The Art of Edutainment!

I just returned from the North Georgia mountains as the visiting artist for the weekend at Unicoi State Park & Lodge in Helen, Georgia.  One of the reasons I love being an artist is for times like this.  I am the only artist on site and I am able to demonstrate my enamel bead making for anyone who wants to watch.  Once I turn on the torch it seems to attract many eyes, especially those of children.  The flame dances across the copper tubing and while I apply layer and layer of glass, the whirling colors begin to show and the bead becomes alive.  After I turn off the torch, I explain what is happening to the bead as how the colors will continue to change as they cool.  I love what I do and I love to share my art with every one.  Bead upon bead was added to my small box to show and tell to others what I was doing there in the main lobby of the lodge.  I also have the opportunity to show off my current collection in the enamels, the metals and stones.  I am a gallery, a teacher, a sales person and an artist.

Many will disagree about demonstrating your art at a show or otherwise.  Once you make your pieces, some would say, then you should use the time to sell your work and talk about it.  While this may be fine for most folks who set hard-core goals for their sales, I certainly believe that there is room for more than that.  Some artists believe that you are the  “edutainment”  for the crowds of potential buyers for free.  As a teacher myself, I don’t see it that way.  I prefer to see it as a way to connect to potential customers about your work.  I know no one can repeat the kind of work I do, therefore I am not concerned about copycats.  However, I do want to share my gift and having a heart for learning, why not?  Certain shows are not an appropriate venue for demonstrating artists.  However, other shows or solo visits have advantages that you can’t use in the bigger shows.  You have time to talk and expand on your work with your demonstration.  You get to relate to something that customer is sharing and try to fit their need or desire with your work.  Even just getting the many comments of “how beautiful!”, “lovely”, or “I wish I had the money to buy your pieces” are part of an important process of feedback for your work.  For me, I work alone in all aspects of my design and fabrication.  It is great to get out to a show and hear that people “get” your work or how much they appreciate it.  Feedback is critical for anything you produce and as an artist, there is a part of you that is in every piece you make–of course, you want the warm fuzzies!

I often hear (especially in my art category), “did you MAKE this?” with an incredulous look on their faces.  Often, I just smile and start my usual dialogue of what I do and how I do it.  At a demonstration, the action certainly speaks for you.  Watching me complete a bead within 5-7 minutes and to see instant results of the raw bead, they really “get” my art!  And, I find they appreciate it even more.

Aside from the benefits of demonstrating my work, I have to admit that I also love the fact that I can produce enough beads in just one day’s demonstration for my next collection of enamel jewelry.  Not a bad trade-off to actually work and show off what you do AND be productive for your next season of shows.  Works for me!  I am blessed enough to be able to demonstrate my bead making two more times this summer–at the Butternut Creek Festival in Blairsville (July) and another gig at the Unicoi Lodge in Helen (August).  Maybe you can drop by and learn some art and we can talk and relate in a leisurely way.  Sounds like a great way to spend a hot summer day!

picking up enamels

I made 43 beads during this demonstration!


And the winner is . . .

. . . Black!  Yes, I am very pleased with my test shots for the gradient black backgrounds.  Much more polished and professional, which is important for securing a spot in a juried show.  Most juries have only 4 to 5 shots of your work, so it must stand out!  I struggle with showing juries my work in just 4 slides due to the fact that my work is extremely varied and unique.  While I’m happy with the black backgrounds, I still need to work on correct lighting.  My silver pieces seem washed out and they reflect easily.  Ways to reduce reflection include making a white poster board to house your item and cut a hole in it to allow your camera lens to “see”.  I like using the diffused light from the Modahaus Tabletop Photo Studio and their Steady Stand Kit.  These pieces are simple in design, yet ever effective.  You can learn more about their products at

Here are a few of the successful shots from this week:

IMG_2485 IMG_2491 IMG_2499 IMG_2524 IMG_2557IMG_2496

You will probably note some of the various lighting attempts.  I will continue to hone these skills and play with natural light as well.  But, I love seeing the pieces against the black.  It works well for all the metal clays.


Photography Battles

Crucial to your work as an artist either on the show circuit, galleries, retail or wholesale is the clarity and beauty of your product through the picture.  Show applications want CD’s, files, actual prints, etc and if you have a website, an online store, or even just your smart phone, you’ll want those images crisp, clean and wonderful.  I nailed my photography style many years ago but my little ol’ Fuji point and shoot finally bit the dust last month.  This allowed me to reevaluate my photo process and what could I do to improve it.

Thus began the search for backgrounds, diffused lighting, natural lighting and ultimately how to use my own smart phone instead of getting a new camera to do the work I wanted.  I’ve had good success, but I’m still playing with backgrounds and lighting.  Here is a comparison “print” sheet to show the images  . . .

jewelry background comp

I’m leaning toward the natural light blue (lighter blue).  However, I’m not completely convinced . . .I am going to try for those high-end gallery shots that you often see especially on the high end art show websites.  This will be more black with diffused background lighting.  That will be the summer project, to make final decisions for showcasing my work.  I would recommend this post to help you get started exploring this type of photography.  There are several books out there, but you’ll find just as much information for free by digging through some web pages.

What works for you?