Saturday, February 27, 2010

Mission Accomplished!

It survived the slump!

sushi plate
coming right up!

Since the last one was full of holes,
does this mean this one is un-holey? ; )

I'm gonna keep this one!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Self Promotion Blues... and a mention!

Self promotion is a hard job.

I remember working in a summer market years ago where I sold handmade journals. People would pick up the books, turn them over, run their fingers over the embossed designs and say, “Wow, these are beautiful! You are really talented!” And I would say thank you, sheepishly, hoping no one around me heard me accept the praise and could accuse me of being vain. Praise is awkward for everyone, I think. We are happy to receive it but somehow feel uncomfortable with it. I wonder what age that starts happening and why? It certainly wasn't the case when I was say, seven.

But when my market neighbour David would take off here and there and I’d watch his booth, it was no problem to sell his pottery. “David is a fantastic potter!” I’d say. “I’ve been eyeing up this one all week! Just look at the colours!” Easy peasy Japanesey, as my students in Shanghai used to say. And I loved doing it too because I did love the work, and I did know that it was well crafted. It was a happy accomplishment when I sold something off David’s table when he was away.

But selling your own work is tricky for one big reason. You need to promote your work and as an artist, that means you too.You aren't selling encyclopedias or vacuum cleaners, you are selling your own product made with your own hands. How do you do this on the internet without making it seem like your titillated by yourself and what you do all day long? My other day job, yoga instructor, runs into the exact same problems. I assure you, the people who know me well know that I am my world’s worst critic and I am certainly not uber-self absorbed. But the nature of how I am trying to make a living makes me appear as such from time to time.

If you are too humble, it looks like you have no faith in your product. If you are too confident, you can come off as arrogant and full of yourself. I hope I’ve come somewhere in the middle. Truthfully, I don’t love the self promotion. I’m trying to find more creative ways of promoting my stuff in order to avoid this and do others some good at the same time.

Donating Scarves for Korakor is one example. Selling the scarves through the Penticton Art Gallery, with a percentage going towards the public gallery is another. Donating prints or paintings to charitable fundraisers is yet another way. The Naramata Playschool is about to auction off a print of mine at a silent auction dinner. I’ve joined an Etsy team to help promote others as well as myself. It’s all slow going and it’s hard work. And when no one knows you, the only one working to promote you is you.

That’s why, when I get a mention in another blog of someone I am not connected to, I am really, truly, honestly grateful, and thankful. Because someone else out there thinks what I am doing is worthwhile even though sometimes I am discouraged and think it’s time to pack it all in for a coffee slinging job at Starbuck’s. At least I’d get free coffee.

And I just found this one today, which is also very special for me because it’s nice to know someone out there is paying attention. Thank you for the mention, elanthemag and Sumayyah Meehan, it means a lot to me. I am honoured to be listed as a Top Ten Etsy Shop for Muslims. Shokran!

Click here for Summayah Mehan's article on

She lists nine other Etsy shops worth mentioning, check them out!

Thanks again!


Slumped Glass Progress!

So I've made a few plates, spent a whack of cash and I am still not sure what I think about the process of glass. It's very much like putting lego pieces together and melting the whole thing in the oven. But somehow I think a little less messy and the product slightly prettier! Anyway, a few of you asked about the progress of the last plates so here they are:

Blue Glass Plate, The Sequel:

It pretty much looks like the last one, doesn't it? It's still bumpy on the top so I'm not sure my little shards of glass did very much to even it out. Maybe a little.

But something else happened:

Bubbles got caught between the layers of glass and shard, and the edges of the glass aren't as rounded as they were on the last plates. I don't really mind though. It's all part of being handmade, in my opinion.

This piece is in the kiln being slumped as we speak!

The Butterfly Plate:

This one survived the slumping. Funny, I expected it to be deeper. Rumour has it a visitor to the glass studio really liked it. There is hope for this little plate!

The Rockin' Transparent Sushi Plate:
This one broke the mould. Literally. Or Mitch broke the mould. When I went in this morning to check the kilns, the mould was on the table being glued back together. I don't think you can fix broken moulds. I'm pretty sure the glue will burn off in the kiln, but Mitch is going to give it a shot anyway.

It's too bad the mould broke, because I think this plate needed a second firing. As you can see, it's only slightly bent, but the "foot" that would have stopped it from rocking never appeared. So it is literally, a rockin' sushi plate. The control freak in me is frustrated by this, because I don't really know how to fix it other than re-firing it on a broken mould.

The other weird thing is that I placed ten tiny pieces of clear glass in the kiln to be melted into pendants. I wanted to smooth out the sharp edges but absolutely nothing happened to them. Sharp, sharp, sharp. I'm perplexed. I think I might give glass a rest for a little while and pick up the paint brush again and wait to see what happens with the blue plate. The Next Naramata painting is all drawn out and ready to be painted!


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Disasters in Glass!

Remember this?

Distaster One: The Fried Blue Plate.

It's too bad. I would have liked it if it didn't crack and have five holes burnt through the middle of it.

Thank you, Frank Pol.

Frank Pol was my sculpture instructor when I went to art school so many years back. A big barrel of a man, I think he was Hungarian or something. He kind of reminded me of an overweight older Picasso and had the temperament to match.

We'd often work for hours straight on our sculptures, smoothing, sanding, fashioning, designing, preening and perfecting. Then Frank would come over and take a look.
"Nice job! Very nice job. Are you pleased with this?" He'd say, looking over sculpture perfection.
"Yes, I think it's pretty good." We'd say modestly, beaming, with A+ stars in our eyes.

And then Frank would do the unthinkable. He'd put his fist through the clay, mess up the plaster. Break a piece off of something that couldn't be glued back. I once watched him implant the breasts and butt of a Barbie into a plaster cast when a fellow classmate wasn't looking. Just to see how she'd fix it when she discovered it.

"If you can do it once, you can do it again, and be better at it the second time." He'd say. It seemed like a cruel thing to do to aspiring art students, but it was the most valuable lesson I ever received in art school: We became objective about our work, less emotionally attached to it. (Something a lot of artists suffer from. think of those who never want to part with their creations.) And we learned we could do it again. and again. And again if Frank Pol willed it! But we did improve and got more experimental when we were able to let go of making that perfect piece.

Kitty, one of us has to go, and it ain't gonna be me.

And I found myself telling Mitch this story as we surveyed the damage to my blue plate. Mitch put my plate in the kiln to slump it into a platter. He turned up the heat and simply forgot to turn the heat down at the correct time. Essentially, he fried my plate.

"I bet you won't do that again!" I laughed. Poor guy. He felt miserable.

The truth is, it's just glass at the end of the day. No one died. "I can do it again", I assured him. And just to make him feel better, more for his benefit than mine, I did make another plate today. He promises not to forget it this time.

Distaster Two: The Peach Plate

The experiment was supposed to be trying to block print on glass. Not the colour coordination.
Nix on both, I think.

I went to Vancouver this weekend and bought a whole bunch of glass with Rene helped me colour coordinate. I decided to try to block print the plates, knowing it would most likely be a disaster, but decided to give it a try anyway. (What I really want to do is silkscreen the glass, but I'm still trying to get the equipment together.

Kitty likes the butterfly plate.

But while I was carefully cutting out my plate, I accidentally switched one of my new cream pieces for one of Mitch's cream pieces- which happened to be lying on the same table. The result is a plate that came out looking a little pinker than I would have liked it to be.

Oh well. This is the problem with working with colours at night! You can't always see what you are getting.

The two projects that DID work so far this week:

The slumped Islamic plate that ended up looking like a daisy. I think it's better as a dish.

The beginnings of a funky sushi plate. I might make another like this one!
I really like the colour of the transparent glass.

Take Two!
This time I put little clear chards of glass (They were supposed to be really thin pieces of glass but they were too thin, so chards they are) Between the blocks. I'm hoping the result will be a smoother plate overall.
The new and improved version is already in the kiln! I'll see it tomorrow.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Scarves for Korakor

In French 'corps à corps literally means 'body to body.' Its art lies in human experiences along the road. It is spreading the love with simple things, images and poetry.
~from the Korakor Website.

Creative Caravan and Korakor cross paths yet again. This time in Cyberspace!

Welcome to Korakor!
One great thing about working for yourself is that you get to make all of the executive decisions about what you do, where you do it and who you support to help them achieve their goals as well. Making and selling my art and products is more than just putting food on the table, it's also about being able to support the causes that I feel connected to and want to support in creative ways.

Korakor is everywhere!
I read somewhere recently that a goal is just a dream with an end and a beginning. And when I think about people with passion to achieve their goals, Keveen Gabet is standing strong, on top of that list. In fact, he's got a Korakor flag, planted firmly in the tierra. But what's great about Keveen is that he's standing up there with a thousand or so of his loyal Korakor followers.

This is the man to watch. The one on the right, that is.

I met Keveen when I was working in Abu Dhabi. I met him again when he was working in Al Ain a year later, both of us criss-crossing on cross cultural/cross country journeys. Between teaching classes Keveen was busy translating poems and writings from French to English and back again. He was editing movies, keeping up correspondence, and thinking up new ways he could spread Love around the world. Yup, Spread Love. With capital letters.

Spread your Love!
He looks and sounds like a hippie, Keveen himself would never deny that. But ten minutes with the guy and you'll see he's got a serious, powerful message underneath it all. "I may look crazy, I'm no dummy," He once told me, and he isn't a dummy. He's actually a pretty amazing, creatively-driven philanthropist. He once told me about travelling through India on a bicycle and eighty euros. He lasted six months. That should tell you something about the power of Keveen and Korakor, spreading the message of love.

Just check out his website. and you will see what I am talking about.
That's me modelling the special edition Korakor Scarf.
One of Keveen's latest projects is in Oaxaca Mexico, where Keveen threw out a call for donations to help him start an English school there for kids. Twenty bucks a kid would get him started. Rene and I decided our contribution to Keveen would be some sky blue (fitting for Korakor) special edition scarves with Keveen's message and logo on them. Providing Korakor with special edition block-printed scarves should be able to support many more kids than if we were to hand over cash at this time. If Keveen can sell them, that is!

Keveen's special edition scarf advert!

If you are interested in getting a scarf and supporting Keveen's cause, (All proceeds go to Keveen's projects) Please contact him directly at

Keveen in a classroom somewhere on this planet.
What I admire about Keveen is his boldness to go after his dream. You think it's a good idea? Do it. It's good for other people? Do it. You want to learn about this or that? Do it. You want to travel across the world on a bicycle spreading your message that this world is a fantastic place and can teach us everything we need to know and then some? Go for it.

Keveen spreading the stories, the songs, the images and the message of love.

Thank you for the inspiration, Keveen!


Keveen's boutique where you can find our Special Edition Korakor scarves and more.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bears in Artful Design

Hip Hip Hooray!

I got another mention on the My Naramata Site!
This time for "The Bear in the Orchard" original gouache painting completed this week.

Thanks again to Craig Henderson for the fabulous support. It really is exceptional to receive support from anywhere as as an artist, so thank you to you, Craig, for the continued support and to you as well if you happened to have visited the site to check out "Dogs chasing Geese on Manitou beach."

Here is the latest mention, along with a really beautiful new wine label (Something to aspire to!) from Foxtrot Vineyard in Naramata.

And if you happened to miss the first article (Which has now had over a thousand hits! Where is it all coming from? I really have no clue! TSP? ; ) ) Here it is:

I am planning put together some art card packages and prints in the near future. If you are interested in the paintings, prints or art cards, or have any ideas for me please don't hesitate to contact me.

Thanks again,Craig, ( and to Jonny for his support at the Sublime Portal in Istanbul,( for a keen interest in what I am doing half a world away. I do really appreciate it.

And thank you to all of you who continue to check back here from time to time!

I'm off to Vancouver for the weekend to see my sister, celebrate Chinese New Year, Valentines Day and of course the Olympics! Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Bear in the Orchard

The Bear in the Orchard, Gouache 11X14

Years ago my father told me a story about a bear wandering into Hardman's Orchard here in Naramata. It was a particularly hot summer which meant the animals were coming out of the drought stricken mountains to head towards the lake for a drink. Who can hardly blame them! The wooded areas of the mountains behind our house naturally flow into the wooded areas of the orchards, and so often the wildlife see no issue with heading into the orchards to shelter their walk down to the lake.

The flying apples and flying hair in all directions illustrate the moment of panic and movement in the painting.
There was even a time where a tiny lone bear cub made it's way down the creek to my mother's front lawn, and when it brushed up against her leg, she pet it thinking it was a big big dog coming for a visit. But that's a different story!

The bear was painted without a back end to give the feeling like he just appeared out of nowhere, which I think is the way it is with bears. He's not interested in people though. He just wants some water and a few apples to nibble on.
Growing up here I always thought I was missing out on culture. Coming back here eighteen years later has shown me Naramata is nothing but culture depending on your outlook on the place.

I'd like to do some wine production paintings next, but need to get myself into a winery to take some photos. Hopefully someone will be able to point me in the right direction!

This guy hasn't noticed a thing yet!
XXX Melanie

Monday, February 8, 2010

Shades of Blue: The (Almost) Final Product!

The 'julienned' blue glass strips. Not at all even along the bottom, not exactly flush with the glass. I left the studio thinking these would be horrible but worth the experiment to see what the kiln would do to them.

These simple little coasters turned out really well. So well, they are finished! I just need some protective knobs on the bottom so tables don't get scratched. I love that they are completely smooth. It's got my mind churning for the next bigger projects!

Turned out pretty well for a first try! Completely smooth on all six sides!

I admit I kinda took the weekend off.I was feeling a little burnt out, a little under the weather. I visited with people, watched a movie with my mother, and went for a long walk with mom and Zoe where I collected every beautiful weed along the road I could find. I will sit down and draw them one of these nights. I'm a little fascinated with weeds in design at the moment.

Anyway, the one thing I did do was pick up the blue glass I put together. The blue one I made was packed more tightly than the red and it still worked out.I was worried it would all somehow run into one big blob of blue but it didn't. It's going to be slumped, I hope, though I admit I didn't take into consideration the crease where the side of the plate meets the bottom of the plate, but it's at such an incline I am not sure it will matter. Fingers crossed!

Before. (The grid this is all sitting on is made specifically for working with glass, the little shards fall into the grid so you don't get the shards in your fingers like you do if your, I don't know, working in the corner of the bedroom floor in the Emirates!

Now, but not finished! It's now waiting to be slumped.

The smoothness of the coasters has got me thinking about the plates now. If I can put a strip of clear glass between the blocks on these plates, the result would be a lot less bumpy. It will be a lot more work of julienning glass, but I think it might be the next glass project. This weekend I will be heading down to Vancouver to hang out with my sister who happens to live within walking distance of a glass store (important because there are none around here.)

My wheels are already turning! I might be on to something totally new!


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Skinny Laminx and Studio Dreams

I'm convinced that we can write and live our own scripts more than most people will acknowledge. I also know the price that must be paid. It's a real struggle to do it. It requires visualization and affirmation. It involves living a life of integrity, starting with making and keeping promises, until the whole human personality the senses, the thinking, the feeling, and the intuition are ultimately integrated and harmonized.

My makeshift studio on a hostel bed somewhere in India.
This is where most of the stuff I've made over the years of vagabond living gets made.

So I've been back in Canada just over two months, working on month number three. With so many different projects on the go, sometimes I feel like I am getting nowhere in anything fast. I've been writing for the UBC writing course I am taking, working on my second Okanagan painting, printing scarves and learning all I can about running the ETSY shop and how to get advertising out there. (I apologize to my friends who may feel I've turned into and annoying encyclopedia-like saleswoman with my scarves. It's work, really!) I've also been playing with glass as you know from my most recent posts.

So I've had a lot of time to think about the shape I'd like my life to take. Yes, it's time to start making decisions about what kind of job I'd like to do. Something I could do for ages and be happy doing. And I would like nothing more than to be SkinnyLaminx.

Click here to see:

Who is Skinny Laminx? Well, aside from creating fantastic I-wish-I-did-it silkscreened stuff, she is a woman who shares a studio with a group of like minded individuals. (From what I can see on her blog) I imagine Skinny Laminx gets up in the morning, puts on her clothes, grabs a quick breakfast and a sandwich, pets the cat and feeds her too, and heads out to the studio. In my mind, Skinny Laminx rides a funky old retro bicycle which she found for five bucks at a garage sale but is so cool everybody drools over it as she rides by. (She's also wearing a Creative Caravan scarf and looks flipping fantastic in it! Little bit of cheap advertising there for ya. ; P )

Then she walks up to the big bright communal studio where she has a quick look at what everyone else is doing before she gets to work. Everyone likes the same music, listens to the radio on occasion, drinks the golden bean and helps each other when a hand is needed, or a second opinion, or new ideas etc. and everyone is funny and is a fantastic conversationalist. And then Skinny Laminx makes beautiful things. So beautiful that her eyes sparkles when she looks at the finished product and knows it's good. So good, the stuff sells itself. Did I mention tiny butterflies follow Skinny Laminx wherever she goes? Precious little butterflies.

You'd think I'd be jealous of Skinny Laminx, but I'm not. I love that she exists, somewhere in South Africa, living out her dream of doing what she loves. She's a normal person who turns simple ideas into magic. Skinny Laminx, to me, is pure inspiration. (Of course, Skinny Laminx might read this and go, "This is not my life! This is not my life at all! Who is this Creative Caravan woman?!??" But it's the dream, Skinny Laminx! The dream! ; ) )

By the way, I have sent Skinny Laminx Fanmail. And unlike untouchable rockstars, Skinny Laminx wrote back and said thanks and even signed her real name. So humble! See why we should get more into the arts and crafts side of the arts? People are approachable and friendly! Heather, AKA Skinny, if you ever come to Vancouver, or I come to Cape Town, I will buy you a coffee, that's a promise.

The dedicated glass space of Larry's I work in. I love having the glass right there, the tools right there, and the right tools for each little job that needs to be done. What a blessing!

I realise that when I head over to Larry's studio, I am so happy to be working in a space that has been created for the sole purpose of creating. I haven't decided if glass is for me. It looks like an expensive hobby to get into, but I have enjoyed messing about in the glass studio. A kiln would not be wasted on me, however, as I also love clay work and of course I love painting and printmaking and pretty much anything I can get my hands on. I've even sewn blankets. I've always wanted to carve something out of soapstone too. I took a jewelry course in Bali and made a ring once too. It wasn't too bad for a first try. I know it's in a box here somewhere.

My little piece of heaven would be a studio, but I'd like to be in a communal one, because I think spending all your time alone day after day could be a little lonely. A studio with communal equipment, good people, and so many creative and mind-blowing ideas floating around that what I couldn't create in some sort of art piece I could write about it. The two can go hand in hand. Skinny Laminx does it, why can't I? (Yes, she's been at this longer than me, but Skinny Laminx had to begin something at one time too, didn't she?)

The shiny digital kilns that do the melting. Big shiny machines. (Drool.)
So I took pictures of Larry's studio, you know, for the future dream and visualization of having my own space to work in sometime in the near future. (Inshallah!)

And of course the latest glass project- this one fits into a mould.
A shout out to my gal who likes blue!

And these little guys are an experiment of what happens when you layer glass side by side. They were difficult to cut! A few minor slices but nothing lasting. I don't think I'll make too many like this. They are coaster size, but also fit into moulds. I think they might be ready soon!

XX Melanie

Friday, February 5, 2010

Heart of Glass: The Final Product!

Yesterday Morning, we had this:

This morning, we had this!

Or this, if you put it on Mom's counter.

Boy am I ever glad I spaced it out! Am I happy this time around? Yes, I am happy this time around. except for one thing: and mark this down as a learning experience: I had envisioned a nice, slightly slumped sushi pate in my head, Just a gentle curve on two sides, perhaps some little feet on the bottom to keep it off the table. But my little glass sushi plate will have to remain flat. Maybe just for the time being? Maybe forever. Why?

I forgot to check the moulds.

There is no mould in Larry's studio this size! Damn.

Oh Well! Live and learn for next time!

XX Melanie