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Bytesmiths

The Bytesmiths Editions Newsletter September 2002

Topics

The Glamorous Life of a Travelling Artisan
And The Winner Is...
Partial Recovery!
Recent Exhibits
This Month
Future/Ongoing Events
Edition Policy Change
Top Ten Titles

The Glamorous Life of a Travelling Artisan

Most people take showers from the top-down. They wash their face, then upper body, then descend through other areas, finishing up with the legs and feet. This is only common sense; it is better to use gravity than to fight it. Anyone who has remodeled a house knows you fix the roof first.

But sometimes gravity works in mysterious ways. I've just finished a shower from the bottom-up, starting with my feet, then legs, etc.

I really should have gone back to bed, re-set the alarm, and gotten a brand new start. The day started out with the discovery that something had gone wrong with yesterday's print run, and I had to start out all over.

This sounds like you just push a button or something, but it is actually fairly complicated, with multiple steps including loading media, cleaning heads, rolling the outfeed, trimming into strips, wrestling with the laminator, doing final trimming, examining for defects, affixing release paper... it goes on and on, and I had just wasted about three days' work, not to mention a few hundred dollars worth of supplies.

But wait -- it gets better! I started salvaging what I could, mounting older prints I had in storage. After a dozen or so, I noticed the print edge poking out of the mat. The mats were cut wrong, and were defective! Now most of the good prints I had left had just been mounted on defective mats, and had to be scrapped!

Oh, to start the day all over again. Perhaps I'll go back to bed and see if I can get a better start!

It was about then that I get a call from a supplier, saying the media I use has been discontinued. So I go to the computer to start searching for other suppliers, and discover that the Internet is down.

Now I'm having very powerful thoughts about going back to bed and starting the day over, but we're leaving tomorrow for a big art festival, and there are things to be done. I might have less inventory than I had planned, but I can't just write off an entire festival.

So we get our little camping trailer ready for the weekend. We've got to clean it out from the last trip, fill the water tanks, empty the waste tanks, start the refrigerator, stock it with food -- all the normal stuff that we've done a hundred times or more.

Carol and I had just put a tank monitoring system in. You wire sensors to the various tanks, connect them to a panel, and press "Battery" or "Gray Water," for example, and an LED gauge shows you how much you have left.

Since I couldn't produce the art I needed for the festival, I took the opportunity to level the trailer, top off all the tanks -- the waste ones were semi-full, and the fresh water tanks were nearly empty -- and calibrate the monitor so all the tanks read full when they actually were.

There's a sewer access cap near the house, just outside the garage. I think it is normally used for snaking if there's a problem. Unfortunately, it comes out of the ground at an angle, pointing to the front of the house. I don't know why they didn't point it *down* the driveway or *at* the driveway, but they chose to point it *away* from the driveway, which means positioning the trailer to take a dump is always a chore. Not only that, but the driveway slopes away from the sewer access, meaning additional elevation is required to ensure that gravity is on Our Side.

After much maneuvering, cursing, and a bent ramp, we finally get the trailer positioned and elevated so that we can hook up to the sewer connection, with gravity as Our Friend.

At this point, one normally connects a sewer hose between the sewer and the trailer, then opens a valve to let the poor trailer relieve itself.

Carol connects the sewer side up, and I take the cap off the trailer's black water (toilet) tank, not noticing that some moron (probably me) had left the valve open.

It's a good thing I topped off that black water tank. It's a good thing that I had to elevate the trailer to gain access to the sewer. Otherwise, it might not have splashed around so much as it poured sewage out on my feet and the driveway!

Bless her heart, Carol really tried not to laugh too much as she hosed me down. Then I stripped my sodden clothes off in the laundry room, and took a shower -- from the bottom-up.

I'd really love to tell you more, but I think I'm going to bed now. Wake me when it's a brand new day...


And The Winner Is...

Congratulations Gracie Pauley of West Linn, you've won the free print drawing this month!

Each newsletter, I give away a signed, open-edition opaque print in an acid-free mat, ready for framing, to a random email newsletter subscriber. (Winners are ineligible to win again for a year.)


Partial Recovery!

Those who recall last month's essay may also recall that it ended with "To be continued."

To make a long story short, Carol drove to Eugene and received 47 of the 87 stolen items back! Although it's only a bit over half, it's a LOT better than nothing!

A grand jury is being convened, and the person caught with the stolen beadwork is likely to be charged with possession of stolen property. Evidence was insufficient to charge him with the actual theft.

Thank you once again for the outpouring of sympathy and support during this ordeal. If there are further developments worth mentioning, you'll read about them here.


Recent Exhibits

  • August 2-4, Homer Davenport Days, Silverton, Oregon. This is a good ol' fashioned town fair, with street concerts and bed races, among other activities. Sales were not wonderful, but we had delightful neighbors and the staff was great, especially Larry, who works both this fair and the Fine Art Festival, below.

    We were "adopted" by Ashley, a twelve-year-old girl who, for whatever reason, decided our tent was a cool place to hang out. Thanks for your company, Ashley!

  • August 10-11, Coupeville Art Festival, Coupeville, Washington. This is one of the oldest festivals in Washington, and it is showing its age, with a some inflexible, over-regimented procedures. But it is a lovely environment, with the cool Puget Sound breezes keeping the mid-summer heat at bay. We will probably return next year, if the event will give us better siting -- translucent prints are not at their best when the sun is streaming in the FRONT of the tent!
  • August 17-18, Silverton Fine Arts Festival, Silverton, Oregon. This is a delightful festival in a wonderful setting. And we'd still say so, even if it wasn't our best of the year!

    The staff and support services are just great, which makes all the difference in the world. The site manager, Larry, was simply a gem, always going that extra step to keep artisans and art patrons happy.

    Ashley was back to keep us company during slow times. She said she was "grounded," but her mother said she could go to the festival as long as she stayed in our booth!

    This show has lots of potential. The organizers are doing all the right things to turn it into one of the "must do" visual arts events in Oregon!

  • August 23-25, Vancouver Wine & Jazz Festival, Vancouver, Washington. Coming on the heels of our upbeat Silverton experience was our second-worst festival of the season.

    We all know the economy is not great. But when the chips are down is when the staff has a chance to really shine. For example, although Carol's jewelry was stolen, the Art in the Vineyard staff (Eugene) were incredibly supportive, and we'd go back in a minute.

    Now move ahead to Vancouver Wine & Jazz. We were treated like criminals. Our bags were searched at the gate. They tried to take our food and beverages away, even though our literature said artisans would be allowed to supply their own food. (We don't eat festival food until we've at least paid for our booth space, which we never did at this show!) We resorted to passing stuff over the fence!

    The low sales and hostile event management might have been tolerable if the entertainment had been top-notch. The Blind Boys of Alabama were wonderful, but most of the other acts were mediocre, exemplified by "The 5th Dimension," a cover band that featured none of the original performers. With the demise of the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival, this event has missed an opportunity to fill the void with quality national and regional acts.

    Last year, we tolerated the gestapo organizational environment because sales were okay, but I don't think we'll be going back next year.

  • September 7, Canby Farmers' Market, Canby, Oregon. This small market -- just one block -- is dominated by growers, as one might expect from its name. But the first Saturday of each month, artists and crafters are allowed to join in.

    Too bad it isn't well-publicized: the people we talked to were all there for the farmers' market, and knew nothing about the art part. So Carol and I and three other brave artisans watched the people walking around with their arms full of zucchini and sweet corn.

    If they expect the "art part" to thrive, the organizers will have to promote it better. Unless people come to this event specifically for art, the artists will continue to be disappointed.


This Month

This looks like a quiet month, but hidden behind this tiny listing is a flurry of activity, getting ready for fall classes, making art, working on my 2000 taxes... (I'm a little behind... :-)

  • through October 14, Skylight Gallery, Clackamas, Oregon. (free) Eight of Jan's large translucent prints are featured in the group show, titled "Natural World." Unfortunately, it is only open 9-5, Monday-Friday, but if you're in the Clackamas Town Center area during business hours, please stop in and have a look! See my Events link for more details, including a link to a map.
  • September-October, 5th Avenue Suites, Washington & 4th, Portland, Oregon. A 48"x18" print of "Crater Lake Sunrise" has been selected by this hotel for display in their lobby.
  • September 21-22, Village of Willamette Arts Festival, free, West Linn, Oregon. In its third year, this festival is shaping up to be one of South Metro's premiere events for Clackamas County artisans.
  • September 26, Last Thursday, Alberta district. If the weather is nice, we might be out on the street, showing our wares!

(Our complete events schedule, with links to event websites and maps to event locations, can be seen on the Events page.


Future Events

This month brings the end of our outdoor season, but also brings the beginning of our classes and other indoor events.

  • EXHIBITS:
    • July 3 through October 14, Skylight Gallery, Clackamas, Oregon.
    • September-October, 5th Avenue Suites, Washington & 4th, Portland, Oregon.
    • October 12-13, Portland Open Studios, West Linn, Oregon.
    • October 19, St. John Craft Fair.
    • November 23, Pacific Luthern University Yule Botique, Tacoma, Washington.
    • We also have been "sidewalk exhibiting" at "First Thursday" near NW Glisan & 13th and "Last Thursday" near NE Alberta and 12th -- look for the Van d'Art!
  • CLASSES:
    • October 1 (Tuesday evening): Digital Photography Overview (Jan): $8. Rosemont Ridge Middle School, West Linn, Oregon.
    • October 2 (Wednesday evening): Digital Photography Overview (Jan): $15, Canby High School, Canby, Oregon.
    • October 7, 14 (two Monday evenings): Beading 1 (Carol): Rosemont Ridge Middle School, West Linn, Oregon.
    • October 8, 15, 22, 29, November 5, 12, 19, 26 (eight Tuesday evenings): Art & Science of Photography (Jan): $60. Rosemont Ridge Middle School, West Linn, Oregon.
    • October 9, 16, 23, 30, November 6, 13, 20, December 4 (eight Wednesday evenings): Photoshop for Photographers (Jan): Canby High School, Canby, Oregon.
    • October 21, 28 (two Monday evenings): Beading 2 (Carol): Rosemont Ridge Middle School, West Linn, Oregon.
    • November 4, 18 (two Monday evenings): Beading 3 (Carol): Rosemont Ridge Middle School, West Linn, Oregon.

For Rosemont Ridge classes, contact West Linn/Wilsonville Community Education at 503.673.7190 to sign up.

For Canby High School classes, contact Canby Community Education at 503.266.2086 to sign up.

(Our complete events schedule, with links to events and maps to their locations, can be seen on the Events page.


Edition Policy Change

When I first started publishing my work, I looked around at what others were doing about selling copies of their work, and the norm seemed to be so-called "limited editions," whereby an artist vows to never make more than a certain number of copies, and then numbers each one.

This policy has two distinct backgrounds. The first is the traditional printmaking craft, whereby a block of wood, linoleum, or metal is carved or etched, ink is applied, and prints are made on a hand-driven press. As the print run went on, the matrix containing the art wears or becomes clogged, and low-numbered prints are generally better.

Also included in this category is photography printed by the photographer in her darkroom, as opposed to photography sent out to a service. Generally, as the photographer makes more prints, she gets better at it, and higher-numbered prints are often better.

Either of these craft-related artifacts are properly called "prints."

However, the more recent use of limited edition policy comes from the desire of watercolor, acrylic, or oil artists to be able to offer their work to a wider audience than just those who could afford originals. These were originally reproduced using traditional offset printing techniques, and are often called with fancy names like "lithographs" or "serigraphs." These are more properly called simply "reproductions."

But "reproduction" doesn't sound very valuable. In fact, the notion that something is "reproduced" is off-putting to art enthusiasts, who like to think they're getting something unique. Since offset printing has a high overhead, it becomes prohibitively expensive at volumes below, for example, 100 copies, and so artists took to numbering their copies, and touting them as valuable due to limited quantity, even though a phone call and a credit card could quickly result in 100 more copies.

Offset-printed reproductions are generally identical, and no single copy is likely to be any better or worse than any other copy, although a sloppy printing job may make either the low-numbered copies or the high-numbered copies better.

The most recent evolution of the limited-edtion print has been the "giclŽe print." These are produced in small quantities -- as few as one or two at a time. In most cases, process controls are better, and the first copy is identical to the 10th, which is identical to the 100th, which is identical to the 1,000th, etc. I think these are properly called "reproductions" also, rather than "prints."

So with the evolution from hand-tooled printmaking to giclŽe printed reproductions, the edition size has gone from an indicator of the relative quality and scarcity of an artifact to a totally arbitrary number. The artist simply says, "Well, I guess I'll make no more than 100 of these, eventually, even though I only have two on hand today."

In reality, such policies are subject to abuse. A very few artists make tens or hundreds of millions of dollars a year, running off these copies as fast as their printers will work, catering to people who collect things because they have been led to believe they are scarce, not so much because they really appreciate the art! At least one famous artist makes these copies, and hires unknown artists to apply a few brush strokes, then they market these as "giclŽe originals" at a much higher price.

What I do is really closer to the traditional printmaker or photographer, even though I'm using the giclŽe process. Since I own and personally run the equipment, I can constantly experiment with materials and techniques, and my prints generally get better as I go on.

So I have had to re-examine my edition policy, which was formerly "No more than 100 prints of all sizes greater than 100 square inches, combined." I've come to view limited-edition policies as artificial constraints, whose only purpose is an excuse to raise the price of mass-produced reproductions.

Ansel Adams, for example, did not have a formal edition policy. He did not even number his prints! He may have personally made up to several hundred prints of an image, and yet they are quite valuable today, even though they were not "Kinkaidized" with artificial price-enhancing marketing techniques.

My new policy (for new images) is this: if I sign or initial it, I made it. (I may have a student intern help with matting or packaging, but I still do all the crucial parts.) Prints of over 100 square inches (bigger than 8"x12") will also be serial numbered and dated, so the art patron will have some idea of where in my learning process it came from.

This policy change is NOT because I want to make more than 100 prints of an image -- I'm nowhere near that point! But I do feel it is a more honest approach to printmaking than price-control through artificial volume constraints.

And of course, images produced under my prior edition policy will continue to be governed by that policy -- this change is for new images only!

What do you think? Let me know!


Top Ten Titles

Here is a list of my most popular images, based on sales of 1300 prints to date in all media combined, from 25 cent postcards to huge, custom-sized framed prints of nearly $700.

and the most popular image this month is:

Crater Lake Sunrise continues to climb in popularity, and it has been chosen for exhibit in the lobby of the 5th Avenue Suites Hotel, downtown Portland, at 4th and Washington. If you're in that neighborhood before November, come in and see it!

I've had problems keeping up with demand on some of these, selling out some popular ones. If you don't see the image you want at a show, email me, and I'll let you know when it's available again.

Do you have a favorite image from my Top Ten Titles? Let me know what you like!


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