Heather Kerleyt Corbeau Mecanique

Corbeau Robo: Finished Print!

I’m happy to unveil my new print, a happy addition to my current exploration of “Wind-up Birds.” This isn’t the first time I’ve used watercolors in printmaking, but it is the first time each version will be a little different with a slightly different color combination. Here, you can follow the progress of my print in pictures.

Carving in Progress.
Carving in progress.

I decided to use resingrave for the print. Resingrave is an enameled surface that’s hard to carve, but yields great fine details. The hardest part of the drawing was figuring out the way the gears, which are visible in the bird’s chest, should look.

First Proof after carving
First proof after carving.

The first print was too dark, I think because I’m still a little timid working in this medium. I also needed to clean up the white space where the crow is standing.

Print run!
Print run!

Next, the print run! It went pretty well. This was the first time I used my little letterpress printer to make a resingrave print, and I have to say it went perfectly smoothly.

Heather Kerley WindUp Bird Print Pith and Root Studio
And the finished print!

Heather Kerleyt Corbeau Mecanique

I had to recreate the border of the image, but other than that, I felt it needed only a little correcting with an ink pen. The fun part was painting the watercolor stripes. I’m experimenting with different combinations. CorbeauMecanique_set

You can check these out in my Etsy shop! 

Pith and Root Studio Etsy Shop

This Etsy Seller’s Reaction to an Etsy IPO

Last week, Etsy filed for a proposed initial public offering, or IPO.  I’m somewhat chagrined but not surprised. I just hope the typical small-time seller will see some benefit.

In the email sent out to all Etsy sellers when the IPO was announced, Dickerson signed his name in the typical way as “Chad” with a small, smiling photo of himself. This struck me as a little funny. For years, Etsy has projected an image to its sellers that the executives and managers who run it are “just like us,” that it is a small company run by a bunch of young hipsters in Brooklyn.

I know that Etsy started out that way, but I am not sure how true that is now. Etsy now has 1.4 million sellers across the globe, about 685 employees, and offices in New York, Melbourne, Dublin, London, Paris, Berlin, Toronto and San Francisco (Source). Add to those figures an IPO in which Etsy hopes to raise $100 million, and this is not your friendly little startup for crafty people anymore. It doesn’t help that Etsy has been so poor at communicating with sellers about changes to the site and to its own vision. The largest breach between those at the helm at Etsy and us small-time sellers came when Etsy changed its vision statement, clearly omitting the previously sacrosanct edict on Etsy – that only handmade and vintage items were permitted. The current wording states as such:

Etsy is a marketplace where people around the world connect, both online and offline, to make, sell and buy unique goods.

“Unique” in this context is a fuzzy word with very clear connotations to Etsy sellers. It means that “handmade” is no longer Etsy’s bailiwick. Objects on Etsy may be produced on a large-scale or created by manufacturers. To be fair, Etsy has attempted to create some transparency by asking sellers to reveal all relationships with manufacturers as well as all employees. In practice, however, this is a voluntary exercise, with only the honest sellers providing optimal disclosure. It is now clear that those who fought to maintain the purity of Etsy as a “handmade” marketplace (including its own founder Rob Kalin, who quit over such changes) have lost the battle for Etsy’s soul.

The big question now is how an IPO will affect Etsy sellers going forward. I can’t help but wonder why shareholders who want to support the vision of Etsy would invest in the IPO when they could invest in Etsy sellers by buying their products.

What will Etsy’s shareholders demand? I think to answer this question, it’s instructive to look at Facebook’s IPO. If the example of Facebook is any indication, the demand will be the continued growth of sellers and listings. Etsy has almost doubled in size since I opened my own shop and shows no sign of stopping. However, the promise of more growth that Facebook “sold” to shareholders was based on the pattern of growth that Facebook was experiencing at the time it filed for its IPO. Economists and investors always seem to look at growth and predict more similar (and infinite) growth without questioning whether that growth is sustainable or advisable. In the case of Facebook, they perhaps failed to realize that Facebook’s spread was more akin to that of a virus moving through the population, with people eventually becoming inoculated against its pervasive influence. They also may have neglected to account for the rise of other platforms that would eventually lure users away.

For some reason, Etsy does not have this last problem. Competitors are not able to lure away Etsy sellers very easily. I think this is partly because opening an Etsy shop and building a costumer base all takes a lot of work and it is difficult to pull up stakes.

The spread of Etsy may have peaked or is slowing in the United States, thanks to a recovering economy and perhaps the waning popularity of handmade crafts (because that is a trend that seems to come and go). However, I see a lot of new sellers opening up shops in other parts of the world, especially Southern Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. I have no statistics to support these assertions, by the way, it’s just a hunch I have based on exploring Etsy a little more than the average consumer.

But the elephant in the room is what to do about all those sellers that do not seem to fit the profile of the stereotypical Etsy seller. Those shops that seem to be connected to no one but a city in China, or they have a crafted seller profile, but 900 listings for dirt-cheap jewelry. With so many sellers all over the world, who can police or regulate who opens a shop and what they sell? Who do you complain to when what is ostensibly a sweatshop somewhere sells you something cheap and not as described and then refuses to grant a refund? Will investors care about these problems, as long as predicted growth stays on track? The question on most seller’s minds seems to be, “What if Etsy is just on its way to becoming the next Ebay?”

For myself, although I am disappointed that Etsy is not what it once was, I still enjoy the look of the site and convenience of selling through it, even though, as has been noted by more people than me, Etsy isn’t really the best place to sell visual art. Still, I’ve made some very valuable connections on Etsy with talented artisans around the world and I have relished the chance to forge a personal relationship with my patrons.

I only wish that, in going through with an IPO, that Etsy continues to make its sellers a priority. It would be nice to see increased traffic and more advertising overall for the site  — and not just for those sellers who are halfway there to running their own wholesale company, but for the same small-time artists, crafters, and vintage sellers who built Etsy from the ground up.

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New Paintings: Haruki Murakami, Wind-Up Birds, and Magical Realism

After spending three years blissfully focusing on art full time, I am now working again and it is a challenge striking a balance between work and my studio practice. What I’m not lacking in is ideas, fortunately. I think the time spent focusing on a job (which I absolutely love, by the way), is giving me a fresh perspective on my work.

Take for instance, my new crow paintings. This series continues to evolve, thanks to a little outside inspiration from Haruki Murakami. If you have not read his Wind-Up Chronicles, I highly recommend it. And don’t give up. I actually was thinking of putting it down several times, but something kept me reading to the end, at which point I was totally enthralled.

Inspired by this experience, I’ve begun a new series of work, a sub-series of my crows, of “wind-up birds.”

Crows are tricksters and symbols of transformation, so in my mind the perfect candidate to play the part of the bird who “winds up the world” every morning.

Here is number one:

Wind-Up Bird No. 1, 2015, 6 x 6 inches, Mixed Media on Paper

And the second one:

Wind-Up Bird No. 2, 2015, 6 x 6 inches, Gouache on Paper

These are posing a challenge I haven’t resolved yet, which is combining the awkwardness of mechanics with the natural look of a bird. The parts don’t go. That’s the point. But there needs to be recognizability.

Before I go, I will leave you with this larger acrylic painting I just finished. I was inspired to paint this one snowy day when I looked outside and saw a crow sitting amidst frozen branches of the apple tree across the way. There was something very magical and peaceful about the scene.

In the Gloaming, 2015, 50 x 70 cm, Acrylic on Canvas

As always, you can see my newest artwork in my Etsy shop.

Hope you are keeping warm, friends. Until next time!

StudyNo40

Big Changes and Goals for the New Year!

What will the road ahead bring?
What will the road ahead bring?

Hello, friends, and a very Happy New Year to each and every one of you. Sorry I’ve been out of touch, but I have a little  announcement to make. I have returned to full-time work and it has kept me very busy lately.

When I made the transition to being a full-time artist three years ago, I knew it might be a temporary sabbatical of sorts, which happened to dovetail nicely with other changes in my life. Namely, getting married and moving twice (once overseas) with my Air Force husband. At the time, I thought becoming a full-time artist would be the perfect job for me.

But no, I have missed working outside of the house… a lot. I have missed having other things in my life, nurturing other sides of myself. I’ve never been just one thing, but many different people coexisting as one – writer, creator, teacher, caretaker, editor – as I know most of us are. How can I only paint and not analyze, write, learn, and exercise all the skills I’ve acquired from two decades of working in various fields?

But what job would be best? The jobs I’ve enjoyed the most over my life were the ones I worked while I was making plans for bigger things and those jobs were all library positions. I’ve done archiving, cataloging, reference, information management, and circulation. I kept hoping a job at the base library would pop up when I did job searches over the past two years we’ve lived here in Germany. Finally, I got my chance. A position opened up and I seized it.

I love it so far, and I will be able to put a lot of my knowledge and interest in art into the work. I will be redesigning our newsletter and running art-related programs for our weekly Storytime and the summer reading program. The librarian has also asked me to put on a solo show of my work in the library’s little art gallery. I think I might even make a site-specific installation related to books and literature. I’m so excited to see what’s in store!

It has even got me thinking in a very serious way about going back to school for a library science degree, something I’ve pondered off and on for a long time. With the tuition assistance I may be able to secure through my job, it has never seemed so possible or desirable. (I hear Indiana University at Bloomington has an M.L.I.S with a focus on Art Librarianship.)

In the meantime, I refuse to slack off making art. I will never drop it again now that it has become such a daily part of life. In fact, here are a few goals I intend to work on over the next few months:

1. Continue with my “Knowing” series of paintings and create etchings for the series as well.

2. Create new small prints and cards to sell in the spring.

3. Begin selling my work on Saatchi online.

That should keep me busy, don’t you think?

Last year at this time, full of determination to make new work and take my artistic practice to the new level, I wrote in my journal, “This is the year I set myself free.” Once I had put that out into the universe, my work became more about my own emotional journey and it helped me to let go of a lot of things I had been carrying around.

From my Illumination series.
From my Illumination series.

I am moving forward and creating a more balanced life where my art-making is just one aspect of a full existence, balanced with other kinds of intellectual inquiry and service to others.

Yep, I really think 2015 is going to be the best year yet!

How about you, dear reader? What are your creative goals for the New Year?

 

Announcing My Annual Etsy Sale!

salepic

Today is the day! I have started my Black Friday-Cyber Monday sale early. So, here it is! Take advantage!

From now through Monday, everything in my shop is 15% off, no coupon code necessary!

Here are just a few examples:

Abstract Nightscape Christmas Cards
Deer on the Moon Etching
“Good Shave” Linocut Print (Great gift for any man on your holiday shopping list who loves a good old-fashioned shave!)

 

Abstract watercolors
Giclee prints

Hope you have a wonderful holiday!

Not a bad spot. Just a little dark. I am glad I ended up with two tables instead of one.

Craft Fair Season is Upon Us!

It’s that time of year, kids. Craft fairs, of all kinds, going on in your community center, church, or convention center.  Last weekend, I decided to jump into that world again.

I don’t know why I waited so long after moving to Germany to do something like this, except to say I was a little slow to get my bearings after moving. I knew I didn’t want to deal with the potential language barrier and legalities of doing fairs on the economy, but  turns out the Air Force base community center holds craft fairs several times of year.

Once I signed up and was committed, I started to get excited…

I knew I needed to come up with some Christmas-y designs for the fair, as well as multiple price points, so I tried my hand at stamp-carving to make these little moleskine journals:

Hand-stamped Moleskine journals.

I also came up with some new Christmas cards. You can read about my process making these linocut cards in this previous post.

Instagramfinishedcard

And here are some pics of my display:

CraftFair2014_2_PithAndRootStudio

CraftFair2014_4

Not a bad spot. Just a little dark. I am glad I ended up with two tables instead of one.

All in all, people were friendly and generally interested in my work. I did make a few notable sales, but there were not  many big spenders, nor did I expect there to be. I think that’s the only drawback to doing a dinky fair like this.

That said, I would advise any artist or crafter thinking of doing something like this, just dive in and do it! There is no sense in doing nothing while you wait to be in a better market. Even if sales are lackluster, you’ll have the experience of designing your table, organizing all of your gear and products, and, interacting with potential buyers. It is great practice for marketing your work in person and, if you’re even half as introverted as me, you probably need the practice!  And, most importantly, you’ll be showing your work!!

I have one more show before Christmas (December 6-7) and I’m already signed up for the March show, so if you are in my local area, please stop by. I’d love to see you!

Heather Kerley

Reindeer Baby Christmas Cards!

It has finally started to feel like late fall here in Germany. It is chilly and drizzly and the leaves have completely changed colors. So, I’m now in full “cozy” mode. I’m knitting, enjoying comfort food like stews and the like, even lighting the occasional fire in the fireplace at nights! It’s a good thing, too, because I am participating in a craft fair in less than two weeks and I wanted to make some new Christmas cards for it and, happily, the weather has helped inspire me.

My favorite Christmas images convey the tranquility and magic of a starlit Christmas Eve. You know, the kind of night that is so miraculous and exceptional that the lion lays down with lamb. The sweetness and innocence of animals says it all.

So I settled on this image for my Christmas card, available here in my Etsy shop. Check out my process in pictures:

Carving the linoleum block.
Carving the linoleum block…
Just after printing....
Just after printing….
Instagramfinishedcard
The finished card is touched up with watercolor, including red for the jingle bell collar and some white iridescent acrylic medium to add sparkle to the snow.

HeatherKerley

 

Heather Kerley

 

Again, these cards are available in my Etsy shop in singles, or in packs of four. Check it out!

Thanks for visiting today!