read enough on other artists to do this. I do it less these days, but I used to put on blinders, protecting myself from the overwhelming amount of art out there and people's varying levels of success making it.

I'm afraid of ripping off someone unintentionally. I wouldn't know how to defend myself. I would feel guilty even though it wasn't true. 

I'm a firm believer that trends happen in waves all around the world without people knowing it. (What's that called? It has a name*) It's where a scientist from South America discovers the same thing as a scientist in China at the same time. I believe that happens in art, and while I understand this, I don't think all people do. (I am working on not caring what other people think, too.)

So if I'm not proactively studying all the art before and all the present art being made at the speed of light, how will I better ensure I'm not making what others make? And what if my work is sort of alike, but still pretty different (hello, Ashley Longshore art). 

My simple and short answer is "Screw it." I'll do my best not to worry about it. Well, given my nature, I WILL worry, but I'll do my best not to let it hinder me. And if someone draws comparisons, I'll say, "Splendid! An example of (fill in the blank of whatever word I was trying to think of before*.)

I should say "Splendid!" more often anyway, and tap the pads of my fingers together.

3. Materials/ Cost / Storage

I hit on this in my last post. I'm coming to terms with materials and storage. I want to use the best but I also don't have all the space (nor money) in the world to store the materials or the finished products. 

For the first time, I've thought about renting a storage unit. I am adamantly against storage units for excess personal belongings so this is a big step. I could get behind a storage unit that is rented in the name of Creativity

When I have shows, I make about 10-20 pieces. In Knoxville, maybe a couple sell and then begins the great "Shoveling of shit." For the next several months, I have to figure out where I'm going to put these pieces- they get hauled around in my car, hung in my studio, put in businesses who want free art on their walls, on friends' walls temporarily who want free art on their walls, in my house, at other First Friday venues. 

My goal is to make a body of work, show it, and have that venue sell it for me until it's gone. Forever. I want to make it, store it until I'm done with each piece, and then release it. That just does not happen in this city. Artists show the same work over and over again here. Myself included. Maybe this is the way it is everywhere, but it's not a great set-up. It does nothing to inspire us to keep creating. 

I want to move work more quickly, and I'm thinking of better ways to do so until I'm wickedly famous and can find those people that love my work and are able to value it with their dollar bills. 

4. My own hang-ups

I've hit a point in my production where I am really trying to produce the artwork that is easy to make. This is a hard one for me. 

I've never been one to take the easy route. If things aren't difficult, I make them difficult. This is a confession, not a brag. It's a terrible way to live.

But I've ascribed this method to art-making for a long time: it must be painstaking and laborious if it's going to be worth anything. 

I want to give this up to some extent. Not completely, as I do like meticulous works.

This is a lesson I could have learned a loooong time ago in a small capacity.

My first art show. I was in college, 2005. I had spent all this time on several pieces- paintings on paper. I painted and fixed and painted and fixed and labored and toiled under the sun. And then I was inspired to make this one piece, different from the rest. And I made it in about 30 minutes. The idea came to me in a flash and I was ready to create it and it came with such ease and splendor. 

And it was the most well-received piece in the show. It was of birds (and was at the beginning of the bird trend that I didn't know was happening. See number 2. The see Portlandia: Put a Bird on It.)

Today, I am trying to search out those ideas that are deep in me, begging to get out. They are there and they take a lot of TLC to coax out. It's why I'm trying to clear a lot of the clutter- physical and mental- out of my life, so I can tend to them better. Bring them out and put them on paper. Or canvas. Or wood. 

There will always be hard parts in creating. Sometimes you have to labor, sometimes it gets boring, and that's ok. But I'm hoping to make more work with more ease. To trust my instincts in a way I haven't before. 

 

You Gotta Give it Away

I read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert recently, and it has shifted my perspective on creativity so much, and helped me embrace some truths I've been resisting.

I'm moving out of my studio of seven years at the end of the month. As I've been clearing out the massive piles of artwork from every nook and cranny, I've wondered what to do with this art. Making the decision to move out of my studio has helped me decide to do something I've wanted to do, but have been fearful of- to give this work away. Just move it out and away. And then throw away everything else. Go back from whence you came!

So starting with our studio's annual Open Studio Night at the end of November, I began the process, and it feels like such a relief. Ever since then, I've been meeting with about five to ten people a week to give them work and sell them discounted prints and originals. This thing that I'm not "supposed to do" feels really good to do. It's my work after all.

I've been talking with a lot of artists about this dilemma. We are no good at running businesses but we yearn to keep creating, so what do we do with all of these things we keep making? There are some works I won't give away. I am stubborn because I want to sell them or I want to make sure they go to someone that will value them, even if they can't with their dollars. 

I feel stuck by this question of how I value my work. What do I want? What is my time and the money I spend on materials worth? But in a city like Knoxville, I have been driven mad by people's ignorance about the value of art. I wish I knew the number, but it feels like for every one person that validates the price of my work, there are 50-100 that don't get it. They don't understand that venues take a cut. They don't understand that I'd like at least an hourly wage. They would never out right say it, but they don't consider what I do work. And it is real hard to keep chipping away when you keep getting that sort of reaction. I promise, I've tried to not let it get to me, but the rate at which I hear it is too much.

Maybe if only they could say, "I see why you are asking that, but it's out of my price range." Just something that conveys that they value the time and money I put into what I do. If downtown Knoxville bars can sell a cocktail for $12, I should be able to ask $100-200 for a piece of artwork that I spent several hours making, right? To cover labor and materials and overhead? The dawn of the $12 cocktail in Knoxville has really fueled my fire...

I know so many artists in Knoxville who make work quietly in their studio and don't share it. And they are really good artists. I know one in particular that has stopped making artwork altogether. "Where will I put it?" I understand her predicament, but it sucks so bad. The world needs her artwork, her ideas. Knoxville needs it.

Unlike me, these artists have protected themselves from the rejection I subjected myself to for a decade. I feel like I thrive off the ability to show and share my work, but when it doesn't sell, show after show, there's a breaking point and a very loud voice that says, "Please for the love of God, stop making artwork! Just stop!"

I do sell work. I do, and even though it's been a lot, the countless hours invested compared to the income gained has become too difficult. And a lot of times when it does sell, I can't sell it for what it's worth, and I haven't found a venue in Knoxville that can advocate for me. Very few First Friday venues proactively sell and market artwork on behalf of the artist. 

This has led me to another question and sidetrack: Is it Knoxville or is it me? Will it work somewhere else? I want to find out. I do. But I need a break.

It helped to read Big Magic this year as I process all of this. I don't want to stop creating, but some things have to give for me to delight in it again. I have to stop pursuing those things that are open opportunities in Knoxville because they won't lead me anywhere. They never have, they never will, and I know it. It's the hardest thing to give up, but with enough misery, giving up becomes easier. And I am ready to let go of the things that aren't working, and get back to the real work, my joy. 

Giving away this artwork has been a symbol for me then, of making this change. It is a symbol of saying, I still don't know what they hell I'm doing, but I'm going to keep going, granted, in a slightly different direction. Even if the work I make going forward does not sell for a good price, it doesn't mean it doesn't hold value. I am desperately trying to come to terms with this, this inability to market what I do well. To come to terms with what I feel is my calling and my inability to make it work. 

I DECLARE BANKRUPTCY!

Amen.

Mountaintop Moment

When I was little, my family went on trips to Gatlinburg. One of my favorite shops was owned by a man from South America, and everything in his store was from his home country*.

I loved all the different textures and colors in his shop. Hand-painted beads, little knit animal finger puppets, thick colorful sweaters.

I'd buy small things with the money my parents gave me, but one glorious trip, they bought my sisters and me each a sweater. I chose the deep blue one with colorful mountains, 3D people sewn on, climbing up to the top, toward the bright yellow sun in the sky.

Whenever I'd wear it, I'd feel all the different textures. I thought it was beautiful, and I wore it with pride. I, too, had been known to climb mountains, and this was my way to show the world. I even immortalized it that year in my school picture**.

Thinking back to the happiness of this time, I am 99.7% sure it was absolutely not a cool sweater at all.

While my friends wore sweet t-shirts to convey what they deemed worthy of their adoration, I chose a garment that looked like my grandmother had bought it for me, or maybe worse, made for me. But the beautiful part? I didn't know it wasn't cool, I just liked it, and I rocked that mofo out with a big ole bow on top of my head. A BIG BIG bow...

I conjure up this memory and wonder, is that ignorantly blissful girl still in there, or have I done her in? Can she help the minimalist/ lazy/ practical/ (hiding) clothing wearer I have become? What wonderful marriage would happen if she hung out with the woman I am today?

I know for a fact, they'd do some damage on some KRAFT mac & cheese. That's. For. Sure.

 

*I want to say Peru...

**Photo to come. Still looking for it.

LAST CALL for PRINTS!

It's with a little sadness that I announce I'll be discontinuing the sale of certain fine art prints that I've made available for the past several years. I have a stock of these prints that I'll be selling at art openings and events until they're gone, so I hope you'll come out and claim the ones you want. Some examples are in this blog post, but there are many more that I'd love for you to come look through. 

THE NEXT CHANCE TO PURCHASE THESE PRINTS WILL BE

TOMORROW, FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 1

5-8pm at White Oak Gallery in Magpies Cakes- 846 N Central St, Knoxville, TN 37197

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I've made this decision in order to find some much needed focus, to create some newer original works and to pursue some goals that have been on the backburner for a few years now. 

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I will still be offering fashion-themed prints which you can find on my Etsy shop, but this means that all other themed prints will be discontinued, such as pools, narratives, animals, and the Dusk Love series. (Disclaimer- there may be a time in the future I roll these out again, but at the moment, there are no plans for that.)

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I'm not exuberantly discontinuing these prints. It was a hard decision BUT (BIG BUT)  I am really excited about freeing up some mental space to devote more time and energy to new ideas and projects. That was enough to help me let go of this and some other things. 

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So please let me know if there are any questions you have or a print you'd like. I'm happy to help get it in your sweet hands!

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