All posts by Kaitlynn Wornson

Let’s Celebrate Jordan Thornton’s Artist Residency

Landing an artist residency is a big deal. So when an artist does, it’s cause for celebration.

One of JAM’s favorite artists, Jordan Thornton, has “nailed” down her first artist residency!

It happens to be in Vermont, and there happen to be fees and costs that come along with that, so the Sioux Falls community has the awesome chance to help Jordan in her journey.

But before I get to that, here’s a little more information about Jordan.

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She’s a printmaker with a deeply-rooted love of nature, which you can easily see in her work. Handpulled and hand-printed woodcut prints, often displayed in shadowboxes (that she usually makes herself) are her forte.

Jordan describes her current work as having a focus “on plant imagery, primarily the roots. The visual part of these pieces is of the physical plant, while the thought behind the work focuses on our own roots: what holds us to a place, a person, a pursuit.”

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If that’s not enough info about her craft, check out our Inspired Interview of Jordan.

She’s been honing her craft for years. And she’s also been applying for residencies for years. And then the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT offered her an artist-in-residence spot for the upcoming month of August.

Here’s the catch: getting to Vermont isn’t free.

So that’s where you come in.

Jordan’s got a Kickstarter campaign that’ll cover the remainder of her residency fee and travel costs. But, most importantly, this campaign puts her art into the hands of the people investing in it.

To kick off the campaign, Coffea Downtown is hosting a launch party which doubles as the artist reception for Jordan’s three month show at Coffea. The party’s going down on May 6th from 6-8pm.

If you can’t be there to high five her and join the fun in person, you can still join the fun online:

First Friday Review: February 5th, 2016

A rare moment of warmth in the South Dakota winter meant I really didn’t mind wandering around on this First Friday. And mild weather came with a mild schedule. I had plenty of time to linger at each place because I got an early start and only had a handful of haunts to hit up. So let me share what I found with you. Continue reading First Friday Review: February 5th, 2016

A Written Record of A Human Record

Seeing A Human Record, for me, was like drinking good whiskey. Nostalgia and just the right amount of philosophical possibility served up in a mattress-wrapped glass. I couldn’t forget the installation because it felt like I had stepped into someone else’s memories for a minute, just to find hints of my own.

To the artist, Ashton Bird, A Human Record  was kind of like an abandoned house. And after spending time with the painted mattresses and wallpaper peeling away from the structure in layers, one viewer told the installation’s curator, Sarah Odens, that it felt like “Post Apocalyptic Princess and the Pea”.

At the forefront of the installation Ashton crafted mattress-sized structures out of lumber and stacked them vertically, separated by the top layer of a mattress. He called it the filing cabinet, where “anonymous histories…[are] on file”.

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Just past that, a sort of walkway lined in salvaged pallets led to an open white space, ceilinged with reclaimed lumber.

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Rounding the corner again led to a space with painted mattresses lining its sides.

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Mattresses and Paint

Let me tell you about those mattresses.

Pre-install, they looked like a stack of twenty in a mattress recycle store in Sioux Falls. The employees had collected them for Ashton and intoned a pseudo-apology by saying, “we tried to pick the clean ones for you”. Thing is, used mattresses have a certain…scent about them, because a chunk of a lifespan has been spent on them. Both artist and gallery didn’t want the scent of a used mattress wafting through the space, so Ashton gave them a thorough, sanitizing wash and then the health inspector looked them over.

Why mattresses? Let’s back up and I’ll tell you the story.

Once upon a time Ashton was working in the Habsburg Exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, where he stared at a few tapestries on a daily basis. Those tapestries indicate a family’s lineage, and that sparked a thought: “Hey, I wonder if I could make an anonymous lineage of people’s history?”

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This is Ashton.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Minneapolis, a woman decided, for unknown reasons, to relocate her mattress. By the time she’d lugged it out of her apartment, Ashton was at the Vietnamese restaurant right next to her apartment complex and he caught a glimpse of her. He said that both the woman and the mattress she was carrying looked a little tired and worn. Kinda like a pet can start to look like its owner.

He was a senior at Minnesota State University at the time, where he started out as a ceramicist. His professors pushed him to integrate outside media with clay until “eventually clay became just a material…like a painter. A painter can paint with anything. So…I can make art with anything, and then just making a composition with that, so it’s still interesting to look at, but combines things in kind of unexpected ways.”

Like combining salvaged lumber with recycled mattresses? Yes, of course.

The Little Gallery

Kara Dirkson is the director of the Visual Arts Center at the Washington Pavilion, and she’s just as cool as her title. She says one of the benefits of the Corner Gallery is the lack of windows and its darker wall color. See, the gallery used to be a study room. But a name change and a wall demolition later and the Pavilion had gained an intimate studio right off of the Everist Gallery.

Ashton wanted to utilize the intimacy of the space by making the focal point “just me putting my energy on the mattresses,” so he painted them. “But then it turned too carnival, and then it looked like insanity…I didn’t want that. So I went through and whitewashed it to kinda tone it down,” which ultimately made room for a “kind of spiritual [feel]”.

Spiritual or commemorative, Kara pointed out that mattresses themselves record a large part of our personal histories. “All those aspects of our bodies that get absorbed into these odd things…[Ashton’s] kind of exposing them and putting them in our face.” So it makes sense that a number of conversations Ashton’s had with people at the exhibit revolve around “this reminds me of…” type of comments.

And that art has gotten people talking. Sarah says that’s quite the feat. “Because starting a conversation with art is hard, and I’m sure that that’s something you hope for…the magic of contemporary art that hasn’t been put into a historical canon is that there’s still a lot to debate and talk about it.” And Kara says those conversations are what the Pavilion hopes for with the exhibits they house in the Corner Gallery.

Now That it’s Over

When A Human Record came down, Ashton rolled it up and took it back to Tallahassee with him where his next work of art is grad school. He says he’s gravitating towards creating work with a “dreamy, dreamscape feeling” now.

I hope you got a chance to see it friends, and if you didn’t I hope Dan Thorson’s pictures in this post help dry your tears. And don’t forget to check back in a couple weeks, because I’ll be venturing back to the Pavilion to wander its galleries and tell you about their new exhibits.

Until next time.

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Resolutions: A How-To

Moment of truth: how long did it take you to eat most (if not all) of Grandma’s Christmas cookies? Were you still riding that sugar high when you wrote your list of New Years resolutions?

Let’s talk about those. As we step into this new year, I’d like to offer a few suggestions on keeping your resolutions. And you don’t have to take just my word for it. I asked a few people to weigh in on the whole resolution thing:

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Photo Credit: 605 Magazine

Ashley Rieck (owner of Hatch 605 and manager of Unglued Market in Downtown Sioux Falls) and Jordan Mitzel (personal trainer for Circuit Fitness).

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Photo Credit: studiofotografie for the Hood Magazine.

Here’s eight pieces of hard-won advice from the three of us.

1. Be ballsy (and map it out)

“You have to be crazy enough to believe that you will succeed. Because then you will succeed.” And Ashley’s right. If you don’t actually believe your goals are going to happen then you’re probably 89% more likely to fail (I made that percentage up, but you get the point).

But you’re also way more likely to fail if you don’t plot out how you’re going to get from where you are now to where you want to be in the future. So be honest with yourself and map out some very practical steps towards your goals. And then get to work.

2. Know thyself

The “work” part of working towards your project goals becomes easier if you can hone in on when and how you work the best.

So get to know yourself.

Ashley advises that you pay attention to when and how you work your best (she suggests keeping a work journal). Maybe at 2pm you really can’t afford to do any more work. Or maybe it’s a ton easier for you to work really early in the morning. Pay attention and adapt your approach along the way if you have to.

3. Talk about it

When it’s time for the rubber to the road, Jordan says it’s a good idea to “tell as many people as you can.” Why? Because the more you talk about it the greater the risk of looking like an idiot if you don’t follow through. Nobody wants that.

And don’t forget what Jordan calls the “‘in-your-face’ factor”: when you succeed at that goal nobody thought you were going to follow through on, you get to run around with your fists in the air like Rocky.

4. Don’t go it alone

Finding a tribe is extremely beneficial, especially if you’re trying something brand-spanking-new. You’ve gotta have a cheerleader or two. Go find someone who’s doing the kind of work you want to and learn from them. Or join a class to gain some new skills. Leave being a lone wolf to Clint Eastwood.

5. Lighten up…

Hey, you’re human. There will be at least one day where you’re not pushing towards your goal with all you’ve got. And guess what? That’s ok. Start again tomorrow.

6….but don’t slack off

Because your goals aren’t going to magically happen. Jordan’s quick to say that reaching for any goal means making sacrifices. He puts it this way: “How badly do you want to change?” You’ll have some rearranging to do to get from where you are to where you want to be.

So how badly do you want to reach your goals?

Because in the moment where you have to choose between a Netflix binge or dragging your butt into your studio or the gym or your desk chair, you’ve gotta decide what matters the most to you.

Is your goal worth enough to you to make those in-the-moment sacrifices?

(In this part I hinted at what goes into forming new habits. Since I don’t have time to go into too much depth about that in this post, check out what this Lifehacker post has to say.)

7. Chin up, buttercup (failure is good for you)

“You have to fail a lot,” Ashley says, even “epically fail sometimes.” Because failing can show you the difference between the right way and the wrong way to do what you’re trying to do. And sometimes you just have to start over again.

And I promise you, that’s ok. See what you can learn about yourself, your process, and your craft from that failure. And then get back to work.

8. Never give up

Sticking to your resolutions won’t be easy, but you’ve got all of 2016 ahead of you. So get to work and make yourself proud this year!

Big thanks to Ashley and Jordan for weighing in on this one.

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The Pavilion at this Moment in December

Hey friends, and happy South Dakota winter! It can get mighty cold here on the prairie, can’t it?

If you wanna warm up your insides, I recommend checking out the art that the Washington Pavilion has on display at the moment. (A little while ago I did a post about what was up then, so I’ll spend more time on the new stuff. That article is here).

Ok, so let me give you the tour. I’ll start with the main floor, which the Pavilion calls the Second Floor on its Visual Arts Center handout, and I’ll also divide it up by gallery.

Cool. Let’s get started.

Continue reading The Pavilion at this Moment in December

How to Sell Your Work: More on Contracts and Closing Thoughts

Over the last few weeks we’ve talked about rejection, communication, and the importance of contracts. By now you might be exhausted. I assure you we’re nearly done. Before I set you free to go sell your work we need to cover what goes into your contracts.

Continue reading How to Sell Your Work: More on Contracts and Closing Thoughts

How to Sell Your Work: Client Dealings and Contracts

Last week we talked about rejection. But let’s step back into the light and assume you’ve nailed it. That potential client is ready to be a client. Can I say, “booyah?” No. Stop celebrating for a moment. This is the most dangerous point of working with a client, in my opinion. Before you can move forward, you must a establish a contract with the client. Here’s a secret: all four of us have made the mistake of not using a contract before. “Contract” can be a spooky word. It’s binding. But it’s protection for both you and the client. So take some time to put together a comprehensive contract that conveys all the agreements that were made in negotiating the project.

Once you’ve both signed and agreed to the contract you can get to work. Sometimes re-negotiations happen. But that’s an article for another time. Just remember, moving from potential client to official client can happen in mere minutes and you need to stay on your game, and conduct yourself professionally.

You can see more of Bentley's work here. Pictured above is his piece, "Mad Catter".
You can see more of Bentley’s work here. Pictured above is his piece, “Mad Catter”.

If you’re thinking you’re ready to start selling your work then you are a professional. Something Travis and I concluded was, “you may not have mastered your field yet, but if you’re selling, you are a professional. Never be afraid to acknowledge that about yourself.” Conducting yourself professionally will ensure better work and happier clients. There are bad clients, rejections, and dry spells, but you should always strive to be a good service/product provider. In doing so, you’ll see fewer things fall apart, with more things coming together.

Travis Bentley
Travis Bentley

Pro Tip: I can’t stress the importance of contracts enough. It’s a professional relationship you’re building and you want to protect that as much as possible. If you want to see an example of negotiating a contract, watch this Strip Search Episode. (May not be suitable for all audiences)

Get yourself comfortable with communicating with your audience.

I’ll get more into what needs to be in your contracts next week, in our final article, “Contracts and Closing Words”.

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How to Sell Your Work: Rejection. Or, the Journey of Landing a Client.

So, you’ve been honing your craft for at least a week. That’s great! But, before we get into successfully landing a client, let’s go down the dark road of rejection. Sometimes potential client expectations don’t match up with their budget and what you can offer. Don’t undercut yourself. If you have an hourly rate, stick to it. They’re good to have as a base to build from. If you know your rate can’t go lower, if you can’t rework the scope of the project, respectfully walk away. As Travis puts it, “if a client approaches you for something you can’t do, or are not comfortable doing, refer someone else. It builds community and a relationship with the potential client. Never turn away a chance to make a connection.” Be honest and forward with a potential client at all times. It’s better to turn them away than upset or disappoint them.

Pro Tip: Jeffrey mentioned, “they don’t see the years of struggles, tears, breakdowns and rejections.” It can be hard, but remember that you have a different perspective on your work and educating clearly is very important. And keep this in mind, too: “The phrases ‘Never make compromises’ and ‘the client is never wrong’ are both wrong. Find a balance. Clients are not money cows,” reminds Galacia Barton.

Galacia Barton
Galacia Barton

So the hunt is over, you have a client on the hook and it’s time to start working. Like us, you’re probably so hungry for work it feels like you’re starving. And that can lead you to making any number of mistakes.

If you’re ready to sell any of your work, you should have at least a strong idea of what you’re worth. Never undercut yourself. Before even considering numbers, get a grasp on the scope and expectation of the project. It won’t be uncommon for clients to be working on fixed budgets, so understanding their intentions will allow you to negotiate the cost effectively.

It’s not crucial to have the client lay down the first number, but it doesn’t hurt. And it can be easier to “tailor your skills to fit their range,” as Galacia says. Don’t be afraid to offer an augmented, or simplified service to accommodate what the budget is.

"Bravery", by Galacia Barton.
“Bravery”, by Galacia Barton. To see more of Barton’s work, check out her site here.

Tailoring isn’t always the resolve though. Unfortunately, powerful tools like the internet can hinder professional work with services that allow people to sell their skills for unimaginably low rates. This is where your knowledge of your work will put you in the role of an educator. Especially in the realm of digital artwork, clients can sometimes be blind to “the decisions and research that goes into great design,” says Travis Bentley. No matter what you’re doing digitally, teach your potential clients about your processes to show them exactly what they’re paying for.

All of this will help you build positive relationships with your client, and help you refine your audience. Your audience won’t always be idly viewing your work, think of them all as potential clients. In understanding your audience you’ll be ready for next week’s topic of client interaction.

Pro Tip: My animation client somehow got my contact information. I failed to inquire from whom. Always find out how someone found you. Know your audience.

Next in this article series is “Client Dealings and Contracts”. Stay tuned!

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How to Sell Your Work: First Things First

Art is about the passion. But it’s undeniable that the more we earn from it, the more we can focus on building it not only as a craft, but as a business. There are so many of us ramping up our artwork, we’re starting to reach out to turn it into commissions and other paid work.

Most potential clients work with me on comics or illustration projects, but recently I was approached about an animation project. My excitement over jumping into something I haven’t done in a while set me up for a sloppy client interaction. I was hungry for work and didn’t prepare myself for the best interaction. This mentality isn’t uncommon.

Continue reading How to Sell Your Work: First Things First

Art Show Etiquette

When attending an art show, there’s a slight chance that you’ll walk through the door and be a little lost. There’s a lot of excitement, conversation, and usually loads of free beer. Mix that all together and it can get rather confusing. Do I try to compliment the artist and their work? Do I fix my gaze on the art and block out the rest?

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Continue reading Art Show Etiquette