Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Hashtags for Art Marketing: The Basics!

I noticed recently that a few artist friends of mine have started using hashtags on their social media posts. One of them uses three hashtags exclusively: their name, their media, and their business name. Because I haven't noticed a lot of artists using hashtags, I did a little research on the effectiveness and reach of adding hashtags to updates.

Turns out this is a smart thing to do—if you do it right.

First, if you are new to the idea of hashtags and what they are for, hashtags are a way to tag and categorize posts about a particular subject. The hashtag #art is an established hashtag that is useful for   general posts of your work. When you tag a post with this hashtag, people who follow #art will see your post. Now in addition to reaching your  followers, your post will reach a far larger group of people in the industry and interested in art.

You can use hashtags in any social media platform, but they are particularly effective in Twitter and Instagram. It's also easy to track trending hashtags on sites like, RiteTag, Top Hashtags, Sprout Social, and others. A quick Google search is all it takes. These sites allow you to search on a hashtag to find out its popularity. 

A few simple guidelines are important to follow:
  1. Because a hashtag name or hashtag subject is also included in your 140 character message limit, you'll need to keep your hashtags short. If you want to include several hashtag categories, but you do not have the character space, send out the same message, 2 or 3 times, with your different hashtags.
  2. Be consistent with the hashtags that you use and when you use them. For example, you can create a hashtag for an event that you are participating in, like #paulasartshow. Then select the other appropriate tags, but use the #paulasartshow only when you will be participating in a public event. If the event has it's own hashtag, be sure to use it. Encourage your followers and others to do the same. 
  3. Select hashtags that make sense for you to use (your media; your business name or name; a generic hashtag, such as #art; a hashtag for events/media, etc.), decide what purpose each hashtag has and use those consistently. 
  4. Don't over use hashtags. Suggested number of hashtags:1-2 hashtags for Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+; or Instagram, 2-8 hashtags.

To help get you started, below is a list of 101 popular art hashtags that are currently in use:

#abstract #abstractart #abstractartist #abstractarts #abstracted #abstractexpressionism #abstractexpressionist #abstraction #abstractors #abstractpainting #abstractphoto #abstractphotography #abstracts #acrylic #animation #art #artcall #artcompetitions #artcontest #arte #artfair #artgallery #artinfo #artist #artnews #artshow #artwork #black #blackandwhite #blackwhitephotography #callforart #callforentries #color #colour #creative #drawing #drawings #fineart #graffitiart #grafiti #graphic #graphicdesign #illustration #ink #lightspacetime #markers #model #mono #monoart #monochrome #mural #murals #myart #onlineart #onlineartgallery #onlineartsales #paint #painting #paintings #pencil #photo #photobomb #photobooth #photocollage #photodaily #photoday #photoftheday #photogram #photograph #photographer #photography #photoofday #photooftheweek #photos #photoscape #photoself #photosession #photoshare #photoshoot #photoshoots #photoshop #photoshopped #photoshot #photostudio #phototag #photowall #portrait #portraits #portraiture #selfie #selfportrait #sketch #spray #spraypaint #streetart #streetartistry #streetphotography #urban #wallart #watercolor #watercolour

May all of your scores run true!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Consider it a Quest: How to Be Active and Authentic on Social Media

Dawn, Stained Glass Mosaic by P. MacLeod

How to find influencers in your field, fresh posts to share and keep it all organized.

Trying to figure out where to put your efforts in your online presence takes a little time to target which platforms make sense for you, which I covered on June 30, and then to effectively organize your time with social media tools (covered on July 23). But now that you have selected the right platforms for you, you may be thinking, "What am I going to say? Who do I need to follow? Who are the influencers in my field that I need to engage with?" It can seem overwhelming. But I have a few tips to share.

Who do you need to follow? How do you get more followers? Clearvoice is a site that lets you search for influencers in specific fields. I put in "art marketing" and got a list of top influencers in various aspects of the art business. I read through the list and selected the people I felt would give me the most insight for my interests. Then I followed them on Twitter.  As I continue to stay active on Twitter, I can build engagement with these people. And those people have a lot of followers who want to engage with other like-minded people. In this way, the circle feeds itself. Just post good content.

Oh, yeah. Good content. What do you say? The good news is you shouldn't self-promote every time you post. A good rule of thumb is the 5-3-2 rule--for every ten posts:

  •  5 should be content from others (sharing other blogs, articles, retweets, etc.)
  • 3 should be content from you (you can also recycle content--I'll cover that in a future post)
  • 2 should be personal status updates (shows, awards, public work, classes)
Identifying content from others is where following the influencers comes in handy. Gleaning through their posts, you can repost their content and tag them. Also, I found that Buzzsumo is an interesting way to find content to share. You can search on any topic by content type (articles, infographics, videos) and it will return the most popular shared content.  

Blogger does a great job of allowing me to control what day and time I want to post a new blog, but I also cross post my blog on my Facebook page, Twitter feed, and Pinterest. Buffer makes it easy for me to set a time that my blog post will be posted for Twitter and Facebook. The account is free and very easy to use. Buffer walks you through each step. It also offers analytics so you can get an idea of how much engagement you are getting and what types of content get the most engagement.

Another organizational tool I use is Pinterest. I have a board where I keep future post ideas. I use it as a way to cache ideas so that I won't forget something that could be useful later.

Take an hour or two once a week to organize your shared posts with Buffer. Keep tabs on your influencers updates once or twice a day (maybe a coffee time or standing in a line for coffee) for posts you want to share. Then use your dashboards to keep up with the analytics. 

Consider it a quest. Each week you'll learn more about using these tools, get better at your time management, and it will get easier to stay active and authentic.

May all of your scores run true!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Lookbook for Your Art? Sure!

Fall Tree, Custom Kitchen Mosaic by P. MacLeod

Lookbooks are a fashion industry standard. They communicate the designers brand vision and coming collections. So what can a lookbook do for an artist? A lookbook defines who you are and, as important, who you are not.  It describes you and what you offer that will help your clients personally, professionally or both.  

So how do you put together a lookbook? It should cover:
  • Your biography
  • What inspires you
  • Your brand/art statement
  • Your media coverage/presence
  • What you offer
  • Your contact info
  • LOTS of pictures of your artwork, your studio, action shots, etc.
A lookbook is personal. It's all about you and your work. Present your work in groupings, and maybe include your work in a setting such as featuring your painting as part of home decor (like staging). Allow people to experience your work. 

A lookbook is about 15 pages long. If you can create your own digital lookbook, the cost is relatively free and you can promote it on multiple channels (your website, Pinterest, etc.). If you don't have any graphic design experience, invest in getting a professional to help you create your lookbook. It needs to be very visually appealing and professional. For more expense, you can also have it printed for trade shows and the like. Unlike catalogs, lookbooks typically do not include prices. 

I have very few examples of art lookbooks, so this may be a great way to do something new to stand out from the crowd. Here is an article from the Art Business Institute that discusses art lookbooks. Art Gallery Fabrics has some very beautiful and professional lookbooks featuring different fabric artists and their work. 

I plan to create a lookbook for my work over the next couple of weeks. When it is done, I will share. I hope  if you create a lookbook, that you will share it with me, too! 

May all of your scores run true!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

5 Things to Consider Before You Donate

Victorian Style Stained Glass Mosaic Window
By Paula MacLeod

Saturday, August 22 is the 13th Annual Painted Chair and More Auction, the Independent Animal Rescue's biggest yearly fundraiser. The Independent Animal Rescue (IAR) is a no-kill, 100% volunteer, non-profit organization in Durham, NC. I have donated art for this effort every year since the very first auction. I have adopted a cat from IAR and have been looking for our perfect dog with them for the past year. This is an organization that I know well and fervently believe in their mission and the value of their efforts.

But, as an artist, I am solicited by LOTS of organizations. At one point, I felt that I could donate items to nearly all requests. That's not a good business decision, though. Why? First, look at how a charity auction of donated items works:

  • the organization gets free, desirable items to auction (live and silent)
  • people who come to the auction get bargains on those items
  • the artist gets exposure that presumably turns into more sales or commissions
  • the artist gets to write off the donation (but only the price of the winning bid NOT the full retail price)
The real winners in that line up are the organization and the people who come to bid. I did an informal survey of some of my artist friends to find out if anyone had gotten work or sales relating to an auction. Although it was a small sample (8), none of them had gotten any work related to any auction they had participated in. They represent potters, painters, jewelers, and glass artists. 

So even though the return, from a business perspective, is just the tax write-off, why and how do you decide to donate art to a charity?

1- Know your charity and fully support their efforts. Just as I have direct knowledge and experience of  IAR, you should choose based on your passions.

2- Make sure you know how the auction will work. Some auctions will split the proceeds with the artist, based on the final bid. The charity should ask you for the fair retail price and then create a reserve price. The bids have to reach the reserve bid or the piece won't sell. Be sure to keep the in-kind letter that the charity will send to you after the auction. This is for your tax write-off. 

3- Take your business cards and have them available with your work. If you can, go to the auction. As a contributor, you should have a comp ticket for the event. This will allow you to interact with people who are interested in your work.

4- Ask for a list of names and contact information of people who bid on your work. You can make a friendly follow up by post card or email.

5- Advertise to your clients, friends and family that you are participating in the event. Encourage people to attend. The more people who come to the event, the greater the likelihood of driving up bids and, in turn, making more profits for your charity.

After you select the charity or charities that you want to work with, when you are approached by a new charity, it is perfectly acceptable to say "no," and state that you already have charitable organizations that you support. Keep in mind that if you buy a ticket to an event and attend, that is support also, and may cost you less than a donation.

Our IAR adopted kitty, Juno.

I hope to see you at this year's Painted Chair and More Auction!

May all of your scores run true!

Monday, August 3, 2015

What's Hot in Asheville? Lexington Glassworks

Photo by P. MacLeod

What's Hot in Asheville? 

On a recent visit to the beautiful NC mountains, we visited Lexington Glassworks, which was featured in the WUNC-TV PBS series, NC Weekend (7/9/15). In the interview, glass artists Billy Guildford and Geoff Koslow discuss their backgrounds, approach to glass blowing and marketing. (I highly recommend watching the video.)

The 5000 square foot studio has huge bay doors in the front, which welcomes visitors. Inside, the front of the studio is a gallery of their beautiful functional and decorative work. The working side of the studio is also demonstration space where they welcome people to watch as they create their art.

It is important to note that Billy and Geoff hand made their equipment (furnace, hood, glory hole). Billy says, "We physically built the equipment ourselves from the raw material, a bunch of sticks of steel, then to all of the refractory material. . .To be a proficient glass artist, you'd better be a proficient metal fabricator and wood worker as well. It goes hand-in-hand. So it's really important before we started this studio that we knew we had a well-rounded background of skills." (Quote from video interview.)

As for their business approach, Billy explains, "When we were writing our business plan and figuring out what kind of business we wanted to run, we wanted to be very casual, so people could come in, witness the art of blowing glass because a lot of people don't realize it is an art form and how much work goes into creating one little object." (Quote from video interview.)

We were absolutely fascinated by the demonstration that we watched. They were working on rocks glasses with a crackle finish. The crackle is created by dunking the freshly formed glass shape into water so that it stresses the glass, but because the glass is still hot enough to be pliable, it doesn't thermal shock and completely crack. Billy and Geoff worked together and explained each step of the process as they created the piece.

As an art glass lover, I was completely in awe of their beautiful work. My budget only supported buying a glass ornament (picture below), but I hope to come back and buy more work in the future!

May all of your scores run true!
Lexington Glassworks' front gallery
Lexington Glassworks’ front gallery

Lexington Glassworks, located at 81 S. Lexington Ave., is open seven days a week, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.  For a look at the work or for more information, visit

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Tracking and Managing Social Media

In my last blog I highlighted some local businesses who have successfully used Instagram for their promotions and marketing. I'm going to go a bit further this week and touch on analytics and social media management, starting with Instagram, because I got a great newsletter from The Social Media Examiner (which I recommend anyone who wants to keep up with what's what to follow) that offers 13 tips for using Instagram from experts.

After reading through those tips, I wondered how to measure analytics for Instagram. Iconosquare  used to be free, but is now charging, which is (IMHO) a down-side. This post by Agorapulse offers some low-cost alternatives.

But I kept looking around the inter webs, and came to the conclusion that Hootsuite offers the most flexibility, scheduling and analytics with a basic platform for free. There are more advanced packages, but for an individual, the price is right. Here's a nice Prezi Hootsuite Analytics Tutorial that will help explain how this helps your business.

Hootsuite can track multiple social media platforms, which is one big reason why I think it is helpful. As I've mentioned before in my post on what to expect from social media engagement, you will want to choose the platforms that suit you and your business best. This will mean making sure that your posts are consistent in tone and also delivery.

The main point here is to check in with whatever analytics tools you can use to gauge the level of engagement that you are getting with the platforms you have chosen. If you've spread yourself too thin and aren't getting enough engagement with one, it might be time to re-evaluate or put more effort into cross-posting more consistently. That's where all of the planning comes in and saves you time.

May all of your scores run true!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Instagram Success Stories and Advice

Last week I blogged about social media for working artists. I covered Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and blogging. There are more--of course! However, I can't offer a lot of specific details for other platforms, because I just haven't used them myself. But, as luck would have it, the Raleigh News and Observer ran a feature article last week on local businesses who are having success promoting their businesses with Instagram.

They featured Furbish Studio, All She Wrote Notes, Monuts Donuts, Old South Apparel, and CrossFit Invoke. I read through all of the profiles to find out what each business owner felt was their key to success with Instagram. The following summaries highlight their individual approaches to how they make Instagram work for their businesses.

Jessica Swaney of Furbish Studios recommends being consistent, post regularly, and interact with accounts that draw similar customers. They depend on Instagram and other social media as a major part of their advertising. She also noted that it can be frustrating to build a following at first, but stick with it.

Maghon Taylor, owner of All She Wrote Notes, posts three times a day and always responds to comments on her photos. She focuses on taking good pictures of her work and treating the interactions like a friendship. Taylor has used Instagram, Etsy, and Google+ since she started her business.

Lindsay Moriarty, co-owner of Monuts Donuts (THE awesome Durham donut shop!) says that good pictures and being tactful (she does not include prices on pictures) are key. She also notes that consistency is another best practice, as well as alternating between posts about people and posts about food.

Old South Apparel advertises exclusively on Instagram. Owner Tyler Hair says that they in addition to keeping the account personable, they use it to advertise flash sales and promotions. Hair notes that because Instagram does not filter or promote content like Facebook, posts are seen based only on when they are posted, which suits their advertising needs.

Heather Coraciny from CrossFit Invoke echoes the advice to have great photos that people can relate to. They include photos of high-level athletes and beginners, videos, and behind-the-scenes shots. Instagram works for CrossFit because it attracts a wide following of people who are interested in fitness.

I definitely recommend checking out these sites to see what they are doing and if it appeals to you. I also would like to recommend bookmarking the Shop Talk News site at the News and Observer. It is their small business section and can offer valuable (and free!) information.

Later this week, I'll cover Linkedin. Until then, may all of your scores run true!


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What should an artist expect from using social media platforms?

What should an artist expect from using social media platforms?

Good question, right?

Just having a website won't get you or your work "out there" anymore. The prevailing advice to artists is to use social media to connect with your audience. No one really explains how for each or that no one platform will do it all. You will have to find that information on your own through research or by paying a consultant. In the end, you will still have to put in the effort to make it work.

But, wait. How is it supposed to work? Why should you have a Facebook page, Twitter or Pinterest account, or blog? First, drop any thoughts you have about how social media relates to sales. Social media is about building relationships--you and your collectors, collaborators, and colleagues. And the real question is deciding which one or combination of platforms works best for you.

Here's a little run down of the pros and cons of a few popular platforms:

Facebook: Great for establishing conversations and building your "brand." Post pictures of works in progress, workshops, shows, upcoming teasers, and video clips of interesting techniques (e.g., raku, soldering, and other processes). You can show "you" and how you work. If you are a working parent, some pictures of you in the studio with your children can establish a connection with other parents. Pictures of you at your favorite charity event are another personal touch.

Facebook shouldn't require a lot of deep content, which makes it easy to keep fresh. How often should you post? Once a day is enough, and even just a few times a week is ok.

Twitter: If Facebook is good for promoting yourself, Twitter is nearly the opposite. Again, it's about engaging with people, but on Twitter, you can't flood your feed with yourself continually. On Twitter, the rule of thumb is for every ten tweets, eight should be about your profession/techniques/ideas to foster relationships with the other leaders in your field, and two about yourself (shows, accomplishments, etc.).

Connecting with a wide variety of people on Twitter increases the likelihood that you can become an authority in your field. Remember to engage with other people in your network (favor tweets, retweet, comment) and to use pictures and videos when possible.

Pinterest: Honestly, until recently Pinterest was like a pretty bobble that I couldn't figure out why I should want or need to use it. Then I started pinning a bunch of ideas about an "unbirthday party" I've been thinking about for a long time. I added new boards and went a little nuts finding all sorts of cool ideas. Then people began re-pinning my pins and following my boards. I followed them back. Then I had the "duh" moment--I need to pin my blog. That's when I realized the potential for Pinterest. It's not just that you want to share your artwork on boards for, say, painting, commissions, or limited edition work, but that you can add boards that interest YOU, then you connect with people who like what you like and so on. I've read different approaches to how artists use Pinterest, so I would recommend just checking it out. I don't put a whole lot of time into it and have been surprised at the level of engagement I've gotten.

Blogs: I've been blogging for years. At one time blogging was the way to connect, especially with other people in your field. I think that at this point it's much harder reach people by blog only. However, cross-posting your blog on other platforms is a good way to connect the dots, so to speak.

You can be a little more creative with your blog, which I find is helpful in trying to build engagement.  For instance, have a guest blogger from your community to blog about a technique or event that they are known for, or interview someone in your professional community. (See my blog for March 12, 2015 "Interview with Mosaic Artist Lou Ann Weeks" for an example.) This encourages people who are interested in those people to know you and builds traffic for your blog/website.

Another way to build up your blog traffic and following is to offer something tangible. A popular blog post subject is product comparisons. Another is step-by-step tutorials. You don't have to give trade secrets, but do try to offer something that someone may not have thought of that makes the content valuable to them.

How to keep it all organized

There are free online tools to help you. The article 11 Best Social Media Management Tools does a great job of listing tools and discussing how they differ. The best thing about these tools is that they allow you to plan out your social media posts and gives you the ability to schedule a time that the tool will post them for you. For example, you plan to post on Twitter at 9 am Monday, but you will be in a meeting at that time. You have your post scheduled in the tool, and it is posted automatically.

Keep in mind that the optimal days to use social media is Monday through Friday. According to Blogger, the posts on Facebook have more engagement on Thursdays and Fridays. The time of day is important, also, especially for time-based feeds, like Twitter. In general, 9 am, 12 pm, and 3 pm are the times when people seem to use Twitter most. A later tweet, after 7 is probably a good bet, too.

If you're confused about which social media platform would work best for you, check out what other people are doing with their accounts. Consider the type of posts they use, if they cross-post, and what type of engagement they have. Then think about how you want to connect with people and start with one or two. The most important part of creating engaged social media is to set up a schedule for yourself and stick to it. People want to see that you are consistent (but not creating spam!).

Where are you going to come up with all of that content? I'll have some ideas for you in my next blog!!

May all of your scores run true!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Art and Fun

Today's post is about a fun artsy experience. I am also very interested in the business model for this type of arts experience.

Rodney cutting wax (photos by me)

A couple of weeks ago, Rodney and I were in Leesburg, VA for a friend's wedding. We had some time to ourselves and decided to get out and wander around for awhile. We wound up at The Village at Leesburg shopping mall. That's where we found The Art Station. I'm familiar with the drop in-type hands-on business model, but this place was really great. They offered make it-take it projects like candles, soap, and various painting projects. (They also offer painting parties for adults and children.) They have two roomy studios, with one designated for painting only. We decided to make candles.

They offer many different molds in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. (Of course, the smaller the mold, the less expensive the over all cost.) They also offer a nice selection of scents. We chose our molds and went into the main studio.

There we had access to lots of colors of wax, and pre-cut shapes and letters. (The pre-cut pieces are sold by the piece.) This was a lot of fun. The concept is to fill the mold as full and tightly as possible, so that as the wax melts, it fills in the small air pockets. Also, this is an upside-down type project where the pieces on the bottom will become the top, like a pineapple upside-down cake. (If you've ever made poured concrete mosaic stepping stones, it's the same concept.) Then we took our candles to our host and she poured hot wax into the molds. Here's a cool video of that process.

After that, we walked down to a nearby restaurant, shared an appetizer and had a glass of wine. Then we did some window shopping and came back to The Art Station about an hour later.

And here are our candles!

Rodney's candle

My candle

Rodney's candle is rose scented and mine is sweet pea scented. They both smell great when they are lit.

We had a lot of fun that afternoon--if you are ever in the area, it's worth checking out!

May all of your scores run true!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Accounting Essentials for Artists

Porch view, Topsail Island (photo by me)

After a nice, relaxing vacation where we enjoyed beautiful weather everyday, I am back to continue examining the business of art.

It may seem obvious, but tracking finances is a critical chore that any artist will have to deal with. How else will you know if you are making or losing money and what your costs are?

Software makes this a bit easier than it once was. For instance, Quicken can create many different reports for you that you once had to create by hand. Mint is the free version of Quicken and can work for many artists. Quicken Home & Business offers more functionality and costs about $115. 
A good place to start organizing and thinking about your finances is to follow the IRS Schedule C. This will help you see an outline of how to sort through expenses, deductions, and profits.

Another critical point here is to keep your personal and professional accounts SEPARATE. It is easier to find areas where you can save money or where you are losing money if you don't have to sift through what are business or personal items.

Keep your files (paper or digital) organized. Don't wait to update your accounts after a big show or flurry of sales. Take the time to make sure you get all of the sales receipts and any expense receipts of your own (parking, food, mileage, etc.). Make sure that you are taking advantage of options to download transaction details from your bank, PayPal or credit cards. This saves you time and is more accurate than hand-typing your details.

The Small Business Administration is a resource for your business that includes sources for grants and loans, starting and managing your business, and local assistance.

Then keep at it. Don't set up your accounts and get sloppy. Review your accounts regularly (weekly or monthly) and do the balance sheets monthly. Sometimes it's tempting to think that you know it was a slow month or a big week, but you'll need to track everything to really know what's going on.

May all of your scores run true!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Everyone has an answer, but is the answer right for you?

Me and Hubs 5/21/15

Since graduation (last Thursday--unbelievable!), I've been thinking more about what artists need to market themselves successfully. Over the past 7 days, I've received three separate emails, tweets, and Facebook updates from art marketers who specialize in selling their services. I won't pay for someone's advice, no matter how many testimonials they have from their successful clients or what their reputation is. Why? Because that looks like snake oil to me. We all have a hard time figuring out how to live as an artist and everyone is going to go about it differently. There is no magic bullet and as an artist, you don't have the extra money to give to someone who is trying to do THE SAME THING.

So why do I care? Because in all of the 14 years I spent in the professional artist community here in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area of NC, I never met an artist who was 1) lazy or 2) dumb. Contrast that with the 10 years I spent in a corporate job where I met both types of people frequently. I totally respect the effort and talent of my friends and associates, and it is my most sincere hope that you all make a living doing the work that means so much to you.

Now that I know what I want to do, the question that I have been struggling with is "How?" I wanted to pick through this in a linear, point-by-point way, but I don't think that is possible. What I'm going to do is to take different topics, business models and marketing ideas (putting that master's degree to use!), sift through them and offer ways for artists to use them. And I will strive to make sure that the resources are free or low cost. I would be so happy if any and all who take the time to follow along would leave comments and start open conversations about your own experiences. I think we all have something to offer.

For this post, I'm going to share a blog post that I read just the other day. It's a perspective from Melissa Bergstom and her experiences as a theater professional who also has a "day" job (Creative Contingencies: Making Peace with my Day Job(s)). This should be VERY familiar to us all. When I was first getting started, a seasoned artist told me that there is no one way to make money with your work--it's a combination of efforts and everyone finds what works for them. So I did commissions, tried a co-op, got a grant, applied for public art projects, taught, did shows, worked with galleries and shops, had work published in multiple publications, was on several television programs, and I still had the "day" job. I found myself getting older and more tired, hitting my head against a ceiling that I just couldn't break though. Every success held the promise of "making it," but didn't quite deliver.

That's when I went back to school, but I know not everyone can or even should go back to school. I plan to continue to create art--it's part of who I am. Taking the stress of having to make the art pay the bills will be a relief, though.

One resource I want to make sure everyone knows about and uses is the NC Arts Council's Artists Opportunities webpage. It lists sources for writers, visual artists, musicians, theater/actors, multimedia artists and crafts. It is updated regularly and you can sign up for email updates--and it's free.

I'm turning the conversation to you now. How do you feel about managing your career and the realities of making money? What works? What doesn't?

May all of your scores run true!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Goodbye? No! Hello!

Heart for Barbara, by Paula MacLeod

I created The Score on February 6 of this year. It was a requirement for a class I took this semester called Social Media and SEO Optimization. I chose the topic, and over the past several months, I have grown more and more interested in exploring different subjects for the blog and excited about tracking traffic to my blog.  So I've decided that even though it is not "necessary" to continue The Score and my professor won't be critiquing my posts, I am going to keep blogging here.

That said, I will diverge a little off of the topic of art glass and widen the topic to the business of art. This is something that I feel like every artist struggles with because, well, we want to make art and selling it is hard. I picked the Interactive Media Master's of Art program because I needed a skill set update for the workplace, but I also had a agenda to learn as much as I can about marketing to bring support back to the artists and community that I love.

I see a very complex market that in some ways works against the independent artist. I try not to be too negative, but with cheap, attractive manufactured "art" in Home Goods and Target, how can an artist, who has honed their skills over years and at their own expense, compete? I am going to find out.

So I'm going to start off on a side project/mission to sell art. Not mine. Yours.

Follow me.

May all of your scores run true!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Money Saving Framing Ideas

Face it. Framing is expensive. REALLY expensive. But there are ways to get a good looking framed finish without breaking the bank. For this post, I'm going to focus on a three different approaches.

Me, with a piece that I framed with a re-used frame.

First, it pays to scour second-hand and thrift stores, as well as yard sales and flea markets. You'll find both empty frames and framed work. Depending on what you want to frame, you will be evaluating the usefulness of a frame. You want to make sure that it is sturdy first. Some frames have been beat up and the dove tails in the corners may be loose. Check the surface for scratches and dings. Then check the hanging wire (if there is any) on the back. It's easy to replace hanging wire, so that's not a problem. Whatever your purpose, you'll want to be sure that the frame is the right weight and has the correct inside edge measurement. For instance, if you have a print that you will be using with a double mat and glass, you'll want to make sure that it will all fit inside the edge of the frame. If the frame has glass but you don't need it, keep it. You may want it later. If it doesn't and you want glass, you can get glass cut at a frame shop or glass supplier. If you don't have mat cutting tools, most frame shops will custom cut mat board.

Here's a really good step-by-step tutorial of re-using a frame by Emil Evans.

Frame kits are also a good way to save on framing. They are very customizable (lots of options of materials, colors, and sizes), sturdy and easy to use. The best products are carried by art supply companies like Jerry's Artarama, Cheap Joe's, or Dick Blick. All of these suppliers carry good quality frame kits. You order them by the pair (buy two pairs, length and width), and they come in a wide variety of sizes.

I found a way to create my own frames for working on plywood. Wall-hanging mosaic art work needs a sturdy "canvas," such as plywood. It is possible to have a plywood surface framed, but a really cheap and attractive alternative is to create you own with screen or decorative molding. All you need is the molding, a miter box and saw, heavy-duty adhesive (E6000, LocTite, or the like), sandpaper, and clamps.

My work, "Prayer" with decorative molding frame

I start by measuring the length of molding for each side and marking where the miter cut should be. Miter boxes are marked with angle cuts in both directions and also straight cuts. I clamp the miter box to a sturdy table, line up the cut, and saw through. I like to match the corners as I go to make sure the cuts line up, and I sand the cut edge after each cut so the edges are smooth. Once all four lengths are cut, I apply a line of adhesive on each length one at a time and put the pieces in place. After everything is in place, I clamp each side and leave it over night. The next day I just sand any areas that need touch ups and paint or stain.

The variety of decorative molding offers lots of possibilities to get creative, so don't feel like you HAVE to use a frame shop and pay big bucks for nice framing!

May all of your scores run true!

Monday, April 27, 2015

THE mosaic school: Scula Mosaicisti del Fruili

Catalog cover 2012

Created in 1922 in the city of Spilimbergo, Italy, the Scula Mosaicisti del Fruili set the bar for professional mosaicists.  It is still the premier school for anyone serious about mosaic art and techniques. 

The original study periods were structured into three years. The curriculum included subjects of general study along with development of drawings, sketches and cartoons (a mosaic outline). Practical exercises in mosaic and terrazzo were taught in a lab. Shortly after its creation, the school was asked to complete the mosaic series for the Foro Italico sports complex in Rome. The series covers nearly 10,000 square feet.
Mosaic at Foro Italico

Today the school attracts people from all over the world, who come for their professional, short, or family programs. They have an objective to combine tradition and innovation. They continue traditional subjects such as mosaic and terrazzo, but also computer graphics, mosaic design and color theory. The current professional programs offer studies in architecture design and contemporary art restoration. 

This video is an interview with the president of the school, Alido Gerussi (in Italian, but with my rudimentary Spanish, I was able to understand most of it), and virtual tour of the school and its beautiful mosaics. There is also a demonstration of cutting smalti with a hammer and hardie and a fascinating look at how they store their glass. (The music is a little annoying, so either mute or turn it down.)

May all of your scores run true!

Monday, April 20, 2015

A New Mosaic Discovery

Picture by Jim Haberman

Last week I saw this article about a new mosaic discovery that archeology professor, Jodi Magness, from UNC-Chapel Hill recently made in Galilea. She and a group of students have been going to the site of an ancient Jewish synagog, Huqoqa, since 2011. The mosaics date back to the fifth century and depict scenes from the Bible. Another mosaic features an elephant and a military commander, possibly Alexander the Great.

Picture from Huqoqa excavation site from official webpage

Mosaics were a way of representing biblical stories to the illiterate public. However, since there are no elephants in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), the elephant mosaic is curious. Patching together the reason it is there and learning more from what other mosaics they may find will create a better understanding of what life was like at that time.

After reading about this find, I was reminded of a book that I read years ago. It's called Ancient Mosaics by Roger Ling. It is a comprehensive look at the mosaics of Greece, Rome, and Africa. For anyone who is interested in the history of mosaics, I would highly recommend this book. It is interesting to read and has enough pictures to keep you engaged.

One subject he covers is how mosaics changed over time. I think it's interesting that while mosaics started off as floor coverings, eventually they moved up onto the walls. There were trends of the type (marble, stone) and style of mosaics (geometric, bordered), in addition to the theme of the image (religious, depictions of hunts).

Most often the mosaics were designed by an artist and rendered by laborers. The way they were constructed required layers of prepared support. The following diagram is an illustration of those layers (page 8 of Ancient Mosaics).

The solid foundation is why these centuries old mosaics exist today. Some have even survived earthquakes. Who knows what the mosaics at Huqoqa have endured?

It will be interesting to keep up with the Huqoqa excavation and what new insights will be discovered there.

May all of your scores run true!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Always Do the Paperwork

Sample Firing Schedule Log

When I interviewed Jodi McRaney-Rusho, we had an email discussion about tracking firing schedules. I remembered this a little while ago while I was working through some Excel exercises. It reminded me of how important it is to keep good records. I'm not just talking about firing schedules, which are a MUST, but also your sketches and notes about products.

To start with, new kilns usually come with a sample log that you can copy and use. I use the form that came with my kiln and keep all of my schedules in a note book. There are also free downloadable sheets on the web. offers a fused glass calculator and free Excel spreadsheet. A step further (that I am definitely doing in the future) is to create a spreadsheet in Excel. This will allow you to get an at-a-glance view of your firing successes and failures and to organize your data by type in separate sheets. For example, if you do production jewelry work, you can keep exact firings for each product size and type of glass in it's own sheet. After years of keeping paper logs, I think a spreadsheet is a very efficient way to organize data.

My Firing Log

As important as firing logs, your own sketches and notes are valuable creative documents. It's easier to work out color combinations and palettes on paper before you ever commit to cutting any glass. Sample boards of tile and glass are indispensable for planning mosaic work. There are also sample grout color boards that save a lot of time and money for the artist by allowing you to see the colors side by side. As you plan your work, keep track of the order number (not just the name) for each color of glass, tile or grout. This will help you if you need to order more. Colors are discontinued from time to time. If you have a record of a color that you want to order, but the number isn't there, then you'll need to talk to a customer service representative to find a replacement.

For my custom client work, I kept a file folder of all of our emails, notes from meetings, sketches, material recommendations, estimates and invoices. This is also a good place to keep product notes. For instance, I did a mosaic shower inset for a client and I recommended epoxy grout. However, I had limited experience with epoxy grout. It is superior for water resistance, but a very difficult product to work with. After discussing the whole project with the client, I found out that they had a contractor who would grout the complete shower. I noted his name and contact information in the file for future reference.

There are many reasons and different methods to keep good records. Choose one that works for you and your needs. 

May all of your scores run true!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Glass Etching: Basics and More

Etched Casserole by Lauren at The Thinking Closet Blog

Glass etching is a great way to customize glass. You don't need to be a glass artist of any kind to do it, either. Any glass can be etched--wine glasses, plates, window panes, whatever. There are just a few things you'll need to know first.

Results may vary. 

An easy way to etch glass is to use an etching solution, such as Armor Etch. There are lots of tutorials on how to use these creams, so I won't go over the details. However, once again, PLEASE READ the caution information on the packaging. The chemicals that create the etching are hazardous to your health.

My experiences using Armor Etch are not all equally successful. The etching is often very light and doesn't show up well on colored glass. Clear glass seems to show the etching better. The pros of using an etching cream are that it is cheap and doesn't require a lot of extra equipment. Hand etching a special mug or glass makes a nice gift that anyone could do as a project. This would also make a nice parent-child project.

(An interesting tid-bit I came across online is that etching creams are illegal in Cook County, Illinois. Apparently some creative gang-types were using it to tag windows.)

Gravely engrave.

Another option for glass etching is to use an engraving tool. The cheapest, most manual engraving tool is a pen-type with a tungsten tip that scratches the surface of the glass ($9-12). This is easy to use and control the amount of pressure to change the results, but again don't forget that you are scratching glass and that particles will be floating around. Use your dust mask and have a damp cloth nearby to wipe the work surface when it gets dusty.

There are also motorized engraving tools, like Dremels. This is a little more tricky because you need to be VERY careful with the amount of pressure you apply to the glass, how thick the glass is, and to monitor the glass for signs of stress to prevent the glass from breaking while you are working. Another necessity is to keep the glass cool with water. This is really tricky. I've seen recommendations to work with a sponge to wet the glass as you work and also sophisticated drip systems that drip small amounts of water onto the glass surface while you work.

Blast it all!

Sand blasting glass is a fast technique that has great results. The downside? The equipment is more expensive, and for large work with professional results, you'll need studio space. (There is a mini-blaster set that uses compressed air from a can--$35-64.99. However, the canned air has bad reviews and the product cannot be shipped.) A beginner set from Delphi Glass $429.95, without shipping costs.

Practice, Practice, Practice.

As it is with any endeavor, you'll get better if you keep working at it.

I found this truly impressive post online about detailed, multi-technique glass engraving at Lesly Pyke Ltd Engraving. This is an example of fantastic craftsmanship. I hope it inspires you!

May all of your scores run true!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Ouch! Preventing Injuries in the Glass Studio

It doesn't matter what type of glass art you create, one fact is true:  You will get cut. And each type of glass work method comes with its own set of dangers. The first type of work that may pop into anyone's head when you think of glass and safety is glass blowing, but it is equally easy to suffer a severe injury or expose yourself to toxins practicing any glass technique.

So with that in mind, here are some general "must do/no exceptions" glass studio rules:

  1. Keep a first aid kit in the studio. Be sure that there are always bandages and treatment for burns in the kit.
  2. Wear safety glasses! Wear them when you are cutting glass and not just when you are using grinders or saws. Prescription eyewear doesn't count, either. Regular glasses do not protect your eyes from glass that may fly up under or through the side of the glasses. 
  3. Wear a dust mask when working with any material that contains silica. This includes kiln wash, fire paper, fiber board, grout, thin set, cement, enamels and mold hardeners. Silicosis is a lung disease caused by inhaling silica particles, and there is no cure. Silicosis causes fluid build up and scar tissue in the lungs and makes it difficult to breathe. 
  4. Never eat or drink in the studio. This shouldn't need explanation, but the bottom line is that glass and dust don't enhance flavors.
  5. Never go barefoot in the studio. Wear closed toed shoes, not sandals or flip flops, and check the bottom of your shoes before you leave the studio. Glass can be embedded in the tread or soft sole of your shoes. 
  6. Have proper ventilation! This isn't just a precaution for hot techniques (fused glass, soldering, glass blowing), but remember that any solvents or adhesives you use may require extra ventilation or even a respirator. ALWAYS read product instructions and precautions.
Photo by

Additional protections that you should consider are to wear cotton/denim clothing that does not hang too loose, and consider wearing a durable apron. This prevents accidents caused by clothing getting caught into equipment (saws, drills, torches etc.) or trailing into hot soldering irons or other dangers. An apron works well because it catches pieces of glass or other particles and can be easily dumped from the apron into the trash. 

If you have long hair, tie it back. This is especially important when working with anything hot or power equipment.

Have a fire extinguisher nearby, and store flammables correctly, away from kilns and other hot equipment.

Check your power equipment before plugging it in. Check blades, wires, tanks and attachments for wear or cracks that may break during use and replace. Additionally, only use power strips, not extension cords, and never use an extension cord for kilns.

Consider using ear protection when using loud equipment like tile/glass saws or rotary tools (Dremel).

Don't take routine tasks for granted. It's easiest to make a mistake when you are acting thoughtlessly. I know some groups like to get together and have art and wine parties, but alcohol in the glass studio is not a good idea, even in a sippy cup. Don't ask.

That might seem like a long list of "DO this, DON'T do that", but working safely is the only smart way to work.

May all of your scores run true!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Before I start this post, I'd like to note that I made a mistake in the last post. The Chicago artist who mosaics potholes is Jim Bachor, not Jon. I've updated the post, but I wanted to make sure that I posted the error. My apologies to Jim.

For this post, I want to talk about a hot glass technique called murrini pulls. I had the opportunity some years ago to take a class where we made murrini pulls, and it was really exciting. I found a video of a professional studio making murrini pulls, Jonathan Cohn Glass. I think it shows how interesting and exciting hot glass can be.

So here are a couple of pictures of my own murrini pull--

I should start by saying that I have sliced off about 5 or so inches to use in projects. At one time it was longer and you could see the impression at the end where I used pliers to pull the glass while it was hot. It should be easy to see that the shape of the glass shows how it got thinner as it elongated. The dark color in the second photo is the color of the design within the white glass. 

Getting to the point where the glass could be stretched was a multi-step process. We began with creating our own design of stacks of 1/2" x 4" strips of glass. The result was a 4" x 4" cube that was then fired just so that the pieces were stuck together. 

Then using a punty stick (the steel stick used to move hot glass in the video), we began the process of heating the cube evenly in a forge. This required rotating the punty stick so that the glass starts to move, then when it begins to droop, it is pulled out and reshaped. In the video they used steel paddles, but in the workshop I took, we used cherry wood paddles that had been soaked in water overnight. The result was a very hot room that smelled strongly of singed wood. When I left, I smelled like I'd been to a bonfire. 

The most exciting part is when the glass has reached a little more than a foot, one person stands on a step stool and heats the glass with a torch, while someone else pulls the glass even further with pliers.  After that, the pull is cut from the stick and put into a kiln to anneal. 

My murrini pull is no where as elaborate as the work created at Jonathan Cohn Glass, but I had a great time making it and appreciate the discipline much more deeply.

So, one thing I have been in total awe of ever since then is that, hot glass requires coordinated assistance and can not be done alone. It's hot and dangerous, and (one more time) exciting!

May all of your scores run true!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Pothole Mosaics

I recently found an article about Chicago "guerrilla" artist Jim Bachor, who creates mosaics in potholes. It's a really beautiful idea! There are other artists working in the medium of potholes, but none who actually fill the potholes.

I wanted to know more about him, so I did some background research about him and the pot hole project. Jim has a degree in Graphic Design from the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit. On a voluntary archeological dig in Pompeii, he melded his interests of art and leaving a mark on this world. 

Jim started with just a few potholes in 2014. This caught media attention quickly and took off. He was featured in more than a dozen online and print articles and television coverage, including Gizmodo and Fox News.

Jim started a Kickstarter Campaign earlier this year to fund five more potholes. One hundred nine people donated to his campaign, which has allowed Jon to expand his plan to include eight potholes. Potholes have turned out to be a good canvas for him. 

Jim's personal statement reflects some of my own opinions about mosaic art. "Marble and glass do not fade. Mortar is mortar. An ancient mosaic looks exactly as intended by the artist who produced it over two millennia ago. What else can claim that kind of staying power? I find this idea simply amazing," he writes on his website.

"Brought to you by. . ." J. Bachor

He elaborates, ". . .my work surprises the viewer while challenging long-held notions of what a mosaic should be. Like low-tech pixels, hundreds, if not thousands of tiny, hand-cut pieces of Italian glass and marble comprise my work.

This work is my mark."

You can check out the Pothole Installation project on his website, which includes a map of each mosaic.

May all of your scores run true!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Jewelry Making Tips for Glass Artists

Learning how to create beautiful pendants, bracelets or earrings in fused glass,  soldered stained glass, or even mosaics is a great way to make unique gifts or some money on the side. I've been making jewelry for a long time, and I've found some great sources for findings (those pieces that piece work together, e.g. jump rings and bails). I also have my favorite materials for assembling great jewelry that I will share. For this post, I'm going to focus on findings that don't require special jewelry tools. I will save that for later.

One of my favorite jewelry suppliers is Fire Mountain Gems. They have a wide variety of products, including beads and gems, and they also have a monthly sale section. I have picked up some great deals from their bargain section. They have wonderful customer service, too. I often get my orders within days of making an online order.

The other supplier I really like is Jewelry They carry a lot of the same type of supplies as Fire Mountain Gems. I will often compare prices between the two just to get the best deal.

 Because I am focusing on findings that don't necessarily require jewelry tools, all of the findings in this post will be glue on types. The recommended adhesive for glass and metal is E6000. Please read and follow the instructions. E6000 does have nasty fumes that you do not want to inhale.
So what basic findings will you need?

There are three types of bails: glue on, snap, and ice pick type. For a lot of fused glass and mosaic pieces, the glue on works best. The ice pick and snap style bails are for pendants that have a hole that the pick can go through or the snap can clamp on. Glue on earring bails make earring construction easy, too.

                                  Assortment of glue on and pick style bails (

Earring bails (

Bracelet links also come with blank glue on pads, too. These are a really great way to make bracelets.
Blank bracelet finding  (       

 Bracelet with glass, by P. MacLeod

Glue on ring and hair pin/clips, lapel pin and tie tacks are also available. 
24 Hour Creatives

24 Hour Creatives

So these are the kinds of findings that anyone can use to create special gifts or personal jewelry. They are an easy, low cost way to wear your work.

May all of your scores run true!