Monday, January 5, 2015

Happy New Year!

 Here are a few of the pieces I completed over the holiday season:

But now, I am taking a step back. And changing directions. Now that my part time job has turned full time, my art has to be part time. I will not be taking on new tattoo clients for the next year. I will not be caricaturing parties, and I will not be producing much pottery for sale. Unless I feel the need. There is something else I’ve always wanted to do and now that I’m gainfully employed, I’m dropping pretty much everything but the B’Lou Bug Spray. For maybe a year. Like a sabbatical.

Now that I have a steady income for the first time in years, I am able to pursue yet another dream project - sculpture. Until now, that pursuit has been cost prohibitive. Over the years, I have accumulated some tools toward that end. Kilns, a job that taught me how to weld, another job that taught me mold making and casting, and more than one occasion where I had to learn how to sew. 

So I’m ready. Almost. I have a few projects on my desk to finish up first. A few portraits, a few pieces of stoneware, and a few tattoos. And the first in a series of multi-paneled abstract pieces that plays with the specific gravity of liquid acrylic paint.

I know. What?!

But this is what I do when it’s too cold to garden.

The difference in 2015 will be my motivation. This year my goal is to make art I want to make, not caring about what happens after it’s done. I can hang it up or add it to a pile. No need for the hustle. I can make art and pay my bills at the same time. Just in less time. For now, it’s a fair trade off. I have plenty of time to plan projects, or think of my next move while I’m on the road. It works out perfectly. 

Lastly, my website is still a work in progress. The time crunch of the holidays knocked that project off to the side for a bit. Plus, my web designer has been inundated with his own deadlines and a bit under the weather over the last couple of weeks. And I have my own end of things to accomplish and send his way. Which I am now off to do. 

I am not one to make resolutions for the new year,  but I plan on blogging slightly more often. My new projects have downtime, either drying or firing, so I will have time to take photos and share the progress. That's the plan. 

Subject to change..

Monday, September 29, 2014

Here's what happened...

Saturday night, while I was sleeping, the majority of my web presence was hijacked, with the assistance of my service provider, GoDaddy. And apparently, it’s all my fault. Ok, fine. More than angry that I lost control of my hosting plan, domains, online stores and pages all in one fell swoop, it was done with nothing more than my account number and an old credit card. The customer service rep waited on the phone while the long lost card number, that had expired three years previously, was located. He was very patient. And kind. And then he let her right in. She immediately changed the contact email, requested a new password, and became the new owner of my account.

When I checked my email in the morning, I had two emails from GoDaddy regarding the new changes on my account. What? What changes? I made no changes. When I tried to sign in, my password no longer worked. I spoke with three different people who would not help me until I clicked on a link they emailed. The link brought me to a place where once again, my password was a mismatch. Now what? I have to copy my state or federally issued ID, fill out a separate form for each of my fourteen domains, have them notarized and kissed by the pope, and faxed to them. In four to six weeks maybe my domains would be unlocked so I could move them to another host.

It was simply that easy to have control taken away for my entire ‘brand’. My bug spray store, my portfolio pages, my pottery pages, everything but my blog which is hosted elsewhere - all gone. They gave control to someone else by phone without my password, or my supposedly required validation PIN. 
Wait. What?

The upside? I know who did it and why. She gave me her new password, even. That was nice of her. When I tried to revert the administrative information, it was not allowed. I was still locked out and the account is now hers, in addition to the new account they sold her while she was on the phone. I've been giving GoDaddy money consistently for fourteen years for that account, but hey, I'm the dummy here.

Around six or seven years ago, I tried to help someone out who had no clue about getting a website up and going. I added the site to my existing account and she paid her own fees and subscribed to their website template builder program to maintain the site on her own. Essentially, the site went up and stayed there. I assumed they didn’t make changes once it was built. After awhile, I no longer had contact, but the site was active and paid in advance. Like anyone, I change my passwords on a regular basis. I figured, when she needed it, she would get in touch with me, and I would get her in, and then change the password again after she was done. I heard nothing for four or five years.

The site went down over the summer, I guess. I was unaware. If they sent me an email, it probably ended up in my spam filter with the rest of the daily emails I receive from GoDaddy. With my email account, if I delete consecutive emails from a company without opening them, Yahoo starts making assumptions and doing me favors. Straight to the bin!

She didn’t realize the site went down, either, until Saturday night. I guess she panicked and called and emailed me. Exciting person that I am, I was already in bed, phone and computer off and away. Not receiving an immediate response, she got on the horn and got the job done. Despite having any current information. I don’t consider an expired credit card legit. GoDaddy does. Good to know. My fault for not deleting the card sooner. Three years ago when it expired. It took her awhile to even find! she said..he was patient and understanding.

Freaking out beyond the initial shock is pointless. I vent like a teapot and then simmer down and get to work. My last email to her was downright cold, I must say. She had no business doing what she did, changing my information to hers. But what’s done is done, and I now have a new host. And a clean slate. And a whiff of napalm in the wait..that's pumpkin coffee..

DISCLAIMER**ALL IMAGES are borrowed from Apocalypse Now because I have a sense of humor but no other images relating to this subject of my own. No one wants to see me cry. It's not pretty.**

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Coming out as The Knife Lady..

Surviving financially as an artist is like walking a tightrope. It’s stressful and takes a lot of faith that the work will keep coming. Most of the work I do is seasonal, so I’ve managed to make things work by layering by peaks - caricatures in the summer, pottery in the winter, tattoos in the fall and spring. Still, things are far from consistent, especially from a bank’s perspective. 

It all started when I needed a newer car for a commute to tattoo. I loved that car, but it was a thirsty beast. Very thirsty with a Northstar V8. I still miss that car, it just wasn’t realistic. So I traded the beast in and bought a new car that’s smaller, zippy, and all sorts of fuel efficient. I refer to it as ’the little car’. To make sure I stayed on top of my new car payments with consistent income, I picked up a part time job working for a knife sharpening company. Initially, it was a day and a half a week. I bring a box of sharp knives into kitchens and exchange them for the dull. Easy enough. And, as it turns out, so much fun. Everyone is happy to see, "The Knife Lady!".

After about six months in, another route opened up. The route is in central Massachusetts, and made my job even more interesting. My fear of driving in the winter weather has disappeared. Mostly. (Fortunately, I have been able to work around the bigger storms - I’m not an ambulance driver!) Recently, the route that covers the area where I live became available, and I snapped it up. 

I have lived in the Berkshires, specifically in and around South County, for nearly twenty years. I have had many jobs, the majority in restaurants, while trying to get a career as an artist up and going. With this new route, nearly every stop is a reconnection. Admittedly, I’ve gotten reclusive, and some people I haven’t seen in over ten years. So far, only one person has given me the stink eye. Not bad, right? (And, in my experience, the person with the unhappy face will grow old with that face. That’s okay because pissy old ladies are funny.)

But as far as a regular job goes, this has been the best. I have a backstage pass into kitchens all over the place. From nursing homes to resorts. Schools, bodegas, and food trucks parked under an overpass. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting people I would probably never otherwise. I love it. It has opened up a whole new world of experience for me. While I grew up surrounded by immigrant Portuguese culture, I’m not way familiar with South American or Caribbean culture. My siblings and I spent a summer in the Virgin Islands, but I was still on the young side to remember more than the things that fascinated me at the time - lizards and their tails, iguanas and chameleons and their colors, tarantulas and their holes EVERYWHERE! Oh, and don’t touch the trees - MILLIPEDES! My stuffed brown elephant in the blue Tshirt, Peanuts. That, sand, swimming, and learning games with my cousins. That’s what I remember. The food? Not at all, other than fruit bigger than my head. Apples with cinnamon and sugar. And, apparently, genips. Or Quenepas. I saw them in a little store in Springfield a few weeks ago. It struck a chord. Wait. What are those. It turns out, I had them when I was a kid. Another reconnection. So fun.

In a way, this is my official ‘coming out’ as the Knife Lady, now that I’m working where I live again. I keep to myself here these days, and have for quite awhile. Again, mostly. It’s weird, stirring things up. Like the genips…oh yeah…I forgot about that...

Monday, August 11, 2014

What's with me and the bug spray obsession, you ask?

Ok, so what’s with me and the obsession with the bug spray? Well that’s an easy answer. When I was a kid, I found out the hard way that I was allergic to bees, and pretty much anything else that either bit or stung. For years, I spent Saturday mornings sitting in the doctor’s office getting a series of timed shots. I carried a bee sting kit everywhere. While I mooned over seed catalogs, gardening was pretty much out of the question. 

Thanks to all those shots, bees are no longer a threat to my life, however, I still have exaggerated reactions to bites. Like mosquito bites. They turn into large welts. But I love to be outside, hiking, gardening, or just hanging out watching the bees. My only solution was to carry the strongest bug spray I could find, with the highest concentration of DEET. I didn’t want it on my skin, so I had to hike in long pants and long sleeves. The same for when I gardened. Ugh. It was no fun on a hot day, but I just couldn’t put that crap on my skin. Then, if a mosquito would bite me anyway, I carried an anti itch stick. Which didn't actually work all that well. A wet summer meant I could easily go through five or six of each. 

Added to that, I don’t hike alone. I have dogs, and they need to be protected from ticks, fleas, and mosquitos as well. Every month, I’d buy the treatments and they’d run around with a greasy streak, which also creeped me out. Then my otherwise robustly healthy dog was diagnosed with lymphoma. She didn't last long and it was devastating. Of course, I can’t say for sure it was the monthly dosing of pesticides, but I’m positive it’s not the best way to go. 

Last year, early spring, I was determined to find a better way. I did some research, tried a few different mixes of essential oils, and finally mixed up the right amount of the right oils and it is completely effective! I spray them and rub it in about once or twice a week, or after swimming. Ticks around here carry Lyme disease. This stuff works against ticks. Mosquitos carry all sorts of nasty viruses, new ones every day, it seems. Totally works keeping mosquitos from biting. And fleas? No, our dogs have not had a single flea. I rub their bellies several times a day, and I would know immediately. 

It is not safe for cats - two of the oils disagree with them. 

I laugh when people are surprised it works! I understand we’ve been brainwashed that chemicals from super power corporations are the only way to go. They are not. B’Lou Bug Spray is a simple combination of oils from trees, leaves, and flowers.  And it smells pretty wonderful in a unisex sort of way. I named it after my handsome boy, Luther, whom I've nicknamed 'Bugga Lou', or sometimes, 'Lou Bug'. It  depends on the song I'm singing. 

Plus, the containers are easily recycled, unlike the chemical stuff widely available in pretty much all of the stores - read the label - any unused portion has to be disposed of as hazardous waste! Seriously. You are breathing and applying something considered hazardous waste to your clothes and your skin, the largest organ you have. So yes, I was willing to put a little effort in finding a better way. Then I sent a bottle to a friend in Georgia, where the mosquitos are as big as hummingbirds, and not only does it work there, too, she discovered it worked as an anti itch spray as well!! Holy cow. That was news to me. She was absolutely right. After hiking, I showered, and forgot my bottle in the car. I ran out to get it and was bitten no less than three times. It was dusk and they were thick in the air. I sprayed the welts, rubbed it in, and no kidding, it totally worked. The welts were entirely gone in about fifteen minutes. I can't even describe how happy that made me.

It naturally led to me ordering ten bottles to share with friends, then I quickly ran out and decided, why not order a 100 bottles and start a little business? I just ordered 400 more bottles, so yes, it works and people are sharing. I am having fun in my own little production space. And hiking with my dogs. It's my answer.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

My Latest Favorite Tattoo Resource..

So I've been tattooing more and more. Now that my spring gardening projects are nearing completion, I have more time to spend staying clean. The restaurant I was preparing for has been delayed so I have some breathing room. Finally - I have a minute to update my blog! (As far as I know, that project is moving forward, but the timing is up in the air for now.)

Times and resources for tattooing have changed, and for the better. Not all tattooers will agree, but when will everyone agree? Probably never. Not too long ago, it seems, tattoo shop interiors were plastered with posters of the classic, traditional tattoo drawings, ready to go. A companion to the posters on the wall is the file behind the counter of the stencils, ready to be sized and run through the stencil machine. Easy for all involved, especially the tattoo artist. No thinking, no back and forth. Someone knows what they want and there it is. Since I've been tattooing, I've met more than a few people who got too nervous and intimidated in the tattoo shop, pointed to something on the wall, and said, I'll go with that! Not very many people go that way anymore. Fortunately.

Now there are tattoo websites everywhere you look. I've had people bring me designs from all sorts of different places. I have purchased designs for clients from a few sites. It makes me happy that the artists are getting paid. Once, I worked in a shop with tattooers who couldn't draw to save their life. They trace all their tattoos from image search engines, straight off the monitor. For real.

I know I'm not the only one who has a problem with that. The federal government has a problem with that. It is illegal to use someone else's artwork without permission. But hey, people do it ALL the time. I know more than a few tattoo artists who post no photos of their work on the internet. It would get stolen. The other problem, I've witnessed this one firsthand, is the translation of a photo online to the tissue paper laid directly on the face of the monitor. A tattoo on someone's bicep, for example, is curved over a surface. If your tattooer traces that, the image is out of whack. The petals of your flower will be weirdly proportioned. Because there was no compensation by the tracer for the foreshortening.  Trace it and Place it. Get paid. That practice is an extremely common cheat. I think it sucks.

I do not trace tattoos. I will redraw from reference. A common and, as far as I know, legal practice. It takes many hours with some pieces to get them perfect, especially dragons or something else traditional or complex. Of course, I will always take on custom work. But if someone brings me artwork ready to go, it's almost a relief. I can just focus on the tattoo and the experience with my client. I meet so many cool people.

However, there are so many images by another hand that could perfect for your tattoo, and I found a really solid site. Plus, the fee is not per design - you can download as many as you want! I love that. And if you see nothing you like, there's a 60 day money back guarantee. No risk. And it's pretty inexpensive. So, I decided to become an affiliate. I love that they have a script writing tool!! I think it's something like 120 fonts specific to having the best result in a tattoo. Not all fonts age well.

The thing I love the most is that you can show up with exactly what you were looking for, something  you've gotten comfortable with, and are prepared to live with for the rest of your life. Clicking the link below that says, 'Click Here!' will tell them I was the one who sent you, and after that, if you bring me something you want tattooed from this site, I will give you 15% off your tattoo. After all, you saved me the drawing time and rewarded the artist who created exactly what you wanted. Win win all around.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Where is East Street Studios?

That is the question of the day. Right now I have a huge project in the works outfitting an entire restaurant in my pottery. If it isn't a water glass, it's being served on something I made, am making, and have yet to make. To say I'm busy would be a bit of an understatement. With clay, timing is everything. And there are plenty of steps.

Right now, given the deadline, I have no time for tattoos. Other than existing clients and appointments, East Street Studios is officially on hiatus. When that changes, I'll post. I'm still booking summer caricature gigs, because the restaurant will be open by this summer and I will be over the hump by then. Fortunately, not many people want to get fresh tattoos in the summer because there's too much fun in the water and sun. Plus, I'll be on vacation, heading out to Seattle at the end of July! I can't wait.

I should be available for tattoos again in the fall.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Rocking and Rolling Right Along..Happy New Year!

Okay, so I've been seriously neglecting my blog. The bug spray totally worked, by the way. The entire summer ended on my second spray bottle full of the concoction, not even halfway through the original bottles of essential oils. I sprayed my dogs down once a week and rubbed it in. No more than that. And no fleas or mosquitoes hanging around. Admittedly, we had a few ticks, but not that many - less than five the whole summer - when the dogs going swimming outweighed my spraying. Overall, still better, less expensive, and hopefully healthier than the alternative.
I've been busy upgrading my tattoo studio! Recently, I've invested in a new stencil machine, new tattoo machines, books for my tattoo library, and studio equipment and furniture. And the artwork I've been collectiong is up on the walls, with more being added all the time. I've been working on longer term, bigger color pieces, too, which I love. Soon I'll be able to share a big Phoenix piece I'm very excited about finishing.

The 365 Caricature Project was paused at 92 or 93, and I have not had the time to get back into that groove. While that was a relative fail for the year, at the same time, hey, I produced 92 or 93 new images, which makes me happy. The other upside of even doing that many was that when a regular client came to me for a batch of caricatures for an event in September, they were the best set of caricatures I had done for him to date.

Just after Thanksgiving I had another deadline - Secret Santa gifts with fellow artists on I was seriously hooked up with some incredible art. Here is one piece I sent to a fan of David Bowie. It is 8"x8" acrylic on canvas.
and here is another, a portrait of the person receiving the gift:
You can probably tell I had a little fun..

 Pottery sales have been booming! Last year, I worked out of a tent in my living room. I was too busy over the summer to accomplish much, and I've recently relocated my studio to the former guest bedroom. Now that we have two six month old kittens running around, no greenware is safe, so I've had to modify a bit. Winter is high gear for me when it comes to working the pottery wheel and running the kiln pretty steadily. Plus, I have eight place settings to make right away.

When my hands are covered in clay, I avoid my technology. I won't be online much for the next couple of months, so I hope everyone has a wonderful Winter!