Monday, November 17, 2014

Setting Goals

I have a mentor. For the year of 2015, I have the privilege of working with someone who has a wealth of information, experience and business savvy. And she is willing to part with some of that information to help me progress as a professional artist. Puts a smile on my face. 

So the first hurdle I had to face was in setting goals. Not unlike most moderately ambitious people, my first attempt at a list had way too much on it and in much too vague a way. It had 28 items on it. In my second draft I split my ideas into "artist goals" and "professional goals" but pretty much had the same amount of goals combined on the two lists. So then, as suggested, I broke what I had into "short term" and "long term" goals. This got me thinking about time, ability and reality.

As I slipped things into the long term list, I wondered if I was just tabling things that would never be realized due to lack of time. I will turn 59 in 2015. I have always found the "nine" years to be brutal and as I face the inevitability of aging, the looming 60 seems a mountainous hurdle with a hell of a backslide. How much longer will I be allowed to do this work? Will my eyes go, or my hands get shaky, or perhaps an illness or disease will table my goals. So I decided to burn rubber on the short term goals. Seize the day, right?

My business goal list has 11 items on it. My artist goals are 5. I have completed 4 items on my business list already. They were easy, relatively. I now get to dig in to the harder goals. Without listing all of them I will discuss a few key goals. My first artist goal is to create 5-7 pieces in 2015 for entering into specific exhibitions. I have now a detailed list of all the calls I want to enter with their important information, the submission due date and the piece I want to have completed for entry. While a heavy list, I will push to get all 7 done if possible. Having this list in front of me gives me a daily reminder that goal #3 which is to develop better discipline, is absolutely necessary. 

One of my business goals is to smarten up my blog page so that I can use it like a website, offering it to anyone who wants to see what I do. If you read my posts, you will see subtle and even some not so subtle changes happening. I am adding pages to my blog. One for a resume and artist statement, and one for my artist portfolio. Until I start receiving income from my art, I have to make due with an old, slow computer and I can't commit to paying for a website's monthly charges yet. As suggested by my mentor, "You don't need a website, just use your blog." Using my blog not only means adding pages, but also designing it to be a professional extension of my art. Soon you will see a redesign. It also implies that I have to be much more diligent about posting. So the simple goal of having stronger and more professional internet presence entails a moderate amount of work in making changes.

I will be talking about the progress I am making in defining and developing some of my other goals as time permits. In my next "Goal Post" I will talk about how I am developing a few concepts for articles as well as taking those concepts one step further into planning demos and teaching workshops around them.

As our professional lives as artists are so closely interwoven with our personal lives, I have allowed a certain amount of my life into these posts. I have a west coast family. My mother grew up in California with her three sisters. They all stayed in the west with the exception of my mother who moved to her husband's home town in the east. My maternal cousins are all much older than I, as my mother was the last of the sisters to marry and the last to start a family. I have seen some of my cousins on occasion, many of them I have not seen since I was very young. One of these cousins kept in touch with me via snail mail and an occasional phone call. Jeff had been battling with cancer for seven years and has recently lost his fight. In sadness over the loss of him, and in respect for his kindness, gentleness, and his sensitive, generous spirit, I honor his passing here with all the love in my heart. You will be sorely missed, dear cousin.

Jeffrey Wilson Helmer
July 15, 1945 - November 5, 2014

Monday, November 10, 2014

Textile Exhibition in Review

Last evening I was delighted to attend an artist reception for a textile exhibition in Fall River. Called MODERN SPIN: CONtemporary TEXTiles in an Historic Mill it was a fantastic blend of exciting textiles from a broad range of media. Providence artist, Jules of Heron Pond Studio was the juror and the artists came largely from the New England area but also from as far away as Romania.

Called "Pine Needles" this piece is a cutwork of triangular shapes. It is mounted several inches from the wall and with direct lighting on it, cast amazing shadows behind, creating very exciting imagery. Joy Stocksdale of Sebastopol, CA has two other pieces in the show that you can see peeking out in the photo above. Her panels are made of polychromatic screen-printed silk, stiffened and then cut. To see more of her work, 

It was unfortunate that the only place you could read about the materials was in an artist's portfolio booklet. The signs on the wall did not include materials or artist statements. Now I understand why it is important to have all the information printed on the wall next to the piece. While some artwork was easy to spot materials and processes, others were more difficult.

Always amazing in it's detail is the work of Salley Mavor from Falmouth, MA. This is a detail of a fantastic piece called, "Self Portrait: Personal History of Fashion". Spiraling outward from the center infant are images of Salley as she grew. She creates her vignettes from wool felt, trims and beads. Set inside a glass case it was difficult for me to photograph without glare and really this photo does nothing to accentuate the detail within this piece. If you are interested in Salley's work you can find her artwork and information at,

Another favorite of mine was this piece by Laurie Carlson Steger, a weaver from South Dartmouth, MA. Laurie's weavings are studies in work with reflective properties and incorporate fiber optic strands. Called, "Black Forest Gold" this piece was inspired by patches of sunlight filtering through the dense trees of the Black Forest in Germany. 

In this detail of Laurie's piece you can see the beadwork she used to help reflect light. This piece is handwoven, stitched, beaded and quilted. Laurie also has other work in this show. For information about her work go to,

I fell in love with the intense work of artist, Kerstin Zettmar. Not only is it colorful work but it is dramatic, and peaceful at the same time. At a distance and in photographs, you see an image not unlike an impressionist painting, but up close and personal you realize she has created her image by embroidering large ply yarns of a multitude of colors that literally burst from the surface of the work creating a cacophony of wildly intersecting fibers and colors. Honestly, my jaw dropped and my husband, Tony wanted to take this one home.

Called, "Sunbursts", this piece by Kerstin radiates light and shadow in a very romantic and captivating way. She has three pieces in the exhibition and all three are well worth seeing. Kerstin is a native of Sweden but now calls Newport, RI her home where she is a licensed massage therapist and artist. She chooses her subjects from both landscapes and more mythological and spiritual themes. For more information about her artwork,

This is a shot of me with SAQA friends Sandy Gregg, Janis Doucette, and Diane Wright. Sandy's artwork is hanging behind us. This really is an exciting show that I recommend highly to anyone who loves textiles. You will find the show at the Narrows Center for the Arts, 16 Anawan St. in Fall River, MA. It is open now through December 27, 2014. For questions on directions or gallery hours call 508.324.1926 or go to their website,

Monday, November 3, 2014

Studio Days

Busy days in the studio. The new wolf has been stitched in part to the background. He has extra loft behind him and it is making him seem more real. You can see some shadows above his eyes. He'll be done soon so I moved onto the next step.

Here, Peter is being fleshed out onto a piece of muslin. All the pieces are fused to the muslin. The excess gets cut away and he settles into the tree. The rope eases down from his hand to catch the wolf's tail. The little bird is flying about the wolf's nose. The leaves on the tree are the last to go on. You'll be seeing more of the process and the completed pictures soon.

Monument was started in 2013 to go with the three other Santa Fe pieces I did at that time. This piece did not fit well into the "Three Cohesive Pieces" theme of the exhibition I was preparing for so I set it aside. However, I really love this piece. I have done a bit more drawing on it with my fabric markers to delineate the stones in the intersecting walls. My new Sweet 16 will help me make short work of the stitching.

More updated pictures coming.